The spirit of "Hakuna Matata" : Live By It


“Hakuna Matata”, (no worries) Bob the reggae Tanzanian driver muttered (for the umpteenth time on our week long safari) as the Land Cruiser shuddered to a halt at the dusty edge of the deeply rutted road between the Serengeti Gate and the Ngorongoro Crater. A jeep-killer. Acacia trees offered scant shade from the intense sun and as we got out to inspect the latest mechanical failure, thoughts quickly returned to the roadside pride of lions sighted a half hour earlier. Previous tire changes, deeper in the Serengeti, had us on simba (lion) watch!

To view a few photos of our safari , go to http://picasaweb.google.ca/crrfraser/SafariHighlights

Squinting into blowing dust, we discovered that a missing shock absorber bushing was the cause of the new banging sound Bob noticed, apart from the many other banging sounds. The nearest town or help appeared to be far away — perhaps in another time zone — as we scanned the vast barren grassland. Chris started to fret and wonder how much longer the already 7 hour journey would take and if alternate means back to Ngorongoro crater was necessary, but the children began to poke around in the dust, looking at old animal bones and watch a Maasai woman who appeared from her boma (village), squinting like us, wrapped in a beautiful blue and purple blanket and full beading. She had four watoto(children) and was happy to take some water from us. Where do these people get water in this dust? We’ve watched herds of Maasai cattle graze on dry season brown grass, guided by windblown, red and purple cloaked children. They are shocks of color on a sand coloured landscape. What a resourceful and resilient people, the Maasai, residing as they do in such a challenging environment.

Distant blazes of dust heralded other jeeps, which in typical Tanzanian fashion stopped immediately to offer us assistance. Reggae Bob, equipped with but one wrench and undersized jack, hopeless with the 7 previous flats, miraculously finds a round plastic bolt-like thing at the bottom of the jeep wheel well, Not the exact piece, but close. So Bob and his brotherhood of safari drivers work a solution, they having tools for the job. The plastic piece is adapted to fit. A chain of human kindness. Helped once again, we are back on the road, gritty-toothed, dust-covered and waving to the now several Maasai gathered at the edge of their bush and stick-ringed boma. Another victory for Hakuna Matata.

Back to a jagged rock-strewn, bumpy road, Lachlan in 4WD heaven, Sasha and Eva taking in the landscape and coping with the conditions without complaint. Eva and Steph compare this experience with camel riding in the desert and feel that might be preferable. We bump along past the Oldupai Gorge and it’s incredible hominid history, seen earlier en route to Serengeti (endless plain). Some of the early up-right walkers were found there in what is also known as the Cradle of Humanity. Beginning the climb up from the great Serengeti plain and fully dusted, we recalled the profusion of animals from the previous four days of safari: lion, cheetah, elephant, zebra (Eva’s particular favourite), giraffe and more. Plenty of animals, even with the peak of migration still in the northern Maasai Mara of Kenya. Perhaps the next time we come back it will be for the birthing of the wildebeest in March.

With the climb to Ngorongoro crater rim, up at 2300m above sea level, we suddenly enter into pristine tropical rainforest where the cool fresh air, better even (can one be writing this?) than a cool Victoria morning, began to reverse much of the dessication of the Serengeti. We are into very red soil here which is in beautiful contrast to the canopy of green. We’re loving the red soils that translate into red mud houses and red towns like Karatu, where our trio played impromptu soccer with a cluster of kids while a tire was repaired. This road trip has given us all a chance process where we are, to see terrain and also to grasp of the degree of poverty apparent everywhere. When asked about what they think of what they’re seeing, Sasha is noticing the “poorness”and Eva, the hard physical work of locals.

We are all happy to be here, fully stimulated and thriving. Now, up in the hills beneath Kilimanjaro at Kilema, the temperatures suits us, with nothing feeling very extreme. Even the Serengeti was surprisingly cool on each side of midday. The bugs and mosquitoes we envisioned have not materialized and it is somewhat of a relief not to spray 25% Deet on tender young flesh. Sleeping under netting seems an unnecessary precaution, though we do it and the children are now experienced at tucking in the edges before settling down for the night. Our house is simple but comfortable. (Photos to follow n the future). Most surprising are the fussy eaters among us who are gulping down stew and ugali (corn mush) though they pass on the watery rice served at school.

Yes, school. The first week at Marangu Hills English school passed with mixed reviews. Twenty minutes on a poor dirt road one way, the school has been a real cultural experience for the kids who couldn’t help notice the frequent use of knuckle rappings and “strokes”! The headmaster has promised not to use this method on ours but general strictness in the classroom has even Eva worried. We’ve been encouraging the kids just to hang in there until the end of November and though they complain about food, pit toilets and discipline they come home having had lots of contact with local kids and a workout in Swahili. A different kind of immersion. Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.

We have received a warm welcome to Kilema, particularly from the hospital community. Everyone has been enthusiastic about and universally sweet to Sasha, Eva and Lockie, who still need promptings to say ‘Shikamoo ‘ in greeting their elders. What patient teachers Tanzanians are! I can’t say enough about the other CACHA volunteers we are here with, an Ontario couple Lloyd and Erla (hospital administrator/teacher), Bistra(pharmacist)and Ivan(community development) and their boys Nicolas(9) and Vincent(5) who seem like a gift to us, our children enjoying each other fully. CIDA volunteers, Rick and Raynor have been here working on the CACHA orphan program with the local coordinator, Dennis. A big job. CACHA sponsors some 100 orphans yet there are an estimated 700 in this district, some sponsored by other organizations but some not at all. Orphan day this past Saturday was cause for reflection, as we got to meet many of the children and review their difficult circumstances. There are too many. If this is Tanzania what must it be like in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Leosoto, South Africa with higher reported HIV infection rates?

Enough now. More on work, the HIV center and life at Kilema on the next blog. At ten to six the sun is dropping out of the sky, casting a beautiful light on African women in kangas and head wraps waiting outside the hospital. The elder watchman at the gate is pacing back and forth. Kwaheri for now.

One thought on “The spirit of "Hakuna Matata" : Live By It

  1. nic

    Dearest Fraser-Malahoffs –
    What wonderful accounts of what you are doing and experiencing – I feel so privileged to be able to share a little of your experiences at a distance – thank you for taking the time to write it up! And I’m calling on Monday to donate to the Victoria account. A friend here is part of a “grandmother-to-grandmother” group – the ones Stephen Lewis started. Not being a grandmother yet I don’t feel I can be part of that, but if through you we can help a few of the tragic orphans you are encountering, that is great.
    We are into countdown time here – two weeks to go before we leave for New Zealand. Ross is in detox coming off the last of the methadone at the moment; then we have a plane ticket for him to go down to a therapeutic community in Costa Rica. Keeping our fingers crossed that it all works out.
    Take care of all your dear selves, Nicki and Ray.

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