The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge this week is sunrises & sunsets. On safari in Tanzania, we were often up by sunrise, leaving sometimes before breakfast to be able to observe animals early in the morning.
Sunrise, southern Serengeti, Tanzania – Feb. 10, 2018
Just as often, we were just returning for the evening when the sun set. All vehicles are required to be out of the national parks at sunset. This last picture was taken just as the sun was getting low in the sky and the sky beginning to glow yellow and orange, silhouetting an acacia tree.
Sunset, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania – Feb. 11, 2018
In the afternoon, six of us visited a Maasai village where tourists are welcome, the Irkeepus Cultural Boma. This community makes money from tourists: $20 to take any photos you want and be shown around, encouragement to buy their crafts, and donations for their school.
The village, or “boma” (compound) consists of one large extended family: the chief, his 15 wives and about 70 children and grandchildren. A total of 86 people live there. Each wife has her own house. The children are welcome in any house and treat all the wives as their “mothers.” Maybe the relationship is more like aunts. Our guide, probably the best English speaker there, was the son of wife #4. He led the tour: first there was a dance we were all invited to join in on – the women adorned us with necklaces – which consisted of everyone standing in a row holding hands, bending our knees and moving our feet to the beat of the song, which we tried to sing with them – it was repetitive. Every so often one of the men would jump high into the air – impressive!
The second demonstration was to show us how they make fire. Their first attempt at this was not successful so they had to start again. The first step is to rub a stick against a stone with depressions in it until it sparks. Then they put dried grass on it and finally breathe on it very slowly and gently (pole-pole*) to coax the fire out.
Our guide’s (and everyone’s in the village) native language is Maasai, which is oral – not written. In school he learned to read and write in Swahili (his second language) and English (his third language). After he finished high school, he returned to the village.
The community has 40 heads of cattle, as well as goats and sheep. A man’s wealth is measure by how many cattle he has and David thinks the chief has more than 40. Bride price starts at 4 head of cattle and can go higher. They use their animals for meat, milk and milk products (such as yogurt and to a lesser extent, cheese). They also drink goat’s and sheep’s milk. That’s about all they eat except for fruit they can get from local trees.
The huts are round with a curved entrance, a bit like the beginning of a spiral, because, we were told, it keeps the wind from getting in – the wind is strong at this high altitude on the crater rim. The man showing Dale and I the house told us to be careful when entering because the inner wall of the entrance had been freshly plastered with cow dung! They have to do this about every 3 months to replace the dung that has dried – they strip this off and apply fresh dung (and there were several cow pies in the yard outside the compound!). The dry dung they strip off is then used for fuel.
Inside there’s a fire pit for cooking and keeping warm but no vent in the ceiling, as I would expect, having seen several types of Native American houses. He pointed out a tiny vent hole in a bedroom wall. Still, the smoke hung in the air. The guide said the smoke is good for getting rid of insects. Apparently the fire is extinguished when the family goes to bed. The smoke fills the hut only when no one is there. It clears out the bugs so the family can sleep.
The hut was very small and dark – we had to use cellphone flashlights. There are two bedrooms side by side, used primarily for sleeping. They lay soft branches and leaves on the floor and cover it with a cow hide. Some other small rags were in one of the rooms – to use as pillows, perhaps? Or a blanket for a young child.
Most activities are conducted outside, which is why they don’t need much inside their house. The boys love to play soccer in the yard. Girls help their mothers make crafts with beads and wire.
Children of both sexes attend school. The elementary school is an adobe structure outside the compound walls.
20 children from the village and 20 from a neighboring village attend school here. The community is proud of its school, which they built themselves, funded with donations from visitors. Although they value education, when the boys get a little older they are allowed to get out of school to herd the cattle if they want to.
The one-room school has rows of benches with table surfaces attached as desks. There were many adults and children inside; the adults were having a village meeting. We met a couple of the teachers, who greeted us warmly, especially when we told them we had also been teachers.
