Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

How the passage of time is altering core Tanzanian values

Tanzanians are much less hospitable then they used to be.

More than 25 years ago, while driving a Land Rover 109 between Arusha and Butiama, I exited from the Ikoma Gate of the Serengeti National Park late in the evening during the height of the rainy season.
File:Land Rover Series III 109.JPG
The Land Rover 109, similar to the one I drove through the Serengeti. Photo credit: Buckers.
On reaching Fort Ikoma I turned towards Mugumu, the district headquarters. Being alone and intent on avoiding the risk of getting stuck in mud and spending the night in the midst of wild animals, I thought it better to spend the night at Mugumu and resume my trip to Butiama the following day.

The road between Fort Ikoma and Mugumu was in terrible condition and I occasionally ran the risk of getting stuck in pools of water and mud, but fortunately, the car held on and I progressed slowly ahead.

At around 9:00 PM I was flagged down by a man who was heading in my direction, walking alone, soaked, and  traversing wildlife territory. I picked him up and we reached Mugumu after 11:00 PM.

None of the hotels that I went to had vacancies. When I offered to drop my hitchhiker at his house he gave up his room for me and I spent a comfortable night that otherwise would have been spent in the car. Those familiar with the Land Rover 109 will recall that it did not have reclining seats.

This is the Tanzania which we do not have anymore. Of people who had trust in strangers hitchhiking at night amidst wildebeest and hyenas, and of people who let strangers into their houses.

I have to admit that today I have to think twice of picking up a hitchhiking stranger, even in daylight. And I doubt whether the person who I picked up that night more than two decades ago would today allow a stranger into his room without risking this stranger leaving unannounced with a few of the room's fittings.

Trust has evaporated and in its place there is tremendous suspicion among ourselves and, consequently, an erosion of the values that identified us as Tanzanians.

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