A Busy Couple of Days

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
About a couple of days that were busy. From my diary, hopefully giving an impression of life in Africa.

Submitted: February 14, 2017

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Submitted: February 14, 2017

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Keeping a diary was important during my working life but the thing is, only I can read them because of my left-handed scrawl, most usually done in a hurry, which has been compared to a spider scrambling over the paper. My Tanzanian diaries, as I go through them, are not as lucid as I thought when writing them!  Gradually, I’m typing them up so they are at least readable, and hopefully coherent for family members. It’s time consuming because there are several volumes, and sometimes I’m side-tracked by little snippets that I want to write about separately and some things need some extra explanation.

Modified from my diary:

The last week of November and for most of December, is the time most kids become confirmed into their various churches, at the same time others are baptized, while others reaffirm their marriage vows. We had been back in the country just forty one days after two years away so people were still coming to our house to welcome us or for ‘business as usual’ stuff. Thursday might have been the start of Ramadan, but the moon was not sighted, so the holiday duly arrived on Friday. There was a seminar scheduled for the village of Kikatiti, where Loti and I had been asked to speak. I was surprised to hear it was going to go ahead despite the religious holiday. I could have done with the holiday!

Alibariki, our newly appointed night guard was away at sparrow-fart because his wife was expecting so was going to walk her to a clinic. Our mate Mbise had encouraged me to take Alibariki on because the man had issues ‘not of his making’. He had been a night guard down at the Diocese farm when bandits had attacked him and the other bloke with him. He was cut up fairly badly with a machete! So he was understandably nervous about being a guard again, but because Mbise was a night guard at the nearby secondary school, he had promised to keep an eye on him. So to help, the guy, I employed him.

An innocuous Saturday arrived, a long weekend for most with Ramadan on Friday and Uhuru – Independence Day on Monday. I spent a good part of the morning working in the nursery, one of my favourite pastimes but Mama Witness’ arrival broke my reverie. It was ok, I had asked her to come. She had a child handicapped with cerebral palsy and I had promised her the bus fare to Dar es Salaam to see a specialist. Mind, I was afraid that there was not much hope for this child, which was confirmed much later. From time to time I gave her money for medicine and doctors’ fees, but sadly she was found out to be boozing it up with her boyfriend, a numbnut who even had gold in his teeth! The trip to Dar es Salaam, it was revealed, never happened! She even brought chits from doctors and prescriptions, all looking strictly legit! I did see the child and she certainly was handicapped.

Our close friend, Mama Upendo had died, so we had taken her three kids under our wing, paying them a monthly living allowance for the past year or so. Upendo called today as arranged to collect the allowance. As well we had promised to fund the confirmation dress of a cousin of theirs in Arusha, so at the same time I gave the money to her. Of course time has to be made to chat and drink some tea.

Mama Salama, called. She was a little guilty because she had let us down! We had arranged for her to stay with the three kids, sort of a steading influence, but because of a perceived hex, she ran back to her home place leaving the kids to cope on their own. The eldest, Upendo was just fifteen! So Mama Salam received a cool reception, but when she asked for forgiveness, culturally it was mandatory to make it easy for her.

No sooner had I started back in the nursery when Baba Samweli stopped to talk. He lived just up the hill a little from us. Locals thought he was a spy for the Tanzanian government, but he told me he worked for an African aid NGO, which meant he was away ‘spying’ a lot. His wife, we called ‘Mama Mfupi’, because she was short! She was the boss too! Their first born was Samweli and they had asked me to attend his confirmation and the baptism of his brother Legusi. It was to happen on Sunday at the Catholic Church in Arusha. I had another confirmation ceremony to go to so to appease my neighbours, I had agreed to take them into town. Baba Samweli stopped to inform me that they had to be in town by 7:30am! So I told him we would therefore leave at seven sharp!

Mbise called. He had been our night guard two years earlier. We regard him highly, which is why we had helped build him his house. His sister was to be confirmed up a Mulala, his home area and because we were going to attend he wanted to arrange a lift up there. We would attend the service but we would not attend the sherehe (party) afterwards because we had to attend one put on by the Assistant Bishop in honour of his son who was to be confirmed in the same ceremony. I worked for the Diocese, not for any religious reason, I doing environmental work and rainwater harvesting, but for me it was a must to join in and show respect for my host organisation. The Assistant Bishop had recently returned from two years as a missionary in the US. So Mbise had called to tee up the lift. I told him we would be taking Loti, my co-worker as well.

