One of the most unusual and very special trips that I’ve experienced, was marrying my husband. No, he’s not the unusual part. It was that our wedding was anything but traditional. We celebrated on the top of a mountain in Tanzania. Originally, we were simply going to elope, but then we had a wacky idea to get married while we were over in Africa.
The Trip Was Enlightening in Many Ways.
There was a vast array of lifestyles and living conditions, from the metropolis of Dar Salam, to the city of Iringa, to the tiny village of Idunda, and even the wide-open wildlife reserve of Ruaha River Camp.
Each place told of heart-wrenching times, dealing with corruption, such as gifts being held back for unaffordable fees, and the accounts of beautiful, kind and giving people, such as hospitals, and organizations providing aid to the sick, well drillers bringing water to the thirsty, educators giving knowledge to the next generation, and more.
The highlight of this trip began, for me, when our group of eighteen packed into three Land Rovers and headed out to this tiny village called Idunda. High-up in the mountains, God, my best friend and I would become a team for life. The roads were treacherous as pointed out by our guide who stated, “Our people in the village are very appreciative, that you traveled so far and are risking your lives to visit them.” At which point, a fellow traveler replied, “Aren’t people in the other vehicles risking their lives as well?”
It amazed me to see the immense amount of goods they transported. Bicycles were loaded down with three to five crates. Carts and trailers, usually pulled by vehicles in my home town, were being pushed up steep hills, by one, two, or sometimes three strong men, of rather small stature. Along our journey, people young and old stood along the roadside. It appeared they had been waiting to greet us. Others set down their baskets, in order to wave.
As we drove into the village of Idunda a group of petite women appeared over the crest of the hill, balancing five-gallon buckets of water on their heads. Water was scarce on the top of the mountain and had to be carried in daily. There were no toilets, running water, or modern conveniences. However, the villagers seemed at peace in their way of living, cut off from news of the nuclear rights in Iran, and other controversies at that time. They were strong, hardworking, generous people with a great deal of love.
News of “wazungu’s” (white people) spread throughout the area, and our small ceremony grew…and it grew. And on the day of the wedding, we were shocked and amazed to learn that there were over three thousand guests standing on the crest of that mountain top. Not until that very moment, did I realize, the importance of all those goats and chicken that had been gifted. We were overjoyed to find out, a lorry full of rice and beans had been sent to this tiny village, and that everyone had received a meal that day. A man crippled shuffled on his hands to the alter and presented us with his gift. He told us, through an interpreter, “I cannot work the fields. I cannot tend the livestock. I weave to earn my living. I am so honored that you shared your special day with our village, that I made this grass mat for you.” It was very humbling, to get gifts from someone with a greater need than I had for their essential item.
We danced to the beat of the drums and jingling bells. Few words were able to penetrate through the language barriers. However, the smiles, laughter, and gleam in their eyes let me know, this was a special day for everyone!
The trinkets I took from this experience, that I may find useful when writing children’s stories: “It’s not the size of the gift, but the quality of the giving" Also, "Seldom can we prepare for what’s ahead. However, there’s a better chance you’ll learn when things don’t go the way you planned".
There was nothing that would have prepared me, for what I experienced in Africa. It wasn’t an easy, relaxing trip, on the other hand, it was very rewarding. The wonderful people we met along the way, taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons. Travel is one of the greatest teachers!
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Leanne Benson, writer, illustrator, and sculptor. Author of The Lion of Tupungato.
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