Bagamoyo Tanzania

After we stopped by the orphanage the first morning in Tanzania, we took some of the cute kids along with us to participate in the model shoot that occupied the rest of our day. That day and the next were spent in the district of Bagamoyo where we did a fashion shoot for an upcoming issue of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Magazine. Two models from South Africa were flown up and 6 gowns were designed specifically for use in the shoot by top designers Ines Di Santo, Amy Michelson, Adele Wechsler, Angel Sanchez and Jenny Packham. The models, gowns and location were all incredible and the 15 of us were all in photographer heaven shooting away with our long lenses so we could all "get the shot." I wish I could share some of the results from the model shoot with you, but I won't be able to blog any of those images until after the magazine comes out in January.

But during those two days I also grabbed a couple shots around Bagamoyo that caught my eye. Bagamoyo is a historic seaport in eastern Tanzania with a rich history. The town was formerly a slave-trading depot as well as the first capital of the German East Africa Company in the early 19th century.

These shots are just random ones that caught my eye but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless!

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hope at a Tanzanian orphanage

The first morning we were in Tanzania we visited one of two orphanages that we saw on our trip. The kids were unbelievably adorable and even dressed up and sang for us!

Before I get too far though, I want to introduce you to Todd and Ann, a sweet couple who have been working to bring clean water to Tanzanians for over five years. These two used to make six figures each in Michigan until they felt called to pack up and move to Tanzania. They are pretty remarkable and I felt so blessed to get to know them during the week we spent there. Todd and Ann were our contacts in Africa and did a ton of work to set things up for us so that all the logistics of our stay went smoothly.

Todd and Ann oversee a workshop where hundreds of bio-sand filters -- like these two that bring clean water to the orphanage we visited -- are made every year.

We learned a lot about these filters while we were there and even got a chance to help make them ourselves one day! Each filter costs $80 to make and brings clean drinking water to an average of 15 people. They are very simple in structure and consist of a concrete mold that houses a PVC pipe that brings the water from the bottom of the filter up to the spout you see sticking out over the buckets. When water is poured into the top of the filter it goes through a number of layers before reaching the piping at the bottom. The first is a diffuser plate with holes in it that filter out any large chunks. Next comes a large layer of fine sand. The top few centimeters of the sand trap the bulk of micro-organisms, which accumulate and develop into a highly active food chain, called a bio-layer. The bio-layer traps and feeds on the micro-organisms and contaminants in the water. Further filtration occurs in the lower layers of sand and gravel before the filtered water, that has been tested to be 99% bacteria-free, comes out the pipe. Wa-laa! No breakable parts and no filters that need to be changed. Genius:

Here's a few photos I took during our brief time at the orphanage:

All of the Africans we met were big fans of our President:

Phillip Glickman let this little guy try on his glasses and the kids got a kick out of it:

The kids all loved to have their pictures taken and then instantly wanted to see what they looked like. Score one for digital technology!

Todd loving on some of the kids:

So cute:

Some of the guys from our team kicked around a soccer ball with some of the boys. Check out Ben Harrison's awesome form. It's definitely not easy to do this with camera in tow:

I love this shot of a gorgeous little girl admiring her polaroid:

As I mentioned the kids all got dressed up and put on a show for us:

This little girl's name is "Happy."

It's hard to believe but Happy is actually 15 years old. She is HIV positive. But her name describes her well. Her smile is just lights her up. I guess when she arrived at the orphanage, she was in rough shape. But thanks to the clean water and care of the orphanage she is now thriving. We learned that a large majority of Africans with HIV actually end up dying from a water borne illness since their bodies cannot fight off the bacteria. It was so exciting to hear about this tangible example of how clean drinking water has changed a life and brought hope!

Have fun watching this clip of part of the kids' performance for us. Happy is the little one with the big smile at the end.

Orphanage in Tanzania from ben harrison on Vimeo.

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Thanks for being so patient with me everyone. I had no idea jet lag would kick my butt as bad as it has upon my return. My trip to Africa was a complete whirlwind and with it happening right on the heels of my aunt's death I am still reeling. But I'm super-excited to share about my trip with you.

