Tales of Tanzania #1

Habari asubuhi, marafiki zango? or How are you this morning, my friends?

ibex-saanana-parkThese photos (click to see larger view) are from the Saanana National Park, a small island reserve where I think I hiked every trail, on Sunday, and stumbled into long-horned ibex, some zebras, a marmot-looking rodent (who is most closely related to an elephant, I’m told), phosphorescent red-bluepink iguanas, and many epic rock formations.





The iguanas were constantly leaping in my path, and then gone in a flash, when I went to take a photo. The symphony and sights of the fish eagles, storks, kingfishers, swifts, kites, golden warblers and ….turquoise, red and purple birdies was equally enthralling.

I had the entire reserve to myself the first few hours, except for the National Park staff.



I’m pleased to see that I have 97% power on my laptop today….cause the electricity has been off for about twenty-four hours. It’s not a real problem, or even an inconvenience for “one who has no preferences.” as the Zen scripture goes. Last night, I wanted to take a Tylenol PM, but couldn’t find my flashlight in the dark (although I thought I had positioned it very carefully.) and went looking for it by braille. These little Lucille Ball skits make me laugh!

I got enough sleep last night (six hours if we add up the segments) to feel much more alive today. The night before, the bar down the street played Latino music until 3:30 a.m., (that’s called 9:30 in Swahili time, which is measured from noon) I have now moved my sleeping quarters down into a sort of vault, here in the Lake Hotel. It’s not as breezy or delightful as the upstairs room I had, but a whole lot quieter. Hurrah!

Today, with my eye irritation subsiding (finally got something at the pharmacy), and some sleep….I feel much braver and more confident to wander around Mwanza. Why does it take energy to wander around Mwanza, you might wonder?

Almost everyone on the street wants to communicate something,… just Jambo! (“howdy”) or practicing their English, or welcoming me to Tanzania. I especially adore the beautiful and loving eye contact with the brightly clothed older women with baskets or buckets balanced on their heads.

women-with-baskets-tanzaniaThe vivid African patterns and elaborate hair styles here keep me in chronic wonderment! (Yes, I promise to get a lot of photos a.s.a.p.).

Here’s one little one (at left, click to view large image) for openers.

There is one level of “friendliness” that I can’t quite tolerate – the very occasional guy who wants to escort me somewhere, or keeps holding on to my hand, and asking me all about my life. But that is my own opportunity to practice boundaries. And as a last resort. I avoid walking that way again.

I just went shopping for coconut oil, toilet paper, and powdered coffee….I bought a plastic/electric tea kettle yesterday and lots of craft supplies. Then I saw a shop with Christmas decorations, and bought quite a few more. Sister Helena had asked me to bring lights and things for their tree. I’m happy to support the small shops in Mwanza. The shopkeeper, Flora, a beautiful young woman, started piling extra Christmas decorations into my already-bought bag of items when she understood that I am going to visit “Nyumbani kwa watoto albino” (a house of albino children). Then she asked me what ages they were? When I said, “1 – 16,” she ran to find, and handed me a giant stuffed Santa Claus. I told her that the children will be told that this is from Flora.

Here is Proskovia, the manager at my hotel who has been so kind to me...posing with the donated Santa doll and my new cotton outfit-to-be.

Here is Proskovia, the manager at my hotel who has been so kind to me…posing with the donated Santa doll and my new cotton outfit-to-be.

Isn’t it interesting how an act of generosity stokes more energy inside? I then found the confidence to go buy a bolt of colorful waxed cotton cloth in a small shop. I hope to have it tailored into a skirt and blouse once I get to the province of Magu, and the tiny village of Lamahdi.

Who knows- I might return with almost as much “stuff” as I’ve hauled here….the more I can support the locals in the village, (which is a mile from “my” children’s home.) the more they might look upon the albino children as a blessing, not a curse. Hey, is that a great reason to consume, or what? : }
Whoops! It’s later in the afternoon now, and I’ve just had a true “SILLY OLD BEAR” moment……I discovered that the electricity hasn’t been off for two days. I had simply turned off the
master switch in my room, so nothing worked. “Silly old bear” is my newest self-description,
when I’ve done something foolish. It’s a sweet Christopher Robin-ish approach to my own mistakes that is quite a bit kinder than the previously punitive descriptions that my inner critic enjoyed using.

And where is the mysterious Sister Helena?

I finally reached her on the phone yesterday…She told me that “they are bombing everywhere.” The election results were revealed on Sunday….and many people think the results were rigged by the current corrupt administration. (This is the same president who wanted to banish thousands of Masaii tribespeople from Here is Proskovia, the manager at my hotel who has been so kind to me…posing with the donated Santa doll and my new cotton outfit-to-be their homes in the Serengheti, so that Arabian sheikhs can go hunting by helicopter for big game, inside the reserve.).

When I asked her “bombing, as in killing?”, she said “No, just bombing everywhere.” So I think she meant to say tear-gas. So, we’ve spoken a couple more times. Once I convinced her that I don’t feel scared or abandoned, she decided to come get me tomorrow, when everything has calmed down.

Truth is, I appreciate the extra time here by myself, to get acclimated. I believe I have now “landed” here in Africa, restored my balance, and am ready to enter into the thick of my proposed adventure: travelling to the “Mary Mother of God Perpetual Help Center” where dozens of kids have been waiting for days to meet me. She had them yell “Karibu, Mama Joy” over the phone to me. Welcome, Mother Joy