Category: pictures (Page 1 of 2)
Yesterday we went on our last safari. The Ngorongoro Crater was everything we knew it would be and didn’t disappoint. We saw full grown male lions for the first time and some of them came to sleep under our cars in the shade. Awesome.
Presentation day, scheduled from 10am to 1:30pm, ended up running from 11am and ending at 5:30pm… when we finally got to eat lunch. Despite the long day and delayed schedule, the room was packed to the brim with people from all over the district. Our translator, from Arusha, was not only the tallest man I have ever met but probably one of the nicest. It was a wonderful day full of chai, intellect, conversation and reunions with people we had not seen in many weeks. With the atmosphere and everyone dressed up it felt a lot like graduation. Fitting, I suppose. It was a day I will never forget for two reasons. First, it showed me the importance of sharing science with the people and the progressive reactions it can spur. Second, it was a day of limitless support I will always be thankful for. I have my presentation on video if anyone wants to watch it when I return to America (in three days!?).
In Karatu District the biggest monthly event is the Karatu Market. It takes place at the beginning of each month in a field off the main town. It’s a regional event, with people coming from kilometers away to buy and sell clothing, household items, food and livestock. When we first arrived we attended the market with limited swahili and bundles of nerves. It was a whirlwind of noise, color and confusion. Today we returned to the market, this time armed with language, bargaining skills and confidence. Now that it is the rainy season the mud was a little more problematic…
I haven’t posted a lot of pictures of myself, so today I figured I would provide you with the best portraits of me taken in Africa.
During our homestay we spent the morning stooped in the kitchen building over a small fire stirring ugali, vegetables and chicken in the billowing smoke. After, as we waited outside for the table to be set, Kelsey turned to me and said, “It baffles me that in America we ‘go camping’ to go back to this.”
I’ve thought a lot about the concept of “going back” since then.
In America we are obsessed with the concept of progression, of development, of moving forward from a way of living that we seem to think is insufficient and unfulfilling. But as we moved further and further in modernity, materialism and ease we realized some basic cultural concepts as well as human needs and desires got left behind. Instead of recognizing that we had forgotten them, however, we addressed them as factors that needed to be added back in to our new life in new ways that fit our new model. God forbid we move backwards.
Tanzania has made these concepts and needs clear to me because the culture here never moved away from them. The two main concepts I am referring to are minimalism, and purity. The human needs and desires are nature, relationships, and mental health.
Minimalism in America is a new up and coming thing. Many people now see materialism as an evil, for reasons too numerous to name. You see cute thrift shops on popular streets. People bulk shop at health food stores that are ten times more expensive than convenience stores that individually wrap things. Reusable water bottles and bags are the hottest eco trend. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Well, there are no clothing stores in Tanzania, at least none that I have seen. Everyone buys their clothes used from vendors at markets if they haven’t had them handmade. Every local market is a thrifters paradise (and also explains why Tanzanian’s have a very, very interesting sense of fashion). In Tanzania, when you go to a small duka for things like rice or oil they are delivered automatically in bulk, measured out into reused plastic bags or plastic water bottles by necessity. One of the most baffling products in Tanzania is soda. All soda comes in glass bottles, all bottles must be drank in sight and returned to the shop owner immediately or the buyer pays a hefty bottle fee. As a result the soda is stupid cheap. In Tanzania minimalism make sense. You don’t waste more than you need to and you recognize that everything has value.
Purity is something we Americans are yearning for and the economy has decided to capitalize on it. All Natural, Organic, Local. People in Tanzania don’t even know what those words mean. At Moyo Hill everything we eat is local and all natural, not because its environmental, but because its cheaper. The way it should be. In America we decided that pure was for people with money, in Tanzania that logic makes no sense at all.
Nature is something, for a while, we disregarded as unrefined and backwards. When we started to miss it, instead of changing our lifestyles to include and celebrate nature we invented “camping” and “vacation.” Our relationship with nature became vacation, something only the wealthy can afford. In rural Tanzania nature is everything. It is how you cook, what you eat, where you get your money. It is what you look at when you walk out your front door, where your kids play because there is no such thing as a playroom. You go on a hike every time you go to the store. The weather sets your schedule and the sun is your watch.
Relationships between people lost footing as our obsession with money and individualism grew. More time is put into work and less time into family and community relationships. The idea is, if we have more money than our neighbors then our family will be happy. We created daycare and fences. The result has been depression, divorce, and the invention of counseling. In Tanzania, relationships are the most important capital an individual can accrue. Family is the center of everything and, most importantly, community is the foundation. If you don’t have people who care about you, you have nothing, and if you care about no one then you won’t survive. It is from these relationships that Tanzanians find happiness and success. It is love that makes life rich. No wonder people here are so damn content.
