© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved

 

Return to Nairobi

Monkey Bay to Nkhata Bay

The next morning we boarded the 70 year old steamer, the SS Chauncey Maples. In keeping with our commitment to travelling with the locals, we booked third class passage and found ourselves sitting shoulder to shoulder on wood-slat benches under a canopy at the back of the steamer. One of our fellow passengers presented a rather strange appearance. A middle aged man, he wore a rubber bathing cap with yellow plastic flowers on his head, a woman’s synthetic, floral print blouse, torn and patched cotton trousers held up with a rope, and women’s shoes (once high heeled but with the heals broken off). It would be a two-day journey; the weather was beautiful and forecast to stay that way, but our fellow travelers looked apprehensive. We had been assured that despite its age, the steamer was well maintained, well crewed, and safe so we did not understand the source of their apprehension. As soon as the steamer got underway, we understood. Our travel companions would, one by one, take out a rag, kerchief, or handkerchief, lay it on the floor, and quietly vomit onto the cloth. They would then get up, go to the rail, shake the vomit overboard, rinse the cloth under a tap, return to their seats and repeat the process some time later. After a few hours of sitting on the hard bench, choking down our own gag relfex with each fresh vomit, we gave up and found the purser to book second-class passage for the remainder of the trip. Second class meant that we moved inside a large cabin. It was hard to tell if the smell of diesel in the hot confined space was better than the smell of vomit in the cool air, but the seats were padded and we had the entire cabin to ourselves so we stayed. When we had moved, our strangely dressed fellow passenger helped us with our  bags. He spoke English well, and we asked him to join us for a meal of boiled rice and beans served from the galley.

A Lesson in Humility

We talked as we ate. He wanted to know where we were from, and when we told him Canada, we were not surprised by his response. “Oh yes Canada, you have salmon and wheat.” This was typical, probably because it came from the standard geography syllabus in formerly British East Africa. He asked why we were traveling in Malawi. We told him that we had come down from Nairobi to visit Barbara’s brother. He wanted to know wasn’t it expensive? Not really we said; we proudly told him that the round trip from Nairobi to Blantyre and back would cost us less than 100 Kwacha each (one Kwacha was approximately equal to one Canadian dollar). “One hundred!” he said in amazement. “So many shoes!” What do you mean “So many shoes?” I asked. “For the children,” he said. “So the children don’t get the worm.” He was referring to bilharzia which infests people through their bare feed when they walk near still water. Our pride in the economy of our trip evaporated to be replaced by acute embarrassment. We asked what he did and he told us that he owned no land and could not find work so he taught English to the children in his village. In exchange he was given a hut and food. As we spoke, his quiet dignity and commitment to his students made me forget his outlandish appearance. Either he never told us or I have forgotten why he was on the ferry. Eventually, he wished us a safe journey, thanked us for the meal, and returned to his third class seat. Many of the villages along the lake lacked road access and would have been completely isolated were it not for the Chauncey Maples. We would periodically anchor off shore and the crew would lower the motor launch to ferry people and goods to and from shore. At our first stop we were surprised at the large crowd waiting on the beach. There were far more than the ship’s capacity and we were relieved to see that many were either meeting someone or taking delivery of supplies, while most were just  there for the entertainment. We were also entertainment others along the coast. We at first thought these three were coming out to cadge money, but they were just curious. As evening progressed, we enjoyed the cool air on the foredeck, the sun put on a spectacular show as it set, and we returned to the hot, stuffy, diesel and exhaust permeated cabin. I slept fitfully, that night but could not be sure if the cause was the heat, the smell, or embarrassment of being made to feel morally shabby by an outlandishly dressed, middle aged man.

