One of the highlights of my educational experience in Africa have been the cultural emmersions. I am in a course called Swahili language and culture and we have speakers teach us about their cultures as well as going on trips into the field. We get to experience tribes and compare their traditions and beliefs. For example, the Maasai are the best known. They are pastoralists who wear beautiful red and blue fabric and a lot of colorful beads. Some have earlobe stretching and removal of teeth. They live in bomas which are little homes made of mud and wood, as well as an enclosure for their livestock. There are also the Iraqw tribe who are living around my campus in Rhotia. These are the people I did my homestay with. My family had cows and farmland to make a living. Another tribe I experienced was the Hedabe tribe, the last hunter gatherers of Tanzania. There are less than 1,000 left in the world. Their culture is super interesting. They use bow and arrows to kill all of their meat from the bush. I can’t even imagine having to gather/kill everything I ate. Our culture is just so ridiculously different than this. My day spent with this tribe was extremely eye-opening. They don’t need money at all. They live from the earth and they live so simple and seem so happy. They don’t care about material objects or wealth, they have family. One of my favorite memories of this tribe was partaking in one of their dances. There was singing, dancing, and the women, men, and even children were involved. Huge smiles on their faces, it was a genuinely joyous celebration. I also was able to learn how to shoot an arrow with a bow. All of the materials were handmade, with wood from trees, the string was veins from bushmeat, and the metal was traded with a neighboring tribe. We were also able to visit this community, known for their metal-smithing. We watched them dance as well, which was very different and focused on jumping as high as possible, it looked like hard work! We watched them heat up metal scraps for the creation for bracelets…I even bought one.
I am currently sitting I class learning about the Massai culture. It is extremely fascinating, but definitely makes me appreciate my own culture. I have so many opportunities and am so lucky. In the Massai, women must be circumcised, with no say in the matter. They can’t even choose their own husband, or have a say in how many children they have. The men are in charge and if he wants 100 kids, he can. If a woman becomes pregnant before marriage, she is ousted from the tribe. The penalty to the man that got her pregnant? Absolutely none. It is their culture and I have no place to judge but I am honestly so lucky to have been brought up with an incredible education and opportunities. It is still super important to learn about the cultures of the world, and there are just so many mindsets that differ, it is very cool to think about!