Trojir, Croatia – Day 2

This was a down day that allowed me to get a grip on the jet lag. I didn’t wake until 11am local time. The hotel accommodated me so that they provided coffee and a bit of breakfast even though I was well past the serving time. I spent the afternoon walking around the Old City, getting some food and taking in the sights. In the evening I went looking for the boat I was scheduled to travel on, the Azimut, but was unable to locate it. I know I will find it.

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Trojir, Croatia – Day 1

I flew out of JFK to Vienna on Austrian Air and then connected to the airport in Split, Croatia which is very close to Trojir. As short cab ride took me to the Villa Jidro Hotel which is a boutique hotel very close to the port. For a change, the travel was quite painless. (Maybe someday I will related the horrors I have experienced in recent month with some domestic flights.) Thankfully, I got to Trojir well ahead of the boat departure. For some reason I really got hammered by jet lag and just wanted to sleep.

Trojan is a very nice place with an ancient walled “Old” city that is very quaint but in this day in age caters to the tourists. The boats and ferries that take people on cruises and to other islands dock in Trojir so it can get very busy in the high travel season and on the weekends. These boats park parallel to the dock. if there is no space they dock along side each other. I saw as many as seven boats docked alongside so that means that the people on the last boat have to walk through six other boats.

Due to my fatigue I retired early after only going out for some food at a nearby restaurant.

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Croatia – September 2015

I must press forward with my life. Travel for pleasure, to see exotic new places or to do humanitarian projects will have to be without Marie. She is unable to travel due to the fact that she is in the latter stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s and is in a full time care facility. Thankfully, we enjoyed the travel and experiences we did before the disease took hold of her. Therefore, this summer I decided to take a bike/boat trip in Croatia. I saw an ad in Adventure Cycling Magazine and decided to go for it I had always heard great things about Croatia and was not disappointed. I feel like it took a fair amount of guts to sign up for this on my own but again, I must press forward. Based on our previously guided trips, I was reasonably confident that there would be like minded people who would help to make the trip rewarding.

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Cali, Colombia

This blog has been on (off?) vacation for too long. For personal reason my traveling has been cut back dramatically since the Around-The-World trip. In December of 2013 I did go to Haiti with some donors to visit the Mercy & Sharing orphanage, schools and projects. In December of 2014 I went to Cali, Colombia to help lay the groundwork for the project that I am currently on. Maybe if I get a chance I will backtrack and blog those trips.

Cali, Colombia – 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

I arrived in Cali on March 13th. The day was quite uneventful. The travel went according to schedule and the arrival left little time to do anything interesting. I grabbed some food at the food court in the huge mall that is right across the street and mostly just turned in to get some rest.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The people in our group that had arrived in Cali went to the area of the city where we will be working. We visited some houses that we will be working on to improve. Sister Frances, the nun that is coordinating the project had picked out one particular home. After looking at it she realized that a lot of the reason that the house was in such bad condition was that the husband was just plain lazy and did nothing to keep it up. She decided that she wanted no part of enabling a lazy person and picked out another house. We thought that was an admirable decision and gave us a lot of confidence in her management and responsibility regarding the project. We will also be doing some painting and repairs to the facility she operates that feeds some of the impoverished kids and provides them with activities when they are not in school.

The group got together for a nice dinner and and turned in for the night.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Today was scheduled to be a day where the group took a tour of Cali to get a feel for the city and the area. We got a good deal on a bus that is otherwise used as a party bus. It had a roof but was otherwise open aired. It had disco lights and the driver insisted on blaring local dance music which got to be somewhat annoying at times. First we went into the mountains where there were some spectacular views. At one point we stopped for drinks and snacks and the owner of the house across the road invited us to see his house and the gardens he maintains. There were a lot of exotic flowers along with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It was quite generous of him to extend the invitation to a bunch of strangers. We headed back to the city all the while holding our breath that the brakes on the bus would hold out.

Cali is not a tourist city. It is quite modern and has a population of between two and three million depending on who you talk to. I’m not sure what the basis of the economy is. It is near the ocean but there is not talk of beaches and resorts. There is a significant amount of poverty but it is not overwhelming. There are some areas that are very affluent and a good number of high rise buildings. The vehicles on the street are nice and like developing countries these days there are a lot of motorcycles and scooters.

After getting back to the city we went to a restaurant where we were fed a very nice meal. It turns out that it was donated by a man who helps out Sr. Frances. We thought it was quite generous on his part. Afterwards we headed back to the facility the nun runs and a program was put on for us. We took the city bus back to the hotel and again went out to dinner as a group.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Today the work project started. The first day is always the slowest because you have to get familiar with the local project managers. There is not always agreement on how the project should proceed. With projects like this it is important not to be too demanding or feathers get ruffled. Sometimes the locals are able to take into account factors that are not readily apparent to an outsider. Still, the locals can sometimes be obstinate and incorrect but its not usually an issue that can’t be worked through. We are taking on a lot. The three houses we are working on are basically tear-downs. Thankfully, the locals are doing the heavy lifting of digging for the footings, mixing cement and bricklaying.

