Monday, November 8, 2010

Site Visit

Every project begins with a site visit. The twelve of us (including the two teenage sons) rode the bus 20 minutes north to the outskirts of the Dar es Salaam district. There we walked the site with James, the Kenyan-born director, and Michael, a council member of ICM Tanzania. We began the site tour at the northwest corner under a giant cashew tree. Later Aaron, Ben and I all spent a few minutes sitting in its branches, our feet hanging above others heads below. Did you know that a cashew tree produces a fruit called an apple that bears only one nut… on the top of the fruit NOT inside? This is a good trivia fact to remember when paying a high price for a can of ‘shews. That, and that the fruit is poisonous and nut roasted prior to consumption!

Climbing trees turned out to be my biggest task on the site visit. On our way up from the hotel James used a large tree in the distance to point out our site up on the hill out in front of our approach on Bagamoyo Road. This tree was located on the ridge just east of the property on what we imagined was the Oceanside of the property. Confirming this speculation would determine if it were possible to get ocean views from a third story structure onsite. Naturally, I volunteered to cross the property and climb the giant bilbao tree. Now that was a beautiful climbing tree! And I don’t mean it was anything like the swiss family robinson style treehouse type tree like our cashew tree experience. This tree was so old and over 20’ in diameter, that it was ridden with pocks, beautiful climbing grips! It was so embarrassing though. I got about 5’ in the air and got stuck trying to shift my weight to the right, well, stuck isn’t the right word, when my left hand left the tree, I swung away from the trunk and lost my connection to the tree, gaining connection between my backside and the dusty gray African earth. Aaron shimmied his way up the tree while I dusted my pride off, and I gave him a boost past my trouble spot. He made it up easy, so I tried again. Boom. I got near the same spot and reestablished that I can indeed sit on the African soil well. Argh, how can I friction climb 600’ at a 5.8 pitch, yet can’t climb a stupid African tree?! I took off my shoes and I prayed. Yes, I did. I made my way up that big ol’ beast and out cautiously onto a limb. “OCEAN VIEW!” We took lots of pictures of the site from that perspective, and got a great sense of what rooms in the third-story would be like. I hugged the tree close between my legs the whole time with a firm grip like a saddle between my hands, determined not to fall this time from 15 feet. Always an adventure you know – this site visit was no exception.


  1. That is awesome! You are the perfect person for the job with your climbing prowess. I can only imagine what you will do with your vision for that room on the third floor...

  2. Becky,
    I enjoyed your story about the tree climbing. Sounds adventure in the exact way that makes it an adventure!! you get get back see something amazing!!

    We are praying for you and the work that the group is doing.
    -Steph R.