Editors note—check back soon for pictures
You never realize how strange your own customs are until you see your life from the eyes of a stranger from another world.
This last week we traveled out of Kenya and into Tanzania. Heckled by street vendors, we followed the cardboard/crayon signs through customs and out the other side into Tanzania. We then traveled many hours to the Dorobo tourism company.
(A quick shout-out to Dorobo, they are AWESOME. We would recommend them to anyone looking for true eco-tourism.http://www.dorobosafaris.com/ )
We stayed overnight at a waterfall and hiked to the next camp in the morning. One of our members unfortunately got violently sick so we had to postpone traveling to the Hadzabe as planned and went to the hospital instead. This gave us time to gather our expectations and talk with our guide about more non-biased information about this hunter-gatherer society.
The Hadzabe are a group of about 1,000 people who are retaining much of their original culture throughout the modernization of the rest of the world. They hunt with bows and arrows, gather tubers and berries every day, and live without the modern amenities most of us take for granted. However they are not ignorant to the rest of the world. Most of them went through school, they wear t-shirts and shorts, and some even have phones to contact the town in case of emergencies. They were fluent in Swahili and Hadzani, some even knew English. They live a life without worrying what the next day will hold. No food is stored, but they are confident in being able to find it. They never take more than they need and leave opportunities to for the food to replenish itself. Sounds perfect.
However, the Hadzabe have long been ignored or even shunned by the Tanzanian government. They are viewed as having no monetary contribution to society and so almost 90% of their land has been taken by other tribes in the area for cattle grazing and agriculture. What the government doesn’t understand is that the Hadzabe know how to survive in drought and the harsh landscape. While tribes like the Iraqui seem to be more constant in their income, they are hit hard when water is scarce. It wasn’t until recently that the government granted them land for Hadzabe alone. While that is a great step, the Hadzabe face many more challenges like retaining their culture, generating income sustainably, and climate change.
Enough of that though, because that can get depressing. During our trip we made our own arrows, shot bows, collected and crushed baobob seeds, dug for tubers, tried to make fire with sticks, hunted for hyrax (overgrown guinea pigs), danced the night away with the Hadzabe and many other things. There were also two six-hour hikes through the desert. At 50 km from the Serengeti, it is hard to see the savanna as welcoming in the sweltering heat while every plant is trying to harm you in some way or another!
Even though it was unpleasant at times, this week has been eye-opening and life-changing. It is amazing to see how hardcore these people are. They have truly adapted with their environment. We saw a man reach his BARE ARM into a bees nest to get honey and then scrape off the stingers with a knife. These people were as tough as the land was. It was humbling to realize that while many people think they are the backwards ones, we had much more to learn from them than they did from us. We are the ones using resources dry, while they allow animals and plants to keep growing. We rely on others to support us well into adulthood, while they are fully self-sufficient by age 8. We take pride in physical things, while they thrive in new experiences. We can all learn from these people.
Hopefully they will continue to thrive in what continues to be a shrinking world.