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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kwaheri, Anna!

My wonderful British friend, Anna has left Tanzania and gone home to England. I am devastated. But she made a good decision. When I came home for what I thought would be a few weeks, Anna had not breathed a word of this to me. But not long after I got here, she e-mailed, telling me she'd decided to go home and pursue a master's degree. I was stunned by the news, had no idea she'd been considering it. The night I read that email I cried myself to sleep. Can I do Tanzania without Anna? I really don't know. But, I have to keep reminding myself, she made a good decision. She's young and in the early stages of her career. She will find much better opportunities in the U.K. than in Tanzania. Maybe a master's degree from the U.K. will help her find better opportunities in Tanzania later on if she wants to go back.

So here's an Ode to Anna--a look back at what a wonderful friend she's been to me over the past year and some.

I got to know Anna during the two months I stayed at Kundayo Apartments starting in March, 2010. You can read something about my stay at Kundayo in this older post. I was surprised at check-in to find a young blonde British girl behind the reception desk. She wasn't there the previous year. She was a great hotel manager! She arranged room repairs when needed. She arranged K2's and my first safari of the year. Then she arranged our next safari, too. When I lost my bank card in the ATM, she said I could charge meals at the Kundayo restaurant until I resolved the cash flow problem. Then she helped me resolve the cash flow problem by telling me about a hotel that would give me a credit card advance.

When I got discouraged with the visa process for bringing K2 to the U.S and decided I wanted to extend my stay in Tanzania to a year, Anna suggested to me that I get a one-year volunteer visa based on my  teaching English at Jordan Institute. Then she invited me to her house so I could see what type of house I might be able to rent in Arusha.

We each bought cars at about the same time, along with our Dutch friend, Martina. This opened up many new possibilities for entertainment. We started with the Missing Tanzanian Boyfriends Dinner Club. Then we moved on to girlfriend excursions around Arusha. Our first was the Karibu Fair, a tour industry exhibition we attended with another friend, Joyce. I really like Joyce, too, but she went off to Dar es Salaam shortly after this, so I don't have many other posts featuring Joyce. She went back to school, too, an advanced certificate in hotel management. Better education has been messing up my social life for awhile, now.

Anna and Joyce at the Karibu Fair.

Later on, Anna changed jobs and worked as the visitor coordinator at the School of St. Jude. She invited me for a tour there, which was lots of fun due to the hordes of cute Tanzanian kids everywhere. The school offers high quality education to promising children from the poorest families in Aruhsa. Anna contributed to that for several months by helping potential donors see the beauty of Tanzania and its people.

Anna asking the kindergarten class if we can join them for lunch at St. Jude's.

She accompanied me for many lunches in town and a few shopping excursions, which are always an adventure in Arusha. Our best was this Christmas shopping trip at the end of 2010, which resulted in fun custom-made (or "bespoke", as British Anna would say) kitenge dresses.

Anna in bespoke couture just in time for Christmas.

We lounged at hotel pools when we got the chance, including on election day when we couldn't vote anyway, not being Tanzanian citizens. We went together to enjoy various entertainment offerings. We saw a documentary on Namibian San people outside under the stars and we saw the latest Harry Potter movie at an air-conditioned shopping mall (and ate pizza for dinner at the food court). We went to a one-woman play acted by a South African woman from Dar es Salaam. And we went to an African circus with Anna's mum and aunt when they visited Tanzania.

At Circus Mama Afrika.

Sometimes, we needed more! Our excursions expanded beyond Arusha.  We took an overnight trip to Marangu, in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Anna and I have matching spirits of adventure, but she can walk a lot faster than me (She's 6' tall and I'm 5'3" tall. She's 26 years old and I'm 52 years old.). But that was okay, because she always waited for me.  Our Marangu adventure included a hike to a waterfall and an underground tour.

Anna at the waterfall.

Anna underground!

We made a side trip to Machame, where Anna's great aunt, Nancy King, established Machame Girls' Secondary School in 1947. Nancy King was the first foreign woman to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. So all this wandering around East Africa runs in the family.

