Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tanzania tales...... An 'ode' to Jackson.

I really don't know where to begin. And I haven't written anything for many, many weeks, so bear with me.
This blog has been neglected for a fair few months now (I apologise, thank you for not abandoning us in our absence). And as I scrolled down the pages I realised nothing has been said since we split our different ways and Abbie, Kate, Gina and I vanished off to Tanzania.
Which is criminal.
Because Tanzania really was all I COULD talk about for many months. And even now a day doesn't go by where I'm not wondering about them back there, daydreaming of the hot dusty villages and the wooden house we lived in; Eagle Lodge.

We went out with good intentions. We went out nervous. Excited. Unaware. 'Gap Years' are so traditional and cliche these days, and yet the experience is anything but. I loved that every day was different. That each morning I could wake up not knowing what would happen, knowing nothing would be the same.
No, I lie.
There were some stable people and events in our day to day life. Let me introduce you to Jackson.


"Jacki-boy"


He was our Translator (no one there spoke English, only Swahili) and Driver. At the beginning, I'm not sure why, perhaps I was intimidated, he passed me by. I saw him as a cheery, distant fellow who like to wear red. But as the days would fly by and we would spend many a time squeezed in the front of the red truck with him, or waiting in the Coptic hospital together, we came to realise he is one of the best human beings on the planet.
He had, for one, an easy sense of humour and found the most bizarre things funny.
He confessed that he and Freddie (the Driver/Translator for the other team) had thought Gina and I, being twins, were actually one person. He told me, with a beaming smile, how they had rung each other up-
Jackson: "She's with me, at the church"
Freddie: "No, no she is here, in Mkyringo!"

That set me laughing for a long time.

He was open and honest; never shy of saying how he felt about the situation in his country, in the villages, or even us. He had an innate urge to help you, always there to lend a hand be it with hammering, or checking if you are okay when you have been ill. This easygoing, genuine innocence and yet so worldly a wisdom earnt him the respect and love of the whole team- many a journey we would be singing; "we love you Jackson, we do, we love you Jackson, we do!"

A child's 'flap happy' hat he adored so much!
He said many times he would love to go to England, asking what it was like to fly in a plane- I didn't have the heart to tell him, or want to tell him, that living the 'western life' would probably kill all the hope in Jackson. Is it wrong I was secretly glad he would never come to England? To protect that in him?

Because Jackson had an innate prompting to protect us. Especially us as girls, he had to defend us from more than one 'suitor' or drunk on the streets of Musoma. And yet it more the emotional harm he feared we would come to, that he seemed most eager to prevent. One of my favourite memories of Jackson, is when Kate and I were upset, taking a man, Kitara, in our village to a physiotherapist. On seeing our miserable faces Jackson left for a few minutes, then came back in. He beckoned to us to come outside. "I have a surprise, just come, just come." We quietly slipped off the table where we were perched and followed him round the back and outside of the treatment room. We squinted in the sun and tried to make out what he was walking towards. Then we both laughed. It was a playground filled with rough swings, a wooden seesaw and a roundabout. Jackson was trying to cheer us up. I'll never forget the air swinging by, the green and blue background all a blur with the slight and sudden hint of red.

A house in our village.

He also had an incredible strength of self. He knew, and wanted us to know, the 'real Africa'. He would try to explain with words, and failing that, we once disappeared into the Tanzanian landscape. We were down at the bottom of our village, the team leaders at the top, and were filled with an urge to go exploring. Jackson seemed only to glad to steal us away- Kate, myself and Andy. We abandoned the path and went sprinting for a long way through the bristling Tanzanian fields, following Jackson as he ran knife in hand. We reached a pile of vast, large rocks- eerily circular- and began to climb our way up to get the full impact of the fading view. Just that brief memory of freedom brings a smile to my face.

The day we went exploring...
So this is Jackson. He is an expert at knowing which trees have snakes in, exactly how to barter with a policeman, how to eat Sugar Cane and how to cheer someone up. He is very protective about the little hair he has, is an incredible teacher in the schools, has a limited taste in card games, and knows TEN national languages as well as English. He likes to wear red, has a chicken called Jasmine, and believes in what he does. That's Jackson.

But I need to stop.
I could go on in detail not just about Jackson but about all manner of things Tanzania related. Maybe I'll do it this way. In anecdote form. Because I could write a NOVEL about the experiences we had in Tanzania and the people we met, the children we played with and the Church we built. Anyway. This is an 'ode' to Jackson, so that no one forgets what an incredible person God put in our path.

The Church Team

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