Mental Health. This one really caught me by surprise. In America our obsession with money and success has left us with a severe case of stress addiction. To combat this, instead of cutting out stressors, we found ways to help ourselves to handle them better: yoga, meditation, exercise. At home I do all of these things and more to keep myself relaxed. From the first day here when I went on a run I realized just how absurd all of it was. People in Tanzania don’t exercise, they don’t run, they don’t have gyms – they work, physical labor, and they walk, everywhere (and sometimes they play soccer). People in Tanzania don’t do yoga, they don’t meditate – they drink tea, they take breaks, they give themselves time to relax. Tanzanian’s don’t allow themselves more stress than is absolutely necessary, because when your potential stresses are as serious as theirs are you really should save all your strength.
America needs to rethink the “more, more, forward, forward will fix everything” mindset. Moving forward doesn’t need to mean moving away from the past. We need to admit that aspects of this life we have constructed are wrong. We need to admit that in some areas we have gone too far. We missed some crucial basics when we created this “modern world” and maybe fixing them by turning around isn’t necessarily admitting defeat.
More photos of the original homestay, cooking and relaxing over chai:
the big five.
named such because they were the top five targets for safari hunters.
now used as a marketing campaign.
The first half of directed research data collection is over! We spent five days bush whacking our way through a community forest with Iraqw guides to measure vegetation and learn the names of trees and their traditional uses. The altitude changes on the transects were ridiculous. Check out some pictures below. Now on to the second source of data collection – personal interviews! More on that later.
Tanzania is home to 120 different tribes of people. I have encountered individuals from maybe 15 of them. Each group maintains very unique traditions and values and I have noticed that somehow a persons personality always seems to fit their tribe. Tribal identity is something celebrated, something to be proud of. Talking to people about their tribes makes me feel weird that I don’t have one, like I am lacking some form of identity. I already described the Iraqw community that populates the village we live in in this post. Last week we toured the homes of members from two other tribes – the Hadzabe and the Masai.
The Masai drip with pride from their shaved heads to their ear jewelry, their shukas to their anklets and tire shoes. The tribe’s homeland spans much of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The Masai live in “bomas” which are circles of small stick and mud huts with a corral in the middle for livestock at night. Each boma holds the family of one man, with his many wives each in a different house. They are known for eating only meat, milk and blood and will often walk over 25 miles a day with no water. They also have intensive coming-of-age traditions involving ceremonies, exile, circumcision and age classes. I am not even going to pretend to understand them.
While many have been educated in English and Swahili they have resisted abandoning their traditions and dress and still practice pastoralism throughout their homeland. It is not unusual to see fully dressed Masai chatting with businessman in town. In addition, they have capitalized on the international attention they receive by setting up cultural bomas (or homes) to share their life style with tourists for money. The history of the tribe is less beautiful then their clothing. In the late 1800s many Tanzanian Masai were forcibly removed from a section of their original homeland, the Serengeti, by colonial governments. They were resettled in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as an experiment of combining human settlement and conservation and they maintain rights to live and graze there. The history of the NCA is also riddled with horror, but today the Tanzanian Masai now call it home.
The Hadzabe are easily the coolest people in the world (fact, not opinion). Shaking hands with them was like traveling back in time to a place I never dreamed still existed. Less than 1,000 Hadzabe remain in Africa and 300-400 of them live as hunter-gatherers outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area around Lake Eyasi. Smaller and more muscular than other people in the region they are not closely genetically related to any surrounding tribes and have inhabited this region, living as they do, for thousands or even possibly tens of thousands of years. They are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in all of Africa. The Hadzabe travel in roaming groups of 20-30 individuals, changing camp every few days. Unlike many other neighboring tribes they marry based on mutual desire, choosing partners based on work ethic and physical appearance. Partners predominantly practice monogamy and limit themselves to under 3 children per couple, another tradition distinct from their neighbors. Children are raised in a high quality communal manner with all adults taking care of all children. Generally, Hadzabe men and women gather. They hunt with only bows and arrows and are the only people in Tanzania allowed to hunt without a permit. They’re also the only people in Africa who (as I understand it) are legally allowed to smoke marijuana. The Hadzabe have managed to escape the pressures of modern social and economic development in Tanzania and they clearly expressed this indifference to modern culture through their indifference to our presence (our guides were actually Iraqw neighbors of the Hadzabe). The fact that I met them still astounds me and I will never forget what their presence stands for.