While in the Tengeru region East of Arusha, our group we went to “The Small Things” Children’s Center, which is inspired by Mother Teresa’s quote, “We can do not great things, only small things with great love.” There we delivered some of the school supplies we’d brought to Tanzania that some of the travelers and others had procured by my friend Rev. Kevin Ross’s congregation at Unity of Sacramento—a very progressive metaphysical church that he pastors. The staff there gave us an orientation and introduced us to some of the kids; that was a beautiful experience and our first opportunity to be with a group of children. This is one of those places that takes in kids from all over the community, including those without families or with difficult family situations.
It was interesting because our group met on a little hill with the classrooms down below. You could hear the kids in the classrooms singing and dancing and doing percussion or reciting their lessons, which was a wonderful feeling. I felt the urge to grab my drum and join in with their energy, but I did not want to disturb their studies; plus, I also enjoyed seeing them in their daily activities. They seemed so happy and allowed just to be kids, and it felt good to hear kids feel safe, loved, and cared for.
On this first day of winter here, summer at home, I woke up at the Ilboru Safari Lodge contemplating the Solstice winds blowing in the night. Solstices mark endings and beginnings as we leave an old season and move into a new one, and I felt it in the air. This first day of a new season inspired a feeling of change. How apropos, as it would be a full day of unique experiences.
We began with a journey to an organic and fair trade community coffee plantation in the Tengeru region East of Arusha, and we were welcomed by being danced and sung onto the farm by old Meru women at the very hour of the solstice. This was our first initiatory experience. I’m brought back to the idea of “rejoicing in the presence” that I feel from the essence of Africa. That’s what welcoming is, and that’s what love is. The people of Africa know how to welcome you, which was a consistent, touching element throughout our sojourn. It was an honor to be so welcomed with song and dance, an offering of rhythm and spirit that pulled us in to participate as if we were long-awaited returning family members.
Whenever I go to Africa I am changed to my core. The journey is not always easy, but is consistently thrilling. There is an element of animism, a palpable sense of big spirit in all things including people, animals, and nature. There is also a sense of dynamism, a huge expression and interaction of the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water on a scale and magnitude that I have experienced nowhere else, and especially in wild East Africa.
The feeling is of a primordial Great Mother. This is a rich and dark space that bore the human race into being in ancient times after the conditions had been cultivated following eons of creative upheaval, yielding a terrain and terroir that could host our earliest ancestors. When I go to Africa I feel Her there, rejoicing in my presence and imbuing more life into me along our shared adventure.
The Jambo Song is traditionally sung to welcome visitors to Tanzania and Kenya. “Jambo” is a Swahili word meaning “hello” and “welcome.” We have combined multiple field recordings I made during my trip to Tanzania in 2022.