We left for the village last Tuesday. It was a gorgeous morning, with beautiful blue skies and puffy white cumulus clouds lining the horizon. The birds were jumping from branch to branch in the trees, singing their hearts out. A warm breeze brushed past my hair and lifted a few strands as I stood on our front porch, looking out at the view of Mbeya town which was nested at the foot of the green hills. I wanted to remain standing there all day and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend such a gorgeous day riding in a bus. But by 10:30 we were packed and ready to go, so we headed out. We climbed on a bus at the terminal and settled into our seats. Micah tried to get comfortable on his dad’s lap. We headed out on a bumpy dirt road. Mud huts and coffee fields lined the narrow road as we began to leave the town behind. Clouds of dust rose up as we bounced along, the dust coming in through the opened windows and coming to a rest on our hair and clothes. Something in a rucksack that lay resting on a rack above my head, at every bump and jolt, came showering down on us in a fine powder. I began to regret my decision earlier that morning not to wear a bandanna and I made a mental note, that on future bus rides to always wear one. Within five hours we had made it to our first stop.
As we stepped off the bus a man pushed his way through the crowd and with a broad grin welcomed us warmly. Neil introduced me to him as Mwenyekiti, who had been such a great help to Neil on his survey trips in that area. He led us to two motorcycles and we climbed on, Neil and Micah on one and me on the second. Before long we were cruising along the road towards Mwenyekiti’s house with Neil’s motorcycle leading the way. Once we arrived we were welcomed by Mwenyekiti’s wife, who we called Shem. She was tall and well built. I noticed how strong her arms were. Her dark eyes were kind and her shy smile pleasant. She took our bags from us as is the custom and led us up a path that was shaded with trees and that opened into a small clearing. A simple brick house covered with a corrugated tin roof sat to the left of the clearing. Corn stood tall in rows adjacent to the house and pumpkin leaves grew tangled up beneath the corn, their round green leaves standing stiffly upright as if to compete for stature with the corn. A table was sitting outside in the shade of the house and three plastic chairs were set around it. We were invited to sit and make ourselves feel at home. Soon after Shem brought out some water, glasses and a big silver platter piled with dishes and a pot full of Ugali, beans, and cooked pumpkin leaves. Mwenyekiti sat and visited with us as we ate but Shem sat on a stool further away playing with her children and watching us. Chickens were running around the table, which reminded me of the time I tried to butcher our rooster. As I recounted the story to them Shem heard me and chuckled, shaking her head and showing off her beautiful smile. Micah, at first quite apprehensive about these new surroundings, sat on his dad’s lap. But after a short time, he got down and began to explore. To our relief he found a few pieces from some old radios and entertained himself with those for the remainder of our time there. That night we walked to a guest house only a short distance away and began for the first time to feel the fatigue from a day spent traveling. My mind was feeling the strain from speaking Swahili all afternoon and I was thankful for a place to rest. As we walked in our room I noticed what looked like a broken fan standing in the corner. It was missing a few parts, such as a guard for the blades and a plug for the cord. As I looked at it puzzled, Neil, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to do, stooped down and inserted each wire into the wall outlet. Instantly the fan sputtered to life. I laughed then and shaking my head said the same thing I always say in situations like this, “Only in Africa.” We warned Micah to stay away from the whirring blades which provided us with a cool breeze in the otherwise hot room. I felt my hair then and noticed it was stiff with dust, so I went out to investigate the washroom. It was located close to our room but was shared by all the guests at the establishment. Armed with resolve to get the dust off and my trusty shower shoes I went to go wash up. I was proud of myself for braving a washroom such as that one and amazed at how far I had come since we had arrived in Tanzania from the States three years before. Finally, we arranged the blue mosquito net around the bed and turned off the light.