Nkhata Bay to Iringa

Frustratingly, I remember nothing of the trip from Nkhata Bay back to Iringa. I do not remember the boat docking; I do not remember leaving the boat or boarding the bus; I do not even remember the bus or my travelling companions on the route from Nkhata Bay to Iringa. I know that after the short trip from Nkhata Bay to Mzuzu, we would have retraced our route back to Iringa. I know this because my passport is stamped Chitipa, Exit 13 Aug 1972 Malawi, nineteen days after entry and because there was only one road. I do remember arriving at Iringa in the evening, just in time to catch a night bus for Dar es Salaam.

Iringa to Dar es Salaam

Third class was sold out, but there were two second-class tickets available. We had met a young European couple who were also traveling to Dar es Salaam so we could not all get out that night. We asked, “Couldn’t two of us stand until seats become available? We will pay full price.” “No sir you cannot. Second class is so that people do not stand. Second class is separate. Standing room is for third class only and third class is full.” we were told. We asked if we could buy four tickets now and use them tomorrow. We were told “Yes sir you can buy tickets now; tickets are good anytime but there are only two seats tonight and the conductor will not let you on the bus if it is full.” We purchased four tickets and canvassed the second-class passengers. Two were getting off about an hour after departure, so when the conductor was not looking, the other guy and I crawled under the bench seats in second class. Our wives placed luggage in front of and around us to hide our presence. The other passengers, sympathetic, held their peace. The conductor collected tickets and moved on. We held or breath; the bus moved off and we breathed again. For an hour we bounced against the steel floor of the bus as it hit pothole after pothole. Finally, the bus stopped. Two people got off, and, thankfully, no one else got on. When the bus resumed progress, we crawled out. The other passengers politely shifted seats so that we could sit with our respective spouses and we were set. The bus stopped again and more passengers left. The conductor entered our compartment, looked around, smiled at us, and left.

Cold War Games

As day broke, we were passing the TansZam (Tanzania/Zambia) railway construction. This was during the cold war and Tanzania under President Nyerere was receiving aid from both east and west. Despite the fact that Nyerere was a strong socialist, he had not nationalized any American interests, and the Americans were building the TansZam highway (on which we were now travelling). The Chinese were building the TansZam railway. The two projects presented an interesting contrast. If the highway encountered a section of track that was already completed, they would build an overpass or a level crossing. If the railway encountered a section of highway, they ripped it up, laid their track, and left the locals to fix the crossing. A highway crew consisted of an American engineer and foreman. Everyone else, including heavy equipment operators were locals trained to do the job. The Chinese imported all of their labour, including shovel labour, from China. Their only contact with the Tanzanians was for the men to use the local brothels. Otherwise they stayed in their fenced compounds. Tanzanians we met claimed that the fences were to keep the Chinese workers in, rather than the Tanzanians out.

Road Warriors

The Chinese attitude generated some antipathy from the Tanzanians. This became really apparent when at one point our bus tried to pass a Chinese truck. The truck did not want us to pass and refused to slow. We were on a narrow, winding, two-lane road with a steep drop of fifty to a hundred meters on the right-hand side. As we slowly (far too slowly) overtook the truck, I watched the bus driver. In trying get just a little more speed, he was standing, pulling against the steering wheel to get more pressure on the gas pedal. At least one wrecked bus was visible at the bottom of the ravine and I began thinking that prayer might be a good idea. As we finally pulled abreast of the truck, the bus lurched (as did my stomach) and tilted towards the truck. The passengers in third class had all moved to the left of the bus and were leaning out the windows shaking their fists and attempting to spit on the truck. I remember nothing more of the trip until we arrived in Dar es Salaam.

