An Awesome Adventure in Africa, Part 1

          “Hapo zamani za paliondokea…”  Once upon a time there was a decrepit old man who decided to travel to a wondrous fantasy land that he had read about.  Although he had serious doubts about whether his crippled body was up to such a journey, the old man decided just to “go for it.”

            Thus begins my recitation of an awesome, unbelievably positive 16-day experience in Tanzania.  I loved almost every minute of the trip.  Because I may have been the oldest person many of the natives had ever seen, I was called “Babu” (grandfather) everywhere I went and treated with the utmost respect.

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            I traveled with a great team of people:  Denvy and Gail Saxowsky, Kathy Farrell, and Linda Stonecipher.  Without a lot of help from, my friends, I would not have made it.

Denvy and Gail were superb in their roles as team leaders.  They, Kathy, and Linda, our photographer par excellence, made sure that our adventure was well-recorded.

            We landed at KilimanjaroInternationalAirport near the city of Arusha on the evening of Friday, August 17.  After clearing customs, Dr. James Lace, a Salem pediatrician, drove us to a very remote village of the Maasai tribe.  The “road”, across a dried-up lake-bed, was a most interesting experience in and of itself.  The driver was often faced with situations in which he had to choose one of three forks.  Fortunately,

“Gladness”, our hostess in the village, was beside us in her Land-Rover, to make sure we made it to our destination. There were no lights or signs to help us along the way.

            After an hour of intense driving, we arrived at our destination.  We were greeted by several natives; a doctor from Corvallis, Jeff Mull, and his wife, Pam, two native doctors, and several teenagers who lived in the compound.  The compound was perhaps, 150 feet long and 50 feet wide, surrounded by an eight-foot high concrete-block wall, with a heavy metal gate.

            Despite the lateness of the hour (nearing midnight), we were served a typical Tanzanian dinner:  rice, beans, a delicious salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and green peppers in a light ranch-dressing sauce; ugali (rice and corn mashed into a thick paste), which is used to sop up any juices or dressings left on one’s plate, and several kinds of tropical fruit.   Delicious!

            After a very sound sleep, I awoke and decided to step outside the compound.  Denvy was already out there.  We were soon joined by Dr. Lace, who suggested a “walk-about”.  As we progressed we came upon several groupings of four or five very rudimentary huts.  Dr. Lace explained that these “bomas” probably housed one family, a Maasai warrior and his four or five wives and 20 or so children.

            Among the highlights of the entire trip were afternoon soccer matches involving the boys of the village.  The Maasai boys, ranging in age from six to 16, played with skill and a good understanding of the nuances of soccer.  I had the distinct honor of “refereeing” one of the matches.  However, these young warriors needed no referee.  I’m sure they would have done just fine without adult intervention.

           

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 Several things stand out about the match:

1)      Despite extremely intense play with plenty of hard body-contact, no one got mad.  If somebody got knocked down, he bounced back up and went on playing as if nothing had happened.  In the entire time I was in Tanzania I saw

                  very little anger (or any other form of unhappiness, for that matter).

2)      When a goal was scored, both teams were happy.  Happy shouts of “Nzuri sana!” (Very good!) greeted the player who scored from players of both teams.

3)      Several little children from one to five years old were spectators, as well as several girls.  Apparently, the children knew when it would be their turn age-wise to get into the game.  In the meantime they were great spectators, watching the action intently.  (Note:  Kathy Farrell talked the girls into playing for the last few minutes of our last match.  The result was lots of gentle shoving with no real soccer being played.)

4)      Our match each day usually started with six or eight players.  Within minutes 

there would be forty or so children in the compound, half of them players and half of them spectators.  (The same thing happened whenever we walked about in the village.  At first, we’d have the company of a few children, and within a very short period of time the group of children would be up to forty.  They must have a great communication system.)

5)      A quick comment on the players’ dress:  Although a few of the older teenagers had on jeans and a T-shirt, most of the players wore a well-used piece of cloth draped loosely around their bodies and over one shoulder.  As the match progressed a few of the players cast this garment aside and played naked.  No particular notice was taken.

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            Although there is much more to tell, I’ll end “part-one” at this point.  Needless to say I am a great admirer of Maasai children and the way they play.  “Basi, hadithi ikaishia hapo.”  (Well then, this story is finished – for now!)   

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