Tanzania 6/29/06 - Arusha, Mama Wilson's

We woke up at 6:00 am and got packed up. Craig was in the bathroom when I heard scurrying and then the pitter patter of little feet on the roof of the tent. Mouse #10 was coming to say goodbye! At 7:15 we headed up to breakfast. It was a buffet: bananas, watermelon, honeydew melon, bacon, sausage, fried eggs, beans, bread, and mango juice. Sylvestry gave us the contact info for his foundation. We went down to the Land Rover and got a picture with the staff. We hugged Sylvestery and said "Until next time." We waved goodbye as Michael drove us out of camp.

It is always a little sad for us to move from one part of a trip to the next. As excited as we were about gorilla trekking in Rwanda, we wished we could have spent more time at Kambi ya Tembo. The sun was shining but it was very chilly. We passed by each of our Maasai villages, and again we felt the separation anxiety. These people had all been so welcoming; it was bittersweet to pass by as we left. We passed by the road which would take you to Kilimanjaro, and wondered if we would be back to climb it some day. It was supposed to take 2 1/2 hours to get to Arusha, but it took 3 1/2. Michael wasn't the fastest driver, and the open air vehicle was freezing. You could feel the cold breezes flowing down Kili's slopes and straight into your bones. We wrapped up in our Shukas. Eventually I couldn't stand it any more. I leaned into the back seat, where the luggage was, and dug through my bags trying to find something warm. I eventually found my fleece, which I quickly put on.

We passed through some small villages: Ngare Nairobi, Sanya Juu (a Chagga town Sylvestry mentioned), Lawate Boma NG'ombe, Tikatiti, etc. In the more rural areas, most kids and some adults waved to us. At one point we picked up James, a waiter from Kambi Ya Tembo, who seemed to be by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. As we approached Arusha, we passed by large expanses of cornfields. The corn was fenced in and was labeled according to its "lot". We aren't sure who the company was, but it was some type of hybrid genetically modified corn. We wondered to ourselves about whether such a shift in agriculture was beneficial or detrimental to Tanzania in the long run.

When we finally got to Arusha, there was a bit of culture shock at first. There was air pollution, garbage on the sides of the road, etc. It was a small city, and unlike anything we had seen in a while. We were getting too used to the bush. We drove down a small side road, past a police station, past a sign for "Happy Sausages Ltd.", down what totally looked like a dead end. But it turned into a nice walled compound, like something we saw in Peru. This was Mama Wilson's. Her house was on the property, as well as some guest rooms, a gift shop, a restaurant, and an outbuilding which served as a business office with internet. There was a nice swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs. We were shown to Room 4 by Prudencia. It had a big mosquito net tied up over the bed. The bed frame and bedside tables were hewn out of logs. We had hoped to be able to warm up in the room, but it was very chilly and we both wore our fleeces. We had half an hour to rest and then we met Michael in the open-air dining room for lunch. We ate tomato and cucumber salad, bread, rice, stir fried beef, peppers, and onions. I ate what I could but wasn't that hungry. Craig had a coffee (in an attempt to warm up after the cold journey) and I had a Fanta. It was warm in the sun and cool in the shade. The grounds of Mama Wilson's were beautiful. Lots of tropical plants. A maintenance man was refinishing a bureau in the courtyard. He was doing a painstaking job of sanding it by hand. We watched him for several minutes. There was a cat basking in the sun, and we noticed that it seemed much larger and better-nourished than cats we had seen in Central America.

