Give 'em a Shakeup!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


It was time to stir the guards up for being slack!

Submitted: October 11, 2017

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Submitted: October 11, 2017

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Sanawari sits on its own small ridge that sweeps gently down from Mt. Meru. We lived and interacted in the main among the local people so became absorbed into their culture, which was a totally different experience compared to our colleagues just over on the next ridge. There was an expat community over there so naturally enough, they associated with their expat neighbours, and not so much with locals. Our friends, Mo and Jo lived over there, so we had plenty of opportunity to also sit among expats as well – and watched.

The first thing we noticed was that our Agency’s funding didn’t allow us to take many of our worldly goods with us. This meant as well as our personal luggage on the plane, we were allowed another twenty five kilogrammes, paid for by the Agency as unaccompanied luggage. On the other hand, the German missionaries were able to take a loaded shipping container with them! So there was obvious disparity between them and us. Actually the Agency was quite correct, we didn’t need those trappings and buying anything we didn’t manage to bring with us was helpful to the local economy.

German churches, Lutherans in particular fund many of the church projects in Tanzania, and among the Christian churches there, the Lutherans are probably most dominant. This is because of the history of the place. Tanzania was part of German East Africa until World War I when the country came under British rule. But the Lutheran churches remained and flourished again after independence in 1961, allowing closer ties with Germany.

The expat community felt the need to be guarded and so each household employed an askari. Askari means ‘soldier’, but they weren’t, they were mlinzi, a softer term meaning ‘guard’. We never had a guard at Sanawari, nor did we feel unsafe. Later at Makumira we had a mlinzi, who was not tested in seven years.  None of the mlinzi were trained in any way, and had no weapon other than a fimbo, stick, or maybe a bow and arrow. I assumed that those who were being guarded, expected their mlinzi to put their lives on the line should danger occur.

Now the nights are long. 7:00pm to 7:00am, and it would be tiresome and cold standing guard all night, which is why they didn’t. One would join with another, or maybe there were three, for company, usually forgetting they should be whispering. The folk in their beds would be awoken by the chat and so there was discussion among the expats and someone raised the point that the guards weren’t doing their job!

Many of the expats had sort of forgotten that colonialism ended in 1961. I saw a level of arrogance and a measure of harshness in the way some of them treated the locals. It was easy to do because of an inbred respect that most Tanzanians have. The harshness was especially directed to people carrying out menial work. I’m pleased to say that Mo and Jo weren’t like that, they treated Ishmael well and their house girl too. Mama Alfred was a warm friendly person who also sold them their daily milk. Her son Alfred, delivered the milk and Mo and Joe ended up paying for his secondary schooling.

Shortly after a meeting about the guard issue, Loftus, a big booming German man who enjoyed his pints, came home late one night to find his compound’s gate wide open!  And his guard wasn’t there to greet him. His guard, Juma-nne was three doors down sharing a plate of rice and beans with one of his peers. Juma-nne was hungry because Loftus was one of the few who didn’t supply food to this guard. Anyway, Loftus was angry at the apparent slackness and gave him a right dressing down the next morning, loud enough for most of the expats and their guards to hear.

Loftus called another meeting he titled, ‘Give ‘em a shakeup.’ He wanted a united front among the expats to take a harder line on the guards and not to put up with conversation or shared meals. Most of the expats nodded, happy enough with the status quo, but some sided with Loftus and did indeed post limitations on what their guards could and couldn’t do.

The next Sunday morning Mo, on his way to buy some bread, met up with Loftus who was sporting a swollen cheek and a black eye. Mo laughed as he was want to do on such occasions, and asked him what had happened.

‘I was down at Ekki’s house last night,’ Loftus replied, somewhat mellower than usual, ‘celebrating Oktoberfest. I left there about two in the morning and found my gate was locked! I remembered my key was with my wallet on the bedside table but I didn’t want to call Juma-nne in case I woke Elif or the kids! So I climbed the gate and as my feet hit the ground on the other side, Juma-nne whacked me and knocked me out! He can’t have recognised me in the dark!’

‘No probably not.’ Smiled Mo.

 

 


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