On the back wall were the children’s drawings of animals, each one labeled with its Swahili name. on one wall was an ABC chart using syllables, like we teach Spanish to primary kids! The blackboard in the front had a lot written on it. At a desk in the corner sat an administrator and a secretary, both men from the village. They were there because of the meeting.
A group of small children clustered together at desks behind two teachers. They were shy until I held up my hand for a “high 5” and they all knew what it was – is high-5 universal? They extended their little palms for me to high-5 them. (I found out the Maasai handshake is actually a version of this – you touch the palm of the other person but don’t grasp their hand.) Then I did a fist bump and the kids all know that too and wanted to “fist bump” with me! That’s how I broke the ice with them. Then they all sang two songs, the second a version of the ABC song – halfway through it diverts into some other words, perhaps the Swahili alphabet.
As we were leaving, I extended a fist bump to one of the teachers, telling him we had learned it from our president (meaning Obama, who was familiar to them). One of our group members reminded me he wasn’t our president anymore. I replied, “I know, but I wish he were.”
The people had adorned a fenced-in area with all their craft items. I liked the little animals made with beads and wire and decided to buy a lion since we had seen many lions today. I had the lion in my hand when I was at the school. I showed it to the children and said, “A lion, see?” Then I made a roaring sound, which made them laugh.
Perhaps $35 was too much to pay, and I could have bargained, but I didn’t. These people needed the money – their life was hard and they worked hard from a young age. There was a donation box at the school, so Dale put all his leftover euro coins in it!
I have read that 85% of Tanzanians are poor and I’m sure that is true for the Maasai who live traditionally. Yet financial poverty is not total poverty: their possessions are few but they have their cultural traditions and when they look out at the countryside where they live – that vast country of green, gentle hills and huge sky, where one can admire giraffes, zebras, or gazelles that pass by, they can be sure that, in fact, in some ways their life is very rich. The beauty of nature is all around them, they live in harmony with it, they are surrounded by loved ones, and are comfortable in their traditions.
Money, of course, is necessary also – to buy materials to build schools, to send their children to high school, and to buy supplemental food products, among other things. It’s unavoidable – so if we could help by putting money into their community to help them buy what they need, I’m glad for it.
*pole-pole: Swahili word meaning “slowly-slowly” but with the connotation of “gently” or “carefully” as well.
Pussy willows aren’t exactly flowers, but I really love them! They remind me of my childhood – when I was a kid, my friends and I used to play in a woods behind our house. Beyond the woods, down a steep hill, was an old railroad track that was being taken over by nature due to lack of use. Pussy willows grew along that track and I would sometimes pick some and take them home to my mother, (who didn’t approve of me playing next to the railroad track!).
These pussy willows were for sale recently at Mariano’s in Chicago.
In Despair, Rodin invented a new pose – the figure’s act of stretching out and at the same time folding her body inward is evocative of emotional distress. This is the first example of this work; later plaster casts were taken to reproduce it in bronze.
This vision of two young lovers was one of Rodin’s most popular compositions. Exact examples of it are extremely rare because it was technically difficult to produce. This bronze is the same version of the plaster that Rodin gave to Robert Louis Stevenson. Many later versions were made by adding a support for the male figure’s arms and legs.
Rodin contracted specialist practitioners to carve multiple versions of Eve in marble, but no two are exactly alike. These two examples are among the earliest created; the example in front was produced in pure white marble, while the example on the right (which belongs to the Art Institute’s permanent collection) was made with a deeply veined marble.
The wildebeests (also known as gnus) in the crater don’t take the long migration of the Serengeti, but they’re always on the move to find better grassland. Large herds of them migrate from one side of the crater to another. Most of the time, you also see zebras migrating alongside the wildebeest herds. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with the wildebeest – the zebras can remember the route, while the wildebeest can smell water.It’s calving season and many wildebeest females had newborn calves alongside them – the mother of this newborn was still expelling the afterbirth.Another one gave birth (we could see its legs hanging down) in a field near the road. There seemed to be a sort of “gnu nursery” over there, where several newborns were either lying down or trying out their legs.
