Greetings from the hot heart of Tabora, Tanzania. Even as the drone of the props on the Bombardier hacked the warm air forcing us forward, I already sensed a homecoming feeling.
Over the sprawling landscape, gleaming metal roofs connected by red earth trails, splotched the green vista and I saw familiar sites, I realized I was finally nearing home. Trying to unfold my mind and crumpled body from the rigors of my trip that spanned three calendar days, would be my first challenge.
With nothing but hand baggage, I raced through the small number of passengers and into the warmth of Hanneke, Mfaume and Ngassa’s hugs as well as the more intense embrace of the 32C heat.
Sunday service was colourful, yet slightly confusing. God’s house, in Tabora is a solid white cement block structure. Inside, time and creosote has darkened the rugged wooden trusses that lift their arms to support the corrugated steel roof.
When we arrived the magic of singing embraced us. Men sit on the right and women on the left; visitors excused. The benches were very basic and required the additional padding—attached to the worshipper. No comfortable pew here! Creature comforts are rarely a part of daily life in East Africa. Kids sat with either parent, usually with the mother. The little kids were so neatly outfitted—full dresses made ballerinas out of the little girls. Men were neat-casual while the woman wore a colourful array of dresses.
Three choirs opened our service: The regular choir of some 20 swaying singers. The youth choir with another 20 younger worshippers and the Mamma’s choir of 15. Mama Magdalena’s effortless voice soared through the darkened rafters, reverberating off the solid walls, clear and resonate, sending shivers of joy down the spine--a gone-to-heaven experience.
The sermon did not challenge me, since the pastor didn’t often use my very few Swahili words. I prayed and stared blankly.
The service ended three hours later and we filed outside and shook hands with those leaving, shadowed under a sprawling mango tree.
Hanneke has two dogs, a necessary security measure for any mzungu living in Tanzania. Mother, Cappuccino, and her son, Buddy wrestle and beat each other up constantly. However, when the sun reaches its boiling point, that layer of hair becomes unbearable. Buddy has learned the green way to keep cool. He digs a body-sized hole in a shady part the lawn. His front paws fling sandy soil airborne. When the crater is about 1/3 m deep, he snuggles himself comfortably inside. The only activity interrupting his contentment is the victorious thumping of his tail. Cappuccino is a dog who performs the middle-eastern hospitality ritual of foot washing—or washing whatever exposed skin she finds available. It is hard just to sit quietly or she shows up with her affectionate nuzzling and licking, with a hint of pleasurable satisfaction in her brown eyes.
Friday has swooped on me like the soaring Marabou stork, the bird that floats so majestically and then lands to forage on some decaying carrion. They are nicknamed Tanzania’s Undertakers. Despite their unattractive appearance—sparse hair on their featherless heads and legs covered with their own poo--they are ecologically very valuable. Never try to eat one of these towering six-foot-tall garburators or you are likely to die of some inner poisoning.
Jackie needs a private tutor since she cannot attend school. She is writing exams and struggling to concentrate because of the pain. She does not have energy to push herself but has ridden the stationary bike a few times which strengthened her legs enough to graduate to crutches from her wheelchair. Today she felt a numbness creeping into her hands and some pain. Then later tonight she surprised us all by walking outside on her own painful feet.
Today in the market as we struggled to avoid stepping into treacherous trenches of putrid liquids diluted in the rain water, we were accosted by a mentally determined man. He screamed at us and kept grasping us, we sought the escape of several shops but we were followed. The merchants were immune to him by now. Finally, a shoe salesman, brought out a bamboo stick and threatened him until he took off. The drama was so sad, to be threatened by another human with a stick. There is so little help for people suffering complicated diseases here.
This morning Mfaume and I did laundry together. He is better than any modern machine. Vigorously scrubbing and thoroughly rinsing, all the while keeping up an animated conversation punctuated with infectious laughter. Neither you nor your clothes would ever get that care, love and personality from any fancy tin box.
Ngassa is gaining strength in his leg day by day. Following the operation, his leg is now straight and he should have his temporary pins removed soon. He is looking forward to getting back to school.
Lots of walking yesterday. First under fluffy pillows nestled against the Mediterranean blue canopy, along fields of sunflowers nodding their heads in an African greeting on the road to the Malumba clinic. In the impressive new clinic, built with help of KWM, Dr. Thomas was treating several needy clients in this other-side-of-beyond area.
