Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Terrific Tanzania

I've spent a couple of weeks here, exploring the many attractions and loving it.  From learning about the tribes, especially the Maasai, to being up close and personal with wild animals in the Savannah, to relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar - this is Tanzania.

There are 125 different tribes here but only the Maasai is still traditional and large, numbering 200,000.  Most do not go to school because they must stay home and look after the cattle which are their number one resource, although they also raise sheep, donkeys and goats.  Maasai men have numerous wives who each have their own home in 'his' village but in order to accomplish that, he must have from 6-20 cows to pay each bride's family when they marry.  One village we passed belonged to a man with 37 wives and over 3000 cattle!  Apparenty the main wife is well respected??? 

A young man comes of age at 15 when he is circumcised without any pain medication, then marries at 20 hoping his father will give him enough cattle to find a 'decent' wife.  Girls marry at 15 and are often illegally circumsized before that.  The government is trying to stop this barbaric practice.  

Unfortunately, Tanzanians eat to live.  Crops include maize, many varieties of beans, rice, millet and wheat.  Ugali is their food staple and is a form of polenta mixed wth tomatoes, onions and other spices.  I tried it and found it rather bland.  For alcohol, they have a good variety of beer and also make a banana beer from millet called mbega.  It's like a weak porridge that is truly horrible.  

The official languages are English and Swahili.  Unfortunately, only 80% of children attend school.  

There's a village every few kilometers and most do not have a water supply even though ground water is close to the surface.  Because of poor infrastructure, women and children must walk up to 5 km/day to the local supply: a creek, river or maybe a communal well somewhere down the road.  It's the woman's job to look after the home-cleaning, food, water and children while the man looks after the animals and maintains the home.  The children watch the animals in the fields as the public land is not fenced.  People are only starting to be able to purchase land.

Traditional medicine is popular and the root from the quenini tree is used to treat malaria, something prevalent here.

The wildlife is out of this world.  I wake up to a chorus of birds and not all roosters or the call to prayer!  It is a beautiful chorus and I am reminded how we are quickly losing our song birds at home.  The Natonal Parks like the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti are literally bursting with big game- elephant, lions, zebra, water buffalo, wildebeest, hippo and rhino.  Seeing them is an animal lovers dream.  

Zanzibar, only a short ferry ride away, is its own world with beautiful white sand beaches, gorgeous turquoise water and many diving opportunities.  A spice tour and slave market visit are must dos.

The people are super friendly, something I seem to say about every country.  I hope we are as nice and welcoming to visitors in our country!  One thing I will never forget is being called mzungu, which means "white person".  The kids are the experts at this- standing beside the road, waving madly with huge grins, showing their perfect white teeth!  The colors are also vibrant.  Women wear bright flowing caftans balancing huge loads on their heads. Not as many have hair extensions, choosing to wear their own Afro cut short.  The kids look so smart and clean in their school uniforms.  There seems to be a lot of donated, North American clothing available.  A lot of men don't seem to mind what they wear- it often doesn't match and can be ripped and/or dirty.  People are thin - Everyone walks miles and miles and miles.

I am bothered by the lack of education, however there might be a method to their 'madness'.  By keeping the kids out of school, they don't necessarily understand their options, although as tourists continue to come, mobile phones become more popular and the world arrives on their doorstep, things will change.  The Maasai are a prime example in fighting to retain their culture - they are the only tribe, out of 125, who haven't modernized and as I drive past the Warriors tending their herds and the men and women hoeing their fields, I can't help but wonder what this place will be like in 20 years.

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