Friday, September 10, 2010

A month in Tanzania

It’s been a tough month, filled with frustrations that I never anticipated. A single, all-pervading frustration, really. The largest free-standing frustration in the world, in fact.  Every day I see Mount Kilimanjaro towering above me, its summit less than 25km away. And every day I cannot climb it, at least not yet…

We’re living 900 metres above sea-level on Kili’s verdant lower slopes – volcanic soil and regular high-altitude precipitation preserve a fertile micro-region with abundant greenery.

My orientation week, which kicked off the morning after we arrived, was a chaotic whirlwind of information. But it culminated with what has proved to be one of the highlights so far: a staff camping trip to Lake Chala, an ancient flooded caldera straddling the Kenyan border. School organized and paid for the trip and families came too, although Nina opted to stay home with Marcus.

Now, four weeks into term, we’re beginning to settle into a routine. Each morning, Nina walks to school with Annie and Fraser, who often cycle the ½ mile trip, which follows a quiet dirt road. I usually leave a little earlier but often see the children during the school day.

We’ve bought a 16 year old, eight-seater Toyota Landcruiser Prado and hired Palina, a lovely Tanzanian nanny / maid who speaks only Swahili, which is providing a little more incentive for us, particularly Nina, to learn the native language!

ISM has an excellent OP (Outdoor Pursuits) programme and in a couple of weeks, I’m heading to the Pares Mountains on a two day trip before tackling a four day Kilimanjaro trek at the end of November – not to the summit; that will have to wait…

There is a fortnightly Hash here, which we were introduced to recently. It couldn’t have been better! We spent an hour or so meandering through banana groves, across streams and in and out of remote communities. Annie and Fraser forged ahead with a dozen other excited youngsters while Nina, Marcus and I brought up the rear. For large sections, we were followed by a crowd of chattering Chagga* children, excited by the sudden appearance of a herd of Wazungu*.

And then there are the bike rides and walks. Just behind our house, a river courses through a deep gully littered with boulders for the children to jump between. Beyond the river, the track slopes steadily upwards through coffee, corn, maize and banana fields. This is where I ride each weekend, with Kilimanjaro as the constant backdrop.

There’s a week long break coming up and we hope to finish unpacking, visit a nearby wildlife park and go back to Lake Chala for the day. There are also some hot-springs not far away which we may try. So much to see and do and all so close to home!

Each morning I walk 10 minutes to work along a tree lined track. I watch the fiery red African sun rise as I walk and when I arrive I glance up towards the majestic roof of Africa before settling down to work. The people are cool, our kids are really happy and the school believes in children as well as grades... all good, except when it's really good.
* Chagga are the predominant indigenous tribe in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania
* Wazungu is the plural of Mzungu, the Swahili word for a white person

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  2. It all looks and sounds incredible!!Its amazing that you are embracing the culture in every sense. Enjoy the change of pace- it must be so refreshing!!

    So pleased for you all

    Good luck learning Swahili!