‘On’ the Beaten Path…. and Other Bumpy Stories.
I will never forget this day. I will never forget what I felt.
We were all bouncing along the main drag like little rag dolls in the ‘dust-mobile’ through Pangani, a village just 4kms away from Mkoma Bay. Ray and I had needed a little extra love seeking out some of the food on our long shopping list for the kitchen, and had asked our fellow friend and staffer, Lilly-wise, to come along and help us out on our journey. We can get most everything in Pangani, it just can be a bit tricky finding out where the best prices and produce are in all the little huts around the village or at the market place. I just so happened to give Lilly-Wise her nickname (its really just Lilly) because she just seems to have this knack of ‘the know’ about her….. Not to mention she knew exactly where to go for every ripe green pepper, bag of flour and grain of rice around town.
But, I think its perhaps her strong spirit that I adore the most. Lilly and I had become fast friends as soon as I had arrived Mkoma Bay, and certainly someone that I have been able to lean on and learn from.
We were all feeling quite smug about our ‘market trip success’ as were toodling down the dusty road back to Mkoma Bay in the pick-up truck when I had asked Lilly-wise where she lived in Pangani. With no hesitation, she said….. “I will show you, please— turn right here….” Just a few minutes into the bush later, the dust mobile pulled up to a small mud hut. Surrounded by a few chickens, several dogs, and one single water tap a few meters out that sometimes works we watched her beautiful smile grow and spread across her face. Its hard to put into words what Ray and I were feeling. But it was so humbling as Lilly stood proud and told us about how this was the first house she has ever had on ‘her own.’ She had built it with her two sons, and now lives in it with one of the other staffers of Mkoma Bay (our friend) Tina.
“Karibuni!” She said as she welcome us inside and rolled out a rug onto the dirt floor. “There are no chairs, so this is how we sit!” Lilly-wise said, with laughter in her voice. As we sat down we crossed our legs and looked around in awe.
The house, pieced together by wooden poles and thick slabs of mud that ‘didn’t melt’ when it rained (yes, a question that I asked), had a thatch roof and was very cool on the inside. It was the size of maybe the bedroom of an American house, but separated into 3 rooms. There were 2 small beds in one room, water jugs in another (for the days ‘the tap outside’ didn’t work) and a small camping gas stove in the room where we were sitting crossed legged on the rug. (Lilly and Tina’s kitchen) We marveled at how simple their life was lived. There was no electricity and only one payment was made for her bit of land when they first built and I gather the water is free. If/when it is working, that is. As she took us around and showed us the chicken coop she was building to soon have her own ‘eggs’ and *tisked* at the downward slope of one of the sides of her hut (and how it would soon need to be fixed) and showed us the privacy fence for the ‘bucket showers’ they took, my thoughts were spinning.
How would I ever describe this? I had a perma grin on my face the entire time. I guess I just wasn’t sure of the appropriate expression. For someone whom always had something to say, I was speechless. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I was even too wrapped up in the moment to take a picture, but realize now- it was better that I hadn’t. I know now it was such an honor that we were invited to her home. ……I will never forget this day, I will never forget what I felt…. Sometimes there is no need for a ‘photo’ when you know it will forever be engrained in your heart.
Ray and I arrived at Mkoma Bay on January 18th via the ‘Puking Pangani’,’ with no expectations. We had a few ‘workaway’ experiences under our belt, but only hoped that we would be able to use our skills to strengthen what the owners, Lisa and Ulrik, already had in place….. and just help it grow. Never in our wildest WYATT-dreams did we think we would fall into such an opportunity. In a nut shell, we get to use what ‘we know’— and what ‘we do best,’ live in a beautiful lodge that we get to call home for 3 months with a beach as our backyard…. AND we get to wear flip-flops to work every single day. Ray is helping in the kitchen tweaking menus, introducing a few new recipes and seeding a bit of passion in the cooks here and there. Between the cultural differences, language barriers and ‘lack’ of some ingredients…. its, well, “pole pole.” (Kiswahili for slowly) But to have local fishermen come to the back door of the kitchen selling their ‘fresh catch of the day’—(literally straight out of the water) with Kingfish, Red snapper, Tuna straight out of their baskets—sensational for ANY chef, it still holds some unique and frustrating challenges. But I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has made leaps and bounds…. and has made a significant imprint here.
I on the other hand am helping with their marketing and making Mkoma Bay more…. ‘visual.’ The only downside to a perfectly isolated beach, warm tranquil waters, extraordinary accommodations, and guaranteed sunshine almost each and everyday is being ‘on the beaten path.’ Literally. I need internet and even more importantly, ‘power’ to do what I need to do to arrange and coordinate events and utilize online marketing resources to my job. But, between issues with people stealing the ‘wires’ off the power lines (uh huh, that’s right!) and the poles being burnt down along with the brush they are burning….. I don’t have a tremendous ‘power’ (no pun intended’) over getting either on a weekly basis. But I press on. There was always something to do, electricity or not. It wasn’t an accident that ‘Ahhhh…. hamna umeme’ (Kiswahili for ‘no power’) was one of the first phrases I learned. That and throwing my hands up in the air and proclaiming– ‘Hamna Shida.’ NO PROBLEM. There is always tomorrow.
