Star Date: December 2009
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Hello -Hehe Tribe)
("I Dreamed of Africa" Kuki Gallmann, movie 2000)
Kilimanjaro, a mystery veiled by cloud. 'Mountain of Light' or 'Mountain of Greatness' is the overseer of the continent of Africa. Local people, the Wachagga's don't even have a name for the whole mountain, simply calling their familiar snowy peak 'Kibo'. Some energetic folks slowly climb, step by step, to the top of the 19,341 ft peak but most gaze across the plains at this landmark of Tanzania. Only 3 degrees from the equator the mountain remains ice capped year round, but even that is changing with "global warming". “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1938), one of the most famous stories of American writer Ernest Hemingway, is set in the region. Tanzania has the highest percentage of elephants of any country in Africa and big game abounds. With big game now comes big entry fees and one must plan their visits to game reserves such as the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater. Just driving into the crater one day is now $200. We were happy we had spent 5 days getting our big game fix in the wildlife reserves in Kenya and that in 1996 the kids and I had hired a driver and jeep and camped in all the parks for 2 weeks, only $10 a day. The good old days! A safari is a must, so just tuck some money away and enjoy what you can afford. Get out and experience the raw, savage side of nature in Africa.
In a country of 38 million people it is soon apparent one glaring difference from it's neighboring countries. In Kenya when you meet someone they tell you what tribe they belong to. In this land of 'umojo' (oneness), with over 100 distinct tribes, people will proudly say they are Tanzanian, a by product of the socialistic experiment of the 1960's no doubt. The result is that Tanzania remains unencumbered by the tribal rivalries and political upheavals affecting many African neighbors.
Fear of the unknown. Why is it that we humans, creatures of habit that we are, have all these fears lurking about? Mostly unfounded, we often let our imaginations expand on any negative ideas or information until the unfounded fears take on a form of their own. Hearing that Dar es Salaam was dirty, noisy and dangerous I was secretly dreading facing the challenge as our overnight ferry from Zanzibar landed at the pier. We planned to give it a chance, as usual, and check it out for a couple of days. Innocent until proven guilty. Dar es Salaam, Harbour of Peace was a good lesson in not having expectations. Tall 'wanna be' shopping centers are offset by shabby street vendors and an occasional Masai warrior strolling along in his red plaid 'shuka', carrying a spear and a club. Our two days turned into 3 weeks when the motherboard on Joseph's computer decided it had hit one too many bumps in the back of a daladala. The frustrations surrounding the almost repair, (the road to heaven or Dar is paved with good intentions) were soon overshadowed by the wonderful people who came into our life. We spent our first afternoon learning to change our expectations, patience and finally our clocks over to Tanzanian time. Arriving at Village Museum we soon realized it was mainly huts, with little in the music department. Told a great performance was happening adjacent at 4 pm we returned ready for the show. At 6pm the show finally happened with energetic Makonde and Wayaho tribes people from southern Tanzania dancing and drumming their lively and often frantic songs. Starting 2 hours late is often the norm, "Relax 'wasungu'!" Locals will often give you the answer you want to hear, knowing full well that events unfold in due time. We spent the afternoon with Zena the pretty, progressive, young Muslim lady we met in Zanzibar, who lives and works here. We had a good girl to girl talk about the difficulties facing independent women in the Muslim culture. She also described the full weekend of events surrounding her sister's recent traditional wedding. The actual ceremony takes place at the Mosque, with men only in attendance. Following this they go over to the brides home and sign a contract with the family. (I'm assuming the bride is invited to this part) and once the formalities are completed a reception is held. In some cases a separate function for women only follows, where they can dance and let their hair down. The photos of the beautiful women behind closed doors with bare shoulders and flowing hair, was a far cry from them completely covered and veiled in black when crossing the threshold into public view.
I became friends also with a group of women from the Dawoodi Bohra Community. We would hang out in a small cloth shop and discuss sewing and life in general. Followers of a smaller Muslim sect the women consider themselves lucky to be covered at age 13 by a 'tablecloth' looking outfit, allowing more air circulation than their neighbor Muslim women totally draped in hot, black burkas or bui bui veils. Life is all relative.
