24 October 2017 Tuesday - ~ Day 15 – Home hosted visit, ride on tuk-tuk, ex-poacher, witch doctor

Today was a “cultural day” instead of an animal day. We left the Happy Valley House lodge and headed into town, the village of Karatu, which was a short distance. It’s higher up in elevation, so it’s a little bit cooler here.

Our first goal was to help and enrich the life of a poor family. Earlier in the trip, one of the group members bought a large woven mat to give to a poor family. Our guide, Eki, expanded on this idea so it wasn’t just the mat. First, he picked out a family in need. He randomly picked out one of the serving women who worked at the lodge. Then, for our cultural enrichment, he gave us all a mission: He took us to a place where local people of the village buy their everyday goods. He gave each of us a few Tanzania shillings and gave us a shopping list. Our mission was to buy things the family would need, like laundry soap, diapers, and such. This photo shows Kathy buying some laundry soap for the family.

This photo shows me buying some pampers from a different store.

We waited outside until everyone was done shopping.

The laundry soap looked a lot different from the stuff we use. It looked like a large rectangular piece of putty.

Outside the shopping area, motorcycles congregated, waiting like taxis to transport people to and from the village.

We took photos and waited for our bus to come back.

It was fun to see the local people going about their normal everyday lives.

Our next adventure was a ride on a tuk-tuk. Kathy and I have done this before in various countries, so this wasn’t new. Still, it was lots of fun. We waited a long time for tuk-tuks to arrive, and then took off one by one. Again, Eki paid for the ride. He instructed them, in Swahili, to take us all to the Lutheran Church, which is a well-known landmark.

I took a few photos of Kathy in the tuk-tuk.

The tuk-tuk driver started driving us toward town. On the way, we saw some of the same unusual sights, like this three-wheeled motorcycle carrying a large PVC pipe.

We saw plenty of very poor broken-down shacks, but also some “rich folk” houses, like this one:

At last we arrived at the Lutheran Church.

We took a photo of the driver and bade him farewell.

Next, we got back on our bus and drove through town a bit to our next destination.

We passed a school where kids were playing soccer.

And other locals, wearing their beautiful colored clothes.

We arrived at the home of a witch doctor, which was our next cultural experience. I video-taped our conversation. Eki acted as translator. The witch doctor told us some interesting things, but nothing too surprising, I guess. He said people come to him mainly to either make curses (like when a woman finds out her husband has been cheating on her) or break curses (like when their child falls sick).

We asked him where he gets his knowledge and his power, and he said he inherited his gift from his grandfather, who had pre-chosen him to carry on the family tradition. Some of his power came from the artifacts he got from him, including a decent-sized quartz crystal, several stones, feathers, and other things.

I told him I had heard of Shamans in South America that can leave their body and go on journeys to recover the souls of cursed people and such. I asked him if he did this. He said no, it was beyond his power. After I got his permission, I asked Kathy to take a photo with him. Here is that photo:

There were children hanging around the witch doctor’s house; I assume they were his kids.

Right across the road was a brick factory, so that’s where we went next. It was basically just a huge hole in the ground that was mined for clay to make bricks.

They workers showed us how they make bricks. First, the gather the clay and break it into smaller pebbles. Next, they add a bunch of water.

Then they mix up the clay by stamping it with their feet.

Then they slap it into a brick mold. Then they press it down and scrape it so it’s nice and square in the mold.

Then they remove the mold and leave the bricks to dry in the sun.

The clay mine was quite large.

The bricks are eventually dried on all sides, then fired in a kiln at the bottom of the pit.

We spoke to one of the workers who, we were told, was a former poacher. He got caught poaching small game for meat. He was reprimanded and punished, but went back to poaching. Now this was his third strike. The government gave him an ultimatum: Either go to prison, or go to work at the brick factory and become an honest man. He chose the latter. It’s a nice deal for him: It’s hard work, but he can sell the bricks and keep the money he makes. And he earns enough money that he doesn’t have to poach animals anymore. He gave us a talk, in English, and it was interesting. For obvious reasons, he asked to remain anonymous, so we couldn’t take his photo.

After we left the brick factory, we headed to the house of the family in need, the hotel worker. She invited the whole group into her home, showed us around, and we saw her kids. Her daughter had just given birth to a baby a few days earlier, so she had an infant to take care of; thus the need for diapers. The older kids were cute.

There were lots of kids of all ages. They were very cute.

The woman’s daughter, who had given birth, came out to greet us. I guess it’s a tradition for the woman who gave birth to remain out of sight and she wears special crimson colored robes. I don’t exactly know the origin of this tradition, but I’m sure it’s for the sake of the baby’s health.

We met in her living room and gave her the floor mat, laundry soap, diapers, and all the other gifts the others had purchased in town. I think she was a bit dumbfounded by our generosity and kindness. Afterward, we went into her back yard and saw the family’s goats and such.

The kids were playing with the kids. It was really cute.

We saw their cooking utensils and such at the cooking room, which was a separate small building in the family compound.

This is a photo of me and the worker whose family we visited:

She was very grateful for our gifts.

She even gave Kathy a big hug to thank us.

In the late afternoon, we headed back to the lodge. There, at 4:00pm, we took a long walk with one of the hotel men; a guy named Isaac. We walked from our lodge over to the sister-lodge that’s owned by the same company. On the way, we saw a bee hive covered with those African killer bees.

We took a short tour of their gardens. They raise all kinds of vegetables, enough to feed the lodge guests. They also grew, harvested, and roasted their own coffee, and they had a lot of coffee plants.

Isaac picked a big carrot and gave it to us. We dusted it off and ate it. It was delicious, and pretty much guaranteed to be organic.

The lodge also grew flowers for the lodge too. It was very pretty.

We went inside where we saw the coffee roasting equipment.

He showed us the coffee roaster, the grinder, and everything. He had an espresso machine and so we were treated to a fresh cup of espresso. It doesn’t get much fresher than straight from the plantation to the cup!

The flowers were lovely.

We had our photo taken on the balcony overlooking the flower garden.

It was a good day.