Weka chai, ndugu! Welcome to a cup of tea brother, sister, family friend!
Eighteen days ago Anne and I left for our ninth year in Mufindi, Tanzania. North American reality is turned upside down and spins like a ululating top.
Take for example THE GOAT (mbuzi). A few days ago making a return trip from the town of Iringa, our car was full of market vegetables, tropical fruit, longed for Swiss cheese, a broom, a new battery for the solar system, treasures from Nema crafts, a Masaai hand carved table and two precious bottles of Tall Horse, South African Sauvignon blanc. We turned off the tarmac and onto the red dirt road at Mafinga town. Passing over a stream and surrounded by bright yellow-green maize stocks waving happily everywhere the water seeped, we lurched up rock hard hills. The stream also serves as the local car wash, an entrepreneurial business with enterprising young men busily polishing chrome, shining metal and glistening mirrors. Lorries were rolling towards us in a crab like motion rocking side to side complete with people (watu) and goats clinging to the top. Please let us make it safely by! We have become accustomed (already) to many many Chinese piki pikis(motorcycles)careening towards us with 3 or 4 humans squeezed into impossible “bodily contact” sandwiches. Few helmets and all male drivers.
The road narrowed and we rounded a corner. A broken down piki piki was smack in the middle of the road. Three of us piled out of our car and surrounded an aged rider. He was a mzee(as are we). Wrinkled black skin and red dust filled eyes showed we all shared the same vintage years. How could we be of assistance? Then we saw it, a loosely woven tea picker’s basket with a furry live passenger. It was a large male goat with his hind feet trussed up like a rodeo calf and tied onto the basket which in turn was tied on to the back of the most ancient, banged up, leverless motorcycle ever seen. The wobbling kickstand served as an unwieldy pivot in the dust. Repeatedly the motorcycle slid to the ground to the frantic bleating of the goat. In poor Swahili we offered condolences. Then I grabbed the handlebars while Allen Castledine (an African Book Box director’s husband) pulled out THE fanciest Swiss army knife complete with a hammer and every other tool imaginable. Allen cut part of the precious frayed rope in order the haul the goat back to a balanced position on the fender. Anne dodged horns and big teeth at the other end. Keeping the motorcycle upright and securing the body took ALL four of us. Then the overwhelmed rider began an effort to kick-start his ancient piki piki. Finally exhausted he stopped still and motioned us back into our vehicle and signaled that we should “Twende” (let’s go!”) Allan didn’t show us his muffler pipe leg burn until the next day. YIKES!
No one here plays bridge on Wednesdays!