Our final months in East Africa were as full as the first — safaris with guests, my ELCT film work, one last Little Theatre performance (as the leads in “Butterflies are Free”), plus the complicated and red-tape-full preparations for leaving any overseas post. All interspersed with the sadness of saying goodbye, in more ways than one, to dear friends. Here are relevant excerpts from letters I wrote home.
Jane Shelter Ross and her husband Dick are coming next week. I expect you remember Jane is the woman who introduced Russ and me. We plan to go camping with them at Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge [inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area]. Olduvai is where Dr. and Mrs. Leakey discovered the most ancient humanoid remains up to that time. Actually, it was Mrs. Leakey who discovered the famous skull, but Dr. Leakey often gets credit.
I’m in the process of organizing our safari. We’ve got a large, borrowed tent up in our back yard, drying and airing. The spare bedroom is full of first-aid kits, water filters, saws, hatchets, sleeping bags, toilet paper, plastic plates and the 1001 things you need to survive on your own in this country. I’m trying to plan a menu that starts with chicken gumbo on the first night and ends with tinned meat and potatoes on the last. In the beginning, we can carry some frozen things in the cooler, but the food will go downhill from there.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the chance to meet Mrs. Leakey, who discovered zinjantropus at Olduvai. Russ had been encouraged to write her a letter by the govt. tourist officer in Arusha, and she replied most graciously, inviting us to spend the day with her. So often magazine articles make famous people seem un-human. One has a picture of Mary Leakey on her knees in the dust for 25 years, poring over skull fragments at night and never going to the bathroom. She is, in fact, a very warm human being. She had us to tea, expressing pleasurable surprise at her first taste of peanut butter cookies. We’d brought them as our contribution and left the remains behind for her enjoyment. Mrs. L talked at length about her work and answered our stupid layman’s questions with the same attention she would’ve afforded a scientist. One of her Dalmatians had stepped on a scorpion just as we arrived, so she and I spent our time intermittently soaking its paw in ice water and commiserating as only dog-lovers can.
If you look back through your National Geographics, you should be able to find a picture of her. She continues their work, tho her husband has passed away. She had some witty things to say about the Geographic people, who finance her work most generously but who are a bit feudal.
Yesterday we picked up Bradshaw, our new golden Lab puppy. Apart from his vomiting with excitement yesterday evening and two piles on the white linoleum last night, we’re all doing fine. He seems very intelligent and has adjusted well to being without his mama and his first human family. He’s ALMOST house-broken.
Heard [Father of Tanzania and the country’s first President] Julius Nyerere address the East African Community General Assembly in Arusha. He’s very impressive, highly articulate and dedicated to E.A. unity.
Last week, three women friends were driving to Moshi on that terrible road, where they were struck by a beer truck: one killed instantly, the driver (our close friend) rushed to Nairobi by the Flying Doctors where she was on the critical list for ten days, the third requiring plastic surgery to rebuild her face.
While in Nairobi, I twice visited our dear friend who was in the terrible crash. Babette’s still in hospital 4 weeks after the accident, in traction and suffering from an unknown infection which she picked up in Arusha Hospital. She and her husband would have returned to their home country by now if it hadn’t been for the bad luck. She’s being very brave, but it will take a long time to heal from the wounds, both psychological and physical. The husband of the woman who was killed is suing the brewery for $100,000.
Sacramento friends have written to confirm that they will be climbing Kilimanjaro with us in August, so we then confirmed our reservations for porters, space in the 3 overnight climbers’ huts, etc.
Babette, our friend who was medevacked to Nairobi, leaves tonight on a stretcher with a nurse for Europe. They were to go home two weeks ago, when she was well enough to walk with crutches. But she has developed another infection, taken a turn for the worse and will now be medevacked to one of Europe’s finest hospitals.
I’ve just completed the first draft of the film script, turning in one carbon to the ELCT offices and mailing one to Nairobi to the company which is trying to decide if they want to do the production. I’ve devoted every morning (and sometimes more) to this project for the last 7 days straight — no weekend off — sometimes typing into the night.
I’m leaving Thursday for Nairobi with the producer of “Butterflies are Free” to buy new underwear. We have to appear in our undies in one of the scenes, and we don’t have anything decent enough to wear. While in Nairobi, I’ll meet with the production co. to discuss details of filming the ELCT script. In the meantime, I have 2 days to prepare production notes, etc.
We were saddened to receive a letter from Babette’s husband, saying she died of complications in an Oslo hospital, 4 months after the accident. It was a great shock and a sobering experience. She was such a lovely person.
