When was it that I let myself get so enamored of my little electronic devices? I was so lost in the screen of my phone (watching “Hemingway and Gellhorn”) that I barely noticed the lights of Dar es Salaam sliding under our wings until it was time to land. Mind you, it was close to midnight on what had already been a long day, and that day was going to keep going until evening of the next one. So I’m not going to judge myself too harshly for turning away from the view outside our window for a little.
Morning itself was lovely and lazy: we didn’t actually have to have shoes on until 9:30 or so. It was our last day in Arusha, nominally on our own agenda, and we’d made plans to visit with a girls secondary school run by MWEDO, the Maasai Women’s Economic Development Organization. Spent a couple of hours with Martha, the program officer for the school, Joesph the principal and deputy headmaster Clara, getting a tour of the classrooms and meeting the girls with our kids in tow, then discussed things like sustainability, scalability and impact evaluation over pizza in town. Great fun, and a learning experience for all.
Then? Internet. We spent the rest of the afternoon flumped on our beds plugged into that great pipeline in the sky, catching up on email, current events and cat videos. It was glorious. We should have been napping, catching up on sleep for our overnight flight back to Amsterdam, but you know, Internet.
The flight back was/(is?) a little roundabout: KLM flies a triangle between AMS, Arusha/Kilimanjaro and the capital in Dar es Salaam. Which means before flying north, we got to fly an hour south and sit on the ground, napping in our seats while flight attendants cleaned up after departing passengers and assisted arriving ones. Finally, some time around midnight we were off again, northbound in darkness over points on the map that I only know from tracing my fingers over the globe: Khartoum, Benghazi, Naples, Venice.
I saw Khartoum by day on the way down. Seven miles below, spattered into the desert dust like someone dropped it there years ago and forgot to come back for it. Khartoum, where the Blue and White Nile meet, Khartoum, ostensible capital of what was one, now two countries, both of which are continually, famously falling apart.
Peering down, straight down from the window, I could see the point where the rivers merged, an unremarkable little triangle of brown-green amid tiled rectangles of brown and green. The tiles spread out a little ways from the water on both sides, and beyond them lay only the color of sand stretching out to the horizon.
From there, the Niles – both of them – seemed so insubstantial. How could they possibly have each come from a thousand miles away, and snaked along the parched earth below for another thousand? And yet they have for millenia, and still do, providing the thread of life that nurtured and fed one of the two great civilizations of antiquity. And tonight? Tonight again, it is only a point on the map, and one that I shall sleep through. Not even a story, just a footnote that I’ll be able to stash away in my mind the next time it comes up in the news: Khartoum? Oh yeah, I saw it once from the air…