Memories from the Piedmont of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Oloitokitok. Yes you read right. I have some of my roots there. If by mere coincidence you happen to know the place and been there lately. Beautiful place. Anyone in doubt make a point of visiting (Doubting Thomas. Happy Easter).

These are not memories from the present times. So forget about the tarmac and the modern buildings. I am talking about the days when Desert Runner reigned supreme. That bus was able to navigate the road between Emali and Oloitokitok despite its poor state back then. (I am yet to decide whether its the driver or the bus that should receive the honors).

If back then you were a normal family like the rest of us travelling to ocha (countryside) was like a dream come true. You got up early lest you missed the bus. All the family’s luggage was packed into this big bag that was cuboid shape (for lack of a better description hence the cuboid shape). After the tickets had been bought came the moment of reckoning. The unlucky one got perched on that bag for the whole journey. The luckiest got to sit on mum’s lap (best seat on the bus I should add).

Until you went past Makutano junction that first part of the journey for lack of a better word bland. After the short stopover at Makutano the real journey began. Suddenly there were potholes everywhere. You looked at the road ahead and you were not sure how to classify it. That conductor who seemed to have just been there to enjoy the ride also stopped being a white elephant anymore. The bus would soon be filled. Passengers hanging on the top rail for dear life. During one of this moments, the bus with no breathing space, I made a discovery on a weird culture. The Maasai  in the countryside with their traditional regalia are not big on inner clothing. They go natural (*wink *wink).

Six or more hours later you got there. It was probably as night falls. In the morning you really have to get up early if you want to get a glimpse of the mountain. The peaks Kibo and Mawenzi are only visible for a short period before the sun rises. After that you will have to settle with working with your imagination to picture the magnificence of the peaks through the heavy clouds covering them. That feeling as you stand there staring at the mountain cannot be put into words.

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The little memory I have of my granddad was that he was a man apart. There is one thing though that has stuck to this day. Back then stories were that he did not get stung by bees as he harvested his honey. The was sweet though (so the legend could be true). One day he went to sleep and never woke up (rest his soul). Having been named after him, when my time comes to leave this world I hope to go as he did (no need for drama).

Oloitokitok is a funny place if you happen to go visiting during the dry season. The days are characterised by this sweltering heat. As soon as the sun sets. You are all scampering to find the warm clothing you threw away during the day. The cold is treacherous to say the least. Two sweaters and socks later you can have a goodnight sleep. Our grandparents home is situated close to the Tanzanian border. At times, illegally though coming to think of it, we crossed the border. To do what? To drink soda ya chupa refu . There is nothing special about the soft drink other than that it is bottled in a longer bottle than what we were used to.

The best part of it all was grandma. ‘Gugu‘ we called her. She lit up that homestead. She brought joy. The food even tasted better just because it had been prepared at her kitchen. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Her grandchildren on arrival to her compound were offered a whole bunch of sweet bananas. The only rule was that they were to be eaten by no one else. She personally saw to it. Those bananas were put on high priority security (The National government should have consulted her on such matters before she passed on from this world. God rest her soul). Coming to think of it that was one of the many ways she made us feel loved (talk of a woman after our hearts).

Why would you love the countryside? There is no fun there? Who would give up the city life for that? The city die hards by now are raging. What kind of human being are you? Don’t get me wrong. I love the city. The hustle and bustle at times gives me an adrenaline rush. But it does not beat the peace and serenity of the countryside. Besides as you all are busy chasing Facebook and Instagram likes and Twitter follows out there I don’t need all that. I only have to say to some random person, ‘Mimi ni mjukuu wa Mwarusha,’ and I can bet you someone will know me. Talk of celebrity status by association.

There was also grazing of the animals. I did not enjoy running after the cows and goats. Contrary to it I feared the bulls. Out in the grazing fields, I got to learn how to stand on one leg leaning on the stick I carried for grazing, like a Moran does. Proud moment.

There was also another take away from the place. The stories. Stories about the younger days of our parents. My mum grew up in a polygamous home. She had two mothers. I picture it and I am jealous of them. Obviously it was tough as you didn’t get to get away with mistakes. The upside however is that you got love from two quarters. Now picture the love our mothers have for us and multiply that by two. Who wouldn’t want that? Not me of course. Then there is that hilarious story of how they tricked their father into taking them to school, with the lie that he would be locked up if they were found at home. (Education could be important after all. *Light bulb moment*).

It was always a sad affair leaving. Today, coming to think of it the memories are like diamonds, they are to be treasured. Oloitokitok, how else can I express my love for you?

Teiya Oloilole

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