We’re grateful for your willingness to receive and hold our air freight while we’re traveling. We’ve begun to plot our trip home. All the arrangements are yet to be made, so nothing’s definite yet. We hope to have about ten days with you before and after Christmas, leaving around the 27th to spend New Year’s with the Sunshines in California.
It begins to look as if the East African Community may fold, and Russ has been a little depressed lately. The Treaty goes up for review this year, and Kenya has appointed the Community’s two biggest critics to head its delegation to the meeting. All indications are that the Partner States [Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda] really need the Community in these troubled times, but other considerations are getting in the way. The World Bank has told them there will be no funds coming unless the Community hangs together.
I don’t know if I told you that I designed a wall mural for the set of “Butterflies.” It measures 11′ x 18′ and features a giant rainbow, clouds and sun. I’ve been spending a number of afternoons at the theater drawing and painting it.
We’re having really cold days now, with a fire in the fireplace all day long. The rains have stopped, and we have a lot of cloud cover. That means Kilimanjaro will be really cold, although the summit is above the clouds, so that may help. Actually, the cold is a boon to climbers, because it means the oxygen content will be higher.
Bradshaw has had an ear infection, and that means holding him down once a day to put in ear drops. Since he now weighs close to 100 pounds and doesn’t want anyone to touch his ears anyway, we spend a lot of time dog wrassling.
One of the nice things about being in “Butterflies” is that I get my hair done for free. The other side of the coin is that I spend two hours a day for seven days in the beauty shop. It’ll be very curly.
The first dress rehearsal for the play is tonight. I stumbled over a rock while stepping off a curb last Tuesday and twisted an ankle. It’s not serious, but it’s painful and purple. The doc says nothing is broken, but I’m taking it easy until next week, so it’ll be in good shape for the play.
We don’t know yet exactly when we’re leaving here, but it’ll be sometime in early Nov. These things take so long to arrange. First, they have to send us the open air ticket from America. That hasn’t arrived yet. Then we take it to an agent in Nairobi and see what we can organize. Most of the places we want to visit on the way home won’t have daily flights, so we’ll have to be flexible in our schedule. At this point, we’re thinking about a week or ten days in Egypt, 4-5 days in Istanbul, a week or so in Greece, and however long it takes for interviews, etc. in New York and Washington.
I guess we made Kilimanjaro sound more rugged than it is. Although Mt. Kenya requires alpine experience, Kili is simply a rigorous hike and keep going til you run out of mountain at about 19,000 feet. It’s been described as a 5-day, 70-mile hike with a 12,000-foot gain in altitude.
I bought some material in Nairobi to make Russ a winter nightshirt and me a rust-colored tweed skirt for our trip home. We both plan to renew our wardrobes when we get back. Hope the Xmas sales are a help. We won’t want to spend too much until we know what our job situation will be. Anyway, it’ll be fun to have new clothes after 2 years wearing the same things.
Russ climbed to Kilimanjaro’s highest peak — most folks don’t even make it to the rim of the crater — so he’s been on the highest point in Africa. Our friend made it to just below the rim, and his wife slept in at the 3rd hut (16,000′). I stayed behind at the 2nd hut (12,300′) with diarrhea. We all enjoyed the trek itself as much as anything. The scenery, terrain and plant life are just terrific. Especially the giant groundsels, which only grow on Kili.
“Butterflies Are Free” was sold out every night. We were especially pleased, because it’s a comedy with some meat to it and a few tears among the laughs.
I got the film script back from the Lutheran Church with minimal suggestions for changes. They realized, however, that they’d left one diocese out, so I’ll be traveling to southern Tanzania around Sept. 6 to visit another farm school. I should then have that responsibility finished by the end of Sept. [That film safari was described in Post #6.]
Two expat friends are about to give birth here, so I’m making baby quilts for both, using African fabrics. [Turns out one of the fathers is in the photos at the left — the mustachioed John Gruszka.] I’m doing a lot of sewing for us too, mostly for our trip back to the States.
We’re hoping to go with friends to Lamu off the northern Kenya coast during the first week of October. A medieval island from Arab days, still with only foot traffic.
We were in Nairobi last week and returned with our air tickets, so all dates are now confirmed. We’re in the midst of sorting through things and coping with all the red tape necessary to leave. I’m getting my local taxes straightened out, and Russ has begun the long process of paperwork for resident aliens to ensure that we can take out our possessions and remaining currency. This process usually takes 4-6 weeks and will probably entail a trip to Dar es Salaam.
