We step back in time with the Hadza
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What's a fun activity you can share in the African bush with people you can't really communicate with?Skip to next paragraph
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Everybody likes art, so our friend Lynne has brought face paints. To demonstrate, I paint a flower on 12-year-old Kelsey. "Would you like me to paint a flower on your cheek?" I ask through our translator. "No," says Numbu's aunt. "I want a Cape buffalo." I end up painting an entire African savannah on the cheeks of the Hadza women: a zebra, an antelope, an eland, a baboon, and a lion. Not wanting to be outdone, the Hadza men ask for bigger animals: elephant, rhino, and hippo.
We have a problem: no mirrors! The solution is very high-tech. Paul and Rob take photos of everyone's cheeks with Paul's digital camera, and show the Hadza their "body art" in the viewfinder. Shy Numbu refuses a face painting, but gazes happily at the camera images.
Do the Hadza want to live far from airplanes, telephones, and digital cameras? Our Hadza hosts seem amused by our electronic gadgets, not envious. The Tanzanian government has tried several times to get the Hadza to settle in villages. It has built houses and schools and given the Hadza farmland. However, many Hadza seem to prefer a traditional lifestyle.
Still, traditional Hadza life is hard, and it is made harder by their neighbors. As we said goodbye to the Hadza, a herd of goats wandered across our path.
"There are many more pastoralists [people who graze goats and cattle] today," O'Connell says. "They compete with the Hadza for water and land." Where goats and cattle graze, there are fewer wild animals to hunt and fewer plants to supply food. When farmers and goat-herders move into Hadza areas, the Hadza may be pushed onto drier land with fewer animals and plants.
Tourist visits such as ours give the Hadza extra income, but the money isn't always helpful. "The cash leads to alcohol abuse," O'Connell says. Hadza men sometimes spend their money in bars, and neglect their families.
Compared with the rules of the modern world, the rules of the bush are simple: You have to survive, and in order to survive, you must face dangerous animals.
"We would look for lion kills on the basis of where vultures are landing," O'Connell recalls of one stay with the Hadza, "and then walk up and try to take the kill from the lions.... That can be very scary, walking up with a Hadza man when there are several lions and hyena on the kill, and it's just you and your camera and him and his one bow. And he is fully confident he is going to take that meat away. He has no doubt. We watched Hadza hunters get meat this way 20 times, and each time they drove off the lions."
What if the lion doesn't back off? "That happened one time," O'Connell says. "The lion got killed and eaten." A wise lion knows the Hadza are masters of the bush.
For more information on visiting the Hadza, see: www.thompsonsafaris.com
Dad roams garage sales, Mom's a bargain shopper. Your sister cruises eBay, and your brother is always after the perfect rock for his collection. At heart, we're still hunter-gatherers.
If you'd like to try collecting wild food instead of Pokémon cards, start in your own backyard. Parts of cactuses, cattails, chicory, dandelions, day lilies, and violets just to name a few are edible. Be sure you know exactly which plants are safe to eat, and make sure that no herbicides have been applied and no dogs have been walked there. If you're in doubt, ask someone who knows a parent, teacher, or naturalist. Don't ever eat wild mushrooms, as some of them are poisonous.
Here's a tasty dandelion recipe from California chef John Townsend. You can weed your lawn and feed your family!
4 cups dandelion leaves, rinsed well (or mix dandelion greens into other salad greens)
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 peach, peeled and diced, or 1 cup wild berries
grated peel of 1/2 orange
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine "dandelion salad" ingredients in a large bowl. Then mix all the "vinaigrette dressing" ingredients in a blender. Pour the desired amount of dressing over the salad, and serve.