Travel Day 10

After having purchased all of our remaining materials the previous day, there was nothing more we could do at the school until everything had been delivered, so we decided to take a trip to Coco Beach. We got there at low tide and were disappointed to find the water full of garbage and too shallow for swimming. As we were walking along the beach, however, we met a lifeguard named Daniel who told us the tide would be more than high enough in just a few hours and that there were other amazing places along the beach we could see during low tide.

He took us to a rocky outcrop further down the coast, and from the top, we could see all the way down the beach to downtown Dar es Salaam. There were hundreds of coral fossils embedded in the rocks, and years of waves crashing in at high tide had carved picturesque caves under the cliffs. We explored the shallow tide pools and found them teeming with starfish, a surprising variety of small crabs, and sea urchins. Although we were wary of the sea urchins at first, Daniel picked one up for us and passed it around to show us that they were harmless unless you stepped on one.

We left the beach after some swimming and chips mayai and headed to the Sisters’ for a cooking lesson. We learned how to make Njema ya Kuku (fried chicken) and a rice dish called Wali.

First, we stoked the fire and brought a pot of water to a boil. The ingredients for wali were:

  • Mafoota (oil)
  • Vichungu maje (red onion)
  • Carrot (carrots)
  • Mcheli (rice)
  • Maje safi (boiled water)

While they cut up pieces of the chicken, we also got a Swahili lesson and learned to count to ten: Moja, Mbili, Tatu, Nne, Tano, Sita, Saba, Nane, Tisa, Kumi.





Travel Day 9

Yesterday morning, we woke up early for breakfast and headed over to the Sisters’ to do laundry. Most of us had never done it by hand, so Sister Pelita had to give a couple tutorials before we all figured it out.

Afterwards, we split into two groups. One team went to purchase our remaining materials, and the other stayed back to update our design drawings and review the finances for our trip. The team that went on the purchasing trip got to visit a number of different hardware stores in search of 5000-10000L tanks for the school. They also visited the manufacturing plant for Simtank, a company we may be interested in purchasing from, and got a tour of the factory where the tanks are constructed.

The team that stayed back got Swahili lesson from Sister Carol and learned how to construct some basic sentences. In Swahili, there are different verb forms depending on what class of noun you are referring to. For example, to say “This is a fork,” you would say “Hii ni uma,” because forks are non-living things, but to say “This is my friend”, you would say “Huyu ni rafiki yangu,” because “my friend” is a person.

When we got back to the church, we debriefed on our day and played a game of Catan before going to bed.


Travel Day 8

On Monday, we woke up early for a breakfast of Tanzanian pancakes and fried dough balls before walking to the Sisters’. From there, we made a trip to the hardware store to purchase more materials for the rainwater collection system. While we were waiting on materials to be packed for delivery, Sister Mecky, Carly, and Anthony visited a nearby market to buy bananas.

Afterwards, we jumped into our car and drove out to Buyuni to check the school’s progress and meet with Renatus. We arrived to find the footers for our 5000L tanks well underway, and that all but 5 of the downspouts had been installed. On our way back to Dar es Salaam, Sister treated us to chips mayai, which is a classic Tanzanian omelet made with french fries.

When we got back to the Sisters’, we worked on our budget and materials list, updated our first flush calculations, and played with Sister Mecky’s paca and paca paca (cat and kitten). After a long day of working, we finished our day with a game of Catan.

Travel Day 7

On Sunday, we woke up before dawn to catch the earliest ferry to Zanzibar.  After one and a half hours at sea, we arrived and cleared customs with a new stamp in our passports.  As we walked along the coast, we were surprised by the large population of stray cats, which were very friendly, and came to visit us (in search of food).


We found a small café on the coast where we stopped for breakfast/lunch.  We ordered cheese, spinach, and “tropical” (banana and pineapple) pizzas, all of which were delicious, and decided that we would go to a nearby beach to swim and sit in the sun.  After enjoying a couple hours collecting seashells on the beach, and getting the sunburns to prove it, we left the beach and walked through Stone Town.


One of the most famous areas of Zanzibar is Stone Town. All the buildings and streets were made from stone, and the roads are so narrow and winding that no cars can drive through. The buildings date back to as early as the 1700s and have beautiful wooden doors inspired by Zanzibar, Arabic, and Indian cultures.


We also walked through stone town and went through the Old Fort, which is one of the oldest buildings in Stone Town. There, we were able to walk the walls and see a mini-market in the grounds.

After the Fort, we took a 15 minute walk to the East African Slave Market and went on a tour of the monuments and museums. An Anglican church was built on top of the slave trade market in 1879 when a Bishop named  Edward Steere successfully abolished slavery.


Our next stop was the spice and fruit market, where we got to taste many different fruits, including lychee and sour sop.

Our last destination on Zanzibar was a small Mediterranean restaurant near the port, where we had a late lunch, followed by mango and banana milkshakes.  We then walked down the street to the port, and boarded the ferry back to Tanzania.  After an especially choppy ride, which saw one of the team members revisiting their lunch, we docked in Dar and walked back to the church.

After dropping our bags and playing euchre for an hour, we set out to get dinner at a restaurant near where we’re staying.  After eating our fill of spiced grilled chicken and fries, we headed back to the church and went to bed, exhausted, but satisfied with our adventure so far.

