Tanzania Fall 2019

Hamjambo everyone, my name is Annie Vatcher. I am a junior at St. Lawrence University. I am an environmental studies major and public health minor. I am a member of the women’s lacrosse team back in Canton, New York but taking a semester to experience something completely different studying abroad in Kenya. I have thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in some of the cultures that make up Eastern Africa throughout the past six weeks. 

Last week we hopped the border over to Tanzania. After six hours on the bus, our first stop was in Arusha where we got dropped off and met our three amazing Dorobo tour guides. Hope, Kisana, and Simon greeted us and we all introduced ourselves. After a quick lunch and cleanup we split into three of their land cruisers and drove another four hours to our first campground. Honestly, after leaving Arusha I never knew exactly where we were within Tanzania. The change in landscape was breathtaking. We all had our heads and cameras hanging out the window as we cruised through Tanzanian villages nestled at the base of huge lush mountains. Kids lined the streets waving at the mzungus flying by. I immediately felt a special connection to this place and the joy that was so present among all of the people.

On the second day we arrived at the first Hadzabe village. The Hadza are one of the remaining hunter gatherer ethnic groups in East Africa. Within the first two days we met many of the Hadza. Through Simon, Kisana, and Hope we were able to ask them questions regarding their way of life spanning from education to childbirth to their smoking habits. We visited their houses that were beautifully made by the Hadza women with sticks and grass. We quickly found that gathering food with the women is very hard work. They took off with us trailing behind to observe and assist them foraging and digging for tubers which are a key part of their diet. We learned how to find them, extract them from the ground, build a fire without matches or a lighter, and how to cook them. We also got honey from the trees and ate berries from the bushes. Altogether we learned that it’s not easy depending entirely on the land for food, but it’s possible.

After a twelve mile walk through the Yaeda Valley we arrived at the second Hadzabe village where we focused more on the hunting side of their lifestyle. This was personally my favorite part of the component. We got to make our own arrows (with lots of assistance), and use the Hadza’s bows to practice shooting (also with lots of assistance). It was much harder than the Hadza make it look. Considering they have been using bows and arrows to hunt since they were seven years old, they make it look so effortless. Meanwhile we could barely pull the bow back and when we could the arrow would more often than not, shoot straight into the ground three feet in front of us. Either way, shooting with the Hadza was certainly a highlight of our trip. We even got to go out  hunting with them at the crack of dawn. I was fortunate enough to experience a successful killing of a dik-dik. Again, I was simply in awe of how skilled they were. With complete ease they skinned  I thoroughly enjoyed shadowing them and getting a small glimpse of what their day to day life looks like.

Every moment spent in Hadza land was a learning opportunity. Whether it was following them on their hunting adventures or asking them questions one on one. We were all struck and inspired by the Hadza lifestyle. They take their life one day at a time and don’t put much thought or worry into the future. They live so simply and happily, it certainly led me to reflect on the complexities that exist in our lives. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we now have a special appreciation and yearning to preserve their culture through the modernizing world around them. 

Hey Gang! My name’s Aidan Cunningham and I am a current Junior at SLU studying History, Government, and Philosophy. Our experience over the previous six weeks has been not only enjoyable, but providing of cultural experiences necessary to gain a more complete world view. Our trip to last week was no different.

Our 7 hour journey began early Saturday morning, and despite the undeniably hectic nature of our rush to pack the bus the mood soon calmed as the majority of us slept until our stop at the border. We were in East Africa for about a month, Tanzania added another layer to our understanding of the region. Our first drive with the Safari guides clearly illuminated the differences between Kenya and this nation; our highway cut through arid land pastoralists led their livestock through and we got more than a few waves from children strolling alongside.

Upon our arrival at Camp 1 the Haadza who greeted us began answering our barrage of questions regarding their way of life. While the Haadza are an incredibly individualistic culture they are for the most part semi nomadic hunter-gatherers who rely on natural bounty of the area for sustenance. Furthermore, they were incredibly proud to tell us how their way of life was sustainable, consistently pointing to the fact that the last Famine in Tanzania wiped out many of their non-Hadzaa neighbors but they were left unscathed. 

The following morning we embarked on a hike to their village just a few kilometers away. The climate of this area was incredibly arid -almost Grand Canyon like- but the early timing of this journey helped us beat the heavy afternoon heat. Several dozen haadza greeted us in the village with the men quietly observing from a nearby slope and the others leading us to separate dwellings for more Q and A’s. The woman in my house explained how the house was constructed primarily of dry grass and sticks, but was only utilized for sleep if it was raining. Primarily the Haadza sleep outside. She found it laughable when our conversation turned to the topic of dating and relationships, and told us the  nature of these intercations were equitable in power and normally moved to matrimony quite quickly. Before the sun’s heat was at its most oppressive we hiked back to our camp.

Day two’s primary task was arrow making, and while many of us attempted to follow the directions of the hunters, the sturdiest of our arrows came from those who were assisted most heavily by our hosts. The day finished with music and an energetic dance with our hosts. The following morning we packed up camp and hiked about twenty kilometers across the valley. The walk in the desert heat was somewhat taxing, however we arrived on the other side of the valley in one piece before night fell. The following activity was undoubtedly my favorite segment of the trip as the Haadza were brave enough to let twenty dehydrated mzungus practiced archery with their own bows. The bows varied in resistance; some had only fifty pounds of draw weight while others surpassed eighty. Most of our shots ended up in the dirt in front of our target, and some barely even made it out of the bow, however nothing on this trip was more satisfying than putting a handcrafted arrow through the target twenty meters away. We were unfortunately unable to utilize our newly developed skills in the field as the Haadza probably understood none of us would eat if they left the hunting up to us.

Our time with the Haadza was perhaps the most enjoyable week of our already amazing trip, and the perceived  simplicity of the Haadza lifestyle most definitely struck a  chord with many of us. On the final night they explained to us how they don’t worry about the future, and simply do what they believe is right to make the most out of every moment. It’s quite easy for one to create an emotional response that glorifies or idealizes their way of life, but in the words of the owner of Dorobo “it’s important not to idealize their way of life but instead simply appreciate it.” While some may have disagreed with his words, I found his assertion to be incredibly accurate when applied to our trip as a whole. We can’t go through every cultural interaction on this  making immediate decisions on the validity of a specific way of life. Instead we must find the inherent value in each and make sure we do our best to undertand why it is worth preserving. 

See you all in December!

Tanzania Spring 2018

Over the course of our semester in Kenya we do various field components that give us a look into different cultures within eastern Africa.  We spent this past week shadowing and learning from the Hadzabe people in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania. The Hadzabe people are one of the last hunter-gatherer communities in the world. The Hadzabe live by a few set pillars that allow them to maintain their culture and lifestyle.

The first pillar of the Hadzabe community is a minimalist lifestyle. The Hadzabe do not have many personal possessions besides the clothes on their bodies, their shoes, the bow and arrows each man carries, knives and very rarely a cellphone. This allows them to move their communities at any point if there is a lack of water or food. The Hadzabe do not store food for future occasions and they do not grow any crops. When they get hungry the men will go out and hunt and the women will go out and collect various roots, fruits and vegetables from the surrounding bush.

The second pillar of the Hadzabe community is that they live by an egalitarian system. The third pillar of the Hadzabe community is that they always share within the community. Over our few days with the Hadzabe we learned that everything is shared amongst the community whether it be fruits and roots collected by the women or animals brought back by the men from the most recent hunt. This breeds a community that always supports one another.



One could argue that the Kenya Semester Program is defined by the various field components that make up the core course “Culture, Environment and Development in East Africa,” and this week in Tanzania was definitely a defining experience for all of the students. Before each field component us students wonder what we will be learning for each of these central themes. In this instance, we wondered how these themes intersect in Tanzania, specifically with the Hadzabe.

Come Saturday morning we woke up at 5:30, some grabbed breakfast, and the rest of us boarded the bus in a somewhat catatonic manner, ready for a bus ride of a few hours. Many of us fell asleep on the bus ride, maybe dreaming about the mountains of Kilimanjaro, the Great Rift Valley, Mango Juice Boxes or even a Lion candy bar. After passing through the border, we hopped back aboard our trusty bus and rumbled on towards “Arusha Town,” home of Dorobo Safaris. As we lumbered off the bus, a little stiff from the journey, we traded excited glances- our experience in Tanzania was about to begin!

We met our Tanazanian guides, Kisana and Mama Maggie, and readied ourselves for the Tanzanian adventures that would soon begin. During this week we would be traveling to the Yaeda Valley to see where the Hadzabe lived, hunted, gathered, sang and dance. Would we see first-hand a Hadza shoot a dik-dik? Would we be taught the words of a traditional Hadzabe song to be sung around the fire? Would we see how 1,000+ people survive off of land that seems as dry as a bone at first glance? We would soon find out.


