Every day in Africa is a day lived close to the elements, close to the earth, and close to its’ people. Here there is no insulation from any aspect of life or death, from the food eaten or from the effects of weather.
On Kilimanjaro, people partake of food that is harvested and then eaten on that same day. There is no refrigeration, so good food management is vital to well being. Grain is ground, chickens are kept, eggs collected, fruit picked from the trees and if meat is eaten, it is butchered, prepared and consumed within hours.
One of the days that our group spent at Kishumundu Secondary School, brought a delay in lunch and the school schedule, because the farmer was late with the just butchered cow… and it had to be inspected by the local doctor… before it was consumed by the children.
As a vegetarian I have no problem being nutritionally satisfied for protein, with local legumes/beans as well as eggs, being abundant in Uru. And I am reminded of a bit of wisdom once said to me: “if you cannot be personally involved or even watch or handle your meat as it is prepared from ‘hoof to table’… you probably should not be eating meat”.
It seems a practical concept that draws attention to our innate body/mind wisdom. Is it really advisable to be so far removed from our food sources that we have no idea of… or are not part of… their beginnings, their nutritional value or their safe handling?
The mountain here also has great influence on the weather, and I have experienced several unseasonable storms, including hail, strong winds and sheets of rain. You take cover where you are and then deal with the affects afterward. I found myself in Moshi town yesterday when one such storm struck us. Waiting under a doorway of the YWCA, I made slow, pleasant conversation with others who had found shelter in the same way (I know only very little Swahili and their English was broken).
Alphonse and I began the drive back up the mountain towards his home, once the rain had stopped. We knew that at some point, the rough roads to his home would become impassable for my rented vehicle. The only questions were when and how far we would finish up by foot. He stated he was “glad that challenging circumstances had occurred”, so I “could experience and know how to handle the vehicle under such road conditions”.
We made it very near to our wonderful Grandmother Well and left the car in the hands of good people to watch over, before trekking the rest of the way up and down the steep, wet and very slippery red clay roads. “Po-le po-le”, slowly slowly, we carefully selected our pace and footsteps, arriving safely at home.
Everyday is a day of some challenge, and I remain amazed at the strength, fortitude and ingenuity required to live here. Water rushes and then dries up, crops fail, people fall ill and die. Life is lived here as our ancestors lived, exposed and at the mercy of hostile elements within the environment. But always, always, Uru lives as ‘community’, finding strength and support in the presence of all those around them.