Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Road to Iringa

Now, this all happened about a week ago, and since then I've been to Songea, I've spent a week in Mpandangindo village and I've learnt a whole lot about what the Hoja Project is about. I'm now back in Songea, and tomorrow I'm off to Mbeya. I'll get back up to date as quickly as possible, but there's going to be an awful lot of blogging to do that.

So anyway...

Vende did not sleep at all well the night after the robbery. Consequently my sleep was a little mediocre too. I was still remarkably calm about the whole sorry event, in contrast to my partner in (victim of) crime.

In the morning he was conjuring in his mind various scenarios in which we returned with our belongings intact and the bandits in traction.

"If only we had a knife/gun/The Incredible Hulk..."

I felt a bit guilty that I was still quite smug about how lucky I'd been. Amongst everything else I'd lost a pair of old knackered trainers that I was given for free in the first place, and a spare pair of glasses I never wear any more anyway, and I'm going to get insurance money for both of them.

We went together to get my bus to Iringa. Vende had learnt he could go to the mobile network's head office to retrieve a new sim with his old number, along with any credit the thieves might not have used, and the office was near the Scandinavian Express bus depot.

We caught a daladala when we got off the ferry (the first time I'd got in one this visit), and arrived over an hour early for my bus. Vende waited with me and we both marvelled at how much the company is struggling.

Gone are the nice big modern coaches I remember from three years ago, and come are the rustbuckets with rattling windows and saggy seats. When the bus was called, I left Vende with 10,000/- in case the nearby cash machines didn't work for him.

The highlight of the journey was the second film (I don't remember the first one), which was a curious choice for a bus full of black Africans. It was called Savage Harvest, which immediately makes it sound like a sequel to a certain rubbish 1990s pop group, and played for its entire length with no sound, a technical hitch that could only add to its charm.

It started with an old dying man in an African village being carried by a younger bodybuilding relative into a hut. Tragically his dignified end was snatched away from him when a lion jumped through the grass roof in the middle of the night and dragged him away, knocking over an oil lamp and burning down the hut in the process.

The aftermath of this scene was for some reason investigated by a kindly-looking khaki-wearing middle-aged white man, who inevitably bought it next when his Land Rover broke down in the middle of nowhere, and he was set upon by an unseen beast or beasts.

His vehicle was soon discovered by the moustachio'd father of a white family, while at home his youngest daughter was playing tennis against a wall outside and Expendable Native Servant Girl called her in for tea. Daughter ignored the calls, all the while being watched from the trees above.

As you have probably already guessed, Expendable Native Servant Girl came outside to bring Daughter in, and a doll of her was promptly mauled by a lion. Luckily, Father arrived in the nick of time to haul Daughter into the house.

Suddenly there were about 15 lions kicking their heels outside the house, and the family busied themselves with locking gates, doors and windows. Inexplicably, Father wouldn't let Son shoot any of the dangerous beasts, nor would he shoot any himself.

Not willing to let spirits down, Father courageously persuaded Mother to play the piano and soon they were all enjoying a good old fashioned sing-song.

Little did they know, however, that at that very moment a lion was climbing down the chimney and killing Expendable Native Servant Man in his bed. Only when the beast dragged his meal into the living room to continue eating did the family become aware of this tragedy.

Further turmoil was to follow when Daughter foolishly opened a window to see better, necessitating Father to wrestle a giant cuddly toy before it was shot dead by Son.

As the lions encroached further into the house room by room, the family built a rudimentary cage out of iron gates, window shutters and bendy straws. Once inside (just in the nick of time, I might add), they used it to walk to their car, wherein they drove away to live happily ever after.

The film was mostly shown while we passed through Mikumi National Park, and I found myself torn between the widely spread wildlife outside, and the ridiculous beasts on the small screen.

I mostly opted for the small screen.

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