Dar es Salaam

No one had prepared us for the coast. It was hot but unlike the heat of the interior it was oppressively humid even at night. I remember little of Dar es Salaam but I remember that whereas Nairobi felt colonial, this felt African. Nairobi had felt like an administrative centre, this felt like a commercial centre. In Nairobi, the streets were quiet in the evening; here they were busy and active. The night of our arrival, we walked the streets. A crowd of people gathered in a pool of light cast by a street lamp at the intersection of two broad paved streets near the docks. They were gathered around a strange rattling and raucously clanking contraption. Three men operated it. One cut sugarcane and fed it between two giant toothed wringer drums. Another, sweat streaming off him, turned the crank to rotate the drums, while a third cut lemons and threw them into the mangle with the sugar cane. Juice from the sugar cane and lemons streamed down a trough to collect in a large washtub. Five cents bought a glass of the yellowy brown foaming liquid. We threw caution to the wind and bought a glass each. It was superb. Who can tell how much was the heat, how much was the atmosphere, or how much was the taste of this concoction but I do not remember a drink quite so exquisite since. We were craving western food, but the closest we could find was Chinese. The owner had two children studying at the University of British Columbia and we talked of Canadian politics, Tanzanian politics, and western food. Later, at his suggestion, we ate ice-cream sundaes at the World’s Fair Ice Cream Parlor. We had not realized just how comforting familiar food could be. We stayed that night in a rooming house / hotel. It was still hot and oppressively humid. I lay on my back, covered by only a single sheet to foil the few mosquitoes that found their way to the upper floors. It was about midnight and my skin was finally dry. The perspiration had evaporated, and I felt almost comfortable. I rolled onto my side and even that minimal exertion bathed me in sweat again.

Pardon My Red Face

The next morning I was up around six. It was deliciously cool and I padded down the hall to the communal washrooms for a shower. I stepped in, blushed furiously, and stepped out. The main room was full beautiful, graceful women with smooth, rich, dark skin and jet hair. Wearing only panties and bras, they were doing makeup and hair in front of mirrors. Unnerved, I wandered the halls looking for another washroom but could not find one. I checked the floor below; the only washroom was similarly occupied. I came back up to my own floor and waited for someone to come out. A young woman dressed for the office emerged and I asked were the men went to wash. She pointed inside. “Don’t worry”, she said, “the toilets and showers are private.”  The memory of those women came back to me in London. I was for the first time in weeks surrounded by caucasian women. It was the early seventies, miniskirts, plunging necklines, and bare midriffs were common, but somehow I did not find them attractive. I had become accustomed to the rich, dark skin of the Africans.

Inexpensive Treasure

We discovered Makonde art. The Makonde tribe create impressive abstract carvings in ebony. The strangely grotesque sculptures of disembodied eyes, noses, mouths, and limbs are intertwined in a delicate framework carved from a solid block of wood. They have a grace, beauty, and harmony that transcend the disjoint body parts and are said to have influenced Picasso. We went to a small village on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. Here we found a hut, filled with carvings stacked like cordwood. These spectacular pieces ranged from a few centimeters to two meters in length. Without thinking about how we would get them home, we chose three, two of which were a meter in length. They were to be the physical reminders of our journey and they immediately acquired a value out of all proportion to what we had paid for them.

Back to Nairobi

I don’t remember the bus ride back to Nairobi; we may even have gone by train but I remember being back at the Nairobi City Park. We were about to have an experience that upset me more than our experience with the South Africans at Monkey Bay.

