April 5th – Arrival in Dubai

We arrived in Johannesburg at 10 am after a day and a half of traveling. We were warmly welcomed at the airport by our friend and guide, Dawie Crous, who helped us get organized. Tension grew as we rushed to exchange money, sort the donation bags and look for misplaced equipment. Exhausted, hungry and irritable, we boarded the bus and headed to Maropeng. On this ride we got our first real look at South Africa.

At first, huge business buildings and towers consumed the landscape and the environment seemed similar to our own back home. As we drove further the buildings became sparser and soon were replaced by townships. Clusters of shacks lined the highway, and Dawie emphasized the differences between life in the city and life in the townships. I felt a twinge of guilt every time we passed a person sitting by their home or on the street. It appeared to me that they owned close to nothing. Two boys waved to us frantically as we passed them, as though it was the most exciting thing they’d seen all day.

Dining in Maropeng
Dining in Maropeng

We soon passed the townships, and were able to take in the stunning scenery. We continuously snapped pictures whenever possible, desperately trying to preserve the beautiful images of the rolling hills, brilliant clouds and even a few giraffes! We arrived at Maropeng, and the landscape was breathtaking and looked like a postcard.

The ride to our first destination in Africa was a definite eye-opener; first world, third world and nature all coexisting. I can’t wait to see more.
-Haley Turner


It was very appropriate to start our journey with the Cradle of Humankind. This is said to be where humans first started to walk the earth. I find it amazing that we all come from the same place. Even though our DNA is the same, we are so different from each other. I realized from the discussion with Dawie how much our culture has to do with who we are.

Cradle of Mankind
Cradle of Mankind

This tour made me reflect on racism in our world and how unnecessary it is. How can some people think that because someone is a different color and has a different culture they are somehow less than us, and treat them as if they are a different species. It is sad that some people believe that they are superior to others, even though we all come from the same ancestors at Maropeng in Africa.
-Brittany Lovato


Leah Nascimento
Leah Nascimento

I was very distracted on our 15 hour flight to Dubai. Even the countless movie options failed to keep my attention. Every once in awhile I would fall asleep, then wake up thinking that we were about to land, only to find that we still had many hours to go. It’s amazing how far away we are from home.

It is currently 1:30 am in Dubai. Everything from the detailed marble floors to the elaborate architecture is grand. Each structure looks as though it came from the future; there are colored lights on everything. They catch your eye and make it hard to focus. Its almost eerie being in here, I’ve never felt this small before.

Walking through Dubai Airport
Walking through Dubai Airport

I have never been in such a quiet environment. The people here seem so conservative and reserved, with the exception of one who befriended me. While waiting in the airport an Arab toddler playfully snuck behind a tree near me and expressed interest in what I was doing. The few words he knew were in a language that I didn’t understand which made it all the more interesting. He was the most enthusiastic boy I have ever met. I handed him the journal I was writing in and he reached out for my pen. He scribbled an abstract piece of art that will be with me for the rest of the trip.

An Arab Haiku

Palm trees, marbled floors
Buildings shine with gold décor
I want to see more

-Leah Nascimento


Arrival in Dubai 1
Arrival in Dubai 1

Dubai is a great launching point for our journey. It gives us our first taste of a foreign culture outside of the western world. The differences between Dubai and the United States are obvious. They range from signs in Arabic to more subtle differences such as the lack of trash and vandalism.

In addition to learning about different cultures, we are learning about each other. During our 15 hour plane ride we have found out how each of us operates. We have learned who is a sleeper and who is an insomniac. We are also learning valuable lessons like how to be up at 1:00 am alive and energized after only 3 hours of rest. This seems to be the final step in our preparation for Africa.

-Jack Massion


Dubai – A Haiku

Huge glitter columns
Not a piece of trash in sight
Dubai warms my heart

-Erin Mitchell

Arrival in Dubai 1
Arrival in Dubai 2
  • Laurie

    So delighted to see the first blog entries. This has been quite the experience for the community of parents as well. In true MMS spirit we are leaning on each other — sharing emails describing our anxiety, frustrations, jealousy, envy, insomnia. Your blog entries and emails are soothing our souls and inspiring us, thank you. Peace, hugs and kisses to you all! Laurie

  • Have fun. Learn. Grow. Make a Difference.

    But don’t forget about those of us at home in the USA who miss all of you 🙂 Keep the pictures and blog entries coming as much as possible.

    I’m proud of all of you on the trip – and the parents at home. We are all learning.

  • Stephanie and Mort

    What a treat to see your beautiful faces and read the blog entries. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    Inspired by the haiku… here is ours for you!

    loved ones trekking far
    eyes open with wonderment
    envoys of good will

    parents wait to hear
    of sights, sounds and surprises —
    send new cultures home

  • Monica Nascimento

    Even the initial blog entires show you have changed. Help us change with you, keep the blogs coming.
    We love you and we miss you.

    The pictures are great and the haiku’s are a wonderful way to sum up the entry! We want more! We want more! We want more!
    –Monica Nascimento

  • Stef and Shawn Van Den Brand Horninge

    What a great experience. Have a great time and look forward to more updates and stories.
    -Stef and Shawn

  • Debbie Hernandez

    An experience of a lifetime, cherish and dwell on each moment. The memories will always be with you. My prayers will be with you for your health and safe travel.

    Debbie

  • jenny turner

    I love the photos of you guys walking through the airport in Dubai. Every student is looking in a different direction, curious, perhaps amazed, at your new surroundings-taking it all in. After the long flight, even though it was one or two in the morning, you all look wide-eyed and ready to discover and learn. What a great trip it will be!!!

  • Gail

    I’m so thrilled to get posts of the trip thus far.
    We’re living vicariously through your daily blogs, so keep them coming. I can’t wait to hear about your introduction to Trevor Tutu, as well as the Cotland HIV Clinic for children. I love you Jack! Ubuntu, Gail

  • pat and sharold thomas

    leah, we are thrilled for you. I wish we could be with you and enjoy all the fun. What are you eating? Anything normal? Ha! Come back safely and see you soon. We love you, Uncle Pat and Aunt Sharold XXOO

  • Michelle Page

    Leah, I am so excited for you! I know what you mean on the long flight…..but you made it! I can’t wait to read your future blogs, it makes us feel like we are experiencing your trip with you! Keep up with your journal entries, you’ll be surprised how much you cherish your words about this 10, 20 years from now. Love you!

    Cousin Michelle

  • Carson D. Kelly

    Looks like an amazing trip! Stay safe, learn lots, and come home soon!

  • chris thomas

    Leah I am so proud of you.Traveling has always been so hard for me.Maybe you can write a poem while your there in the moment.Then we can put music to it to.Be safe. I love you very much.