Gosh the days are flying by and it is high time for our second blog entry. We have now been based in Arusha, Tanzania, which is a long bumpy seven-hour bus trip from Nairobi due to serious road construction. Instead of completing sections of the road, they have basically ripped up half of it so we mostly were on a series of detours. Emma (short for Emmanuel) and his brother Christian gave us a wonderful warm greeting at the bus station with roses in hand. We had been invited to come and stay with them, through meeting Emma’s wife Pammla in Regina. It was a wonderful accidental meeting with Pammla several months ago, and it has been a very special time staying with Emma, Christian, their sister Ada, and daughter Rena and her son Kerry who is two. Gladness, who comes in each day to cook and care for the house, has been a total delight to be with. She cooks us chapattis each morning; they are a real treat. I have loved hanging out with Gladness in the kitchen and will be sorry to say good bye when we go. We have been so welcomed by all of them and we feel like family. Each day we go off on adventures, never quite knowing how things will work out. There are so many unexpected things, which often end up actually making our time even better.
We just spent the last few days around Arusha visiting a number of orphanages and also the Green Hope Medical Clinic which has just opened recently. It was special to visit the clinic and see that much of the equipment and furniture that is there originally came from Saskatchewan, donations from hospitals, doctors’ offices, or SaskTel which is a major supporter of the clinic. Pammla and her mother have been involved in gathering furniture and medical equipment as well as numerous items that are used by orphanages and individuals in need, which they send over in large shipping containers. It’s lovely to see the fruit of their work! Today was a public holiday so the clinic was not open, but amazingly the administrator and all of the staff except their doctor and one of the nurses was there. They came in to be there for us. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of people!
Our next stop was an orphanage called Living Waters. We arrived at recess where all the kids were playing in the yard skipping and playing ball etc. They sang us a lovely welcoming song. It warmed my heart I must say. This was the poorest of the four orphanages which we visited, being a very small building with only 3 bedrooms for 29 children. Each bed had one older and younger child in it. I couldn’t believe so many could fit into such a small space. But in two short days I have seen that what is really important is the love they receive. These kids were happy despite having so little. This particular orphanage also has a school at it, so the kids receive an education right there as do some kids who live in the area and attend the school with them. This provides a way for the orphans to integrate with local children. It seems to be working well. In each of the orphanages we visited, we gave notebooks and pencils to each child as well as pop-sodas which are a real treat here. We also had some other things to offer that Pammla had sent from Regina. I found myself wanting to buy mosquito nets for them, new shoes, clothes etc when I saw how little they have. All of these orphanages are dependant on donations often from abroad but some from within Tanzania.
Yesterday we went to the Samaritan orphanage, which was an amazing experience. We walked into the bedroom for the one year olds, who were having baths, and within seconds each of us was carrying a child. They literally lept into our arms. At one point I was carrying two children. So dear, I must say. Many of these children have been abandoned for one reason or another, but really it was so beautiful to see the interactions between them all. They all look after each other. We had Emma’s niece, Tawa, and her two-year-old daughter named Beauty, with us and Beauty totally got involved. When the kids had dinner she joined them and instantly one of the children came over to her and started feeding her. I think we were all very touched by what was going on there. The confidence of those children was remarkable and they seem to be thriving despite their lack of parents. It was a very heartwarming experience.
Our first orphanage was challenging as every single one of the children was HIV/AIDS positive. Many of them looked unwell and just generally lacked the normal energy of children. We did find out that they do receive anti retro viral drugs freely which is a god send. It was difficult to be there for me I must say seeing these children having so little energy for life. There were a number of volunteers staying there for two weeks who were from Guelph, Ontario; they were giving the children lots of loving attention.
I want to also write about my experience of the Arusha Market, which could be possibly the most interesting and photographic market I have experienced. It’s huge and totally chaotic. I simply stood in one place watching one of the streets which was absolutely filled with fruit and vegetable sellers both seated and walking around, shoes and clothes sellers, and a variety of other wares for sale. My favourite moment was when a huge truck appeared and started driving down the street that was filled with these sellers. I have included a photo below to tell the story. It was literally a sea of people that the truck moved through. It is so refreshing to witness so much chaos that somehow works.
