About May of 1941 we had moved to another place nearer the coast, between the towns of Tanga and Mombasa. I enjoyed the sea very much. At that time I was getting old enough to attend the Greek school near Moshi, at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. That was approximately a 2 day trip by train. I was quite upset in having to leave home and stay in school for a 3 month term. The school year was divided into 3 three month terms and 3 one month periods of home leave. Yep, they were boarding schools for most students. The school building apparently used to belong to some pre war German organisation; there was a huge black swastika painted on the back of one of the main buildings. Tanganyika used to be an important German colony before and during World War I. The school was surrounded by coffee and banana plantations. We lived in dormitories, about 120 boys on one side and 80 girls on the other side, separated by a large dining hall. It was grades 1 through 4, I think.The food was not much to my liking, especially when we had to eat eggplants, okra and turnips. YUK ! One evening as we were getting ready to go to sleep, there was a strong earth tremor and we thought it was a lot of fun as our beds on wheels were bumping into each other like bumper cars in an amusement park. We sometimes went swimming in a nearby crater lake called Duluti. It was a scary lake and it had leeches in it that we had to scrape off our legs when we exited the murky water. Slimy little things they were. Another time while in school, there was a plague of locust swarms; millions of them landed on the playing fields and we would run through them. Some would fly up but most were too busy eating everything in sight and we stomped hundreds of them. The sky was almost dark when they finally decided to fly off and there were hundreds of birds feasting on them. What a strange experience that was!
One of our Saturday afternoon past times was getting our "home made" slingshots out and using some firm round yellow berries called "ndulele" as ammunition. We would exchange fire with some black kids across a hedge that marked the perimeter of our school grounds. Nobody got hurt much during these exchanges and both sides enjoyed the duels. It did sting a lot when a berry hit home however.
I had a younger sister in school. Unfortunately she died there from malarial fever. That was a big blow and within a couple of months I was transferred to the English grade school in Arusha, some 50 miles away. That was around 1943. I did not know much English, just good morning and good night and relied on some Swahili words for a while. Then I started speaking English as best I could and of course I was made plenty of fun of by many kids. That led to several "fights" but that is how growing up in our schools was. Plenty of competition and scraps. Life in the English school became quite good and interesting. They started me off in 3rd grade but was dropped back to 2nd for a spell until I was able to communicate after a few weeks. Most of the kids were English with a mixture of Greeks, South Africans, Germans, Italians and Polish (refugees from the war). Again, home was a long way away and we lived in dormitories for 3 months and went home for one month. We would get on the train and travel 2 days between home and school. Others lived even further and it would take them 4 to 5 days of train and bus travel. The school was about 3 miles from the train station and when we arrived, they woud line us up and walk us to the school.Our lugguage was brought up by truck. We were assigned dormitories according to age groups. Some weekends we boarded busses (more like cattle trucks) and they would take us on what they called Picnics. That was a lot of fun. One time they announced on the public address system that they needed some volunteers for clean up duty. I and 3 others volunteered. They took us in a pickup truck to Ngorongoro Crater, some 50 miles away. This is supposed to be the largest crater in the world and is featured quite often on Television travelogs. Many animals live in the crater year round. Another time, we were asked to get an OK from our parents for mountain climbing. I got the OK. There were about 12 boys and 3 girls in the group and we were bussed to a base camp on the slopes of Mt Meru. This is the 2nd highest moutain in Tanzania, at approximately 14,764 feet high. About 3 in the morning we took off through the forest on our way to climb the mountain. We had an "Askari" (Swahili for soldier); he was to protect us with his gun from encounters with wild animals. Fortunately both there and back we only met up with wild boar and heard lions roar in the distance. Half way up most of the climbers stopped due to fatigue and other problems. 4 boys and a teacher made it to the top. It was very cold and there were several small glaciers up there. We signed our names in a book that was inside a small stone hut and rested awhile, enjoying the vistas.When the clouds obscured the views, we started on our return trip and met the stragglers as we descended the mountain. We finally reached our base camp about 2 AM and went to sleep. When we returned to school, they entered our names on a large plaque that was in the dining area, joining some other names that had preceeded us on the Mt. Meru climbs.
Start of 1950 I left the grade school and went to the only high school in the area; it was in another country, Kenya. The school was located a few miles outside Nairobi. The name of the school was "Prince of Wales", an all boys school of European students. Again, we had to board trains from our homes to attend the school. Now it took me 3 days of train travel, which included several lengthy stops. This was a large English school with 6 dormitories of about 120 students each. Discipline was very strict and some seniors were appointed as "prefects" and they tended to play up their power and bully the new kids. They had the school authority of beating someone with a"taki"; this was a large tennis shoe that they used to apply 3 strokes to the victim's buttocks. Many a student could not sit well for a couple of days. Also, more serious problems were reported to the Headmaster and he applied 3 or 6 strokes with a bamboo cane. That hurt even more. I personally experienced both the "taki" and the cane for minor insubordination, etc. Minor, huh?
Some weekends the school would take us on picnics to the Rift Valley and some lakes in it. Two of the lakes were Naivasha and Nakuru and they both had large flocks of flamingos on them.Some of us one time decided to walk around one of the lakes. It took us about 3 hours and as we trudged through the high reeds, we startled some water buck (large deer) and we came close to getting trampled by them. It was one of the many foolish things that we did and escaped unharmed.

Mt Meru, 14,764 feet

previous page
next page