Safari in Swahili means a journey, usually a hunting or scientific expedition. As early as last year, we were sent Information on the Excursions following the Plenary Assembly. There were four to choose from: one day, two-day, three-day and five-day excursions. Each had its itinerary and the cost in US dollars. We made a choice and sent it to the Secretariat in Stuttgart. We also arranged for our return flight in time for the return from the excursions.
The Plenary Assembly was something to look forward to – meeting the CBF family from all over the globe. The theme: Word of God – Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace is timely for the present world situation that is constantly challenged towards reconciliation, justice and peace. Truly a dream of everyone but the reality is still far from it.
TANZANIAN CULTURAL NIGHT AT TEC
Another thing to look forward to was going to Africa! Meeting the people of Africa and yes, the wild animals too that we only see in the zoo or on documentary TV shows. The itinerary of the excursions was going to provide both. We chose the 3-day excursion: Morogoro, Mikumi Park, Iringa, Bagamoyo. In Morogoro, we were to visit religious communities and evening to Mikumi Park and early morning tour in the wild animal observation. Wow! That’s great! We could see the nocturnal as well as the diurnal animals! At Iringa, we were to learn about Bible initiatives, among other things. Bagamoyo would be a historical-cultural place to learn many things about Tanzania and Africa.
Three days before the scheduled excursion, there were papers put outside the plenary hall so we sign again our names which “package” we choose. I signed in again on the 3-day excursion but this time, the cost was more than it was published months before. Well, the fuel cost has increased so much by then.
Off to Mikumi and Iringa
Excited with lots of anticipation and expectations on the trip, we woke up very early to start off the journey at 6am on July 3. There were two buses for the 3-day excursion since we were around 37 people. The bus was comfortable enough. We had a driver, an assistant driver but we missed the Tour Guide! There was no one to orient us with the different places we pass by or guide us to the groups we were supposed to meet. Enriched by the parish community experiences the Sunday before, we were excited to meet more communities outside the city of Dar es Salaam. It must be different in the country-side.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK'S ENTRANCE
No one informed us of the new itinerary or meal schedule. We stopped at a restaurant halfway to Mikumi because our companions needed to use the toilet. Sr. Chantana bought a bag of oranges and shared them to all of us. We did not stay long in that place. The journey continued till we reached Mikumi Park. It was 11:45 AM. We asked where lunch would be – there was no answer. We were at the entrance of the park and we were asked to pay $22.00 each ($20.00 each as entrance fee to the park and $2 each for the guide). Hmmm, there might be a restaurant inside the Park where we could eat lunch. We were hungry already.
After paying, the bus went inside the fenced entrance. We went around Mikumi park. The guide would point to us the impalas, the elephants, the buffalos, a few giraffes and a few zebras from a distance. They were all categorized as “wild beasts” and he described to us how long each animal can sustain without food after having a good catch! That was all he could tell about the animals.
THE BAOBAB TREES
Telling all these to a group of hungry tourists, we thought, it would be better to listen to the national geographic commentaries in their wild life documentaries. Perhaps one or the other among us could imagine a roasted buffalo instead – at least for a change of the fried chicken menu we had everyday at TEC.J There were few animals to watch. What can you expect at high noon? Were we not supposed to visit the park in the evening? We were far from where the animals were. So, some of us were satisfied with taking the photos of baobab trees which were numerous along the way. The leafless baobab trees looked like upside down trees with the roots on top instead of underground.
We stopped on a swamp where there were a few hippos. But they were too shy to see two buses of tourists to watch them. So they hid under water! One or the other managed to put out their head and mouth for a short time. Only those ready with the camera could take a shot! Fr. Valentine did and he was happy with that!
We went out of Mikumi park at about 3pm. The baboons were outside the park.
MOTHER BABOON CARYING HER BABY AT THE ROADSIDE
They were just on the roadsides quite comfortable with the buses passing by. Some of them just sat at the roadside as if waiting to ride the bus.
THE GROUP WAITING FOR LATE LUNCH
We were brought to a restaurant of a hotel an hour distance from the park. The meal cost $10.00 excluding drinks. Ok, we were hungry, let it be. We had to wait for more than an hour for them to prepare our orders. So we had lunch at about 5pm. And we had to travel to Iringa where our hotel reservation for the night was. That was a 4-hour ride! We reached at the Living Light Hotel at 10pm! My friends were expecting supper. But there was none – not even coffee or drinking water. The rooms were ok but there was no water! The poor caretaker with his little English explained that they had difficulty with water the past days. And that they were waiting for us early afternoon. Half of the group went out to a restaurant to have supper. Half of us stayed, just too tired and slept with no supper.
