Day 8, We waved goodbye
March 3, 2010
We woke up bright and early after a good night’s sleep in Arusha, a city situated at the footsteps of Mt Kilimanjaro’s smaller neighboring twin, Mt Meru. Although it was far more developed than Moshi, where we had stayed on the first night, both cities shared something in common: Mosquitoes, and that dreaded fear of Malaria. My goal in reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro wasn’t just about fulfilling my dreams, but about helping the less fortunate. We had committed ourselves to the fight against Malaria by helping to raise funds from our climb and I was keen to learn of how Malaria had affected the people of Tanzania before I left. We’d seen a number of Maasai tribesmen along the mountainside and even more in the cities over the last few days, and I was keen to see how the people of Tanzania had coped with the spread of the disease before we left. Our guide said he knew of a tribe not too far from Arusha and that he’d be happy to take us to them.
We drove for about an hour to the village near the national park and had arrived at ten. The village itself wasn’t much to look at, with its thatched huts and barren trees, but the Maasai people on the other hand, looked fascinating in their traditional red robes and ornaments. Our guide first introduced us to a village elder who spoke both Swahili and the Maasai’s native language, to seek permission to enter the village. He agreed after a brief exchange and took us to a few huts in the village. The village elder showed us how they had used fine linen mesh and a faint, almost incense-like smoke to keep the mosquitoes away. Life outside the modern world wasn’t perfect, but the Maasai seemed to have found a simple and natural alternative to the repellent sprays and bug zappers that we in the modern world pride ourselves in.
We didn’t have time to stay for long though and soon bid the village farewell. Our flight back to Nairobi was scheduled to leave early that evening, but we had time for a short stop at the nearby Um Ayesha orphanage before heading to the airport. The center was one of a handful of orphanages that had been set up over the last few years to cope with increasing deaths from disease and childbirth complications in the region. It was heartwarming to see how Um Ayesha had provided hope in that sadness, and I’ll never forget the smiles on the little children’s faces when we arrived with a few surprise gifts that morning.
Despite the happiness of those moments, we soon said our final goodbyes at Um Ayesha too, and bid the city farewell on our way to Kilimanjaro airport. As I sat there watching the plane arrive for our flight back to Nairobi, I couldn’t help but retrace the steps I’d taken on that very tarmac just days earlier. I’d entered the city, an adventurer in chase of a dream, but I was leaving that city a wiser man. The memories of the dream I had achieved were etched in the photographs I carried in my backpack, but the wisdom I had gained from the hardships we endured in trying to achieve that dream would be etched forever in my heart. Goodbye, Kili.