Time flies… It has been a while since my last blog in January and a lot has happened and changed. We are feeling more settled, the rollercoaster seems to be less pronounced and most of the time, I have been feeling like I do not want to leave Tanzania. However, this week, I have suddenly become very homesick and want to see friends, shops, food, familiar places… That is the way it goes and then I go outside and find a chameleon in the garden and it is beautiful and it is changing colour and I feel happy!
Life in Moshi is quiet and pleasant. There is little to do and I have found that making things is the way forward. I no longer fret that I cannot buy certain foods so I make them instead when possible. I have developed a delicious passata recipe with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil which I grow myself. I make bread and biscuits and have become more creative on how I use ingredients. It is very satisfying going back to basics and it feels good. My voluntary work for a children’s charity (Childreach Tanzania) is nice, not stressful and enjoyable. I do like it, my colleagues, all Tanzanian, are lovely and fun. I get a free lunch homemade by the office cook and it is pretty good local food. I do a lot of writing which I enjoy and work alongside the communications manager. Children at a school where we installed a water tap.
We went to the annual Moshi motorcross which was very exciting and incredibly dusty, my shower water was brown afterwards. I wonder how my lungs were. It was pretty wild, people cheering, hugging and generally a very chilled and happy atmosphere.
Geoff and the kids are happy. We love our adventures out of Moshi. The tank is great as it takes us pretty much anywhere. Most recently we went to Pangani where we slept outside on a patio on a cliff overlooking the sea. It was beautiful! At night, we were surrounded by hundreds of fireflies, magical. There were mongoose and monkeys running about, ducks and chickens, millipedes, so many animals and bugs and no people! We explored Tanga city which turned out to be quite interesting in terms of architecture and people. Tanga sits on the Indian Ocean near the Kenyan border and has a colourful history, as the coastal town closest to Kenya, Tanga was on the front line at the start of World War I. A British landing was thrown back on 4 November 1914 in the Battle of Tanga, and the town was not taken until 7 July 1916. There are quite a few tasty places to eat and plenty of Indian food and I got rather excited by the local supermarket which had stuff I could not buy in Moshi. I even bought a butter dish, small things…
We then went off to Lushoto high up in the Usambara Mountains. Stunning scenery, too hard to capture in photographs. This is a good panorama of the view from Mambo: http://www.mamboviewpoint.org/MamboViewPointMain/Photoalbum/PanorameMvP/index.html. When you stand on the ledge, you look around and see Africa coming into view, you can see for miles and miles… Mountains, hills, lakes, green plantations all coming out from under hazy clouds, it is almost unreal and so vast you could look at it for hours. Mambo and Mtae villages are perched at the highest point on the mountains, Mtae stands at 2,400 meters and is a small village built on the ridge of the mountain with amazing views on either side. Driving through the area was one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. According to local lore, this colourful vantage point is the spot where Sambara watchmen once stood guard to look for invading Maasai warriors approaching from the plains. In order to warn the village, they would count exactly how many Maasai were on their way — hence the name Mtae, the Sambara word for “counting”.
Walking around is a pleasure, it is rare to come across anyone unless you are walking through a village. Some lovely photos I found on the web: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20120518-life-in-the-usambara-mountains. Local residents are so excited to see a mzungo (white person) that they come out to greet you and the children call and shout for your attention, sometimes trying out their English with calls of “how are you” but are often too shy to come too close. There are so many children here, everywhere you go, they come out in droves and want to look at you and show you the local two horned chameleons. Oddly, the locals seem scared of these animals and run away if you go close to them with the chameleon.
So to add to our adventure, we heard that there was a very steep road that would take us all the way down the mountain. We were warned not to do it in the rain and we are in the rainy season but that was no deterrent. As it was, the road was more like a dried out rocky, very steep, slippery river bed with sharp bends and the most amazing views to distract you from keeping your eyes on the road. Needless to say, we did not encounter any other cars on this road and going down was fine as there is only one road so no chance of getting lost. An hour or so later we found ourselves at the bottom in a sandy, acacia filled area. Suddenly there was no longer a road! Geoff did some tracking and found the odd motorbike track on the sand so off we went chasing the faint tracks on the sand. We ended up driving onto a riverbed which got deeper and deeper and decided that it was perhaps best to “climb” out whilst we still could. In this fashion we continued our journey until we somehow came to a village in the middle of nowhere and were able to eventually find the road.
We also visited Lake Manyara National Park which stretches for 50kms along the base of the 600 metre high Rift Valley escarpment. According to Ernest Hemingway it is “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. The park is beautiful and the road winds through an expanse of lush jungle forest where hundreds of baboons lounge nonchalantly along the roadside, blue monkeys scamper between the mahogany trees, and forest hornbills honk in the high canopy. Across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes, we saw zebra herds and giraffes – some so dark that they appear to be black from a distance. Sadly the tree-climbing lions were not about but we did see some massive hippos lounging in the hot springs that steam and bubble.
On the way back to Moshi, we passed a Maasai village and decided to stop by and have a look. We were warmly welcomed by a Maasai that spoke English and was happy to answer our curious questions. To welcome us, the Maasai men did one of their traditional dances which involves some jumping up and down whilst the women sang. We had a tour of the village which was small and basic. We learnt that the Maasai live in Kraals arranged in a circle. The fence around the kraal is made of acacia thorns, which prevent lions from attacking the cattle. It is a man’s responsibility to fence the kraal. While women construct the houses. The Inkajijik (maasai word for a house) are loaf-shaped and made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow’s urine. Women are responsible for making the houses as well as supplying water, collecting firewood, milking cattle and cooking for the family. Warriors are in charge security while boys are responsible for herding livestock. During the drought season, both warriors and boys assume the responsibility for herding livestock and can walk for up to 50 kms per day. Traditionally, the Maasai rely on meat, milk and blood from cattle for protein and caloric needs. I wanted to talk to the Maasai about circumcision but he became silent and changed the subject but I did find that both boys and girls undergo the same fate! If you are as fascinated as I am by the Maasai then this is pretty accurate and easy to read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people. There is of course a huge amount of more detailed information!
To finish off, George’s story! George and his young brother have been our weekend gardeners since we arrived. They have no father and struggle to support themselves, often going hungry. George works hard and has been out of school for 3 years so we decided to help him to go back. His brother Michael has a free place at a government school but George has not been so lucky! So, having asked friends for help with George’s school, on behalf of George we send you a HUGE thank you and a HUGE smile from George. He is so happy to be back at school and to have hope for his future. If you would still like to donate let me know and I will send you details. All the money you donate will go towards George’s school costs, there will be no deductions or fees! So once a social worker always a social worker and proud of it!
Until next time…