Recently, we walked through “Maasai-land”. By far, I think it has been our favorite people group so far. They were so welcoming, and kind. Also, I think I felt at home with their nomad-spirits, and they liked to joke that we have their blood flowing through our veins. Maasai’s walk very far - often we would see them on the roads.They couldn’t believe we would walk such great distances - we must be one of them!
They believe (at least traditionally) that they have ‘come from heaven with their cows’, so they are mostly pastoralists, living with their cows and goats in “the bush” in parts of Tanzania and Kenya. The reason they walk so much is to find better pasture during the dry season, they’ve told us some people walk 1000-2000km just to do so.
Many Maasai’s still wear their traditional dress - making for beautiful hues of purples and reds that would dot the landscape where we were walking. They also carry traditional swords, a stick, and a tool for milking cows. It’s really quite an outfit. Many also wore extravagant jewelery, and had stretched ears from wearing it.
Unfortunately, they would probably also admit that their way of life is becoming more and more challenging because of things like industrialization and fences, even though they’d like to hold onto it as long as possible. Fences make it hard to wander for thousands of kilometers with your cows. And with industrialization, some people are moving to take jobs in the cities. But we are glad we have been able to meet them and learn about their way of life.
Thanks for the watermelons, tea, coffee, conversations, and accepting us among you as one of your own.
Besides the malaria, things like the sun, dehydration, malnutrition and bad water are all likely to make us sick. And it happens regularly enough to be quite annoying.
The most annoying thing about the rain is that it can be really boring. If we’re in the middle of nowhere, it means setting up the tent, hiding, and playing cards. We know four two-person card games. It also means things are wet, so we can’t cook. One time we found a restaurant but the only thing you could order was eggs and french fries.
Ants and flies
There is really no way to describe how annoying they are and that they are EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME. You can’t escape them. Recently, horseflies have also started to show up. Besides being loud and big they bite!
We knew there was a river and a town not too far ahead, and decided to go forward to wash a few clothes and rest in the town. It was still early when we got to the river; we were told on the way to stay on a certain side because on the other was where the crocodiles like to hang out. (Maybe? Maybe not? But we’ll follow the rules I suppose). We follwed advice and walked down to the river where there were a few men doing their laundry and gathering water. It struck me as add to see men doing this and not see any women around at all, but I wrote it off quickly, and Aaron and I hopped across some rocks that put us more int hemiddle of the river where the current was moving faster. As we washed our clothes and took a dip to clean ourselves off as well, more men came and went, some of them apparantly there to bathe. They were not put off at all that I was there and continued about their business as normal, but so apparantly there was a separate men’s and woman’s side to the river! By the time we started to figure it all out, it was too late to do anything about it, so we just did what we had to do and tried to leave semi-gracefully. We stayed in town for the day, and being as the river is the only water source, we had to go back to fetch water before leaving town. This time, we went, knwoginly, to the woman’s side, where also most of the children congregate with their mothers and grandmother’s. You could hear their laughter and splashing grow with every step. It sounded like a pool party. Aaron decided to hang back a bit to not scar himself for life with the naked old ladies, while I got water and brought it back to him to pump. I must admit though, the smell of the woman’s side of the river, made me grateful to have done my laundry on the men’s side, and also very glad that we were purifying the water to drink. Feces is usucally not a fun smell combination with your drinking water.
And that’s why clean water is needed. Because NO ONE should be drinking that.
By the time we left, we had drawn such a crowd of children that we basically led a whole procession back through town. The kids know little English but get a kick out of practicing with us. When they say “good afternoon” and you respond likewise, they laugh hysterically. One kid, Jordin, a 10 year old who had sold me a beer earlier (weird experience) kept running up to the front to “make sure we were good”.
At least we probably gave everyone somthing to talk about for a few days.
We had to get back to inhassaro, moz after going back to
Swaziland to say goodbye to Marty and sell the Land Rover. So how did we get back??
Kombi to Mbabane paid for by friend (A kombi is Africa’s most frequent mode of transportation, located everywhere for a super cheap price. Cheap for a reason. Basic concept is a 12-15 passenger van, loaded up with as many people as possible, usually around 30 - no joke - people sit on laps and crunch as much as possible. And the drivers keep them that full at all times if possible. Like if it’s not full, they won’t go until it is.)
Then another kombi from Mbabane to Manzini for about $1 each
Walked out of city, rode in:
Open bed truck
Open bed truck
Police car (guys we had made friends with before)
Walked 3km to a campsite we used in the past. Stayed there, did laundry and took a bath in the river the next day.
World Vision pickup truck to the border of moz.
Crossed into moz and stayed in the border town for the morning. Pickup truck to next big town.
Then picked up by a white South African guy who was really racist and proud of it.
Car of local guys into city. Stayed in Maputo for the night, the next day rode a bus out of the city for about .50 each.
Side note about the bus: we found the “bus station” and line we were to wait in for the one going in our direction. The line was orderly, people were waiting patiently. But then the bus came, and it became a total mob scene! No rules applied, except push as many people as you can! Old ladies and children were just as ferocious as the rest. I’m really not sure why we even bothered to make a line, really.
The bus was insanely crowded, we thought the town we were headed to was the last one on the line, so we weren’t prepared to have to watch for our departure. But apparently that was not the case although the people around us (somehow, I’m not sure how- must have seen us purchase the ticket?) knew the stop we were getting off at, and although we almost totally missed it, they yelled at the bus driver to “stop for the white people to get off!” and somehow the incredibly crowded bus parted for us to squeeze through with our backpacks. Interesting experience, but anyways, back to the list.
We camped in the bush out there.
The next day was proper insane.
We woke up at 5:30am.
By 6 am a guy in an ambulance (not sure how effective of an ambulance it was, seemed as though it was about to fall apart) takes us a little ways then helps us catch a ride where we rode on TOP of a semi truck.
He took us to a decent size city where we then caught a chappa (equivalent to a kombi just different name in different country) to the next city for less than $2 each.
Got picked up by a guy named Walter and his friends.
Then picked up by a great couple in a really nice SUV - he was a professional Afro singer (and played us some of his music) and she was a doctor from Brazil. Got to listen to Chris Daughtry for the first time since leaving the states. Great couple.
But Longest. Day. Ever.
Next morning, caught a ride in a truck who drove us to just 50km outside of our final destination and the next day we caught a ‘back of pickup truck chappa’ to town.
You know your perspective on cleanliness has changed when the fact that your most recent shower was two weeks ago isn’t disturbing and doesn’t even feel weird… At least until you look in a mirror.
As we were walking (isn’t that how most of our stories start) a car pulled over and a younger middle-aged guy with long dreads and a shirt that read “I have issues” hops out the back to come greet us. He tells us his name is Lima (like the capital of Peru) and that he is a teacher in the next town, and that we should stop to see him when we get there. We exchange phone numbers and the next afternoon we arrived in Manica. He brought us to an old garage on his brothers house that they had turned into a music school! We arrived at the perfect time because the kids were just getting out of regular school and coming to this music school. It looked like exactly what you would imagine if some kids in your neighborhood decided to start a band and took over your one car garage. Drum set, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboard, jembes, the works. The instruments were passed around the room and if you weren’t playing you would end up clapping or dancing or singing. We sang, played and clapped along to songs about not stigmatizing people because of AIDS but helping them; and about travelling brothers and sisters who come to visit Africa. It was a ton of fun. The school has gotten some grans and has worked closely with the Peace Corps volunteers; they will be building a stand alone school in the coming months.
After music school, we went back to Lima’s house and met his wife and 2 boys (who are 12 and 10) and enjoyed time with them, and they allowed us to camp on their land. There was a Massai warrior who walked 38 different countries in Africa and he had also stayed with Lima and his family when he travelled through, so it was neat to be in his footsteps in a way, and hear about his journey as well. We played music late into the evening with Lima and the next day he walked us down to the river to see it and the surrounding sugarcane fields. It was great to be able to stay with Lima and see the great things happening in Manica.
It was our first day in Lesotho and I was already gasping for breath as I climbed the first steep hill of the day. My lungs were not yet adjusted to the quick change in altitude, gaining thousands of meters in just a matter of days. So when we came across a young girl sitting on the guardrail halfway up the hill, we were more than happy to stop and talk for a moment when she asked. Minutes later, we continued walking, but with her by our side, and she ended up walking till lunch with us. It being our first day in the country, it was very helpful to have someone with us who spoke English well and could translate as we spoke to others throughout her village. Although English is the business language in Lesotho, and taught in school, everyone speaks Sesotho at home.
Our friend, her name pronounced, “Tack-Anne” is about 15 and comes from a family of about 15 who all live in the same house. Her mother and father have died, along with a few aunts, so now they all live together. They did not have enough money to send her to school at the time, and she can’t find a job. School I think she said is about R350 a quarter; that’s the equivalent of about $40 USD. I think we broke her heart a little at the end of the day when we had to tell her she could not walk all the way to Egypt with us. So vowing not to break the hearts of any more children, we drove her home after lunch, and continued on.
