With Love from Butiama

When you take the 8:00pm Sirare bound Transline bus from Nairobi’s Afya Centre, it will deposit you at the Sirare/Isibania office at around 4:20am the next morning. You may decide that since you are the stranger in Jerusalem, you will wait for the morning light. So you wrap yourself with the maasai shuka you had carried along. Then you cuddle your bag on the empty seat next to you and comfortably catch some winks. At 6:30, you get off the bus straight to a cacophony of Boda Boda riders who promise to take you to all manners of places that you have no idea about. One of them, who introduces himself to you as Mwita finally wins the tender 🙂  and off you go.


First, I need a good hot shower. Then, a heavy breakfast. Mwita recommends that I try the amenities on the Tanzanian side of the border so I hop onto his ride, into the Kenyan Immigration offices and into the Tanzanian one. Two stamps later, I am waiting for Safaricom to welcome me to Voda Country and start swallowing my airtime in the guise of roaming charges. It does not disappoint by the way. After a quick shower and breakfast at New Zealand Café, Mwita deposits me at the ZAKARIA BUS stendi, makes sure I have a Sirari – Mwanza ticket in hand and rides off. God bless this kind soul. He has actually chauffeured me around for almost two and a half hours and when I ask him what amount of payment he requires from me, he says,”Utakacho ona wewe kwamba kinafaa, utanipa.” Ha!

I take the road to Tarime, where the bus company decides to swap us to another bus unceremoniously. The wakala wa basi guy is a loudmouthed fellow, who I almost feel like calling out for really giving hell to this woman whose only crime is wanting to get her daughter on the bus at half price. I don’t. My Swahili would not stand an exchange of words with his.

Nina shilingi elfu tano tu Kaka, she says over and over again. He shouts loudly at her, proclaiming that the bus was not a school van and that if the woman wanted a subsidy, she should go check out other buses. I can also see annoyed -look reactions from my fellow passengers. I think one of them has offered to top up the fare.

Off we go. Three hours later (including stop gaps) my friendly seat mate alerts me to the fact that my stendi was next. He tells the driver, “Shusha huyu dada hapo Kiabakari.” A thank you and a wave, I am out. A call to Steve gives me two options: Either someone takes a boda boda to come pick me up, or I choose a boda boda guy, let Steve talk to him for directions and go meet them where they are. I choose the later.

Now, before I take a motorbike in Nairobi, I have a ritual. I go round and round all the motorbike riders giving each a hard look, top to bottom. I hope they don’t take it for leering. Then I analyze my findings and pick the oldest of them all. He should show observable traits that he has at least one wife, preferably with two or more children. You know, he should not be too thin or too parara-d, his clothes showing evidence that someone actually cared enough to ensure he was decently groomed before leaving the house and such stuff. This kind of guy will most probably than not be a reasonable rider. Unlike the YOLO kind of bodaboda riders, this one has the burden of knowing that some humans will be expecting his return home in the evening so he will respond to your requests of tafadhali usiende mbio. Yes, I have been proven wrong a couple of times. I did not say my research findings were lie-proof.

It is a bit harder to do that here at Kiabakari but I finally eye one that I approach and we are soon on our way to Butiama.


Butiama Cultural and Tourism Enterprise

lies in Butiama (District) in the larger Musoma region. Started by Madaraka Nyerere, one of Mwalimu Nyerere’s sons, 6 years ago, it serves as a centre for cultural tourism, not just to showcase Tanzanian culture but to uphold his father’s ideas and legacy. The centre is situated within the former Tanzanian president’s compound, which has been part of the family land since the days of his father, Chief Burito Nyerere. Apart from the Nyerere Home (where the former first lady Bi. Maria Nyerere still lives today) Butiama Cultural Centre also hosts the Mwalimu Nyerere Mausoleum and Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial.

The University of Edinburgh Summer School

The University of Edinburgh Summer School

Mwalimu Wangari is here at the invitation of Mwalimu Steve and Mwalimu Tom from the University of Edinburg (UK), who in partnership with Madaraka, run a Swahili Language Summer program for their students. Every year, a group of students from the university who have interest in learning Swahili come to Butiama for 4 weeks to learn the language in an environment that gives them a chance to easily utilize the lessons. The program runs for 6 weeks, two of them having been carried out at their university before they travel. Over the next two weeks, I will be facilitating storytelling workshops and assisting in tutorials for the 12 students, 9 beginners and 3 intermediate Swahili learners. This will build up to a storytelling performance by the students to a local primary school. In Swahili.


Did Richard Branson not say that when you are asked to do something you are not so sure you can, say yes first then go find out how to do it? This is going to be a tough call for both the students and myself, yanking us from our comfort zones. That is why it is so exciting! So, how about you share this ride with me? I promise it will be bumpy!



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