The village was in the Rift Valley. In the lower area, a few houses remained. Most of the houses were in the upper part of the valley. The two places had different names. The relocation of the population was imposed by the frequent floods of Lake Rukwa, which made the houses of the lower village unsafe. The house of the organization stood in the lower area, the oldest and the most fascinating.
The houses were all thatched, without electricity and running water. I spent my days strolling around. I was attracted by the silence and peace in the village and the simplicity of the villagers. There were two or three shops, but as for style and dimension, they were very different from the European shops. There was a barber who ran his shop under a tree! His tools were just a chair, a pair of scissors, and a razor blade. He was very good at using the razor blade to shave his customers. I couldn’t resist the temptation to have my hair cut, even though I had it short and didn’t need to cut it. I sat down on that wooden chair, and the barber cut my hair in the African style. Despite not having a comb, his haircut was excellent. I paid 200 shillings, the equivalent of a few cents.
In front of those houses, there were mostly women and children. Seldom could I find men. The women burned wood and boiled water in big saucepans, probably to cook ugali, the basic food of those people in Tanzania. Rice was cooked as well, but maybe it was more expensive.
I admired the uniqueness and the attire of those women. They wore long dresses. Over their dresses, they wore long and loose cloths called kitenge or kanga (according to the kind and consistency of the fabric) from the waist nearly to the feet. Most women wore several brilliant and multicolored kitenge or kanga. When the need arose, they slipped off a kitenge or kanga from their waist and utilized the material in various ways: to carry their babies behind their backs, to cover them when it was cold, to make a soft base before putting something to carry on their heads, or even to make pretty hats for themselves. The women also carried heavy things on their heads, yet their spines were perfect and upright like those of the models in a fashion show.
I visited a primary school. The classrooms were very crowded. One had 140 students! One of the teachers told me that it was impossible to take care of all the pupils. The primary school was free and consisted of seven levels. They had to pay a fee for the secondary school. In that village, few people could afford to pay the school fees. For that reason, the children finished their schooling at the end of the primary school.
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind