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Honeyguide Newsletters: Summer 2001

About Africa

Reflecting on the joys of the day and anticipating the adventures of tomorrow.

The Honeyguide: Summer 2001
"You Should Marry My Husband!"
Our Newest Cultural Program with the Barabaig

Another Land's cultural programs in Uganda and Tanzania are not canned, touristy, or average experiences. Our clients are in the bush, learning from shamans, medicine men, musicians, etc. How do we make these experiences available to Another Land travelers? Over the years, we've conducted research, made great contacts, learned local languages, met with village elders, and traveled places and done things that few (if any) travelers ever experience. That's how we're able to promise Another Land travelers an adventure unlike any other. Here is an account by Nichole Smaglick, Another Land President, of her latest experience working on our newest village program:

In February of this year, I traveled to Tanzania to finalize the details on our latest cultural program with a Barabaig (sometimes known as Datoga) village in Tanzania. If you drive just a few hours from the Barabaig area, most other Tanzanians don't even know they exist. On a small dirt road, you can literally drive right through their village and not see a single home, since they are hidden behind bushes and trees. The Barabaig are nilo-arabic, patrilineal and polygamous, and are known as the 'respected enemy' by the Maasai tribe.

Girls greeting one another.

The Barabaig are powerful warriors (with a sweet side) who are respected for their ability to make rain (that's right - make rain). Some people may mistake the Barabaig for Maasai, but they are very different. For example, unlike the Maasai, the Barabaig beautify themselves by the practice of facial scarification. The Barabaig have actively chosen not to adapt their culture to 'mainstream' Tanzanian society and are proud to share their culture with others.

Girls dancing in rain.

While in the Barabaig village, the villagers wanted to show me everything about their culture that they were proud of, so I could return to the USA and tell people about their village. I was grinding corn and cooking it into a hearty porridge. I danced for rain with the married women and learned how to make and decorate clothes out of goat hides like they do. I learned how to collect honey and make honeybeer (I drank a lot of it too). I walked with a healer in the bush to learn which plants could heal and which have special powers. I could have spent weeks with him alone, for there is much to learn. I then learned how to make rain (I can't tell you how - it's a secret. They prefer that they show you).

The three women who showed me how to cook were all related in a way . . . they all had the same husband. The first wife had spent many decades cooking for her family over a smoky, enclosed fire. Over the years the smoke had made her blind. When I first met her, she refused to believe that I was a foreigner. In her mind she thought, 'Why would someone come all the way from America to see me?' It was not until I suggested that she touch my long, curly hair that she was convinced. She then told me, 'You should marry my husband!' She explained that her husband, Gidamuydhaghat, is a respected rainmaker and if I was to marry him, I could have a house next to hers and we would become best friends. It was a great offer, but I told her that I would have to talk to MY husband about it first. From then on, I was jokingly named Gidamuydhaghat's fourth wife.

Gidamuydhaghat's first wife.

It was now time for the BIG meeting. The village elders, Barabaig warriors, village chairman, rain makers, district commissioner, interpreters and I gathered under a tree at the foot of Mt. Hanang. Here we discussed logistics related to travelers visiting the village, such as water source, campsite, and the nearest airstrip. The elders then determined what codes of behavior the visitors should abide by, such as no staring or laughing at the village women who frequently are topless. They also set the limit for how many visitors per year are allowed.

Gidamuydhaghat, respected Barabaig rainmaker.

When the meeting ended at around 6:30 p.m., we all said farewell (ebasayu) and I traveled by Land Rover for about one hour to the nearest town to rest-up for the night before the next day's journey to Arusha. I was not aware that the village elders, including Gidamuydhaghat, all started walking to the same town to see me off. They walked 7 hours through the night and slept in someone's backyard. When I awoke, they were all waiting for me to bless me, say thank you and wish me well. I will treasure this experience for the rest of my life. And, I can't wait for the first travelers to visit this village!

About The Honeyguide

The Honeyguide - a monthly email newsletter - is named after the Greater Honey Guide, a bird that has developed the remarkable habit of leading tribespeople to wild bees' nests, with the promise of honeycomb and grubs once the humans have opened the nest and taken the honey. The complementary relationship shared by bird and human represents the newsletter's goal - to periodically lead readers to new and timely bits of information about East African wildlife, culture, and travel.

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