I got to spend some time with Steve Fisher, an old Peace Corps colleague
who has been living in Dar Es Salaam , the capitol of Tanzania for about
the last twelve years. Steve was travelling to the game parks west of
Moshi with his family of Ester, his wife, and Linda and Russell their two
children and Lise, his elder child from his first marriage. It was the
first time Lise had met her half siblings on this trip. It was a nice
experience for all of us to renew and become acquainted. I'd see Lise
once when she was about three years old. The two younger children are
bilingual and Ester speaks only Swahili. It was and interesting day
linguistically. We drove up the mountain to a school we both knew,
Lyamungu, where Charles Fels and David Irwin had once taught. Visited
with the headmaster and took a few pictures. Back to town we stopped at
the best internet cafe for the coffee,. Lise being in withdrawal from Starbucks,
we got her addiction rekindled. Even had a bagel and tuna fish salad. I
couldn't resist after all this time.
I noticed this morning that I've lost considerable weight on this trip.
Pants are very loose.
The Fishers left Sunday AM and I went to do a little shopping and stopped
in a store and the co owner recognized me from the previous day in his
other store. His name was Omari Juma, and I had mentioned, like the
artist Mwariko Omari. He said 'Yes, do you know him?' I said yes, though
I had only visited his studio once or twice in 1973, but had followed his
career a bit over the years noticing that he had had exhibits in Europe
of his sculptures. Omari Juma, the previous time had offered to take me
to see Mwariko, but I didn't take the offer too seriously, but this time
Omari Juma said, 'Are you ready to go? I have my car here.' Sure thing.
Off we went. He offer to do a side trip through the Rau forest south of
town on the plains where I had never been. So off we went to Mwariko's.
Mwriko greeted us enthusiastically, and we toured his place and met some
of the young artists working there. We had tea and some sandwiches and by
then he gathered up some performers for a dance exhibition. I'd already
given him some money to support the kids but the exhibition would have
happened without my contribution. They did some drumming and dancing and
I was thinking that to interest the tourists they might need to add a few
acrobatics. Little did I realize that acrobatics were the second part of
the show. They did an acrobatics exhibition that could rival the chinese
and north koreans. Great handsprings, jumping through hoops, and stacking
six chairs on each other and doing handstands at each level, some
juggling and they were covered in sweat and dirt as the show was outside
in a dusty courtyard. Wonderful day. They were going on to perform at a
hotel that night so, Omari offered to carry their drums in his car to
that hotel. We went on to the Rau Forest, but had to go off road from
Mwariko's to get there. We had a guide with us to get through the various
gardens, farms , and one person wide trails. Finally hit the road and
were into the forest only about a mile or two out of town. In the time I
was here in the 60's I didn't know it existed. I'll have to google it to
find out more. It's a rain forest but also has a good ground water source
from streams coming down the mountain. Probably the streams are a better
source than the rain. But there are huge trees some 100 feet up to their
first branches. We drove through in about twenty minutes and found
ourselves in rice paddies developed by the Japanese from the water runoff
from Mt Kilimanjaro. I photographed the old German train station built in
the 1890's. There's no more passenger service, but a local Indian merchant
has bought the station and is looking at the possibility of opening a
steam driven tourist train that would do the 400 mile run down to Dar. It
would be a great attraction for train buffs. I topped the day with a
sundowner on the Kikondoro hotel roof, and the mountain showed itself for
a few minutes, but not very clearly. Then down to Chez Deli for a prawn
curry. Still making up for the receding waistline.
Today, Monday I’m going up the mountain to do some hiking and will
probably head to Dar Es Salaam and Kilwa Kisiwani a day's bus south of
Dar. Then back to Dar, maybe Zanzibar and home on the 24th.
Today things got under way slowly as I tried to see the local bishop Mgr.