According to the driver, we were supposed to go to Iringa National Park after breakfast. With the traveling time, we would reach Iringa national park by noontime again. So we will see the same as in Mikumi and it will just be added expense. We were booked in that hotel for two nights or even 3 days. Majority decided to go back to TEC after breakfast the next morning and ask the travel agency to pay for the night at TEC plus dinner and breakfast. And so we did.
IRINGAN CONFUSION AND DECISION
We did not meet any religious community nor bible initiatives from a small Christian community. We only saw the mud houses of the people along the way. There were also tomatoes and fruits for sale lined up in buckets along the road – a colorful way to exhibit their goods. Then there were native baskets hanged in the trees along the road. That was quite an artistic way to show off their market goods.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
They have the luxury of space but only a very small part is being farmed. The mountains are rocky and the soil not so good. There were few houses along the way but in some areas, they were a commune. I wonder where they get their food and water. In my place, you will see several schools along the high way. I did not see any in the whole day trip except for one or two places where there was a sign of a school in the interior. Perhaps there were not so many children to go to school.
We passed by the same hotel restaurant for lunch on our way back to TEC. This time, it took one an half hours for them to prepare our lunch! And yes, the lunch was served at 3pm.
Back to TEC, Dar es Salaam
We reached TEC in time for dinner at 8pm on the 4th of July. We imagined we shall be liberated from the beans and fried chicken menu but lo and behold, we still got exactly what we had the last 2 weeks! Nevertheless, we were happy to be back “home”. Then we were told that there was an option to go to Bagamoyo the next morning and those who will stay behind will be refunded with $22 each. Some of us opted to go to Bagamoyo and got a refund of $12 to pay for the museum and lunch. A priest from Tanzania volunteered to be the tourist guide to Bagamoyo. That was great. We had a guide, finally.
From the booklet “Bagamoyo: Where Cultures Met” by Fr. John Henschel, I took some interesting episodes of the history of the town.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF BAGAMOYO
Bagamoyo is one of the most attractive towns of Tanzania. Located 70km to the north of Dar es Salaam at the Indian Ocean, the town combines with the beauty of the beach with cultural and historical heritage. Here, the Africans, Arabs, Indians and Europeans met and left their “footprints”. The Catholic Museum in Bagamoyo tells the history of the town and of the Catholic Church in the town.
RETRACING THE DISTANT PAST OF BAGAMOYO
Although the East African coast is predominantly influenced by Islam, Christianity also has an important input. In the 19th century, Bagamoyo became the starting point of the Catholic Church. In 1840, Dr. David Livingstone, medical missionary of the Anglican “London Missionary
Society” arrived in East Africa. During his journeys through many areas of East Africa, he encountered slavery and was much shocked by “this terrible trafficking in human life”. He got the idea that the best way to overcome slavery would be to open ways for honest merchants to travel into the interior and to establish alternative trades with the Africans. According to Livingstone only “Commerce and Christianity” could stop slavery. David Livingstone died in 1973 near Lake Bagweolo. His porters buried his heart under an Mvula tree, mummified his body and carried the body 1,500 miles to the Catholic mission in Bagamoyo. Here the body rested in the tower of the Catholic Church to await the last journey via Zanzibar to London. Ransomed slaves of the Catholic “Freedom Village” honored the Anglican missionary Livingstone with a night prayer. On April 18, 1874, Livingstone was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.
THE CHAINS OF SLAVES OF THE PAST
According to Paul E. Lovejoy, 95,000 East African slaves were taken to the Mascarenes islands Reunion and Mauritius to work on the plantations of French settlers. The population estimates for Reunion of the year 1856 indicate about 190,000 inhabitants; the most were former slaves who had been set free by the French “Abolition of Slavery Law” of 1848. But even after 1848, French settlers imported East African slaves as “contract workers”. Bishop Amandus Maupoint of St. Denis, Reunion, established the first Catholic Mission in Zanzibar in 1860. In a letter to Rome, he outlined his proposals on how to fight slavery: to ransom as many slaves as possible and to train them in schools and agricultural settlements. In 1863 the mission work was entrusted to the Catholic missionaries of the “Congregation of the Spiritans” under the guidance of Fr. Anthony Horner.
The Spiritans ransomed slaves. Soon the mission compound in Zanzibar was too small and on the 16th of July 1868, Fr. Horner opened a new mission in Bagamoyo; the first on the East African mainland with the first “Christian Freedom Village”. The ransoming of slaves continued. The ex-slaves were educated in elementary schools, some even in a secondary school and trained in different handicraft skills. The “village-method” was developed in order to protect the freed slaves from a hostile environment and to educate them in the Christian way of life, so that they could become beacons of Christianity for the neighborhood.
