MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field
Chaza Mwamba & Bondwa
The African dust stirred up by my hop across the ocean is beginning to settle.What was once so unfamiliar is swiftly becoming the familiar.Yesterday I noticed that my office was finally air conditioned to a habitable temperature. Walking over to the thermostat, I was surprised to find that the office was still being cooled to 28°C as it always was…and then I realized that it was me, I was finally acclimatizing to the heat. I feel only vaguely aware of a metamorphosis I'm going through.It's becoming more difficult to pinpoint the things which once seemed so foreign, now they are camouflaged in the normal activities of life.
Chaza mwamba (oyster rock) is the name of a charming villa that some friends and I rented this weekend. We escaped Dar early Friday afternoon to embark on the 2 hour journey to South Beach…stopping in a remote village along the way to barter for vegetables, eggs, and other food. The weekend had an adventurous feeling to it.Exciting with a dash of cozy…like a relaxed weekend retreat or the way summer camp used to feel. Being only just acquainted with the group, the trip was a great way to make some good friends.
Upon arrival, we enjoyed cooking and eating together in the fading sunlight. When the light was gone, we explored the estate by playing sardines…then sat together singing songs to the tune of a guitar…and ended the night swimming in the ocean under a brilliant sky of sparkling stars.This was only the first six hours! I awoke Saturday and enjoyed my first exercise since arriving in Tanzania, a morning jog along the beach and a swim to cool off.The rest of the day included a whole lot of relaxing on a secluded white sand beach. Buuut…you know me…I can't help but explore a little.
In the late afternoon, a few of us swam out to a reef exposed by low tide. It was actually quite an impressive rock and it's what inspired the name of our residence. We had hoped to find some interesting tide pools, instead we found ourselves in front row seats to a show of thunderous waves crashing over the rock's edge. I tempted fate and chanced moving closer to enjoy the showering waves as they exploded on the reef. It was quite exhilarating for some time, but a particularly powerful wave eventually sent me airborne across the reef. In slow motion I watched my body turn horizontal and my left flip flop vanish. The world tumbled as I tried using arms and legs to protect my vitals from jagged edges.Coming to halt some meters back, I notice a fair amount of blood but no protruding bones…phew!
So I limped back to the villa with only my right flip flop.Charlie and Dustin cleaned my wounds with Konyagi, while I drank the rest in memory of my fallen comrade, the left flip flop.Sleep wasn't easy that night, but both Konyagi and the gentle sound of waves do their part in sending me drifting off.Awakening before dawn, I hobble a few hundred meters down the beach to snap some photos of the stunning sunrise. And then I caught a glimpse of blue in the sand.Could it be?No, it couldn't. It was! Coming closer I found my prodigal flip flop washed up on shore. I happily slipped it on and continued on my way.And that is the beautiful reunion story between this man and his flip flop.All in all, a great weekend with some great friends.
The wind whistles past my ears.I close my eyes, lean into it, and let out a gleeful yell…with arms outstretched…on the edge of the world.Bondwa peak, Uluguru mountains.We have conquered this tiny point on the map.After a 5 hour ascent, I enjoy my prize – a gorgeous view of Morogoro.A group of local youth seem just as pleased with our accomplishment…also letting out yells and laughter. They yell, "Muzungo, muzungo!" and take turns getting pictures with us.
My group and I spend one hour in the heavens, but then we must make our way back down to camp before dark. We travel back through the rainforest, stopping a couple times to yell at monkeys and to admire the gigantic Eucalyptus trees.As we reach our tents halfway down the mountain, the twinkling lights of Morgoro city begin pop.A brisk wind passes through. I welcome this old familiar friend - it's the first time I've felt cold in Tanzania. I take the moment in...and then grab a sweater.We eat dinner by a crackling fire, under the starlight…all the while Morogoro shimmers in the distance.The sound of our chatter and laughter carries through the valleys and into the night.
In the morning, I awake to find myself inside of a cloud. Disappointingly, they aren't made of cotton.After eating breakfast and packing up camp, we continue down the mountain through the inclined farmlands of the Luguru tribe. In this matriarchal society, the women own the land…and the men must marry rich. As we pass through, local children making motor noises speed past us, running barefoot on the edge of the cliff. Across the valley I see a family working the field together and hear the faint sound of their singing. I can't help but notice how far I am from home, and how enchanting it is.
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