When I closed my eyes at three in the morning in a hotel in Dar es Salaam and reopened them the next day, amid the sounds of the Dar streets drifting into my window, it was like a fade-in into a movie, one that started with a reunion between two friends headed for an old familiar place—Kondoa town.
Moshi met me in the morning at the hotel in Dar to leave for Kondoa, and it was late evening before we arrived. As soon as we stepped off the bus, it started to rain. These weren’t small, soft drops, but big fat ones that felt like rubber bouncy balls hitting my head. Once again, I’d arrived in Kondoa during the rainy season. Moshi mentioned that this was the most rain the region had seen in fifteen years, a great thing for someplace so dry. We sought shelter at a neighbour’s house as the rain played a rhythmic entrance song to Kondoa on the tin roof while waiting for our ride.
The drive with Moshi’s friend to the Kondoa Annex Climax Hotel should have taken five minutes, but the windows wouldn’t stop fogging up, so we had to keep pulling over to wipe them clean while ribbons of rivers streamed down the unpaved streets. The storm had knocked out the electricity at the hotel, which wasn’t too uncommon, and forced me to unpack while wearing a headlamp to find the things I needed to get to sleep. You know how you can get so tired that the world starts spinning around you? That was me. Spinning.
In the morning, once again the streets were dry because the earth had greedily eaten the rain, except for a few puddles that dotted the roads, and it was as if none of the chaos from the night before had happened. It’s crazy that one of the driest regions in the world can flood so drastically and then pretend like nothing happened. I was worried that this would negatively affect the drilling, but Moshi said that it would be good because the ground would be softer, which makes it easier to dig the trenches needed for the pipes.
I was happy to see that Aisha was still working at the hotel restaurant alongside two new workers, Nuru and Hussein, but I was most excited to see Baraka again. She was twelve now, and as smart and precocious as ever. Baraka brought two friends with her, Miriam, who was also twelve, and Shadia, who was six. The girls lived in a tiny cement room right next to the hotel and around the corner from Baraka. Miriam and Baraka went to the same school, so she was able to speak English just as well.
Since this trip involved a lot more manual labor, and it was exam time at school anyway, we weren’t able to bring Baraka or the other kids along to Iyoli quite as often, but they were a common sight at the hotel. They greeted me in the mornings, and we had breakfast together before heading off, and then when I returned each evening, we would have dinner together. They were a small but enthusiastic hotel family.
We jumped into the digging process right away.