This is a guest post by Lauren Becker. If you want to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.
The cacophonous madness inundates the streets of Arusha, Tanzania, and two uninvited teenage boys leech onto Harriet and I. They are now our ” unofficial”? tour guides. Trailing us from place to place, through the food market, to the airplane ticket office, and even waiting outside a restaurant while we eat, they are persistent to show us their artwork and want us to give them money, as after all, they are our tour guides. The aggression is overwhelming, and with our annoyance levels blood red, we seek solace at the Tanzania Tourist Board.
Electing for a half-day tour to Ng’iresi village, a lanky soft-spoken man introduces himself as Emmanuelle. His gentle voice is music to our ears. We happily endure the bumpy ride on dusty mud roads to his village 7km out of town, which scattered along the steep lush slopes of Mt. Meru, also includes a 3km precipitous hike up the mountain.
The Wa-arusha tribe, an offshoot of the Maasai, has shifted from semi-nomadic to stable agriculture. Eating only what they grow and using all parts of the plants, they make use of every living thing. Instead of using animals as meat, the cows are used for milk, and the chicken for eggs. They barter for sugar, salt, rice, and meat, so those are eaten only on special occasions.
Families still live in traditional bombas, and all homes are similarly constructed. The roof is thatched from banana trees, a concoction of plaster, cow dung, and ashes form the walls. In the middle of the small round hut is the smoky kitchen, the black fumes replace the air, making breathing difficult. Cows occupy the right side, as traditionally they sleep in the hut, the women sleep on the left, and the boys up front so they can protect the family.
Our hosts have no personal possessions except for some bowls and plates, a few clothes and some shoes. Harriet remarks, ” We took more on our three week trip than these people own.”? It’s incredibly true. It’s amazing how much stuff we own and don’t need. And this simple life exists just down the road from the bustling, dangerous, and consumer driven town of Arusha. Our society is based on now, and more; theirs is based on basics and essentials.
Before every rainy season the roofs need replacing, and every six months the walls need re-plastering. The whole village pitches in to help build houses, plant crops, and take care of the animals. Emmanuelle notes ” If someone is sick, the people in the village carry him down the steep slopes of the mountain.”?
With this dynamic sense of community, the village is one family and traditions hold integrity. We have lost so much since the industrial age””culture, tradition, a tight community, the idea of helping your neighbor without ulterior motives. Emptiness in our lives is being filled with stuff instead of loving and caring human relationships.
We have lost this connection with the past while they are struggling to keep it alive.
About the Author: Lauren Becker is a filmmaker turned travel writer who has been lucky enough to travel the world for work and fun. She enjoys sharing her experiences through the written word, the still photograph, and moving image. Read more at her personal website, my personal website is www.laurenbecker.net, or follow her on Twitter @filmlb.