Sumbawanga... The meeting place of witches


Cabin crew, prepare for landing! My six year old's hand of comfort squeezing mine tightly as we hit another ground in a different place. He is so used to our frequent travel, protecting mum as I pretend again that Iím afraid of a fall. Itís an exciting and comforting routine as we prepare to meet Dad in his next work place. Goodbye Vietnam, good morning Tanzania and a new adventure begins. Iím an xpat wife with a strange kind of life singing Barbara Dixons song: Another suitcase in another hall.
Dar es Salam airport is humid and hot as we shuffle in a queue for that immigration stamp. Its shillings not pounds, preferably dollars they insist and Iím pushed to one side for not having the means. A kind American slips dollars into my hand and I assure him that I will pay back at the baggage hold. Our childís bright face running into his fatherís arms diffuses stress as we kiss, move along and drive to another hotel.
Its 8 am but I want a beer, a cold frothy beer in this sticky heat .Its breakfast time and I do look out of place but I donít care. These hotels all look the same as we do the same, lunch, swim, dinner and bed. We are off to Sumbawanga in the morning where my husband is working on a road project in the middle of nowhere. The meeting place of witches Wikipedia says and my friends assure me that I fit in well.
7am, at the airport again as we are about to board our next flight on MAF Airlines. Mission Aviation Fellowship is a Christian organization and they truly go to where not many have ever gone before. They deliver medicine and prayer to places that cannot be reached but agree to accommodate my husbands company with a few flights a week. This after all, is an aid funded project from the Millennium Challenge, providing a long awaited road. Chances at last for proud beautiful people to transport crops, a light at the end of a road, not even a tunnel. We board the 12 seater flying mini bus and I am truly nervous indeed. My son thinks its cool as the pilot says a prayer asking God for a safe journey in our hour of need. I need the bathroom but itís too late and I hold on looking at the vast empty lands below as we go.
Four hours later but not soon enough and we land in a field with an impressive bump. Kids with brown faces stare from a bordered fence and I run to a bathroom with all my might. Itís a hole in the ground but a relief nonetheless and a driver awaits as we set off for camp.
My eyes can sense only bitter/ sweet. Sunflowers turning on every field as naked kids bathe in dirty rivers and women wash clothes on the mucky verge. My son remains quiet as he stares out the window and then holds my hand for reassuring comfort again. He knows they are poor but asks why God made this happen to them. A little boy waves with such a bright happy smile as he stands at the side of the road leading goats at his heel. Women carrying babies and buckets on their heads, we reciprocate with waves but their smiles we just canít beat.
Six weeks later and my son and I are visiting a local school to give them some books and footballs. This is the day that my heart missed a beat as kids lined up singing for us a Swahili song. They gave Kasper so many clay toys, hand made from red sand with such precision and skill. Motor bikes, aeroplanes, animals and more, such beautiful pieces from such beautiful kids. The principal invited us in to his dark bare office for a drink of warm Fanta and some chat. Kasper went off to the class room where kids sat on a cold stone floor with only a huge black board for furniture and no more. We left with a box of eggs and the chicken who laid them, our gift from the school to us. As our car moved away my sunglasses hid the tears streaming down my face but they did not cry. They only sang louder, a most beautiful Swahili song. There are no witches here, perhaps I am the one.

P Andreasen

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