Opportunists

We had become increasingly aware of the anti-Indian sentiment building in East Africa but had not realized how bad it was. We had had difficulty in deciding where our sympathies lay because we could understand Kenya’s and Tanzania’s concern about currency export undermining the economy. We had only traded on the black market once because we felt it unfair to our host country. We were totally unprepared for what we were about to learn. We again met the Americans from Malawi, the ones with the wastebasket hats. They had just returned from Uganda with disturbing news. Idi Amin was expelling the Indian population. They had been given ninety days to leave the country and they were allowed to take only the clothes on their backs. Indian property and money were being confiscated, and in an attempt to save something, the owner of a car rental agency had asked the two Americans to drive a car from Kampala to Nairobi. They were told that they could use it at no charge for as long as they wished if they would deliver it to a rental agency in Nairobi. The Americans told excitedly of seeing bodies on the road between Kampala and the border. Indians found carrying money or valuables while walking to the border were shot on the spot. We had difficulty accepting the reality of what we were told was going on in Uganda. What brought it home to us was the behaviour of the two Americans. They were excited, their eyes large, their pupils dilated. They sweated and moved erratically. They spoke in uncharacteristically high voices and much too quickly. Before returning the car, they were searching it for hidden valuables or money. They had torn the upholstery apart, ripped off the door panels, and torn up the carpets. Their rationale was that they had risked their lives to get the car out of Uganda and if there were any valuables in the car, they deserved them for taking the risk. They had no thought for the Indians left in Kampala, the dead bodies had excited them, pumped up their adrenalin, and now they saw the chance to benefit from others misfortune. I don’t know if they found anything or even if they bothered to return the vehicle, perhaps they just abandoned it after trashing it. If affluent American youth could behave this way, how easy then would it be for Amin to blame the Indian business men and incite the disenfranchised and the poor of Uganda to do or condone violence to the Indian population. The three Aussies that we had met on our trip from Nairobi to Arusha had embarrassed us; the South Africans at Monkey Bay revolted us, the two Americans frightened us. What was going on in Uganda was not really racially based, it was economically and politically based. Amin was using the tried and true method of scapegoating to consolidate power and acquire wealth. Although the violence in Uganda was being perpetrated by blacks against Indians, the underlying cause was the economic disparity between the poor and the mercantile class. Despite the fact that the Indian population had become merchants largely because they had been denied any option other than manual labour, the disparity was exploited by Amin to breed hostility, justify the expulsion, and appropriate property. The behaviour of the two Americans demonstrated how easily people could be manipulated and seduced by the chance of gain. Their willingness to callously take advantage of others misfortune provided first hand proof.

A Change of Plans

Our original plan had been to go overland through Uganda and Ethiopia to Sudan and eventually Egypt. The expulsion of the Asians, the disruption of transportation, and border issues with Ethiopia forced us to change our plans. We decided instead to rent a car and safari in the game parks.
The S.S. Chauncey Maples. Loading passengers and cargo Paddling out for a look-see. Sunset on Lake Malawi. Road crew building the TanZam Highway.

 

Return to Nairobi

Monkey Bay to Nkhata Bay

The next morning we boarded the 70 year old steamer, the SS Chauncey Maples. In keeping with our commitment to travelling with the locals, we booked third class passage and found ourselves sitting shoulder to shoulder on wood-slat benches under a canopy at the back of the steamer. One of our fellow passengers presented a rather strange appearance. A middle aged man, he wore a rubber bathing cap with yellow plastic flowers on his head, a woman’s synthetic, floral print blouse, torn and patched cotton trousers held up with a rope, and women’s shoes (once high heeled but with the heals broken off). It would be a two-day journey; the weather was beautiful and forecast to stay that way, but our fellow travelers looked apprehensive. We had been assured that despite its age, the steamer was well maintained, well crewed, and safe so we did not understand the source of their apprehension. As soon as the steamer got underway, we understood. Our travel companions would, one by one, take out a rag, kerchief, or handkerchief, lay it on the floor, and quietly vomit onto the cloth. They would then get up, go to the rail, shake the vomit overboard, rinse the cloth under a tap, return to their seats and repeat the process some time later. After a few hours of sitting on the hard bench, choking down our own gag relfex with each fresh vomit, we gave up and found the purser to book second-class passage for the remainder of the trip. Second class meant that we moved inside a large cabin. It was hard to tell if the smell of diesel in the hot confined space was better than the smell of vomit in the cool air, but the seats were padded and we had the entire cabin to ourselves so we stayed. When we had moved, our strangely dressed fellow passenger helped us with our  bags. He spoke English well, and we asked him to join us for a meal of boiled rice and beans served from the galley.

