A Night at Mpanda Ndogo Mpanda
I remained sitting on the bike for about thirty minutes, the motor idling and the bike on parking lights. My heart, as it often did, suggested to me that this was the place to stop for the night. I waited for the owners of Mitumba to come to me. Anywhere I stopped; there was never lack of people who came to scrutinize this unusual visitor, to satisfy their curiosity, to fondle the bike – that is what they did. About ten people were around me. It had one advantage; it always gave me the occasion to start a conversation. In this case, I requested to know if there was a headman or chief of the area. It was a very small trading post. In chorus, they pointed to a shop directly in front of me. When they learnt that I speak fluent Kiswahili, they said Karibu, which means welcome. He is in there, they said. I promptly dismounted from the bike and approached the shop.
Shikamoo baba I cried. This is a Kiswahili greeting to a person of respect (elder). In his case I added baba, (daddy to spice it up), thus elevating the respect I was paying him to even a higher notch. Shikamoo has Arabic origins and can be translated as I hold your feet. After the salutations, he asked me to sit. I patiently waited until he had finished his business for audience. He eventually sat beside me and in this manner, I introduced myself, my purpose and why I wanted to see him. He was a very kind man in his late forties. Having understood my purpose he promptly showed me two places where I could pitch tent. He said the one nearest to his house was the best since I would be in his compound. I said I speak fluent Kiswahili and I also understand the cultures of the region. For this reason I did not find it difficult to blend with the folks of the town. After parking scorpion and pitching tent, I went to find company and some food. Rashid was a citizen of the area I invited him to join me.
A Market Day -- Pinapples
These people are amiable folks and terribly welcoming; it was like I had come home. We sat in small eating place and ordered grilled chicken and Ugali (pap or maize meal). As we waited, we sipped Kilimanjaro, the local bottled beer. Two extremely beautiful ladies joined us. I subsequently learnt that the village headman was their uncle. They operated the eating house. I noticed it was predominantly Muslim. On this note it is necessary to point out that one reason why Islam is very successful is because it tends to blend and fuse with the local culture; this makes it appealing. Islam has blended so well with Swahili as a culture since the days when the Arab dhows came to the East African coast to trade in ivory, spices, slaves and the like. In fact in my own social origins, to have a cousin who is a moslem is common place. It was easy for me to notice all this marriage in the surroundings around me. I need to mention that Kiswahili as a language is spoken widely in the Great Lake Region (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo (DRC), Burundi, Somalia and parts of Southern Sudan) although in a multiplicity of dialects.
As conversation flowed oiled by Kilimanjaro, we spoke about a variety of subjects: marriage, relationships, and politics. My favourite theme was education. I learnt that my host was married. He said he had three boys. I am a teacher and naturally was inclined to speak about the value of education to the generation of tomorrow. I was able to extract a promise from my host that he would educate these boys and the ones yet to arrive, for he had indicated that he was going to have two more children. Although I was tired and would have loved the company of my tent; presently, I loved the company of these ordinary folks. I had become one of them at least in attitude. They spoke from their hearts, the simplicity of their manner, the generosity of the rural environment was way different from what I was used to in the metropolitan of Johannesburg. For me it was a way of reclaiming what was lost or rather what the metropolitan had dispossessed me. I knew that with wide ears and open eyes there was something to learn from them folks.
It was the coming of a storm that signaled my time to depart and take up residence in my tent. And so it rained so hard that night in a manner I had not experienced during the entire trip so far. It was like the heavens had simply opened all its taps. I was secure and nothing disturbed my peace; I simply drifted off into the land of sleep.