After lunch we went for a ride with Michael and James (the waiter we had picked up this morning). They took us all around town. On one of the main roads, in the more touristy areas, there were small restaurants everywhere. They had great names, such as "Atomic Superstar Menu Bar & Restaurant," the "Pepsi Personality Garden," and the "Polygon Triangle Restaurant." There was a place called the "New York Store and DVD Library" and the "Las Vegas Cafe." We saw the Arusha International Conference Center, site of the currently assembled UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.No photographs were allowed in the area. We saw a UN vehicle drive by. We saw the clock tower (sponsored by Coca Cola) and then drove down to the industial area. People were walking, riding bikes, driving cars and trucks, and pulling handcarts. Women were selling roasted corn cobs on the side of the road. There was a "General Tyre" that had a huge football field, and everything was brightly painted and decorated with tires. Then we drove through the heart of the city. The old city, as it were. Women were working foot-powered sewing machines, and there were huge food markets (where the food for Kambi ya Tembo is bought fresh every few days). We passed the Arusha Library and stopped at the Cultural Heritage Centre. It was a consignment shop jam packed with gorgeous art. The store was laid out in concentric circles and contained antiques and very expensive (beautiful) art. There was an intricate ebony wood carving that was 12 feet tall and took the artist 14 years to complete. It was beautiful. As part of the gallery was open-air, it was protected from above by electrified fences and razor wire. There were also a couple of rooms which sold less expensive items, and we bought a mask and some Christmas ornaments. Next door they were in the process of building a new Cultural Heritage Centre - a very modern building decorated with a huge representation of a Maasai shield.

Michael then drove us back to the hotel and said that someone (maybe him?) would be back to pick us up at 7 am. We went to the gift shop at Mama Wilson's. Prudencia asked us what we wanted to have for dinner; the chef would prepare something to order. Because I was still dealing with a sensitive stomach, we decided on chicken and mashed potatoes. We continued looking around in the gift shop and bought a shuka and a small intricate ebony wood carving. Ebony is a very interesting wood, as it is very dense and heavy, black on the inside, but with a blonde layer around the perimeter. We met Mama Wilson and her friend Jane in the gift shop. Mama Wilson wasn't what we expected. I don't know why, but we had been expecting some older matriarch. In fact, Mama Wilson was a vibrant, modern, hip, young mother. She and Jane went to her house and We asked Prudencia about confirming our Kenya Airways flight for tomorrow. Apparently we had to call the U.S. office, so we bought a phone card.

Prudencia brought us into Mama Wilson's house so that we could use her cell phone. Mama Wilson placed the call for us and Craig confirmed the flight. They told us to be at the Kilimanjaro airport 2 1/2 hours early. Michael had said we would be picked up at 7 am, and that just wasn't enough time. Mama Wilson called Kibo Adventures and got us a 6 am pickup instead. We sat in her gorgeous home for a while chatting with her and her friend Jane, who was originally from Tanzania but was now living in Denmark. We talked about the nice pace of Africa, U.S. politics, etc. We asked if we could buy some internet time, and she set us up with half an hour. We typed up an email to family and friends, and hit send with 11 minutes left on the timer. Mama Wilson was on her way to a school play with her 7 year old twins. She introduced us to the boys and they headed to the car. We realized we were quickly approaching the end of our internet time, and we were certain that it would time out before even sending our mail. I ran out and caught Mama Wilson before she got into the car and she hooked us up with some extra time before she left. Was this computer actually doing anything? Our mail window seemed totally dead. We were afraid to close the window, in case it was still somehow in the process of sending. Ten minutes went by. All seemed hopeless when suddenly the window refreshed and said that it had successfully sent the mail. Wow, this definitely wasn't home. We would no longer take our DSL connection for granted. Now that the mail had been sent and we had a few moments to spare, we read a few emails from home.

At 7 they called us to dinner. We started out with green banana soup and bread. The main course was chicken in a curry marinade, mashed sweet potatoes, rice, and vegetables. They only had one Fanta left, and Craig was kind enough to let me have it, while he drank a Krest ginger ale. For dessert we had carmelized tiny bananas. It was delicious. At 8:00 we went back to the room and took nice hot showers. While we were at dinner, they had let down the mosquito net. We climbed beneath it and I wrote in the journal. We were asleep by 9. There had been some mosquitoes outside, but they weren't a problem in the room. At 10 pm, our next door neighbors arrived. This woke us up briefly, but we quickly fell back asleep.
The Kambi ya Tembo Staff

Our room at Mama Wilson's

Lunch at Mama Wilson's



Cultural Heritage Centre, Arusha

Mama Wilson

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