Night Classes:

Although to us, it did not seem like a typical week of school, we learned an immense amount through the experiences that we had with the Hadza, and more importantly our nightly discussions. These discussions were a good time to debrief on the activities that we had done the day before, and truly conceptualize all that we were learning.


Through previous readings, we had a basic knowledge of the Hadzabe tribe, and what they stood for. However, without actual exposure the reading would have been irrelevant. Many issues were expanded on by our local Tanzanian guide, Mama Maggie, who explained to us not only the history of the Hadza, but of Tanzania as a whole. This helped us understand where the Hadza fell in the long and complicated Tanzanian history, and why it was so unfair that their land was being taken from them.

Night Classes

This lead to the discussion of Dorobo Safaris, which as stated before, helps the Hadza with the Dorobo fund and exposing different cultures to one another. All of these discussion raised questions that we were then able to ask the Hadza, personally, which was a truly valuable learning experience. Not only where we learning about one of the last hunter and gatherer tribes, but we were able to live with them and experience life the way that they do.


The week of nightly discussion wrapped up with a larger group question and answer with the Hadzabe and St. Lawrence Students. We were able to ask final clarification questions that would help us in our group presentations, and they were able to ask us questions as well. It ended with a lot of laughter and a new understanding of each other’s cultures.

This made the final presentation a breeze, and as we sat in a circle at the Dorobo headquarters, the discussion was hard to stop. Throughout the week we had been able to learn so much through experience and discussion which was applied to the 4 group presentation topics of land loss, tourism, education, and the future of the Hadza. In such a short time, it is hard to connect deeply with others, but the Hadzabe made it particularly easy. They are a loving and generous people who accepted us into their community and allowed us to get a valuable and authentic education. Although we cannot possibly know every problem they are facing, we were able to formulate feasible solutions to share with them.


A Day in the Life of the Students:

Tuesday (The Journey Across the Rift)


Now we want to take you through a regular day that we had with the Hadza, step by step. Tuesday morning, we all woke up anxious and excited to walk across the Rift Valley. Where we were staying the night before was on the ridge just North of where we would be after our long journey. Many of the students were tired from the previous night of dancing, arrow making and even some improv, but we were excited to meet a new group of Hadza, although we knew we would miss the first group! Our day began with a great breakfast, cooked by the most incredible chef Peter. We then took down the tents, packed out lunches, loaded the car, and set off on what ended up being an 8 hour walk across the Rift Valley. I dont think a lot of people can say that they did that! 

Lunch time hunt

We started the hike at around 8:45 and were led by our fearless Dorobo Safari Guide, Mama Maggie, as well as two Hadza men by the names of Moshi and Gudo. We were told to be very quiet for the duration of the walk, because the whole time Moshi and Gudo where hunting. We did end up catching something, but it was nothing that any of us expected. 

Emma with the tortoise

After taking multiple breaks to drink plenty of water and to despike our shoes, we just so happened to stumble upon a cute tortoise. To all of our surprise, the men picked up the little guy with a large grin on their face, and were preparing to cook it for lunch. As translated by Mama Maggie, Moshi was even chanting, “I love eggs, I love eggs, I am so excited to eat these eggs.” A few minutes after we picked up our new friend, we stopped under the shade of a Baobab tree where Moshi was also able to extract water from its trunk. Unclear as to how they were planning on eating it, before we knew it they had tossed our tortoise friend on the fire, alive.


As you can imagine the students were shocked. As Moshi and Gudo continued to pile on the branches on top of the turtle, we stood there aghast as the little guy started squirming in his shell. The rest… as you can imagine, was nothing less than brutal. Like one of the students said, “it was like watching a really really slow car accident!” When the shell was completely charred we didn’t know how they were planning on eating it, but they quickly showed us when they started bashing the shell on the ground, cracking it. Once it finally opened up the students all gasped when they saw what was inside. Some screamed, some even walked away, but all the while the Hadza were grinning from ear to ear and snickering. They must have been pretty excited for their lunch! When the process was over, some students ate the eggs, other the liver, and people even ate some intestine. To most of us, however, our smushed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches had never looked to good.


After the Hadza lunch break we continued on our way, passing through pastoralist lands and herds of cattle, which we knew from our reading were stolen from the Hadza. About 2 hours later we stopped for another long break, where Moshi climbed into the Acacia tree to retrieve 7 eggs from the nests, offering all of the students a sample. One of the most important thing we learned about the Hadza was the importance they put on sharing. There would be no food found that was not shared with everyone around.


The final stretch of the hike was about 2 hours, up the ridge adjacent to the one we had stayed the night before. Before we began our climb, we stopped at the Hadza camp where we were warmly greeting, and shared the remains of our tortoise friend. The views were incredible, and you could see across the entire Rift Valley. When we arrived at camp it was already starting to get dark. Some students climbed a top the large rock near our campsite and watched the most beautiful sunset, while others chatted around the fire. Dinner was a delicious serving of Mac and Cheese with a banana bread dessert and that certainly put us all to sleep. After all, we had a big day of hunting ahead of us!

Connecting over a beautiful TZ sunset

Wednesday, Hunting in the Bush

The alarms from our small wrist watches beeped at a barely audible volume, but nevertheless, come 5:45 am we rolled over in our sleeping bags, yawned, and sat up-anxious for our day of hunting. The sun was not yet up, so with headlamps on our heads, and an extra flannel or fleece on for breakfast, we laced up our sneakers and headed out to the fire pit. As breakfast was laid out several students grabbed the chunky black kettle that sat nearly in the flames, put a strainer over their camping mugs, and poured out cups of rich black coffee. Breakfast was a spread of eggs, french toast sticks, mini sausages, fruit and granola- Peter, the chef, knew we needed sustenance for the day that was to come!


By 7 am we had settled into groups of three students each, and were paired with a Hadza man, or two, to be our hunting and walking guides in the bush. One group of three girls, Dana, Lindsay and Sarah (myself), were paired off with Bgayo and Bokin, and off we went into the bush at dusk. As we had learned the day before, this was not to be a chatty trip- at a moment’s notice our Hadza guides could see or hear an animal, and it was best to be silent for this to happen. In this specific hunting group, Bgayo took the lead while Bokin would venture out in front, returning to the group after a bit of time, searching the surrounding bush. Us three fell in line behind Bgayo, and tried to keep our eyes and ears sharp for surrounding life. 

No one knows their environment better than our Hadzabe teachers

After about twenty minutes Bgayo motioned to a large boulder in front of us, and to our surprise, he spoke in English “We will head to the top of this rock to get a better view and see what is around us.” We were shocked! In our silent walking no one had realized how fluent in English our Hadza guide was. At the top of the rock Bgayo scanned the land, while we enjoyed the view- both appreciating what we saw. Bgayo and Bokin whistled to each other from separate rocks, until Bokin found his way to us, settled upon the rock, and sat to roll a cigarette for the two Hadza men. 

For the next five hours this sequence repeated itself, we followed behind Bgayo, silently walking through the bush as Bokin would go off on his own to hunt, and then rejoin us. Many times Bgayo would stop in his tracks, draw out an arrow and shoot at whatever small animal he had keenly picked up on, although nothing was shot. “Hunting is a gamble” Bgayo said to us, not seeming upset that he had not caught something for the day. One of the pillars of the Hadzabe people is their sharing spirit, if you do not catch something one day it is okay because someone else will have. A highlight of our morning was when our two Hadza guides smoked some bees out of their hive and drew out honeycomb for us to try. This honey was the sweetest, best honey any of us had ever tried! 

Mama Maggi

Our food was excellent all week, and dinner this day was no exception. All of us students found a spread that included a massive pot of bacon mac n cheese, coleslaw, and banana bread. Although we were all stuffed with mac n cheese, we found ourselves around the fire again that night for one last dance with the Hadzabe. Us students gave a bad rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and the popular, “Stacy’s Mom.” The Hadzabe then shared with us the infamous “Frog Dance.” The Frog Dance starts out as the Hadza women sing a song with a relatively slow beat, all while two people crouch across from each other, each extending opposite legs to the beat. Once a rhythm is established, the song picks up, the beat becomes very fast, and the two dancers quickly stick out both legs, draw them back in, and pop up. The best visual I can paint for this would be a cross between the Rasputin dance, and a frog hopping up on its hind legs. The Frog Dance certainly tired everyone out, and we ended the night by falling asleep stargazing in our sleeping bags, atop what is certainly the best rock in Tanzania. Lala salama Yaeda Valley! 



Tanzania Fall 2017

Tanzania Blog Post: A week with the Hadzabe, Hunters and Gatherers

Fall 2017 Group with Longtime Hadza Teachers

By: Christine Corcoran, Stod Rowley, Matt Boscow

Background Info

The Hadzabe are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer communities in the world. They hunt and gather based on their hunger, so whenever their stomach starts rumbling, the men will go hunt and the women will gather various roots and fruits from the surrounding bush. The Hadzabe do not have much in possessions besides the clothes on their body, their shoes, the bow and arrows each man carries, and the occasional cell phone.