A Lesson in Humility

We talked as we ate. He wanted to know where we were from, and when we told him Canada, we were not surprised by his response. “Oh yes Canada, you have salmon and wheat.” This was typical, probably because it came from the standard geography syllabus in formerly British East Africa. He asked why we were traveling in Malawi. We told him that we had come down from Nairobi to visit Barbara’s brother. He wanted to know wasn’t it expensive? Not really we said; we proudly told him that the round trip from Nairobi to Blantyre and back would cost us less than 100 Kwacha each (one Kwacha was approximately equal to one Canadian dollar). “One hundred!” he said in amazement. “So many shoes!” What do you mean “So many shoes?” I asked. “For the children,” he said. “So the children don’t get the worm.” He was referring to bilharzia which infests people through their bare feed when they walk near still water. Our pride in the economy of our trip evaporated to be replaced by acute embarrassment. We asked what he did and he told us that he owned no land and could not find work so he taught English to the children in his village. In exchange he was given a hut and food. As we spoke, his quiet dignity and commitment to his students made me forget his outlandish appearance. Either he never told us or I have forgotten why he was on the ferry. Eventually, he wished us a safe journey, thanked us for the meal, and returned to his third class seat. Many of the villages along the lake lacked road access and would have been completely isolated were it not for the Chauncey Maples. We would periodically anchor off shore and the crew would lower the motor launch to ferry people and goods to and from shore. At our first stop we were surprised at the large crowd waiting on the beach. There were far more than the ship’s capacity and we were relieved to see that many were either meeting someone or taking delivery of supplies, while most were just  there for the entertainment. We were also entertainment others along the coast. We at first thought these three were coming out to cadge money, but they were just curious. As evening progressed, we enjoyed the cool air on the foredeck, the sun put on a spectacular show as it set, and we returned to the hot, stuffy, diesel and exhaust permeated cabin. I slept fitfully, that night but could not be sure if the cause was the heat, the smell, or embarrassment of being made to feel morally shabby by an outlandishly dressed, middle aged man.

Nkhata Bay to Iringa

Frustratingly, I remember nothing of the trip from Nkhata Bay back to Iringa. I do not remember the boat docking; I do not remember leaving the boat or boarding the bus; I do not even remember the bus or my travelling companions on the route from Nkhata Bay to Iringa. I know that after the short trip from Nkhata Bay to Mzuzu, we would have retraced our route back to Iringa. I know this because my passport is stamped Chitipa, Exit 13 Aug 1972 Malawi, nineteen days after entry and because there was only one road. I do remember arriving at Iringa in the evening, just in time to catch a night bus for Dar es Salaam.

Iringa to Dar es Salaam

Third class was sold out, but there were two second-class tickets available. We had met a young European couple who were also traveling to Dar es Salaam so we could not all get out that night. We asked, “Couldn’t two of us stand until seats become available? We will pay full price.” “No sir you cannot. Second class is so that people do not stand. Second class is separate. Standing room is for third class only and third class is full.” we were told. We asked if we could buy four tickets now and use them tomorrow. We were told “Yes sir you can buy tickets now; tickets are good anytime but there are only two seats tonight and the conductor will not let you on the bus if it is full.” We purchased four tickets and canvassed the second-class passengers. Two were getting off about an hour after departure, so when the conductor was not looking, the other guy and I crawled under the bench seats in second class. Our wives placed luggage in front of and around us to hide our presence. The other passengers, sympathetic, held their peace. The conductor collected tickets and moved on. We held or breath; the bus moved off and we breathed again. For an hour we bounced against the steel floor of the bus as it hit pothole after pothole. Finally, the bus stopped. Two people got off, and, thankfully, no one else got on. When the bus resumed progress, we crawled out. The other passengers politely shifted seats so that we could sit with our respective spouses and we were set. The bus stopped again and more passengers left. The conductor entered our compartment, looked around, smiled at us, and left.

