Friday, October 31, 2008


When we are at home we are not in the habit of taking pictures of our daily life. We take pictures of special occasions; birthdays, violin concerts, dance recitals etc. We will also take our camera with us on vacation to photograph the sites of wherever it is we are traveling to.

Now that we are 4 1/2 months into our trip, we have noticed a change in our picture taking. If you are one of the recipients of our Kodak photo albums, you too may have noticed a change - a definite reduction in the number of pictures. With much less busy lives these days, we not only notice these changes, but we even take the time to ponder why these changes have occurred.

For one thing, we are no longer "on vacation." While we knew from the beginning that this was a year long odyssey and not a vacation, it was hard to comprehend that. Everything was new and exciting and there was a great desire to document it. We took pictures of ourselves doing all kinds of "daily activities" in a new environment and also took pictures of the many sights that we set out to see each day. Once we adjusted into our roles of traveling as a lifestyle, we found ourselves no longer taking pictures of the day to day things: new foods, eating in restaurants, walking down the street in a new city. We didn't take pictures of our food when we ate out at home, why would we do it now?

We also discovered a big change once we left Europe. In Europe we were often taking pictures of "sights." Once we got to Africa and India, there weren't as many sights and what we really desired to take pictures of was people's lives. We wanted to photograph women walking with baskets on their heads, people ironing clothes with a coal iron, Tibetan Monks wandering the streets, men shining shoes on the street corner, or the lady selling used socks. But this was their day to day lives, not something to be photographed unless it could be done surreptitiously. We often went without the photo rather than risk offending the person or their culture.

Looking back on our photographs of Africa and now India, our most cherished memories of these countries (and probably future countries as well) will go undocumented. C'est La Vie.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


When we picked McLeod Ganj as a site to visit, we did so with the hope of being here when the Dalai Lama was not on his worldwide travels. To have an audience with His Holiness would be a once in a lifetime experience. We heard from people in town that he had just arrived "home", recuperating from his recent illness (not yet ready to travel) and that he would be giving an address, and a blessing, at the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan Children's Village, in McLeod Ganj.

We walked up a road, then a footpath to the school and scrounged for available seats, awaiting the arrival of His Holiness. At once the band started playing and an entourage of several cars drive into the stadium. With some, not a lot, of fanfare he walked with other Tibetan Buddhist dignitaries to a seat opposite us in the stadium. After about an hour of other people giving speeches in Tibetan, he starts his talk. Since his speech was also in his language and not in English we got nothing out of it other than the fact that his voice was strong and a blessing was given. A blessing given in any language "works". He spoke for about 45 minutes while I performed my version of a short Tibetan Meditation (sleeping). No disrespect intended. Even though we lacked any understanding of his speech it was still very cool to be in his presence.

In my opinion, he was upstaged by the dancing and singing performances of the students at the school. One group had over seven hundred kids performing calisthenics with colorful outfits so it looked like waves of color floating to the music. We stayed to the end and listened to the English narrator describe the great things the school has done. It takes children who have escaped Chinese oppression in Tibet, traveled across the Himalayas and arrived in McLeod Ganj and teaches them the basic subjects PLUS Tibetan culture. It was a heart felt experience.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


We are now in McLeod Ganj, (also known as Upper Dharamshala) a city in the state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India. We are in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and we are also in the exiled home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1959, when China "acquired" Tibet, India gave to the Tibetan refugees the city of McLeod Ganj. Here in McLeod Ganj, the Tibetan people are making a life for themselves while trying to maintain their culture and heritage to bring back to a Free Tibet.

This city/village is the antithesis of Delhi. Here the air is clean, the cars are few, the trash/garbage is less, the town is quiet and the culture is Tibetan. There are plenty of Indians living here in this area as well, but it's the Tibetan population that stands out. The shops along the streets sell Tibetan handicrafts and while you can still eat Indian food you can also eat Tibetan food.

This is a city where a family of four can go out to dinner for 350 Rupees ($7.00 US) and I'm talking about enough food for six! Marty and I each had our hair cut for 50 Rupees ($1.00) and each of us had a one hour Tibetan Massage for the whopping price of 450 Rupees ($9.00). The Tibetan Museum set us back 5 Rupees each ($.10) and the beautiful snow capped Himalayan Mountains and the incredible cultural experience we are having is free. We love McLeod Ganj and our only regret is that we are here for only one week. We could have easily spent three!

