Chapter 18: The Party

One of the main reasons people venture out to Kondoa is to see the UNESCO heritage site in Kolo, which lies in the centre of one of the most impressive collections of ancient rock art on the African continent. 

Within clusters of granite and gneiss rockshelters, there are approximately 1,500 rock painting sites.

One of the offices for the tour company was going to be in Kolo, and Moshi would typically be working there, so we decided to have a party to help foster a community around the tours within the village. At the same time, we’d also be painting the office green to represent the environment. This would also allow us to tell people to head to the green office to see Moshi.

We started in Kondoa town and picked up 50kg of rice for the party, three cans of paint, two bags of cement, and the rest of the plants for the women’s group in Kolo. Yasinta and Isa, Moshi’s wife, decided to do the shopping without me because prices went up when a “muzungu” was around. We packed the car full of soda, groceries, painting supplies, and the two guys who were going to be doing the painting.

We arrived in Kolo and dropped off the two painters with directions on how to paint the office—avocado green for the outside and summer blue for the inside. Then we headed to the house where all the food was going to be prepared for the party. The people there greeted us with the traditional Irangi dancing and splattered the chalky mixture.

Our next stop was to talk to the teachers at Kolo’s primary and secondary schools. Moshi was trying to build relationships with them because wanted to get the teachers on board to help the students learn about and maintain the rock paintings. We left them with trees and the two bags of cement because Moshi found out that the secondary school wasn’t able to finish a science laboratory because they ran out of cement. Helping to preserve the historical sites of Kolo got their attention, but the cement sealed the deal. So often out here, projects stalled because people simply ran out of the materials needed for completion. 

By now, the office was just about finished, so we headed back. As it turned out, the painters ran out of paint, so now we had one wall that was green, and another that was blue. I’m a designer and stress about details like colour and lines, but somehow this worked. We’d be fitting in with all the other unfinished projects.

I walked back to the house where food preparations were happening. They were skinning a slaughtered goat I had bought from one of the neighbors for a surprising little money, and the women were cleaning the rice and cutting bananas, cabbage, and garlic. The house was buzzing with activity, and I spent the afternoon getting to know the women. We laughed at my Swahili and held hands when we didn’t know what else to say to each other. They often broke out into song and dance. That’s what I loved the most.

The sun went down, and about 100 people came. I was expecting it to be like a dinner party I might have at my house, where you chat and casually take a bite of food, but people were pushing to get to the front of the line because they were scared that the food would run out before they had their turn to fill their plates. Moshi told me that the food we prepared was special for the villagers. Typically, they ate nothing more than ugali and a sticky spinach dish. I had bought this all for around $50.

Moshi’s daughter sat on my lap, and I looked up at the stars to avoid looking at the chaos and hunger of the people. Sometimes I see things that I don’t want to see.

There was more than enough food for everyone, and after people had eaten, a calmness washed over the house. Children sat quietly with their sodas, and the women cleaned up the mess that was left behind. As we headed back to the car, the women sang a song of peace and a safe journey and the hope that we would see each other again.

We all sat in silence in a car crammed full of people as we drove over the bumpy roads back to Kondoa.

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.