Monday, June 10, 2013

Meeting new People

 Today we took off in the dark, which is hair-raising on the bad roads. We picked up a guide who knows the Hadzabe and Datoga languages and culture. We drove through the back country over very faint car tracks, barely visible, over rocks and sand. Finally we reached our destination. The guide walked with me back into the bush. He taught me a greeting, and we met the Hadzabe tribe. There were about 4 women, 5 men, and 6 children, in addition to a dozen dogs. We visited their grass and twig huts, which are temporary. They are nomadic throughout the year, following game, or hunting for fruit and roots. They do not have any permanent shelter. They sat around a fire, staying warm and discussing the day. The men stay separate from the women and children. I got scolded by the granny for walking in the wrong place. They were very open to new people visiting and taking pictures. We were the only ones visiting that day. There are about 1500 Hadzabe today, scattered around the Eyasi are in small groupings. They took off hunting and we followed. They moved quickly, and it was hard to keep up with my bad knees. After not having much luck hunting, they found a bee tree. They started a fire and tried to smoke out the bees. After getting stung many times, the young boy pulled out some honeycomb to share with the others. At this point, they continued, but I turned back. They showed me how to shoot their bows (without the poisoned arrows, of course) , and I even got close to the target. Finally we took our leave. This was a fantastic view into a vanishing civilization.

We next drove to visit a Datoga family group. We saw their house, and their workshop. They are metalworkers, and also supply the spearheads to the Hadzabe. They were melting metals, using a hand pumped bellows over the fire. They made some beautiful bracelets and arrowheads, and I bought some souvenirs. This was an interesting day, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in different cultures. For anyone interested in the tribal cultures of Tanzania, I highly recommend the book "Ways of the Tribe", available at Arusha bookstores, or online.

After these visits, the plan was to wind our way back to Karatu, stopping at some of the rural schools that we passed on the way, to share some of the school supplies that I brought. That turned out to be futile, as we found that the schools are now on a monthlong holiday after their exams. The only students in schools now are Standard 7 (Seventh Grade), as they have to study hard for their end of year exams to enter secondary school. We will have to check with other schools along our way.

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