Two men arrived! They had come to arrest Alibariki! He had apparently hit his mother and his brother had made a complaint to the village authority, so these village men had come to take him to the police. Alibariki had not yet showed up for work. I told them that they could not take Alibariki away because it would leave us without a guard. It actually didn’t concern me about not having a guard. As far as the Diocese was concerned, a guard was mandatory, but a guard would only ever stop petty theft, if a bunch of bandits arrived, I knew Alibariki would flee for the hills, but I had to put on a show for these two village men. I promised to keep him here in the morning and they could arrest him at daylight. I promised not to tell him of his impending arrest.

Sunday! It rained all through the night and it was still pelting down, not cats and dogs, but lions and bloody tigers! Alibariki thought he might head off a bit earlier, so I delayed him with a Thermos of coffee. I was just going to the Landrover because I had decided, because of the rain, to pick up Mama Mfupi and Co, when the two men came for Alibariki. There was not too much fuss although one of the men could yak, my oh my could he yak! They wanted me to take them there and then to the Tengeru Police Post! They didn’t understand, ‘bugger off’, I told them that the car was full, but I would see if there was room when I had picked up Mama Mfupi and Co. I saw no reason to squeeze everyone like sardines in a can for these blokes!

In the traditional Tanzanian way, Mana Mfupi and Co, six in all, were running late. Where they bathed was over the pit latrine, so it was one at a time and then there is the prettying up to be done! Eventually! There was room for two more so the yakker was left behind by way of my casting vote. You wouldn’t believe it, none of them knew where the Tengeru Police Post was! I drove through the main part of the village and found a policeman walking along to meet us. The Post was a long way away, and he said it would be ok to go there on our way back. He asked for a lift to town, but I refused, telling him my agency had a rule not to pick up uniformed men.

It was still pouring when we arrived at the church, so I drove as close as I could to drop off my passengers. They were aware I could not be collecting them. Back at the Police Post I spoke up for Alibariki saying that I had no idea what he was like at home, but on the job I found him to be fine. Alibariki made a statement, the policeman wrote it down and he signed it, likewise the arresting man. I wrote mine myself and signed it as well as a bail document guaranteeing that I bring him back on Tuesday.

Loti and Mbise were waiting for me at home and soon we set off for Mulala. The track had been levelled by the equivalent of PD boys, it was a nightmare! Slushy because of the rain and I lost traction! I backed off down the hill to find an awkward turning spot and headed on the roundabout route through Nkoaranga village. At Mbise’s house we met his parents for the first time in two years and his wife, Mama Riziki who ordered us to sit down for a cup of tea. I actually needed it!

The vehicle was well-overloaded on the way to the church! The confirmees instead of wearing the expensive fancy clothing we have seen at other confirmations, (they are generally unaffordable and only worn just once) instead they wore school uniforms. The girls wore a white headscarf with a headpiece of purple bougainvillea flowers. The service took almost four hours, was in the local Meru dialect, which went way over my head, and we were squeezed on wooden benches like bananas on a bunch!

Before going to the Assistant Bishop’s sherehe, we took Mbise and his family home and while we were not to partake in theirs, we did take a sup of soda. Back at the Assistant Bishop’s house, there were three hundred guests! We had preferential seats and were fed well. There was a choir and they sang beautifully to entertain the guests while waiting for their turn to eat of to present gifts. But the day was drawing in and Loti had to travel on his motorbike for almost three quarters of an hour to get home, so we offered our best wishes and left.

So that was a busy couple of days, but I’m unable to leave the matter of Alibariki here. As instructed, I returned to the Police Post with Alibariki but because Mbise felt partially responsible, he came too. The desk sergeant said that Alibariki had to return each day for two weeks, and he looked at Mbise telling him that if Alibariki runs away, he would throw him, Mbise into prison! I said that he would not be doing that without the order of a magistrate! So each day Mbise went with Alibariki to the police post! It was not a journey that could be made on foot, so I fronted with the bus fares and for some food along the way. The exercise cost two thirds of Upendo and Co’s monthly allowance! I gave Alibariki a lecture on the advantages of keeping his hands to himself!

A month later Mbise told me that Alibariki’s mother had journeyed down to the Tengeru Police Post to tell them the accusation was false and that his brother had made a malicious complaint. But y’know, that doesn’t tally with Alibariki’s body language or responses to me!


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