While India is filled with all kinds of Hindu Temples, here you find Buddhist Temples as well. You can walk down the main street and stop by the Stupa to spin the Prayer Wheels. Monks in their burgundy robes dot the landscape where ever you go. Since there are still Hindus in the area, cows will roam the streets but now that we are in the foothills of the mountains, sheep and goats wander the hillside and monkeys can be seen sitting outside your restaurant window at any time. It is truly a magical place.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


We left our hotel in Delhi at 7:00 PM for our scheduled 9:25 PM Jammu Mail train. This overnight train would take us to Pathankot, in the northern state of Punjab arriving at 7:15 AM the next morning. After that, we have a "short" two hour drive to our final destination: McLeodganj, at the base of the Himalayas.

We turned the corner after leaving the hotel and were met with all forms of transportation inching their way forward, attempting to get ahead of their neighbor. By all forms of transportation, I mean it: people on foot, bicycles, rickshaws (pedal powered vehicles hauling two people), scooters, tuk-tuks (scooters with a cab and room for driver plus three), taxis, cars and finally large trucks. All competed for the same road. And "the horns were honking"...

In Cincinnati, we would call this a volume problem: By General Electric going south on I-75, The Brent Spence Bridge at rush hour. Nothing at home competes with Old Delhi. There are few stop lights. There are no lane markers. If a car wanted to pass a line of stopped cars, they would simply use the other side of the road. Cars behind would follow, creating a pattern. Pretty soon the two way thoroughfare would turn into almost a one-way street. And "the horns keep honking"...

Our driver Ranvir was nonplussed. "This is Old Delhi", he explained. He knew we had time constraints but attempted not to let our worries drain into him. The train station was only six kilometers from our hotel but nothing was moving. Siena wears her emotions on her sleeve. She said "I hate this" and crawled into a ball in the back seat. I started to think of steps one, then two, then three if we miss our train. Traffic eases slightly and we feel relief only to be brought back to worry by another log jam. No signs indicated our progress. And "the horns keep honking"...

All at once, at 8:35, Ranvir points over a fence and says "the station is there". Relief. But it takes another fifteen minutes to get us to the gates of the station. The "horns, for us, finally stopped honking".

Monday, October 27, 2008


Guess which city in India is the most crowded, polluted, busy, and has the most traffic? If you guessed correctly, you would know it is Delhi. The first thing you need to know about Delhi is that there is an Old Delhi and a New Delhi. The second thing you need to know is that you only need one minute in Delhi. It is polluted, busy and all the other stuff I said up there at the top. We all got colds in Delhi and all of the pollution can really trigger up your allergies. There are a lot of beggars, poor people, and it is kind of unsanitary. To prove it, we saw a little girl peeing on the sidewalk at a national sight!!!! And to think that everybody has mobile phones!! Speaking of national sights we had better move on to that before I give out to much information.

In one of the days that we did sight seeing, we had a driver that took us around. We first went to a beautiful Hindu Temple. Most of India is Hindu so there are a lot temples, but we went to a more well known one. Hindu seems like a very interesting religion. The Hindu people worship over three million gods and goddesses!!!!! You have to take off your shoes to go into the temple but the stone feels good against your feet. The Hindu's worship idols but there were only idols of the more important gods and goddesses. The idols are very well dressed and are very fancy. The gods and goddesses sometimes have multiple arms or blue skin!!! At each idol shrine, you get a red dot on your forehead for good luck. If you are married you get a dot and a line.

The next place we went was Humayun's tomb. Humayun was an Afghani king that ruled over India at one time. When he died, his wife built this amazingly huge tomb that was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Actually, it was Humayun's grandson who built the Taj Mahal when his wife died. Humayun's Tomb looks exactly like the Taj Mahal except that the Taj was made all out of marble and the tomb is made out of stone, and the tomb is not as touristed as the Taj Mahal.

We then went to see the government buildings and the president's house. In India, there is a president and prime minister. Right across from the buildings there was the India Gate. The India Gate is a war memorial. There is writing in the inside of the bend in the arch and an eternal flame. This is where we saw the little girl peeing on the sidewalk.