This Saturday, the EAC Finance Minister is hosting a going-away dinner party for us, a real dress-up affair. He and Russ have worked closely together on a number of projects, the main one being negotiation of the construction contract for the East African Community Headquarters.
It looks as if we may have someone to take on Shabani and Saidi as staff and Bradshaw too. But we still don’t know what to do about our cat, Meetra. Our hearts would like her to come with us, but that may not be the best thing for her.
We hope to have a sale of our things soon: books, plants, pots and pans and dishes, sheets, towels, clothes, my old sewing machine, patterns, sewing notions, etc. Women started inquiring 6 months ago about the sewing machine and its bulky, heavy current-converter. We have to accept Tanzanian shillings, which we can’t exchange for dollars, so we’ll live off the shillings between the sale and departure.
We had a super time in Lamu with its narrow, twisting streets and shops full of interesting things. We bought an intricately decorated Arab coffee pot in brass and a silver receptacle for wearing a phrase from the Koran around the neck. We also got stylized representations of the eyes of Allah which the boatmen put on their dhows to guide them across the sea. These are for the young folks in the Sunshine family. If we were to live forever in E. Africa, we’d want a traditional house on Lamu as a retreat. They’re tall and narrow with just a door in a wall on the street side. But inside is a courtyard with balconies stretching to the top floors and pulling hot air up to drift away.
The trip itself was most eventful. On the way down, our friends’ car was first on the scene of an accident in which a VW tourist bus overturned, injuring everyone. We ferried them to the nearby Taita Hills Hotel in the middle of Tsavo Park, administering first aid and arranging for the Flying Doctors to come for those most severely injured.
Then, on the way back, our friends realized they’d left their passports in Mombasa just as we neared the spot of the bus crash. They turned around, and we got out to hitch a ride to Arusha — an hour’s wait on this infrequently travelled dirt road. If we hadn’t got a ride, we’d have stayed in the hotel. But we were lucky to be picked up by a lady who owns one of the beach hotels in Mombasa and her daughter. They were on their way to see the latest Arusha Little Theatre production, in which a relative was playing. Small world, East Africa.
Just before we left for Lamu, I received a telegram from Insgroup [with whom I’d previously worked on instructional media development], asking how my Persian was and if I could be in Tehran 16-20 November to help with an exhibition they’re doing there. I sent a telegram back, saying I could be there and that my Persian was rusty but retrievable. Waiting for final word.
We found a good home for Meetra. Now all our Arusha family will be okay.
We’re organizing a big goodbye party this Saturday — as many as 100 people and a menu of bite-size meat pies, spicy deep-fried mashed potatoes, garlic and plain sausage from the Polish butcher, nuts, olives, carrot sticks and celery, deviled eggs, potato chips, plus assorted cheeses, pate and smoked oysters we brought from Nairobi. All washed down with beer, coke and ginger ale.
I hope to get our air freight taken care of next week, but there’s a lot of red tape involved. As soon as it’s on its way, I’ll let you know.
We received a confirmation on the Tehran thing, so we’ll be there several days during mid-November, Russ sight-seeing and me helping Insgroup at the exhibition.
Yesterday, I flew to Dar and back to pick up the papers which allow us to leave, send out our air freight and take our bags with us. To make a long and very upsetting story short, these papers were to have been taken care of by a friend who didn’t come through. So at the last minute, I had to spend between 10 am and 5 pm in airports and airplanes: Arusha – Mombasa – Dar – pick-up-papers-return-on-same-plane – Mombasa – Arusha, all for $100 and some air sickness. Getting out of here is lots harder than getting in.
This morning, I went to Customs to arrange for an officer to come to the house to clear our goods and was given a different procedure to follow than when I went to inquire the last time. The upshot is that we are put a day behind, and we only have one more day to accomplish everything before we leave.
Tonight, we’re packing, and I’m finishing my tweed skirt so I can hand over the sewing machine to the woman who bought it. Tomorrow, we go through Customs with all the air freight and hopefully ship it the same day. Thursday morning, I leave by plane for Nairobi to confirm our air tickets to Cairo, get my hair cut and have one more meeting with the film crew. Russ comes up later the same day in a diplomatic car with a friend, bringing our luggage across the border. I can hardly wait to sit on Egypt’s sands and watch the dhows go by.
Thanks for asking about what we’d like to eat: waffles, Dad’s spaghetti, fried chicken and rice with Waldorf salad, smoked turkey, crunchy peanut butter, salt-rising bread, pepperoni rolls, cinnamon-swirl doughnuts. Oh, and hot dogs with everything at the U.P. Hospital.
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