When Chilton Middle School Administrative Assistant Ann Hanamann was invited on a trip to East Africa with the goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro back in the summer of 2015, little could she have imagined how that trip would open the door to new opportunities, both for her and others at school. In addition to completing the climb with her friend Sheila Lackershire in February 2016, along the route she developed a lasting friendship with her Mountain Guide, Ian Minja.
Ann said she had about seven months to prepare for the 19,341-foot climb. While ascending the mountain takes about a week to ten days depending on the route, more time is spent on the hike up to allow people to acclimate to the change in oxygen concentration and temperature. Ann said the temperature went from around 85 degrees at the bottom to about -20 with the wind chill at the summit where it was bright and very, very windy. She said she had a great feeling of accomplishment at the top and was able to spend ten to fifteen minutes there taking pictures before starting to descend.
Ann said she and Ian hit if off really well during her trip, so she invited him to stay with her and her husband, Derek, for three weeks the following summer. Ann said she then returned to Tanzania in February 2017, and stayed with Ian, his wife, Julie, and their family at their home for two weeks, adding, “Living in their village was an amazing experience!” Ian lives in Arusha, which is about 75 miles from the Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park entrance, (where January high temperatures are in the 80s), and he and Julie have six children ranging in age from 24 years old to 18 months.

Grant makes visit possible
Now, thanks to an Arts Corps grant written by Ann and sixth grade teacher Amy Hanson last spring, Ian was able to travel to Chilton at the end of December. Ann stated that she let Ian know he would be coming back to Wisconsin again, this time to teach in the middle school, and he felt the opportunity was his “golden chance.” He said, “When they planned the time for me to come, then I prayed, and that’s why I’m here.”
Amy mailed Ian the book A Long Walk to Water, the same book students would be reading in class, so he could read it at home and be prepared. For their Africa unit, Amy said the continent is broken down into five different regions, and the students are assigned to groups and given a region which they research to prepare a presentation that they give to the rest of the classes in the Engler Center. Much of Ian’s time in the classroom has been spent answering lots of questions about his home and family, as well as teaching the kids about the sports, food, education, languages and culture in Africa.
Amy said Ian has been talking to the students about the tilapia caught in Lake Victoria, tanzanite, which is mined in northern Tanzania, and the roses, coffee, and cashews that are grown and exported to the Netherlands. He said, “The number of things being exported now is getting higher because our new president has opened the door for everyone to more trade.” He also told the students the importance of tourism to the Tanzanian economy, including visiting Kilimanjaro and going on safari in the Serengeti.
In addition, Ian taught the students some basic words and phrases in Kiswahili, which is the national language of Tanzania, and one of four languages he speaks. He said, “I speak my mama tongue language which is Kichaga, which is spoken in my village from my tribe, and also I speak Mosai. At my home in Arusha, I speak Kiswahili and sometimes English with my boys, but most of the time, it’s Kiswahili. And when I go back to the village, then Kichaga. In the mountains, sometimes I speak Kichaga or Kiswahili or English.”

Having had no formal classroom training, Ian admitted he was having many new experiences here and was learning along with the students, noting, “So, most of the new and good things I learn here means that when I go back to my country, then I will have a lot of stories to tell!”
Amy was very pleased to have Ian in the classroom. She said, “I appreciate Ian coming and teaching our students, and I appreciate the Arts Corps grant for giving him that opportunity. It’s amazing what the students can learn from somebody who has been places and has seen things. It is so different from Googling it or looking it up in a book. To have an expert in the room is amazing. It makes me happy that we have this opportunity for the kids. They have lots of questions, and we have an expert to answer them. I had a student, who, after listening to Ian talk about the government and how they celebrate Christmas and the different everyday things, said, ‘I want to go to Africa now and see it.’ Ian has made Africa exciting for our students.”

Born in a small village
Regarding his experience as a guide, Ian was born in Marangu, Tanzania, a small village next to the Kilimanjaro National Park entrance, and he started working as a porter for a guide company when he was only about thirteen years old. Early on, his duties were to help carry gear up the mountain for visitors who were making the climb. Ian took first responder/emergency training and National Park Training and worked his way up to assistant guide, then full guide, and finally senior guide.
Ian said he has been doing expeditions for almost twenty-six years and has summited Kilimanjaro 178 times, so he is optimistic about breaking the record of 200. He decided to break away to make his own company and become a free-lance guide eight years ago. He launched his business, “African Mountain Safaris,” in January 2018, and now he has guides that make the trip for him, including his oldest son, Benson. Ian still makes three to four trips up the mountain per year, in addition to taking clients on shorter day trips that include hiking from the National Park gate to the first camp and back.
In addition to teaching the sixth graders, Ian had a busy calendar during his three week stay with Ann and Derek. He toured local buildings, like the courthouse with Deputy Meyer where he met police dog Emir, and he went to a Packer game at Lambeau, complete with tailgating. He also attended a Styx concert at the Resch Center, and went over to Lake Winnebago where he learned about ice fishing from Derek. Ann even took him up Rib Mountain, near Wausau, where she got to be his guide.
Ann said she was thankful for the Arts Corps grant because it gives kids the opportunity for a different way of learning. While Ann doesn’t have plans to climb Kilimanjaro again, she definitely plans to return to Tanzania to visit Ian and his family, and she hopes to tour the Serengeti.
Ian was grateful for his chance to come to visit the school and talk with the students, especially because the American Embassy is very strict about giving out visas. He said, “It was nice to be welcomed, and have the experience and learn so many things because of this trip.”
More information about Ian’s guide business can be found at www.AfricanMountainSafaris.com.