A friend's retirement party led me to Seattle, Washington over the Labor Day weekend. Looking at Mount Rainier from 35,000 feet made me miss my Empress more than usual.
I left the airport lost in thought and as I stood on the curb waiting for my ride, I thought about my friends in Tanzania and my hoped for visit to the Maasai Village.
When my Lyft driver rolled up he seemed to jump from the car while the wheels were still moving. He opened my door then put the luggage in the trunk. I don't usually get such service from a ride share company!
He got in and as soon as he spoke I recognized the sound.
"I love your accent, are you by any chance from East Africa?" "Yes, Ma'am, I am from Somalia."
From that moment on the conversation never stopped. We talked about Kilimanjaro, tribal people, and his own experiences with the Maasai.
His unique and charming take on the differences between the United States and East Africa was more than surprising. He kept me entertained all the way to Tacoma.
As I left, I presented him with a copy of the book, Before the Empress (yes I just happened to have an extra copy with me.) He was overwhelmed and so grateful. I told him it was my pleasure, and it truly was (and yes, I also tipped him- quite well I might add.)
As he drove away I felt just a little more connected to my far away home.
Who would have thought that I would find a little bit of my African home on a weekend trip to the Great Northwest? I guess it is true. It is a small world after all.
The Selous Game Preserve is an area of Tanzania that is home to lions, zebra, elephants, giraffe, only to name a few species. Earlier this year, Magufuli, the president of Tanzania, announced plans to sell part of this preserve to China for the building of a hydroelectric plant.
Reuters World News July 26 reported:
"Magufuli made his announcement at the inauguration of construction work for the $3 billion Rufiji hydroelectric project at Stiegler’s Gorge, inside the Selous reserve.
The World Wildlife Fund said the proposed dam would put the site and the livelihoods of over 200,000 people at risk, and that UNESCO had warned that any resulting damage would put the Selous’s status of World Heritage Site at risk."
Despite the warnings from UNESCO and the World Wildlife Fund, Magufuli is moving ahead with the project.
"...'the project would take up only 3 percent* of the wildlife sanctuary. Tanzania is among global leaders in conservation activities, having allocated over 32 percent of our country’s total land to conservation,” he said. “Nobody can teach us about conservation.'"
"Stupidity talks and vanity acts." (Victor Hugo)
It is clear that when it comes to government decision making they have the corner on both. Boasting that "nobody can teach us (meaning himself) about conservation" is not only arrogant, it is incorrect. Anyone who fully understands the scientific and ecological implications of that dam would never have signed off on it. "Pride goeth before destruction." Unfortunately, it will not be his destruction... or maybe it will.
*three percent of the Selous Game Preserve is approximately six hundred and thirty square MILES of land.
According to National Geographic The Maasai Giraffe have decreased fifty percent in the last thirty years. This is staggering. These remarkable creatures can't disappear. A giraffe's head and neck weigh 500 pounds- a human head weighs about eight. They stand eighteen feet tall, the tallest land mammal. They have prehensile tongues, they sleep only five minutes at a time and they hum to each other at night, all night. They are very interactive with each other and with people, and although I would have guessed, I had no idea how smart they are. Our tour guide spoke to "Kubwa" and he responded to her casual vocal commands. If you look closely at the photo you can see he is wrapping his mouth around my hand, and he did it ever so gently. Consider supporting Giraffe Conservation Foundation or even the San Diego Wild Animal Safari Park. We cannot let these amazing animals disappear.
San Diego Wild Animal Safari Park
Michele Mattingly is the author of Before the Empress: Messages from Mount Kilimanjaro.