When I climbed Kilimanjaro I had the help and support of a guide and two porters. Every day the porters have a very simple and, one could argue, uninspiring job: to carry our gear up the mountain.
As we were hiking the second day, a diminutive porter slowly caught us, carrying my tall backpack on his head. My pack was bigger than he was and teetered on top of his skull, forming a giant T as he stumbled up the trail. But that hadn’t prevented him from loading it up more. On top of my pack he had strapped another small daypack. On his back was his own small pack with some food hanging off it. This was Mik, my official porter. He was also a cousin to our guide, Mohamed.
“Polepole,” (slowly) he smiled at us, panting under his load.
“Haraka, haraka, haina baraka,” Christian, a fellow climber, replied. Mik exploded into laughter, almost dropping his carefully balanced load.
When I asked Christian he translated this his phrase for me as “there is no blessing for being first.” For the next 7 days I tested this phrase with every porter who passed me and each time I was rewarded with a laugh. It wasn’t that I was especially funny or the phase that ironic. It was the porters themselves.
I’ve never met a group of people more eager to laugh and more willing to connect with a stranger. Laughing and joking with a foreigner was just another way in Tanzania to share the warmth of their welcoming culture.
By: Daniel Dorr