Their minimalist lifestyle stands as one of the pillars that keep the Hadzabe community intact and focused on a similar goal. Their pillars consist of their egalitarian system, sharing of all things not personally owned, minimalist lifestyle, living one day at a time and love for one another within the community. These are just a few that our group saw as vital to why the Hadzabe people stick to their community.

The children are required to attend school through primary education, which is similar to completing school through 8th grade in the States. While in school, children are exposed to other cultures and are taught various lessons that are seen as important and necessary for a young girl or boy to be successful. Through all of the exposure they endure away from their culture, they always want to return home. These pillars provide roots of which no education can cut. Although there have been a few Hadzabe students that continued on into higher education, they have always come back home to their people in the bush.

We were able to have the amazing experiences with the Hadzabe in Tanzania due to Dorobo safaris. Dorobo was founded in the 1980s by three brothers based in Arusha, Tanzania. Dorobo works directly with the Hadzabe and other cultural groups, educating them on their rights as landowners and preventing a situation in which the Tanzanian government or other organizations attempt to take land away. One of the organizations created by Dorobo to help the Hadzabe is the Ujamaa Community Resource Trust (UCRT). The UCRT helped the Hadzabe claim rights to their land to ensure they would become legal owners of their land. This was imperative as the Hadzabe have already lost 90% of their original land from the encroachment of an ever growing population outside of their community.

A good portion of the money spent to go on a Dorobo safari with the Hadzabe goes directly to their community, helping fund education, healthcare and women empowerment. Dorobo also does various things to prevent disturbing with their everyday life such as setting up camp far enough away from their camp, as well as providing nails as gifts to make arrow heads.

Tanzania Component Overview

Saturday we arrived at the Dorobo camp in Arusha in the early afternoon after a long eight-hour bus ride with Njau the magical bus driver. When we arrived at camp we ate lunch and met our guides for the week, Mama Maggie, Allen and Daudie. Soon after we departed for our first overnight camp on the western rim of the Great Rift Valley. When we got to camp we dragged our packs to our respective tents and then headed over to the campfire for our first hot meal of the trip. Post dinner we were given our itinerary for the next day before retreating to our steamy tents to rest up for the day ahead.

We woke up Sunday morning to eggs and bacon being cooked by everyone’s favorite bush cook, James. Post breakfast everyone helped each other apply sunscreen to any skin showing before we embarked on a three km hike up the western escarpments of the Great Rift Valley. From the summit we could see for kilometers in every direction, from saline lakes to the rift valley itself. We then proceeded to walk down to the safari all terrain vehicles where we finally departed for camp in the Hadza land. When we arrived at our second camp we were met by approximately a dozen Hadza men and women who were eager to greet us. Once everyone was introduced to each Hadza at the camp we indulged in another hot meal accompanied by a roasted goat leg for Lydia’s twenty first birthday, candles and all! After the tasty goat we slept on a large rock overlooking the Hadza land.

Monday morning was finally the day where we got to see the Hadza camp that was situated about a kilometer away from our own. When we arrived at the Hadza camp we were shown their grass-roofed homes where they cook and sleep. We then proceeded to go gather with the women of tinhe community. They went around looking for vines, which are attached to roots in the ground that are rich in carbohydrates. While we were eating these roots, which were plentiful, Moshi, one of the Hadza men came over with a severed monkey head that was swiftly thrown directly into the fire after a few photos were captured. Monkey brains are an acquired taste but I can speak for everyone in saying that they do not regret their decision of indulging themselves in a Hadza favorite. We headed back to camp soon after the monkey head was consumed to rest up for our 20km great migration across the Hadza land to our next camp on the distant ridge. That evening we were taught by the Hadza men to make arrows out of sticks native to the area. The process was actually fairly basic but fine-tuning the arrow to be completely straight and sharp takes a trained hand. After we all completed an arrow we went to practice shooting arrows at a cardboard box. It proved to be less difficult than many expected, regardless no one hit the box.

(Day 2: Visiting the community)

Tuesday morning, large quantities of food were consumed knowing that the great migration would be quite tiresome. The sixteen of us, as well as two Hadza and one of our guides, Mama Maggie set out on our journey around 7:30 A.M. The two Hadza men were constantly hunting throughout our trek across the valley. Although we sounded like a herd of elephants walking through the bush we still managed to catch a glimpse of a few dik diks and a herd of gazelles. The highlight of the great migration was easily when two bush babies were spotted in an acacia tree and taken by bow and arrow as a mid trek snack. When we finally made it to our third and final campsite on the adjacent ridge, water and a few soda pops were shared amongst the herd of us students. After rehydrating on a massive rock of metamorphic origin overlooking the valley that we had just migrated across, we were summoned to follow a few Hadza men to climb a nearby baobab tree. New climbing pegs were put in by Moshi for us to safely ascend into the canopy as the sun slowly dipped below the rocky knolls in the distance. Yet again most of the group slept under the stars on the large rock where the steady breeze wooed us to sleep.

We woke up before the sun rose on Wednesday morning to join the Hadza men on a hunt through the bush they know so well. Our large group split up into groups of three, each with a Hadza as a guide to follow into the bush. Each group set off around 6:30 A.M. in different directions with instructions to be back around noon. We spent hours trudging through the Hadza land looking for basically any moving target, again we saw a few dik dik but were unable to get a clear shot. After about four hours in the bush our Hadza guides had managed to kill a few small rabbit like rodents for our lunch that afternoon. Much rest was had when everyone had returned from his or her respective hunting trips in preparation for the final night with the Hadza. That night we sang and danced with the Hadza. I have never seen such athletic dance moves on any dance floor I have ever stepped foot on. The Hadza men and woman were so welcoming to us by pulling us into their dance circles and what seemed like a dance battle. It was truly a special night that I am sure none of us will ever forget.

(Learning about hunting)

Thursday had come too quickly but it was time to leave the Hadza and head back to the Dorobo camp in Arusha. The trip with the Hadza had gone by to quick but a lot was learned and both parties made lasting memories.

Nightly Discussions

The whole time in Tanzania we learned so much, from every interaction, every activity, and just learning how to be a passive listener. It is hard to pick out the specific different academic activities, for it feels like the whole week was an academic, personal, and somewhat spiritual journey.

However, for time sake, I am going to stick to the specifically academic activities, that were structured to debrief some of the non academic activates. Every night  we would have a debrief around the campfire after a scrumptious dinner,  led by our very outgoing, spunky, strong and fun guide “Mama” Maggie. These discussions would be based not only off of our experiences of that day, but also off some journals that we read before each discussion. These discussions would range from topics about the Dorobos history of involvement with local tribes, with Hadzabe and their land loss struggles, their education struggles, their conflict of interests with the government, other tribes, tourisms and NGOs. It was a very educational experience, and it gave us all quite a lot to think about, and altered lots of pre-existing beliefs and stereotypes.

All of these four discussions led up to the last final discussion on the last night with the Hadzabe. We had organized into our groups for a presentation on the Hadzabe that would occur the next day back at Dorobo’s headquarters. The groups were divided into four main topics: Land loss in the Hadzabe community, formal education, Tourism, and the future of the Hadzabe. This was a very exciting and once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a very mind-opening experience to have a discussion with a group of people whose life, values  and interests are seemingly so different than ours yet at the base of it all, we are all human and we all share similar needs. What was also extremely interesting was how positive they were throughout the discussion, we as students kept asking questions that were seemingly negative about the future to come, yet the Hadzabe responses were mostly positive to all the questions.

Then they had time to ask us questions. It is  two cultures trying to understand one another, and it was a very interesting and fun interaction. The questions they asked us were more directed towards the women, asking the women what they looked for in men, what the marriage traditions were like, etc. They were able to lighten up the mood quite a bit, by the end of the discussion we were all laughing merrily together.

The next day, after we left the Yedaa valley, our last day in Tanzania, we held our final group presentations to wrap up a marvelous,  experiential past week.  We had great discussions about land loss, education, tourism, and what the future holds for the Hadzabe. It was a long, but thoughtful discussion, and an excellent way to process together everything that we absorbed over the past week.

Personal reflection / Conclusion

Spending a week with the Hadzabe was such an incredible experience. Their views on life and community will stick with us for the rest of our lives. No day goes by being taken for granted by the Hadzabe. They take life one day at a time, knowing that whatever comes tomorrow will come, and they will deal with it when necessary. The Hadzabe are some of the nicest people we have ever met. They welcomed us into their communities and treated us as they treat one another, with love, respect and care.  

Tanzania Spring 2017

On top of the world! This is also where some people slept at night, under the stars, with a beautiful sunset to awake them in the morning.

