Tuesday, 12 March 2013


London has been extremely cold during the past few weeks. Sometimes the weather bites like a hyena’s teeth wading through your bones. Part of the upsurge of this abnormal ice cold madness is the winds. It is no surprise hearing a tornado swept through Kigali, Rwanda a few days ago. Our earth has freaky weather moods.  TV climate experts said gales drifting from the Arctic Circle, Iceland and Siberia brought this very cold London spell.
Tanzanian mountain climber, Wilfred Moshi was the third African to conquer the tough gruelling Mount Everest in May 2012. A perfect  example of mind winning over matter. Pic courtesy of Wilfred Moshi Blog....

 Many years ago I was walking through a chilly, snow filled Copenhagen after a late night gig.  I passed through Istedgade, an interesting part of the city. Nowadays Istedgade is slightly different. I saw a group of men chattering and drinking.  They did not look Danish.
Pic courtsey of Panoramio...

A few days later I strolled through the same area with a Tanzanian friend who was living in Copenhagen for a long time.
“Who are those people?” I wondered.
“Eskimos,” he said quietly.

 Eskimos? We studied them at school; they live in the coldest part of this planet- their houses are called Igloos. I was curious and tempted to approach them.
“They don’t speak English, don’t waste your time,” my friend advised.
Many days later, I began to “notice” Eskimos. They were always boozing.
“How come they drink so much?”
Every one gave me the same answer. People living in cold climates tend to have another type of diet and drink more to handle extreme temperatures. In later years I learnt that the term “Eskimo” is actually politically incorrect- it means “people who eat raw meat.”
An unusual meat diet (fish, seals, whales etc) appears to make their lives shorter, I read somewhere. One needs an extra mental push to survive difficult conditions.
Well, it has been very cold in London.

Once a week I go swim at an outdoor swimming pool called Lido. If you are reading this piece in East Africa, being outdoors is nothing special. But imagine yourself in freezing minus two or less Centigrade: chilly winds, trees swaying, people cowering and moving uncomfortably. All you crave for is being inside, tucked safely in warm clothes- a bowl of hot soup by your side.
A swig of the super strong Konyagi is not too bad for the cold ...just like rum or vodka ...as long as it does not exceed and dive into extremes. Pic by F Macha

The fee at Lido is around twelve thousand shillings – seems a lot if you compare paying five thousand shillings at Jangwani in Dar es Salaam. Difference is outdoor swimming pools such as Lido, are a rarity in north Hemisphere towns. Majority of people don’t fancy swimming outdoors.  The water is cleaner, no chlorine and warm; pools are Olympic standard size- fifty meter long; the showers and everything well heated. As you walk under the bare skies and huge beautiful, towering oak trees you face battering icy winds- frankly, this is not a picnic.
Having finished my swim I am back in the changing room, shivering, teeth chattering. As I put my clothes on, a little Asian guy who reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi and Bruce Lee incarnated as one, chuckles wryly.
He says: “Mind over matter.”
I say: “Tough.”

He says: “It is a personal war; your mind has to be strong to be here.” He is putting on his swimming trunks, eagerly, I notice.
I ask: “How often do you come here?”
He replies: “Once or twice a week; or whenever I can. I don’t like it- this is my own battle.”
 He is tiny, has a very strong presence and a friendly, positive disposition.
He says this is not his only fitness activity. “I climb hills, cycle on my bike and jog. However, here is toughest. Your mind has to be really strong. We humans have so much potential but we never reach our full capacities. This cold stuff makes me work better. I don’t know how people survive without exercise. Life is so tough.”
Give way to mind over matter, so agrees the author ...

As little man heads for the pool I think of those Greenland folks I saw in the 1980s; I reflect on souls living in arid conditions, struggling and straggling to survive. I ponder on the benefits of swimming. Apart from physical fitness, it helps the lungs become stronger hence, prolonging life. Unlike running which many runners confess to damage knees, swimming does not involve banging feet on a hard surface. It can also be a source of income for those looking to be life guards around swimming facilities.
Lately,CFAO Motors has funded a swimming undertaking held at the Dar es Salaam International School. In her speech during the competition last weekend, TALISS president, Ms Najat Saleh Ahmed called for more support by the government plus funding and building pools across the country to enable young and old alike. CFAO motors deserve a part on the back for spending money and muscle for such a positive project. An excellent example to follow for other businesses in Tanzania.
Published in Citizen Tanzania...on 29th February, 2013.

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