In the morning we emerged from our dark room to find the hot sun already climbing high in the sky. A heap of our dusty clothes from the day before lay in a pile and so I decided to do a bit of handwashing since each of us had packed minimally for this trip, only bringing a few pairs of clothes. Mwenyekiti came to greet us at the guest house and walked us back to his place where we saw Shem had moved the table and chairs to a pleasant shady place below their house. She brought us a thermos full of steaming hot chai and a platter heaped with bananas and mandazi. We sat there relaxed and happy eating our chai. After Micah finished his chai he ran off to play in a sand pile that was situated by the house door. It was a wonderful day. We sat around visiting, enjoying the relaxed environment. I held their youngest daughter who was about a year old and who was all smiles and Micah ran around with the older children. I took many mental notes about Shem’s hospitality, still having so much more to learn on this matter. Around 3pm we shouldered our bags once more and got on a bus toward the village. We waved goodbye to our wonderful hosts and I knew we would miss them.
On the side of the bus was printed in large letters the name Safina, which translated into English means, Ark. A faded picture of Noah’s ark was plastered on the back window. It was an ancient bus, being battered and dented but its engine still sounded strong and confident, no doubt a result of many hours of work beside the road while restless passengers stood by watching. We climbed up the steep steps towards the driver seat and looked down the long row of seats that were already filled with passengers. Relieved we found only three seats remaining and as the bus lurched forward we fell backwards into our seats, Neil in his in the back of the bus and Micah and I in the front of the bus, Micah sitting next to me. The road became more rutted and bumpy and narrowed as we traveled further away from the main towns. We followed the contour of the hilly land up and down, up and down until Micah exclaimed looking up at me with a smile, “It’s like we are on a rollercoaster!” On each descent the bus slowed, and we could hear the air from the breaks being compressed as we crossed bridge after bridge that had been placed over the creeks. We peered out the windows and saw mamas bent over in the shallow water washing their clothes while their children bathed. As we rushed over the dirt road I had a strange feeling come inside of me and I realized suddenly that what was waiting for us on this trip I had no control over. Although Neil had been there before and knew a few people and a place to stay, not one a single detail was known to me: what sort of a place we would be staying at, who we would visit with, what we would do, or even what we would encounter. Strangely this thought didn’t send me into a downward spiral anxiety attack, but I felt at total peace about it. I felt a curious mixture of excitement and freedom. As our bus rushed ever onward, I too felt as if we were rushing forward into something totally foreign and unknown, yet God already knew our ending destination. He knew what would take place during this trip. Nothing would take him by surprise and in that realization, came a great freedom. Looking back now I believe I had this presence of mind because of the many folks back home that were praying for us. As our trip progressed and as we passed through the villages the bus became more and more crowded. The people that began to fill the bus were fun to watch. Some of the men wore dark green rubber boots with plastic white and black rings encircling their calves, ankles and wrists. They wore what looked like Masai shukas although they were plain in color. I later learned these people were cow herders from the Sukuma tribe. A panga or machete hung sheathed at their wastes. The ladies climbed on with babies tied to their backs and red, white and yellow beaded necklaces encircled their necks, standing out beautifully against their dark skin. There was lots of Swahili being spoken on the bus but there were also some tribal languages that I was not familiar with. I heard two men from the village discussing me, whether I was married or not. I supposed because they couldn’t see Neil in the back since the bus was so full. I slumped down in my seat trying to look invisible, although not being successful, with me standing out like a sore thumb with my obviously white face. A kind older gentleman who I had been visiting with saw my discomfort and kindly informed the two men that I was already married. The bus was so packed that a man wrapped in a green checkered shuka stood pressed up against the side of our seat. I could smell the scent of cow fat that many in the villagers use to massage onto their skin. Eventually there was no standing room left. If people wanted to enter the bus they would have to do so by entering in through the windows. I was thanking the Lord for our seats.