As soon as we returned to Hanneke’s home, Mfaume suggested that we walk to the downtown market to buy shirts. We skillfully navigated the noisy streets inhaling adequate amounts of vehicular pollutants and occasionally sauntering under the canopy of ancient mango trees. When crossing any road—you need the compound eyes of a fly and the darting agility of a crab. Pikipikis (motorcycles), bicycles, cars, fume-spewing buses, lumbering trucks and bagajis (enclosed three wheeled people and goods movers) appear from everywhere. You must check then recheck constantly. Bagajis often have creative signs emblazoned on them: “God is Good.” “Am not perfect.” “The donkey has no education, but he is never out of work.”
One M friend of 89 who continues working on his maize fields although now cancer racks his body, and is taking its grim toll. He is so grateful for the help of Hanneke’s God and asked us to pray for him. A young fellow entered the conversation and announced that Dr. Hanneke had saved his life when she found him writhing in pain on the mud floor of his remote hut ten years ago and transported him to the hospital.
For over three decades Hanneke has shared the story of Jesus and his compassion in East Africa. Her journey is often fraught with thankless difficult situations, yet on rare occasions, the eyes and stories of many provide a hint of those rarefied breezes from the fields of heaven, where she will be welcomed to more beauty than fields of nodding sunflowers and greeted by smiling faces, where pain is not even a distant memory.
Taboraians are people-people. Adults greet each other with “jambo” and a right-hand wave. [The right hand is the clean hand.] Kids love greeting English speaking musungos with “Hello, how are you? I am very fine, thank you.” All without the need of a response or a breath. Men walk hand-in-hand discussing life—slightly awkward at first. Clucking chickens are free to forage wherever, as long as they come home to lay their eggs. Dogs yap incessantly behind cement block walls crowned with glass shards. Slowly Tabora is greening. The government has implemented a tree planting campaign. Many varieties of trees are planted around the town and protected. Repurposed soda bottles with small holes in their lids hang by the saplings for irrigation. Many roads have recently been paved.
“In your marketplace they traded with your beautiful garments, blue fabric, embroidered work and multicolored rugs with cords twisted and tightly knotted.” Ezekiel 27:24. Some things are timeless as in Ezekiel’s marketplace—although the dB level has definitely escalated in Tabora since too many vendors have powerful speakers blasting aggressive sales pitches, each trying to gain more attention by upping their volume. A sea of shoes spreads to the market horizon. Too often your breath is sucked away by the indescribable odour of dried dagaa fish stacked in Kilimanjaro mountains as well as fly-encircled filets of beef and assorted intestinal delicacies. Vegetables are a colour palette of Solomonic beauty.
We purchased twenty-two trees for the new plot for $20 and will plant them tomorrow, including two cashew trees. Tanzanian cashews are superb in taste and quality but most locals are not fond of them. Maybe once their own trees produce, in seven years, they might learn to enjoy their own harvest.
This evening twelve members of Hanneke’s church arrived unexpectedly to sing and pray for Jacky.
Hanneke is Just a short pikipiki putt from David Livingston’s home that has been preserved for over 150 years as a memorial to his missionary and exploring work and his passion to see the brutal slave trade abolished among his beloved Africans. An Arab slave trader had constructed the sprawling house as a holding place for slaves funnelled from points west. When there were about 80 confined in one small windowless room, they were forced to continue their trek to the coast and Zanzibar’s human markets. Many died or were killed on their horrific journey.
The weight of the chains (displayed at the house) was oppressive and the yokes ripped into the necks of countless healthy adults and many children. The slave trader had hoped that Livingston would help him make contacts for his lucrative evil pursuit. When Livingston refused, he abandoned his house to Livingston.
Nearby stands a rather out-of-the-way 90-year-old printing facility which was established by the White Fathers, a German RC mission group. Massive Heidelberg presses, original lead movable type faces, binding and finishing machinery, most dust covered, blend with the haunting smell of printers’ ink. Although our young guide lamented the demise of the trade due to the computer, he was excited to show us the massive, functional machinery. A portion of the facility still prints school books and small orders, but the hulking machinery cowers mutely. The majority of Tanzania’s printing has been relocated to Dar es Salaam.
One of Hanneke’s girls, Margarethe, works at The Children’s Home, an Irish-run orphanage on the outskirts of Tabora. They care for 30 kids up to the age of eleven. We brought soccer balls for the kids. They soon mobbed us. One young ten-year old girl, Ruth, looked pleadingly and asked if I would take her home when I left. The facilities are immaculate and the care is good. Three of the kids have AIDS and are receiving treatment. They are receiving good spiritual encouragement as well. During the four-month furlough of the founders, Margarethe is in charge and would love prayer.
