July 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
Today was an idyllic day. I lived the kind of day so often described in novels as part of some author’s picturesque childhood. “Hurr, in 1925, when I was a boy, we swam in the swimming hole and picked huckleberries right off the bush.” Until now, I’m not sure I ever completely understood that kind of day and the pure, simple satisfaction that it brings.
Yesterday, me, a bunch of the kids from Dar Ul Muslimeen Orphanage – a Muslim all-boys orphanage in Morogoro – and their keepers went for a hike in the large mountain range right behind the orphanage. The mountains are beautiful, really beautiful, and since I’ve been here I often find myself getting distracted and staring at them with pleasure.
To even get to the mountains and start our hike, we had to walk two or three miles. Once the climb started it was a steeeep incline for almost thirty minutes. Pretty much just straight up to the top – no gentle winding trails slowly leading you up to the peak like normal hikes. It was hard and everybody was huffing and puffing by the end. Well, everybody except Ma’alim the guy who runs the day-to-day of the orphanage. That weirdo was jogging up to the top. It was so steep that I could barely keep my shoes from losing their purchase and kids were slipping and sliding everywhere, yet somehow he was jogging.
He kept coming up to me and being like, “C’mon, run! It’s fun!” Dude. Do you know what I think is fun? Yoga, a nice glass of wine while contemplating the universe and a massage after. Trying to run up an incline so steep I can’t stand up normally and tripping over a bunch of wheezing 8 years olds on the way up is not on my list of party ideas. You do you, though, bro! I’ll see you up there!
Once we got past the initial shot up to the top, the rest was easy. We strolled along the mountain top for a while – the view was incredible – before beginning another insanely steep descent back down the mountain on the other side. That was fun because most of the little ones just gave up and slid the whole way down on their butts.
In the valley between two mountains in Morogoro, there’s a waterfall. It’s really beautiful and the smooth rocks form pools of cold, clear, fresh water perfect for swimming and cooling hot, tired feet. There are also plenty of smooth rocks to lie on and bake in the sun. We had fun splashing each other and looking at the tadpoles.
After resting in the valley, we climbed back up out the other side. We walked for a while, picking honeysuckle flowers and sucking the sweetness from them, and we also found mangos and passion fruit trees. Everybody was really happy just to be walking and enjoying the sunshine. After a while, maybe another couple miles, we came to this place called the “Rock Garden.” We paid about $1 for admission and entered the most beautiful place – a series of swimming holes made by a calm river flowing through a boulder field.
It’s lush with trees and hanging vines and is completely shady. The water is fresh, clear, clean and cold. Immediately, the kids stripped off their clothes (some got naked, which was hilarious), and jumped in the water. The swimming hole is their favorite place and, after seeing it, I completely understand why. It’s awesome.
My original plan wasn’t to swim, so I took off my shoes and waded out to a rock to sit. Adam – my new friend who’s twelve, intelligent and shy – decided to start a splash war. It began with just little flicks of water back and forth, and soon we were both heaving water with both hands and legs at each other. At a certain point, you’re already so wet you don’t care anymore and go for it completely. Our water fight expanded to involve about ten people, including Mama Matron, and things got pretty crazy. Other boys swam in the swimming hole, laid out on the rocks or practiced climbing the huge, hanging vines over the water.
We spent about an hour at the rock garden before we started the walk home. It was a long day and we were all soaking wet, tired and very happy. After getting back to the orphanage, we ate lunch, showered and laid down for a nap.
After I woke up, some of the boys and I went to buy fruit. I wanted to get everybody a treat and I don’t believe in giving candy to children without access to dental care – really to children in general – so we got fruit. Just to give you some perspective, I bought 16 bananas, 15 mangos and 4 oranges for 5,000 Tanzanian shillings or about $3.25 US.
Hassani, my little six year old friend, is so sweet. He looks like an adorable alien and loves to hold hands or walk right up against my side so my arm is around him and resting on his shoulder. While we were walking, my hand was on his shoulder by his face, and he very discreetly took my hand and kissed it. He didn’t do it so I would notice – he was trying to be sneaky since he’s shy. I wouldn’t have felt it if I hadn’t been watching, but it was the sweetest gesture of affection and love. He wanted to express himself but felt shy or embarrassed to do it outright, so he snuck a kiss on my hand. So achingly sweet. But again, the kids here are just like that. Sweet, polite, loving, affectionate, sensitive and usually a little shy at first.
Waterfalls, swimming, sunshine, fruit picked right off the trees and lots and lots of kids. Today was a perfect day.