As we travelled from Arusha, Tanzania to where we would live for the next week, the Great Rift Valley came into view on the horizon. We would be camping on the edge of the Gregory Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley until the next morning before we ascended the Gregory escarpment, viewed the beauty of Lake Manyara, and drove to the Yaeda Valley where we would meet the Hadzabe in the shadow of the Serengeti Plateau. The Hadzabe are one of the few groups remaining in the world that still actively practice hunting and gathering as a lifestyle. They are also an egalitarian society, meaning that everyone is treated as equal and there is no hierarchy like there is in most of the westernized world. As a community they have been marginalized and had their land taken away from them at a rapid rate. Due to their hunter gatherer lifestyle they require a lot of land. They are a mobile people, who live in temporary huts until the area around them is depleted of its natural resources; they then simply move to the next location and continue this pattern. It’s important to note now that people have a very inaccurate stereotypical view of the hunter gatherer. It’s seen as being a daily struggle and is often put hand and hand with starvation. THIS IS NOT TRUE AT ALL. In fact, the Hadzabe are the only group in Tanzania to have never faced famine in all of their existence. There is plenty of resources for them to live on, and most of them work for only 2-3 hours a day! This sounds like a pretty relaxed lifestyle compared to our average 40 hour weeks and surprises many people.

Our entire trip was coordinated by the Dorobo safari company. First off, Dorobo is amazing! They set up camps, provide us will meals, and somehow became like family in the one week we spent with them. The Dorobo company was founded in the 80’s and focuses on providing a true cultural experience instead of your average tourist safari. They have also become close allies and friends of the Hadzabe people. In order to stop the Hadzabe from losing their cherished land, the owners of Dorobo created the Ujamaa Community Resource Trust (UCRT). The UCRT allowed the Hadzabe as a community to apply for a title deed and gain rights over their land. This was the first time a community had ever done this, but it went through and now the Hadzabe have the legal rights to the land that they deserve! Of course, this does not mean that the Hadzabe never have people trying to take their land. Luckily the local communities for the most part respect the agreement. However, when this isn’t the case the Hadzabe have game scouts that report trespassers to the village government who then comes and removes said trespassers. So far the Hadzabe seem to see it as a very effective system. The Hadzabe are extremely kind people though and hate to say no or turn people away. So, they struggle with turning people away and especially during times of droughts (which they are in right now) they allow pastoralists to graze their cattle on parts of their land. If you want to learn more about the Dorobo company of the UCRT you can check out their websites: http://www.dorobosafaris.com/ and http://www.dorobofund.org/ucrt . Now that you know some about the people we were staying with and the company we travelled with we can finally talk about all the amazing activities and adventures we embarked on in our short week.

Throughout the course of our week long excursion, we had ample time to indulge in many academic and personal activities. As soon as we arrived at our camp near the base of the Gregory Escarpment, we immediately scurried up the waterfall and rocks in the waterfall for a bit of fun and activity after a long day of travelling. The next day, we trekked up the Gregory Escarpment, which we were told was an “easy hike,” but it actually was a rather challenging hike that ended with a mild case of hiking-induced vomiting. We trekked across the Yaeda valley onto a ridge overlooking the Serengeti plateau, visited Hadzabe homes, had discussions with the Hadzabe about issues that they believe and we believe are pertinent to them, and worked and talked to different groups within the Hadzabe community (women, men, and children). We also were kindly and graciously instructed in the art of arrow making, hunting, and archery, climbed many baobab trees, and slept under the stars and moon during the night. Finally, the Hadzabe and our group joined together for a farewell shindig, where we danced and were merry around our campfire. I want to stress that all the activities we did were not solely done or performed due to our presence. These activities are integral parts of the Hadzabe’s lives and we did not engage in the cultural tourism that is common in many parts of the country.

Here Maise, Nicola and Anna are seen digging for tubers.

Here Ruben is seen attempting to make fire..as it turns out none of us actually have this skill.

During our time with the Hadzabe, we were really able to get a clearer picture of what it was like to live a very different lifestyle from our own. The experience of living in a consumer culture and then experiencing a hunter gatherer lifestyle is something that cannot be put into words and profoundly altered how we think and perceive our culture and lifestyle. The Hadzabe truly welcomed us with open arms into their community and they taught us a great lesson in what community is. Whatever one hunts or gathers, it is shared with the community and everyone indulges in the spoils of the day. Furthermore, the Hadzabe accept anyone into their community during times of drought and famine and share with them what the hunt or gather as well. We are eternally grateful for their kindness, hospitality, wisdom, and patience (especially when it came to our profound lack of hunting and gathering abilities) and would like to extend a sincere thanks to the Hadzabe. They profoundly touched our lives and we hope that what they taught us can be shared with other people in our lives. Their way of life is beautiful and we hope that they are able to continue living this way or at least be able to make the decision to change themselves.

Our group’s casual climb up a baobab tree!

Overall, we can all agree that our time with the Hadzabe in Tanzania was a life changing and eye opening experience. Over the course of the week we hiked, climbed trees, hunted animals, gathered honey and tubers, learned how to make a fire, made arrows and learned some traditional Hadzabe songs and dances in an attempt to fully immerse ourselves in the Hadza culture. In addition we were given the opportunity to have many intimate conversations with members of the Hadza, which allowed us to ask questions and in return share our own culture with them.  Through these experiences we were able to be apart of a really unbelievable cultural exchange.

Over the course of the week we learned a lot about Hadza culture, history and current problems they are facing. Dorobo asked us to keep the question in mind “why have the Hadza never experienced famine while other tribes around them have?” At the end of the week, with the help of the Hadza we were able to attribute their lack of famine to mutual agreements to share, their egalitarian societal structure, diversity in food, taking good care of their land and their nomadic lifestyle.

Also, we were able to learn a lot about current ideas about education among the Hadza. Some of them mentioned their fear that education would inevitably lead to loss of culture and assimilation. In addition, they cited that in some circumstances education can create hierarchy, which would undermine some of the most important aspects of Hadza culture. Others however argued that education is necessary for this generation in particular to be able to defend the community legally. There was definitely a debate among the Hadza about how to balance maintaining their culture but also keeping up with the world around them. One possible solution that we thought of was to hire Hadza teachers to teach Hadza children.

Another topic we covered was the problem with uncontrolled and hunting tourism. The reason why Dorobo is a culturally sensitive and sustainable organization is because there is little to no impact on the Hadza during our visits. Instead of having them put on a show for us, we basically just shadowed them throughout their everyday lives. Other cultural safari organizations display unauthentic tribes or leave too much of an impact on the tribes upon visiting which erodes their culture.

Having the opportunity to live with the Hadzabe community for a week was a truly unforgettable experience. The Hadza were so kind and welcoming and Dorobo did an incredible job facilitating our interactions with them. The Hadza culture and what we experienced can essentially be summed up in one sentence that one of the Hadza women related to us on our very first day living with the tribe: “It’s all about love here.”


Tanzania Field Component Fall 2016

“You are bad at climbing trees,” was said on a laugh to the Fall 2016 KSP by the program driver Njau as he left us in Tanzania. We laughed and went along with his joke, but the reality set in while we climbed a massive Baobab Tree in Tanzania.

Selfie of Katie, Laura, and Emily (from left to right) at the top of a Baobab tree

Selfie of Katie, Laura, and Emily (from left to right) at the top of a Baobab tree

Our week in Tanzania was spent camping, hiking, hunting and spending quality time with the Hadzabe doing various activities. We use Dorobo Safaris, which is an ecotourism company that works alongside the Hadzabe to provide both genuine and education experiences to visiting groups, as well as support the Hadza’s movement to resolve land ownership issues through a variety of tactics. Dorobo practices a style of tourism that is structured but unplanned, allowing our group to engage in the Hadza’s lifestyle and culture, not just looking at it from the outside. There were also multiple chances to have different conversations about various topics with members of the Hadza, such as: education, culture, and the role tourism plays in their everyday lives.

Living in the Yaeda Valley region, the Hadza is one of the last hunter-gatherer groups in the world.  Despite many preconceived notions, the Hadzabe are not cavemen left in the dark, but people who consciously choose to keep to their traditional way of life.  Even after being exposed to other lifestyles through tourism and educations, they prefer their self-sufficient and egalitarian culture. The Hadza are linked to some of the oldest human remains in the world, but today there are only about 1,300 members who are left. While many of the younger generations speak Swahili, the Hadza have their own oral language which contains three different types of clicks, and has recently become a written language.

We quickly learned the difference between a hike and a walk, as well as the difference between close and far. On the first day we started off the morning with an early rise and a “simple” hike up the Rift Valley Wall.  It took us two hours of about a 90-degree angle to complete, before continuing our journey to our first campsite in the Yaeda Valley.

After a long day of hiking and driving on a bumpy road to get to our campsite, we were all excited to pick up three hitch-hikers, Hadza who were heading to a neighboring camp.  They joined other individuals that would be part of the group that would spend the week with us. With a long day in the car behind us, we had dinner with our guides during which we discussed the different things we all had noticed on the way to the campsite.  Crossing the green ridges of the rift valley and the dry semi-arid plains in between, we all saw a variety of vegetation and wildlife. There were flocks of pelicans spiraling in the air, small antelopes called dik-diks, and countless baobab trees spotted along the way to our destination.

