The night was surprisingly cool and, in comparison to Doha, it felt a bit like the arctic. Perfect sleeping weather, though, and it was much appreciated to have a good night’s sleep after the day and a half of travel to get here. I was up after sunrise and there was a delightful breeze coming through the windows as I set up shop at the dining room table as I typically do here when I’m visiting here. The kids were still asleep and the house was quiet so it was a perfect time to get some writing done and, in the end, I had about an hour’s worth of time to myself. I wasn’t completely alone, of course, as there was work being done in the kitchen in preparation for the day and, most importantly, there was a full pot of hot tea Masala prepared which is my very favorite here. Tea Masala is also served at FAME every day and teatime is perhaps our favorite time of day. At FAME, it is typically served with white bread and margarine, which has never really appealed to me, but on Wednesdays they bake mandazi which are little deep fried dough balls that are great for dunking. In the past, the mindazi were homemade by Samwell in the kitchen and I fondly recall the cooking lessons that had given to Thu when she was here. What I remember most about his mandazi, though, was their taste and their crispy crusts coupled with that “melt in your mouth” interior. Unfortunately, with the growth of FAME over the years and the responsibilities of the kitchen, the homemade mandazi has become a thing of the past and what is served now are lesser store-bought creations that have none of the love that went into Samwell’s creations. I guess that some things must inevitably suffer for the course of progress and there’s little question that the good occurring at FAME far outweighs the loss of those homemade mandazi.
I had little to do for the day as the residents would not be arriving until mid-afternoon, so I took the opportunity to relax for the morning with the children as Pendo had some things to do in town. Of course, this occurred after my mandatory fantastic breakfast of fruit and pancakes along with fresh watermelon juiced. And, oh yes, the honey was a special blend from Olduvai Gorge and was also incredibly scrumptious. One thing that I did have to do for the day, though, was to check out the Land Rover and make sure that everything was ready for the month here. As I have chronicled here over the years, vehicles here can at times be a real struggle. Even with continued maintenance and TLC they can manage to break down at the most inconvenient times and that seems to be part of the adventure here. Having been stuck axle deep in the mud in the middle of the Little Serengeti Plain at Tarangire National Park, though, was totally pilot error and one that could have ended in total disaster given the oncoming rain and the lions in the grass. Had it not been for Leonard just then entering the park on a game drive, we would probably still be there to this day or we would have been dinner for those lions. It all ended well, though, thanks to our knight in shining armor (Leonard) who came to our rescue.
Having learned my lesson in the mud, our other vehicular adventures have been of a more mechanical nature. A blown clutch plate just after having entered the Ngorongoro gate on one of the most beautiful of days prevented us from not only enjoying the crater, but also losing our fees as they wouldn’t refund them to us since we had already entered the park. They did offer for us to come back in another vehicle or after fixing ours, but we were leaving the following day. On another occasion, a worrisome vibration turned out to be a nearly detached rear driveshaft that was all the more worrisome considering we were heading around the crater rim on our way to hike Empakai Crater and probably twenty kilometers into the park in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, Sokoine, who was with us and had grown up nearby in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, had friends that worked at the Sopa Lodge where we could possibly get it worked on. It was a still about 10 kilometers to the lodge and it was Sunday, but the mechanics came in to help us and removed the faltering driveshaft leaving us with only front wheel drive, but at least able to proceed to Sokoine’s boma and get back home with a little bit of luck and barely enough traction. It had rained during the day and getting up one minor hill on the road required everyone to get out of the vehicle and several runs to make it up. As they say, these are the stories that we’ll tell our grandchildren and the ones that we’ll always remember.
Having just acquired our new Land Rover (Turtle) last October, it was just a bit more frustrating having some of the mechanical issues that we had. We lost an alternator just outside of Upper Kitete after a clinic and had to remain where we were for probably two hours, though Soja, FAME’s mechanic and godsend, came to our rescue this time with a new alternator and changed it in the field. It was another adventure. Then, when I was left holding the entire stick shift in my hand after it had disconnected at the floorboard, I was a bit more flustered. This repair would obviously require skill far beyond my level, but we were on our way to a dinner that had been offered to us at the Plantation Lodge (very, very good) and I had no intention whatsoever of turning around. Turtle was in neutral (not a good thing when trying to move), but we were somehow able to force what was left of the shifter into third and I drove the vehicle with two gears using the transfer case – third gear high and third gear low. We eventually made it to dinner (yes!), struggled to get enough speed to make it up a hill leaving the lodge and almost losing Steve Gluckman to some wheelspin and loose gravel, but eventually made it back to FAME and thanked our lucky stars. I smile when I think back to all these events and I know that the residents (and others) who shared them with me will always remember them with similar fondness and amusement.
I check out Turtle before my ride to the airport and all systems were go. We had installed new stereo speakers after the last visit and they worked wonderfully with the new stereo that had been installed prior to the last visit. Mechanically, the vehicle sounded well and everything seemed to be running as expected. I left for the airport an hour prior to the residents flight arriving and got there shortly after their flight had landed. They were much quicker with immigration than I had been, partly due to some coaching by me, having given them instructions as to which lines to use and where to get the necessary paperwork for the business visa. They had no trouble with customs as they weren’t bringing anything for anyone so they were out in about an hour, much less than half the time it had taken me the day before. They were all so excited to finally be here and they filled me in on their visit to Doha the evening before. They had stayed at the same hotel as I had and had gone on the tour with Abubakar to see the camels, the horses and the falcons as well as the minister playing dama. They had seen a bit of the marketplace, but since they had eaten (at the same restaurant as me) before the tour, they really didn’t get to see as much of the marketplace as they had wanted as many shops were closed when they had finished the tour. I’ll develop a better itinerary for them in the future so the subsequent groups will see more.
We arrive home to Pendo’s and everyone got to meet the stars of the house, Gabriella (Gabby) and Gabriel (Big G) as well as all of the extended family that resides in the Temba residence. Unlike yesterday and my late arrival, or departure from the airport to be more accurate, we had plenty of time before dinner that we filled reading and catching up, but more significantly with a cheesy Indian soap opera that seemed to enthrall all of us. Perhaps it was all of our sleep deprivation that did it, but by dinnertime we were all watching and trying to figure out who was who. Pendo and Leonard’s sister, Violet, outdid themselves with the cooking and we had a meal fit for a king. Two meat dishes, chicken and beef, with vegetables, coconut rice, fried potatoes, salad and vegetables. Probably the best meal we’ll have while we’re here. Everyone was wickedly tired so it was off to bed after dinner. Mike and I each had our own bed in a small room while the four girls (sorry, women) had two queen beds in a larger room. I told them to think of it as a slumber party. Tomorrow we would be heading off to FAME in the late morning and the real beginning of their adventure here. Visiting with Leonard and Pendo’s family, though, is still one of the highlights of everyone’s visit here and it is through their wonderful hospitality and insistence that we all stay with them, that everyone is first introduced to Tanzanian culture which is so incredibly gracious in all respects.