Irregular Posts; Karatu2, Tanzania

Karatu; Saturday, November 17 – Monday 19th, 2012


On Saturday evening, the Tloma Lodge at Karatu welcomed us back to luxury with hot water for a long shower, a work space to load images from the cards, and a large bed.  On Sunday we were to do some “Learning and Discovery” in Karatu.  A morning visit of an Iraqw village and some afternoon market time.  Iraqw is a clan or tribe of Tanzanians that believe they had come from what is now Iraq some three thousand years ago.  Their skin is a tiny bit lighter but if you had not been told, you would not have noticed.

The head man Paulo, took us on a tour of his village.  The fifty or so families in the village are brick makers.  Fifty or so micro businesses all doing the same thing with the same resources and using the same labor intensive techniques.  Clay is taken from the hills by the family.  Young strong men then pound it fine, mix with water, form into heavy wet bricks, and turn onto the ground to dry.  Older men take the sundried bricks and stack them in the correct configuration.  A brick kiln is built around them. Women bring the wood and old men tend the kiln fire for a few days.  When the bricks are done the kiln is broken down and the finished bricks are brought to Karatu to be sold to the people of the area.

At one of the family’s homes, we talked to a teenage girl who was studying English at school.  She spoke shyly and hesitantly.  Her mother had just had a baby girl three weeks ago.  Paulo took the American visitors into the tiny brick house to see and visit.  Somehow Meg had her Christian name “Margaret” given to the baby.  The baby girl already had a tribe name but also needed a Christian name and Paulo said that Margaret would do just fine.  So Meg is a godmother.

After a simple lunch at the Iraqw headman’s home we headed back into town to do the marketing for dinner.  We had been driving in three groups of five or six for the whole safari.  Now each of the groups was given a shopping list and 5000 Tanzanian shillings to go to market.  Negotiations were to be done in Swahili since the vendors in market spoke no English.  The three ladies of our group, Meg, Anne and Susan, eagerly accepted the challenge to buy specified vegetables and return with change so we could buy some banana beer at a local bar. Wayne and I were to be “security” and porters in the market.  The other two groups were similarly challenged; “Let the Games Begin.”

Our three vans attracted much attention as we arrived at the market.  The market was a tight and dark warren of narrow dirt alleys between tarp and corrugated tin covered stalls.  Foods and goods were located by type, each tended by a woman.  Men tended the hardware stalls.  We needed to buy hot peppers, onions and carrots.  A small group of young trinket sellers “joined” us to help out with the negotiations.  One English speaking teenager in particular was quite eager and pleased to help.  Vegetables purchased, the three teams returned to the vans, with “Hapana asanti” all the way with the souvenir vendors.

Slowly we drove away from the market and headed to another section of town where there was a Bar.  It seems that one of our driver/guides grew up in the neighborhood, so he knew what and where.  As we completed the four block afternoon drive, the trinket vendors reappeared.  “News travels as fast as the vans.”  We were news.  Into the small bar the 18 of us went and made it “packed tight”.  Excited voices greeted us and a path to the bar and seats across from the entrance opened.  The lady in charge came over to welcome us and then immediately grabbed an older woman by the neck and shoulder, and then dragged and punted her across the room and out the door into the street.  I hadn’t seen that since my days in the Old West at the Long Branch Saloon.  We laid our shillings down and bought some of the local banana beer.  Yup, a bottle of beer made from bananas and truth be told, I’ll never have another.  The disco music was blaring and many folks were dancing.  Meg and some of our marketeers got up and danced rock and roll with the locals.  The helpful teenage vendor was there and enjoyed the dancing.  Later Meg bought a trinket from him as a “Thanks you.”  He looked really pleased by the afternoon’s events.

Godliving, our principle guide, told us that it was all perfectly safe but he wanted us to see and appreciate just a little, the life of the locals away from the main street where the tourists were.  People doing daily business, people having fun, and also some people in trouble.  Fun done, we headed back up the hill to our luxury lodge, and a fine supper and good wine.

Monday morning we were packed and ready to roll.  But first it was a school visit to the local primary school supported by Grand Circle, Overseas Adventure Travel parent company, and Rotary International.   All were spruced in their maroon sweater uniforms and ready for us.  On closer inspection most of the sweaters had much fraying.  We arrived as they were heading to their class rooms.  Entertainment by a class of students followed in the shade in the yard.  It was followed by a class room visit.  The fifth grade room had 23 bolted desks in three neat rows. Each desk had three students, and one paperback exercise book. The woman teacher looked very proud to be the host teacher.  The American visitors spent time reading and listening to the students read from the exercise book.

At 10 AM, we said our goodbyes and bounced down the rutted village road to the main Karatu road and headed away to Arusha.  In twelve hours we would be on a flight to Amsterdam and eventually to Boston.
“Travel light and wear a smile.”    Jack Holmes


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