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On the eighth day of our trip we reluctantly left the Ngorongoro Crater. Unfortunately, it was rainy and extremely misty so we couldn't see the Crater as we drove out of the Ngorongoro Conservation area, but at least the baboons came out to bid us a fond farewell as we drove out of the park.

Baboons crossing the road

This was to be our primary cultural day. Our first stop was a visit with Daniel Tewa, a storyteller and historian, to learn about the Iraqwi Tribe. Daniel his wife Elizabeth tell stories and demonstrate Iraqwi culture as a way to keep the culture of the tribe alive. The Iraqwi tribe is much like the Native Americans in that they have been forced out of their native land and made to live in areas assigned by the government in order to perserve conservation areas (like the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater). Just like the Maasai the Iraqwi are cattle herders. Because of being moved around by the governement the Iraqwis were forced to live in close proximity to the Maasai. This caused huge problems for the Iraqwi because the Maasai believe that God says that all cattle in the world belong to them and no one else. As a result the Maasai would steal the Iraqwi's cattle, which is obviously a huge problem because the Iraqwi rely on them for survival. This was also a problem because many of the men were getting injured, and sometimes killed, trying to protect their cattle from the Maasai. So, the Iraqwi began to buld their houses underground where they could protect themselves as well as their livestock.

Traditional Iraqw home

Unfortunately, I don't remember if he said exactly how the house is built, but the idea is that it is is supposed to look like a smooth part of the landscape so the roof is made of compacted dirt. Building the home underground serves several purposes. Late at night when the Maasai would come steal their cattle, because it was so dark, it would seem to the thief that there were no homes around to raid. The underground home also serves as security because when you are inside the house you can hear if anyone is walking on the roof thus signalling to the men of the household that there was someone outside that they possibley needed to defend themselves against. Another purpose of the underground house, is that because of it's shape if a thief was walking around on the roof they could easily fall off yet again deterring them from stealing anything.

The size of the house determines how rich/well off you are. Obviously, the more cattle you have the more room you need. the men sleep in one area near the front of the home and the women in children sleep in a different area. At night the livestock is put in the back of the house for the utmost safety.

Sleeping area in an Iraqwi home
Sleeping area of a Iraqw home

Livestock holding area within the home
Where the cows are held inside an Iraqw home

Daniel also demonstrated how the Iraqwi women make skirts out of goat skin and dye it with differnt plants. They can be worn plain or ornately decorated for weddings and other special events. The wedding skirts take four to five months to make.

Iraqw skirt

The beads on this skirt form trees to represent the bride's family trees, mountains to represent how your love will grow, and the sun to represent the mystery of the circle of life. The u-shapes are the bowls of life and their colors represent plants, water, blood, and earth.

Daniel also showed us how he ferments his cows' dung and urine with water to produce a gas that allows him to heat and light his home. It is definitely an amazing alternative energy that the States should learn how to utilize. And before you even think it, the process takes the smell away,so no,his house did not smell bad. I suppose I should also point out that Daniel and his wife do not live in the traditional Iraqwi home but in a typical Tanzanian house. Daniel was extremely well educated and an excellent story teller.

Our next cultural stop was a primary school in the village of Karatu. The children wear uniforms and were just unbelievabley cute because they were so shy. They were curious and wanted to see who we were but then they would giggle and hide their faces. A lot of kids are packed into one classroom, probably around fifty or more students. We had the pleasure of visiting a seventh grade class. They were learning to speak english so the teacher had them demonstrate their english by singing us songs.

Demonstrating their english skills

Singing us a hymn

The teacher encouraged them to ask us questions, so they asked how old we were, where we were from, and if we were all from the same family. one girl was so embarrassed about asking us questions she almost cried. While we were in the classroom we could see little kids outside trying to pull themselves up so they could see us through the windows and there was a small crowd outside the door too. I guess they were just as interested in us as we were in them. Anyway, i hope the video gives you an idea of what a classroom looks like. we also took a full tour of the school including where the teachers live, the little farm area where the students learn to do agricultural stuff, the library, and the teachers' work area.

Our accomodation for the night was at Gibbs Farm. Gibbs Farm is a gigantic coffee plantation and lodge that was built by Germans back in the 1920s. In addition to the coffee they grow they have a huge flower, herb, and vegetable garden. We were given a lovely tour of the garden where they grow everything from bananas to artichokes to brocolli.

Tree tomatoes, my new favorite vegetable (or is it considered a fruit?)
Tree Tomatoes

It was definitely a bit of a shock to the system after having slept in tents for the last six nights to be put in a fancy room with indoor plumbing and real beds. I must confess that after we came back from our visit to the school I took the longest shower and even wound up taking one the next morning. The room was fabulous but it was a wee bit disconcerting being woken up by avocadoe falling on the roof of the room all night. Even though the staff and everyone was very nice there it felt a little to yuppie and impersonal after receiving so much attention and getting our every need met by the staffs at the nyumbas. Despite the thrill of the beds and indoor plumbing i definitely appreciated the nyumbas a lot more.

For all of my pictures of the Iraqwi cultural visit, the school, and Gibbs farm go here.


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