Chaga, pt. 2

While much of the western world walks down shiny aisles of supermarkets and chooses from six different brands of celery salt, the Chaga depend fully on the soil they walk on. Living off land replete with natural resources that Kili gives them, the Chaga grow maize, sweet potatoes, yams, arums, beans, peas, red millet and bananas. When the harvest comes, they share with their neighbors, but not for profit – they share because that’s what neighbors do. Chaga families run their kihambas – or plots of land passed down from generation to generation – using advanced irrigation practices, terraced farming techniques, and continual fertilization have survived millennia, making the Chaga one of the wealthiest people groups in Tanzania.

Recreation comes packaged differently here as well. Children keep a wooden top spinning in the dirt by slapping at it with a whip. Other children simply play the universal game of “stick and wheel,” a toy reminiscent of Puritan America. Adults enjoy lively conversation in small, wooden pubs drinking the local mbege beer, in chairs underneath a banana tree, or while working in the fields. DVDs, iPod and Xbox are foreign concepts here – unnecessary, even.

My ears pop as we climb in elevation. The trail winds along with deep greenery on either side, switches back to descend into a shallow valley and then becomes steep to climb again. Each climb yields inexplicably beautiful vistas: sun-drenched terraced farms on an opposite hill, rail-thin waterfalls that seem to trickle thousands of feet down the mountain into the fertile earth below, and Moshi town and the vast, flat expanse of land beyond. The air now has a slight chill to it, though slightly diminished because of the labor of our hike. For those who think all of Africa looks like The Lion King, one step onto this trail pretty much shatters that misconception in a heartbeat.

To Be Continued


2 responses to this post.

  1. Love the reports.


  2. It might just be me romanticizing the Changa way of life, but much of what you describe is very appealing. It sounds nice to be free of the gods of technology, and naturalistic science and to instead focus on people and the world around me. But I’m also certain their life is a difficult one–being dependent on the ground means trusting in things far outside yourself since there’s no supermarket to visit if you’re vegetable garden isn’t quite doing what you had hoped.

    The benefits of “progress” are very helpful, but is the price we have to pay worth what we lose in the transaction?


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