A Tanzanian Road Trip

February 19, 2017 | Jason Mackenzie

The other day I was sitting with our partner Walter at his family gathering intended for everyone to discuss funeral preparations, including funeral costs, for a cousin that recently died. Each family member contributed something, then Walter looked at me and said, “brother…”

So I contributed.

Later we decided we would leave for the funeral, drive overnight, and arrive the next morning. The journey was 8 hours in total or something like that. It was awful and amazing at the same time…which is why I went. The trip gave me a chance to explore more of Tanzania, including Kilimanjaro.

We arrived at Kilimanjaro (locally known as Moshi) around 7am. Our expected arrival was 2 or 3 am. I was beat. Walter says “If you wanna hike Kili, today is the day. I will connect you with a guide.” Ummm, ok, I thought. I hadn’t slept, I was still in my dress clothes, which were starting to ripen…but ok.kili

So I got my guide and I hiked to the first outpost on Kilimanjaro. 8 kilometers each way. Not impossible even for a minimal hiker like myself. I saw beautiful blue monkeys which are apparently the only primates that exhibit the skills of a cat in that when they fall out of a tree, the can land on their feet. The rainforest is stunning in these parts. Watching the porters lug the backpacks of the hikers going to the top is a bit unnerving, but of course job producing.

I finished my hike and met Walter at the bar later that evening. I was still in my dress clothes from the day before, as was he. I was unbathed with shag of tooth, as was he. But we drank a few beers and laughed and later slept well in the foothills of Moshi.

The next day, Walter’s family went to the funeral and its preparations. He set me up with a guide to take me to the waterfalls, the living museum, and the caves. I must admit, I was so surly from lack of sleep the night before that I wasn’t sure I event wanted to go….I’m glad I did.

The caves are simple but the storyteller is well versed in the history that she is a wealth of knowledge worth visiting. Next we made the journey to waterfalls, which are beautiful and coveted by the people of the region. Even after the short sweaty hike, the water was still too cold for this guy. The living history museum is a sight to see, mostly because of the enthusiastic caretaker, Edward. He will teach you about the different tribal traditions including housing, marriage practices, war, banana beer, and polygamy.

banana beer

Drinking banana beer.

After the museum, we figured it was time to warm up, or cool off, with a big cup of infamous banana beer. It’s a bit grainy and a but sour, but worth the experience. The company is even more invaluable.

We got on the road back to Dar Es Salam at about 8pm so we could be ready for a medical brigade Friends of Children of Cancer (FOCC) was planning the next day. Walter kept telling me how big this event was going to be. I thought to myself, come on, there’s no way…it was huge.

There were probably 2,000 people there. There was a basketball tournament, a soccer 16830852_1389303041101611_8084765895424830089_ntournament, skits, drum circle, roller skating competition, oh and some really great doctors on hand to do medical diagnoses. All of this, I might add, was donated. Not a schilling spent. This, I thought, is collaboration.

It was chaotic in the beginning, but by the end, the ship was sailing smoothly. I asked Janet what she thought was the greatest issues presented by the people to their doctors. She said, they all say their doctors don’t listen to them. The patient goes to the hospital, the doctor listens for a minute, then prescribes something. Things were different at this event. People’s voices were heard and realistic prescriptions were prescribed. We could all feel the success of the e50910619237__8DF61269-6E99-44C1-8F98-096C784138D0.JPGvent. I couldn’t believe it till I saw it and was a part of it. It makes me realize once again that with the right team of people, anything is possible.

One day of rest and final preparations for next week’s playground build training. About 20 trainees are expected and we hope to have a the build completed by the end of the week.