So here I am, outside the coffee shop in Moshi again, writing my blog, with a horrendous hangover. I think I’ve been here before. I’m being honest when I say that I had lost a fair amount of faith in what I am doing, what I have done, and the overall reason for being here in Tanzania in the first place. This is the main reason my blog has remained untouched for a while, and also the reason why I have come back to it. Sat on a daladala this week, Tuesday morning in fact, I saw it again; I was able to contemplate what I saw at the beginning of 2011 when I first arrived in Tanzania. Through the thin veil of hangover and headache, underneath the miserable existence of being squashed inside a Toyota Hiace with no word of when I might get feeling back in my feet; over and above the screams of “nice to nice to know ya, lets do it again” on the radio, somehow, I managed to see again why I am here and what this year is going to bring for me. As I gazed out the window, I had an immense feeling of knowing, of reassurance and a strong sense that I am in the right place – something that I have had missing for the last six months or so. As the sun rose and bathed the distant mountains in a velvet blanket of light and shadow, I saw a young woman playing with her daughter in the dust and dirt next to the road, the purity of their laughter splitting the air outside the bus and at that point Alexi Murdoch told me through my headphones – maybe then we already are home. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I have been searching, unknowingly, for all of my days, for the answer that may lead me back to where I came from. In the silence of the moment, as the tracks changed on my mp3 player, I saw the light again, and was touched by something I cannot explain.
I have had some doubt as to whether I’m doing the right thing or not, and it’s so difficult to make an intelligent judgement call on this without sounding too up my own arse, or completely self-absorbed and like one of those horrible do-good-ers you hear about who think they’re saving the world by volunteering in Africa and then going to Zanzibar for three weeks and spending their parents’ money. Without wanting to sound too holier than thou, I believe I have found something in myself, and am following it almost completely blindly now.
I could go home. I could pack up my bags, return to the UK and get another job in urban suburbia; I could decide to end all of this and return back to where life is easy and money grows on trees and electricity is something you take for granted – but that would be too easy. No, what I’m planning to do is actually take this to the next level and realise who I am in the process.
Half way up the main road from Marangu to Mshiri where I live, up on the tarmac road, there is a huge house I have admired since I arrived over two years ago. I spotted it the very first time I got up to Mshiri from KIA back in January 2011, and it has taken my gaze nearly every time I have driven past since. Up on the hill, on the ridge that separates Mshiri from Mbahe, overlooking the river below and the valley off to the south, it towers over the surrounding cliffs and proudly stands up there alone. For over fifteen years this house has remained empty due to a local legend that states a chagga was killed there and his spirit remains to haunt any that may dwell inside. Sounds like fantasy eh? The truth is I’m about to find out if I indeed do believe in ghosts. Locals who have tried to live there have all met some ghastly end, or have left of their own will after waking up fully clothed in the garden with no recollection of how they got there. I am being sold residency to this house largely because nobody else will touch it, but above all, I want it for just that reason, and because I am the only person willing to try it out, I’m getting it for the best price possible.
This house will mark the beginning of my new start here in Tanzania, and an opportunity for me to stay here and work in my own right for myself, whilst continuing to help the village I live in and support the young people I’ve worked with for the last two years. The truth is I need some more income if I am to stay here, as funds have dwindled more than just a little bit in recent months, and I’m still wearing the same old shoes that I bought in the UK in May last year, my fridge is still broken, and unless someone else comes along and offers me some charity, my laptop is not going to fix itself.
My plan is to expand my operations and move into a new field of operations. Through some hard work and commitment from my peers in Marangu, I have found another soul capable of seeing the world for what it is, and someone who shares my dream that there is hope for Tanzania, and hope for the people who believe that everyone has left them behind. I am teaching a few of the guys about the importance of being honest and true, of speaking your mind and following your dreams, and the simple fact that nobody is there to help, it is up to us to save ourselves. 2013 has started strongly, and will continue this way until something stops me in my tracks. We are now offering English tuition and further education to as many people as I can possibly muster; and through this new shared belief in each other, I am seeing a new ray of hope from the people I live with, and a real feeling that everything I have done has not been for nothing. These kids are starting to see what it is they have, and what it is they want from their lives, and without pushing anyone into a direction dictated by western culture or influence, I am now steering them down their own road of discovery and faith, and it has nothing to do with God or Allah or anything prescribed by others in order to shape the will of the people. They are seeing what I see through glazed eyes and drunken stupor. They see my goal as clearly as I do, and are working with me to keep it real and in focus as they plough on getting ever closer to discovering their own fate. Together we are living our lives and building our futures and all the while we continue to remain part of the bigger picture without ever stopping to look back or consider our options. We are moving forward, and we are not going to stop until we find what we are looking for.
I know lots of wazungu and Tanzanians alike who are supposedly here to help, or are offering a service which is intended to be unbiased and for the people, but rarely does this initial intent ever realise itself into anything more than a business opportunity or an excuse to live abroad while waiting for something to happen. So many of the volunteers and workers here lose sight of their original accord, and get taken in by something that ultimately leads to their work finishing and having to be reignited by someone else who then encounters the same problems all over again. It’s easy to lose faith in ourselves when we are up against such a terrible foe as we are here in Tanzania, yet through continued effort and a large amount of motivation and sacrifice, I am able to see all of this in its own light. I know why I am here, and I know what it is I must do. I now know how this country has survived the way it is for so long, and even though it would be easy to blame all of our problems on outside interference or a colonial hangover that pertains to destroy our existence, but the truth is much simpler, and is right beneath our very feet, and right in front of our very eyes. Over to the left, out of the window, there she is – Kilimanjaro.
Towering above us, like the guardian of all people who live here; Kilimanjaro presents itself in all its pomp and glory as the one main constant in everyone’s lives. Without it standing there, I believe that most of these people who come here to help would have gone somewhere else. It’s not just a mountain, it’s our home, it is our protector and our saviour. It’s what makes us get out of bed in the morning and it’s what says goodnight to us before we tuck ourselves up in bed. Its roof provides us with our water and our lovely climate. Its limbs spread down from above and give all of us our homes and dwellings without asking for anything in return. Down at its feet it sends its storms and clouds down to irrigate the soil and provide the food and sustenance that all the people of Tanzania need and rely on; and through our minds it gives us the hope we all desire to continue with life and not give up. Despite my technological background and upbringing in England, never mind my own dissolution with life and love, I can appreciate the simplicity and purity of something as fundamental as a place to call home, and I will take this feeling with me to my grave.
So as he said to me on Tuesday, and as he says again now through my headphones, when do we really get to go home, first you must go walking on your own, maybe then we already are home.