Oh heyyyyy Mt Kilimanjaro 🗻
I’m missing Karl Stefanovic at the moment. In Arusha I wake up every day to the shrieking sounds of exorcisms. My host family is very religious, and our Dada (maid) is addicted to Emmanuel TV, a cray cray Christian television network with a morning show dedicated to a Nigerian ‘prophet’ who beats the evil spirits out of his god-suffering lambs. To crowds of thousands, the prophet summons the afflicted (usually women) to the stage to perform his purification.
From what I can gather, it goes something like this:
The selected believer clambers forward and collapses at the prophet’s feet, emitting a sort of pre-wail to the tortured experience to follow. The prophet then coaxes his subject to share the manifestations of her demons to the audience, which she does, with a great deal of trembling and whimpering. Signs of evil range from whinging wives, to women with irregular menstruations. In case the broadcast audience cannot grasp how depraved these souls really are, the sins are also communicated as subtitles.
As the prophet repeats the manifestations for the crowd in a booming voice, the believers start to show us that they are indeed possessed. The trembling takes over their entire bodies, and the wailing become hysterical. Their eyes roll backwards and their arms flail wildly around their heads. They fall to the floor and experience violent seizures, so the prophet will often strike them several times to really bash out the evil, and screech at Jesus to save them.
It’s pretty intense. In the top left corner of the screen there is an African equivalent of a 1800 TO PRAY number. I'm guessing it's not Jesus on the end of the line and the per minute rate could bring on many of the physical reactions described above. Call it blasphemy but I’d say this prophet is making a tidy profit..
For the past ten (plus) years, my Saturday mornings have been spent deep in my pillow sleeping off the previous night’s smorgasboard of martinis and rosé. Last Saturday, I found myself up at 6.30am vaccinating three week old chickens. I was one of three volunteers assisting an NGO called Shukuru, and we spent the day following a local chap named Haggai around the Sanyajuu village up in the hills near Moshi. Sanyajuu is around an hour and a half’s drive from Arusha and is green and lush; a sensory delight after a week of chaos and fumes in the big smoke.
Shukuru was established in 2012 by an American woman named Joanne, whose mission is to improve girls’ access to secondary education. In Tanzania four out of five girls will not attend secondary school. While primary school is government funded, secondary school fees can exceed USD $150 per year, a prohibitive cost for most families. While many NGO’s fundraise to donate money, pure charity is not a sustainable or empowering solution. Shukuru is different. The Shukuru model provides baby chicks to primary aged girls to care for and rear until they are mature and ready to be sold at market. The girls can supplement the poultry sales with eggs and manure, enabling them to self-finance their continued education, as well as teaching business skills and confidence.
The Shukuru girls we visited were all aged between 12 and 14. If I recall myself at the same age, I was at boarding school where I spent weekends skiing, horseriding, and throwing soggy Weet Bix at the ceiling fan for kicks. A total turd. Of the eight mudbrick and timber scrap homes we visited in Sanyajuu, most did not have electricity or running water yet were immaculately kept. Unlike Arusha, there was no garbage or city filth, the animals were well cared for, and the pet dogs actually had names, like Rasta and Swag.
The last girl we went to see was an orphan who had recently survived a fire at her house. One of her grandmother’s two cows had burned to death. The remaining cow was covered in welts and burns, and his weeping face was absolutely heart breaking. I had to go and recover in the banda (Swahili for chicken coop), and take a few deep breaths of manure air.
I never thought that vaccinating smelly birds would be such a helluva day. The Shukuru girls were the most beautiful, brave and dedicated little souls. As we got in Joanne’s car to head back to Arusha, my heart was wide open. Check out her good work at www.shukuru.org.
Just completed Day 1 of my stint here in Arusha, Tanzania volunteering on a micro finance project. It was induction day, and the organisation I am here with provided an intro to the local community and customs, concluding with a short tour of the town to point out various landmarks and amenities.
Being late wet season, the roads are decorated in garbage as well as a lovely ankle-deep sludge (so maybe Birkenstocks weren't the greatest idea). The streets are also the footpaths, and trucks and dalla-dallas (hectic mini vans that provide a public transport solution) emit a choking black exhaust that stings your eyes and leaves an acrid taste on your lips.
There are packs of enterprising gents on every street corner wanting to sell you something or have a conversation in Swahili, and throngs of adorable children shout MZUNGU! as you pass.
The town centre is called "Clock Tower" and there is indeed a small Coca Cola clock atop a stone tower in the middle of a chaotic roundabout. Apparently this crowded area is where your iPhone or wallet will get snitched, and is also a target for the occasional bombing. Yes I heard right, bombing, though I couldn't get a clear understanding of who was responsible.
Surrounding this landmark are Mzungu hotels and eateries, many that offer avocado as a beverage (milkshake, smoothie, puréed over ice perhaps) not because they are hip and vegan, but because avocados are in abundance so why not.
The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is just a little further up the street near other government buildings. Arusha is host to many important gatherings on East African politics and economics, and this week there is a summit on security in the region. It is strange to think that local and foreign delegates congregate here to discuss the big issues, in a building surrounded by bedlam.
After I bought myself an AUD $12.50 mobile phone and figured out which credit card permitted me to withdraw Tanzanian Shillings from the ATM, I clung to my backpack (correct I'm wearing a backpack) as if my life depended on it, and headed for home, praying for the
muggers to have mercy.
Grubby and jetlagged, I made it back to my host family and went to collapse in my bedroom. I hadn't locked the door (my room is inside the main house, and I didn't want to appear paranoid) and as such discovered our maid Dada's 3 year old daughter with my 4 year old host brother trying to shave off his eyebrow with my razor. Seems I had learned who I should really be looking out for.
Yesterday I touched down at Kiliminjaro Airport, in Northern Tanzania.