THE PARADISE RESORT & HOTEL
We left the Catholic Church museum enriched with the history of the town. We went to the beach and looked for a place to eat lunch. There was a restaurant near the beach but they had no food. We asked where we could have lunch where the food is already prepared. We did not want to wait for an hour to eat lunch since we were hungry already. We were told to go to Paradise Resort where they serve a buffet lunch. Fr. Bernard, svd said “I do not know how much it will cost but for lunch we will go to Paradise!”
THE GARDENS OF PARADISE
We reached Paradise Holiday Resort, truly for the tourists who can afford. We were ushered to the restaurant with the buffet food ready. It would cost us US$20.00 each excluding drinks. We had no choice but to pay the price and simply enjoy the food and the beach view.
We went back to the beach near the Church where some of our companions enjoyed a short time of swimming, some slept and some shopped for souvenirs. That was good. We went back to TEC in time for dinner of fried chicken!
Many were leaving the next morning but there were a few of us who had one day to spend before the day of departure. So a few of us, Fr. Cleophas Fernandes, Arch. Boutros, Fr. Albert Pirson, Christiane Paul, Fr. Doms Ramos, svd and myself arranged to go to Zanzibar the next day. We left at 6am by taxi to the port. The fast craft ticket cost $35 or $70 for the round trip. The boat trip was for two hours. Sr. Chantana preferred to take the plane to Zanzibar. When we arrived at the Zanzibar port, we lined up to fill up the arrival form and have our passports stamped for a day visit although you can stay longer if you want. Then a guide approached us and after some negotiation for his rate, we had a tour of the significant places of Zanzibar on foot.
The guide was good and gave us a historical background of the places we visited. Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim. 99.9% of the inhabitants are Muslim. The Muslim influences were clearly manifested. The carved wooden doors of the houses were tourist attractions aside from the historical buildings. Some have pointed brass spikes to protect the household from elephant attacks (so we were told although we did not see any elephant walking around). The exquisite doors with their sizes and designs are status symbols.
We went to the market where several kinds of fish were displayed for sale. There was also an auction of TV and other appliances or things going on in the marketplace.
We also went to the Catholic Church where the choir practiced for the Sunday mass service. The Church is big and beautiful. Although the Catholics are a minority, they managed to keep the faith alive.
We went to the house where the slaves were kept centuries ago. I could not believe that hundreds of slaves could be accommodated in such a small room in the basement with only one small window. We were told that many died from suffocation in that room. The chains stuck to the stone pillar were still there. The slaves were chained in their necks, hands and feet. They were displayed in the market place where the Anglican Church is now built. Only the strong ones were bought and many rejects just die from hunger, disease or suffocation in their dungeons. It’s a very sad part of their history. Thank God, there is no such thing now.
However, there are new forms of slavery in our generation. Our domestic helpers in the middle east and in other places are being treated like slaves. Some are raped and killed. Many are enslaved by drugs, alcohol, sex, money and power. We need prophets to remind the people that this earthly life is just a stop over. There is more to life than what the world can offer. Someone said that life is short. The reality is – life is not short because it is eternal. And this life determines what our next life will be. Some are given small responsibilities; some are given greater responsibilities. God wants us to be happy in this world and happier still in what is in store for us for the next.
We were brought to a restaurant near the port and beside the sea for our lunch. It was a nice place with a view to the sea. The meal cost $10.00 each excluding drinks. Then we headed for the port where our fast craft was. But we had to pass by immigration office to fill up the departure card with our passport. Going to Zanzibar is like going to another country. J
The journey back home
Enriched by the African experiences, the encounter with participants in the Plenary Assembly and the situations of peace and justice in different parts of the world, we went home with plans and dreams to realize in the next months and years. We were more challenged to make the Word of God – a Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. Our various experiences and encounter with the Word of God in our daily Lectio Divina showed us that the challenge begins with each one of us – in our personal lives, in our families, communities and the society where we are a part.
MT. KILIMANJARO BIDDING GOODBYE
I pray that our beautiful words and plans in the 7th Plenary Assembly will not be left at the AMECEA Hall of Tanzania Episcopal Conference but will be realized in our very homes and work places. As charity begins at home, so should justice and peace be. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first steps. May these first steps be for the people we see often everyday, the people we work with and the people who make our life meaningful.
Estrella (Star) del Mar
CLFC, Cebu City, Philippines
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