Sunday, October 12, 2008
MTO WA MBU - A DIFFERENT WORLD
We split our five day safari up into three days for game viewing and two days for cultural tours. It was planned this way in order to give us variety and to keep our interest keen. On Tuesday we visited a village (albeit a large village of thousands of people) called Mto Wa Mbu . It seems there are a few cities here in TZ (Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Dadome)and all the rest are called villages, regardless of size.
The street scene bustled with activity. Ladies sold produce from their rigged up stands. Touts (called fly catchers here in Tanzania) were busy hawking their trinkets to us (we are obviously tourists). People were walking everywhere or riding bikes with goods strapped to the back. This was our first experience where we were definitely in the minority. People stared at us, especially the girls. We went to the cultural tourism office where we met Salimu, our guide.
We first visited a family who produced wood carvings. Four men sat in a covered shed and shaved, sanded, and cut wood into shapes of animals, masks, candlesticks, etc. I especially remember the man who worked a lathe, hand operated with a bow. We bought some masks and probably overpaid, but felt it was worth it since we saw and met the people making the items. They lived next door in individual structures with walls made of sticks and mud and a thatch roof. Rustic. Primitive. But it is all they have ever known. This group of five or six “houses” made up the family compound.
We did a lot of visiting: To a family who had a small farm "in town" (and had the most wonderful smiles); to the local health clinic where we met Doctor Francis, a sixty plus year old dedicated physician. His clinic had the technology level of my small town hospital in the mid 60s. We visited the hair dressing salon where Salimu's fiance worked and watched them spin gossip. At lunch we found out Salimu had never had yogurt (and liked it after trying it). Near the end of our tour we visited a small shop that makes banana beer, a local brew mainly drunk at local rituals. Word is, when you have your first date, you bring two buckets to the parents of the woman. The amount of beer delivered increases as the relationship grows (as do the beer bellies) Our final stop was the school where we talked to one of the teachers.
This blog post cannot deliver the flavor of Mto Wa Mbu. It was exciting to "see" a different world. Not without sometimes having a pit in your stomach. Did the villagers smile because they wanted the big US dollar? Let me pass on the cynicism and guess that these are human beings who have few material possessions but appear to have big hearts.