20 – A selfless love

20 – A selfless love

We had gotten used to hotels with swimming pools. (Spoilt I know!) Our next one (Adonai Hotel in Voi) also had a pool, though this time we did not choose it for that. We chose it because it happened to be one of the cheapest hotels in Voi! Win!!

Adonai Hotel is a work in progress

It had taken us a day and a half to get from Lamu to Voi, with a night spent in Mombasa on the way. From the bus window we spotted numerous baobabs, sisal plantations and street-side furniture shops. You won’t have heard of Voi as it is a small town in Southern Kenya with not much else around it. For some it is a pit-stop on the way to Tsavo East and West National Parks. For us, it was where we were going to catch our bus to Arusha in Tanzania.

Chege, the jolly pastor who manages the hotel, took us in and fed us in exchange for the remaining Kenyan shillings dispersed in our pockets. Soon they would be useless to us. Chege is used to helping people out, it is what he is known for within his community.

Life in Voi is difficult. The land is getting drier and drier, fewer crops are growing. The locals do what they can to earn a few shillings here and there, such as making coal. Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of escaping their reality. Chege uses the revenue from his hotel and his position as pastor to try to help. He extends his invitation to you, should you wish to stay at Adonai and get involved in his local community. Volunteers and missionaries are welcome!

The journey from Voi to Arusha took seven hours (one of which was spent at the border getting our visas whilst the other passengers waited for us). We crossed large expanses of dry savannah, the rains unable to quench the ground’s thirst. Through the bus’ dirty windows, our eyes scanned the horizon looking for Kilimanjaro. Alas, the five thousand eight hundred and ninety-five metred giant was being shy that day, hiding behind a thick wall of clouds. However, Kilimanjaro’s little brother: Mount Meru (who still towers high at four thousand five hundred and sixty-two metres) did make an appearance.

👋🗻

Other than the border, we stopped only one other time whereby half the passengers got off. Seeing as we were not near a big town, we found it a tad strange. We continued driving with half the bus empty. Ten minutes later we went over a weighbridge and twenty minutes later, a little further along the road, those same passengers got back on board. Haha, that is one way of making sure your vehicle passes the motorway’s weight restriction! 🤦‍♀️

We arrived in Arusha in the evening. We used the next day to complete our “arrival in a new country errands”: buy a SIM card, learn the exchange rate, test the food etc. Based on our first impressions, Tanzania seemed to have a lot in common with Kenya: Swahili is spoken in both countries, they both have numerous Safaris and similar food (a lot of meat and carbs!).

Arusha is known as THE place to go on safari as it has several national parks nearby. In the street we were constantly stopped by guides attempting to persuade us to hand over hundreds of euros in exchange for a trip. Unfortunately for them, we were not there for a safari.

We said goodbye to hotels with swimming pools and stayed at Maasaï Hostel in Olasiti (a suburb of Arusha). The hostel’s manager, Swahiba, was so lovely. He is a true entrepreneur. As well as managing his own hostel, he rents out camping equipment to safari organisers, is training to be an official guide, rents three motorbikes to piki-piki drivers and sells art. He plans to go to Chili in the future to work in one of his friend’s bars. If that is not globalisation, then what is?!

Meet Swahiba

As you may have gathered, Swahiba has got his fingers in many pies. He volunteers at his local school, campaigns against littering (he has bought several massive wheelie bins for his village) and runs his very own community football club. Arnaud coached the team a couple of times whilst we were there. Though the children were lacking equipment (there was just one ball for thirty odd kids), they were not lacking in zeal!

Swahiba and Arnaud walking to football (S lent A his boots!)
A football pitch with a view! 😍

The real reason for going to Olasiti was not to play football with the youngsters, but to visit our friend Claire Upshall. Claire grew up in Christchurch and went to the same school as Heather. Her Dad, Derek, went to Heather’s church.

Heather, Claire & friends in Snowdonia in 2003

Claire is an amazing individual. We knew it already, before visiting her in Arusha, but we know it even more so now. We want to talk about her because you all really need to know how great she is, and what a wonderful family she has.

Claire moved to Tanzania in 2011. She originally came to volunteer in an orphanage (she has always been super gifted with children). She ended up running her own orphanage where she cared for hundreds of children, some on death’s doorstep. Eight years later she is still in Tanzania and has six children, five of whom she adopted. Claire would never have imagined herself with a family of seven. Her intention was not to go to Tanzania to adopt children. Whilst working there, she ended up sponsoring and fostering children who were in dire need of 24/h care. Lots of those children moved on, a few formed special bonds with her and stayed on. Claire has since become these children’s sole carer, legal guardian and “Mummy”!

Claire had always intended on staying in Tanzania with her children, though she is now going to have to move her family elsewhere. Unfortunately, it is getting more difficult for expats to stay and work in Tanzania. Despite being a hard worker and fluent in Swahili (yes, she is impressive!), Claire has not been able to get a visa to work in Tanzania since her last position. She has done her best to make her family self-sufficient (they grow their own fruit and vegetables in their garden, have pigs, solar panels and means of collecting rainwater). Mummy Upshall does whatever she can to earn money (i.e. selling things on eBay, getting involved with all sorts of craft projects and even working in England for short periods). She saves her pennies as much as possible (by making her own everything: yogurt, cream cheese, jam, mayo, ketchup etc, shopping at market stalls and buying second-hand). In the short-term Claire would love for them to be more self-sufficient by buying goats, chickens and a large freezer. Though more than anything, Claire wants to be able to live in a country where she can work and support her family. We really feel for her, she is far from friends and family. Expat communities are often fleeting. Last year was especially difficult as she lost her number one fan (her Dad, Derek) and her favourite Tanzanian friend, Grace. Despite tough times, single-handedly she is raising six wonderful children. We can’t emphasise enough what an amazing job she is doing. Alfie, Jack, Layla, Bella, Madeleine and Betty are such polite, well-mannered, helpful, joyful children. We spent a fun few days with the Upshalls around Arusha and when it was time to say goodbye, we were sad to leave them! We thank God there are people like Claire in the world, putting others first, oozing with compassion and a selfless love.

See below for slideshows of Alfie’s birthday party, our visit to the Cultural Heritage Centre and to Themi Falls.

* Should you wish to support Claire in her attempt to move her family somewhere she can work, and the children can get a good education, please consider helping her financially: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-bring-the-upshall-children-hom

5 Replies to “20 – A selfless love”

  1. Good to hear from you and to read of more adventures. Thank you. Claire looks so beautiful and well. What an inspirational person she is. Xx

  2. Lovely to have rejoined you!!! Hope 2020 continues to be full of your blogs as you have more superb experiences!! G Ma xx

  3. Wow great stories and fun writing, Heather and Arnaud! Enjoy the rest of your trip and look forward to more “fieldwork” reporting from Africa!

  4. Wow, ♥️, love how life takes on so such fascinating paths. Inspirational lady Claire. So happy to read and journey with you in 2020. Thinking of you both. Lxxx we were just talking of you last night. 🤗

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