The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Running in circles...

October 23, 2009

So, I’m actually writing this mid-afternoon on the 24th, as the heat of the middle of the day here in Yaida Valley really prohibits any activites other than studying, reading, writing or lounging around in the shade.

Yesterday morning, Laila and I had quite an exciting adventure indeed. We went out for a quick run in the Nou Forest before it was time for breakfast and packing up to leave and got lost. Terribly lost. As in ran around in circles for nearly two hours before Lisa Clifton and two of the Wairaqi men came and found us. We were both so horribly embarrassed and I’m going to feel bad about it for weeks to come. I just feel terrible that they had to waste time looking for us.

On the positive side though, Laila and I were really good getting lost together buddies. Neither of us panicked, we retraced our steps as far as we could and were systematically trying each trail in an effort to find camp from the main “road”. In fact, when Lisa and the guys found us, we were quite close indeed, just in a slightly different direction than from where we had left.

Because Rachel is the most amazing “tent spouse” (as we’ve all begun referring to our tent mates) ever, she had already started to pack up my stuff and our tent while I was out being lost, so it didn’t take me long to catch up and get ready to leave, though I was pretty cold and tired for the rest of the day.

After we’d all finished packing, the whole group of wanifunzi followed our Iraqi guide Kollari to his village (which incidentally enough, Laila and I recognized having already visited it three or four times a mere hour earlier) so that we could meet his family and neighbors and see his home. The Wairaqi are an agricultural people and he was very happy to point out to us his cows, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs and fields (mainly for pototaoes and corn) in addition to introducing us to his wife and children.

He even invited us into his home. It was very warm inside as one half of the house is where the livestock lives and the other half is where the humans sleep and eat, with space for storage up above both areas. As usual the children were very, very curious about us and eventually the typical rounds of “take fives” and “high fives” ensued, though the Wairaqi children don’t speak Kiswahilli at home, only in school, so we couldn’t really communicate verbally at all with the younger ones.

Next, we went to see the only home in the village which was built in the traditional Iraqi style, dug straight into the side of the hill, which provides both protection and additional warmth. We were met by an even larger crowd of children and neighbors at this home and several us had a great time trying to chat with the kids, though Heather may have traumatized one, when she spotted the cookie monster on the little girl’s t-shirt and touched it and then pantomimed scarfing down a cookie – can’t you just see the girl running to her friends and saying “And then the mzungu said she wanted to eat me!”

Then we all loaded up into the safari trucks again and headed for the Yaida Valley.

Yaida Valley is beautiful, again in an entirely different way. It is hot and dry like Tarangire, but much hillier and rockier. Our hosts, the Hadza are a beautiful people. They live in such a harsh environment, but each and everyone of them seems so full of joy. After dinner, they sang us a traditional Hadza song about baolbub trees, about how some of them have good fruit to eat and some don’t (translation provided by Daudi, of course). We in turn, sang them “This Land Is Your Land”, after much deliberation. Thankfully we all remembered the words!

It was really an incredible experience and one of the highlights of the trip for me so far. I love music, but am not a musician, because I don’t really have a good voice, or any sort of talent for it, but last night I was reminded that really a song is just a way to tell a story and even though our voices were hardly in harmony and our rendition was clearly unrehearsed, it was, I think, in its own way, really a beautiful thing.

Also, I feel like music is something that can transcend language and cultural barriers and maybe the artistic value or how “good” the performance is, isn’t what matters at all, but rather the intent and goodwill behind it. I really hope we exchange songs again this evening.

I’m having a great time and am not homesick per say, but am starting to feel that I’ve been gone for quite a while. I hope that everyone and everything has changed enough to be interesting, but not enough to be intimidating when I return.

Love you all and want to know how you are doing! Send me e-mails – I’ll get ‘em at some point.

- Hill

PS An excellent list of little things I haven’t written about and don’t want to forget:
1. When Paolo the Maasai, after climbing down Oldonyo Sambu, turned around, looked back up at the mountain and said, in English “I loves you mountain!”
2. This past Thursday night (the 24th), I went to go help check the mist nets and got to help untangle some trapped birds and cut the tangled netting off of them by using my handy dandy pocket knife scissors.
3. Seeing many bush duikers while out lost running.
4. Starling entire flocks of guinea fowl while out running and watching them take off and fly off into the sky in front of us.
5. Being affectionately referred to as “Leopard Bait”.
6. The sunset from our campsite at Yaida Valley, which may replace everything else as the most beautiful sight I have seen so far in Tanzania – it included a double rainbow that was fully visible from end to end.
7. The story that Daudi told us about going hunting with “Uncle Fred”, the redneck house father at his mission boarding school when he was growing up. As Daudi tells it “…on a rotating schedule, Uncle Fred would take five or six of us boys out in the back of his jeep to go hunt game meat to supplement our meals. One of my earliest memories of him is with a light fag in his mouth, one hand on the steering wheel, the other on his gun, petal to the metal as he yelled at us to lay down and hang on while shooting an eland bull at point blank range…” Again, can I be a Peterson please?

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