The newborn we’d seen being born tried to nurse, but his mother wouldn’t let him – she kept nudging him forward to get him to walk. She knew there was danger nearby: several hyenas lurked on a hillside, keeping their eyes on the herd for easy prey.
A short time later, several hyenas passed us, two with traces of blood on their muzzles and paws – they’d had their meal!
We saw two kinds of gazelles – Thomson’s gazelles are the smallest …
and Grant’s gazelles are larger, about the size of impalas.
Gazelles are a subgroup of antelope in which both male and female have horns. That is how you know impalas are not gazelles. Another non-gazelle antelope is the eland, quite a bit larger than impalas.
Other animals besides hyenas, gnus and lions that were sighted today: a couple of rhinos way far off; rhinos tend to stay away from the roads and other animals.
hippos, foraging on land…
but mostly submerged in the water – we could see their snouts when they came up for air.
Baglafecht weavers, who tried to steal our food while we were having a picnic lunch…
..and a jackal finishing off a meal with her pups.
I have many “favorite places” in the world, too many to choose from, so I am restricting this post to my home town, Des Plaines, Illinois. My favorite place here is the public library. It is within walking distance so I usually walk there, sometimes three times a week or more than once a day!
This library opened in 2000, replacing the previous library, which the city of Des Plaines had clearly outgrown. In spite of this, some people complained that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money! However, I think building the new library was a worthwhile use of my taxes. There was also a campaign to raise money by buying bricks for the plaza in front of the building, which are engraved with the names of the donors or in honor/memory of someone.
Another way the library raises revenue and gets rid of old books and videos is to have two book sales a year, as well as a side area with an ongoing book sale, which cost 50 cents to a dollar each – it’s on the honor system.I love to read and I attend two book discussion groups at the library. Also, my memoir writing group meets there. This started as a memoir writing class for women, but when the class was over, some of us wanted to continue, and we’re still at it almost two years later!
Our local library also hosts many events, including once-a-month movies on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
Recently, the library instituted a new policy of automatic renewal. Many libraries are doing this now. Most books will automatically renew for up to four months. The exceptions are new books or books with a limited number of days, or if someone has requested the book.
There are also computer classes, lectures, town hall meetings, information fairs, music performances – it’s hard to keep track of everything that goes on at the library!
We stopped for lunch at about 2:00 during a drizzling rain. There were toilets next to a grassy area. Some people headed straight for them, but in spite of the commotion we must have made upon arrival, it did not faze two Marabou storks, who stood stock still several feet apart. This one seemed to be giving me the evil eye as I took his picture.
Once we reached the floor of the crater, we saw some new animals that we hadn’t seen up until now. Flying over the plain were two grey-crowned cranes.
In the grass, a blacksmith plover pecked for worms and insects.
A group of Egyptian geese wander in a field of cycnium flowers.
But by far the most interesting bird we saw was the kori bustard. I don’t know if this is a male or female…
…but if it is female, surely she was being courted by this puffed up male. I love his smug expression as he shows off his whites!The male kori bustard puffs up the feathers on his neck and under his tail on display for a female.We encountered two types of gazelle: Thomson’s gazelles are the smallest.
A larger gazelle is the Grant’s gazelle, which is about the same size as an impala.
These gazelles differ from the impala in that both male and female have horns. This is a characteristic of all gazelles. Impalas are not gazelles, but all these species belong to the larger category of animals, the antelopes. (So all gazelles are antelopes, but not all antelopes are gazelles.)
All antelopes belong to the larger family of bovids, along with the buffalo, who often has oxpecker birds on his back or head…
and the wildebeest. In Ngorongoro Crater, we saw large herds of wildebeest, who migrate from one side of the crater to the other, unlike those in the “Great Migration” of the Serengeti. Still, in Ngorongoro Crater, they are in just as much danger from predators…
such as hyenas, lions (there are about 80 lions in Ngorongoro Crater), and even jackals, who usually end up with the leftovers of larger predators, like this female and her pups.
Jackals are often seen in pairs and will hunt cooperatively for small mammals and even lizards, like this agama lizard.