Dar es Salam was growing on us and before we knew it we were invited into friendly local, Muslim, and Hindu families. A change of cultures from Muslim awaited us as I stopped into a small tailor's shop to ask prices. I was greeted by a wide, warm smile from Jesca and we became friends, possibly continuing from a previous lifetime. A professional dress designer she creates visions of loveliness for wedding parties and with colorful African 'kanga' designs alike. Another independent Tanzanian woman, she had walked out of a comfortable marriage, away from a cheating husband, with only the clothes on her back and her handbag. Into the arms of Emmanuel several years later; he is a respected businessman, and salt of the earth family man. We were invited to spend time with them and their 3 teenagers and one cute baby caboose daughter. Intelligent and progressive it was an interesting look into modern professional life in Tanzania.
More people, more weddings,
more customs. Once the parents of
a Tanzanian girl
accept the dowry of the groom a date is set. A gathering is
called of family members where relatives promise to help financially
with a certain area of the upcoming events. Months of planning
and squeezing pocketbooks ends with possibly a party for the groom-to-be with his buddies and a 'kitchen party' for the bride- to-be and
Next we attended a 'Send Off' party where traditionally the bride
is sent off by her family to be married and to live in the home of
the groom's family. Often this was a distance from her home
and it used to be a final parting. A modern version with loud music followed
the traditional guidelines of giving gifts of mainly 'kangas' colorful
cloth wraps used for everything in the home, kitchenware, and three
different bibles with hopes that the couple will remember their
Christian guidelines for marriage. Even a refrigerator was
'danced in' and presented to the excited couple. Family members from
both sides danced tribal dances
for the bride (He He and Bena tribes). During this fun part I
was invited to get up and shake my booty with the rest of Emmanuel's
family. Then the bride searched for her
lost husband hiding in the crowd and formally presented him to the
attendees, before eating dinner and having everyone file by wishing
them the best in their new life together. One of the
highlights is when excited women in the crowd let out a warbling cry
from their throats to express their excitement or glee at the
festivities. A costly but fun
evening this will be repeated by the groom's family at the wedding.
We all agreed maybe a simpler event, with the extra money going
towards the young couple's life and/or education would be a better
trend than families scraping by to 'keep up with the Jones's (or Rwegasawas).
We were also thankful to share a meal and later a picnic at the beach with Anna and her pretty young daughter. Living in a local neighborhood one hour from the center of Dar es Salam we enjoyed our time getting to know them and learning about life in Tanzania. Anna works for the Dept. of Immigration and is working with Joseph's library to pass it around to as many receivers as possible.
We stayed on the top floor at the YMCA and Hana and other guests became like a family after 3 weeks. We felt at home in the surrounding Indian neighborhood buying our fruits and vegetables from the street markets, sharing a coconut on the shady corner, or visiting Hindu or Hari Krisha Temples. During one ceremony we were shocked by a loud banging and clanging of drums and bells in the adjacent temple. Wanting to check it out in our usual "not wanting to miss anything" we burst into laughter to see an automated drum/bell temple noise maker. Only the creative Indian culture would come up with that one.
One evening while wandering the streets we were befriended by an elderly Indian man who knew absolutely everyone in the community. He walked us around to his favorite samosa shop then temple, where we were welcomed with open arms for lunch everyday for the next 2.5 weeks for the best authentic Indian food this side of Delhi. We gave a donation daily to help them feed the 100+ street people outside after the main meal and reveled in the food, pujas and friendships of our new Hindu family. Most temple goers were 2nd or 3rd generation Indians in Dar es Salam and only spoke Swahili or Hindi. A sweet and spicy taste of India all in Dar. Sure glad we gave Dar es Salam a second chance!
Often time passes and it seems not much happens in life. Other times so much goes on that our head is whirling. Being in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Nairobi, Kenya; Entebbe, Uganda; Cairo, Egypt and winging my way to New York City and Colorado all within 24 hours is definitely a day to remember. The excitement of seeing the kids and my Mom was the only thing that kept me vertical.