Amadeus, who I had known when he was the rector at St. James Seminary on
Kilimanjaro. He wasn't in to answer my question on the burial site of
Giovanni Balletto, with whom I used to climb the mountain. Giovanni was
one of those rare persons, an Italian war hero. He had been interned in a
prison camp in Kenya during WWII. He was a civilian doctor in Ethiopia,
making a small fortune treating Italian colonials for STD's. However,
when the Italians surrendered Ethiopia all civilians were sent down to
various British colonies to prison camps.
He was in for about 6 years. Being a mountain climber, having grown up
climbing in the Dolomites in Italy as a youngster, and being interred at
the base of Mt. Kenya, a 17,000 foot mountain, the juices began to flow
for rekindling the climbing option. He found two other climbers in the camp
and for months they began making plans, including cold forging an ice axe
from a hammer, crampons from an old running board, and rope from the rope
mattresses they all slept on. Finally the day came. Their only map of the
mountain was from a picture on a tin can of fruit they had in the camp.
They broke out and were free men for seventeen days. They did not reach
the highest point on the mountain, but did get to Point Lenana which is
where most tourists climb to today. They raised the Italian flag on the
mountain, and proceded down and broke back into the camp as they had
nowhere else to go. They stayed there two weeks before turning themselves
in. The Brits knew they had escaped but did not know they were back.
Another insult added to the escape. When they were discovered Giovanni
told me they got sent to another camp as punishment where all the
hardcore fascists were kept. They were screaming for their rights under
the Geneva Convention and as a consequence, they got much better
treatment than the other civilians.
When the war was over , Giovanni stayed in East Africa and continued his
work as a doctor eventually coming to the mountain and setting up a
clinic at Himo, below Marangu. I got to know him through the Kilimanjaro
Mountain Club which was mainly a social organization, but Giovanni liked
to climb and so did I. He taught me a lot about the sport.
In 1971, I believe, he fathered a child with a local woman, but the
church did not allow a wedding as Giovanni's first wife had left him and
gotten a divorce. A history of depression did not help and Giovanni
eventually took his own life.
Another priest informed me that he is buried in the Greek cemetery as the
Catholics could not bury him on their sacred ground. I will go there
So later in the morning I headed up to a village called Uru to see if I
could find the family of Peter Mushi, an African priest serving a parish
in the Bronx. He has been to our home several times and I remembered him
saying his family was in Uru. I got the bus up that way but walked on
several miles to the first Catholic Church I saw, Mawela parish. No one
knew Peter, but someone suggested I go up to the next parish or the
seminary. I did a few more miles on foot and was quite tired and stopped
for a drink at a small store where a fellow already fairly well lit,
offered to walk me back down to the seminary, about a 30 minute walk
through the banana and coffee shambas which was another of my goals to do
a hike in that terrain. We arrived at URU Seminary and the Rector, Rvd.
Anthony Nyari invited me in for lunch. He had only been rector for a
week, but he was happy to take me down to Peter's family's house. We
drove back down further to a house I had passed much earlier that morning
and we had a grand visit , unannounced, with Peter's family. Peter's
father was in failing health, lying on the porch, not having moved in
days. He is about 90 years old. Peter's mother a large framed very lively
lady , herself in her late seventies, received us warmly. She sent the
granddaughter Diana off to get soft drinks at the local store. Anthony
did some translating for us. Turned out that Mrs. Mushi was well educated
for a woman of her generation. I struggled to find something to give them
and remembered the crucifix that Gayle Almanrode had given me before
leaving. I pulled out a knife which was a bit of a shock and put it to my
throat, which might have been even more of one, cut the cord and
presented the cross to Mrs. Mushi. Fr. Anthony said prayers and they gave
it to Mr.Mushi. Eventually we toured the shamba, saw their biogas plant
for light and cooking and walked down to the road to wait for the bus.
Suddenly we looked back and saw Mr. Mushi dressed and on his feet
strolling down to the road. Diana brought him a chair to sit and wait. He
said he was feeling much better and thanked me for the crucifix. Finally
my bus came and I' m now back in Moshi. Needed some money at the bank ATM
, but it is down. Maybe if I still had that cross...