31 May, 2010 I'm so sorry.. - by Pipaluk Knudsen-Ostermann

Next stop on the trip was Tanzania. We flew via Nairobi and had the most amazing view of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the evening sun. The next morning Glory came to pick us up. We first went to The Kilimanjaro Film Institute in Arusha where Glory is studying. The school has about 16 students, half of them boys and the other half girls. All of them live there, except Glory. Glory lives nearby with her husband and their daughter Charity. Glory comes from a Masai village called Terrat – which is about 3 hours from Arusha. We pick up Charity and start our journey to visit Glory’s family.

The Arusha area is very green, but soon the landscape turns more and more dry. The Masai are originally nomads and travel with their cattle to find water and grass. Due to global warming they have to travel further in their search.

Glory tells me that the drought is a big problem. Some years ago many cows died and therefore some Masai killed themselves because of the tragedy. They depend on their cattle and without it they see no future. Somehow I understand this very well, we see similar problems in other parts of the world.

We arrive in Terrat; Glory hasn’t seen her family for months so of course she is happy to be back. Her family is very welcoming and they were expecting us. They prepared goat meat for us, cooked over a fire I learn. I have never eaten goat before, but it reminds me of how we eat lamb in Greenland. I like the meat, but am not sure how the rest of the crew like it :) During our lunch I learn about more similarities to Greenland; the Masai don’t have vegetables! They only eat meat. But to find new ways to survive they now try farming, they start growing corn and beans.

The same day the market is taking place in the village, so we go to have a look. I have seen how the Masai dress in the traditional ‘blankets’ and I would like to bring some home. People buy everything they need at the market. Even vegetables (tomatoes and cabbage) are brought here all the way from Arusha! I see high-tech shoes which fascinate me – they are made out of car tyres and don’t look like something you would find out on the Masai plains. I now notice that many people wear these sandals.

After our shopping we go to see Glory’s aunt, Mama Gideon. She had many cows, but lost almost all of them to the drought. We watch the cows returning home, first the little calves led by the children and then the larger cows led by the young men. The work with cows is strictly a man’s job. The women take care of the household. The boys start at age 4 how to handle the cattle, at first they take care of the little calves and later as they grow older they are in charge of the cows.

In 2010 the Masai still live the traditional way, which fascinates me, but almost everybody owns a cell phone. The Masai is a proud people; they live from nature with respect. Actually just like the Inuit. They only take what they need and make sure they don’t exploit nature. I somehow feel a connection to the people.

We spend the night in a hostel. I have to get used to the electricity being cut while I am under the shower (bucket with warm water and a cup to pour it over me). Also I quickly learn to navigate around the places where I am pretty sure the big spider was sitting a while ago. Greenland doesn’t have these big insects...

The next morning we go for a drive with Glory, out to look for animals. It’s pretty chilly and I regret not having brought my Masai blankets. But soon the sun warms us up while we watch the zebra’s, wildebeest and antelopes. At some point we stop and see a huge turtle, I am amazed since I have never seen such a big turtle. Unfortunately it gets stressed by our presence even though we try to be still, we notice by the wet spot which appears under the poor turtle. We leave it alone and return home to rest.

In the afternoon we again visit Mama Gideon – we sit around the fire and she tells about their local medicine. They use different leaves and roots to cure any disease. There is one pest which they can’t fight, worse than HIV/AIDS (which they cure with aloe vera), that pest is the fleas! No leaf nor root can help against the fleas. Mama Gideon explains their only option is to use DDT. The houses are sprayed once a month but it’s not enough. The Masai sleep on cow skins and of course the fleas like these skins as well. We talk about the danger of using this poison, but they feel DDT is the only solution against fleas. I ask where they get the DDT from, I learn that it’s sold on the market – but in little bottles with no labels, no instructions. Nobody knows where it comes from.

As the sun sets, a big fire is build and the women gather around it. They look beautiful in their colourful gowns! They start singing and dancing, what an atmosphere, I feel so lucky to be a part of this. This excitement soon disappears when I am asked to join them. Of course I can’t sing with them, but I do try to dance with them – but it’s actually more difficult than one would think! Glory is very patient with me and the other ladies also. They are having fun and I am having a hard time :)

After dancing we drink tea made of some local plant. Much sugar was added and again I felt the parallel to Greenland :)

After a few days in Terrat it was time to return home. Again I had a stopover in Nairobi, here I slept in a hostel at the airport. I had a talk with the caretaker. His reaction when he heard where I was from still makes me laugh! He replied ”I am so sorry”, referring to the coldness of my country :)








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