Having now experienced the Maasai Market once and having perhaps a better sense of strategy, it was Laurita’s and Kelley’s intention to subject themselves once again to this somewhat nerve wracking experience and to so willingly. One might consider this an indication for a psychiatry consultation or to just skip that step and place them on heavy antipsychotic medications, but I did neither and decided to let them run with it. We all slept the night under mosquito netting as is usual for Tanzania, but even more so in Arusha where the mosquitos are bigger, faster and more persistent than in Karatu. They are unrelenting thugs. Though the girls slept well under their netting with no insect incursions, I was not so lucky as I had apparently not tucked my netting in quite so carefully. Trying to describe a night shared with these little beasts trapped in your netting would best be accomplished by referring you to the latest horror flick about being locked in a house with your worst nightmare. And better yet, there is no escape as their little friends are just waiting for you to run outside so they might pounce. Once you’re shield has been penetrated, you can look forward to, at best, an interrupted night of intermittent sleep in between their attacks and there is no clearing your net once the night has begun. That was my Friday night.
The children arose rather early despite having arrived from Nairobi at around 1 am. Pendo later told us that they were stuck in a three hour traffic jam in Nairobi, which has to be one of the very worst cities for traffic I have ever seen. We stayed one night there on our return in 2009, and it had taken us hours to travel a several mile stretch of the main road from the airport with at least four lanes of traffic in each direction. Definitely not for the faint hearted. We had coffee and wonderful African chai with all of its spices before sitting down to a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, toast and fresh fruit. By this time it was well after 10:30 am and we very much needed to get to the Maasai Market for Kelly and Laurita to finish their shopping.
Arusha has become a very congested town for driving with very few traffic signals for a city of well over one million people. The normal route to the market was quite congested and it took us well over twice as long to get there as it should. We finally arrived and thankfully there were far more shoppers than the prior evening so you didn’t feel as much as a target as before. Even with that, though, the vendors from last night remembered and us and their common line was “remember, Baba, you told me last night that you’d look in my shop when you came back today.” Whether they were telling the truth or not, really couldn’t be totally sure so you just believed them for better or worse. We were pushing our luck with time to get to the airport, but I waited patiently for the two of them to finally wrap up their shopping and we drove back to the Tembas to finish their packing and head off to the airport for their flight home. I did take the back way to home this time which was a breeze and made me ask myself why I don’t use the route every time which must clearly indicate that I’m becoming more a local driving here in Arusha these days.
Before I knew it, the girls were packed and they had their bags in the car ready to go. The drive to Kilimanjaro International Airport, or KIA as we refer to it here, is along the Nairobi road that is on the north of town and heads to Moshi at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The airport is between the two cities (Arusha and Moshi) and sits in a big dusty plain that is just north of the Blue Hills, which is where all the Tanzanite is mined and the only place it exits in the world. Unfortunately, the road is currently being widened and the construction goes on for several kilometers. To say that the roads are poorly marked in Tanzania would be an understatement, and when you put two, two-lane partially finished tarmacs parallel for any distance, it makes for an interesting journey here. Drivers try to take whichever route might be the shortest and quickest, so just when you thought you might have two lanes traveling in the same direction on either side of a median (otherwise known as a divided highway in our country), you probably guessed wrong and you find yourself with oncoming cars or trucks in the lane you thought might be yours. In the daylight it requires quick reflexes and a bit of imagination. In the dark it would be otherwise very treacherous or just as easily referred to as suicidal. We were driving a much smaller car to the airport and, for once, I had wished we were in the big Land Cruiser as it gathers a bit more authority when one is trying to prove his point.
