Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yvonne Goes to Africa

Yes, this is really happening, a dream come true.  On August 17th, in just a few days, I'll be flying first to Germany to see my mom and then to two of the world's most famous gem paradises: Madagascar and Tanzania.  This trip has been in the planning stages for about a year.  My friend Jochen Hintze from Jentsch Mineralien, a German geologist who travels to Africa up to 10 times a year, is going to take me on one of his mineral shopping trips.

I will of course be sharing as much of the trip info as I can while I'm there, and Debbie, Karen and Joanne are going to keep the company going while I'm gone so I don't run out of money while I'm there.  I will be online most of the time as well but I have been told to expect some slow downs and outages also.

The first leg of my trip is going to take me to the town of Antsirabe, about 100 miles south of the capitol of Madagascar, Antananarivo (Tana).  Antsirabe is the second largest city in Madagascar and the most well known for its three gem markets.  Jochen has good connections there so my arrival has already been announced.  We will be getting gem seller visits at the hotel - a small set of individual huts near a rice field with what I'm told contains a beautiful garden of local plants.  I hope to buy some nice tourmaline, also some slices and maybe some specimens, some apatite and pretty sapphire. Maybe also some color change garnets.  I'm told local cutting is not very good so it may be a challenge.  Mainly I'm there for the experience, and to understand better what the gem world looks like on the other end.  Madagascar is also known for its cuisine, and I'm all for interesting food!



Antsirabe town center
Antsirabe town center

Countryside near Antsirabe

Jochen and his gem dealer friend, Irene
After a week in Madagascar, we're going to fly to Arusha, Tanzania via Nairobi, Kenya.  Arusha lies slightly elevated in the foothills of Mount Meru, one of the highest mountains in Africa (15,000 feet). Known for its international gem trade, Arusha is a very cosmopolitan city with an Indian Tanzanian population as well as many others.  Arusha is also located near several national parks, where Jochen's driver is going to take us on a safari!  I'll be in Arusha for a week also.

A giraffe on safari in Arusha
Mountains near Arusha
Arusha countryside
One of the final highlights of my trip will be my first in person meeting of a long time friend, Doreen Kawira.  I met Doreen's aunt, Sr. Francesca Nkima, over 10 years ago when I was still teaching at Felician College.  Sr. Francesca had been sponsored by her congregation to get a college degree in America, she returned to her home country of Kenya and now works at a congregation in Nairobi.  Doreen and her sister Purity were just out of school and had no way money to further their education, so my department and I paid for both to go to secretarial school.  Purity has since married and has two children, little Yvonne and David. Doreen approached me four years ago with her dream to get a bachelor's degree, which I have sponsored with the help of a few friends.  Doreen graduated this May.

So this is where some of the money I made through your purchases has gone, and I am super excited to bring Doreen to Arusha for a few days and celebrate her graduation with her.  I am also collecting for a graduation present for her - Doreen wants to go to graduate school now, and she says she's gonna "do it herself" because I've done enough. But I would like to give her some starting capital.  I'm glad that Doreen is planning to stay in Kenya and make a living there, so she can give back to her people.

If you'd like to help out a little, you can go to my gofundme campaign here: