Walking down the dirt road, I spotted a man in the distance. As we grew closer, it was obvious that we were the target of this larger-than-life Maasai’s gaze, as he stood watching us, shielding the sun from his eyes. I was almost safely past when he called me over, and I timidly altered my course of direction towards the intimidating figure, dressed in the traditional red “dress”, equipped with a belt holding a sword, cattle stick and the extremely out-of-place cell phone. He grasped my hands within his large ones, and kindly but curiously asked about where we were coming from/going, etc. I could see Aaron out of the corner of my eye answering similar questions to a local farmer who had appeared on scene.
Introductions and preliminary questions over, we were soon invited to eat some watermelon, and sit on a bench in the shade.
As the hired farm-hand runs to gather watermelons from the field, the Massai, standing in front of me takes out his sword and starts to clean it. I can’t help wondering what it last cut open and hoping that the next thing it is destined to slice is merely the watermelon.
As I try to brush the outer black seeds off my piece of watermelon (while fondly remembering being scared of the lie that watermelons could grow inside of my if I swallowed one, and teasing my little sister with the same years later) the Maasai reaches his sword over to the piece in my hand and begins to pluck them out with the tip! Although realizing there was nothing to fear within the teddy bear of a man with watermelon juice dribbling down his chin, it was still an interesting moment.
While we feasted, a man on a motorbike came, to eat with us, but also to deliver meat to the farmer, pulling a cardboard box off the back of the bike, and, using a machete to chop up the still bloodied- I’m assuming goat?
After demolishing a whole watermelon, the farmer wouldn’t let us leave without taking more watermelon with us! We tried to get away with just one, but ended up with two…not that we didn’t want watermelon, but when you have to carry it for miles, lets just say you start to wonder whether its more of a burden or blessing. I tried at one point to carry it on my head like a good African women, but realized it wasn’t actually any lighter that way, and gave into my arms getting an extra workout for the day. (How they carry 40lbs of water on their heads I’ll never know!).
It did provide breakfast and lunch for us the next day. Thanks guys!
“Ways Sought to Ensure Great Ruaha Flows Year Round”
(One of Tanzania’s major rivers has dried up in places in post years, demanding a meeting of everyone from the WWF, to Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Water/Irrigation, and many more stakeholders gathering to discuss the problem).
“Trouble Looms for Dar’s Water Thieves”
(Apparently only 12% of water pumped into Dar es Salaam is actually reaching paying customers. Estimates are that 32% of water is being “stolen” and the remaining 56% is lost to leakage. And the police are going on a rampage.)
“Over 7000 Pastoralists Get Reliable Water in Simanjiro”
(7000 Maasi now have access to safe water thanks to an American charity group. “Speaking on behalf of fellow women, Naitajewoke Laiser thanks the American people for the assistance, saying women in the area would now save the time they previously spent on fetching water to engage in other income-generating activities).
These were the HEADLINES of the paper. So many water-related issues! As a side note, mother’s independent access to funds is the number one determinant of whether or not a child will live to see their 5th birthday in the developing world. The trickle down effect of having access to safe water is monumental.
From our perspective, Tanzania seems to have the least amount of access to clean water compared to everywhere else we’ve walked through. We’ve only seen 3 clean water boreholes in the past 3 weeks we’ve been here.
A sideline news item was also that another man had his house burnt down by fellow villagers who superstitiously believed that he was preventing the rain. Those arrested were 45 and older.
On the back page of international news was the news about the Pope resigning and Americans drinking too much.
“If it is becoming night, and you are near a village, stop and ask for the head chairman. It is part of our constitution that he should give you a place to stay, probably in his home”
It has been custom in most places we’ve been, but apparently in Tanzania, it is also law to assist travelers along the way. It’s interesting to see the way that trickles down into everyone else as well. Especially in Tanzania, everyone likes to invite us to their home.
And sometimes they give us things. We were walking over a bridge and children were coming the other direction. They reached over and handed us alphabet cookies. I got a Z and a D. Aaron got 2 H’s.
Our friend Augustine is the one who told us about constitutional hospitality. He had us stay in his home, which is only two rooms. He gave us the bed, and he and his brother slept on the floor. Very humbling.
He had just moved to the area in the past year to become a farmer, after having graduated college and divorcing his wife.
As he hands 3 local kids buckets and 200 shilling pieces (worth about 8cents each) he talks about how he is worried about the future of his country and for the kids, most of whom in his village cannot afford to go to school.
The children return from the river with muddy buckets of water and the conversation changes to local water supply which is currently just the stream down the hill. People either drink the water as is, boil it, or buy bottled water. It is not easy.
Before we left the next day, we enjoyed tea with him and listened to a local radio program, mentioning among other things that a lady from New Zealand died from drinking too much Coke. Weird how worlds collide.
Crossing the Zambezi River on a sketchy 2 mile footbridge, we entered into Malawi at the very southern tip. The easiest border crossing we had ever done, the immigration official wasn’t even wearing his shirt as he stamped our passports. It should have been a sign to us about how hot the next few days would be!
Although the official language here in Malawi is English, we quickly learned that it doesn’t mean people actually speak it. The language most commonly spoken here is Chichewa, although they teach English in schools. Primary school here is free, but not compulsary, secondary school (high school) costs money. Most kids can have the conversation of “Hello, how are you”; “Fine, and you?”; “Bye-bye”, and those who have been fortunate enough to go to secondary school speak pretty fluently.
It was obvious even from our first day that the underlying infastructure in Malawi is stronger than Mozambique. Most towns actually have electricty (although blackouts are frequent), and so far finding water has been relitively easy. Plus, people seem to have an understanding of needed to drink clean water from the boreholes/pumps/wells.
Currency in Malawi is the Kwacha and there are more than 300K for 1USD. We are constantly dealing in the 1000’s for things - its kind of terrifyingly exciting to ask the ATM to give you tens of thousands at once! Interestingly enough though, they actually just introduced the 1000K bill here recently; that is now their largest bill, but worth less than $5! So perhaps that suggests it, but yes, things here are very cheap! We can get mangoes for less than a penny, bread for 25 cents, a good meal out to eat for less than $3!
So far we are enjoying it here in Malawi! Look forward to posting our stories!
Without the Land Rover, getting clean water is one of our most important tasks. But sometimes it is difficult. Here’s a week’s worth of experiences:
Day One and Day Two
- Not bad, there were pumps every 15km or so (10 miles) , we filled our two camelbaks and 2 water bottles.
- Out. Of. Water.
Walked about 5 miles, found a bush mechanic who gave us a glass of water each.
Walked another mile. Bought a 1.5lt bottle from a small store. (BTW first COLD water we had in many, many months).
Walked remaining 5 miles to town, found a pump, with enough water to get us through to thenext morning.
- Walked to small village. Inquired about water. Was pointed in a general direction, walked about 20 minutes before finding the pump. Walked back. Goal was to make next river by nightfall. Sucessful.
- Goal was to make the next two rivers, Rio Bunga and Rio Repembe.
Rio Bunga - no water.
Found small unmarked village and a pump! Filled up main water containers.
Rio Repembe- no water.
Decision point: Go forward with a chance or go back 5 miles and get more. We decided to go foward the next day and ration water.
Next River is River Gorgongosa, approx 20 miles away.
5:30am - I woke up already feeling like I had a hangover. Then I remembered, nope, just in the middle of Africa with only a bit of water.
And nothing, nothing, nothing we find.
8:30am - Found people, asked them for water. But was offered a sip of “trational beer” - made with too much yeast, in a diesel jug with leaves as a stopper, poured into a Coke can with the top cut off. Live ants floating on the top. You don’t refuse gifts in Africa, but it wasn’t what we really needed. Bottoms up?