The next morning, we went to visit one Hadzabe village which was about a forty-five-minute walk away from our campsite. This walk easily fit into our description of an easy walk, though not quick one. Once arriving at the camp, we met the members living there and had the chance to look around their village.  We were excited to touch the lung of a zebra that had been recently shot and sit inside the home of a man who was sporting a really cool baboon-skin hat.  These structures are made of wood and covered with leaves and grass, and are primarily used during the cold and rainy months. During the warm months they sleep outside under the stars, which our group chose to try out on the big rocks at our campsite that same night.

Emily and Aidan digging out tubers with Hadza women

Emily and Aidan digging out tubers with Hadza women

Soon after we headed out with the women to start gathering food, specifically //ekaw tubers a great source of fiber and protein (// is a way to write a click in the Hadzabe language). To collect the tubers, we used sticks to dig the dirt out from around the tubers, and finally will a lot of effort and time, pulled them out of the ground. When eating them you simply peel off the bark and cut into pieces or roast them to get a sweeter taste. Similar to sugar cane, you don’t swallow the tubers, you just chew on it until there is no juice left and spit it out. The Hadza survive entirely on gathering food from the land such as berries, tubers, and fruit from the baobab tree.  Their favorite thing to eat is meat, specifically Baboon meat, therefore they often consider themselves hunters, despite their dependence on gathered food as a source of nutrition.

When we finished gathering tubers, during the hottest part of the day, we walked back to our camp and took a small siesta. Siestas are a common practice during the hot afternoons to rest and then go back out when it cools back down. We did our best to relax out of the intense sun in Tanzania with minimal shade options.

Hannah, Katie, Erin and Aidan practicing shooting at a target with a Hadza bow and arrow

Hannah, Katie, Erin and Aidan practicing shooting at a target with a Hadza bow and arrow

After our siestas we spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening making arrows by hand, the same way the Hadza would make them for hunting.  The wood used to make the arrows is often from the same tree where the //ekwa tubers are found. First, sticks are roasted in order to peel and remove the bark.  Then the arrows are whittled at one end into a point of some sort. There are different types of arrows and what they are used for based on the shape of the arrowhead and material.  A simple pointed arrowhead is common and used for many different animals.  An arrow that doesn’t have a point or has some sort blunt object on the end (like a corn cob) is used to stun small animals because an arrow would completely ruin the kill, preventing the hunter from getting any meat. One of the other types of arrows utilizes a flattened nail to make a pointed metal spear and can have a poisonous paste substance along the shaft of the arrow, which is used primarily to kill larger animals.  Feathers are attached to the arrow using animal tendons, and a designed is carved along the shaft to make it individualized and easy to distinguish from another hunter’s.  Even with the one-on-one help of the Hadza hunters our arrows took us over an hour to complete — they can make a more sophisticated arrow in 20 minutes or less.

Metal tips of arrowheads with poisonous paste used for hunting larger animals

Metal tips of arrowheads with poisonous paste used for hunting larger animals

The next day was the day we moved from our first campsite to another by hiking 7 miles through and a good 5-hour hike. Two Hadzabe men led us through the wilderness periodically trying to hunt.  They showed us where to find and collect honey as well as how to distinguish the different hives of stingless and stinging bees. When collecting honey from stingless bees they look for a little cone like tube sticking out of the tree, hack at the tree with an axe to get to hive, and extract the honey by hand. Stinger bees are a little more difficult because they must be smoked out in order to gather the honey.  The smoke masks the pheromone a bee emits after stinging!  We arrived at our second campsite in the late afternoon, took a siesta until the weather cooled down, and finally got a chance to shoot arrows.  Everyone got the chance to shoot at a target with the same bows and arrows the Hadza use when they are hunting. Although we were not very good, we had a great time practicing and definitely saw improvement in our skills throughout.

Our next morning had an early start as we broke off into hunting groups of two, with one SLU KSP student and one Hadza. There was no standard or expectation of having to catch anything but experiencing Hadza hunting techniques was a glimpse into the reality of what can happen on a hunt – sometimes there is a catch and sometimes there isn’t, it all has to do with luck. While our hunt lengths ranged from two hours to seven hours, some people brought back meat and others returned empty handed. The end of the day our tally was: 2 guinea fowl, a bush baby, “vermin,” and a dik-dik (a full size dik-dik is essentially the size of a baby deer).  The group collectively saw even more wildlife including hylax (a large guinea pig-like animal), antelope, squirrels, and a variety of birds!

Hadza hunter aiming for a Rock Hyrax

Hadza hunter aiming for a Rock Hyrax

Later that afternoon we had the chance to climb one of the massive Baobab Trees, we couldn’t wait any longer since we had been anticipating this since we first saw one. Two Hadza men easily and quickly scaled the tree, putting in fresh pegs for us to use to climb. As we climbed Njau’s words came back to us, and boy were they true! Even some of the of Hadza men laughed at us and our poor climbing.

After our time climbing we went up onto the rocks near the campsite and had a long talk with the Hadzabe.  Our guides translated our questions concerning land, tourism, and education we well as the Hadza’s responses.  While the Hadzabe have no use for a formal education in their opinion, Tanzanian law requires all children to be enrolled in primary school.  During our visits to the villages we noticed that there were no children over the age of five because they were all at boarding school. Many members of the Hadza don’t continue on through school and chose to return to their traditional lifestyle, however some members seek higher education so that they can become better spokespeople of their community for land rights.

Unlike some other tourism companies Dorobo has set up a partnership with the Hadzabe, and they do their best to create an educational and authentic experience. The Hadzabe are paid a portion of money per person that is divided up into various accounts such as: education, medical, and an emergency fund for food and other essentials that may be needed during a food shortage. Another important aspect of this type of cultural tourism is Dorobo has made it clear that the Hadza will never be asked to do something special for entertainment. Dorobo practices a tourism that is structured but unplanned, allowing for a more authentic experience, rather than what the tourist may want to see.  For example, if we go out on a hunt there is no expectation for them to catch anything.

Mia standing in front of Hadza home in neighboring community

Mia standing in front of Hadza home in neighboring community

After dinner on our last night the Hazabe started playing a guitar like instrument and we got to learn some of their dances and songs. We returned the thought with singing the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” complete with un-synced line dancing and later an impromptu “Don’t Stop Believing.”  Our week spent with the Hadza has not only give us insight into what a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is like, but has changed our perspectives of what issues and pressures this unique ethnic group is currently tackling as the world continues to change.

KSP Fall 2016 - Rebecca, Katie, Aidan, Laura, McKenzie, Michael, Mia, Emily, Erin and Hannah (from left to right)

KSP Fall 2016 – Rebecca, Katie, Aidan, Laura, McKenzie, Michael, Mia, Emily, Erin and Hannah (from left to right)



Tanzania Spring 2016

By Cat Bennett, Julia Simoes, Emery Younger and Annie Wilcox
Photo credit to Julia Simoes and Annie Wilcox

Jambo marafiki na familia! Last week, KSP Spring 2016 spent the week in Tanzania living with the Hadzabe. It was an enriching week, and we returned relatively unscathed. St. Lawrence uses a safari company called Dorobo Safaris, which is an ecotourism organization that works side by side with the Hadzabe to provide an authentic and educational experience. Throughout the week, we went hunting and gathering, climbed baobab trees, and did a number of other activities that the Hadza practice on a daily basis. We were able to not only learn about their culture, but engage in it.

The Hadza are a small ethnic community of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. Currently, there are about 1200 left and 800 practicing their traditional culture. The best theoretical evidence for evolution suggests that the Hadza are the oldest people on Earth, having evolved into bipedal humans as long as 100,000 years ago. Most interestingly, their story of divinity aligns most closely with the theory of evolution. The Hadza believe that they evolved from baboons, where half decided to stay baboons and the other half evolved into bipedal humans with opposable thumbs. The Hadza believe that they evolved from baboons, where they were told by Haine (God) that they would be Hadzabe, and decided the others (the baboons) would remain as they were.The connection that they have with their ancestors is a powerful one that has allowed them to thrive in a harsh climate with no history of famine. Compared to other world cultures, this is a feat.