Cold War Games

As day broke, we were passing the TansZam (Tanzania/Zambia) railway construction. This was during the cold war and Tanzania under President Nyerere was receiving aid from both east and west. Despite the fact that Nyerere was a strong socialist, he had not nationalized any American interests, and the Americans were building the TansZam highway (on which we were now travelling). The Chinese were building the TansZam railway. The two projects presented an interesting contrast. If the highway encountered a section of track that was already completed, they would build an overpass or a level crossing. If the railway encountered a section of highway, they ripped it up, laid their track, and left the locals to fix the crossing. A highway crew consisted of an American engineer and fore- man. Everyone else, including heavy equip- ment operators were locals trained to do the job. The Chinese imported all of their labour, including shovel labour, from China. Their only contact with the Tanzanians was for the men to use the local brothels. Otherwise they stayed in their fenced compounds. Tanzanians we met claimed that the fences were to keep the Chinese workers in, rather than the Tan- zanians out.

Road Warriors

The Chinese attitude generated some antipathy from the Tanzanians. This became really apparent when at one point our bus tried to pass a Chinese truck. The truck did not want us to pass and refused to slow. We were on a narrow, winding, two-lane road with a steep drop of fifty to a hundred meters on the right-hand side. As we slowly (far too slowly) overtook the truck, I watched the bus driver. In trying get just a little more speed, he was standing, pulling against the steering wheel to get more pressure on the gas pedal. At least one wrecked bus was visible at the bottom of the ravine and I began thinking that prayer might be a good idea. As we finally pulled abreast of the truck, the bus lurched (as did my stomach) and tilted towards the truck. The passengers in third class had all moved to the left of the bus and were leaning out the windows shaking their fists and attempting to spit on the truck. I remember nothing more of the trip until we arrived in Dar es Salaam.

Dar es Salaam

No one had prepared us for the coast. It was hot but unlike the heat of the interior it was oppressively humid even at night. I remember little of Dar es Salaam but I remember that whereas Nairobi felt colonial, this felt African. Nairobi had felt like an administrative centre, this felt like a commercial centre. In Nairobi, the streets were quiet in the evening; here they were busy and active. The night of our arrival, we walked the streets. A crowd of people gathered in a pool of light cast by a street lamp at the intersection of two broad paved streets near the docks. They were gathered around a strange rattling and raucously clanking contraption. Three men operated it. One cut sugarcane and fed it between two giant toothed wringer drums. Another, sweat streaming off him, turned the crank to rotate the drums, while a third cut lemons and threw them into the mangle with the sugar cane. Juice from the sugar cane and lemons streamed down a trough to collect in a large washtub. Five cents bought a glass of the yellowy brown foaming liquid. We threw caution to the wind and bought a glass each. It was superb. Who can tell how much was the heat, how much was the atmosphere, or how much was the taste of this concoction but I do not remember a drink quite so exquisite since. We were craving western food, but the closest we could find was Chinese. The owner had two children studying at the University of British Columbia and we talked of Canadian politics, Tanzanian politics, and western food. Later, at his suggestion, we ate ice-cream sundaes at the World’s Fair Ice Cream Parlor. We had not realized just how comforting familiar food could be. We stayed that night in a rooming house / hotel. It was still hot and oppressively humid. I lay on my back, covered by only a single sheet to foil the few mosquitoes that found their way to the upper floors. It was about midnight and my skin was finally dry. The perspiration had evaporated, and I felt almost comfortable. I rolled onto my side and even that minimal exertion bathed me in sweat again.

Pardon My Red Face

The next morning I was up around six. It was deliciously cool and I padded down the hall to the communal washrooms for a shower. I stepped in, blushed furiously, and stepped out. The main room was full beautiful, graceful women with smooth, rich, dark skin and jet hair. Wearing only panties and bras, they were doing makeup and hair in front of mirrors. Unnerved, I wandered the halls looking for another washroom but could not find one. I checked the floor below; the only washroom was similarly occupied. I came back up to my own floor and waited for someone to come out. A young woman dressed for the office emerged and I asked were the men went to wash. She pointed inside. “Don’t worry”, she said, “the toilets and showers are private.”  The memory of those women came back to me in London. I was for the first time in weeks surrounded by caucasian women. It was the early seventies, miniskirts, plunging necklines, and bare midriffs were common, but somehow I did not find them attractive. I had become accustomed to the rich, dark skin of the Africans.

