One day while I was staying in Shimbwe village of the Kilimanjaro, I asked Victor for a quiet day in nature. He decided on a day trip to where he and all the kids used to go and collect water for home- down the Kanga river.
A day trip in nature with a guide? Well, it doesn’t really work that way in Africa. Here there is a whole community on our way, and the path to the river goes through the small family farms of the village.
We cross an old aunt’s yard and greet her respectfully. It’s been too long since Victor came calling and she’s not happy about it!
“Did your dead grandmother come to you in a dream and reminded you to come see me? Did you dream about her tonight? She always used to visit me. And she would always bring a beer. Did you bring a beer?”
“No I didn’t”. He laughs and says he’ll make sure to send one later in the day. She lets us go only half satisfied, and we make our way up the hill and through Baba Francis’ farm, the sweetest man. He’s full of funny stories, invites us for chai, and makes us promise to stop for lunch on our way back. His farm is at the top of the hill and a bit secluded so he seems happy to have passing visitors.
We say our thanks and goodbyes, go through his funny flip-flops gate, and head down towards the river.
The river is peaceful and green. We are surrounded by hills and perfect serenity. No one comes down here for water these days. The village is networked with a system that channels the blessed water coming down the mountain. Victor’s aunt initiated and funded this project. In the village everything depends on the community. All they have, they created into being.
After my time of peace and quiet we set out on our way back, going as we promised – back through Baba Francis’ farm. Sitting and talking, politely declining the generous lunch invite, and on our way we go, with Baba Francis accompanying us with more funny stories and lots of laughter.
Then it happened.
A woman carrying a two-year-old boy emerges through the banana trees and stops us.“Is this visitor a volunteer for some medical organization?” She asks Victor. Muzungu (white people) seen around the village are usually volunteers. Most tourists climb up the Kilimanjaro and continue their journey oblivious of the mountain’s kind-hearted inhabitants.
But I’m not a volunteer. Just visiting. Victor asks what the problem is. I can see the child is not developing properly. She’s seeking help for him. We really feel for her. I’ll be asking Victor later if there is any medical relief organization in the area.
While we are talking, she is followed by her sister, her uncle, and a healthy boy about two years old – the boy’s twin. A lively conversation sparks all around, while the healthy boy stands there with his eyes fixed on Victor. He raises his arms asking Victor to pick him up. The conversation continues and everyone accompany us on our way. The lovely Baba Francis, the sister, the uncle, the mother holding one boy, Victor holding the other, and me, the Muzungu. I look around and am filled with wonderful amazement. I think that’s what you call- community.
We all pass through the old aunt’s yard, greetings and news are exchanged and only after she is satisfied the whole group continues. We reach the main path and the family is ready to turn around and return home.
The twin in Victor’s arms refuses to let go of him. Gentle attempts to persuade him it’s time to go home fail. He resorts to crying. Victor says he can have lunch with us, and the mother concludes – we’ll come pick him up later.
They all say goodbye with good wishes and smiles, the twin in his mother’s hands happily waves goodbye to his brother and we continue with the boy in Victor’s arms and with Baba Francis’ chain of funny stories up to the house.
Baba Francis is greeting everyone, again stories and news are exchanged, and finally we say our farewells and he makes his way back to his farm at the top of the hill.
And the boy, he’s feeling right at home. I’m filled with pure happiness. How wonderful is that. He’s not just feeling at home. He is home. The fact he has never met Victor and his family before does not change his sense of security.
The community is the family. The village is the home.
After a while, Victor entrusts the boy to his mother’s care for lunch, after which he’ll be spending the rest of the day with the kids who come to play after school, in short – with the family, the community, the home – until his mother comes to pick him up.
Community is a wonderful thing.
Tribal community, in my eyes, is pure magic in this day and age. This organic and authentic sense of togetherness, through the antiquities of the ages. People who are born breathing this togetherness that is supposed to be so natural for our human living.
I feel that we can be inspired by it. Inspired to embrace togetherness and introduce it more into our lives. Creating a community in Western society is a task that just might be impossible in my eyes. Goddess knows I tried. But togetherness- it can be created. This is a basic human ability that we only need to choose to embrace. To greet a stranger or a neighbor. To smile at each other for no reason, to ask “how are you doing?” and listen for the answer as if we have all the time in the world.
I’m full of gratitude for the good people of Shimbwe for teaching me about happy life. I hope to pass on their ancient wisdom with this story and many others in my blog. Please pass forward, comment and write me your thoughts and feelings!
More stories from Shimbwe village: Weaving in a bar, Kilimanjaro treasures.
🔥🔥 to more discoveries nice piece over there