We arrived in the evening just before sunset. The evening passed quickly with dinner and small group discussions with the Hadza. After the brief introduction, we were ready for bed having driven all day. The following morning, we left our campsite to walk to a Hadzabe  village about thirty minutes away. There were about twenty-five people living there. The Hadza usually break off into smaller groups about that size, but the communities aren’t steadfast, and a person can move to a new community if s/he feels like it. Because the Hadza have autonomy over themselves by the age of eight, and the skills to hunt and gather, they can easily leave one community for another.This    personal freedom has both led to and been a result of their egalitarian, leaderless society. Everyone has an equal voice, the entire community makes decisions together and every person’s contribution matters. While there are gendered divisions of labor – the men hunt and the women gather – no task is seen as better than the other. They contribute equally and share equallyimage001

After greeting everyone in the village, we broke up into small groups again and visited the elders in their homes. The structures of the homes are made with thick branches and are covered with dry grass to keep the rain out. The houses are small, but are generally only used for sleeping. Because they are hunter-gatherers and live a nomadic lifestyle, the Hadza typically move every few months. This specific community had been in the same place for three years, however, because of the abundant wildlife in the area allowing them to easily find food. We met with an elder who answered questions about their lifestyle. We asked him about changes he has seen since he has been alive. He explained how his people stopped wearing skins years back and began wearing Western clothing. He also has seen the introduction of phones in recent years. A lot of these changes came after independence in Tanzania in ­­­­1961. After independence, the Hadza lost about 90% of their land causing insecurity and changes in their lifestyle. Other ethnic groups began to put pressure on the Hadza land boundaries. The Hadza rely on untouched land. The pastoral and agricultural communities were threatening this until, with the help of Dorobo, they secured a large portion for themselves. Regardless, their lifestyle is being threatened.image002

After meeting with the elder members of the community, we headed out to gather //ekwa tubers, a major source of water for the Hadzabe. The Hadza harvest four types of tubers, each found in specific environments and each highly rich in nutrients and minerals. Said “vegetables” are actually part of the root systems of native trees – to find them, one stamps a digging stick on the ground around an appropriate tree. A dull, short sound means that tubers are there, and on our excursion, we were able to find a number of large, moisture-filled //ekwa. To eat them, we simply peeled off the bark and cut the flesh into pieces – our mouths quickly filled with the surprising flavour of snow peas. It was fascinating to learn later on that the trees from which //ekwa originate (Grewia bicolor) are also the ones used to make digging sticks, arrows and ropes, as well as provide berries seasonally. A true all-purpose tree!!

Later, we watched the Hadza light a fire by moving a long, thin stick quickly downward on another piece of wood. This creates a spark, and in a short time, there were tubers roasting over a large fire. Per Hadza culture, the tubers were shared equally between everyone. We also gathered honey, a staple for the Hadzabe. The Hadza cut open a tree which had a small hive of stingless bees inside. The larger hives with stinging bees produce a much larger amount of honey, but were not ready to harvest at the time. A few tiring (for us) hours of gathering later, we headed back to our campsite for a highly anticipated lunch.image003

After a relaxing afternoon, mostly spent keeping out of the blazing Tanzanian sun, we met in the early evening meeting with the Hadza men. We split into small groups and had an opportunity to make traditional Hadza arrows. As a hunting-oriented culture, these arrows are necessary for the Hadza to collect their food, and they have perfected the making of such weapons. Before being carved into an arrow, the sticks are placed over the fire so that they can be stripped of their bark. Next, the ends of the arrows are carved to create room for both an aerodynamic feather at one end, and an arrowhead at the other. These arrows vary in intensity depending on their intended target. For example smaller, rounder arrows are meant for birds, whereas larger, poison-filled arrows are kept for bigger animals such as giraffes.image004

Early the next morning, we had an opportunity to see these tools in action.  Our hunting groups set out into the bush around 6:30 am. Each group was comprised of roughly 3 students and a Hadza guide. Walking into the wilderness, however, it is easy to see how the Hadza’s lifestyle is being threatened by external factors. As we travelled with our Hadza guide we not only saw giraffe and cheetah tracks, but also domesticated cow tracks. These tracks are left behind by pastoralists who once lived elsewhere in the Great Rift Valley, but have recently been pushed closer and closer to Hadza land. Since gaining independence, Tanzania’s population has grown from 10 million inhabitants to over 40 million. This rapid increase has reduced the amount of available land and caused pastoralist and agriculturalist groups to previously untouched areas.

Dorobo Safaris has worked hard to combat the rapid land loss that the Hadza face. Through the Dorobo Fund, which is supported both by individual donors and a portion of Dorobo’s profits, land certificates are being purchased on behalf of the Hadza. This provides the Hadzabe with a proof of ownership, and allows them to evict pastoralists or poachers who enter their property. Today the work of Dorobo has preserved an entire valley for the sole use of the Hadza.

During our hunting,we explored much of the Hadza’s pristine land. However, of the seven groups of hunters that trekked out on Wednesday, only one returned to camp with a kill. The successful group was led by a Hadza hunter named Moshi, which means smoke in Swahili. Roughly halfway into their journey, Moshi shot down a female Guinea Fowl. When he went to pick up the bird he realized that she had left behind 7 chicks. Each of the St. Lawrence students who accompanied Moshi was asked to place a few chicks in their pocket to bring them back to camp. At camp one of our Dorobo guides decided that he would take the chicks home with him and raise them to become adults. Throughout the day we played with the adorable chicks, until a few of the Hadza women saw the small birds and decided that they would be a great afternoon snack. Before we knew it, and despite some of our protests, the chicks were slaughtered and placed into the fire for the Hadza to enjoy. While at first this act seemed cruel to many of us, we soon recognized the viewpoint of the Hadza. As a nomadic group that is focused on an immediate return economy, the Hadza saw no reason to expend their energy in raising the chicks. When your society is constantly on the move with few personal possessions, it is difficult to justify the raising of a domesticated animal. For our group this experience of hunting was one of the most memorable, and a few students even decided to awake at 6:00 am the following morning to have another chance to hunt with Hadza.

Hadzabe culture, however, involves much more than finding food. In living with and learning from the Hadzabe, we were lucky enough to have two wazungu birthdays occur! Traditionally the Hadzabe do not (as best we could infer) celebrate birthdays on a yearly basis, simply because they do not have such a sense of time. When Maloba, for instance – a respected hunter and older member of the community – was asked his age, he responded, “Si jui” (I don’t know.”) Westerners, however, as I am sure readers can vouch for, hold birthdays in high esteem, and our guide extraordinaire, Mama Maggie, set up quite the celebration. Two cakes, a crate of bia (beer) and enough singing and dancing to overflow ones heart. Hadzabe dances, it seems, are communal in nature – none of the pairing-off that occurs at college parties. These ab-workout extravaganzas involve circles, conga-like lines, competitions and songs from all. As students and visitors, most of us stuck to the outside circle at first.  With a little cajoling, however, soon we were making our way around the fire, chanting with every other step. A couple of us even had the opportunity to compete in what was undoubtedly the most hilarious and difficult dance in Tanzania – a type of frog-like, squatting movement around the fire.

The thing is, many stereotypes about hunter gatherers imply that such a culture just doesn’t have the time or energy for celebrations, dancing or fun in general. As someone interested in the efficacy and continuity of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, I have often been told that the reason Homo sapiens began utilizing agriculture was that the natural food supply was unreliable and ensuring a meal is hard work.  The Hadzabe existence, however, disproves such ideas. During the week we were in Tanzania, singing, games, laughter and an all-around feeling of happiness was abound.  For people like Moshi, Maria, Esther and Chaqua, songs can be heard while harvesting //ekwa, ‘Last Cardi’ is played while the moon rises, and celebrations take place with every large kill. Hunting and gathering takes, at most, half a day. The rest of the time, people are free to do whatever they like, whether that be beading jewelry (another important aspect of Hadza identity), putting together arrows, or sharpening their unique skills (we met a musical genius who constructs two-string violins out of gourds).

In all, we are not trying to romanticize the Hadzabe culture, and perhaps the idea of regular celebrations does that. The reality is, however, that the Hadzabe are well able to both provide for themselves all their basic needs and more. They have no history of starvation, they work less than any agriculturalists I’ve ever met, and their fun encompasses everyone.  When you live in a society where food is readily available, sharing is obligatory and egalitarianism is inherent, why not have a little fun?image005

Our last full day with the Hadza began at a leisurely pace, setting the tone for the day. With breakfast not being served until 9:00 a.m., we had time to sleep in a bit and get a cup of coffee (or three) in us before the day’s activities began. First on the agenda was climbing the Baobab tree that stood tall and wide in the center of our campsite. Its presence had been taunting us all week, just asking to be climbed, and finally the time had come. We watched from the ground as two Hadza men quickly worked their way up the trunk, pegging it as they went with wooden holds they had handmade earlier that morning. After testing the strength of each peg by climbing up and down the tree in what seemed like a matter of seconds, the Hadza deemed it safe for our clumsy attempts at ascent. Having been warned that using old pegs is considered bad luck, we were eager to discover just what baobab-climbing entailed.

