The Mining Town Of Kahama
By the time I reached Kahama I was pretty tired. That is, very tired. But I found decent oil at a garage and inside the hotel compound was a suitable place to do an oil change, which was due. I've been living on this bike for ten months now, maybe four or more to go, so I realise more and more that discipline with servicing is the key, and when I find myself in a suitable location to do it then I should. Or must.
Posted by Ken Thomas at July 10, 2010 01:34 PM GMT
I was halfway through, a plastic bottle full of old oil next to the bike and tools all around, when the hotel clerk came out to say I should order what I want for dinner now so that the ingredients could be arranged, even though it was only four o'clock. This seems the norm in Tanzania. As soon as you arrive at a small hotel, tell the kitchen what you want so they have time to go out and buy it, otherwise your only choice will be what they already have, which might not be much.
Well, that involved walking round the corner of the hotel entrance to the outdoor bar area, past the bar and up to the kitchen kiosk. The table next to the bar was occupied by a cheery group of locals who immediately insisted I take a seat with them.
"Hey, Jambo! Welcome to Tanzania! How are you? We saw you ride your bike in earlier. Don't hide away, come and take this seat here! Welcome to Tanzania! Karibu!"
I knew there was no way I could ignore that. African greetings had to be exchanged. Or else!
So after more "How are you - fine thanks - how are you - welcome to Kahoma - take this seat - karibu - how are you?" I did my best to explain that my little bike had been good to me so I had to be good to it and I was in the middle of a small job and would definitely take up their kind offer very shortly - and I also had a two-inch coating of red dust all over my clothes that I really needed to do something about. They seemed to be OK with that, if maybe a little disappointed.
So the oil was changed, everything put away, and I sat down with Christopher, a mining engineer who'd worked all over Africa and a year in Australia. Kahama is a main town in this extensive Tanzanian mining area where all sorts of minerals, including diamonds, are extracted.
With Christopher were Anthony, an electrical contractor with one of the Tanzanian power companies, and Charles, who I never found out what he did, and four hotel staff. Another thing I've learned about Tanzania is that it's normal for staff to drink with customers at the table. So we had two young lads who were the hotel maintenance team and two waitresses, none of whom spoke any English.
There was the usual stuff about my journey, how far, how long, are you working? on your own? why Africa? why Tanzania? welcome! do you have a business card? and so on.
"Where were you last night?"
"I stayed in Kibondo, and I was six days in Kigoma before that."
"No wonder you're covered in red dust! That road from Kibondo is the very worst!"
Christopher laughed at that, adding, "Yes, I went to school in Kigoma. Did you see the Livingstone monument? All the English like to see that!"
After a while Christopher said he'd have to go, he's also a preacher at the Seventh Day Adventist church nearby and he had a sermon to deliver, and Charles went with him. Then I thought the music being played in the bar was familiar so asked Anthony if it was Tanzanian.
"No, it's Ugandan. Very popular band."
When I met Roy and his friend a week before in Kigoma, a music concert was showing on the TV and Roy said it was a Congolese band, and a lot of Tanzanian music originates from Congolese roots.
Back at this bar, another song came on that I instantly recognised from Kenya. I'd heard it maybe once in Nairobi, but in Kericho and Bungoma it was played in every bar that had music, in the street, and sometimes four or five times in a row in the bar near the hotel I was in. But I never found out the name. Not many people spoke English and no one could give me the English name. And I forgot to ever ask Nelson, the insurance salesman.
I asked Anthony.
"It's called 'Marriage of Problems'. It's Kenyan. Very popular there, and here as well. They'll probably play it twice or three times! People often cry when they hear it! The singer is Tonny Myadundo."
Earlier we'd scribbled down names and email addresses on scraps of paper to exchange.
"Give me that piece of paper again."
On it he scribbled 'Mwanza Music House', 'Kahama Branch', and a phone number.
"In a couple of days I'm going to Mwanza to do a job for these people. It'll be about three weeks. But right now I'm working on a job at their branch here. I'll be there tomorrow morning. If you can get there they probably have CDs by this singer. Maybe the Ugandan band one as well."
And sure enough, 'Marriage of Problems' played again - and a third time. It's in Swahili but the tone of the lyrics seems to indicate it has a very deep philosophical message.
It was then time for Anthony to leave and he spontaneously gave me a very big African hug. I'm beginning to learn about Tanzania.