So since we’ve been “stuck” in PE this past week, Aaron has developed a daily routine of going to drum at the beach. He has met a friend that also plays guitar there and they jam together often. There are also a few street kids that hang out from time to time. Yesterday Marty and I went down with Aaron and we hadn’t been sitting long when 3 kids came up and sat with us. I had a stick with me, and the kids started to make instruments out of some of the objects around us. Coke cans, we invented at least 3 different ways to play a coke can, coke bottles, rocks, some to put in the bottle to make a shaker, some to hit against each other, the stick could be hit against the wood railing, a Simba chips bag could be crinkled to make a cool sound, and of course we had Aaron’s drum. We we’re JAMMIN! It was a ton of fun. My day was made. And then one of them, at that time I just knew him as the one in the black and blue checkered hoodie, started to sing, “My God is good….” and he went on, sang a few more. We ended our time together with him singing some of the verses from “Lean on Me”. I was amazed, for a few reasons. First, he had an INCREDIBLE voice, it was beautiful. Second, it was just totally humbling to hear a street kid starting to sing about how GREAT God is. This kid has nothing but the clothes on his back.
Today I decided to take a walk to the grocery store to buy a few supplies, bread, eggs and what not. As I was walking, who do I see but the kid in the blue and black checkered hoodie! As I got close he recognized me and smiled real big, I stopped to talk to him and he asked where I was going and if he could walk with me. Of course! I said, and off we went. Over the next few hours I got to know my friend Luville. He said he was 15 years old, although you would guess he is 9, I told him he had a name like a famous city. He has never known his parents but has a grandmother and a little brother. Apparently they live very far away; he said cries for them sometimes. He told me his dream was to be able to share the love in his heart with the world. He would also like to play music. He was kind of upset sometimes that when he sang, people thought he only sang for money, and not because he really also loves to sing. But he knows that the people who give him money will be blessed because God said he does that. He also says he believes that one day his dreams will come true, that God will help him.
I was actually quite glad he was with me or I might have walked by the grocery store on accident. He helped me to carry the basket through the store and pick out the items at the lowest prices. :-) Smart kid. I bought him a meat pie and a fanta and myself a diet coke as well, and we sat and talked about life before walking back again. He asked me questions about where I was from, and told me more of his story. We laughed together and had a great time. I told him he would have to call me when he became a famous musician. He sang a gospel song and Rihanna’s “We found love in a hopeless place” song (which he didn’t even know, but its my favorite song!) today too as we walked around. Amazing.
I had a great day with my friend Luville, but please keep him in your prayers tonight because he is probably cold. And in the morning, that he might find food, because sometimes he doesn’t. And pray that all his dreams will come true.
This past week has been absolutely insane.
Car repairs were taking too long. Visas were running out. We had cash and our main debit card stolen a few cities ago, so money transfers were also a mess.
We tried to start problem solving with Plan A and quickly whizzed through to Plan Z. Spent time at the Department of Home Affairs but by the time we waiting for hours in line it was too late for them to do anything for us. Door closed, door closed, door closed.
Ended up renting a car and getting out of the country a day late, becoming illegal aliens for a day. We were charged a crazy fine at the border, they threatened to arrest us if we didn’t pay up right then. They also were saying we would not get the 90 new days back on our passports when leaving. We finally got through, paying the fines, and with them saying we could get 90 days again if we went through a certain border post upon exiting. Okay, at least it’s over right?
Lesotho was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL country. We were a little weary after the crazy events of the past few days, but still were blown away by the scenery. And everyone we met there was absolutely amazing, which helped a bit to restore our faith in humanity. We spent 2 nights there and the second night, we were parked camping closer to a city then usual, and the cops came, were concerned for our safety in that spot and escorted us to a filling station with an armed guard and introduced us to the owner. Super nice people. The next morning we woke up to the filling station owner’s wife asking if she could make us coffee. Amazing, right?
Well we had to drive a few hours out of our way to get to the border post we were told to exit out of; upon arriving and trying to cross, instead of 90 days they gave us SEVEN days on our passports. Are you kidding me?
We got back to return the rental car, which was missing a hubcap when we picked it up. But the people working at the time didn’t believe us when we brought it back, and threatened to not give us our deposit back. Great.
And now we problem solve again.
Walking is the easy part. The rest is harder.
when you take an extra hour to get started in the morning because you want to fill your water tank in the car. Kind of important. A 60liter tank can last up to a week if we use it sparingly.