In Tanzania, a “safari” is not only a trip to see big game animals. Its literal meaning is a “far journey”. So I returned yesterday from my “safari” to Tanga, a very old port city on the Indian Ocean.
As the drive is 6 hours to Tanga, I had a lot of time to reflect on the people living in this harsh, semi arid region. Hundreds of miles of near desert are framed by first the Usambara mountains and then the Pares mountains. I constantly wonder at the harsh conditions of heat and inaccessibility to water and at the strength and will of people to survive in these surroundings.
I saw huge acreages devoted to the growing of sisal, a crop suitable to hot sun and no water. Apparently Tanzania was the sisal capital of the world at one time, before the world market for it collapsed in the 1970s. More ancient and sobering history recounts this same road as part of the original ivory and slave caravan routes.
Because the landscapes and even everyday life have changed so little since these times, it is not difficult to imagine these caravans and the misery they exported. Just like the endless stretches of red sand and plant scruff, seeing into the stretch of history and the stories of greed built on human misery is not only possible, it is palpable. Its legacy is present still in the bodies and land of its descendants, calling for a spirit of renewal and freedom from the bondage that still lives in people’s minds.
An overnight stay in Tanga’s port area allowed Florentina and I to investigate regulations at the shipping authorities. After many conversations with various offices, we found our way to a clearing agent. This office will be our central contact for all paper work needed to have our equipment container clear customs, achieve tax exemption status and to be transported by truck to Moshi. We left Tanga with good information and feeling positive about our ability to achieve safe receipt and transport of the long awaited bore hole equipment, for Uru.
In our way, maybe, this water relief project will provide a small healing of old sins, by offering some freedom for the women here, who carry this society and its burdens literally on their backs.
May the dreams of women, their thoughts and talents be realized… through the gift of water… soon!