Written on February 9, 2009
When I first arrived to Tanzania, the common phrase I heard from the local people was "Pole," which means I'm sorry. They wanted to let me know they were sorry for my injury. From the tourists, the common question asked, accompanied by a look of fear, was "did you do THAT on the mountain?" Once I told them 'no,' but I'm climbing the mountain in a few days, their frightened stare was replaced by a look of disbelief, as if I was crazy.
90% of the comments seemed to be negative, such as "how are you going to climb the mountain with 1 arm?" or "you'll get too cold up there." I brushed off their remarks by cheerfully replying: "I will do my best" or "It's no colder for someone with 1 functioning arm than someone with two!"
And for the remaining 10% of the replies that were words of encouragement, I was grateful. So, when they said, " You're climbing the mountain? Good for you. You can do it!" I smiled and said, "See you at the top."
With that, Sharon and I left the sea of stares and comments from the peanut gallery and got into the jeep with Shabaz, our guide, who looked at us and said: "i will make sure you summit." I liked him already!
We drove 4 hours past sunflower fields and pine forests and finally arrived to our more remote path up Mt Kili, Lemosho route. With a porter carrying my pack, an assistant guide carrying my day pack, and a helping hand from Shabaz or a hiking pole for balance, we started ascending up the mountain.
The persistent phrase that we are bound to hear for the next 8 days is "Pole. Pole." When you just say "Pole," it means "sorry." When repeated twice, it means: "slowly, slowly."
I don't know where "Pole, Pole" derives from, but my interpretation is, if you don't go "Pole Pole" (slowly) up the mountain, you'll be "Pole" (sorry) because the altitude will wipe you out.
So, "Pole Pole" it is.