10am - Two Land Riover pulled over. More like, sped past, screeched to a halt, flipped a U-turn and sped back. Yay! They had water! And also gave us apples, oranges,beef jerky, sweetened condensed milk. It was like Christmas! Glad they came becuase it would have been a rough stretch. In late afternoon we finally found a well. River Gorgongosa was also dry.
Now we know there is a town 8-10 miles away, so feeling okay and have water. Man pulls over in the early morning with a bottle of ice water. 2 times in one week that we got cold water! Couldn’t believe our luck! Made it to the next village fine, and now writing from a major town.
But yea, so water is a big deal.
Marty was sleeping outside in the tent, Aaron and I were inside the car, me in the backseat, Aaron sprawled across the front. It was around midnight, and all of a sudden I hear a knock on the side of the car. As I sat up thinking, “great, someone really wants to talk to us in the middle of the night?!?”. I suddenly realized that the field in front of me was on fire with the wind blowing in our direction. It reminded me of the scene from Free Willy where Willy has to jump over the fire to escape to freedom, as my viewpoint at that moment saw the fire coming from every angle (But luckily, that was not the case, we had a clear “exit” behind us). “Aaron, wake up!!” I managed to spit out in a dazy, nervous exclamation. He sat up with a start and we discovered it was Marty knocking on the door, who had smelled the fire and gotten out of the tent to investigate. We managed to get all of our stuff shoved in the Land Rover and drive out of the bush and down the road to a safe spot. Still not sure how it started, the next day we drove back by and it apparently had stopped itself not far past our campsite. Definitely an interesting experience, buy one I’d rather not repeat.
We are super honored to announce that two incredible people have given up their birthdays this month for clean water! Jaime Markham of East Hartford, CT and Rebecca Conner of Carbondale, IL have given up their birthdays this month so that others might have CLEAN WATER! So far they have both raised more than $350 a piece.
Only $20 gives someone clean water for 20 years, so through their birthdays, 35 more people will have access to clean, safe, drinking water.
Way to go guys! Thanks for giving up your birthday so that others might live.
If you’d like to give up your birthday, or any holiday for clean water, ask us how and we will get you started!
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.
Protests of note in South Africa TODAY: I know CNN tells you all about protests around the world. But here are some pretty significant ones happening RIGHT NOW, in cities we have traveled near in the past month, places that are currently only a few hours drive away.
- This picture (above) is from the community of Sweet Home Farm, Phillipi; they are a settlement that wants basic things like taps and electricity. They have been told they cannot get help from the government because they are on private land - of course this is after they voted their representative into office, who before being elected said the opposite.
And one more photo:
A protest about school overcrowding is becoming violent. What do the people want?
“Firstly, our classrooms are overcrowded, secondly, we do not have benches and desks, and thirdly, we want a high school. We have learners from Grade R up to matric using the same school premises. We can’t have children in a Grade 1 class mixing with a learner in Grade 12, it’s wrong,” said the Principal.
The students themselves burned down three mobile classrooms; they are refusing to accept their current school conditions.
We passed through a town called Hermanus right on the coast. It’s one of those coastal towns where lots of South Africans come to vacation, but enough out of the way that fewer foreigners end up, unless on extended holiday. When we first got into town I had dreams of an internet café. When my plan C failed, and no internet was to be found, I was tired and frustrated. A silly frustration really, but when you are tired, everything compounds. As I admitted defeat, Marty drove us down to a beach/cliff area that he had found during the day. Aaron wandered around and explored, while Marty and I walked down to the sand. We started playing a game to see who could go the farthest without getting their shorts wet. We would try to run and time the waves and outsmart each other. A silly game really, but it made me laugh (the others on the beach also laughed at us) and quickly wiped all my frustrations away. Amazing how a silly frustration can be solved by a silly game.
Afterwards, Marty and Aaron climbed far out onto the rocks where the water was crashing and splashing high. I stayed back and ended up talking to an older couple for a while. They said that this beach area was given its name, literally meaning “angry waters” in Afrikaans, and that I should tell the boys to be careful, because the waves have taken out tourists before. Marty came back completely soaked to the bone with a huge grin on his face.