I started this blog hoping to find a feeling of home in Tanzania. From my arrival in Kilimanjaro, I had to take a plane, three buses and a motorcycle taxi, but I think I found home.
As part of my assignment with Farm Radio International, I am researching its rice project in Mtwara that is supported by the Aga Khan Foundation.
So, last Thursday, Emanuela and I set out to interview a rice farmer with Moses, a broadcaster at Pride FM. We met Mabomba who has been farming rice since 2009 in Ndanda.
A thin path guided us through the rice. I stepped carefully from rock to rock. Ahead of us and barefoot, Mabomba dodged puddles and burrs with ease. When I looked up, I saw his farm was beautiful. It was a clear day. The rice shone in the sun. The wind softly whistled through the field.
Mabomba said that the Aga Khan Foundation built the irrigation system that formed the basis of the rice farm. Rice is a thirsty plant and farmers need a complex water system to help it grow. Mabomba is able to sell his rice at a profit. He was proud to say he had made enough money to send his children to secondary school.
Mabomba asked what Canada is like. We gave him our typical answer in broken Swahili – “Baridi sana. Very cold.” He was interested in the animals we have in Canada. We tried to explain what a bear is by demonstrating a big animal that growls.
“Does it kill people like a lion?” he asked. We nodded.
From the rice fields, we headed to Moses’ parents’ house, where we would be staying that night. When we got there, the first thing his mother told me was “Welcome. You are home.”
Surrounded by flowers and orange trees, Moses’ parents’ house was the first place I visited in Tanzania that really did feel like home. In the living room, the TV blasted traditional Tanzanian music and a couple of times I caught the family dancing to it. Pictures of children smiled at me on the walls and teddy bears sat on the couch. It looked like a house that was made with love.
Moses’ parents spent hours moving furniture into their guest room and cleaning it to ensure that we would be comfortable. We told them we were quite happy to have a room at all, but they insisted. On the perfectly made bed in the guest room Moses’ mother had left some folded khangas. Khangas are rectangular pieces of fabric with colourful patterns on them that Tanzanian women typically wear as skirts. I was more than thrilled to have one of my own.
Before we left the next morning, Moses’ mother told us to pick a khanga as a gift. Khangas often have a Swahili proverb on them. I chose a skirt that said “once someone gives you this, no one can take it away.” No one can take this little Tanzanian home away from me and I am so happy to have found it.