Finally, around 7 pm we made it into the village. As the bus rumbled in children caught sight of Micah through the window and began running alongside us. I peered out, surveying the area where we would spend the next few days. Corn stalks as high as a house lined the roads and paths on both sides and filled the yards in front of the houses. So that all that we could see was the bright blue sky, the green of corn stalks, and the brown of the mud brick houses and dusty roads. The bus came to a lurching halt in the “downtown” part of the village. A dozen or so simple structures with open store fronts made up dukas or shops with everything a person living in this village would need. Clothing and shoes dangled from strings hung from the eaves of these shops and plastic basins were piled up in front, brooms and mops leaning against them. A small road side place to eat was directly across the street. We grabbed our bags and climbed off the bus. My heart beat wildly in my chest as I saw the villagers watching us with suspicious stares and I could only imagine what they were thinking. Children who acted as if they’d never seen a white women or child before followed us closely behind. Micah looked uneasily about him and took my hand, squeezing it reassuringly in his. It was an unreal experience. We left the main road and walked down a smaller path that lead us to our guest house. Our room was basic. At one time the walls had been painted a pretty blue, but now over time had faded. A twin-size bed lay pushed up against the wall and a blue mosquito net was stretched over it. Except for the bed there was nothing else in the room. The washroom was situated outside the guest house, in the back courtyard. Inside, next to our room was a bar, with shelves lined with various brands of African beer bottles and a flat screen TV hung suspended from the ceiling. We went into our room which was growing dim due to the fading light outside. I searched for the light switch and where it had been there were two short wires jutting out from the wall. The metal ends were bent indicating that to turn the light on one was to grip the two live wires where the plastic was and hook the metal end together. I refused to touch them, so like an old pro Neil walked over and in a split second the wires were hooked together, and the light was on. He explained that he had already stayed in that room on one of his previous trips. Only in Africa I thought. Neil went out then to inform his friend that we had made it to the village. There was no cell reception in the village, so they had no idea we were there. By dark Neil had returned with Mwenyeji, his friend and we were introduced. As we closed our room door to leave I realized that we didn’t have a padlock for the door, so we just stuffed our valuables in a backpack and took it with us. Then we left the guest house and followed him through the village to his house. As we walked along the entire village was dark because electricity had not arrived at the village yet. Our guest house had electricity only through solar panels that were fixed to the roof. Except the sound of our footsteps scuffing along the path and a chorus of barking dogs all was silent. I looked above me at the night sky of the southern hemisphere and gazed upward in awe at the stunning spectacle of the stars shining with intense beauty, like diamonds strung along on a beautiful necklace. Finally, we arrived at Mwenyeji’s house where his wife shyly greeted us. Three wooden stools were hastily gathered and arranged in a circle in their yard. Neil and I sat, Neil visiting with Mwenyeji and me sitting quietly surveying the dark scene around me. Mwenyeji’s wife was in a broken down lean-to type structure with a grass roof, her outdoor kitchen I assumed. She was stooping over a pot cooking something over the fire. A flashlight was set on a wooden rack used for drying dishes and it cast a dull glow into the darkness. Mosquitoes began to attack my feet fiercely and I realized again that I had left the mosquito repellent in my bag back in the room. Thankfully they were not bothering Micah or Neil. Eventually we were brought into their one room house and invited to sit. A dim flashlight was set on the table which illuminated a pot of ugali in the center of the table along with a bowel filled with korokoro which Neil explained to me was a type of small fish which resembled a catfish in appearance and which was cooked whole. We set ourselves down, the mama of the house poured a pitcher of water for us to wash our hands as is the custom and then she backed out of the door leaving us alone in the room. I picked up one of the fish by its tail. Its eyes looked back at me with vacant stare. It fell to my plate with a wet, slimy plop. I refused to talk bad about the food for Micah’s sake and with a determined gulp mustered my bravery and began to eat. Surprisingly, it was very tasty. Eventually we were full and went outside, thanking the Mama of the house for the delicious meal. Her daughter brought us hand lotion then to get the smell of the fish off our hands, a very considerate and thoughtful thing to do I thought. The lotion smelled like coconut and felt good on my hands. Shortly after that we saw that Micah was very tired, so we left then and headed back to the guest house and were greeted by a room full of rowdy guys watching a soccer game on the tv. We walked into our room and began to discuss the dilemma of the size of the bed. I could not imagine sleeping in such a cramped environment and with it being so hot there even at night, but, we made due. We turned off the light and fell exhausted into bed. Noise filled our tiny room until 1:00 am. Noise of men hooting, hollering and shouting excitedly in several languages. I was sick with exhaustion by the time the they all left, and they closed the joint.