The next day we went to the Red Fort. The Red Fort is basically a castle made out of red sandstone. It had just became a tourist attraction in 2003 so it is not one of the older attractions. We saw a public complaints hall where the king listened to complaints of the public. There are waterways all over the grounds and lots of pretty gardens. Unfortunately, we were wearing shorts that day and Indians keep their legs covered so we got a lot of stares and that was uncomfortable.

There are two main outfits for women in India - punjabis and sarees. Yes, the word saree is actually the correct Indian spelling (not sari). A punjabi is a scarf, pants, and long shirt. A saree is a piece of cloth that you wrap around yourself. Avocet and I both got punjabis that fit us.

The traffic is terrible in both parts of Delhi. There are not enough traffic lights. Everyone crisscrosses around each other and there are more than cars and trucks on the road. There is also something called a tuk tuk. A tuk tuk is a like a scooter but has three wheels and has the handlebars of a motorcycle. There are also rickshaws that are bikes with carriages on the back. New Delhi is an amazing place but good for only one day. Our whole family hated Delhi. It is very overwhelming, but a place you have to see.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


We surveyed the four participants of the One World One Trip team for their Top 10 (plus two)of Tanzania and the results are in:

12. Sleeping in mosquito nets
11. Maji Mto
10. Shopping for souvenirs
9. Henna tatoos
8. Moshi Town
7. Stone Town
6. The many fine restaurants that we ate in
5. Our accomodations in Moshi, Bagamoyo and Stone Town
4. Swimming and shell picking in the Indian Ocean
3. The Spice Tour on Zanzibar


1. Mosses, our Safari Guide - Mosses you are awesome!

Note: Results for this country's survey were tabulated by Avocet

Saturday, October 25, 2008


1.Despite the heat, dress here is modest. Men are never seen in shorts, only long pants are worn. You would also never see a man without a shirt.

2.Women do not wear shorts or pants. They only wear skirts, dresses or wraps.

3.A person may have an email address, but almost no one owns a computer. They must go to an internet cafe for computer access.

4.The availability of cell/mobile phones has taken telecommunications from 500,000 people to 10,000,000 people.

5.People here in Tanzania drive on the left side of the road. Make sure to look right when you cross the street.

6.Despite the fact that Tanzania is a coffee growing country, most people do not drink coffee but instead drink tea (The English have clearly left their mark). When they do drink coffee, it is often instant; go figure.

7.When you fill out forms at the bank, government forms, or even a hotel guest register, there is a spot to fill in your tribe. (I'm still trying to figure out which one I belong to).

8.Tanzania has over 120 tribes who live together in peace, however, things are not as harmonious between the Tanzanians and the large populations of Indians and Arabs.

9.Kiswahili (Swahili) is the national language here, however, almost all business dealings are done in English.

10.The Tanzania Shilling (TSH) is the country's monetary unit, however, US Dollars are often the monetary unit requested and sometimes even required.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Spice Farm Tour

On the third day in Zanzibar, we decided to go on a tour of a spice farm. Zanzibar is a spice island, known throughout for their spices such as Vanilla, Cardamom, Cinnamon and especially Cloves. We went out to the spice farm away from Stone Town. When we arrived, we got a guide and started the tour with one well known very expensive spice, Cardamom. Cardamom grows in small pods that are green. They turn yellow when they are ripe and ready to be picked. Cardamom doesn't have a harvesting season. When an individual pod or plant is ready, it is picked. There is no time of year that you have to plant it and harvest it. We then moved on to Turmeric, an orangish root that will stain everything it touches, even my camera!!! When women want to get rid of pimples here, they make a paste out of Turmeric that will make them go away. We saw many other spices and fruits such as Ginger, Cassava, Pepper, Coffee, Avocado Trees, Bananas, Pineapples, Lemon Grass, Nutmeg, Lichee and Papaya. Then we arrived at the Queen of Spices, Cinnamon. Cinnamon is the Queen of Spices as it all can be used. The bark, twigs and leaves of the Cinnamon tree can be used to make the fine smelling spice that we know in the US. You know, the rolled bark that you see back home? That wasn't human made. When the bark dries, it naturally becomes darker and rolls into that position. Then, you use it whole. But you can also use the bark without it being rolled.

We also saw Cloves, the King of Spices. The Clove is the King of Zanzibarian Spices because they make the most money off of it.

