I got up early today, our last day here in Arusha (called “A-Town” by the younger generation, just like Atlanta), to go on a 70 minute distance run with Omari up the mountain. We started around 7:00, and I carried my camera up with us as we ran. It was another beautiful day, a bit cloudy, but it felt good to be running again.
We got back down before most of the others had woken up, and I ate breakfast with Tom. Once finished, I took some time to walk down to the factory alone, to get some final pictures and video. The ground still had markings from pulling the brick-maker yesterday, but the new table, new shelves, and new roof all made the factory feel much less vacant and more productive than when we first arrived.
When the rest of the volunteers finished breakfast we all went down to the factory together for some last minute pictures. It started to rain, adding a further hint of dreariness to our final day. Kim’s brother walked us up to Baba Kimirei’s house, up the mountain about a mile. We passed by Eliza’s school, and dozens of schoolkids gathered in front of us to see what we were doing.
Eliza ran through the crowd and hugged each of us, surprised to see us one last time. We said goodbye and kept walking up, past several small farms, to the path through Baba Kimirei’s property. He owns several acres of farmland, which he suggests become the home of the SAFE Water Now factory if it needs to be expanded from the smaller workshop down the hill. There’s no need to move for now, but if things go well for the organization, then it would be an option.
Baba Kimirei greeted us at his house, in the middle of his large property. He showed us a gourd farm he has, from which he grows large gourds and sells them for around 20,000 shillings as containers to store liquids. He showed us his many beehives, some with stingless bees, some with stinging bees, from which he gets honey to eat and to sell. He let us try some stingless bee honey, which tasted very tangy and strong, nothing like the mild sweet honey I was used to.
We planned to walk back down to our house with Baba Kimirei, who would come to the airport with us. We saw some colobus monkeys swinging in trees in the middle of his property, with their distinctive white faces and black bodies. He complained that these monkeys eat many of his fruits, and that he sometimes has to shoot them to prevent this. We were pretty shocked by this. I guess it’s just a Tanzanian version of pest control.
On the way down, some younger kids from Eliza’s school who had been let out walked home behind us, and some of the braver ones walked beside us. I gave out my hand for one to hold, and she instinctively grabbed hold as we walked down. Another kid took my other hand, without a word. When I tried to take a picture, I found that they didn’t want to let go of my hands, but I wanted to capture this moment. It was very touching, walking these children down the mountain, kids I didn’t know and had never seen, silently trusting us to protect them down the road.
When we got home, Omari had returned from town, where the Vodacom people of course ripped us off again, only giving us money for one modem. We told Omari to keep it, after all his trouble. As we finished packing up all our bags, Kim and Stella gave us all a few gifts to bring home to our families. Omari had been running everyday in the same pair of tan work-shoes, so I gave him my pair of sneakers, which I’d been running in all summer, and a cross-country Georgia state championship t-shirt. Trent left his shoes with Omari too; he’d only had his for a few weeks before the trip.
We loaded all of our bags in an eight-seat van, and piled 10 people inside. Tom, Trent, Kunal, Kedar, me, Kim, Stella, Omari, Baba Kimirei, and a driver. For 45 minutes I sat on Kim’s lap in the backseat, which was surprisingly comfortable aside from the lack of head room.
We said our farewells outside the airport, and thanked the people who had been so welcoming and kind to us for nearly three weeks. Kim had been like a father to us: he always knew what was going on around the factory, could always find some small thing that we could do to help out, was always patient and always kind. Stella was like our mother: she would cook most of our meals with Christina, helped us improve our Swahili, calling us her “watoto,” children. Omari had been our older brother, taking us to town, protecting us from some of the shadier figures in the village at night, but mostly laughing and hanging out with us like we had been friends since childhood.
Once we walked through the glass doors, turned around and saw the family waving back at us, we really understood what the pastor had been saying last night. We had found new family across the ocean, new brothers and sisters who loved us and welcomed us from the minute we met them. This quality is what makes Tanzania unique, in my opinion. In no other place have so many people I have no relation to, have never met before, treated me like family. We all hoped that soon, as soon as we could, we would come back to our new family in Tanzania and live and work with them again.
Trying to put the sadness of the moment aside, we continued into the airport, got our boarding passes, and proceeded through security to the only waiting area in the airport. Soon, we were walking up the stairs into a jet bound for Ethiopia, and we began our journey home.