We arrived first and when the noise of the engine stopped the deathly quiet was disturbing. Then it was immensely pleasurable as I remembered a sequence of beautiful mornings in Zimbabwe several years before. This is a feeling only an African morning can truly give. Peace and quiet. Yesterday’s heat has been dispersed into the sky, the nighttime insects have all headed for home with the impending light, the daytime ones are too groggy to make a difference. Most people are still asleep. You have the wide open landscape to yourself. I often think that the African Sunsets are the most dramatic in the world, but the rare sunrises I have seen surpass even those. Whereas the sun drops quickly at night, you have a long lead in for the sunrise. The light increases Oh so gradually. Deep purples give way to roaring reds which are reflected by duck shell blue in the west. The starry sky lightens and only the strongest remain as the daylight advances. The ground reveals itself; first its form, then its texture, finally its colour.
Then noise echoes around. A hundred cockerels greet the sun, children start to cry, galvanized buckets are clashed as people start to wash.
Then, when its entrance has been suitably signposted, the sun emerges from behind the distant hills and rises quickly into the sky. The beautiful soft air, slightly damp and refreshingly cool begins to evaporate as the heat of the reflected light radiates back into the air.
I had twenty minutes to appreciate all this as I stood in Kigoma airfield, wandering around, kicking last night’s termite tunnels on the ground, in the vain hope that I might disturb a marching colony. But these soil warriors had long since moved on.
Another vehicle’s headlights came out of the bush and a man in a business suit with two lackeys turned up. They greeted me well enough, but then jabbered in Kiswahili, the lackeys and my driver laughing respectfully at the suited man’s comments.
I wandered further away.
Two women arrived in another vehicle, loaded with plastic bags, holdalls and babies. They sat in the vehicles, were greeted by the others and we all paced expectantly around the building.
I had realized that there was just one plane landed in the airfield, a small biplane some distance off. I had expected that the UNHCR flight would come in from somewhere else (I couldn’t believe that a pilot would overnight in Kigoma). But I was wrong. Another vehicle arrived and several men got out. One was clearly the pilot, dressed in the standard uniform with the meaningless lapels. The other two were dressed also in uniform; the standard uniform of a public servant who did his job but no more – a striped shirt and a pair of jeans. This was the UNHCR agent in Kigoma.