Monday, June 30, 2008
On the last day at Miracle Corners, we taught the students how to jump in a game of hopscotch, play ring around the rosy and London Bridge. I'm always interested in thinking about the origins of some of these games - not just in teaching them to students in other countries, but also how they're so very widespread at home and where they came from. It is believed that Ring Around the Rosy originated as a children's song about the plague in England. Ashes or ah-choo, depending on what country you're in signifies either ashes (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) or sneezing associated with being sick. And "we all fall down" is just what happened when everyone (pretty much when the plague was involved) died.
London Bridge likewise has a sombering tone.
Meaning and origin
The meaning of the rhyme is not certain. Most likely, it relates to the many difficulties experienced in bridging the River Thames: London's earlier bridges did indeed "wash away" before a bridge built of "stone so strong" was constructed. One theory of the "fair lady" who has been "locked away" refers to an old practice of burying a dead virgin in the foundations of the bridge to ensure its strength through magical means. Another theory was the people building the bridge were afraid the water spirits would not approve of a bridge being built, as it was invading their territory. To prevent an invasion from the water spirits, they made human sacrifices to the water spirits. This usually meant killing a child and burying it in the bridge. The more plausible reference of the fair lady was to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, the rhyme is not confined to the UK and variants exist in many other western and central European countries.Nice... nonetheless, fun was had by all!
Our final day at Miracle Corners was bittersweet. We had to say goodbye to this fabulous group of students and teachers, but at least we had the opportunity to have our lives touched by them and hopefully we made some impact as well. Leaving was tough every day...but saying good-bye for the last time was certainly hardest.
Well, I've certainly learned a lot of things on this trip. One thing I did not know about myself is that I have an uncanny ability to spot wildlife as we were trucking it down the road. I was known to mutter "acha" (stop) and then back up (I don't know reverse in Swahili). We saw so many animals including, but not limited to: elephants (and a baby), hippos, antelopes, flamingos, giraffes (we also saw giraffes from afar that were not spotted, but all dark brown or black), dik diks (a type of antelope), monkeys, and many birds as well. And poo - we learned about how to tell the difference between different types of poo. I also learned something about elephants that just hadn't struck me before. I saw many elephants with only one tusk and I immediately thought their tusk had been poached. I was quickly corrected by our driver. In order to poach a tusk, a poacher must first kill the elephant. He's (the elephant) not exactly going to stand still and let someone saw off his great tusk. So...any living elephants who are missing tusks lost them either fighting trying to knock down a tree. Makes sense now of course...thought I'd share that for anyone else living under the same misconception. If you look closely at the picture of the mama and baby elephant you can see that it has a somewhat gaping gash where it's right tusk once resided.
After going to Fotinis, we went for more relaxation and lunch at a place called the Sundance Lodge. It made me think of the film festival. After lunch we went on a nature hike with a Maasai gentleman who spoke no English. On our 2 hour wandering walk, he taught me some Swahili/Maasai and I taught him some English. As we would walk, he would point out all the acacia trees. Let me tell you something - they were ALL acacia trees. I would point out some ua (flowers). Our conversation pretty much went like this: "Acacia, acacia, acacia," Maasai man. Ellen replies: "Ua, ua, ua." We ventured into the words for grass and dirt too. Learning all those animal names, colors, and numbers came in handy. I even taught him head, shoulders, knees, and toes. He was very entertained by that. While we were walking, he pointed out (if I understood correctly) his home, which was very close to the start of our walk. Then we proceeded further and further into the bush and he attempted to give us a look into the dwelling places (bomas) of other people. Well, they were NOT happy about it, and can you blame them? Let's put ourselves in their shoes for just a moment. You've just finished eating dinner and you notice your nosy neighbor tramping through your yard with twenty or so mazunugus (white people) and...they seem to be walking right up to your front door! I would not be happy either. We tried to communicate to our nature walk guide that we were really ok with not seeing their bomas, but he kept on trying anyway. Then, a semi-fluent English speaking gentleman who, like the medicine man from yesterday, was under the influence of something tried to tell us something else we already knew. He indicated that one family was in three houses. One house, two house, three house, one family. Gotcha. He was going for shock value - polygamy - got it. Thanks. When we tried to continue on our way, he kept trying to engage me in the same conversation: one house, two house, three house, one family. Yes - I have seen the show Big Love. Other than our several confrontations along the way, we did return safely. We used our best broken swahili to indicate that we needed to return to the Sundance Lodge before it got dark. Twende (let's go) Sundance Lodge. Our tour guide relented and led us back in that direction. Without him, we'd truly be lost. I don't think GPS works out that-a-way. Then, when we got back the bus had to make two trips with the undergrads then with us. It was at least an hour and a half before we got on the bus and faced that bustling traffic back in Arusha.
Lake Manyara National Park is awesome!!! We were here just in time to see a pink line right on the horizon of the lake...flamingos! Millions of them! When we stopped for lunch, we noticed some gentlemen with some very fancy looking cameras. Turns out they were from National Geographic. I should submit some of my photogs for the mag. We spent a day on safari (which really just means journey) in Lake Manyara National Park with the folks from Maasai Wanderings. Awesome!
Fotini's is a lovely shopping area away from it all, so to speak. It is owned by a very nice woman from South Africa who served us tea and cake. It was leftover from her son's birthday party and it was delicious! Fotini's offered a nice spot to relax for a quiet afternoon after such a busy week.