The next morning, we got up and walked to the road side mgahawa or restaurant where we could get some food and drink our morning chai. We sat outside on the porch at a plastic table. A man brought us steaming hot mugs of chai and plates heaped with oily chapatis, freshly fried. Micah was overjoyed at the sight of the chapatis, those being one of his favorite snacks here and I was thankful that not everything was foreign here in this strange new place. A group of about ten youth sat on a cement wall next to us having a lively discussion about something or another in their native language with a few Swahili words inserted here and there. The sun was already climbing high in the sky and it cast its hot glow down upon the dusty street which was mostly empty, most of the villagers having already gone out to their fields to work. We walked to a Bibi’s house and greeted her. She had met Neil before but had not yet seen Micah or I. After we left Neil told me that while we had been visiting there he had suddenly felt very nauseous. Thankfully the nauseous feeling soon left him, but then he began to feel sick, as if he had a fever. Feeling slightly better, he decided to visit a neighboring village, about a 30-minute walk away. Halfway there was a shallow river with tall pointy grass growing up from the river bottom. People told us that at times crocodiles live in that river but at this time of year they were very few. We climbed in a boat and were rowed across to the other side. In this village the children reacted in a very similar manner when they saw us. They stared at us as if they had seen a ghost. They swarmed around Micah and he responded by jumping at them and running around them in circles. They jumped away from him and ran screaming and laughing hysterically. We had to watch Micah carefully because he didn’t quite know how to handle all the attention. We walked through the village towards some people Neil had met on his previous trip there. As we sat visiting with these acquaintances we began to hear distant singing grow louder and louder and it drew closer to where we were, I went outside to investigate and saw a crowd of young people and children singing a song as they walked together. Leading the procession were two tall strong looking men, one much older than the other. The older man’s eyes were blood shot and in his fingers was a smoldering cigarette. Both men were dressed in a skirt decorated with red and black satin. From all the Tanzanian shows I have watched I immediately recognized them as witchdoctors, the younger one probably being the apprentice. I leaned over to the mama next to me and asked her what was going on. She explained to me that in their village they had many problems with witches and were tired of them. A famous witchdoctor had recently come into their region who boasted he knew how to remove the curses and charms left by the witches. He claimed he could clean the witchcraft from a whole village by walking around, removing these things and burning them. The people that were walking behind him appeared excited and happy and they skipped down the road singing loudly in perfect rhythm. I stood there absorbing what she had just told me. What a different reality these villages were from the place where I had been raised, where there is no such thing as witches except in fiction and during Halloween when people dress up as them. In the West, only the tangible and the material make up the world in which we live in yet here the unseen spirit world was impacting these villagers in a powerful way and we were witnessing it. During this time, we went to go visit the elderly Chief of the village and his wife. We met the chief standing in front of his house. Despite his great age he stood tall and proud in an old white suit which had been decorated with yellow and green tie dye. His wife came out from the house and they both greeted us with wide smiles. I could tell as a young woman she had been very tall and beautiful. We took their hand and bowed low and greeted them respectfully. They spread out a mat and invited us to sit on their front porch. She patted her lap and invited Micah to sit there, which he did to our great relief. She was quite pleased that he had accepted her invitation. As we visited we heard the singing grow closer and we saw the procession of singers come down the path and stop only feet from us. The chief got up from his chair and his wife got up and went to greet them. The crowd parted and the Witchdoctor along with his apprentice stepped onto the porch and began talking in low tones to the Chief and his wife. I couldn’t understand much but I was so close to him I could have touched his red and black skirt. The crowd continued to sing in a strange rhythm that filled the air. In their hands they grasped chickens and ducks by their feet and they hung upside down squawking unhappily. The witchdoctors apprentice held in his palm a small black gourd which was polished till it shone. In his other hand he held what appeared to be the tail of a cow which had been fastened onto a wooden handle. I knew from my culture study