Previous blog I described a hunt with the bush people, accompanied by our translator, Mohammad. Now it is time to meet the women…
We left the men campus after our return from the hunt with them, Mohammad asking my wife and I to follow him. He knew where the women had their own campus. It was not far, maybe one hundred meters away, but the thick bush all around us hindered us for seeing them.
Before reaching the women campus, my wife had something she wanted to clear out with Mohammad. “From some readings before coming here I expected that bush people are very short, kind of pygmies, but I see it is not the case, they have almost same size as us.”
Mohammad smiled, he knew what my wife was talking about. “Many generations ago they were indeed short, but they mixed with the tribes around here, and you saw the Maasai tribes, some are very tall.”
“How was that possible?”
Mohammad looked toward my wife; he had something to say and was not sure it is appropriate in a lady’s company.
But my wife guessed what was in Mohammad’s head. ”Go ahead Mohammad, whatever it is, it is from this world, is not it?”
Mohammad nodded few times. “The boys go for hunt, and sometimes they do not come back with food for days or weeks. If they hunt only enough for them to survive they do not come back but until they have something to share. And the girls try to survive from what they find, mostly roots. And sometimes that is not enough for themselves and the kids.”
Mohammad stopped, and my wife encouraged him to go on and say it. “And?”
“And they have to go and ask for food to the neighbouring tribes.”
“And they rape the girls?” asked my wife alarmed.
“No, but sex is the only way of payment the girls have to offer.”
The women campus was as expected under the open sky, with some shade for those seeking some colder air under a tree with very few leaves. There were four women, and two of them had small kids, one around one year old, the other around three. The ladies were dressed with long robes and necked arms, very short black curly hair, like their men. They were all sitting, and replied to Mohammad’s greeting with some trills-like sounds and looking at us with some curiosity, but not surprised, obviously we were not the first tourists visiting them. As we were told, many families that do not accept visitors do not have clothes. But the family we were visiting seem to be doing well, except they were living under the sky.
My wife got close to the one having the one year old baby on her lap, wrapped in a red tissue. It was a boy or girl? We could not figure out and we did not ask. The mother raised the kid to my wife, and my wife caressed the kid walking her hand on the kid’s head. The kid did not react in any way; my guess is that the kid was so scared, and his instinct told him to stay motionless. I remembered reading about bush people before coming in Tanzania. The mortality rate among bush people’s kids is eighty percent, but those accepting tourists and their money, have this rate dropped at twenty percent. Everybody we saw so far, men, women and the kids looked in a very good shape.
Mohammad approached my wife. “If you intend to give more money that you already paid for the visit, give them to the ladies, any of them, but not to the men.”
Actually we never knew how much money the bush people visit was. We had to pay before the vacation (when still in Canada) a lump-sum up-front amount for everything, accommodation, national park visit, food, visit to different tribes, Ema (our guide and driver) and Mohammad (translator from different tribe’s language to English) honorary, the tour company fees; all we had to do is to enjoy our vacation, Ema was handling all the payments. The only thing we still had to pay was Ema’s tip at the end of our trip, based on our impression for the trip; and the amount was suggested on the Website where we bought our Tanzanian vacation.
My wife did not wait for a second invitation, and what I saw was a very generous donation to the lady with the one year old kid; I did not expect that; generally I am the philanthropist and my wife the money spending gate keeper; but she was obviously impressed by the story about paying sex for food, my wife did not like that story.
One woman without kids stood up, and made us a sign to follow her. She directed the small group, my wife, I and Mohammad, to a place where the ladies dug out roots using a sharp stick. The roots looked like potatoes. She cleaned one with her hands, than with her robe and offered it to us. Mohammad had a penknife with him, took that root, cleansed the shell, cut two small pieces and offered them to us.
“They are not that tasty, but not dangerous for your health, same family with potatoes, some other tourists tested them, they are OK to eat.”
Both of us tried the wild potato. I did not like the taste of it, but it was not repugnant either. My wife behaved like she liked it… was she a good actress or just into the bush people mood?
We returned to the women’s compound but only for few more minutes, it was not much more to say, and then we followed our way back to the men.
They were enjoying music and dancing, the musician and dancer was the big guy. His instrument was a dry bellows made from an animal stomach, filled with air and tightened around a stick to hold the air inside. The stick was strained with an iron string to the opposite side of the bellows. The guy was jumping from one foot to another in the rhythm he was pinching the string. The sound, even if monotonous, was pleasant to the ear. He did not stop when he saw us approaching, but after two minutes or so he stopped and offered the instrument to me. I took it and tried to imitate my precedent dancer. It was hilarious to them, because they started to laugh, that did not discourage me, I kept jumping for two-three minutes, after that, I stopped exhausted.