Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mamma Anna's Cultural Tour

Today we were picked up by Raymond again at 9am from the African Tulip after we enjoyed one of the biggest complimentary hotel breakfasts I'd ever seen.  We drove a quick 45 minutes out of town to the Mulala Village at the footslopes of Mount Meru, picking up our guide Shukuru along the way.  This was to be our cultural day in Tanzania and we honestly expected it to be sort of a "show" for tourists like us so we kept our expectations low.  We couldn't have been more wrong.  Read on by clicking the title.

As soon as we pulled into the all-women community we were each greeted with a genuinely warm hug and kisses on the cheek by Mama Anna herself.  Mama quickly left us with Shukuru who told us all about the history of the women's camp and their struggle to bring income to their community towards building schools for local children.  They tried producing milk for the markets at the bottom of the hillside but the man they hired watered down the water and ruined the opportunity for them.  Ultimately, they decided to make cheese and coffee for trade with local Tanzanians and have been doing so successfully.  Between their hard work and the generous donations of some of their visitors they were able to provide so much for their small community.  

After we enjoyed some delicious coffee hand-made for us there, along with some dried banana, we headed out for a walk with Shukuru all throughout the local community.  This wasn't staged.  This wasn't a tourist trap.  This was a 24 year old girl fresh out university who was taking over her recently deceased father's role as a guide for the women's community.  This was a private tour for us deep through the cultural land and Tanzanian communities that tourists could not see at the regular stops along the main roads.  

We walked up thickly forested hillside along with young children carrying heavy loads for market and their families.  We passed locals who always looked at us with a big smile as we yelled "Jambo" happily to them.  We even passed a wedding reception party on our walk.  Shukuru taught us many Swahili words and explained to us the political background behind the two flags of the opposing political parties of the last election that was so contested.  She took us past a wedding reception of glowing, happy faces, and through some maize fields to an overlook where we could see the town of Arusha below. 

When we got back to Mama Anna's we joined her, 3 other elderly women, and a man in roasting coffee the traditional way by hand.  First, the beans were roasted over a small fire which we all helped stir and then they were placed in a hollowed out wooden stump where we took turns with  blunted stumps pounding the seeds to a fine grain, all while Mama and the others sang and danced loudly around us.  I asked Shukuru what they were singing and she said it was basically a song about hard work but to us it sounded up beat and everyone was smiling while we worked.  The beat of the singing aligned well with the crushing of the seeds in the stump.  Each of us took turns while the others danced with the women.  We ended up making the same coffee grains that were brewed for us when we first arrived.  They all were super curious about my small GoPro camera which made for some genuinely great photos of curious faces around me.

After the coffee making we got a short tour of their small farm animals including two big cows, one pregnant, and a couple goats.  The man feeding the goats didn't know English but he seemed very excited to see us and was excited for to take photos with him.  The women also raised stingless bees for honey and their hives were in 3-4 foot long logs hanging off the side of the building's roof.   We were shown some of the crafts that the women make there and we all bought a few things to support them. 

Before we left we all gave them women big hugs and I got an especially warm "tummy hug" by the small elderly man who had a singing voice I will never forget.  I also spent some time with the small boy who was hanging out with us and picked him up in the air for a big giggly hug.  We expected a tourist trap, what we found was a small elderly women's farming collective whose sole aim was to benefit their community and the overwhelming welcoming love we felt from them genuine and nearly moved me to tears.  This day changed me.

Some Swahili we learned:
Shikamoo = the way to say hello to elders
Mambo and Jambo = both hi or hello
Asante = Thank you
Karibu = Welcome
Mwalmu = Teacher

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