In the days to come I'll share more about Africa but I wanted to start with a quick post about our stop in Dubai. The travel to and from Tanzania was crazy-long. I flew to LA then took a 16 hour flight to Dubai and got in at midnight. We had an overnight layover and the hotel we were staying in was offering tours in the middle of the night. So we all climbed into 3 taxis and took a 3-hour tour of the city from midnight to 3am. Then I got 3 hours of sleep before boarding our 5 1/2 hour flight into Tanzania. I figured this was my one chance to see Dubai and learn a little about it.

My favorite part of the tour was our taxi driver's Pakistani accent. He was very talkative and pointed out every single shopping center and hotel we passed. I got the impression that hotels and shopping centers were the only points of interest in Dubai or maybe he just thought that's what we would be interested in seeing? Not sure.

Our first stop was on the side of the freeway where I took the above shot. I literally got out and thought, hmm, I wonder what we're supposed to be seeing and taking photos of here? I'm still not sure what the draw of that particular spot on the freeway was.

Here's a shot of Burj Al Arab, a famous hotel in Dubai. They're very proud of their buildings there and the taxi driver kept saying that none of it was there 37 years ago. I guess everything has really built up in the last few decades.

Jim Davis-Hicks, our fearless leader and the founder of Thirst Relief shooting the cool hotel:

And a group of us in front of the cool hotel:

A fountain in front of one of the cool hotels:

Yet another cool hotel inspired by the Atlantis in the Bahamas:

We spent some time in the above hotel and they had an amazingly gigantic aquarium. I decided if I were a fish that's where I'd want to live.

The lobby of the hotel had a sculpture that reminded me of the Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens:

And...that's about it.

Even in the middle of the night Dubai was in the high 90s with 80% humidity. It was unbelievably stifling. I'd take Phoenix mid-summer over that kind of weather any day. So that's it. I wish I had something more exciting to share with you from Dubai. Something with lots of interesting culture. But unfortunately I didn't see any. Just cool buildings. But I guess you can't really expect much more if your sight-seeing window is midnight to 3am.

Next up -- Africa!

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mini update

Just wanted to let you all know I haven't been eaten by lions. I'm having an absolutely AMAZING time in Tanzania and can't wait to share more about it with you. But I've only had internet access for an hour at a time three times throughout the trip so far. I've been shooting constantly and haven't even had a chance to look at my images let alone edit them. Tomorrow I head to Dubai on my way home and after an overnight layover I will jump on my 16 hour flight back to LA then home to Phoenix on Thursday evening.

I look forward to blogging a ton about my time here and hopefully doing so will help me to better and more fully process my experience. I think because of the close proximity of my aunt's suicide to this really powerful trip, it's going to take me a bit longer to process through it all. But I'm so thankful I came and God has blessed me immensely.

I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the internet upon my return. Until then, here's a shot of some sweet kids I met at one of the orphanages we visited:

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headed to africa!

Today I leave for Africa. I wish I could just be beamed up and materialize next to some giraffes. But instead, I'm getting on a plane bound for LA at noon. Then I take a 16 HOUR flight to Dubai where I'll stay overnight then catch a 5 and a half hour flight to Tanzania. So Arizona time I think I finally arrive in Africa sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Wow. K. I'm going to stop thinking about that now. It's going to be TOTALLY worth it.

I don't know much at all about what I'm heading into but I'm excited for the adventure. I only know two of the people on my team so I'm really looking forward to building some great relationships along the way. I've never been to Africa but I have been to some other 3rd world countries so I'm expecting that it's going to rock my world. Of course I'm looking forward to sharing my experience with all of you on my blog but I don't know what kind of internet access I'll have in the next 10 days. Hang in there and stay tuned!

The team has a blog that we hope to collectively update along the way so definitely check it out at http://www.thirstrelief.org/tanzaniabenefit.

You'll also find there a list of the other photographers on the team as well as links to their blogs.

Should be fun! First though I'm looking forward to some quality time with my neck pillow. Open mouth snoring is probable.

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