that these were the things he used in his divination of the spirit world. The crowd chanted in unison about going to make sacrifices to prevent various misfortunes from occurring. large smiles on their faces. No doubt these birds would later would be sacrificed, their blood spilled to please the ancestors. I could not believe I was witnessing these events and I wondered at how it all had become possible. Eventually, the Chief’s house having been pronounced clean, the crowd and witchdoctors went on their way again through the path shrouded from view by the corn, no doubt on their way to the nearby neighbor’s house. After this we followed the winding path through the corn to greet another of Neil’s acquaintances. We heard a deep rumbling sound overhead and saw the clouds were hanging heavy and low over the village and had turned an eerie dark purplish grey. Bright flashes of lighting cut through the clouds and the air felt oppressively heavy. In the background we could still here the singing. The odd weather along with strange events we had witnessed made me feel as if we had descended into another world. After we reached the house we sat in the shade of a beautiful low hanging tree. Micah played with the children who were starting to realize that he was a normal kid just like them, although we still had to watch him closely. The villagers watched Micah playing with the children. They seemed happy that he was playing with their children and was already able to speak some Swahili. After only a short time we began to once more hear the approaching procession of singers. By now more people had joined the singers and about 50 people circled around us under the tree, blocking out the sun and the fresh air. The witchdoctor reappeared, walked through the opening in the fence and went into the yard of the mama we had been visiting with. She touched my shoulder and said in a kind and urgent voice, “don’t go!” and went into her yard which was hidden by view with a fence that was made from narrow bamboo stems tied together. What they were doing in there I was not sure, because I was looking around at all the black faces that were staring back at me and singing their eerie song. After the witchdoctor was done, the lady of the house gave him a chicken and they all moved on. Although a great number of children stayed behind to watch Micah. Seeing that Micah was a bit intimidated by all this attention, one mama scared them away with a stick. After these events we were all very tired and had many thoughts tumbling around in our minds. Micah as well had many questions for us. We decided to head back to the guest house and rest. When we returned Neil lay down on the bed and I felt his forehead. He had a low-grade fever and felt achy. Thankfully before we had left the house in Mbeya I had last minute grabbed a bottle of Ibuprofen. After taking the medicine he began to improve. That night we ate rice and beans and chicken at the restaurant and it was a welcome change from the usual ugali. As we went to bed that night the blasting pulsating music from the bar echoed off our walls and I wondered how we would sleep. Thankfully like the night before Micah fell into a deep sleep. I tossed and turned till 1:00 am when they finally shut the music off.
Once the morning light finally stole into our room I was very hesitant to get out of bed. But I gathered my wits about me and started yet another day. We went back to the restaurant to eat chicken soup and chapatis for breakfast and then returned to our room to ready ourselves for another day out visiting with people and walking in the hot sun. While we were in our room a young woman from the bar who also worked at the guest house came into our room. She did not appear drunk. She began telling us that she didn’t like Micah because he was too loud. She was saying all these terrible things to us about him, and I was shocked. This was not normal behavior for Tanzanians, in fact it had never happened the entire time we had lived in Tanzania. Eventually she left, and Neil went out front with Micah. I stayed behind in the room feeling crushed and discouraged. I could hear her yelling outside. Around this time, I also began to get sick, my stomach began paining me terribly. Journaling has become a refuge for me here, often when my thoughts are a jumbled-up mess in my mind, they seem to make more sense on paper. So, I decided to turn to my journaling during this discouraging time. While I was journaling, my door opened, and I looked up from my writing to see the same woman come in. She had obviously had two or three beers and was staggering about, crying and in a terrible state. Her words were barely understandable. She was very upset and told me her boss had yelled at her and said mean things to her. She also apologized profusely for her words towards Micah. I gave her a hug and tried to reassure her that we cared about her and we forgave her. But she was not enough in her right mind to understand. We decided it would be a good time to get out of there and walk to visit some family members of Mwenyekiti who lived there in the village.
