A Portrait of Arusha
“T o illuminate our real African History, to clarify our African Present, to brilliantly project our African Future ." – Mama Kefa Nephthys
xxxxxxxxxxxxx Wednesday morning, November 17: I needed a couple of days to rest and reflect.
I had been in Arusha for 10 days now. It felt good that the hardest parts of the projects – foundations and floor slab – were complete, and that the next stage, laying the courses of concrete block walls, was underway. But the pace of events had taken its toll on my energy. I was asking my sixty-four-year-old body to behave like a thirty-year-old’s, so I decided a fitness regime would not only keep me in shape but also offset the continual subtle stresses exerted on me by a foreign culture and language.
I opted for a one hour “power walk” first thing in the morning. I also wanted to begin taking care of my diet. The food at the lodge was geared more to pub-style fatty foods, with only token amounts of vegetables. I arranged with Kayanda, the lodge chef, to make up a few “healthy” meals for me from time to time, fish without the batter, steamed veggies, etc., and met with surprisingly little
resistance. Within a few days I had started to feel much better.
Life at the Outpost Lodge was comfortable. It was an oasis from the clamorous city life. Guest accommodation was in the form of
small rustic cabins scattered among banana trees, palms, flowering trees and various broad-leafed plants. Stone walkways through
grassed lawns connected the cabins to open-air rustic dining and lounge areas framed by low brick walls, their pillars supporting
wood-framed sheet metal roofing, tickled by low branches of the surrounding ficus trees.
I enjoyed the friendly staff who shared their stories with me, many of them similar; a strong desire to better themselves by hard, part-time work at the lodge to support their ongoing education. Theodora Castory, an attractive server in her early twenties, is saving to continue high school at Form Three (our Grade 10) level. It costs 800,000 shillings (Cdn$550) per year. She can’t afford to go home, a 12-hour bus ride away, to Iringa, to visit her mother. It’s been two years since she’s seen her. Goodluck Mashauri, a male server and barman, is completing his part-time studies in hotel management and is bound for success (his mother chose the right name). Daniel Janis, another waiter and former safari guide, has just set up a safari tour business with his silent-partner uncle and is awaiting responses from his website.
During many long conversations with Goodluck, I gathered that the story was common to a lot of young Tanzanians who have left home; education is a continuous stop-start process of working to save enough money to afford the fees for another term of school. But these three were lucky; they had made it through primary school when they were children living at home because, unlike the
majority of children in Tanzania, they had parents who managed to scrape together enough money to pay the school fees.
The Outpost Lodge was a haven for Kilimanjaro climbers, safari seekers, backpackers, volunteer workers and NGO workers from
all parts of the world. I met very interesting people; French, Germans, Dutch, Israelis, Swedes, as well as some locals who frequent the outdoor lounge and garden area as a peaceful retreat from their crowded neighborhoods. One such local was a young English
lawyer who came from time to time with her computer for tea and typing. She was working with her lawyer husband at the
international tribunal office established here in Arusha for the 1994 Rwanda Crisis, and was very surprised when I mentioned that General Romeo D’Alllaire (commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the crisis) was my military
college classmate. Yes, it’s a small world, and the Outpost certainly contributed to that. Perhaps it could be the ideal location to base future projects from.
The cost to stay at the Outpost was probably the best bargain in town. But there were a few quirky things that offset the low cost. The plumbing was bad; hot water for showering slowed to a dribble at times, toilets flushed poorly. (A Roto-Rooter business would make a fortune here. I suggested it to Goodluck and his eyes lit up; “Where can I get trained?”) The electrical circuitry is peculiar;
I pulled out a plug on an extension cord sticking out of the wall from the outlet below the desk in my room; it shut off the TV in the lounge area. When I plugged in my nifty little Shopper’s Drug Mart step-down transformer to charge the battery on my screwgun,
the transformer blew up in a puff of smoke. I also discovered that the open wiring coming from a hole in the wall and running
around the perimeter of my room to another outlet was supplying power to all the computers in the offices next to my room.
It was time to meet the resident “electrician”.