Spectre

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
The brewery manager donated flour for food aid, but there was another surprise.

Submitted: January 11, 2017

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Submitted: January 11, 2017

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The Manager of Tanzanian Breweries, gave me a tonne of maize starch as emergency aid for the food crisis around Meru, I had been lobbying all over the place, so I was delighted with his generosity. He had his men help me to load the bags onto the back of the Toyota. I was well overloaded, but that was no worry, most vehicles suffered from the same problem! In all there were fifty bags, each weighing one hundred-weight in the old language. Just loading the bags covered us in a thin film of the fine, white dust and I was the only one without a dust mask!

The most likely place I could buy dust masks was Bulk Supplies but I had to wait while they scratched around to find them. I bought a pack of twenty, which I guessed should be enough for the job. It was a hot, busy day in town and I had to pick my way slowly through traffic and pedestrians to reach the main market. I enjoyed the main market because it is a vibrant, busy place,  the smell outside is of discarded, rotting fruit and vegetables, which might put some off, but inside depending on where you go, there are the smells of fresh vegetables, dried fish, spices of numerous kinds and fresh-killed meat, all adding to the apparent chaos of the place. It can be hectic in there and I was never able to walk far before one of the young lads that earned a living there, would want to be my assistant.

This day I wasn’t going to the market but to the small shop that sold the polythene tubing I used for planter pots. I had noticed they sold plastic bags as well, reject ones from the west. Rejects because the spelling of the printing was erroneous or perhaps the picture was wrong. I figured on putting two kilogrammes of the flour per bag, so bought five hundred of them. Cheap as chips, the guy didn’t bargain hard because I told him what they were to be used for.

If you have time to look at the scenery on the way back to Makumira, the green of the banana groves is in contrast to the dry browns of the countryside not five kilometres out of Arusha. But as far as Tengeru, I had to be watchful on the road, once through the small township, the traffic reduced and it was always a pleasant drive. There are less bananas and more grazing areas.

Because of the dry season, the track up to our house, had a three inch layer of powdered dust, which wafts and billows, covering, even choking any walkers, so I picked up everyone I came across. They all squeezed into the cab, ‘banana’ in the local vernacular. There were Mama Sai, Mama Mfupi and two of her kids, Sumari and several secondary school kids. In the driver’s seat I was the only one that was anywhere near comfortable. But all were grateful for the lift!

I didn’t want too many folk to see the bags being unloaded because the food shortage was nowhere near as bad locally. So I backed up to the door and hefted each bag into out ‘lounge-room’. It was ok, when I was thirteen I could carry bags of wheat on my back, they were the same weight, but fifty of them did make me puff a bit! I always tried to keep a full crate of soda behind the kitchen door, ‘tried’ is the operative word, but luckily after the unloading, there were a couple of bottles of Coca Cola, the first didn’t touch the sides, but I really enjoyed the second!

Mags and I started to decant the bags into two kilogramme lots. I weighed out the first two kilos and marked the pottles we used so we didn’t have to weigh every time. Not long into the job, Upendo arrived to collect some water and by this time I had a thin coating of flour dust on me, so when I went out to help her lift the bucket onto her head, she laughed and asked the obvious question. She promised to return to help us.

Upendo is the eldest of three siblings that we later took under our wing, much like family. She was due to start secondary school the next year, so in her early teens. She was tall for her age and walked with the casual African grace, she wore her kanga in the youthfully modern way: low on her hips, so it nearly touched the ground. When she walked it gave the appearance that she was just floating along. She worked with us until about 10:00pm when I told her that we had better finish for the night, for one, I was tuckered out. There were five bags left, which we would easily finish off in the morning. Besides her mother would be keeping her ugali warm for her.

We heard the call of alarm, ‘Ooowhee, ooowhee!’ and we recognised it as Mama Upendo’s voice so I stumbled my way in the dark, up the hill to see what was wrong! Mama’s face was still ashen! But she was laughing at her daughter. None of us had given any thought to it, but we were all covered in the fine, white dust and when Upendo had appeared out of the dark into the firelight, her mother thought she was a ghost!

In our small village with no street lighting, illumination comes only fron the moon, stars or cooking fires, but there are always eyes and they see well in the dark! Therefore around the village for the next few days there were the whispers, hushed, suspicious whispers of ghosts in the village and therefore of some impending doom! We had both become ghost legends!

 


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