Saturday, May 05, 2007

Different regions have different stories as to why they can’t to the precious gems and gold here. In my region the Germans established a lot of missions in my region during the colonial times. Therefore the people say that the missionaries purposely built their missions (and still do) over areas where they have surveyed there to be precious gems and gold there. The villagers at night sometimes hear noises coming from the missions and they figure that that is when the missionaries are mining the treasures. One hotel manager said that the missionaries often come back late at night to his hotel and it is obvious that they are returning from mining. The people here don’t mind that the missionaries are “stealing” the precious treasures because the missions give them good churches, good schools, hospitals etc.

For Easter Break I went to visit some volunteers in another region and the people there have a completely different story about the treasures. In one region they believe that there are fairies protecting the gems and gold and when the villagers try to mine them the fairies attack them and chase them away. Evidently the fairies don’t attack the white people and so they need our help to go out and mine the treasures for them. Another region believes that before the Germans left after they lost control of Tanzania they buried all of their treasures 15 miles down deep in the ground. The Germans hoped to return and dig it up again but since they never returned the treasures are still there. So now they need our help to help them use metal detectors and other technology to find the treasures for them. This story is one of the more believable ones the only problem is that their idea of metal detectors is way off target. They think that we have metal detectors that on the meter part the arrow will simply point to diamonds if they are present there or gold etc. and if nothing is there it will also indicate that. They also know about some special glasses that we can wear that allows us to see directly thru the soil and sediments and allows us to instantly locate that treasures.

I think that sometimes the people here are confused as to why in the world we would come here to do simple jobs like teach. They are sure there has to be more to the story. On more than one occasion, I have been out walking around villages near mine and people have asked me if I am looking for treasures. My response is always “of course if you know where they are I would love your help finding them.”

I also had a chance to visit the natural lake nearest to my site (Lake Nyasa or Lake Malawi) for my Easter Break. The trip was rough but I expected it to be and thus it didn’t bother me as much as it would have during my first year. It was only a 6 hour trip where I was packed in like sardines with suitcases, large bags of grains in a Land Rover and later a Minibus. We also transported gasoline (to fill up the car when it ran out) and dried sardines so there were points of the trip where I got a little nausea from the smells. The road isn’t paved yet so we went over rough roads that had huge potholes in them due to water erosion etc. To top it off the driver only brought one tape with him so we listened to the same tape over and over again. All of these irritations can spoil a trip but now they are usual to me and I don’t even think twice about them.

The lake is gorgeous with mountains surrounding it. Its width is so small that you can see a foggy Malawi in the distance. It is such a remote area that normally only Tanzanians visit it. While I was there I managed to come across some very interesting sites. One time we were walking to the beach and we came across this little kid carrying around 50 small dead birds on strings that were tied around his fingers. I asked him about these birds and he said he was selling them. As it turns out, the people in this reason eat these small birds since it is a cheap source of meat. Another time we came across an old blind man who was fishing. He had a bamboo stick with a piece of rope tied to the end except there was no bait at the end of the string. I am not for sure if people tie fish to the end of the string because they feel sorry for him or what.
In many of the areas that I visit the villagers always seem to have strange stories as to why I should be careful of the area. The people near my village always tell me never to be out late at night because that is when the simba (lions) are searching for food. It is true that the Selous Game Reserve is somehow near (2 hours way by bus) my village but I have never heard of anyone being attacked my lions. I also have never heard of anyone spotting lions. On this trip we were warned by many people to be careful of the crocodiles. They told us that we must be careful not to swim to far out into the lake because if we do we are sure to be attacked by the crocodiles. This advice didn’t make any sense to me no matter how I looked at it. The crocodiles normally hide in the flora surrounding the lake and are not good swimmers so wouldn’t it be better if we spotted a crocodile (when asked when was the last time they had seen them they replied oh last year which in the indirect communication that we use here translates as probably never) that we were further out into the lake since it would be impossible for them to swim to attack us.