One at a time we ventured up, making sure to keep the instructed three points of contact with the pegs at all times. Once making it to the top, we were able to release our sweaty palms from the holds, rest on a branch, and take it all in – the process, the climb, the view. It was nice knowing we were able to experience one more part of the Hadza lifestyle, gaining a stronger sense for what their day-to-day lives entail.image006

After a relaxing afternoon of reading and catching up on some much needed journaling, we split up into four discussion groups, each with about six of us students, five Hadza, and one Dorobo guide to serve as a translator. Each group focused on a different topic, ranging from education to tourism. It was during this time that we were able to have a dialogue in which we could hear directly from the Hadza about the issues they are facing that we had learned about prior to and during our trip. This was an invaluable experience because it informed our understanding of these issues in a way that never would have been attainable by simply reading or talking about them in a classroom. They explained the balance that needs to be found between educating their youth in a formal system and maintaining their culture and population in a traditional sense. This will allow them to strengthen their voice when it comes to tackling issues such as their land rights, which will ultimately allow them to strengthen their cultural community.

As the discussion groups came to a close, a few of us made our way over to the outdoor kitchen area where many of the Hadza had assembled. When we got closer, we saw that six of the Hadza men were playing some sort of card game in which they would throw (and I mean throw) down their cards and sporadically yell in excitement. Being lovers of a good card game ourselves, we asked to join, and sat down as they made room for us in their circle. We learned the game was called “Last Cardi” and thanks to their encouragement and patience, we were quickly able to pick up on the rules, realizing it resembled our game of Uno or Crazy Eights. Leading by example, they taught us the proper technique for playing each card, and some of the words for the suits (Diamonds = Kisu – the Kiswahili word for knife). As each turn passed, our smiles grew. The whole group laughed when someone had to “draw 4,” one of the Hadza men Shakwa kept sneaking a peak at our poorly hidden hands and would respond with a sly giggle when we caught him, and we celebrated like crazy when one of us finally won the game.

We had already begun reliving our many rounds of “Last Cardi” as we returned to our tents to wash for dinner. Something that we typically approached as a simple pastime had been made infinitely more fun because we were able to share that time with new people. We were able to connect, and joke, and enjoy each other’s company regardless of any cultural differences between us. The Hadza reminded us that despite coming from entirely distinct places, and practicing varying lifestyles, all it takes is a game of cards to find some common ground.

Our day ended on the rock that stood like a hill near our campsite. This was our place to retire to in the evenings after the fire by which we ate dinner had died down. Our nights here were some of my favorite times, not just because of the clear, star-filled sky that lay above us, but because it became our common ground. The rock was a place where we as students and the Hadza could physically come together. Despite our language and cultural barriers, we could find a way to communicate. Although we were only able to share our names, our likes and dislikes, there was such a vivid feeling of excitement when we had been working towards explaining something in our broken Swahili, and they finally understood us and were able to respond.

It was on this last night, after the Hadza returned to their fire, that we started to reflect on all that we had learned from our week. Going into this experience, the differences were expected. It can be anticipated that a hunter-gatherer community in Northern Tanzania goes about their everyday life differently than 22 college students from the North Country. During our days with the Hadza, they shared with us their value for self-sufficiency and independence, while also emphasizing the importance of remaining a close community dedicated to sharing and equality. We also experienced the purest embodiment of the phrase “live in the moment.” That saying has never made more sense then when going for a morning walk to find tubers to eat for that day’s lunch, or cooking eight Guinea Foul chicks because people are hungry for an afternoon snack, or playing an hour of cards because it’s still too hot to go hunting for dinner and some entertainment is desired. However, amongst these practical differences, we were able to connect with the Hadza on a human level. From that connection we gained an immense respect for how they live.image007

Tanzania Fall 2015

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.

Tanzania field component

Tanzania and the Hadzabe: Moto Sana! 

Hamjambo! Wanafunzi wa SLU walisafiri Tanzania… Our first field component brought us to Tanzania, where we spent one week living with the Hadzabe, a hunter-gatherer society living in and around the Yaeda Valley region. Currently, the Hadza population in Tanzania is around 1,000 people, making it one of the smallest ethnic groups in the country. Unfortunately, the Hadzabe are also one of the most marginalized peoples as the Tanzanian government, development agencies, and tourism companies have viewed their strong connection to their traditional lifestyle as stubbornness and refusal to incorporate modern “developed” ideals into their practices. For years now, the Hadzabe have been losing land to government sell-offs, tourism agencies, rich tycoons who use the area as hunting grounds, and encroaching tribes (who have, in most cases, lost their land as well). Land is very important to the Hadza because it is their home, food source, hospital, entertainment, traditions and culture. Among the many topics we discussed over the week, land loss as well as land conservation permeated many conversations because of its importance.

Our group of eighteen was led by four guides, Douglas, Hope, Sia, and Mama Maggie from Dorobo Safaris (check them out, they are incredible), who were extremely knowledgeable about Hadzabe culture and lifestyle. For over 30 years, Dorobo has created and maintained relations with indigenous people and have advocated for their needs and rights; one part of the mission is to bring interested visitors to meet with the Hadza and learn about their cultures directly from the people themselves, and not from misrepresenting rumors. We felt fortunate to have Dorobo leading us,  and the week was equally challenging and rewarding as we experienced life “in the bush,” which is very different compared to our normal lives. We—Jenny, Jeff, Lindy and Megan—are happy to share our experience with you and feel it can be best described in the words of Moshi, one of the Hadza who stayed with us throughout the week, who we got to know very well. Moshi anasema: “Moto sana! Safi sana!”

Simon and Moshi

Simon and Moshi

Mtana! My name is Lindy, the resident #saintforasemester on the program, as I am the only one who does not actually attend St. Lawrence. Our week spent with the Hadzabe in Tanzania was easily one of the most incredible weeks of my entire life. With new adventures occurring morning, noon, and night, the moments that had the biggest influence on my experience were actually not as much the discussions and scheduled activities each day. Instead, it was the unplanned, unexpected events where I would find myself repeatedly thinking, “This cannot be real life,” and taking mental notes in an attempt to never, ever forget. That said, I will be bopping around throughout this entry to help put the craziness of the week in order a bit as we talk about the week’s adventures..

To start off, it was only a few short hours into the trip when I knew the week ahead would be one for the books. Njau told us before we arrived at the Tanzanian border that after getting our passports stamped, we would walk over and meet him on the other side. I couldn’t honestly tell if he was being serious or not, but a little while later I found myself checking another country off my “countries to visit” list as we literally walked across the border from Kenya into Tanzania (not figuratively literally either, but literally literally).

Jambo! Mimi ni Megan, and I am going to talk about our time spent at the Mongo wa Mono camp. While there are many remarkable things about Hadzabe culture, what struck me the most was how incredibly resourceful the Hadza people are. They know so much about their environment—which plants can be eaten or used in other ways, which animals produce the best meat, and also which types of foods can be found (and where) during the very different wet and dry seasons—and are completely self-sufficient because of their knowledge of the land. In Mongo wa Mono, we were fortunate enough to accompany some women on their daily gathering expedition, so we followed behind as they expertly spotted trees whose tubers (roots) were suitable for digging. Women usually gather tubers, nuts, fruits, and plants each day and bring them back for their family, while it’s the men’s duty to go out and hunt small game and wildlife. After each of the groups gathered a few tubers, we all gathered together and watched as the women built a fire and roasted the tubers for us to try. They tasted like warm, uncooked potatoes, but they were very filling and it was easy to see why the women value their fibrous nature so much.

In the afternoon, after a much needed and appreciated siesta, we gathered with some men and tried our best at making arrows. We were each given a stick which we heated in the fire—it’s easiest to peel the bark off that way—and then whittled down to a sharp point. Nowadays the Hadzabe use knives to carve their bows and arrows, but it was hard enough to get a point using a knife, so I can’t imagine using a stone tool to achieve the same effect! After the point was completed, we stuck the arrows back into the fire (so they were malleable) and then straightened the tools as best as we could; to do this, we used our teeth, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all felt pretty badass doing so! Tying the guinea fowl feathers on to the end as the fletching would have been too difficult, so one of the Hadza men tied them for all of us using giraffe sinew! The final step was to carve designs into the shaft and rub it down with ash. We were all grateful that we were able to learn how the Hadzabe make the arrows they hunt with, as it was yet another example of how knowledgeable and resourceful these people are in a world where the majority of people wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves if organized food distribution, for whatever reason, failed. The Hadzabe truly live an impressive life!

Hamjambo! Ninaitwa Jenny. The morning of our big hike, we were anxious and excited for the long journey across the Rift Valley. Mama Maggie and some of our favorite Hadza men (including Moshi, of course) were to lead us the whole way. The beginning of the journey was spent walking quietly in a single file line, admiring the bush around us, while the Hadza took the opportunity to hunt. We stumbled upon a large cluster of prickly pear cactus and watched as the Hadza used their bows to grab and twist the fruit off the cactus. After some chatter, Maggie translated that immediately after our trip, the men planned to bring their wives there and stay there for three days to feast on the prickly pear and party. Eventually, we happened upon a tortoise walking along the path; while all us wazungu took pictures and oogled at it, the Hadza men saw the tortoise and began smiling from ear to ear. Yup, that tortoise was about to be lunch. It was our duty to carry the poor thing (or Janice, as we later named her) until the Hadza decided to eat her, which was definitely hard on some of our more sensitive souls.