As we have been out and about in Arusha and also out of town visiting some mines that Chris wanted to visit, I have been amazed by seeing Masai people in traditional dress everywhere. Most often they can be seen in the fields with their flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Each Masai man has a flock, and the more animals he has, the more wives he will be able to afford. It is not unusual for a man to have 12 wives all of whom live in the same village. Each wife has a little hut where she lives with her children. The husband moves between the homes as he pleases. What a life! It has almost seemed unreal seeing these Masai people dressed in their bright red cloth and beautiful beaded wear, worn particularly by the women. They are totally striking. The other day, Christian and Emma drove us to the part of town where Tanzanite (a blue gemstone that is much valued and seems to be rather high priced) is bought and sold. Most of the people there were Masai men huddled around cell phones checking out the moment to moment price of the Tanzanite market. I so much wanted a photo of a Masai man with a cell phone, but so far I have not succeeded!
I am just finishing this blog as we are ending our time at the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. So I have some catching up to do. Suffice it to say that it has been a fabulous time. We have seen so many animals and birds over these last three days. I had no idea of how close we would be able to be to lions, elephants, zebras etc. With any luck I will be able to post some photos soon so that you can see some of what we have experienced. These last two weeks have been such a rich time and we are just getting started………..
Until next time, Dana
Chris: Continuing from where I ended my last brief account of becoming reacquainted with Kenya:
During our last couple of days in Nairobi before departing for Tanzania, Dana and I walked around a lot. We found St Mary’s School which was close to one of the houses I lived in when I was aged thirteen to sixteen or thereabouts. My Dad and I often walked Laddie, our German Shepherd dog, on the playing fields – and frequently lay on our backs looking up at the stars sharing our awe of immense distances and great time spans and appreciating our ability as humans to appreciate such wonder. On other occasions, we would practise field hockey, or one of us would hide in some adjacent light forest (no longer in existence, having been replaced by houses) leaving the other with Laddie who would then be encouraged to find the hidden person. He always succeeded!
We also visited another part of Nairobi – Kileleshwa – where we had previously lived for about four years. I think I found the corner where the house had once been. Again, the changes were so immense that I could not be sure. We found our way to the shallow valley where again we had walked Laddie. Now it is overlooked by apartment blocks surrounded by security walls, and we were unable to cross to the other side of the valley (to St. George’s Primary School) as there were more security fences that surround part of the State House grounds. Still, I was able to share memories with Dana – and this has been a constant delight to me as I feel she is able to get an experiential sense of my boyhood and, perhaps, start to understand why I am as deluded as I am in my adulthood! I should add that my emotions continued to course strongly through my body, and tears of joy and sadness often came to my eyes.
One of my teeth began to hurt badly, and I was fortunate to be able to get an infected root canal dealt with by a most competent Swedish dentist. Had the infection begun a few days later, I would have found the wonders that were to unfold during our visit to northern Tanzania nigh on impossible to absorb. As it was, I was able to give my experiences here (I am writing this in Arusha with just a few more days left before we head back to Nairobi) the closest of attention.
Following a very bumpy seven-hour bus ride from Nairobi to Arusha, and being heartfully welcomed by Emma and Chris, we have been doing and seeing a lot. Dana has described the couple of days we spent visiting four orphanages and a health clinic that is operational but still in process of becoming fully equipped. I echo what she has said about how deeply the children and their carers touched us. The children opened their hearts and arms to us, and they quickly established their places in our hearts. Colour, language and cultural differences evaporated, and we were simply human beings reveling in the warmth of each other’s touch and focused attention. Our departures were the most difficult part of the visits (those darned tears pricking away at my eyes yet again!). I am sure I have been more helped by these children about overcoming any prejudices I may be harbouring than I have been able to help them through the small gifts we left or whatever other impacts I may have made.
