Monday, October 22, 2018

Finding a Family in Tanzania

In Search of the History of a Family

Here we are back in the land of Kilimanjaro, the Usambara Mountains, Amani, Muheza, Tanga and Pangani.  It has been a remarkable 3 weeks in this marvelous and still new (to us) country where we have lived for 14 years.  But, part of my purpose, in addition to rekindling old friendships and making new (social workers conference) was to try to find the lost history of Donald Bagster Wilson and his wife Margaret (Peggie) Elizabeth Wilson. 

This remarkable couple lost two children during childbirth and raised two children, one of whom is one of my dearest friends, Sylvie Emmanuel. 
Sylvie is between John and me-smiling!

There are so many remarkable stories about this family and wonderfully, they are a family that writes and saves letters and scrapbooks and diaries.  As my friend Patricia Beaver and I began research for the Emmanuels regarding the history of their family, we found a treasure trove of material.  We are still sorting what we can include and what will be a 2000 page book that no one will read.
Bagster Wilson's mummy cloth--sometime very long ago 

So, this safari began with the hope of finding more information regarding the time that the Wilson family lived and worked in Muheza and Amani, both malaria centers near Tanga and the Usambara Mountains.  John and I were thankfully accompanied by Greg and Nikoli Emmanuel and of course the loving, cute, “wicked” dog “RD”. 

Heading down to Muheza, and then up to Amani, I thought about all the cluster of pictures I had seen of the Wilsons on the road to various malaria sites by the side of the road….in mud, in ditches, broken down even in the front of their hotel, and in various places. Somehow they always got over the mud, out of the ditches and patched up the cars and continued on their way.

I also thought of their loyal houseman “Rice” who stayed with their family for many years, often with one or the other childre entrusted to him while another was rushed off to school or to the doctor or to other sorts of places.

Marvelous researchers met us in Muheza and told us that they, too were eager to find the stories of the Wilsons in Muheza and Amani and were ever grateful to receive copies of the photos of Donald Bagster Wilson in his role as the first Director of the East African Malaria Institute, Peggie Wilson’s lovely portrait, and to hear a little about his history and that of Amani.
At Ubulu

Let's have another drink of coffee

In Tanga with Willcocks
Our drive to Amani included all the marvelous images of cool deep forests sometimes with carefully planted trees that had been planted by Germans when Amani was the East African Agricultural Institute before the wars.  It also included the famous “9 hairpin turns” that Peggie Wilson refers to in her letters to Donald’s family (primarily).  They were indeed hairpin turns. 

finally valley view

And then there was Amani itself.  As if a walk back in time occurred for us, we met the Caretaker and looked at all the clean old bottles of probably horrible things, live mice, dead rats, butterflies and bugs of all kinds, the old house that we had heard so much about and a tour inside that showed carefully maintained rooms, though we couldn’t find the Bishops room (where he could enter secretly and visit with those he was called to but also to leave alone).  Here wsa the beautiful eating porch on the second floor.  Suddenly Peggie Wilson came alive for us.  You could feel her presence in this room.
caretaker and his flock
butterfly good
bugs, good
Horrible chemicals but malaria good
Science magazine  page
caretaker and dead friends

caretaker and his friend

Amani house
major house
party and eating room
When we returned to the earth it seems, we drove over the familiar Muheza Road to reach Pangani where we entered Mkoa Bay (Moa Bay in the 1930’s) and though evening had fallen Timoteo (long time Pangani Caregaker) prepared crabs which we made a perfect mess of, added some salad and with wine and beer in hand looked out over the falling horizon of the bay.  Our next day included much talk of the visit to Amani, and lots of swimming fun and walking on the beach.  We had a new appreciation of the preciousness of life and renewed friendship with Vera and her husband and partner Robbie over sundowners. 

dhau at night
Scouts on a school break.

ISM Verandah.
Emmanuel Veranda
Greg's babobabao tree ( 30 years old!)
Mkoa Bay Lodge & erosion of coral
Timotheo  fixes crabs
Nikoli takes RD for a hated run in beautiful water.
Vera Greg Nikoli and John

famous Robbie tells us the new project

Vera is famous in Pangani for working on two films about GBV.  (Gender Based Violence) Each are earning awards and we are so happy for this humble woman who has given massive amounts of her time and emotional strength to people in Pangani!

Leaving Pangani is always hard, partly because it is a long monotonous drive home, and partly because we are leaving that sense of peace behind to return to the “shidas” (worries) and relentless work of the week.  Fortunately we had time to take another little tour of Pangani before we left, which seemed like a sleepy Islamic town that hides a history of being a major port for slaves in the 1800’s as well as coconut export.

Buying fish
Maybe coconut or betel nut working
"Old is Gold"
This fish....and that fish....and more fish
pay by weight
Uh oh, Nikoli drivint!!!

As we drove through the Sisal Farms, we were reminded of all the Greeks who started these farms years ago, and now the neat sisal has found its way back.  May it live long in this beautiful land just below the Pare mountains.
Sisal stacked in neat rows.

Meanwhile back in Moshi, we are so happy to be in our house where there are welcomes everywhere from the magnificent Frangi Pani’s to the Traveler’s fern, to the yesterday, today and tomorrow bushes filled with fragrant flowers, to the “family” cactus producing its babies each day.
Big smelly Frangi Pani
Traveler's Fern
Family Cactus (red "flower" becomes a new arm of cactus
Yesterday Today and Tomorrw-Each fragrant flower lasts 3 days
Coconut Palm has coconuts! And Pauli's favorite Palm