This was first published Nov. 1, 2009, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.”
WHO: Veronica McCormack, 57, of Watertown, Mass.
WHEN: Three weeks in June
WHY: “A colleague had told me about Amani Children’s Home for street kids and he got me involved in fund-raising, so I wanted to see it firsthand; also a friend invited me to visit,” she said.
FAMILIAR FACE: McCormack’s friend in Tanzania was Mustafa Mohamed, who teaches at Roxbury Community College, where McCormack heads the language department. “He was there for the summer and invited me over,” said McCormack.
SAD SIGHT: With Mohamed, she visited Bagamoyo, a former port in the slave trade in the late 1800s. “We found a local guide who took us through the village and to the fort where the slaves had been kept before being shipped out. It was very chilling.”
WITH WILDLIFE: Together they toured the Ngorongoro Crater. “It’s a huge, huge crater with nothing in it except all this wildlife and a few Masai villages. It was a really beautiful, majestic feeling to be with the wildlife,” she said. “We saw four of the big five: rhino, elephant, buffalo, and lions mating. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it with my own eyes.”
JUMP BACK: “With a guide from the local cultural center we visited a Masai village,” she said. “We got to go inside the mud huts, and then, much to my surprise, I found myself dancing with a Masai woman. Well, really jumping; that’s what they do. She approached me and put this necklace around my neck. She had this smile as bright as the sun, held my hand, and she just started jumping, and I started jumping. They jump really high.”
ISLAND RETREAT: On her own, McCormack took the ferry to historic Stone Town in Zanzibar, the former center of the spice trade. “I visited a spice farm and walked around the city, which is like a labyrinth, narrow streets of cobblestones and surrounded by water. It has all this Muslim history. The women are veiled. It’s totally different from the rest of Tanzania.” She also stayed in Kendwa, “a beautiful beach with very few tourists. The fresh fish was fabulous.”
SUCCESS STORY: “A major highlight was the last four days, when I volunteered at the Amani Home. I wanted to see the kind of work they were doing if I’m going to make a commitment to supporting it,” she said. “I was there as part of the ambassador program, which you apply for. I spent some time teaching English but mostly spent time with kids. I’d brought bubbles and had kids climbing over me to have their turns at blowing bubbles. I felt encouraged because what they are doing there works, and it’s run by Tanzanians.”