-Anthony and Emily

Travel Day 6

On Saturday morning, we met up with Judy and we all walked to the material market near downtown Dar es Salaam. The women would call out “Rafiki, rafiki! (friend, friend!)” from their store fronts, inviting us to browse their wares. When we showed interest, they would grab us by the arm and pull us into the back of their store, excitedly showing us as many fabrics as they could fit in their arms.


Although it was overwhelming at first, it was fun to barter with the women. We all left with a beautiful collection of materials, and the EWB-MSU team hopes to prepare the fabrics for fundraising upon our return.

After a delicious meal with the sisters, we waited at the bus stop outside the sisters’ home to go to the carver’s market. The city buses are the most common mode of transportation in Dar es Salaam, and the bus to the market was extremely crowded. Just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be room for anyone else, 3 more people would get on at the next stop. We were very ready for the fresh air when we finally got to our stop.



At the market, we were immediately greeted by an avid salesman eager to share his wares. He took us into the back of the store and we got to watch all the artisans carving everything from statuettes of animals to eating utensils.


The wood they use for carving usually comes from the Ebony tree, but the dark colored wood we often associate with African carvings is actually shoe polish painted on afterwards. We saw lots of paintings and wooden jewelry and got to practice our bargaining again. As white foreigners, a few thousand shillings are always added to our items, so it can be exhausting trying to bargain for more reasonable prices.

After a much more comfortable bus ride home for dinner, we excitedly discussed plans for our trip to Zanzibar the next day…


Travel Day 5

Yesterday morning we took a walk to the Holiday Inn down the road for breakfast and Wi-Fi before walking back to the Sisters’. This time of year, students are back in school and the Salvatorian Sisters run a preschool in the mornings. For the past couple of days we’ve been here, the children had been wary of us, but yesterday morning, the entire class ran to greet us at the gate (much to their teacher’s dismay).

Even though they were all less than 5 years old, they spoke English very well and seemed excited to practice with us. Even after their teacher made them go make to class, some of them would sneak out and peak in on us while we were meeting.

We were also treated with a surprise visit from Judy Martin, a member of the Solar Circle in East Lansing, and our NGO that got us involved in the Tanzania project a few years ago. She and Sister Mecky had been friends for many years, and Judy used to live in Tanzania and taught at one of the schools there.

After lunch, we headed to the school in Buyuni to communicate our new plans with the construction workers and take additional pictures of the site. Even since we had been there on Tuesday, they had finished painting many more rooms and even started installing the piping for our downspouts.

We also met with a government engineer named Renatus to discuss their plans for moving forward. On Monday we will purchase as many materials as we can for when we come back next year for this trip as well as the second implementation so we can use the generous donation we got from Ford. Before we left the site, workers had already begun pouring the foundations for our 5000L tanks.

Every night after we get back to the church where we’re staying, we gather as a group and play card games (specifically Phase 10, we play a lot of Phase 10), but last night we broke out Settlers of Catan, which happens to be all of the team members’ favorite game.

We will continue to keep you all posted (Wi-Fi permitting)!

Travel Day 3 and 4

Habari za asubuhi (good morning)!

On Tuesday, we woke up early to eat breakfast at the church where we are staying before walking to the Salvatorian sisters’ compound. From there, we drove to the school in Buyuni, which is about an hour away. Because Tanzania was a British colony for many years, people drive on the left side of the road. By the time we got to Buyuni, many of the roads were no longer paved, but there were lots of new developments in the area in anticipation of the school opening.


Since the last EWB-MSU assessment trip, the exterior has been painted, all of the gutters have been purchased and mounted, some of the downspouts have been completed, and the electrical has been finished.

We also discovered a couple of new problems we need to evaluate. Due to high flood waters, the grade on the outside of the school is going to be raised by about 0.5 m. Additionally, many of the downspouts were not installed in the locations we designed, and drainage in the courtyard is a concern during the rainy season.

The issue that most impacted our implementation plan was the locations of the downspouts, which did not match the specification we had previously sent to the community.  Since the grade will be raised along the outer perimeter of the school, we will be unable to construct permanent foundations for the tanks on this trip. Instead, we will be constructing temporary stands to hold the three 5,000 L tanks that have already been purchased.  These, and all other tanks, will have permanent foundations built on a future trip, once the community has raised the grade to the desired level.


When we got back, the sisters treated us to Ugali, which is a staple in Tanzanian dish. We also started to reassess our design to determine what we could complete while we are in country.

On Wendesday, we ate breakfast early and walked back to the sisters’ again. For the rest of the day, we redesigned our system to meet our new parameters, redefined the scope of our project over the next couple of years, and developed a tentative schedule for the rest of the trip.

The team re-calculated the first flush systems, tank sizes, and placement based on the area of roof from which the constructed downspouts will collect water. For this first phase of implementation, we will install the piping for the downspouts, implement temporary tank foundations with first flush for the three 5000L tanks, implement cistern downspouts and first flush, and paint the gutters/pipes to extend their lifespan in the hot Tanzanian sun.

We will continue to keep you updated Wi-Fi permitting!