A Walk through Usa River

Usa River is a town in the Meru district of Tanzania,  East Africa.  It is a growing place with lots of new building.  It is also the homMe of the offices of the Diocese of Meru of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.  Walt and I arrived here Wed. night.  Yesterday passed with some brief official visits and a trip to Arusha to exchange money and check out what Shop-Rite has to offer European and American shoppers.

Today,  I feel we are truly beginning our stay.  Walt is off to a coffee auction with Emil Nanyaro in Moshi.  I chose to stay behind,  nurse my cold and get acclimated.  Our hostess,  Mama  Kyara,  had been prepared for my request.  I wanted to take a walk.  We knew from previous trips that it was not recommended for us to walk around by ourselves.  Because we are staying for six weeks on this trip, we had requested someone to accompany us on a daily walk.  Joseph the security guard, was assigned to this duty.  Joseph is a small man who seems to spend a lot of time in a hut near the gate to the guest house.  But he was very gracious about taking this aging American woman for a walk.  We set out on the dirt path/road that towns and villages are defined by.  Generally, there is one paved road in Tanzania that connects cities and important commerce routes.  In the villages and towns, the dirt paths  have been widened to accommodate  cars, trucks, motor-bikes,   Honda motorcycles,  push-carts and pedestrians.  There has been just enough rain here to harden the ruts into deep ridges.  Even our hosts say it is a hot time of year.  By 9:30 in the morning it was already over 90 degrees so it was time for me to get this walk in. Joseph and I set off, attempting to talk with his few words of English and my even fewer  words of Kiswahili.  The dust swirled around us.  I walked carefully, over rocks and into ruts.  Joseph seemed pleased with the change in his routine.  I was pleased to be out and to walk after 3 days of traveling.  The flowers are in bloom here and I wish I knew more names.  Bougainvilea,  bird of paradise,  a yellow flower that is quite common all border the dusty road.   The heat,  the lush greens and colorful flowers,  the roosters crowing and the barking dogs define tropical for me.

We had been walking about 5 minutes when it became apparent how exotic it is to take a walk for the exercise.  Everyone we passed had a very specific purpose for being on the road.  In past visits,  we have visited homes that are also small farms (less than ¼ acre),  but here in town,  everyone has animals,  is growing food and may have a small shop open too.  There are open channels that disburse the water of Usa River throughout the village.  Unfortunately,  the garbage also finds it’s way to the channels .  One discouraging mark of “development”  are the plastic bags littering the roadsides.  A cow grazes in amongst the garbage.    We passed some primary schools but our limited language didn’t allow for more information.  There are some signs, mostly hand lettered to identify places of business but not at one place that Joseph says is a school but it is walled and gated.  A private school I imagine.  Most people are outside.  Finding what shade they can.  Many are working the fields,  a few are in the shops. We pass a young man walking uphill pushing the roughhewn wooden carts that are common for transporting heavy loads.  This cart is filled with several 5 gallon buckets filled with water.  He passes us when his heavy load pulls him downhill.    In another yard a woman is collecting eggs.  Soon we have come to fish farms and rice paddies. This may be the edge of town where there are actual small fields but there are new houses under construction here too.     Something is going on in the fields but I am not a farmer.  Does anyone know if they are harvesting or planting?  The fields are flooded.

Many people greet Joseph.  I am certainly a curiosity but they are smiling and friendly  Mzungu, mzungu pepper their greetings.   What I have seen is a people who must work very hard to live.  They must grow their own food,  carry water,  get their children to school and find a way to earn some cash.  They do all this without what we consider necessity,  indoor plumbing, clean running water,  reliable inexpensive electricity,  easy transportation.    We sometimes are irritated by the pace of getting things done here but I am humbled by this glimpse of how industrious people are in tending to the necessities of life.  Asante sana Joseph!!