Day 19 – It Takes a Village

February 7, 2012
Karatu
Kudu Lodge and Campsite

We moved on from Arusha to the city of Karatu, where we visited a small local village. Tanzania has over 40 different tribes (compared to Kenya which has 2) and during our visit we met with 3 distinct groups of people. We visited their rice fields and learnt about their farming practices. 50 years ago land was free to whoever wanted it, nowadays it’s either bought or leased out. The rice fields seemed to go on for miles and is a major source of income for the local people.

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Afterwards we visited a wood working studio and learnt about the traditional beliefs of the area. Because of the missionary influence there are a ton of Christian belief systems in place that coexist with the traditional religions of the area. I don’t know how you can reconcile 2 completely different sets of values but the people of this area somehow make it work. We watched the craftsman work for a while, then moved on to one of many churches in the area.

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We also went to a local school which was slightly overwhelming. There were 60 kids, ranging in age from 3-6, and 1 brave teacher. When we showed up the kids went bananas with high fives and wanting to hold your hand. They counted to 10 for us and sang the alphabet, it was sweet but a lot to take in. It might be the pessimist in me but it seemed like it was just a show for the ‘rich white people’ as the donation box was placed prominently by the door.

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Upon leaving the school we went to a typical homestead of a local grandmother. Her home was quite modern with electricity and MTV playing on the television, but the kitchen was just a small room, detached from the house, with a firepit. We also met her cattle, 10 goats and 3 cows, which she uses for meat and milk. It was such a contradiction to have the modern convenience of electricity and tv, when your kitchen is nothing more than fire and a pot.

We visited an artist studio, which I think might have been my favourite part. The tourist industry is a major income generator for Africa and I was surprised at the amount of mass produced souvenirs that are crammed into every shop. It was a nice change to support the local artists directly and actually meet the people who created what you’re buying.

My second favourite part of the visit was learning about their drink of choice – banana beer. There is a specific type of banana you make the beer out of so I don’t think you can reproduce this at home, but it seemed fairly simple to make and was pretty good. Exactly what you think banana beer would taste like. You peel the bananas, add water and boil them until they are red, transfer the mush to buckets and let them ferment for 7 -10 days, add millet for flavour and you’re done. Easy, cheap and 3% alcohol.

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Our last stop was a traditional lunch, prepared by the women of the tribe. There were a couple different types of rice, spinach, cabbage (like coleslaw), beans, lentils, beef stew. It was super filling and really delicious. The whole day was a nice break from the truck and it was great to actually meet local people who weren’t just trying to sell you stuff but actually wanted to teach you about their way of life.

Breakfast: baked beans, crepes/pancakes, sausages, watermelon, banana, coffee/tea
Lunch: traditional Tanzanian meal (provided by the village) rice, beans, beef stew, cabbage, spinach, bread
Dinner: zuccini soup, chicken, fried potatoes, veggies

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