Dana mentioned about our spending a couple of days visiting mine sites. The first, which worked ruby-bearing rocks, was near a town named Longido (which we has passed through on our trip from Nairobi). The ruby that we saw occurred as thin (1 to 2 mm) platy (1 to 2 cm diameter) pink crystals in hornblendite with bands of a greenish mineral (zoisite?) – in 50 cm thick layers interbanded with hornblende-feldspar layers. All the rocks were considerably veined and sheared, which likely made mining a hazardous business. Mining is not currently in progress, and it is difficult to assess the economic viability of an operation – the rubies we saw in the tailings of the small-scale mining that has taken place were not gem quality and the host rock seemed to be too fractured to allow for production of an attractive ornamental stone, but my visit was perfunctory and this overview is in no way close to a decent assessment. The trip to and from the mine was highlighted by seeing several gerenuk and a small herd of giraffe – the first time we had started to see wild African game in any number and variety (the Nairobi-Arusha journey had been notable for the absence of game – we had seen a few Thomson’s Gazelle, but nothing else).
The following day, we drove east and south of Arusha to the Mererani area where tanzanite is mined, primarily by a fairly large South African operated mine, but also by many small-scale mines, one of which we visited. Entry to the workings was down a circular vertical shaft that, we were told, was about 40 m deep with access down a wooden ladder, and from the end of the shaft, the distance to the working face was about 80 to 100 m. They crawl there on hands and knees. When I asked the owner what the rocks that were being worked for tanzanite were like, he had a couple of miners who worked for him to descend the ladder to bring back some samples. For headlamps, the miners attached ordinary flashlights to the tops of their heads using rubber bands that looked like they might be cut from tyre inner tubes. They had no boots, nor safety apparel for their descent. It was all very rudimentary. I felt no temptation whatsoever to accompany them! They were gone for well over an hour – and a third miner went down to make sure they were OK. The samples they brought back were primarily medium- to fine-grained, equigranular, non-foliated graphitic rock with coarse-grained veins that I believe is where the tanzanite (a zoisite) crystals generally occur. Disseminated to massive pyrite was also widely present.
From the tanzanite mine, we headed due east to visit a tsavorite working, again non-operational (tsavorite is a green garnet that, if of high quality, produces a beautiful gemstone). We had gone only a kilometer or two when Gaudens (brother of the mine-owner, Leonard), who was driving, said we had a problem with our brakes. It proved to be a broken brake-cable, so we returned to another of the small-scale mines. There, following considerable animated discussion amongst the Tanzanians in our vehicle (Emma, Tawa, Gaudens and Leonard) and several miners, it was determined we should disconnect the one brake, then get some brake fluid to ensure the other three brakes were fully operational. Whilst we waited (about two hours altogether), I looked through the mine tailings whilst Dana and Tawa spoke to one of the miners who told them he had been working for ten years and had been totally unsuccessful in finding tanzanite. The miners do not get paid, and eat only one meal of rice and beans a day (sometimes this is provided by the owner). When they find a tanzanite crystal that they can sell, they share the proceeds amongst all of them. They start work at around 4 pm and stay in the mine until 8 am when they come to the surface, rest, eat, then go down into the mine again. It’s back-breaking, very dangerous, generally unrewarding work with the possibility of a rich strike being the only incentive – for most, a futile dream. I recall reading in a mining journal last year or the year before of a flooding of the mines that killed many workers. When the car was ready to leave, I felt deeply sad for these kind-hearted, hard-working men whose present and future seemed so precarious. The tsavorite workings proved to be about four angled adits with no sign – to me – of green garnets anywhere. Again, the most abundant rocks in the tailings were highly graphitic gneisses, much sheared. A neighbouring mine worker passed by and came to see what we were doing – he sorted through some of the tailings and quickly presented us with a few very small fragments of a clear green mineral that he said were tsavorite – I had no problem believing him even though I couldn’t be sure without doing some further tests (not part of my plans, however!).
Until next time……Chris