Last Saturday, we were Bweni Bound.
Be ready at 8am, a car will pick you up.
TIA. TIA. TIA.
This is Africa.
This is Africa.
This is Africa.
The car arrives a little after 11am.
We pack in -- international volunteers, local volunteers, local teachers and
members of the Mafia Island Steering Committee.
Thirteen packed into an SUV.
We're picnicking in Bweni.
Here we go.
Mecheni, Kitomondo, Kilindoni, Beleni, Kirwangee.
Another car being filled with all those in-between.
I'm pinched on the edge of a seat and a body with my legs startling my backpack.
Just enough room to have my head slightly out of the window and my camera around my neck.
Two hours down a windy, bumpy dirt road.
Small village after small village.
Smiling face after curious face after youth screaming "good-bye!"
It's time, jump out of the LandRover.
Onto the white sanded beach with the tide so low boats are land strapped with no way of getting out of their current spots until the sun begins to set and the tide begins to get high again.
Seashells line the coastline.
Large conch like shells.
Crabs living in colorful swhirley ones.
Spider like starfish living in large sand filled abandoned clam shells.
Sand crabs scurry about as they come out of their holes.
Small eyes in the distance looking to those laughing and
collecting seashells along the edge of the receding waters.
One youth in particular laying stomach down on the bow of a land strapped boat
with his eyes so deep of curiosity.
I turn to him and say "Samahani ninaomba nicupege picha! (Excuse me, I beg of you to take your picture)"
He looks at me, smiles and says, "indigo! (yes!)"
I excitedly take his photo and when finished walk to show him the image on my small camera screen.
His eyes get wide with excitement.
I look over and two other young boys are staring and ask why I'm doing.
I walk over.
And again say the four magic words, "Samahani ninaomba nicupege picha."
Again, I get an excited "ndiyo"
I take theirs.
This time with the two of them laying over the edge of the boat.
I turn, show them their image and smile.
Lots of asante sana's (thank you very much) and laughs were exchanged.
I walk away with a huge smile on my face as I knew I just took two of my favorite pictures since being on the island.
We gather our shells, walk up to the LandRover and onward we go for Bweni Bound.
Again, a familiar but new sight.
Forest lined dirt roads with nothing but more trees and huts in sight for miles.
These forest entertain those of monkeys as this is their home!
The only lighthouse on the island.
Brought here by the British in the 1800's.
The door in unlocked, we sign the guest book.
Ten by ten and some we go up to the very top of the lighthouse.
There are twenty three of us in total.
Up the dozens of narrow flights of stairs.
Out a three foot red door.
Onto a rigged old circular platform enabling those that venture here
an opportunity to see the entire tip of Mafia Island.
Acres and acres of rainforest to both the left and right.
The Indian Ocean just beyond the greenery.
Mangrove huts amongst those palm trees.
Schools, communities, farms and small shops tucked even deeper into the depths of the Mafia Island forest.
I am ecstatic.
I am living a LIFE documentary.
Only, this one is NOT narriated by Opera, this one is narriated by Ashley Strong.
This one is documented through the lens of Ashley Strong Photography.
I am in an environment which I knew existed, but only in my dreams.
Only on a television screen.
Backdown the narrow staircase.
Onto the seaweed colored sand of the Indian Ocean coastline.
Back up to the vacant building for our group picnic.
Picnic is Bweni!
We have arrived.
The food has arrived.
The bea (beer) has arrived.
Bread, peanut butter, mangoes, watermelon, chipias and CAKE.
Yes, that does say CAKE.
My first piece of CAKE since leaving the states.
One of my first sweets since being on this island.
We have introductions to those new faces.
We enjoy a day off, being in the countryside of Mafia Island.
Peacefully being in the company of one another.
And off we go again.
Bweni Bound continues.
Down the dirt path to an Australian owned resort given the name "Turtle Rock" by our dear international volunteer Sean.
We are free to roam, explore, experience the land.
We walk with our toes in the sand and of course a beer in hand.
The image of that in front of me is surreal.
The most simply elegant scenery.
Bare bright trees in the ocean water.
Roots coming up from the sand wanting attention of that above the ocean's surface.
Bweni Bound has reached its peak.
Everyone is together. Smiling. Laughing. Sharing even more stories.
It's time for a sunset swim.
Those ready for the ocean waters jump right in, while others converse on the sand.
The sun begins to set.
We look at one another in gratitude.
What a beautiful day spent in the presence of those making a drastic shift in the Mafia Island education system.
Twenty three in total.
Teaching. Gesturing. Lesson Planning. Giving. Receiving.
We are all doing this together.
We play hard, but work abundantly harder.
Bweni Bound was a day away.
A picnic amongst the forest of Mafia Island.
Racing along the dirt path with headlights on brightly towards our villages.
Bweni Bound was beyond a day of pleasure.
It was a day that will remain vividly in my mind.
The photos captured that day will be shared.
Shared with many.
A day of experiencing the power of what mere strangers can accomplish when mindsets are smiler and determination is at largely at hand.
It is possible.
It is definitely possible.
It is happening.
The Mafia Island education is improving.
We are beginning to make a difference.
Blessings and love from Mafia Island!
Jambo from Tanzania:
Living & Teaching abroad in Mafia Island, Tanzania
In June of 2012.... a dream came true.
I was accepted into a WorldTeach program to teach English in Tanzania on Mafia Island. In late December of 2012, I embarked on a 3 month journey to the motherland! Enjoy this blog as it was designed to share my photographs and adventures while living and teaching
on Mafia Island, Tanzania.