Friday, June 27, 2014

More about Maasi

The Maasi are the colorful tribe you see in the pictures and movies - holding a long stick, sometimes standing on one foot observing the herd. They are the only secluded tribe - to the point where everyone goes to the town to market on Saturday except the Maasi who all (and I mean ALL) come on Sunday. It is a great sight to see all the little towns overrun by those n native dress who live alone all week and long to trade and talk.

Maasi have retained their traditional religion, morals and practices without interference. That include a high rate of female mutilation, usually insisted on by the mother in law before marrying her son.

 Each community is made of a man and his wives - as many as can be sustained with very simple mud huts. The primary occupations is cattle raising, free range since there is no understanding of property boundaries. They eat only meat - no grain or vegetables.

Second to cattle is herding tourists. I always feel a little odd about going to "look at" people, but this is big money maker for the tribes, both in gifts to the chiefs and purchase of beaded goods. They seemed pleased to see the tour van pull in, and it apparently was not a surprise visit since the wares were out and displayed, the musicians and dancers ready. Adults wore shawls wrapped in various ways. kids tended to have school uniforms and Nikes peeking out from under the tribal robes. Apparently, though not by law, Maasi children are schooled in town. The gentleman who toured us and added up how much we owed in souvenirs certainly knew his way around a calculator.


A few reflections...

I am reminded again we can not refer to "Africa" as one unit with any credibility. Morocco, South Africa and Tanzania were entirely different experiences.

Tanzania has overcome it's tribal tradition. Most people can tell you what tribe they are biologically from, but except for the Massai, there is no way to tell in the day to day world.

Tanzania is, for the moment, not experiencing religious tension or dominance. The Muslim Zanzibar and coast coexist with the Christian center. In the area around Moshi, inter religious marriage are unremarkable.

Great strides had been made in accessible health care, but not as much in universal education.

In the area around Moshi, every scrap of land was used for corn or grazing. Even dirt yards supported chickens, gardens and beer hop drying enterprises. Goats grazed all the roadside grass. Shops were busy and industrious.

 Women are not yet in leadership roles, but are seeing the value of education and production. Conversely large goods are carried on women's heads.

People are friendly in response to overtures but not invasive, with the exception of the hustlers who are only in the tourist section. Children love to wave at vans and have no fear of visitors, but they do not beg.

Stores are minimally stocked but adequate. (How many toothpaste choices do WE really need?)

It was the best teaching I have experienced. The teachers did not see me as a sitter, but a learning opportunity for them as well.

Bonus: safari! Once in a lifetime.

I am grateful as always to my wonderful husband - and adults and kids alike loved the name "Bob" - always laughed and said "is that a real word?" - and for the opportunity not only to go but to come home.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Airport leftover

I wrote this as I layover in Amsterdam - just a week ago!

The first things I noticed on landing in Amsterdam from Tanzania was the t-shirts. (OK - the very first thing was the surgically clean fully functional working lock on the door ladies room stall) Suddenly people wearing GAP shirts and Micky Mouse products that looked like they had actually been there. It is an airport - no one is dressed up to fly anymore but everyone has on something unpatched, unripped. And the sandals are new new looking, not a pair of rubber flip flops anywhere.

So I am, in a jolt, deposited in a world of platform shoes, masses of college girls in matching team jerseys, high end watches to pick up duty free between flights, and where my clothes are no longer an oddity but on the conservative side of the norm. Not a donation bin ensemble in sight.

And choices - shops with cheese (which I now realize I have not had since I left the State), massage and spa treatments, restaurants with multiple sandwich choices and options. Not a single place serves the green leafy vegetable that has been at every meal in Tanzania.  The closest I have come to a translation is "wild greens" readily available beside any highway. Fried up with a little soy sauce...

McDonalds and Starbucks are here, of course.

I am remembering, as I always do, that I was only a visitor to the world of ironed underwear and Deet as makeup foundation. Three weeks is enough time to glimpse and glaze the surface, but I always know - and am grateful - that there is a hot shower waiting at home.

Now only hours away!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Remember that day trip?

Our aborted trip to the hot springs was reborn with a different company and assurance that this driver knew the way. Part of the "can do" American spirit motivated us to sign up again. Same insanity that makes folks climb Kilimanjaro...must be the altitude.

The trip proceeded as planned until the town where the SAME hitch hiker tried to climb in telling us "Big problem ahead but we will overcome!" Nooooo - we all yelled! We know this guy! We all suddenly took up 2 seats and claimed no room so the hitch hiker (who turned out to be the Town Chief/Liar) hopped on a motor cycle and "led" us on the path. After a while our driver determined that he was merely ahead of us on the road we were going to take anyway, but, savvy man, he knew if he let the Chief "lead" us he would have to pay for the service. Even if he took us the right way. Or not. So we pulled over - sure enough our :guide: came back, at which time the driver paid him NOT to lead us anymore. Chief howled we would get into Big Problem and only he could save us. Valiantly we forged on, his curses raining on us but the payment secure  in his pocket.

The hot spring - as it turned out - was more lukewarm and "rustic" would be the nicest slant to give it. The dressing room was a white plastic cloth tied to a couple of trees. But there was rope swing for the daring and many little nibbling fish who - legend had it - cleaned your feet of rough spots and callouses! The first 6-8 nibbles on one person were greeted by squeaks and other exclamations of rather unpleasant surprise so the rest of us kept moving.

Mission accomplished!

Every wonder where your Pretty Pony backpack went?

Men wear western shirts and slacks - cotton button down or knit type shirts. younger women wear western wear. Older women wear very sensible two piece garments with a wrap (kanga) that is combination skirt cove, shawl, baby carrier and base for carrying heavy items on the head. All are in good repair and were probably purchased for the person wearing them.

Children have school uniforms in various states of repair, but immaculately clean. Over them or on non-school days they have a variety of shirts and jackets and backpacks that were most certainly donations.

Recently seen:
Monroe Class of 2001 Reunion (including the names of class members on the back)
"Grandma loves me" in German
Wisconsin, Michigan, NYC hoodies
whatever American pop star was big in the previous decade
slogan of a Korean tech company
Huge eyed ponies, girls, cats, dogs and dragons

All umbrellas are souvenirs of golf tournaments from Scotland to Thailand to Australia.

The Garment District

One of the last days in Moshi - when we had even glutted out need for milkshakes! - we wandered into the area where the locals shop. Far from the tourists and most of the hawkers, there was street after street of tiny shops with displays of shoes on the outside and more indoors. Not a sidewalk sale - just business as usual in a sometimes hot climate. Interspersed were more tiny storefronts, each with sewing machine or 2 or 3 out on the sidewalk and a woman hard at work on the treadle and cloth. Here were the made to order dresses and kangas with Swahili message no one could decipher. When we asked, the shopkeeper would read back the Swahili - not a translation. This was the real business district of Moshi, and I am glad we found it.

Especially when the restaurant recommended by the locals - who never go out for African food - was right down the street. a unique combination: Indiaitalian - just like it looks. two menus - one with curry, one with pizza.

Friday, June 13, 2014

For a small country...

Originally written on the way here!

Amsterdam has a  large airport with signage only placed where they think it is needed. So you have to go to the gate you land at (E18) to the gate your flight was going to leave from (G9) to see that it has been changed to a new gate (F3). I passed the same oversized tulips 6 times, but only took pictures the first 3.

But it was a short layover after 7 1/2 hours and a nice break before the 8 more hours to Kilimanjaro.

I am not sure what day it is, but pretty sure it is time to eat again.