Chapter 17: A Speck of Dust

Many mornings, I would wake up and think to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” I intended to join up with Moshi and Ikaji to start a safari company that would direct tourists to Kondoa and then ultimately get them involved in environmental projects. 

It made sense because the company would make a profit and everyone would benefit, but I pulled out. I got cold feet. I would have been a little anchovy swimming in a sea of sharks, and I was way out of my league.  

Ikaji was definitely a shark, and he just wanted to make money. He had no interest in the environmental work, and as a group, we decided that working together would be a mistake. Moshi, although he wanted to work again on the safari circuit, agreed with the decision. Looking back, it was good that these plans fell apart since, a few years later, Ikaji was arrested for financial crimes. 

Rather than trying to establish an entire safari company, Moshi and I decided to focus on the smaller cultural programs that paired village tours with environmental projects. We’d take a small group of people to see Cheku village for example, and then have them buy and plant a few trees with a teacher and group of students from the local elementary school. The travellers who embark upon small tours to visit the villages like Cheku don’t freak out when they use their last piece of toilet paper. They don’t mind a little dust in their eyes and feel comfortable being uncomfortable. This is a small niche of people, which was perfect, because if you brought too much tourism to some of these areas, they would be destroyed.

In our society, we base success on money, so, for me, if I think about it in those terms. The larger venture was unsuccessful, but when I took away the idea of money, focusing on smaller tours made total sense—but there would never be huge profits in them. That’s the problem with working on environmental projects: they serve another purpose that doesn’t feed the beast of Western capitalism.

Only one person could make a living out of this, and of course it would be Moshi. 

Not me. 

Kondoa is just a little speck of dust on the planet. The people here are like Dr. Suess’s Whos in Whoville. An entire world was existing on a tiny piece of dust, and you had to really listen to hear what was going on. There was a beautiful, harsh, and sometimes even ugly reality that was happening simultaneously with our own.

I wanted to listen.

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.