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Bust down Tumblina: Humoring my Climbs and Tumbles thru humble Tanzania | Disabled Hikers Storytelling Project

Updated: Jan 30

written by Aprili

Content Notes: climbing, physical injury, neurodivergence, psychological disability, brief reference to drinking

Hiker stands on trail next to water with canoe and plants in background.
Aprili, a Brown skinned African American woman and long hair in braids, stands smiling with hands on hips. She is wearing pants, a colorful shirt, and jacket. In the background is a canoe on the water with trees and plants surrounding.

At 21, rather than follow the tradition of drinking my lights out, we opted to live abroad for a year, throughout the mother continent of Afrika.

Tanzania became my new home — my preferred home, unbeknownst to me. We knew we’d be visiting national parks over the course of about four months; we didn’t know just how much we’d come to love the climb.

Fast forward eleven years later, it’s still my new home. Only, primarily for reasons beyond my control. We cannot afford to live in the US emotionally, psychologically, financially, or spiritually.

Mount Meru, neighbor to Mount Kilimanjaro, is the second tallest mountain in Tanzania.

For nearly a century, many were led to believe Mount Kili is in Kenya, this tallest mountain in Afrika is by all means inland of Tanzania.

Since living in Tanzania, there are two Mountains ave grown to know and love — Usumbara Mountains, where the peak is called Mazumbai, and Mount Meru. My first Afrikan homestay was 1500 meters above, and 8 kilometers away from, Arusha town on the slopes of Mount Meru! So! We gained the endurance and enjoyment of climbing through the necessity of returning home.

Recently, and am talking Saturday June 20th, 2020 about 44 minutes til 2pm, East African time, we added an ankle sprain of the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) nature to our life hourstory.

Well we were walking with a buddy, just over an hour into the ascend. Happy. Tuned out to good tunes and excited to surprise my host mama after having stayed in contact 11 years. All of a sudden, there’s this slow thud on the ground — it was me. We hadn’t planned on making out with dirt; apparently, gravity traded places with cupid and there we were — hurt.

Now, ave had my days playing in the streets of Indianapolis. You fall, you get back up, you walk it off. 2 hours later, there was no walking on the menu. Ten days later, x-rays and diagnoses.

Meh. It was worth it! Now we witness the body’s profound ability to heal. Now, we want only my brain to heal. My neurodivergent diagnosis needs only Rest, Ice, a Massage and Elevation, right? Well, after three generations of psychiatric disability through my maternal line, we were the first to mountain climb and live to share the story. Nature has meant a lifeline to me. A mourning dove, a swooping night owl, an oak tree with rich hourstory, the nature of a healing body — it has kept me well enough to express love, gratitude, and hope. Even when the ground, or an insect, says hello — am honored; am welcomed as a part of the whole.

Woman wearing red dress holds up red scarf with arms overhead on hiking trail.
Aprili, a Brown skinned African American woman with long hair in braids stands smiling joyfully. She is wearing a long red garment and holding up a red scarf. Tall green tropical trees surround.

While my ability to walk will ultimately restore, when my psychological state is at its worst, my bed is my only playground — and recess has been reduced to detention. My hope is to share my stories in solidarity with disabled and differently abled siblings. May the streams along these mountains, each passersby greeting you in Swahili, and the delicious avocado trees, all be with you.

Love always,

Bio: Aprili whisks you along a journey where hip hop has raised her, streets made her, and love for Swahili language and culture grounds her today. Triumph and tragedy, she’s cookin’ up what she calls the realest memoir ever, entitled Be.

A Spelman alumna, my works encourage scholarship amidst hardship, exploring the parallel universe of psychosis, travel throughout Afrika and Turtle island, and creative writing. Positivity, humor, balance and spiritual practices, are sprinkled throughout Be to highlight tools which spare my life.

Be challenges language. “We”, not the progeny of personality disorder or unbelievable voices, creatively proclaims myself as one with my affirmative ancestors and living community. “I” represents narcissism, ego, and selfishness. Am pleased to practice pidgin expression by substituting “I’ve” and “I am” with “ave” and “am”.

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