We also saw a Vanilla Plant, the second most expensive spice, but it was out of season. At the very end, a man climbed a large Coconut Palm and threw down some Coconuts for everyone to taste.

We also got to taste a Jackfruit which has the texture of plastic and the taste of Pineapples and Bananas. We could also buy spices!!! (Mom wouldn't let me though.)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Here are some miscellaneous “happenings” during our days in Zanzibar


....We were told by our taxi driver from Bagamoyo to not let anyone take your bags. We tried!! When we got to the ferry port we were okay until two “porters” told us we had to go through “security”. These 'porters” grabbed our bags, threw them on a table where a person behind the table asked if we had any guns, knives or drugs with us. They forgot to ask about nuclear warheads, WMD, or the bows and arrows from the Bushmen. We said no and the porters grabbed the bags and carried them on the ferry against our protests. They delivered them to first class seats and demanded $10.00 for the four bags. They looked mean and wouldn't hear of the $1.00 per bag that we insisted they get ($4.00). EXTORTION or FOREIGN TAX (same thing but said kinder)???? You choose.


UGH!! No air conditioning in our inside compartment on the “fast ferry” from Dar to the port of Zanzibar. This few hours of travel is starting to really suck! But relax, read, journal, etc. because it is only one and one half hours. OOPS....slight miscalculation...Three hours and fifteen minutes. No air was blowing through as the door was closed. People would go up to the door, notice someone sitting against the other side and go back to their seats. lisa, the strong American woman, goes to complain and a crew member asks the people on the other side to move. Some relief but still SWELTERING!!! The Tanzanians just sat there through the whole ordeal and put up with it. Is this why they have 102 tribes that never fight but have Indians running the businesses, the Germans and English colonizing them and more people outside of Tanzania making money on Tanzanite than do the native people?


Occasionally we hear of police corruption in the states. Usually regarding the big dollars related to drug busts. Here it's about the traffic police. Once on the safari and several times in taxis we were stopped at check points where an official looking person would look over the taxi's papers, inspect their insurance stickers, and look for broken tail lights, etc. We were told if everything didn't match up they would attempt to fleece the driver out of money. Nothing huge, but maybe $20 to $30. Not much for us in the States, but big enough here to argue about. But to be stopped almost everytime we were in a taxi is ridiculous. Someone said the police can barely support their families on their wages so this is how they make up the gap. The most blatant corruption I experienced was at the Zanzibar airport. I was alone at the security tunnel where your bags go through the x-ray machine. A woman dressed in a black Muslim outfit asks what I have in my bags. I tell her, she passes the bags through, then looks at me and says “TIP”!!!, rubbing her fingers together. I didn't want to upset her (and risk that she might "do something" to our luggage) so I paid her 2000 TSH (about $1.60 US). Can you imagine a TSA agent at Greater Cincinnati International Airport rubbing their fingers together or they wouldn't pass your bags!!


We were proceeding through the Zanzibari village of Bububu (great name, huh?) on the way to a tour of a spice farm. Our driver, Ali, a gentle smiling man a bit older than me (with ten kids and seventeen grandchildren), wound his way pleasantly along. We passed a dalla-dalla, a small bus crowded with people, on our left when we heard a “clunk”. I looked back and saw a small child, probably three years old limp to the side of the road and then collapse. WE HIT HER!!!! Quickly adults came to her attention. Her legs were straightened out. I saw one person was wiping her eyes but deduced later that it was blood. A man quickly picked her up, cradled her in his arms and ran to another dalla-dalla. It was going to the hospital. Ali was clearly upset. People came up to him, some questioning, some comforting. We headed out of our parking space and headed for the police station. He called his son who took us to the spice farm. As we left we expressed feelings to him that we were sorry it happened but it wasn't his fault. In all his years of driving he had never hit anyone. Good ending - the little girl was OK with just a head injury.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Zanzibar, even the name sounds exotic. It conjures up mosquito netted beds on beautiful white sand beaches. Rooms with matted floors, cloth lined ceilings and walls, and pillows thrown about to recline on. Dark alleys with women in their Muslim garb and men trying to sell you everything - half of which is illegal. Some of that is the fiction of the movies but most of it is real.

