A Little Bit of Patience

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

I learned to be patient and it paid off.

A Little Bit of Patience

I remember my school teacher telling us about Robert Bruce who, defeated by the English, waited out the winter in a cave. He was inspired by a spider. My teacher’s version of the story was that the spider swung on its tread to reach another part of the wall, and had to try many times before succeeding. I thought better of raising my hand, but I’d already observed spiders spinning threads for the breeze to carry them to the other side of objects, but nevertheless, I remember the telling and the message more than seventy years later!

Old Bert taught me more about patience than anyone else. He could be contrary, pig headed and all the rest, but he wasn’t like that with me… unless he was drunk! It was just his way. ‘Running is for school kids.’ He would say as he lit the fuse on gelignite, he’d casually walk away. Bert wasn’t far away from retiring and I was his boss, barely in my twenties, and maybe he had it in his mind that I could do with some educating… Anyway, no matter what the emergency, or what task had to be performed, the following practice was typical: He’d reach for his pipe and scrape it clean with his ‘designer’ scraper, he would fill the pipe with tobacco, tamp it with the care he’d take when bandicooting someone else’s spuds, light it to his satisfaction, puff on it like a steam train and then cough his guts out making his eyes water. Among the coughs he would swear, ‘I’ll beat ya yet, ya bastard!’ No wonder he coughed though, he always recharged his lighter with petrol as I filled my truck! Anyway, there was no way I could change his routine, so I had to be patient, and that meant keeping calm. To be honest, it took practice.

I needed patience in Africa, for me there were several projects to be completed within a certain time, but you see, most people there live by the adage, haraka, haraka, hainabaraka. It means there are no blessings in hurrying. There is even a different way of measuring time. The sun rises near the equator plus or minus 7:00am, so it’s recognised as the first hour or saa moja which makes midday the sixth hour in the afternoon, saa sita jioni. So the different way of time had to become second nature, the odd thing is tough, people had their watches set at (our) normal time but tell you the time in their time. So organising meetings became interesting. Cellphones gradually came in while we were there, but before that, if a message needed to be taken to a village, you had to find someone who was going there. Even paper was in short supply, so we often sent a message on the back of a used envelope. But where real patience was needed, when a seminar or other project was organised and we arrived there on time, only to find there was a funeral, so nobody turned up. The village people simply had no way of letting us know.

My habit has always been to arrive on time, if not, early. I tended not to change my habit, but everyone else were always late, sometimes very late. Put yourself in their shoes. If you need a cup of tea, you have to find fuel, light a fire, perhaps collect water, and wait for it to boil. You might think, ‘surely it’s a matter of organisation’. Well, it’s not that easy, if you have a store of firewood, other people who haven’t, will use the phrase, naomba, I beg, which culturally, is very difficult to refuse, in fact, if you have it, you have to help, but not necessarily by giving a large portion of whatever is wanted. I found these cultural facts of life to be fascinating and embraced them, otherwise we’d have been living in the expat community, and that wasn’t why we went there.

Our tree nursery at Sanawari was behind our house, and there was no fence around it. We built it up on the smell of an oily rag, because Hifadhi, the organisation I was working for, didn’t have many resources. I managed to acquire plastic sheeting from a tyre company, who imported tyres wrapped in thin, pink plastic. The planter pots had no bottoms, so I used the plastic sheets to stop the roots growing into the soil, which would mean root trimming, an extra task and giving the seedlings a shock at planting time when they were going to have the shock of their life by the time they were planted in probably dry soil.

So let me introduce to you ‘the dogs of Sanawari’. Tanzanians like dogs even though half of them feral. They slept during the day and they roamed in packs at night. They were nondescript mongrels and sometimes the council thinned them out by night shooting with shotguns – a messy, horrible business. The electricity supply was erratic, and while we had a Tilly lamp and an old storm lantern, we also needed a torch, but the batteries lacked stamina, and ran out of juice fairly quickly. I used to stack them on the low windowsill beside the door… as ammunition! The dogs of Sanawari often paid us a night-time visit and had less than intimate mating rituals on the lawn outside, thus interrupting our beauty sleep! So their mating sessions were dispersed by some well-aimed dead batteries!  I retrieved them from the lawn come daylight for another go in a few nights’ time. But from time to time those randy dogs would do their dirty deeds in the middle of the nursery! Pots would be scattered, toppled, trees lost, the area was just a mess! There was no other choice but to clean it up in the morning and start afresh with fresh seed. No point in becoming angry, patience was required.

Beyond the nursery lived a widow, who scraped a living by growing a few coffee bushes, renting a few square metres to a piwa drinking tomato grower and keeping a zero-grazed cow for a few litres of milk. Zero grazing is penning a cow and carting food and water to it. I don’t think it’s very nice, but the Heifer Project recommended the method… This elderly woman didn’t really have the ability to search for green fodder for her cow, so she depended on banana foliage and trunks. The banana plant has one bunch of bananas so when the bunch is taken, the plant is cut and a sucker becomes the new plant. Sure, the leaves are nutritious enough for a cow, but the trunk is just water and cellulose, which might fill the belly, but it’s pretty meagre tucker. Any wonder then that that poor, underfed animal took any opportunity to escape its pen! And sure enough, she regularly stomped through the nursery! The woman was kind to the kids in the neighbourhood, and she used to sit on the stool I set for her at the nursery so she could chat, watching while we worked… no I was never going to be angry at her. I did mend the cow-pen for her from time to time. Nor could I be angry at the cow, I’ve farmed cows and know how much they love some fresh feed! So it was a matter of being patient and tidying the mess and moving forward.

There’s value in using patience, and nine times out of ten, flying off the handle achieves little anyway.


Submitted: November 28, 2021

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Add Your Comments:


olive tree

beautiful story

"If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise." - William Blake

Full piece: http://www.martincwiner.com/if-a-fool-persists-in-his-folly-william-blake/

Sun, November 28th, 2021 9:15am


I'm pleased you enjoyed it Oli. Thank you. Usianguke

Sun, November 28th, 2021 12:10pm

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