- Leopards at My Door: Peace Corps Tanzania, 1966-7, Introduction
- First Term
- First Break
- Second Term
- Second Break
- Third Term
- Third Break
- Fourth Term
- Fourth Break
- Fifth Term
- Fifth Break
- Sixth Term
- Looking Back on the Peace Corps Experience
Saturday, November 26
The girls are off for home, and we have almost two month’s break. Kay and I are staying here for a while before driving to Kampala, where she will visit friends and I will go to the Peace Corps doc and dentist. Thence to Nairobi to meet you and Mom for our tour.
I just got a letter that looks like it’d been crammed into a crack. The postmark is old, but it did arrive. Clothes for your visit: the weather now is warm with periodic violent rainstorms. Dress casual except for the plane, and you’ll be comfortable in light cottons. The only extra layer I wear is a sweater, but never all day. Moshi and Nairobi might be cool because they are higher in elevation, but you probably won’t even need anything extra after England! Bring a bathing suit for pools in big cities. If you go to the coast, the weather will be hot and humid, and the ocean will be warmer than the Oregon coast.
Blue jeans feel heavy in this climate. I cut off my only pair for shorts. I wear a pair of culottes for hiking in areas where I might encounter a village. The people don’t think much of naked white female legs. Just bring a skirt or culottes that don’t show dirt or dust, and you’ll be set.
Because of the time available, I must confine myself to the Nairobi tours. Perhaps we could also get to Kampala on our way here. If you want to go to Zanzibar, you can go by train to Dar. If we can’t fit in Serengeti while I’m with you, you can do that on your way to Nairobi.
Please try to find something like those felt stars we used to get at summer camp for honors. I want them for achievement levels in athletics. They should be washable, if possible. Look in the Girl Scout or Campfire Girl store.
Etc: The spoon I sent is from Zanzibar: that’s a clove on top. Our cat is “hairy preggers” according to Kay. That means she’s pregnant again. The leopard ate her other kids. I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary from Kay.
Miss Inkpen said that if I took the boat from Bukoba on Friday Jan 13th I could escort the girls coming from that area, and I’ll get my way paid plus an excuse for being late. Let me know if that’s okay with you, so I can tell her.
P.S. Things rare or expensive here to bring if you can: cans of B in B button mushrooms, nummy; a box of straight pins and one package of sewing needles; a good pair of medium-size pinking shears; one pair of Polaroid sunglasses; a triangular nylon hair net; Prell.
Tuesday, November 29, 1966
Dear Mom and Carol,
This is to retract my last letter, since your plans seem underway. I am sorry you are not planning a trip to the Serengeti. Fanny says, “United Touring Company. Yes, it’s just a run-of-the-mill thing and they take you around in zebra striped vans. You realize, of course, we won’t be able to speak to you if you’ve ever been in a van like that.” So I’ll have to be careful how any van is painted. She also says that the Hotel New Stanley is the most expensive in Nairobi. All the touring agencies send their clients there, naturally. The place is alright, but the food is horrible. Eat out. She gave suggestions. It’s right in the middle of Nairobi, very European, and no Africans for miles except staff. Sad.
I’ll try to come to the airport to meet you, 8 a.m. January 3. It’s five to ten miles out of town, so I might meet you at the hotel.
I had Thanksgiving dinner at the McPhee’s, the Peace Corps representative here. Scrumptious! There were 20 Americans there. Not a very lively group, but the food was worth it.
Kay is in Dar es Salaam now. She escorted the girls on the train and will return Thursday. Miss Jeavons is back! The scourge of Bwiru.
By the way, Miss Inkpen is headmistress at Mtwara for a while, where that girl from Portland was posted. Boy, am I glad I’m not there. Isolated. Hot, humid, a hellhole, the last post for government workers. The African equivalent of Siberia.
Tuesday, 13 December, 1966
Dear Mom and Carol,
Begin chloroquine phosphate .25 g (Aralin) for malaria right away. Take it every Sunday, and continue for six weeks after you leave here. It’s what we take weekly as a prophylactic. The cure is a lot more of the same.
Anne Wiggins just came through from a tour of the Serengeti. She and some others rented a Land Rover and driver/guide for three days, and they saw absolutely everything. It costs 2100 shillings (about $300). The biggest problem is getting accommodations at Seranero, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara. For three people the vehicle would be cheaper, and I’m sure others would like to go. Peace Corps volunteers have a habit of hanging around hoping for free or cheap seats on tours with rich tourists. (You.)
Don’t forget a charter plane flies from Seranero on MwanzAir, a light plane that will cost about $100 to charter.
ETC: Kay and I are driving to Kampala this weekend.
I’ve replanted my garden. The only problem is Freya loves hills. My garden is planted on little hills, thus she keeps sitting on my tiny veggies. So far I have six carrots.