Despite the fact that the island of Zanzibar belongs to Tanzania, it is very much unlike the mainland. In fact, in many ways they act as if they are their own country. Cars here have their own license plates, you must go through immigration upon entering the island even though you are coming from the mainland, and you must pay a departure tax upon leaving - which is not the same departure tax that you must pay upon leaving the country of Tanzania. Our understanding is that many people on the island really do want to be their own country and not part of Tanzania.

Whereas the mainland has a mixture of religions, Zanzibar is almost completely Muslim. Women are covered from head to toe and many even have their faces fully covered. Men typically have their heads covered with a skull cap and some walk around in the long "dress" like garb that is worn in the mosque. While the language is still Swahili, your instinct is to speak something different to them as their appearance is not that of an African; it is more that of cross between an Arab, an Indian and a Tanzanian. The fact is that their heritage is probably all three. The architecture is very middle eastern and they are know for their large intricately carved wooden doors.

Many people who come to Zanzibar choose to go to one of the beautiful beach resorts on the North or East Coast. We passed on that and chose to stay in the historic city of Stonetown. At times you walk down the streets of Stonetown and see only dilapidated buildings, other times you see charm and mystique. The old buildings are rapidly decaying and only now are they beginning to take the care to restore them - it will be a huge undertaking. Stonetown was also a large slave trading area of which almost nothing is left to mark this fact. Once slavery was abolished, just about everything related to the slave trade was demolished. On the land where the slave market once was stands a church with its altar in the location of the slave whipping post. A couple of slave "caves" where the slaves were held until sold and that's all that remains of this dark period in history. Not until 1997 was a memorial established at this site to commemorate those who had been taken as slaves.

As you walk down the alley ways you sense yourself being hyper vigilant. It's almost as if you are just waiting for something to happen - something not so good. But then you arrive safely back to your hotel and you wonder why you felt the need to be so "concerned."

Stonetown will also hold another unique memory for us in this presidential election year. This is where we cast our ballots in the hopes that the mail will be received by election day and that our vote will be counted. We did our best, now it's up to the Tanzanian and US postal systems!

I have no idea what the election situation looks like in the US but I can tell you one thing, if it were up to the Tanzanians, Obama would be in office in a heartbeat. It's Obama mania here with lots of enthusiasm for the man who has roots from this continent.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Bagamoyo Beach Blog

Having just finished crazy (and a bit hectic) Moshi, we decided to take a relaxing Beach Vacation. One of the best places to do that is here:


Bagamoyo is a beach resort area. It is on the coast of the Indian Ocean so that explains why. The surrounding vegetation of the area is not like you would expect Africa to be like. When you say Africa, people will immediately think long plains of Savanna with yellow barked Acacia trees... no. Bagamoyo is more like a Caribbean Island. VERY tropical, palm trees are the dominant plant, with Cacti to follow.

We stayed at the Travelers Lodge. They had a very nice restaurant and lounge, nice scenery, (vegetation wise) an awesome playground, nice people, and adorable bungalows. Here at Travelers, it's bungalows, not typical hotel style. You walk through the large garden area to get to your Beach or Garden Bungalow. (The outside is cuter than the inside)

In Tanzania, the tide is weird. One minute it is so high and rough that you can't walk without the undertow pulling you down. At low tide, it looks as if the first of the 5 Chinese brothers has visited and you have to walk half way to Zanzibar to swim properly. There are also rumored seaweed problems but the only real problem is the lack of clearness of the water and the particles from land vegetation in the water. The water is not as nice as the Adriatic, except that's a sea, this is an ocean. That was freezing and this is bathwater.

In Swahili, Bagamoyo means "Crush Your Heart". Why? Since Bagamoyo is a coastal city, many slaves were brought there to be shipped to Zanzibar to be traded at the slave market. When Christianity was introduced to East Africa (via Bagamoyo) the missionaries tried to stop slavery immediately. It had not even started to stop until the northern part of America boycotted it and Europe followed.