Anna and the current head mistress at Machame Girls' School.

It was during this trip that Anna first asked me to include pictures of her in my blog so that she could just direct her mother here rather than send pictures herself. After this, whenever we did something interesting, or I took a cute picture of Anna, she'd say, "Are you putting this in your blog? I'll tell my mum." But that's good! The more readers the better. And Anna's mum was my first reader in the U.K.

Our next weekend trip away from town was in the other direction, out to the village of  Monduli. We found a hiking guide by random good luck combined with Anna's faith that you will find what you need in Tanzania. K2 joined us and we hiked through idyllic Maasai villages. But don't click on this link if you're phobic about snakes because we started the weekend with a visit to a snake park and that post opens with several close-up photos of snakes.

Anna in Maasai Land. No pictures of her with snakes, because she's scared of them and wouldn't get near them.

Our last excursion away from town was to Tiwi Beach, Kenya, with friends Cynthia and Lema and their daughter Amaya. We had rain and termites, a monkey attack, and two flat tires. But Anna was upbeat through it all. And eventually we got some sunny beach weather and time to lounge.

Anna and Amaya bonding on the way to Kenya.

Anna enjoying the beach once the sun came out.

But  a good friend is much more than just someone to have fun with. Anna, although she's half my age, was my mentor for life in Tanzania and she was my support in times of crisis.

I had no idea where to shop or how to buy electricity or what food to cook. K2 and Tanzanian friends helped me. But Anna, being British, understood the questions I, being American, was asking. Tanzanians showed me how they lived, which was very helpful. And then Anna showed me how we foreigners could find something extra to make ourselves feel more at home. Anna helped me understand Tanzanians better (although I still have more to learn). Sometimes when I had no idea what K2 was up to, Anna explained it to me, and said, "That's just how it is in Tanzania." She helped me enormously.

Here's the second-hand clothing market. It's Anna's favorite place to buy clothes in Arusha and she introduced me to it and showed me how to navigate its tricky innner workings.

When Anna got robbed, she came to my house for a soda and a quiet place to sit and calm her nerves and I gave her a loan until payday. When she was upset with her boyfriend, I gave her a home cooked meal and ice cream for dessert. When my mother passed away in America while I was in Arusha, Anna took care of me. She drove me to the airport and helped me figure out how to change my plane ticket to get home sooner. During the two days I waited for my flight, she made sure I was alone only when I wanted to be. (K2 was on Mt. Kilimanjaro and had no way to come home.) She invited me over for dinner and fed me lasagna and we watched "America's Got Talent" from last season, all of which kept me from crying for at least a few hours.  She drove me to the airport a second time to catch my flight. And the drive to the airport is a 45-mintue ordeal in the dark.

So, Anna, my friend, thank you for all the fun times and thank you even more for being there during the bad times. I'm not sure I can survive in Tanzania without you. But you made a good decision!

Kwaheri (good-bye), Anna. Study hard!

P.S. I'm not mad anymore about all those jokes about loud Americans wearing sweatpants and trainers.


  1. Ow.... At the moment, I am learning a little something about how incredibly precious girlfriends are when you are in a strange new country. I had two dear friends move in the year or so before we came to Seoul, and while I know that we will always be good friends, it's a huge loss when they are no longer part of the fabric of your everyday... A lovely tribute to a good friend.

  2. Barb - that is a lovely tribute blog to your dear friend (who did make a good decision)! Carol

  3. What a friend! What a tribute! We all need friends like Anna. And, we all need friends like you who appreciate good friends. And, now you have a great excuse to visit England.

  4. Barbara, I am so sorry your darling Anna has gone away. But good friends really never go away. You'll meet again..

    I can't begin to tell you how much I admire you and the thrill that your life has been because you made it that way. You are really and truly an idol to me. God bless Honey.

  5. Linda, I love when you comment on my posts. You make me feel good!

  6. Frankly, you amaze me. You are obviously an adventuress, but you are also a writer and an extraordinary photographer! You just rock, Barbara!