We survived the construction zone intact and were finally on the open road which is still just the original two-lane highway that brings on it own set of nuances when trying to make a flight and being a couple of minutes later than you had planned. The trucks here come in every state of disrepair and when time is not of concern and fuel is the limiting factor, they drive like snails going uphill making it a necessity to pass them or else leave a day early to make it anywhere. That wouldn’t be a huge problem, other than the fact that there are small towns every few kilometers that have speed bumps and 50 kph speed zones. The Tanzanian police who used to only have their random traffic stops to shake you down if you didn’t have all your stickers and safety equipment in your car, now also have the speed traps to generate extra revenue that are set in these speed zones. Leave it to say that travel here is always an adventure whether you’re on a game drive in one of the parks, or just just trying to get from point A to point B. I guess that’s one of the things I like about this place which must sound very crazy to all those who are not familiar with how much I love to drive (which is very, very much).
I dropped them off at the airport and we said our goodbyes with extra hugs even though we’d see each other in several days at work. Now I had to get to Sokoine’s wedding and luckily I was just trying to make the reception and not the church ceremony. I fought the never ending traffic through the construction zone and arrived a bit late, but luckily found that they were still taking photos at another location. The reception was at his in-laws house which was all set up with tents and chairs and the caterers were getting everything prepared. I sat with some relatives who were waiting for them to return as well and we shared some bottles of water sitting in the shade of the tents in the hot midday sun. It was a splendid setting. Finally, a Land Cruiser arrived with the typical decorations that are seen with wedding parties here and eventually Sokoine and Upendo got out to the cheers of all the family and neighbors who had accumulated by this time.
I won’t go into the description of the entire ceremony, but leave it say that it was one of the most beautiful wedding receptions that I have ever been to as everyone participates and says things along the way. It was all in Swahili and at several points, the master of ceremony spoke English for my benefit as I was the only mzungu (stranger or white person) there out of the 75 or so guests. They had a champagne toast (the only alcohol at the wedding as the Maasai don’t typically drink) and a cake cutting ceremony quite similar to ours, but after they gave each other a piece of cake on a toothpick they preceded to call out several other family members to give cake too as well. Imagine my surprise when I was called up to receive my piece of cake on a toothpick from both Sokoine and Upendo. You may recall that this is what I had to do for the entire kitchen and service staff for my 60th birthday party in March. I was so honored over have been not only invited to the wedding, but also included as a family member. Sokoine kept looking over to me to make sure I was being taken care of not neglected, but it was far from that as everyone made totally sure that I was included whether it meant getting a soft drink, in the dinner line (you would have loved it Laurita!) or just knew what was going on.
It was supposed to have been a small affair, but here in Tanzania, a wedding is a community event so not only family, but also neighbors are welcome to attend and have something to eat. I hadn’t counted on being there the entire night which I could have easily done and would have loved to, but I needed to get back to the Temba’s at some point as I had their car and also wanted to spend some time with them. The dinner was to be at 6 pm, but it was well after 7 when we all got in line for the buffet. It was white rice, pilau, banana stew, beef stew, salad, fresh fruit and several other dishes I didn’t recognize, but just ate anyway. Tanzanians pile their food quite high on their plates, but I did take smaller portions even though I was starving as we hadn’t eaten lunch before heading to the airport. Everything was delicious and when I went to sit at my chair, Upendo’s father grabbed me and had me sit with them at their table. I couldn’t believe how much everyone was attending to me. Earlier the master of ceremony had asked me if I would mind giving a toast at some point, but they hadn’t yet called me up to do so and it was getting quite late. Sokoine asked me on several occasions if I needed to leave as he knew of all my obligations so at 7:30 pm (I had told my Pendo that I’d be home around 4 pm) I told him I had probably better get on the road home.
If I had had the opportunity to give the toast (I had already thought in my mind what I was going to say) I would have told everyone how much Sokoine meant to me in the time we’ve worked together over the last several years as he is perhaps the most capable and trustworthy friend I have here other than Leonard and Pendo. What we accomplish during our time at FAME would not be possible without him and the preparation he does to make things happen here. He is truly an amazing individual who has not wasted an opportunity to better himself with his education, his work and his family, and I very much respect him for that. I’m pretty sure he knows how I feel and I also know that he is meant for far bigger things than working with me and at some point he will have to move on. I will be very sad on that day, but sincerely very, very happy for him and his family of which I am now a part.