Friday, October 17, 2008


WOW!!! I have found a place that is really great. It's Moshi, in Tanzania. By Tanzanian and East African standards, it's a large city, at 200,000+ people. The skyline is dominated by Mt. Kilimanjaro, at 5895 meters, the “Roof of Africa”. But it's not Kili that I thrived on, it's Moshi's people. We were on Safari for five days so we didn't get a chance to meet (or even see) a lot of people. All of the animals were great and we will never again see the variety of game presented to us in that little of time. Avocet has blogged on this so please see her posts for her perspective. But here in Moshi I was bombarded by humanity. You walk down the street and see Africans who look at you with some curiosity. Little kids were especially inquisitive of Av and Si, (having seen white adults before but almost never having seen white children) sometimes gawking at them or even worse poking at them. Some school kids even pulled Siena's ponytail.

You see tailors by the hundreds sewing clothes on the sidewalks, their sewing machines spinning out shirts, dresses, suits for the people of Moshi. Most Westerners would probably agree with me that the ladies and gentlemen of Moshi out-dressed us, especially the women in their form fitting colorful dresses and wraps. Also present are watch repairmen, where I got a replacement battery for my Timex. Not in a jewelry store, but in a rolling cart. Avocet and I had our shoes washed by a person in a blue “Vodacom” vest. He always had a crowd around him and was always smiling. My shoes looked as good as when they first left the store after they were purchased. Shoe sellers lined the street with reconditioned and shined shoes as nice looking as most places in America. Here people sell used socks, washed and cleaned for the buying public. Most of these vendors are probably poor but seem to have a rich life in terms of the community of people always around to talk with.

The Moslem call to prayer blasted out of the speakers of the mosque. I thought the voice was just “too good” and that it had to be a tape. No way. From 5:00 AM until late in the evening, beautiful “real” voices sounded to tell the faithful of their need for prayer. People seemed to get along as women in head scarves talked readily to women without them. People were also friendly to us, a white Western family. We were never scared. We didn't venture out at night but that was at the behest of the owner of our hotel. We spoke to people on the street who looked at us, saying Jambo (hello) and Assante sana (thank you very much) when appropriate. I realized later on that when women didn't speak back, it was due to Islamic culture more than being unfriendly.

Moshi was mysterious and adventurous like in an Indiana Jones movie, with smells of Africa on the street and the constant activity of people going on about their daily life. I loved it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


You may or may not know that before we were on Safari, we spent two nights and one full day in Arusha, Tanzania. The one day that we spent there was not enjoyable. We started off the day by walking into town, and on the walk there we met a man that started talking to us. It's not like he wasn't nice or anything but after a while we started to get bothered by him. When we got into town, we got rid of the guy that we were talking to, but soon another one spotted us. This man was more aggressive. I don't mean aggressive like he started to pick a fight with us, but he wasn't as nice as the previous man. What was more, he was telling us the wrong information!! He told us the supermarket was closed but it wasn't and we couldn't get rid of him. After a while, there were more people following us. I mean it's obvious that we're tourists, so it's kind of hard not to be spotted. When they first come up to you, they start off by saying, “Hello, what is your name?”, “Where do you come from?”, “Come, I will take you to my mother's shop”. Why would I go to your mother's shop? You're bothering me! Others, will say, “ Arusha is very confusing. Let me be your guide.” These people are called touts and all of them are trying to sell you something, either goods or services. Even if you say, “No thank you” they won't leave you alone. Avocet and I got really freaked, so we spent the rest of the day in the hotel.

Along our journey throughout Tanzania, we have met other people that have had the same experiences. We met this one American lady named Jenny, and she met a newspaper person that kept trying to sell her a German newspaper and she finally turned around and said, “I'm not German!!!” and the man said "Oh!" and he had a very perplexed look on his face. There was also a lady named Meghan, that had a tout propose to her. Well, he didn't really propose, he kind've declared it.

To ward off the touts you can say, “Apana Asante Sana” which means no thank you very much in Kiswahili. Or if they keep bothering you, you can say “bas!!!” which means enough . You could also say when they come up to you “No English, habla Espanol” Which means, speak Spanish. But there's always a chance that the touts speak Spanish too. In the other cities that we have been in, Moshi, Bagamoyo, and now Zanzibar, there have been touts but they weren't as agressive as in Arusha. There are actually touts in a lot of different countries, but don't let that stop you from traveling!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


On the second half of the fourth day of our safari (a “cultural day”), we set out to visit the “bushmen” of the Hadzabe tribe. We left the Ngorongoro Crater Conversation area taking the “Japan” road, a wonderful stretch of asphalt between Arusha and the wildlife parks. The money for the road was donated by the nation of Japan, probably in response to most cars on the road in TZ being Toyotas.

