It’s Friday, and I’m in the mood for some Africa. How ’bout you?
I don’t know where my footage of me being the bush pilot in the Serengeti went, so I’ve decided I’m just posting Africa posts all out of order while I try and find it, and oh well. That was what happened after we left chimp camp, though. I talked the pilot into letting me fly shotgun over the FREAKIN SERENGETI which might be the only thing that could have topped a chimp brushing by my legs. It was spectacular.
Anyway, the next morning we left for the Ngorongoro Crater, which is one of most concentrated regions of wildlife in the world and a place I couldn’t wait to see. We were met by our wonderful guide Clemence, who would be our companion for the duration of the trip. On the way to the crater, though, we stopped at a local Iraqw village for a tour.
Life is simple out here, explained the village elder Martin. Take house building, for example. By yourself, raising a thatch roof could take a month. But if you get your friends to help, it can be done in 2 days. And how do you persuade your friends to help? Cash? Nope.
Home brew. You spend a week or two making it from scratch- I mean, from the maize you grew yourself scratch, and the village practically invites itself.
I got to try some. It was kind of like a stew, chewy and malty. I still preferred it to Budweiser.
Families live in mud and thatch houses such as these. The little murder holes cut into the sides used to be where you could poke your spear if there was someone on the roof, because as Martin explained, “Your friends are never on your roof.” If someone’s going to be on your roof, it is a Maasai, trying to steal your cows. So, if you heard footsteps in the middle of the night, you would grab your spear and wait for a shadow to drop, then stab them.
That ended a good 40 or so years ago, though, and now the two tribes co-exist peacefully and even intermarry.
Martin’s wife Mama then demonstrated what work is carried on by the women in the village aside from making home brew- they load those massive gourds up with water and carry them on their heads and on their backs. All over Tanzania we saw little teeny girls and women with these massive loads on their heads. It was very impressive.
Less impressive was my own performance. Fortunately, I didn’t drop anything, but man, those were hard to balance and mine didn’t even have anything in them.
Though I did impress everyone enough for the topic to turn to marriage.
Martin and Mama (that’s what she goes by!) then showed us how one makes a wedding outfit. You start with a tanned goat skin.
They are elaborately embellished with beads and embroidery representing the fruitful things in life, such as trees, and gourds, and music. They were quite beautiful.
I even got to try one on. It’s like Project Runway: Arusha, I’m telling you.
Apparently a dowry in the Iraqw tribe consists of livestock, mostly goats, or maybe a cow if your family is very wealthy. I saw my husband rubbing his chin at this and I got very nervous at this easy opportunity he had before him. I was still young enough to be worth a good number of goats, Martin said, though a cow might be pushing it.
After everyone had a good har har my husband got all dolled up too and we got to pose in our wedding finery outside the main house. A fitting tenth anniversary ceremony. (One of several “Oh my God we are such tourists” moments, including the time I wound up in an ostrich plume sombrero playing tambourine with the African band, of which there is blessedly no photographic evidence.)
After shrugging off the wedding dress, I got to check out the past dowries.
They sure were cute.
And probably less work than I am. I’m glad my husband made the choice he did.
On the way out, Mama and Martin’s son came over and posed adorably for about five minutes. I could have eaten him up.
There really wasn’t a second on that trip I didn’t love.