We walked to their house, but they were still out working in the fields, so we continued on. We came to the house of a women named Agnes, whose husband was a mechanic who worked on motorcycles and bikes. A tree stood next to their house and behind it a tiny shop full of spare parts. Under the tree, in its shade, men visited on a bench and watched the mechanic fixing a bike. We sat down on the bench and greeted everyone. A small child was standing by her father and at the sight of us she burst into tears, terrified by our different appearance. She buried her face in her father’s lap, sobbing. He laughed then and reassured us she would eventually get used to us. They invited us into their home where we sat in their living room and visited with Agnes’ husband. He told us he had learned how to be a mechanic from watching other mechanics in the village. He seemed like a very kind friendly man and we enjoyed visiting with him. He also proudly shared with us that he and his wife had been married for 19 years. While we were visiting Agnes brought out a silver tray with Ugali, dagaa (tiny little fish cooked together in a tomato-based sauce) and pumpkin leaves cooked in fresh cow’s milk. I had never had Pumpkin leaves cooked like that, so I was glad for the new experience and they tasted delicious. Micah ate hurriedly and then dashed outside to play with the children. I was encouraged to see the kids playing nicely with Micah and that they had accepted Micah in as one of the kids. After this we went back to Mwenyeji’s house and we rested in the shade as the sun was at its peak and quite hot. They gave us roasted corn from their field and it tasted delicious. We noticed the people here were very proud of their corn, and told us how they grew it without using artificial fertilizer or chemicals.
After visiting for a while Micah and I went back to the guest house to rest. After a few hours, we could feel a fresh breeze blow in through our window and Neil came in and told us a man was there to see us. Apparently, we had stopped by his house that day to visit with him, but he had been out in his fields. I went outside with Micah and noticed the thunder clouds had passed, and it had rained somewhere because it was no longer so oppressively hot. The man took my hand and greeted me and then gave me a rucksack with a duck inside. “This is a gift for your family,” he said, grinning happily. I thanked him for the wonderful gift and satisfied, he left. I looked down at the rucksack, mentally trying to remember how to cook a duck. We put the duck in our room and went back out to say goodbye to the Bibi we have visited with the day before, since we’d be leaving the following morning. Once there I told Micah to go play over by some trees at a place where we could see him. But after a few minutes he was gone. Bibi got up, a concerned look on her face and began calling for him. His head poked out from behind the enormous trunk of a Boabob tree that was in her yard. Her expression turned from concern to fear as she yelled out for Micah to come away from the dangerous bugs and snakes in the tree. Micah, oblivious to what was going on, listened and went to find a new place to play, in the courtyard with Bibi’s grandchildren. Relieved, she explained to us that it was dangerous underneath that tree, and that there were snakes there. We were sitting there with Mwenyeji and he explained that baobab trees can live for thousands of years. He motioned towards the one in the yard and said that there was a good chance that it was about a thousand years old, and that their ancestors used those same trees. Suddenly I remembered from my culture study how baobab trees are tied in with ancestral beliefs and the spirit realm. All the details from our culture study began to come to life in a way I had not expected them to. In the courtyard around back, Micah went on to discover some ducks, chickens and pigs. Unknowingly, he told Bibi’s grandchildren that we had just been given a duck as a gift. One of her grandchildren ran out towards us to tell her Grandmother what Micah had just said. The Bibi or the Grandma got up and went in the back, soon we heard squawking and she came out with one of her chickens. I felt terrible because Micah, without knowing it had forced her into giving us a chicken. At that moment I was not so happy that Micah had learned Swahili. I mentally vowed that we would be having a long talk with him once we got back to the guest house. We turned down her gift, telling her that we had lots of bags to bring on the bus and she seemed hurt by our refusal. She tried again and asked if we would take some corn flour used to make ugali, and this time, realizing our cultural mistake of refusing someone’s generosity, we hastily agreed, hoping that this would make her feel better again. Looking back, we should have received her chicken, even if it was just because of what Micah had said. Even after living in Africa for three years it’s still hard to get out of our Western mindset. After this we went to Mwenyeji’s house for another meal of korokoro and ugali in the dark and then headed back to pack our bags for the journey the next morning. As we walked back in the silent night, I once again looked up at the night sky in awe of the beautiful stars and I remembered the One who had created them, that same God who set each brilliant star in its place was walking with us hand in hand in this foreign place, and that was a huge comfort to me. That night the guest house was blessedly quiet, which I found ironic since it was Friday night. There was no sight the girl who had been so drunk earlier that morning. We crammed onto the bed knowing that it would be just a short rest till we woke up again at 4 am to get on the bus. We fell asleep to the sound of silence and the smell of duck.