….In Tanzania, you have to acknowledge your small successes, otherwise you will forever be discouraged on what you did NOT achieve. Ray and I quickly realized that everyday we need to focus on the things we can do with what ‘we have.’ ….and only then, our achievements outweighed our disappointments….
SIDENOTE: Speaking of which, I was a bit disappointed in Disney when I first arrived. I am sure you all know the wonderful animated classic, “The Lion King.” And the song—“Hukuna Matata—Means no worries, for the rest of your daaaaays!” (and just like that, it will be in YOUR head for the rest of THIS day, you are MOST welcome) Well, good ol’ Walt was a bit off track you see. Hukuna Matata is not the going Kiswahili phrase round here—round most parts generally. Its: “Hamna Shida….. its your problem freeeee, philosophyyyyy! HAMNA SHIDA!”
Monday, January 23rd- Tanga, Tanzania—’Honey, I think we’ve been SPOTTED!’: So, it was our first trip into the ‘big city.’ Just 45 KM’s away and one serious dirt road later we found ourselves upon quite a metropolis. I joked with the owner Lisa of how ecstatic I was to do some shopping at Walmart. She just smirked. But a girl could DREAM!! Tanga is Tanzania’s 3rd largest town it was just large enough to have a bit of everything you needed—food markets, a very small shopping market WITH shopping CARTS!… and an ATM (closest one within hours) ………BUT just small enough that ‘immigration’ still tracked down the Wyatt’s.
OH YES…… within 20 minutes of our arrival into Tanga-town, the ‘dust mobile- ‘pick-up truck sans air-con’—and a few layers of dirt on YOU from the journey guaranteed- AND Ulrik (the owner of Mkoma Bay) was pinpointed (how we didn’t look ‘incognito’ is BEYOND ME) and we were surrounded by Tanga immigration. After a few simple questions asked later regarding…..’passports’ (always with us- CHECK)…. ‘work permits’ (check, even being volunteers—Tanzania is VERY strict upon acquiring work permits) ….. they STILL wanted us to follow them back to their ….*ahem* ….office.
To set the scene– the ‘so called’ office turned out to be a small room cramped with two desks, 1 Kenyan and 3 Somalians hovering in the corner on the floor awaiting their fate. We were allowed ‘chairs,’ but sat there facing a lovely Immigration woman picking her teeth with someone’s passport photo. Hours passed whilst they decided if our work permits were ‘valid’ and we had to explain in detail of why we were here. (of course we were legit, but they just wanted a bit of ‘money’ to speed up the process…… tis’ the African way—WE DID NOT GIVE IT TO THEM FYI) Meanwhile, Ulrik asked if he was excused to ‘do some errands’ while they were checking us out…… It seemed that they only wanted US, so he was free to go. (it made us giggle a bit when Ulrik said, “Excuse me Sir, um—I need to pick up the mince meat by 12:30, do you mind if I collect them later?”
SIDENOTE: Of course the most difficult portion of the morning was keeping Ray Ray’s emotions ‘at bay’—as he was starting to get FIRED UP with all this silly question answering when we were not doing anyone ‘any harm’ being a part of this country….and we were being held in the *office* with MS. PHOTO TOOTH PICKER for far TOO long. And the #1 Rule in Tanzania is if you start to get angry with ANY kind of authority—”prepare to get NOWHERE.”
BUT finally… 3 hours and 1 nervous Kenyan…..3 frightened Somalians… and some ‘passport-photo-picked-teeth’ later….. We were ‘FREED!’ We walked out of the Immigration Building with the sunlight ‘burning’ our eyes…. (okay, I am pushing it), but moments later Ulrik scooped us up in the beloved Dust-Mobile and went headed straight for the swank Tanga Yacht Club for beers and a bite.
After a morning spent in the clank, nothing has ever felt quite so lush.
But without a doubt, since we have arrived just 2 months ago….worlds have collided……we are slowly being accepted…. and each day we try to suck up every ounce of this BEDAZZLING world we are living in, culture included. There are dozens of ‘Tanzanian Tales’ there are still awaiting to be shared….
But perhaps when the 2nd course of our dinner with guests is interrupted due to a brush fire getting ‘too close’ to the lobby and our head server had to quickly put it out, and we sit back down and eat dessert without even a second thought….. or we are are on –hug hello basis- with the village chief…. or know that the people of the nearby village of Pangani now greet us by saying ‘MKOMA BAY!’ …… Well then, I think the stories are just FOLDING into themselves….. Without a doubt, I love it here.
UNTIL NEXT TIME…… BAADAYE!! (‘See you later’- in Kiswahili!)
SHAMELESS PLUG!—*as writer of the blogs I get certain perks*— Please check out www.mkomabay.com and click on the facebook link! PRESS THE LIKE US BUTTON, AND HELP SUPPORT ‘THE BAY!’ I have created this page from scratch and you can follow why this lil’ corner of the world may ‘never be the same’ since the Wyatt’s have entered in!