Notes on an Uru Path

Walking down a path in Uru. It must be very much as it was ever, except for the coffee trees which only have about one hunderd years history in Tanzania.

The path is narrow and snakes through the shambas, occaisonally broken by a stream or irrigation ditch. If the mini-ravine is deep it will be crossed by a narrow and weak looking plank that looks like it has had bites taken out of it by some fearsome beast. If it is just a shallow dip, where it crosses the path will be filled with crushed sections of banana tree trunks; this facilitates the passing of barrows, bicycles or, where the path is just wide enough, pick-up trucks.

The path forks and meets with other paths. Here and there is a glimpse of a hazy view down to the plains. The sounds are of birds and a continuous pitter patter as leaves fall from the tall trees, onto banana leaves, then onto coffee leaves, then onto bean and yam leaves and finally onto the ground.

The fields flanking the path have recently been furrowed. Studded regularly in the fields are gnarled and mossy coffee trees, to old to be producing anything of high quality. Shayo told me the parish field by his house had been planted a few months before his birth – November 1935. Spaced yet further apart than the coffee are banana trees, some held up with props, since the weight of flower and fruit can sometimes uproot the entire tree. Is this how bananas propogate naturally.

Uru is a place where little currently works to its full capacity. Falling coffee prices have fuelled the loss of interest in coffee farming, resulting in the aged trees sometimes abandoned or ignored. The road to Uru, built in three sections by different contractors is already starting to disintegrate in the places where the contractor lacked the necessary enthusiasm, or just went off with the money. Computers donated to the school similarly lack lustre – they will never enable students or teachers to achieve anything more than an enduring patience they already possess.

Walking along the path, being greeted by everyone I meet, watching how interactions are friendly and unhurried I wonder whether some of the impediments to development I see are perhaps willful.

Women giggle and loudly comment when I greet them in the local language.

A large bird flies from one tree to another, and disapears before I can really focus on it. No hope of identification.

I have tried to photograph this place, but it is so much more than a picture, however large. It is sound, smell, the light breeze, the texture of the ground beneath the feet. It is the boredom that turns into relaxation and contentedness. It is the frustration of not being able to find a secluded lonely spot to read and write without being disturbed.

The path becomes familiar again and I find my way back to the Shayo’s house. Bath, dinner, then bed…


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