Grab your flying goggles; flying is still the safest way to travel (statistics claim even safer than lying in your bath tub). Except that is if you flush the airplane toilet while sitting on it. In 2001 a passenger became vacuumed- sealed to a lavatory seat and ground mechanics had to pry her loose after the plane landed, unharmed but slightly sore. A definite travel tip to remember.
Humans have always longed to take to the skies. People have jumped off cliffs wearing wooden or feather wings or stuffed themselves in cannons in an effort to get airborne. It has taken a lot of clever, brave and even crazy people, including Orville and Wilbur Wright (1903), to get this flying obsession off the ground. Now at any given time there are a million planes in the skies. After the crowded daladala trucks of Tanzania, flying again was like entering a whole new dimension. Large modern airports bring together interesting people, cultures, language & dress from every corner of the globe. Everyone trying to get somewhere fast.
On the flight from Entebbe to Cairo I had a male 'oozer' who needed a couple of good jabs with my elbow to establish my territory. I thought, "Wouldn't it be good if a woman sat next to me from Cairo to JFK? Down the aisle came a plump Masai woman, hurried along by a very impatient airline steward. I motioned for him to put her next to me, as everyone gawked at her ill fitting suit and long ear lobes. "Soba Mama." It was the only Masai I could remember. She was a stranger in a strange land. Looking absolutely bewildered at first, I just smiled a lot and after helping to get her settled I showed her the pictures of my family and husband. She started to relax. She had a new tiny cardboard suitcase with some prized possessions like paperwork, a few clothes, and a Blue Band margarine container. The stewardess handed out a small pouch which we each looked over. Sara Ketu pulled out the folding toothbrush and immediately started giving her teeth a good going over using the whole tube of paste and no water. Out came the socks and eye visors which she carefully returned to their case, keeping them good for later no doubt. As her dinner tray was plunked before her she just stared at it and the little sealed squares. Glancing around she watched peopled peel away the foil and I helped her unearth her meal of the day. Finally I plugged in my headphones and helped her listen to music with hers. She enjoyed the music but the buds kept falling out of her ears. Hakuna Matata. I just pulled the wire through the hole in her long extended lobes and problem solved. We laughed as we danced in our seats to the lively Egyptian music. Not having moved for 6 hours I grabbed her by the hand and took her for a walk. Stopping at the bathrooms I helped her open the door and get situated. From the desperate look on her face I figured it was a wise choice of activities. As I looked around at the westerners headed to New York I realized that I felt more comfortable with Sara Ketu than many of the impeccably dressed but uptight people surrounding us. We spent 12 hours together, talking and understanding, but neither knowing the other's language. She brought out a beautiful hand beaded necklace with huge brass disks and hung large bright earrings in her elongated lobes. I said beautiful over and over, admiring the handiwork. Fashion show complete the jewelry was carefully folded up in newspaper and tucked back in her tiny case. A couple of hours later she proudly shared a picture of her daughter. It seems the girl is graduating from college in America and Mom is attending the ceremony. I think. It was kind of like connecting the dots and filling in the dashes. I wrote a note congratulating the daughter, telling her what a wonderful Mom she has and to be proud of who she is. Ending with our website I hope to hear from her sometime. I learned a lot from Sara Ketu. We marveled together at being up above the clouds, seeing the ocean below, crossing snow capped peaks or enjoying the setting sun paint the clouds crimson. Whenever I saw a new sight I would tap her , she would 'scooch' over and say "Wha!" over and over, expressing her utter amazement at what she saw, "Wha!". She asked 20 times, "New York?" So it went. She marveled at my laptop as I wrote my thoughts and showed her pictures of our trip, including Masai villages which got her all excited at the taste of home. She loved how I gave her extras off my tray, including all the candies or sweets. We were in the moment and smiled and played our way to New York. She was a true child filled with wonder, reminding me to never take for granted the simple gifts that each day offers.