We were warned that the neighborhood can be unsafe. We were cautioned not to carry anything that is of significant value. There is drug dealing and it can be very dangerous after dark. We noticed that in the morning there were an abnormal number of police cars around. They were checking out who we are and what we are doing because we obviously looked out of place. However, the nun put out the word that we are not to be made victims and she carries a lot of influence in the neighborhood. To give an idea of the situation, our project leader Mike attempted to hire some locals to work for us. When they heard what he was offering they said they could make more money robbing people.

Once we got started things proceeded quite well. I didn’t have much to do with the group to which I was assigned so at lunch I got myself assigned to another group. In the afternoon I worked at a jig bending rebar to construct the inner supports for the cement columns at another house. That was good productive work and kept me busy.

That evening we ate at a nice Italian restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.

Note: I’m having some problems with the disk space on my laptop so I’m having a bit of a problem loading photos. I will add more to this later and post photos. Be patient.

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Off to Frankfurt, Germany

For this trip, in order to travel Business Class, I used miles accumulated on a credit card. Somehow, in order to make it work, I got routed to Frankfurt, Germany. That meant taking South African Airways to Johannesburg, SA and getting a connection to Frankfurt. That being the case, I decided to spend a couple of nights in Frankfurt. I haven’t been to Germany for about 40 years and thought it might be a good place to transition for my return to the USA.

Frankfurt is a business city more than a tourist city. I’m thinking that the destruction during WWII probably left it as a revival project rather than an historical site. Still, it is an impressive place. All the Major “stylish” stores are represented and in the major shopping areas it is all pedestrian traffic. Cars are prohibited. There are numerous construction cranes which are an indication that the economy is good.

At the hotel they gave me a pass that allowed me to use the public transportation at no cost. How civilized!


A modern structure in the shopping area. Note how the glass is designed in a spiral that creates a hole through the building. Innovative and creative!


The official city bird is the construction crane.

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Back to Dar es Salaam

We are finished with visiting projects so we are wrapping up the trip. In the morning we had a buffet breakfast at the Naf Blue View Hotel. We learned our lesson and let them know the night before when we wanted breakfast. Sure enough, it was ready for us and again, was quite good. We loaded up and went to the Mtwara airport for our [less than] Precision Air flight to Dar es Salaam.

On the way we took a detour to a beach on the Indian Ocean. I think this is the first time I have been on the edge of the Indian Ocean. It was a beautiful sight. This area will change dramatically in the coming years. A huge gas deposit has been discovered off the coast. This will be tapped and pipelines will be constructed. A lot of money will flow through this area. Let’s hope that some of it helps to alleviate some of the crushing poverty. That is probably a pipe dream. At the airport we saw people with bags having the Schlumberger logo. Schlumberger is the leading suppler of oil and gas technology. There are going to be serious changes in southern Tanzania. There has been unrest in the area because the people in the south feel they have been ignored and they are demanding a piece of the action.


On the coast of the Indian Ocean.

The roads in Dar es Salaam are very inadequate. Getting though the city on a business day is a matter of navigating a massive traffic jam. For all of the poverty in Africa there is a lot of commerce taking place. Due to lack of sufficient railroads a lot of goods are moved by truck. The roads really can’t handle the volume, especially in the cities. The traffic was so bad on the main road that the driver took a detour on back roads. It was actually an interesting route. Instead of seeing auto dealerships and equipment suppliers, we saw some of the local residents, their commerce and they way they live day to day. It is quite a contrast.


A view on the back roads of Dar es Salaam.


A back roads furniture shop in Dar es Salaam as photographed from our van.

We checked into the beautiful Dar Serena hotel. People are getting ready for departure. Some leave tonight. The rest of us will depart tomorrow. While there was no official dinner scheduled, we gathered for a last group dinner. Jerry and Karen picked up the check which is much appreciated. It has been a very good, educational and enlightening trip. We saw things that tourists don’t see. We see how people that otherwise never get seen, survive in poverty on a daily basis. As stark as those images are, there is hope. We saw that. While many of these people are dirt poor, you have to observe them to understand than many of them embrace education and a chance to better their lives. We have to facilitate that. That does not mean making them dependent on outside aid, it means giving them the tools to improve their condition by their own means.

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Lindi and Mtwara

In the morning we traveled to the village of Lindi to meet with the project manager of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF). The AKF is a partner with TPP in southern Tanzania. We listened to a presentation about how AKF is structured locally and how they function. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen the relationship between AKF and TPP and to determine on what areas we should be focusing more attention.

We returned to Mtwara and checked into the Naf View Blue Hotel. It is a small hotel but it was clean, had air conditioning and a hot water on demand system in each room. I have stayed in a lot, lot worse. Every hotel we stayed in on this trip had flat screen TV’s and a satellite feed. I thought that was quite good considering how remote some of the places are.