At 4 am our whole family was up, dressed and walking down the path towards the main road. We heard the engine of the Safina bus idling heavily. Neil bought our tickets and we boarded, this time both getting seats near the front. The duck was laying in the rucksack under Neil’s seat and let us know of his disapproval by occasionally squawking unhappily. People began to fill the bus again as usual. At one stop a beautiful young woman climbed on the bus with her baby tied to her back. She was carrying a large tote, and after discovering there were no seats left on the bus she put her tote on the ground next to my seat and sat down happily on it. We greeted each other. I noticed she was very friendly. At the next stop it seemed like 20 people crowded onto a bus, many of them older women who were headed to a funeral. The young mother had no chance but to stand with her baby crowded in so that it was even hard to breathe. She complained to the man collecting bus tickets, “we are going to die, stop filling up the bus!” I offered to take her baby and she happy complied, taking her out of the sling and setting her down on my lap. The little girl was beautiful like her mommy and very healthy. She wore a pretty white dress. After the crowd had reached their stop and had gotten off I was able to visit more with this new mama. She showed me a picture album that she carried with her. She showed me a picture of her in a wedding dress, holding her new husband’s hand. They looked very happy. I learned they had just gotten married this year. She showed me another picture of her standing sideways, proudly showing off her baby bump, like so many women like to do in my own culture. I looked at her then and realized perhaps we weren’t so different after all. The trip continued uneventfully except for a one instance where we stopped to fix a punctured tire. We were grateful for a chance to stretch our legs and dig medicine, which is the polite Tanzanian way of saying “use the bathroom on the side of the road.” While we were waiting for them to change the tire, Neil called Mwenyekiti, and as he wasn’t far he came to greet us. He gave me a bag full of fresh pumpkin leaves and peanuts from their garden. In exchange I gave him the duck, certain that it would be happier at their house then at ours. The tire fixed, we continued on our safari. As we neared Mbeya the police stopped the bus and told us there was a person of interest on the bus and they needed to see him. They called out his name and a man with rings around his wrists and ankles and holes bore into the lobes of his ears walked down the aisle. A young girl with a small baby tied to her back followed him. Once they were off and the bus was going again everyone in the bus became animatedly discussing what had just taken place. Some thought he had stolen someone’s wife and whoever had been stolen from had called the police to pull over this bus. Since there were so few buses that passed that way it hadn’t been hard for the police to know which bus to stop. Neil and I looked at each other with eye brows raised and shook our heads. Wife stealing, who had ever heard of such a thing.
After we finally got back to Mbeya and walked through the door of our house I looked around me, never having been so thankful to be home. The light filtered in through our lace curtains, reflecting off the yellow walls. I put down my bags and flopped onto the couch and emmediatly fell asleep. That night we had pumpkin leaves cooked with ground peanuts. The aroma and taste were wonderful, and it brought me back emotionally to the world in the village we had just left behind. I thought back to all the ways God had blessed us on this trip and all the answered prayers. I thought about the events that had taken place during our short trip and realized that God knew our time was going to be short, so he allowed us to catch a small picture into what being in a village is like and what reality is like for the people living there. For me, personally I was amazed that even though I had gotten so few hours of sleep, I had had so much physical and mental energy as I interacted in Swahili and in such a different culture all the while walking around in the hot sun. Our friends in the village had made us feel very welcome, blessing us with gifts of duck, corn flour, pumpkin leaves and peanuts. I thought on a passage I had recently read In Isaiah which seemed to confirm that we had not been walking alone,
“Then your salvation will come like dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. ‘Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your fingers and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out of the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” (Isaiah 58:8-11).