Double-toasted, we wait in the sun as the drone of the twin prop Air Tanzania, Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8, overwhelms the chattering of greeters and enchanting bird sounds. Alvin has arrived on Tabora soil from Dar es Salaam. The front door opens downward becoming the stairs. The third passenger to descend was a smiling, waving Alvin, rather like royalty on tour.
Hanneke prepared a Malaysian feast and then T-shirts and various gifts were handed out. Alvin made the easy transition of bonding with the kids and workers and feels the climate of Tabora gives him the home-again feeling of Borneo.
Torrents of rain hammer on the metal roof with a vengeance so loud that it muzzles the ground shuddering thunder. Rain is needed.
Mobile phones are so cheap and rates are counted in pennies/hours. Seems like more people have phones (called SIM’s) than back in Canada.
Today was exciting for us. On the way home from church—a very pleasant and moving affair with two young people sharing their recent journey to Christ from their M past. The three choirs were really great--as we passed the train station, Jackie and Kiri insisted on stopping the car so they could get out and walk the two km home. Three weeks ago, Jackie was in a wheelchair in great pain. Today she chose to walk. God is answering your prayers.
Mahona arrived in Tabora last night, after travelling eleven hours—the normal time is eight. The bus made many unexpected stops along the way to overcram more passengers into the sweltering inferno. When they reached Isaka, they were stopped by the police and it was discovered that the driver did not have a valid licence. He was arrested and taken to the police station, there he paid a fine and returned to continue the journey. Mahona took it all in stride and greeted everyone with his warm smile and strong Tanzanian-lion hugs. He reassures everyone with his genuine: “Thank you for being you!” Next week he will go to Kenya to give a speech on social improvement in East Africa.
While we enjoy a Tangawizi (zippy Tanzanian ginger ale) by the hotel pool we read the warning postings: “No life guards, use at own risk”. Young kids splashed and laughed together. Suddenly we heard panicked screams as one of the kids sank like lead to the bottom, motionless. Our impeccably uniformed waiter, without hesitation, jumped in and grabbed the boy and handed him to his frantic mother. There was little danger because of his quick response. Talking with our waiter later, he shared that he had not taken time to take his wallet or cell phone from his pocket—both survived. We were now convinced that he was not just a good waiter.
A day at the Serengeti is just enough to glimpse the menagerie of creation.
Baboons greeted us as we entered their domain—after all we were the ones in cages this time—scampering everywhere, carrying their young on their backs and letting out threatening shrieks. Mfaume christened me with a new name, “Baba-boon”.
When our safari van approached the warthogs—their tails with little tufts on the end went poker straight and they carried their hog profile far away from our intrusion.
Giraffes tower above our van. They give a rather matriarchal appearance and act like the welcoming party of their jungle. Enormous eyelashes flitter as they peer at us while chewing on the prickliest of food found high in the trees.
Herds of wildebeest and zebra thrive in the pre-migration, lush vegetation nourishing their young calves. Soon their hooves will make the ground thunder as herds, thousands strong, follow the receding pasture northward when these lush plains turn tinder dry—trying to evade lions and crocodiles as they cross rivers or the peril of being trampled if ever losing their footing.
Elephants enjoy countless mouthfuls of tender green grass, rather delicately for their hulking size. Majestic tusks, swaying trunks and huge bodies make them so special.
Lions laze on an outcropping of rocks, not eager to lay in the damp grass where they might soil their methodically maintained coats. They just watch us watch them with only passing interest.
Leopards and ostriches and smelly hippos wallowing beside us complete our glimpse and we head back to Mwanza.
With Faraja, Kiri and Baraka enrolled in their schools in Kahama, it was too late for the three-hour journey home to Tabora. A nice new hotel was very close to Kiri and Baraka’s secondary school. We checked in and had a light supper. Hanneke and I played a couple games of Rumey-o. As usual, I was sorely beaten. Exhausted from her drive from Mwanza and school arrangements, Hanneke crashed early, sliding the glass window inside the ornate bars closed for the night.
