What a revelation our experience here in Tanzania is proving to be, and especially living amongst the community even for these two weeks here in Kilema, following our memorable safari, before I’m off for a few days to Zanzibar! So different from my remarkable years of work experience across a myriad of countries with a UK international aid agency! And why is this? Living within the community and with Steph as such a known and loved itinerant personality here, we’re having such privileged access to so much, not least the work that is being done here thru’ her KSF school support programme. This has included visiting schools and especially meeting families in their homes, of whom one of their children is a KSF beneficiary. In this way it’s possible to get this brief immersion into what are the issues that face many families here – just yesterday we met a young girl living very basically with her grandmother (as so many children do) alongside two block houses built by her uncles, both of whom together with her parents have died. This way you come close to the realities of many for whom an entire generation has been lost so prematurely. But nevertheless the commitment is impressive in particular of the many grandmothers (bibis) to the education of their grandchildren. And no less so is the eagerness of children to secure an education as their route away from poverty to a different life experience from their predecessors.

And thru’out our days here in Kilema, we are out walking along the tracks & roads. What better way to meet people – all this amidst constant meeting and greeting with everyone we encounter! How often are we told Karibu Tanzania, Welcome to Tanzania, Karibuni home , Welcome home! All this is so heart felt, it’s amazing to experience so constantly! The ritual of greeting exchanges in Swahili is very important – and I’m slowly feeling more familiar with the many permutations! And some of the learning of Swahili is made easier with karoti, kebechi, basi, kioski, teksi, petroli, baisikeli, texti being examples of commonly recognisable words to even the most uninitiated. Swahili is rooted in the Bantu language, then historically absorbing Arabic, some Portuguese and as here many English adaptations.

And so to the ubiquitous topic of local transport!! We’re gaining ever more experience of using the dalla dallas (the local minibuses) that are filled & more to the gills with people seated, standing, hanging out of the windows. And when we were on one of the larger intercity buses from Moshi to Arusha, there was luggage and laden boxes endlessly stowed on the roof! Watching the dalla dallas while walking can be hair raising in itself as they can tilt at crazy angles as they negotiate the dirt roads! Another element of the travel experience here is just how random it can be! Today was such an example – we set out on foot for a couple of schools c.5 kms away, but soon after starting we hitched a lift with a Professor of Parasitology at the nearby medical centre who took us right to the door of the schools, his own house being metres away! Then on our return after a short distance we found a dalla dalla waiting which as soon as we boarded set off!
Our daily experiences are so varied, it’s hard to know what to narrate! Here at the office, working with an older community member Augustine who is one of Steph’s Home Based Care support team members for her programme, is one particularly delightful & moving example. For years he has wanted to learn basic computer skills, and it’s been such a thrill for him – and for us – to enable this to happen with David as computer guru supporting him, but also Eva & Caroline, our 14 & 13 year olds! He now has a gmail account and this can open his world up & not least possibly allow him to keep contact with Steph between her visits.

So immersed are we in life here in Kilema, it’s hard to realise we’ve only been here a week following our memorable safari. Despite having done two previously in southern Africa years back, this one in Tanzania outstripped them both in duration, scale, location and sheer quantity of animals. Indeed as Steph promised this was truly remarkable – nestling as it does in the Rift Valley such a sight in itself, not to mention then looking down from the Ngorogoro Crater rim. On arrival in Tanzania, my heart had soared when I first saw again the acacia trees with their distinctive flat tops and triangular shape. To be witnessing such density of breeds, we counted about 40 animal species (not least its 3K elephants) including many of its renowned bird population in Tarangire, and then another 30 almost exclusively animal species in Ngorogoro, and there in such quantities. Seeing the migrating wildebeest was a memorable sight! How often could one presume to have the chance of watching the birth of a Thompson’s gazelle, and the heart stopping moments as the tentative calf made endless attempts before succeeding in standing! And all the while being so aware of all the hyenas we’d seen in the vicinity so recently – and both mother & baby looking so defenceless. Being up before sunrise on both days certainly paid off – the quantities visible were large indeed.

The other element of this area of Tanzania is its dense & verdant vegetation. On arrival at Kilema we scaled Nganga hill overlooking the hospital complex, from where it’s almost impossible to believe that so many people live below (and plan to do a dawn raid on it tomorrow)! And as we walk the roads & tracks, that density is clear to see. Bananas are prolific here – all tasting different from the next! Having been so impressed by the centuries old Moorish system of irrigation in Andalucia in southern Spain, it’s fascinating to realise that the ancient furrow system of irrigation here around Kilema is almost identical, allowing the many shambas (farms) in rotation to receive regular irrigation – tho’ sadly their mutual family based system of maintenance is not as successful as it used to be prior to colonial intervention!

And so to close despite much more I could relate! Maybe this will give some further flavours of what visiting Kilema can give you!?

Mary Todd – Bristol, England

Leave a Reply