Kilombero

Udzungwa

Exploring the Udzungwa Mountains at Kilombero after helping teach English to children of the workers of the sugar factory.

The Snorkelling Adventure

I mean, snorkeling is a pretty straight forward thing to do. You wear your gear, you jump in, look around and come back. But this, this was a real adventure that I’m surprised I survived.

First, they put us on a boat which is not really a boat. It’s pieces of wood put together in a ‘cast away’ fashion with a plastic rain cover, huge bold white letters claiming it was the Gladiator. Half an hour on rough seas, one guy scooping the water out and one guy running the engine. Trust my luck to be here on the worst possible season to take off to Prison Island.

We reached paradise – white sandy beaches, turquoise blue/green water, and GIANT TORTOISES. When they said giant, I did not expect them to be that huge. I looked tiny in front of them. The oldest was 129 years old and since we were that early (couldn’t contain my excitement so we left very early in the morning) we got to feed them and watch a 100 year old monster tortoise hump the crap out of a 30 year old. By the hump, I mean almost squash to death. (Yes, I did get pictures. Perverts!)

And then they took the boat a bit offshore and made us jump of the plank, true pirate style and once we were in, they said don’t go here or there or there (pointing rapidly) cause there might be sharks.

Great! Sharks!

Then I find out my snorkel isn’t working – there a giant hole that’s been sucking in sea water and my flippers are almost falling off. Then the sealice had their way with me and the wind is so strong, it’s pushing me straight towards those darned sharks. But, the view was fantastic – we saw beautiful corals, zebra fish, electric blue fish and those puffer fish and so many more I lost track of. It was breathtaking – literally.

I came back up for air, back on the gladiator and the sea had gotten rougher, if that was even possible. And on the way back to the mainland, I got drenched more than I was when I was reaching for the coral in sea. We almost tipped over a couple of times and then joined in to help the boat guy scoop water out.

We came back exhausted and sat by the beach with a nice Mojito, trying to wrap our heads around the whole day when this single dolphin jumps out as high as he can and then again and then a back flip. I couldn’t help but grin and think …

WHAT.AN.ADVENTURE!

I can’t wait to do this again.

Not yet!

That I have only a few weeks left here have forced me to reflect on look back at what I’ve been through and how I’ve changed. Being an Indian, I have all this ‘culture’ flowing in my blood but I’ve found that no matter where I go, my blood adjusts itself to let new learnings in. With new blood comes new rituals. It’s no wonder people love to have me around. I’m such a strange mix, you’d never be bored.

Right now, I have Swahili in my blood. There’s present tense and past tense and future tense and then there’s the ‘not yet’ tense. The word ‘never’ does not exist in the culture and the language.

So if someone asks them if they’re married, there’s a word – sijaolewa which means i’m not yet married but it could happen at anytime. This person, by the way, could be 86. It comes from exploring and living life and not going through life as a series of tasks, of being on close enough terms with life to know that anything can happen.

Slowly I find that my strong and loud ‘NEVER’s (which ex- boyfriends have complained about) have changed to ‘not yet’ and I find they have seeped into my attitude.

So now when people ask me ‘What now? What next?’ I don’t break into a sweat. I crack a toothy smile and say Sijajua – I don’t yet know.

Heri Ya Paska – Happy Easter

Easter

We wanted to do something for the children so we hard boiled the egg, drew on them with crayons and left them in food colouring. And organised a good old fashioned easter egg hunt. It was a success and we may have succeeded in making this a ritual. Heri ya Pasaka! (Happy Easter)

Don’t mess with my choo choo!

Watching the snow-topped Kibo emerge from the clouds is like watching the ‘earthrise’ from a comfortable stool on the moon. It is one of the more magical things you can witness while simultaneously trying to handle 250 children without making any one of them feel excluded. We had already played innumerable counts of “Fire in the mountain” I was smug. The plan was to tire them out enough to sit down under the tree and share stories. But I forgot the small detail about the boundless energy of children.

One of the children asked if there were trains in my country. Yes, have you seen one? No. Do you want to go for a ride? Yes, please?

So we closed our eyes and imagined an Indian train – the roaches, the constant call of “chai, chai, coffee, coffee”, the Gujarati mother and her picnic bag for 12, the way your body becomes one with the motion of the train, the bread omelettes, youth playing rummy on the left, an old lady silently grumbling about her husband buying everything from the every stop, groundnut shells on the floor.

We’re in.

And just like that we start moving with the train. The windows are open; the cool mountain air is in your hair. You are rising and rising and rising. Suddenly you’re on the roof of the train. It winds through valleys; you can see the tall, ancient trees, the huts that look like they could be blown over – the ones with a satellite dish on their roof.

You look at yourself and you’re donning a fake moustache and you’re sporting SRK hair. You blow it away from your face while you look down on your new, shiny kholapuris. You turn around and you have a group of colourfully dressed men with moustaches that would give Veerapan a run for his money.  All of you are sporting identical turbans and out of nowhere, a bunch of synchronised dancers appear. You look in front and there’s a beautiful Indian girl even more breathtaking than Malaika Arora dressed in her traditional Ghaghra with a modern twist – leaving no doubt about what is behind her Choli.

You stretch your hands out as far as they will go; a huge sheepish grin on your face as you sing at the top of your voice as only A.R. Rahman can inspire you. ‘Chaiyya, Chaiyya’, you sing and dance as if your life depended on it. Moving with the train. Moving with the wind. Moving in sync with your dancers.

“Teeeeeeea, Coofeeeee, Coffeeeee”. You smile at the nice Mallu chai wallah. You continue to dance with one hand and sip coffee with the other.

This?

This is life!