The hotel was totally over designed. Fifteen-foot ceilings sprawled into in a labyrinth design. Halls led to dead ends and rooms were impossible to find and numbering seemed random. To get a better internet signal, I went outside into the mosquito-domain for a short time. When I came back, I thought I had found my unlocked room, fan spinning and light on, so flung the door open. The woman inside was half undressed and let out a surprised shriek and I backed out with a mumbled “pole” (sorry). It was hard to see her in the morning, but she laughed when she saw me. Turned out that she was the District Commissioner, a fairly high-profile position. Although traumatic for me, that is not the main event.
Early in the morning Hanneke bashed on my door with the distressing news that her purse, containing her money, passport, bank cards, car keys and a myriad of other important papers had been stolen during the night. We searched her small room to no avail. She remembered closing the sliding glass and then being awoken by an unwelcome invasion of mosquitos. When she got up, she noticed her purse was not on the table next to the now-open window. Thieves had slid the window open and reached through the more-decorative-than-secure bars. (My window was also slid open but my backpack was far from the window—so the mosquito invasion was my only bitter experience.)
My night-before acquaintance, the District Commissioner, publicly berated the hotel staff, telling them that this was a serious blow to tourism in their hotel.
After many email requests for prayer and plans on how to move forward, a guard burst in saying that he saw a bag hanging on the security wire on the top of the wall. He led us around to the back of the three-plus metre walls passing through swampy ground and trying to skirt aggressive thorn bushes, doubtless under the watchful eyes of the Marabou Stork. Spread over two metres in the wet grass, were papers, keys, passport…everything most important except for the 1,000,000 Tsh [around $585 CDN].
Soon two police detectives arrived, along with three officers bearing automatic weapons. Two arrests were made on the spot. The two hotel security guards were handcuffed and the police van arrived (an open back pick-up truck) and transported the offenders to one of the many jails. The police woman apologized to us for our unfortunate experience. As we headed to Hanneke’s car, clutching her reclaimed keys, the hotel manager stopped us, apologized once again and then prayed for us.
Today we were called by a long-time client of Hanneke’s. A M fellow with advanced cancer. He felt that this must be his last day. When we arrived, he was sitting outside holding his toothbrush, although he only exhibited two teeth. Dr. Thomas and Hanneke brought a sense of comfort. Hanneke gave him some medication to ease the pain. He asked us to read scripture and pray for him. He wished me a safe trip and said,” When you go back to Canada, you must tell of all the good things you have seen and forget the bad ones.” Great advice from a proud Tanzanian, but sad stories do abound.
Last week we met Anton in the government hospital. He is a sharp man of 75 years and looks very strong. He has spent the last 14 years in a wheelchair in a hospital ward. He has no family in the area to feed or help him. His legs are blistered from the swelling in his unused limbs. He drapes a soiled sheet over his legs for modesty as well as keeping the flies off. We became friends—easy to do in the hospital where so many are starved for anyone to show them care. His legs look strong enough to walk with crutches. We asked the nursing staff about buying him crutches. That would be fine with them, but if he were to be able to walk at all he would be discharged and he has nowhere to go. Even by visiting him regularly you might risk the administration insisting that you take him home and look after him. Such a dilemma! I told him that I would share his story with my friends in Canada and ask you to pray. He was encouraged by this and responded, “I feel stronger already.” Politics, especially the politics in medical situations, do not always make sense. Please pray for Anton, a prisoner in his stifling and often smelly hospital ward and captive in his wheelchair with bent rims.
We were just eight travellers leaving the Tabora airfield. After all, why would anyone want to leave—especially me? Nevertheless, security was highly tuned. I was denied my stash of cashews in my carry-on so had to check it to Dar es Salaam.
I kept one bag of cashews for the flight. Severe turbulence and my sacred cashews bounced under seat ahead. In the off-boarding crush, I reached down and grabbed the bag, but alas it was open and cashews spewed all over the floor. As I left, I could only hear the sad crunching sound of my following passengers.
It was 330 PM and my flight on to Istanbul was 330 AM. I squirmed my way through the all too egger taxi throngs and got free of the airport with its pungent smell of jet 4 fuel. GPSed a hotel about one km away. I barely escaped with my life while crossing a crazy-busy highway. Then I splashed through a crowded market along a very mucky street and down a quiet alley until I found the hotel. I crashed for four hours.
Close to midnight I began my walk back, hoping to find the airport. It had rained, so the dark unfamiliar streets and alleys had become slithery clay puddles of unknown liquids. Then it started to rain again, gentle at first then torrential. I found an overhang for protection along with a pikipiki driver. After 20 minutes the rain eased enough for drenched me to continue my journey.
