POST 4: Pili pili ho ho

Took a bus yesterday from Arusha to Kondoa.  I was nervous with the bus because it had been raining a little bit so I was worried the roads would be too wet but was assured that it would all be fine.  The long weekend for easter meant that some companies went on holiday and there was only one bus running so it was packed full of people and babies.  We had seats but many of the people had a 7 hour ride standing up so far be it from me to complain about feeling cramped and squished.  It was an uneventful ride (minus running out of gas on the way there) and It rained during the night so we were lucky we had decided to leave.

There were many dried up fields of corn on the way because of the late rains which has made it very hard for some of the people here.  In January a bag of maize was 2000 TZN shillings (less than $1) and in march it went up to 12000 TZN shillings (a little less than $6) which made it unaffordable for many people.  Most of us are disconnected from our seasons and complain only because we are either too cold or too hot because we don’t directly depend on them for our food source but here you really feel it.  Somehow people mange by borrowing from a friend or lending the little bit of money they may have to someone who is worse off.

My jet lag  is slowly disappearing and when I woke up finally felt human again but my bangs were getting in my eyes so I borrowed a pair of scissors to cut them but they weren’t sharp enough and now they are super uneven.  I know, first world problems, but I feel  like I look like a toddler with wrinkles.  However I do feel like I am exactly where I need to be so have had to ignore how ridiculous I look.

The 3 girls that work at the hotel have become my swahili instructors, Amina, Aisha and Oliva.  My favourite word is pili pili ho ho which means green pepper but I think sounds more like a dance move.  Most of the time I can catch a few words but have no idea about what is being said and am being humbled by getting back to the basics of human communication.  The girls are all in their early 20s and full of energy so they laugh a lot although sometimes I can’t tell if they are laughing AT me or with me.  Either way I am learning bit by bit and appreciate their help.

Moshi and I sat on the front porch greeting the passersby and practicing my greetings:

Hujambo (how are you)
Sijambo (I am fine)
Nina itwa lara (my name is Lara)
Una itwa nani? (what is your name?)
(Respond with a bunch of stuff that I can’t understand so I just smile and respond with)
Nina furahi kukutana nawewe (I am happy to have met you)

We did some work for the company which is good because there is still so much to do.  As we were working the aunt of the owner come out and put the traditional blessing on the house flicking a white mixture at our feet and all along the length of the porch.

I’m not sure why but I love being in places that  shake up my sense of the world and Kondoa is doing that to me in a very gentle way.

We can pick and choose the memories that define our life and piece them together like a puzzle.

Many years ago, in the wake of my mother’s death, I traveled to Africa for the first time. Uganda.

Our time to leave Kalagala eventually came, and my family embarked upon a classic Kenyan safari.

The three of us headed for Tanzania where I met Moshi Changai, a pivotal piece to this story.

From Tanzania, we made our way to the island of Zanzibar, a place to pause and reflect, and to write.

We left Zanzibar for Marrakesh, where the sound of Muslim prayers echoed from the speakers.

Life returned to normal—for just a little while. We returned home, and Zoe went back to School.

Fast-forward six years, and once again, Tanzania stood before my daughter and me.

Our destination was Kondoa, but to get there, we had to board a cramped bus like a bunch of sardines.

Before making our way to Cheku, we visited many of the surrounding Irangi villages first.

We drove up the long road dirt road to Cheku village and finally saw the well that had taken so many years.

With the Cheku well confirmed to be real, the time had come to return to Vancouver.

I finally landed in Tanzania, excited to meet Moshi again and the rest of the safari team.

I spent the days before meeting our potential business partner, Ikaji, at the hotel, practicing my Swahili.

By spending so much time at the hotel, I grew close with the girls who worked there.

On our way to snap some shots at Ntomoko falls, we got stuck in the mud, much like how I felt about Ikaji.

One morning, Moshi and I headed to buy trees and I sat and reflected on the situation with Ikaji.

Ikaji was simply not a good fit for this project and we had to decide how to proceed.

To help foster a community around the tours we decided to have a party for the people of Kolo.

The dry season had been especially brutal for the village of Iyoli and water was scarce.

This trip was winding to a close, but before I left, Moshi and took a final, bumpy motorcycle ride.

Once again, Perry Buchan leapt at the opportunity to be part of another water project.

I was back in Kondoa once again, at the same hotel (or at least the one next door).

To help determine how deeply the hole needed to be dug for the Iyoli well, the team conducted a survey.

We went back to Iyoli with a car full of computer equipment, a generator, and people.

With a car full of just about everyone, we headed to Iyoli one last time before leaving, but this time it was for a party.

The time had come to leave. I knew this because I had used my last square of toilet paper.

It took two and a half minutes to walk off the plane into the Turkish airport and breathe the unfamiliar smells.

It was like a fade-in into a movie, one that started with a reunion between two friends.

The next two weeks went by slowly as the drillers dug inch-by-inch toward the depth of 100m.

Initial digging had concluded, but we still had to test the water, build the tower, and dig trenches.

Tower construction began on market day, and led to a lot of people stopping by to watch the work.

Brick-by-handmade-brick, the tower went up. Soon, it would hold two water tanks and solar panels.

One morning in Kondoa town invited me over to play music at his house behind the hotel.

My worst fear, and I’m embarrassed to say but I will anyway, was having to go pee in the bush.

Today, I met Bar from Innovation: Africa - the woman who helped bring this project on.

I debated whether I even wanted to share this part of this story, but I will.

A few days later, work resumed at the project site.

Despite the recent setback, life continued—progress continued.

Things that were once green were starting to turn brown.

In many ways, our engineer was crazy and messed up.

Moshi, Juma, and I were at the site every day to make sure that things were getting done.

Water began flowing to the different distribution points throughout Iyoli.

This is my story. The stories I tell are the ones that hold me up, that keep me going, that feed me hope.

Each night when I drink a glass of water, I often think of Moshi, and the memories wash over me.