A Little Bit Muddy, or How I Went to Lushoto for Christmas

*so this post is about 3 weeks old, but as you will see, it is the first time I have been able to make it back since Christmas to give you all the full update on my holiday festivities*

So it’s been rainy here.
Like buckets full of rain.
Literally. That’s how I get my water right now, pretty much every night I can count on it raining enough to fill all my empty buckets.
And then some.
And when you live in the mountains with only dirt roads and a plethora of mountain rivers this means a few things:
Mud. Erosion. Mud. Fallen trees. Mud. Bad roads. And more mud.
But for a couple days before Christmas it had actually been pretty dry, so on Saturday night I was reasonably hopeful that my Sunday morning trip into Lushoto would be as uneventful as the first one…

I woke up at 4am Sunday morning to the sounds of rain crashing onto my metal roof. I knew then that I was going to be in for a long day, and I tried to squeeze out a little more sleep before I had to leave my house at 6 to walk the mile to the little town where I get on the bus.

It was still raining when I left my house, but not too hard, and as I crossed the remains of the bridge from my school to the main road, (yes remains, it collapsed the week before I arrived due to heavy rains.) it stopped raining. This was only my second time walking to the little town, and the first time I had a guide, so I was proud of myself when I arrived with no mishaps. And so with the determination to take on the world, or at least to make it into the city to see my friends for Christmas, I walked up to the bus stand, greeted the mzee (pronounced mmmzay – it means respected elder) who runs the bus stand and heard the forecast for my holiday travels.

The buses were not coming.
Say what?

Apparently those rains earlier in the week had done quite a bit of damage and the buses into the mountains were not able to make it up to our little bus stand. But never fear, there were some people walking to the town where the buses were running to, and if I was really determined to get to Lushoto for Christmas, I could walk with them. It was only about 7k, (3-4 miles) or so I was told, and it would be good exercise.

We were getting a turkey. There was no way I was going to miss turkey in Lushoto.

So I adjusted my bag, grabbed my umbrella, and followed the pair of men who were walking to the bus.

I’m pretty sure it was at least twice my 7k quote. But to be fair only about the first 10k was up hill. And sure enough we passed 4 fallen trees, 3 washed out bridges, and a partridge in a pear tree as we trudged uphill through the mud. Oh, and it started raining again.

So after about 3 hours of walking, which included slipping twice (but not drawing blood either time, which I think means my muddy mountain road balance is improving) and wading through the street where the river had decided to go over the bridge instead of under, we arrived at the town, I boarded a bus, and the rest of my trip to Lushoto was reasonably uneventful.

I met up with 4 other volunteers in Lushoto at R’s house, where we all stay when we’re in town, and promptly sat down and started swapping stories with the others whom I hadn’t seen since they dropped me off at my site before going o their own 3 weeks earlier, and after awhile we put together a shopping list for the holiday feast we were going to make the next day and walked into town to hit the market. We split the list up and began our bargaining and soon returned home with a basket full of vegetables, fruits, bread and baking supplies, a turkey (live), and beer and wine. We were joined by 5 more volunteers, a bucket of sugar cookies, and a huge pineapple. After consuming mass quantities of plums and cookies we all sat down to watch The Lion King and discuss all the flaws in the details of the movie. Oh, and sing along of course.

Christmas Eve dinner brought us to a local tourist restaurant/hotel/well stocked bar where we ate sandwiches and french fries and watched Christmas movies on satellite television.

Christmas was quite the eventful day, including, but not limited to the following: An early morning phone call from my family in Minnesota, killing and butchering a turkey that tried very diligently not to die, cooking mashed potatoes, biscuits, veggies and stuffing for dinner and tortillas and guacamole for lunch, watching half of Fiddler on the Roof, Mulan and Traffic, going to town to buy more groceries and dishes so that we could actually eat everything we had cooked, eating way too much food, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and topping off the evening with pineapple upside down cake.

For those of you still curious about the turkey slaughtering, read on, for those of you not, skip ahead to the next paragraph. Really, I mean it. I’m about to be graphically detailed. Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. After finally managing to extract the quite vocal turkey from the doghouse-like-pen we had kept him in overnight, the two guys who had taken on the job of the turkey tied its legs together and hung it upside down from the clothes line. Then, after realizing that it was quite difficult to chop off a live turkey’s head while it was hanging upside down and using a chopping knife, they took the turkey down and managed to pierce the turkey’s brain using a leatherman. The turkey, however, did not die after this, but instead began screaming and flapping its wing and hopping on its tied together feet until grabbed and pinned down again and having its neck severed and its head finally cut off. The neck and feet were cut off after it drained of blood and its feathers were plucked and innards removed. By now the bird resembled the turkey you would buy in your neighborhood grocery, and after cleaning it thoroughly, we stuffed it and put it in the oven. Oh, and we (well one of us, not me) did name the turkey while he was still alive. Grandpa Bibi. He was delicious.

About half of us decided to stick around for an extra day before returning to our sites. My legs, feet, and general psyche was not yet up to the miles of walking that stood between myself and my little mountain village. Plus my shoes were still wet. And I had brought the meat grinder I inherited from the previous volunteer at my school, so we decided to take it easy and make hamburgers for dinner.

And so another night passed. My shoes dried out, I missed my own bed and the mango I had left behind to ripen, and I ventured to the bus stand to travel home. The bus was packed. I was standing with about 20 others in the aisle and started making friends with the ladies sitting nearby. We traveled fine for about half an hour, and then hit a mud pit where a freight truck was stuck. A couple of secondary school girls from my neck of the woods explained to me that everyone was to get off the bus and walk up the road past the mud and wait for the bus to come, and so I followed them off the bus along with everyone else, and as we walked and talked I met a family from my village and one of y future students. Sure enough (but I have no idea how, as we were waiting around a bend in the road and I couldn’t see how they managed) the bus made it through the mud pit and came to pick us all up and we were off again. this was really the only rough spot in the road, so I was hopeful that the bus would actually be able to pass through my bus stand village, but we arrived in the town I had walked to 4 days before, and everyone was told to get off the bus.

Taken in by the family of my student, the mama talked a cabbage truck into giving us a lift to the next town (at the top of the hill I walked up in my previous journey, but still a 2 hour walk away from home) for a reasonable price, and then took my on a shortcut through the mountain farms to our village. The new route took about half the time and my only real wish of the day was granted, I made it home before dark.

In other news, I went to town the other day and some poor child started crying when she saw me (children in remote villages in Africa are often told stories of white skinned monsters) and a woman scolder her saying “mshamba, wewe” which literally means “you, person of the farm,” but slangly is the equivalent of calling someone a hick or a redneck. I thought it was reasonably funny and laughed about it with a couple other women before buying more mangoes and heading home.

Comments: 2 Comments

2 Comments on “A Little Bit Muddy, or How I Went to Lushoto for Christmas”

  1. MN mama Says:

    Glad we rated right up there with Grampa Bibi!

  2. Hilary (previous volunteer) Says:

    This is a great story! I had to walk to Moa in the mud once on the way back from Lushoto starting about a mile before we hit Chalinze. I can’t believe you did it with that heavy meat grinder in your bag! Also, I’m surprised you found a turkey (batamzinga?)… I never managed to get one.


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