While visiting in the village we were also treated to a goat roast. The most interesting (this term is used loosely) thing was when the village elder (same one who dug all the holes for tree planting - he must have worked up quite an appetite) ate the marrow out of the bones. I didn't even know you could do that! He cracked them in front of us and poked it out with a stick. You learn something new every day.
While we were visiting in this Maasai village, we planned to plant trees. In order to do this, we needed to purchase a lot of 20 trees. When we arrived, the people (evidently) did not know that we were planning to plant trees and so, with one or two shovels, we helped/watched 20 holes get dug. Then we planted our trees, filled in the holes and watered them. The gentleman pictured is between 65 and 70 (they really weren't sure) and he single handedly dug most of the holes to plant the trees. Impressive..to say the least.
When we first arrived at the village, we were greeted with a dance and then some tea. Never turn down hospitality. The tea tasted different and we were told that it was brewed using some of the indigenous herbs that are grown right in the village. After a few sips, we noted that the backs of our throats and our tongues were numbing. A little scary...but part of the experience. I can understand how this stuff has healing powers! This picture is of Sululu (the director of Terrawatu) and I enjoying our cuppa.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
We had the awesome opportunity to talk with the village elders of Ilkurot. They expressed how important it is in an effort to protect the identity of Maasai for the children of Maasai to become educated so they can defend their traditional ways to the rest of society. The elders were representative of each area of Ilkurot. Ilkurot is on the outskirts of the district, so there was a public school, but it was much neglected and Donna's work with Maasai Wanderings has improved the area. Now, children can go to a school that is much closer to home. They welcomed all of us to stay and teach there - no problem/hakuna matata. They offered to put us up in their huts at night. How generous!! The gentlemen you will see pictured are wearing suit jackets and pants. They explained that this is their "business/office clothes." They, like the students, wear their traditional Maasai blanket at home. Similarly, the students change into school uniforms for school. In a way, they are leading a double life and learning the ways of the world while still holding on to the most important parts of their culture.
Check out the cell phone video being taken of us in this video:
First things first at Ilkurot...we were called into the principal's office! We had a short introduction to the school and to what we would be doing that day. Keep in mind that the school is on vacation right now. And there are students coming just for a sample lesson for us. And teachers are coming just for a sample lesson for us. And the village elders are coming...just to talk with us. How cool is that? Now, all American teachers...put yourself in these shoes. Your principal calls you (on your vacation) to ask you to do a sample lesson for a group of teachers from another country...and could you get your students (you know...all 187 of them) and some of the parents to come too? And, could the PTA get the dance troupe to do a performance (Maasai warrior dance) and if the soccer team could come out and utilize the pitch, that would be great too. Yeah...
Ilkurot School is a highly cheery place for such an otherwise desolate area. The countryside is beautiful, don't get me wrong - but bare nonetheless. Whereas we often have posters in our classrooms, these classrooms and outer walls are in the process of being painted in cheery tones with informative aspects as well. Check out a few shots of the decor. PS - Ilkurot translates to "dusty place on the side"...and it is.
Godwin took us to the top of a hill/mountain depending upon who you talk to... There, he told us the history of the Maasai and how they came to live in this region of Africa. He told us about their beliefs and traditions. He discussed polygamist practice of the past and present. Most do not, but as with all traditions, this has not stopped entirely. One of the stories that I thought was particularly interesting concerned a woman having difficulty having a baby. He explained that there was a spot to go to weep into the sand and pray for a child and once you have done that if you still are not blessed with a child, then another woman will have a baby and give it to you and no one will ever question who the mother is of the child. I thought this was a true testament to the strength of this community of people.
Godwin explained to us the role of the Maasai medicine man and some of the traditional medicines and treatments that are used by the Maasai. A piece of wood is used as a toothbrush. No paste necessary. He also explained traditional treatments for menstrual pain, migraines, STD's, infection, croup, asthma, broken bones, cancer, teething, and kidney pain. They've got things pretty well covered down there. We also learned while in the shop that many Maasai men scarred their cheeks, knocked out their bottom two teeth, and stretched their earlobes in an effort to not be taken during the slave trade. And - it worked. These characteristics were considered undesirable and the Maasai were considered very smart (in that they weren't taken) for doing so. Pictured: Medicine Man on the right, customer on the left, and a list of concoctions on the blackboard.
This was a song that our Jeep driver, Patrick, taught to us. It's quite catchy. So, I went a-looking on YouTube for a video depicting the song and I found one...from Kenya. Apparently, it's en vogue to sing this song with any old country's name in place of Tanzania or Kenya or Zanzibar. So, this way - you get the idea. We also learned some other phrases during our car ride. Tena (again), Twende (let's go!), Poli Poli (slowly).
In an effort to cut down on plastic usage, we purchased this larger bottle of water to refill our smaller bottles of water. In other conservation news, there were many recycled arts available for purchase...and I did! In one shop, there were frames and furniture made from a dhow. The explanation included with the frame reads "This picture frame is handmade from recycled, hardwood planks and nails taken from a large how called MV Sophia, that we found in total disrepair, on the beach, in Zanzibar. Over thirty five years old, this dhow had led a life of sailing between the spice islands and mainland carrying coconuts, dry goods and passengers. Handmade in Tanzania. email: firstname.lastname@example.org" So, if you're interested in owning your own piece of dhow, drop a line. I also picked up a few necklaces made of paper beads and I noticed many other recycled materials pieces, like earrings featuring bottle caps and trucks made of aluminum can material. Going green in TZ.