After I had checked in, a rather painless affair, the departure time displayed “delayed” …by four hours. I tried to sleep, but impossible.
Finally, the flight arrived in Istanbul twelve hours later, since my cheap flight had a stopover in Lusaka, Zambia then retraced airmiles back to Istanbul.
At the freshly opened airport, I found Xerggyo and Hil waiting. Xerggio has a very painful back. He phoned his doctor, one of the best in Turkey, who greeted him by name. After consultation he recommended taking it easier for the day, but said it was a muscle issue, nothing serious. So, we walked around this fascinating city for a few hours in the afternoon. Ancient buildings, restored, an extensive subway and tram system, the Blue Mosque, the Cisterns and the Grand Bazaar. What a fitting ending to an amazing time.
My name is Mfaume Juma I'm a Tanzanian, I was attracted to write this story after our beautiful trip to Serengeti national park. I have never gone to any park before therefore, this was my first time.
I remember the day we started the journey from Tabora to Mwanza. To start our trip, we went to get our Kitumbio bus...however we had to change busses. Instead of the Kitumbo bus we were to take the NBS bus. It was a very nice bus except for my friend DON. This was because the seat space between the one seat to the next one was very narrow.
Immediately after getting into Mwanza we saw the tour vehicle and its driver who was there waiting for us. It was very nice because the car was very wide so space between the seats was big enough for my friend, who was very happy.
It was a long but very beautiful trip. I will remember it always; I thank God for choosing me to be one of the people joining this trip. Also, I thank uncle Don, Alvin and Mom and all people who prayed for us for this trip.
It was almost 6:30pm by the time we reached Speke Bay Lodge. It was a very nice hotel. It was my first time to see a hotel like that. It was so amazing. Everything was new to me. The air conditioning was very cool. It was a very quiet place.
This lodge is next to Lake Victoria so the environment surrounding the hotel is looking very green. It makes the hotel look very nice and I totally I liked it!
As you see inside it looked very nice. Also, I remember the time of ordering food was very funny the food menu was so different. It was not like that of other hotels. Their menu was very small. Each kind of food was new to me except for fish, so I ordered fish. My idea was to see a big fish with a big head because the hotel was near to the lake. So, I believed that I was going to get my huge fish! But it turned out differently: the fish was filet and small, but it was very nice food we enjoyed it at all. The hotel is special for tours so their food is mostly for visitors from outside of Tanzania. Eating their food made me feel like I was not in Tanzania.
The second day we woke up early in the morning. Then we ate breakfast and after that everyone was ready to go to the park. So, everyone got into the car. Just before we took off one of the people of that hotel came to us and asked for the key of Don and Alvin's room. Uncle Don had forgotten to return the key so it was very funny. All of us we were very excited because we all desired to see the different wild animals. So, the trip had started to go into the park.
It was almost 40 minutes from the hotel to the main gate of Serengeti National Park. The driver had to take our identifications to the office for the checking and registration. At the entrance we saw the horns and skulls of different animals. There was a there a big board which explained the rules when you are in the park.
After we got into the park at the beginning, we saw some groups of impalas and it looked so nice that we stopped the car to take pictures. Then we continued our journey to the center of the Serengeti where we saw many groups of different wild animals like Buffalo’s, zebra’s, elephants, etc.
The most common trees at the Serengeti are the Acacias. These trees have small leaves and lots of big thorns. This is the giraffe's favorable food. Also, Elephants like this food. You are not to step on the Elephant’s stool because Elephants eat different kind of plants and a lot of Acacia’s so his stool may contain some sharp thorns because not all of the food can be digested. It was very happy the time when we saw a giraffe eating from the top of a tall tree. It was very funny also the way he was chewing his food. His mouth was shaking like a locomotive. My favourite animal in that day was Giraffe!
Around at 2:30pm, it was lunch time. Everybody had a lunch box that we were given at the hotel. There are different special places for the tours to stay and to enjoy the lunch. It was a very nice place. Also, we saw many different birds at this lunch area which were friendly with the people. It was a very nice trip!!! All in all, I thank God for this opportunity to see the Serengeti.
Thanks so much my friend! This was my story I wanted to share with you. Also, this is my first time to write a story. (I have never written any story about anything). So, this proves how much I enjoyed this trip God bless you and Alvin for making this trip possible.