Tlawi

Name ID 1860

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The Long Riders' Guild
Extract Author: Esther Stein and Horst Hausleitner
Extract Date: 22 December 2003

A Horror Story

"We are in Karatu but more dead than alive. We've lost Trine through a snake-bite, but that was only a minor problem compared to what happened afterwards.

Two days ago we left the mission in Dongobash where the people had tried to cheat us (harmless, it happens everywhere). The whole day children followed us, screaming and bothering the horses. We had no bullets left, so there was nothing we could do. They even followed me into the bushes when I wanted to pee. When we complain about this, the adults always say, "But they only want to watch." I couldn't cope any more. At midday we reached the next mission, Tlawi. We'd been told that this mission had a fence, well, that's wrong again. Masses of children are with us when we reach it. I ask for someone who speaks English. The sister in charge comes - a fat, slow woman who doesn't understand very much. I tell her who we are and that we are looking for a quiet place to pitch our tent for one night.

I also ask her if she can help us to get rid of the children. "Yes," she says, but she doesn't do anything. Horst asks for water for the horses, and gets the same answer, the same reaction. I just can't stand it any more. We decided not to stay there, but to rest and then go on to Mbulu. There is a bigger mission there, maybe they have a fence. It's hot, I need a toilet and I want to be alone. A man comes - I find out later he's a priest. He doesn't introduce himself. He asks where we are from. I tell him I won't answer any more questions as long as people keep staring at me. "But they only...."

That's it! I jump up and yell at him, "I'm sick of this argument. I have been hearing it for more than two months now. I don't care what they want. I want to have my privacy. You think that because I'm white I have to accept everything. I have to give every drunk beggar a cigarette or some money. I have to smile when people follow me into the bushes because they have never seen a white arse. I have to accept that people charge me a higher price because of my colour. But I won't accept it any more. I'm sick of this terrible country."

He listens very calmly and then answers, "But you know, the people here have never seen...." He doesn't finish. I run to one of the staring women and lift her skirt. She laughs, but the priest is shocked. "She doesn't like it," I yell, "But I don't care. I only want to look - like your children. Do you understand now how I feel?"

Eventually I leave her alone. They probably think I'm completely insane now and it would be better not to provoke me any more. The children get chased away finally and the people from the mission go voluntarily. We have peace. After half an hour. we want to leave. The sister in charge comes and offers us lunch. "No, thank you we just want to get away from here."

No one follows us from the mission but down in the village it starts again. This time its adults, men mainly. They try to pull the horses' tails and chase them. Bucki is only shod on the front feet, Roland and Misty aren't shod at all any more. We are running out of shoes. The track is very stony and the horses can only cope on tiptoe. It hurts them.

Horst rides in front with Roland. Misty is packhorse and I follow on Bucki. I try to turn him around to chase the people away, but its hard to make him gallop. More and more people are joining meanwhile - now there are about 500. They come from all sides. The local Barbaic travel with long walking sticks. One of the men starts hitting Bucki with his stick. I try to defend him with the whip but it's not long enough. I can't hit the man. His stick is longer. Now he starts hitting me. I scream for Horst.

When he sees what happens he jumps off his horse and starts beating my attacker. That's the beginning of a war. Everything happens at the same time. 500 people start throwing stones at us. Some of them are as big as footballs. I'm hit by a few smaller ones Horst goes down. I scream in Swahili : "I'm a German journalist, I'm going to write about this." Two guys try to help us. They run in front of Horst and spread their arms to protect him and try to calm the people. The horses are just wonderful. During the whole time Roland and Misty were loose. When they were hit they just made a jump forward but didn't run away. Now Horst gets back on the horse and we go away.

When we have reached a distance of about 500 meters our two helpers follow us to ask questions. Not a good idea. The attackers start running again and follow us with war cries and stones. We must gallop. I'm afraid the luggage might fall but there is no alternative. These bastards keep following but the distance between us grows bigger. Then a curve in the road. They can't see us any more. We keep running but then the path goes steeply down between big rocks, and we have to slow down. After a little while the leader of our attackers comes around the corner. When he sees us he yells something over his shoulder and soon there are again more people. Most of them gave up but about 50 are still following with stones in their hands and the distance between us gets smaller and smaller.

Shortly before they reach us a pick-up comes from the other direction with a armed guy in uniform at the back. Our pursuers run away and I greet the policemen with overwhelming gratitude. I changed their mood without knowing it. It turns out they didn't come to rescue us but to arrest me because a had offended the woman in Tlawi by lifting her skirt. A second car comes with a German doctor. She had witnessed the stone attack and sent the police in the right direction. Now she comes to me and says in German "Oh you poor dear what happened to you?" Sympathy is so rare in Africa but it feels so good, I start crying again. She convinces the policemen to let us go to Mbulu mission first before further interrogation to let us unsaddle the horses. The police car escorts us.

At the mission are more Europeans - a German couple, Lukas and Carmen. Lukas is a water engineer. After the horses are taken care of we get tea. Finally the interrogation takes place in the living room of our German hosts. So many people have gathered outside the house that even the local policemen feel uneasy. Meanwhile the nun and the priest from Tlawi have arrived. After our papers are found in order and I've told my story, they and the leader of the police are still trying to find something against me. 3 other policemen seem to be sympathetic. Lukas has called the bishop's secretary who is senior to the nun and the priest from Tlawi, and with his help and the help of the Swahili-speaking Germans I remain free. What a day. Horst's leg hurts and I have a few minor bruises but besides that we are fine and our host invited us to a European dinner with real bread, cheese and sausages. We have a few more days to ride to Karatu. From there we can go by bus to Arusha and the first thing we buy will be a gas-gun or any other kind of weapon."

The Long Riders' Guild sent an urgent message to Esther and Horst, telling them to be even more on their guard in future, and suggesting that they either enlist the aid of the local authorities or get some native people to travel with them and guard them. After a few days' of worrying silence, we received the following reassuring message.

Extract ID: 4776
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