The Naf Blue View is also Muslim owned so the job of fetching the beer was again my responsibility. I wandered into the main area of the village where the central commerce takes place. We are talking dirt roads and real third world types of stores. All I found was stores that sold soft drinks and no beer. About every other store was a selling cell phones. I felt a bit uncomfortable being the only white person walking through the area but I didn’t get harassed. I did purchase a bag of cashews from a street vendor and a couple of prostitutes propositioned me. No, I absolutely, positively did not purchase what they were offering. I’ve done some stupid things but nothing that stupid.

I was faced with a dilemma. No beer and I was being counted on to be the supplier. In a desperate move I asked the guy at the desk of the hotel where I could get beer. He said, “tell me what you want and I’ll go get it.” I told him and gave him the money. Shortly he returned with some tall cool ones. I was a savior once again. It is important to be a contributor to the trip, not just an observer.

Before dinner there was a meeting to allow everyone to give their impressions and recommendations. That is an important exercise because it allows everyone to assess the projects from a perspective other than their own.

One thing we learned about the Naf Blue View is that you should put your food order in many hours ahead of time. They apparently go out and purchase the food and then prepare it based on what is ordered. To bring some levity to the situation and to pass some time we started a pool to predict when the last plate would be served. The pool fee was 10,000 Tanzanian shillings. That is about $6.50 US. I, being the optimist had the earliest time. That gave me the largest window. I lost miserably. The latest time won which was about 2 hours later. As annoying as it might have been waiting for our food, there was a lot of frivolity aided by the pool and the beer. After all that, the food wasn’t bad.

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Milola Village, Tanzania

Milola Village is the site of a the Tanzanian Partner Project (TPP) in southern Tanzania. It is an impoverished village that is extremely rural. That means driving over dusty dirt roads for miles to get there. As with Niatola, it needed a clean water source and a school. Livestock is not as much of a concern here. The Masai are herders and that isn’t as prevalent in the south. Here it is more a matter of farming. TPP does have animal health projects in the region but it is not as critical as it is in Niatola. One of the major cash crops here is cashews. The fresh cashews are delicious. Other cash crops are coconuts and sesame.

The source of clean water is a spring that is in the hills 29km away. It is a gravity system. Keeping it functioning and properly maintained is an ongoing challenge. It also needs extensions to bring water to more convenient points. TPP is heavily involved in this project.


The local water tap. The woman on the right is the person that monitors the tap and collects the fees.

There is a sub-village called Ngwenya which is about 7km from the main village. The young children will not walk that far to go to school. It is not only a long distance but there are lions and other dangers. An elderly man donated land for a pre-school and TPP helped build and staff the school.


The Ngwenya pre-school.


The elderly farmer that donated the land for the pre-school.


We were greeted by dancing children.

At Milola Village we visited the main school and the medical clinic. Then there was the village celebration of our visit. It involved music, dancing, speeches and gifts. Afterwards we were escorted to a building for a meal.


Traditional dancers at the celebration.

We made our way back to the White Tulip over the dusty dirt roads. At the hotel the beer was waiting. It was extremely refreshing after the long, dusty day. I was again a hero. One woman in the group said it was the best beer she had ever had in her life.

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Another Travel Day

The day in Dar es Salaam was just a stopover. It did allow me to get some laundry done on an “express” basis which means it cost twice as much. At least I have clean clothes going forward.

[Not so] Precision Air never fails to disappoint. There schedule is as fluid as a river. We need to get to Mtwara in order to visit the next project which means taking an early morning flight. There is only one flight a day so it is not to be missed. What started out as an 8:00 am flight bounced around to where it is now a 6:00 am flight. That means getting up at about 3:30 am to get packed, checked out and make it to the airport for check-in. 3:30 am is a late night for me, not an early morning.

I managed to make it and we all got boarded for the flight. Of course, the flight was delayed for about 1/2 hour and It took about 1 hour to fly to Mtwara. We got checked into the White Pearl hotel which was a reasonably nice place. That left a lot of time to rest up.

The south of Tanzania is mostly Muslim. The White Pearl is owned by Muslims so they do not serve alcohol, even beer. They will allow you to bring alcohol into the hotel. This group is not a hard drinking group but they do like a drink with dinner. I took it upon myself to remedy the situation. I got a driver to take me to a place in the village that sells beer. It was really just a dirt floor tavern but it had cold beer. I bought a case and took it back to the hotel in time for dinner. I was like the Messiah with manna from heaven. We went through about 1/2 of the case which left us enough for tomorrow evening.

It’s a good thing we got rested up because tomorrow will be a long, tough day.

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Travel to Dar es Salaam

It was not a very eventful day as it was mostly a matter of getting to the Kilimanjaro airport and taking a flight on [not so] Precision Air to Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. Precision Air is a bankrupt local airline in Tanzania that is looking for a government bailout. Meanwhile, flight schedules are a guessing game. You must pay attention as they will move a flight time earlier with little notice.

The flight went without incident and we checked into the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel which is a very nice hotel. We got to experience some luxury before we venture out to the bush.


The view from my hotel room window. Note no US flag. It would probably be too much of a target.

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