Saturday 14, Jan. 1967
Dear Pop and Allen,
No problems finding Carol and Mom. We rested in Nairobi, hoping Mom’s rebellious stomach would calm down. It didn’t, so she stayed in the hotel, and Carol and I took a three-day tour. We spent one night at Treetops, built in an enormous tree. The rooms are tiny, but bright lights illuminate the watering hole. I didn’t sleep much. Animals creep cautiously to the water all night: buffalo, various deer, wart hogs, a couple of lions and more. During one of the few moments of precious sleep someone knocked on the door because a leopard had peeked out of the brush. I missed it.
The Lake Nakuru flamingos were richly pink from eating the tiny shrimp that breed in that brackish lake. Those we watched were last year’s crop, a guide told us, because the mature adults were off raising their chicks on a northern lake. Rhinos, giraffes and some huge vultures were there, feasting on a zebra carcass.
We spent the last night at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club where Crested Cranes roam the tailored lawn. They resemble our Great Blue Herons, with a bristly golden crown like the big comb a Spanish lady might use to hold on her mantilla, only sideways. Anyway, they are stunning. They must get fed because they were so tame, to a point. I tried to sneak up on them, but they kept just beyond my reach without effort.
When we returned to Nairobi, Mom felt better so we have hired a car and driver to take us to Mwanza via the Serengeti.
Saturday, 21, January, 1967
Our trip from Arusha was great. We spent a day in the Ngorongoro Crater, an enormous flat plain spread out inside the steep crater walls. The animals can get in and out at certain places, but within they seem to be wandering in their own private reserve. We saw all the animals you might imagine and more! Elephants, zebras, hippos, rhinos, and lots of gazelles and their relatives.
We stopped at the kraal of a Masai family and looked hard at it from the outside. They build a fence of prickly shrubs around their domed stick-and-dung dwellings, and pen the cows and goats inside at night. Even though the rains haven’t begun, the mud in the pen was deep from the pee and poop. By day, boys with long sticks drive the cows and goats to water at the edge of the crater.
Mom wanted to take a picture of the woman standing in front of the kraal, but when our driver told us how much she wanted, Mom decided to buy a slide. We found a good one at the lodge, which is on the rim of the crater and looks right down into it. The light play in the evening was magic. From the dining room the puffy, white clouds danced across the sky, and the herds grazed, moving around on the floor, making it difficult to remember to eat. When Mom gets home, ask her what the crater’s name is. (Ngorongoro) She can’t say it. When she tries, she screws up her face and her lips twist.
The last night we stayed at Seranero, right in the middle of the Serengeti and east of Ngorongoro. The guest bungalows look from the outside like the houses in my area, round with pointy grass roofs. Inside our room was akin to a hotel, with painted walls, beds and rugs and a bathroom. Lying on the bed, you look up to the underside of the grass roof. I never saw anything crawl out, but heard some little rustlings. Geckos, little pale green lizards, live on the walls and squeak in tiny voices. They are our friends because they eat the mosquitoes. We ate outside under a shade, and the food was wonderful. Suleiman is a good cook, but tourists are really fed well! We had a wonderful variety of food I never see in Mwanza and tons of meat, even some wild game.
More animals sighted: a leopard sleeping on a tree limb, a personal goal of mine.
On the drive to Mwanza, we bipped along the dusty road at a rapid pace when the driver slowed way down. People were gathered at the side of the road, kangas flapping in the breeze. No village around. The road curved up into something like a speed bump. The driver managed to get over it by driving a little sideways, but he said they did that to catch unwary drivers. If a vehicle hits the bump going too fast, parts fly off. By the time the car turns around, the people have gathered up the parts to sell them back to the driver. Pretty resourceful, way out there.
Sunday, 29 January.
Carol and Mom took off for Nairobi without a problem, though they were a bit surprised at the plane waiting on the runway for them, nose in the air, two propellers and not looking too shiny. I expected Betty Grable to step off in her seams-down-the-back stockings. They bravely climbed aboard, so I hope the engines were in good shape, anyway.
They seemed to enjoy their visit. I showed them the places I frequent and even took them on a short hike up a hill behind my house to see the view. At the market in town, Carol wrinkled her nose at the flies on the chicken carcasses. I assured her I get there early to shop, when they are freshly killed. There really weren’t that many; rank meat means more flies.
Suleimani was impressed that my mother, who must be at least his age, would come all the way here to see me. He seemed pleased to make tea for her, and she was her charming self.
The weather cooperated, the flowers were showy. The hibiscus at the end of the house was in full bloom, which Mom loved. I don’t think she was impressed with my struggling garden, but the fence posts I pounded into the dirt to keep Freya out are sprouting leaves.
One day, Carol and I found our shamba boy in the kitchen washing dishes while Suleimani watched. After overcoming his surprise, Suleimani explained that he was training the other man so he could get a better job. I guess washing dishes pays better than whacking away at grass. He hasn’t shown up lately.
A couple of days ago Miss Inkpen, our headmistress, heard a commotion in her back yard. She got to the window in time to see one of her beloved dachshunds trying to wriggle free from the mouth of a leopard. She yelled bloody murder, but it just ran faster, with the dog screaming. Whenever she tells someone about losing her pet, she emphasizes how cheeky that leopard was to be out during the day.