Tanzania postcards 4: barbecue bridges

basketball

basketball1

nana swing

An ordinary Sunday in Mwanza. Hot, hot sun; kites wheeling overhead; deafening songs of praise belting out from the revival meeting in the centre of town.

Our friends held a barbecue. The guests were from seven countries across three continents. We were Christian, Muslim and ‘prefer not to say’. There was peri peri chicken, cardamom spiced rice, and pizza cooked from scratch by ten-year-old Caleb.

The young ones played football and basketball; a couple of the older ones injured themselves trying to keep up. The toddler worked out how to turn on the outside tap and shrieked with laughter each time he soaked himself with the sudden rush of cool water.

The sun sinks fast here. HALLELUJAH, screamed the revival preacher as the shadows lengthened and the kites flew in to roost on the treetops. Hallelujah, I whispered as the guests began to say their goodbyes. Kwaheri … Asante … See you again, I hope.

Tanzania postcards 3: death birds

marabou stork

We have nicknamed them the death birds. Properly known as Marabou storks, they are some of the ugliest creatures I have ever seen, with their scraggy bald necks and stick-like legs that bend in the middle as if hinged.

They gather wherever anything is festering. When we visited the markets in Mwanza, we found them congregated on heaps of rotting vegetables: the putrid smell complementing the birds’ funereal appearance.

But then someone suggested that they were probably a benefit to the area. Rubbish that is consumed cannot linger to spread infection and disease.

So they might look evil, but actually they are fulfilling a valuable service. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

Picture credit

Postcards from Tanzania 2: load bearing

load1

Wherever you go in Mwanza, you see women carrying improbable loads on their heads. They make it look so easy, walking with straight backs and an easy grace.

When we visited a nearby village, we met a young woman who had been carrying a bowl of bricks on her head for half an hour.

Here’s what happened when our friend, a 6ft tall rugby player, tried to lift the same bowl above his shoulders.

mark bricks

 Appearances can be deceptive.

Delayed in the post

I was hoping to publish a whole series of ‘postcards’ from Tanzania, but there is so much here that is new and thought-provoking that it seems wiser to wait until we get home. It’s also quite hard to upload pictures. I’ve got some short posts that are nearly ready to go, and look forward to sharing them very soon.

Tanzania postcards 1: vegetable solidarity

One of the many things I love about growing food is that it is so easy to make connections with other gardeners. When we left Sheffield to stay with friends in Tanzania last week, we were just celebrating the first ripe plum from a tree we planted in 2012.

plum

When we arrived in Tanzania, our friends’ gardener Abu allowed me to photograph him harvesting their first paw paw.

paw paw

Then Abu took me all around the garden he and our friends have created by transforming what was a huge pile of rubble into a thriving, productive vegetable patch.

keyhole garden resized

I had heard about keyhole gardens before and it was fascinating to see them in action. The gardens have a central hole for water and compostable kitchen waste: they are a kind of recycling system that allows nutrients to spread throughout the soil and they have the added benefit of making maximum use of water in very dry areas.

bananas resized

Abu is also growing five different kinds of banana, along with spinach, rocket, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cassava, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, chillies, onions, avocado, carrots, peppers – and probably more that I have forgotten.

Leaves from the banana trees are used to shade a special germination area, protecting the tender young seedlings from the strong Tanzanian sun.

shelter resized

I gave Abu some runner bean seeds from England and we talked about our favourite herbs. I promised to send him some basil seeds, which he loves but finds hard to get in Tanzania. It was a conversation that made me feel immediately connected in a country I have never visited before.

Thank you, Abu, for giving me such a great welcome.