Finally Colorado. Cold winter weather but I didn't feel it, as I was surrounded by the welcoming warmth of the family. Excitement ran high as I collapsed into a soft bed to sleep off my jet lag hangover. It wasn't long before the bump in daughter Mariah's belly wanted to see the world, on her 32nd birthday to be exact. A day of intense labor was followed by an hour long thrilling ride to the hospital at 11pm Christmas Eve. Why is it always at night? Luckily there was 'Room at the Inn'. A water baby herself, Mariah was swimming at 6 months of age, so having a natural warm water birth seemed like the Hawaiian thing to do in the middle of this chilly Colorado evening. Three hours later out popped, Kayla Sophia, 8 lbs, 6 oz; long, lean and happy. She shot through the water and was placed on the chests of new Mommy and proud, helpful Dad, Shane. The miracle was that Kayla never cried, she just contentedly looked around the dim room in wonder at the soft lights, candles and soothing music. A wise soul from the beginning. Welcome Kayla! You are surrounded by Love.
Having missed both birthdays and Christmas we regrouped a couple days later and declared re-enactment holidays. Mariah always was bummed to have a Christmas Eve birthday claiming she missed out on gifts, with two often rolled into one. Now with Kayla born on the 25th it will be their duty to make sure this doesn't happen. The cycle of understanding your parents better is just beginning. We had friends and wonderful long lost relatives over in the next few days, sang happy birthday, blew out candles, finished a baby quilt and two days later cooked and cooked and opened Christmas gifts. Santa does rain checks! The following 3 weeks Great Grandma (LaVerne 85) and new Grandma, who me?? (Nancy 54) tried to assist making Mariah & Shane's transition into parenthood as smooth as possible. We gingerly helped with decades of tips on baby care, cooking international delights, baking 'Gami bread', cleaning and of course spending as much Kayla snuggling time as possible. Proud Uncle Kevin just decided to spend a year in Australia (must be genetic), Great Uncle Paul called daily for updates while holding down the ranch in Wisconsin and new Grandpa Joseph back in Tanzania ("Grandpa? Sure, O.K., I guess.") each are happily getting used to their role in this new chapter of the family. Exciting changes for us all.
And so it goes.........................................Next month the world's longest return flight from Denver to Entebbe, Uganda; a surprise stop over in Cairo and Joseph's trip through southern and western Tanzania, crossing Lake Victoria into Uganda. Until then let's remember tolerance, patience, to take joy is small things as we dream of Africa. Africa trims down our wants into needs, something we can all examine in ourselves as we get closer to our source. Again, thanks for sharing this website with friends. First hand experiences and information, not influenced by the media, helps us to learn more about this fascinating planet we all call home. Keep Smiling! Glad you stopped by. Thanks for keeping in touch! Take care!
Love, Light &
$1.00US = 1345 Tanzanian Shillings
$1.00US = worth less than the last visit home, but Colorado is much cheaper than Hawaii! The reason for most Hawaiian moving to the mainland USA.
Dar es Salaam:
Maratha Club, Badminton Club Indian Restaurant, Kitsutu/Zanaki Junction, just ask. Open 6:30 - 11 eve. Great naan (1200ts) and veg curry(4500ts)
Best Indian Food outside of India. This temple food is free for a donation. (Please only plan to visit them 1 day to experience a taste of India but not wear out your Muzungu welcome and leave a good donation. Only visit in groups of 2-3 max. We suggest 2000ts to 3000ts per person because they feed hundreds of street people daily). No markings on the food hall but from the YMCA head west. Turn right on Kisutu St. at the big Emirates Plaza sign. First left then next right. Walk along until you see a small yellowish building on the right before the temple gate, with shoe holders outside (after a green and blue building). Arrive at 12:30 - 12:45 as all the leftovers are dished to the homeless at 1pm. Remove your shoes, get in line, second helping ok but take only what you can eat. There is no bucket for dumping out food - only a place to wash the trays. Relax and enjoy a taste of real India. Take a walk through India town after 4pm when it is cool and all the fruit and vegetable venders are out. Enjoy a corner coconut for 500ts. Along Kisutu St. there are many Indian temples to visit.
'Tablecloths' Muslim Sect:
Dawoodi Bohra Community. Leader: Syedna Mohammed
Natural Therapies Clinic: across from Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital, Nyanza St.. Dedicated to helping and healing, the amazing Dr. Sigsbert Rwegasira, Homeopathic Doctor trained in UK has practiced for over 20 year. Highly recommended. Phone # 0748-601249