Sunday, October 11, 2015

To The Barely-Beaten Go The Property Destruction Charges

Last weekend, IU played Ohio State, the reigning NCAA football national champions, at home.  And even more improbably, although ultimately losing, held them to within a touchdown.  The student sections were....shall we say, energized.

That's a section of bleacher.

Trust me when I say that if IU had won, campus would have burned.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This Is Our Get-Along Bridge

This is the wooden bridge you cross over on the Tanzania-Kenyan border between Arusha and Nairobi.

If you aren't familiar with this meme.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Death To Birth

The Maasai (pronounced "Muh-Sigh", emphasis on the Sigh, rather than "Mah -Sigh" as in "Mask" with the emphasis on the Mah) are likely the most well-known African tribe.  Pop culture paints them as red-cloth clothed, skinny men, jumping in time with bass-and-beat-heavy music, carrying machete-like knives and spears to protect their cattle herds from lions.  For further quasi-education, see Kevin Bacon's The Air Up There.  That tableau does exist, but I was afraid I could only see it in a "people zoo".  So on my way between Arusha and Nairobi, I stopped in Longido and found exactly what I wanted: people minus the zoo.

I think I was supposed to get a more "packaged tour," but I got a lazy tour guide (Seraya), thank goodness, and I basically followed her around as she went about her day.

I had requested to stay overnight in a boma, the traditional Maasai mud-and-dung-walled house, which was, you know, someone's home.  We walked through Londigo Town to Longigo Village, essentially the Maasai suburb, looking for Raheli, the owner, but she was already at the market.  So I sat in her entry way, drinking chai maziwa (tea with milk) with her sister-in-law, that woman's 5-month-old, Seraya, some of Raheli's kids, and two neighbors who spent the entire time bitching about other members of the local women's beading group.  It was in Swahili, but I mean, I might as well have been back in a farm kitchen in Indiana.

From there we slowly wandered over to the well and market, very small for a mid-week day, where groups of Maasai men were barbequing freshly slaughtered goats.  As in, this is the hole where we drain the blood and these three tied to this tree are next.  Because the four important foods of the Maasai are milk, blood, meat, and fat, even the head, liver, and intestines are cooked and eaten.  I watched as a Maasai man squatted, nestling the abdominal cavity fascia in a bed of dried leaves, and stripped the intestines out.  The hair on the head of his goat, with a sharp stick up a nostril to effect a handle, charred not 10 feet away.  Another man held the next victim by its ear as it bleated in obvious fear for the 30 min it takes to cook the animal whose intestines were currently being sorted through.

Notice the earrings dangling


After lunch and a nap under a tree and a visit by one of Seraya's twin daughter, my guide takes me on the medicine hike that I think was supposed to be our first activity of the day.  We head into the foothills of the nearby 2600+m mountain, where Orpul sits, the rock to which all pre-circumsion Maasai boys go for 3 months to learn medicines, how to kill animals, and eat as much meat as possible.  On the way back we come upon one of the many young goatherds whose songs and calls can be heard echoing around the foothills.  He had two mother goats who had very recently given birth to three kids, and the newborns, working with overly cooked noodles for legs, couldn't exactly walk home.  Which is how I came to carry an hours-old goat down the side of a mountain, kind of ruining a perfectly crappy travel shirt in the process with birthing fluid and blood (although it was resurrected enough to be nearly ruined again a month later in Zanzibar when I was splattered with fish who-knows-what when a guy slaughtering a fish ripped out its intensives right in my face), as the mothers followed the impassioned bleating - until the kids fell asleep from the exhaustion of just having been born.   At least I complete the Circle of Life for numbers of goats I saw killed and saw born, for the day.  Someone alert Disney!


Because of convoluted logistics, a hour or two later I ended up at a Tanzanian election, waiting for Raheli to vote.  I sat in the back as all of the local Maasai women, a sea of colors, patterns, and jewelry hanging from cut and stretched ear lobes, verbally indicated their choice of female representation.  Eventually I was led home by the hand, in the dark, through the warren of paths by Raheli's oldest daughter and I think one of her younger sons and a neighbor boy who never went back to his part of the neighborhood.

Boma's are mud-and-dung-walled buildings with thatched roofs.  They have no facilities (except a few lightbulbs run by solar panels if you can afford it) but are free because you can make them by hand.  Living in town provides facilities, but is expensive.  They aren't big; 2 room with an entryway/living room/dining room/everything room in between them.

Shortly, Raheli (who is the second of 10 wives); her 9 kids (6 biological); Raheli's mother; Rehali's eldest daughter Maria's 2 children; an adult friend of Raheli's and her kid; me; two Maasai herders visiting from another villege to take care of the herd, who are making ugali; a few children from around; and a cat gathered in a space about the size of my parents living room, and partitioned into 3 sections.  It was my job to entertain the kids.  True to Western form, I did it by putting them in front of a screen.

Maria and her daughter

Raheli in her living room
We ate wali mahagrwe sakuma wiki (beans, rice, kale), made on this single stove, family style.

Modern Africa: talking on your cell, while cooking beans on a single open flame in your mud hut

Maria left abruptly for the local clinical with her youngest, because her stomach has been hurting all night.  The next morning they are back and the diagnosis is tapeworm....I think, from the hand gestures.  Something like 95% of East African children suffer from parasitic diseases, likely because only 15% of Tanzania homes have running water.

As the guest, I was given Raheli's bed, one of only two on the property (Grandmother gets the other), which I share with her two youngest kids.  Everyone else is on the floor, as usual, in clumps of twos and threes.

Bedmates: Lump #1 and Lump #2
The next morning, the house stirred early and the solar-powered lightbulbs got flipped on at 5:15 am so we could all get ready for our respective activities: kids to school, cows and goats to the Maasai herders, and Raheli and I to the bus stop.

Raheli's jewelry

Typical to any household anywhere in the world, the morning rush went by way too fast and before I even really got a chance to think, I was on a bus speeding toward Nairobi.

So ended Tanzania.
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