Inexpensive Treasure

We discovered Makonde art. The Makonde tribe create impressive abstract carvings in ebony. The strangely grotesque sculptures of disembodied eyes, noses, mouths, and limbs are intertwined in a delicate framework carved from a solid block of wood. They have a grace, beauty, and harmony that transcend the disjoint body parts and are said to have influenced Picasso. We went to a small village on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. Here we found a hut, filled with carvings stacked like cordwood. These spectacular pieces ranged from a few centimeters to two meters in length. Without thinking about how we would get them home, we chose three, two of which were a meter in length. They were to be the physical reminders of our journey and they immediately acquired a value out of all proportion to what we had paid for them.

Back to Nairobi

I don’t remember the bus ride back to Nairobi; we may even have gone by train but I remember being back at the Nairobi City Park. We were about to have an experience that upset me more than our experience with the South Africans at Monkey Bay.

Opportunists

We had become increasingly aware of the anti-Indian sentiment building in East Africa but had not realized how bad it was. We had had difficulty in deciding where our sympathies lay because we could understand Kenya’s and Tanzania’s concern about currency export undermining the economy. We had only traded on the black market once because we felt it unfair to our host country. We were totally unprepared for what we were about to learn. We again met the Americans from Malawi, the ones with the wastebasket hats. They had just returned from Uganda with disturbing news. Idi Amin was expelling the Indian population. They had been given ninety days to leave the country and they were allowed to take only the clothes on their backs. Indian property and money were being confiscated, and in an attempt to save something, the owner of a car rental agency had asked the two Americans to drive a car from Kampala to Nairobi. They were told that they could use it at no charge for as long as they wished if they would deliver it to a rental agency in Nairobi. The Americans told excitedly of seeing bodies on the road between Kampala and the border. Indians found carrying money or valuables while walking to the border were shot on the spot. We had difficulty accepting the reality of what we were told was going on in Uganda. What brought it home to us was the behaviour of the two Americans. They were excited, their eyes large, their pupils dilated. They sweated and moved erratically. They spoke in uncharacteristically high voices and much too quickly. Before returning the car, they were searching it for hidden valuables or money. They had torn the upholstery apart, ripped off the door panels, and torn up the carpets. Their rationale was that they had risked their lives to get the car out of Uganda and if there were any valuables in the car, they deserved them for taking the risk. They had no thought for the Indians left in Kampala, the dead bodies had excited them, pumped up their adrenalin, and now they saw the chance to benefit from others misfortune. I don’t know if they found anything or even if they bothered to return the vehicle, perhaps they just abandoned it after trashing it. If affluent American youth could behave this way, how easy then would it be for Amin to blame the Indian business men and incite the disenfranchised and the poor of Uganda to do or condone violence to the Indian population. The three Aussies that we had met on our trip from Nairobi to Arusha had embarrassed us; the South Africans at Monkey Bay revolted us, the two Americans frightened us. What was going on in Uganda was not really racially based, it was economically and politically based. Amin was using the tried and true method of scapegoating to consolidate power and acquire wealth. Although the violence in Uganda was being perpetrated by blacks against Indians, the underlying cause was the economic disparity between the poor and the mercantile class. Despite the fact that the Indian population had become merchants largely because they had been denied any option other than manual labour, the disparity was exploited by Amin to breed hostility, justify the expulsion, and appropriate property. The behaviour of the two Americans demonstrated how easily people could be manipulated and seduced by the chance of gain. Their willingness to callously take advantage of others misfortune provided first hand proof.

A Change of Plans

Our original plan had been to go overland through Uganda and Ethiopia to Sudan and eventually Egypt. The expulsion of the Asians, the disruption of transportation, and border issues with Ethiopia forced us to change our plans. We decided instead to rent a car and safari in the game parks.
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
The S.S. Chauncey Maples Loading passengers and cargo Paddling out for a look see. Sunset on Lake Malawi. Road crew building the TanZam highway.