We left the sweet tarmac to follow a dirt road filled with large stones and ruts. Sometimes we had to slow down to traverse a dried up creek bed. You couldn't open the windows of the Land Cruiser because the cabin would fill with dust. Leaving them closed left you sweating. You wouldn't expect bushmen to live right off the main round now would you?

Our local guide, Michael, teamed with Mosses, safari guide extraordinaire, to drive and locate a small group of bushmen (and bushwomen) from the Hadzabe tribe. When we arrived, only the “women” were present. Women is a premature term. These three ladies were really older girls with babies in sacks close to their chests. Later I heard they have babies almost as soon as they are able to have them. They had teeth that were brown and their bodies were very thin. I felt uncomfortable just sitting there with them. They went back to giggling with each other when we joined the men who just arrived.

The men were more communicative. The older ones knew Swahili so said Jambo (hello) to us. They were well muscled and thin, like athletic animals. These guys hunted for their food. One was carving his arrows as we talked and Avocet noticed that he was sharpening it with a Swiss Army knife. Go figure. They showed the arrow tips: sharpened wood for birds, metal tips with barbs for small animals, and poisoned tips for larger game. The poison would kill you in less than five minutes. They told us to be careful to not touch it and showed us the wood that it came from and how they made the poison. I wonder if this is from the same tree mentioned in “The Poisonwood Bible”, by Barbara Kingsolver.

One bushman shot his arrow at a log about thirty meters away and hit it dead center. I asked to try. Needless to say, the “Oneworldonetrip” team would go hungry for a long time based on our initial results. Thank goodness Marty has a couple weeks of great white whale blubber to use as reserves. Siena wouldn't last long.

Our guide, Michael, kept talking about what the tribe needed to continue to exist. Apparently they were offered schooling but that "improvement" lasted only a few months before they reverted back to their hunting and gathering methods. They seemed happy. Even if their life expectancy is only about thirty years plus, I feel they should make the choices in their life and not be meddled with. Better minds than mine would probably disagree.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Back when I lived in Washington, DC, when you met someone you would ask, “Where are you from?” i.e. there were really few DC natives, most people were transplants and this was a way of identifying people. In Cincinnati, people will ask “Where did you go to high school?” Here in Tanzania, people will ask you your tribe - not only in conversation, but also as a question on government forms. On a day to day basis, however, most people see themselves as Tanzanians first, except the Maasai.

The first half of day 4 of our safari (a cultural safari day) was spent visiting a Maasai Boma (village). In an attempt to maintian their tribal identity, the Maasai have chosen to segregate themselves and to live in their traditional culture. They avoid marrying outside of their tribe in the hopes of keeping their population intact and not diluting it with other tribes.

The Maasai are cattle herders and are therefore seminomadic, moving to where there is food and water for their cattle. They build mud and stick huts which they will come back to as the season dictates. The responsibilities of the men are to take care of the cattle and to protect their family. The women's responsibilities are to take care of the children, tend to the home and to make beaded handicrafts. Their source of income is strictly their cattle and their handicrafts.

The Maasai are not farmers and the only food they cultivate is potatoes. Their diet is therefore basically beef and milk. Their clothes are cotton blankets which they wrap around themselves – typically 2 blankets per person. They have lighter ones for hot weather and heavier blankets for colder weather. Their shoes are sandles made out of tires (for durability since they walk long distances) and they wear those year round, regardless of the weather.

Northern Tanzania is Maasai land. The tribe use to live/travel over much of this part of the country. As the country saw the need to segregate land for National Parks, the Maasai were slowly moved off “their land” and onto smaller and smaller parcels (does this sound familiar?) As compensation for their reduced territory, they have been given special rights to take their cattle into the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area to graze and water their cattle.

In more recent years, the government of Tanzania has required the Maasai to send their children to public school. In preparation for that schooling, the Maasai have a kindergarden in their Boma where they can prepare their children for this schooling. Since public school in Tanzania is taught in Kiswahili (Swahili) and the Maasai speak their own tribal language, they need to teach their children Kiswahili prior to entering school. We visited the kindergarden and were very impressed with the young children who were not only learning Kiswahili but also English basics as well.