Walking Across the Valley

Walking Across the Valley

Janice in hand, our next stop was a beautiful hollowed out baobab tree where one of the men found honey inside. The whole process took about an hour; the men made a small fire while one physically climbed up inside the tree and used the smoke to subdue the bees and gather the pure honey. We were all lucky enough to try some and it was delicious! At about that time a woman and her child walked up to us; when the woman saw the tortoise, she was very excited and expressed interest in eating it right away (traditionally, only women eat tortoise meat, not men0). So a fire was made and I handed Janice over and she was promptly set on top of the fire to literally be roasted alive. Once adequately cooked, some tortoise eggs, foot, and liver were passed around for us to try. I almost don’t want to admit it, but I thought tortoise egg and foot are pretty good. After this tasty snack we continued on the last leg of our journey. As we approached the other side of the valley, we were excited to see a big thunderstorm approaching…and quickly. Just as we finished the hike and reached another Hadza encampment at the edge of the valley, the rain caught us and we welcomed the free shower with a rain dance. A perfect way to celebrate our expedition across the Rift Valley!

Lindy here again…As Jenny mentioned, not five minutes after we finally reached the other side of the valley and stopped for lunch, the rain began to fall. Half the students packed themselves into the safari van along with some of the Hadza women who would be joining us. The rest of us were invited into one family’s hut to try and stay out of the rain. With about 15+ people squeezed tightly into this small hut, I broke the ice and introduced myself with my three weeks worth of broken Kiswahili. Everyone proceeded to introduce themselves and told their age, or tried….shout out to Jeff and Ashley who inevitably became amateur translators as they were the only two who are in a higher level than Swahili 101. Pretty soon the inviting sound of rain outside was too much and many people joined Jenny outside to dance in the rain. In the end, Megan and I were the lone KSP students in a hut filled with Hadza. As we sat on the ground we just kept looking around and then looking at each other, laughing as we tried to wrap our minds around what was happening. Rain trickling down our backs from the holes in the roof, we listened to women talk, hearing the click in every few words as they spoke their mother tongue, Hadzabe. We used what little Swahili we knew to speak with them and express our thanks for welcoming us into their home and out of the rain. Even with the language barrier it was clear that we were no longer strangers but friends, even if only for a short time…

On the last day we found a nice reminder of home: there was a guest book at one of the camping sites. We all loved reading through the pages, seeing the names of friends who had previously been on the program. Here is a picture of when my brother, Drew, and his friends signed during their semester in 2008. Hi Drew!

KSP history---Fall 2008 group

KSP history—Fall 2008 group

On what we deemed “lion pride rock,” situated above our third camp, we had the opportunity to sit with the Hadza and ask them some further questions while we waited for the rain to abate so we could go hunting. We all had groups based on various topics concerning Hadza culture and we formed our groups to ask some specific questions. We interviewed them on land loss, tourism, outside perceptions, and education. Though we learned a lot, certain things specifically stuck to us. When we asked them what they wanted us to take away from them and their culture they presented us with three things:

1. Recognize the importance of loving one another and loving your environment

2. When interacting with someone else, really connect face to face with that person and put yourself in their shoes

3. Understand that you are connected to everything around you; you are connected to the natural world and to all the inhabitants within it.

Quite a beautiful take home message.

Pride Rock

Pride Rock

After the rains subsided, around mid-afternoon the Hadza decided it would be a good time to go hunting. Gamba, Simon and I (Jeff) headed out to hunt. Gamba immediately set the pace, quick and direct, and showed us the Hadza paths, which we thought looked much like the rest of the bush. We climbed to the top of an escarpment that looked out over the land so that Gamba could see where to head next. We descended further down the valley stopping at various rock formations looking for rock hyrax. Gamba found honey nestled away in a tree, but decided tomorrow would be a better day to collect honey. After checking more rock outcrops, he told Simon and I to circle around and flank a deep crack in the rocks. Although I never saw any hyrax, I watched Gamba fire an arrow into the crack. Then a screaming rock hyrax came running out of the rock, an arrow puncturing through its back and out the stomach, and tried desperately to run away. But unfortunately for him, Gamba caught up with him and killed it quickly with his knife. After a brief rest and exchange of excitement, we continued onward, with Simon and I switching off carrying the hyrax.

We proceeded to a lower part of the valley, where the bush grew much higher. Then without warning, Gamba started sprinting alongside a rock formation. Simon and I followed as best we could, but he quickly told us to circle around. I turned around and ran in the other direction around the formation. About five seconds into my sprint, a huge warthog came sprinting past about 30 feet ahead of me from the other side of where Gamba was running. After the hog was out of sight and I started walking back; I was completely out of breath and I warned Gamba to not shoot because the warthog was gone. Now excited but also disappointed, Gamba and I exchanged a few words about how big the hog was and how cool it would be to bring it back to camp. After checking more rock formations without success, Gamba decided to head back. On the way back, he spotted a dik-dik, but it got away before he could fire a shot. We were the first group to make it back to camp with hyrax in hand. That night we tried some of the hyrax, which actually tasted pretty good!

One of the most memorable parts of our week with the Hadza was after the sun went down. Douglas made it very clear that a part of Dorobo’s agreement with the Hadzabe is that Dorobo never asks them to do anything special as entertainment for the guests, or to put on a show of any sort. If they like you and feel comfortable, they will invite you to join them in whatever they are doing, but it is all the choice of the Hadza men and women. That said, we were all pretty excited the night we arrived at our second campsite and were able to join the Hadza around the fire, listening to them play music and sing. In no time at all, we were dancing and singing together around the fire while Douglas helped translate the meaning of each song. We even sang a few songs of our own…we had a few Beatles and Disney songs up our sleeves and I must say our harmonizing was impressive. There’s a 99.999% none of them understood the lyrics, but at the end of each song, we were met with a loud applause and eruption of “Safi sana!” cheers…

Campfire TZ 2015 SPThe following night, at the next campsite, our fireside activities shifted from singing to dancing. We learned different traditional dances that accompanied each song and even had a few dance-offs! Sweaty, dancing, and smiling from ear to ear, we all kept promising ourselves, “Okay, we’ll go to bed after the next dance”. During these times spent gathered around the fire, I kept thinking that never in a million years would I ever have expected to be dancing around a fire with the Hadzabe in Tanzania. We all understood that it did not matter where or how we lived, or even that the majority of us could barely communicate in the same language to one another, we were still able to find other ways to communicate and have conversations, learn from each other, and become friends.

Group discussion TZ SP 15

Group Discussion

On the last day before we left to return to Arusha, the Hadza men took us to a nearby baobab tree to climb. These massive trees store water in their fat trunks, making the surface of the tree soft enough to pound in sharpened wooden stakes for climbing. Some Hadzabe gathered branches and sharpened them to a point with their axes and then nailed them into the tree with surprising ease. One by one, half of the students climbed the tree to the top, which was spacious enough for eight students and three Hadzabe. I climbed even further to the top and looked out over the Yaeda Valley. This tree provides so much for the Hadza lifestyle: it houses beehives, produces edible fruits, contains huge stores of water (even during the worst of droughts), and provides shelter for other animals, which can be hunted for food. No wonder they call it the “tree of life.” Baobobs are amazing!

On our last night of the trip, we returned to Dorobo headquarters, where we reunited with Sinnary. After some much needed showers, we sat down for dinner and it was then that Wei informed us that it was the Chinese New Year! After telling us all about her family’s New Year’s traditions, we all decided to celebrate Chinese New Year by doing a talent show. Imitations, singing, gymnastics moves, rapping “Grillz” by Nelly (we see you, Kiki and E.Adams), and teaching the stories of the constellations were just a few of the talents shared. It was the perfect end to an incredible week filled with sweat, laughter, and new memories… not to mention Wei said it was her favorite New Years ever, so I’d say that’s a win in our book.

Group Shot

Group Shot

During the week, we talked with Mamma Maggie and learned more about her passion for helping others through a foundation she created, Dare Women’s Foundation. The foundation focuses on providing opportunities for women to utilize global networking by “empowerment through building careers, conservation, and relationships in and out of Tanzania” (DWF). Two examples of DWF projects are: the Women’s Menstruation Project–helping provide education and supplies for girls in Tanzania in order to help support them staying in school–and Small and Medium Enterprises which provides training workshops on starting up and running successful local businesses. For more information please feel free to access the website at: http://www.darewomensfoundation.org/

Dorobo Safaris: http://www.dorobosafaris.com

Photo Credits: Megan Kloeckner, Jenny VanOoyen, Lindy Pynchon, Darcy Best, Simon Day-Roberts, Ashley McDuffee