Tuesday 18 March 2014

Lucid dreaming - Counting Fingers- four, five or six?

Four fingers or five?
Four fingers or five?
I had the strangest lucid dream the other night. It reminded me of my post 'Counting Your Fingers in Dreams'
In this dream I was somewhere in Russia, standing by an icy lake. Snow swirled around  rendering everything into shades of black and white. My friend Deb was standing in front of me, wrapped up in a huge black coat, showing me her red gloves.
'I decided to get the operation!', she told me excitedly.
'What operation?' I asked cautiously.
'I decided to have my sixth finger removed so I had it done yesterday, but then I thought - You know what? If your going to do it you might as well do it properly! So I had two fingers removed. Now I've just got four fingers and nothing gets in the way anymore - plus it makes shopping so much easier, I don't have to get my gloves tailor made. It's sooo much better like this!'
At which she held up her gloved hands and wiggled her fingers in the air at me.
'But Deb,' I said, counting her fingers, 'You've still got five fingers'.
I counted five.
'No I don't,' she said and wiggled her fingers again and counted them. 'One, two, three, four! See!'
I quickly recounted her fingers.
"No Deb, you definitely have five fingers!'
No matter how many times we both counted her fingers, she counted four and I counted five. The really weird thing was that when I then looked at her red gloves and counted the number of fingers I counted six!
I woke up, distressed because I knew that you aren't supposed to be able to count five fingers properly in dreams. And what was the meaning of the red gloves with six fingers? I was terribly confused! Please let me know if you've had any dreams where you've tried to count fingers.

Monday 10 March 2014

The Zanzibar Experience

For this post the thought occurred to me that I might try something different - I am retyping exactly what I wrote in my travel journal, so here goes:-
The entourage waiting, waiting... in Addis

Saturday 14/12/13 
In which we leave Ethiopia for the island paradise of Zanzibar.
It is freezing cold as we exit the lobby of our hotel to catch our ride to the airport. We have so much luggage. I am seriously worried how we are going to manage camping in 2 man tents with it. We were supposed to be travelling lite this time and we have hardly any clothes so it's a mystery yet to be revealed as to what all these 'essential' camping items are that we have and apparently can't live without.
At the airport we have to remove our hiking boots for the security xray which we haven't had to do anywhere else. Frickin' laces! We check in to Ethiopian Airlines and are given 6 seats completely not together even though we are early.
The sub-adults find Ethiopia badges to sew onto their rucksacks. Finally the flight boards late and they have managed to rearrange our seats so we are at least seated in 2's.  We are served a delicious hot meal of spiced rice and chicken Ethiopian style. I have a Carlsberg beer which, even though it's traitorous as a Dane to say so, is nowhere near as good as the Ethiopian Bedele or Meta!
Flight 815 was supposed to stop at Kilimanjaro airport but they have managed to make that flight disappear altogether and have put us on flight 805 via Dar Es Salaam instead. For the hour stop in Dar we are not allowed off the plane and there are only a dozen of us continuing on to Zanzibar - strange as it is, no one else boards the plane, so why we had to stop in Dar at all is a mystery. I suspect the pilot of getting off for a quick shag. The plane takes off with suspiciously renewed vigour and Nek Minnut we are landing - a 15 minute flight lands us into a wall of heat - I feel like fainting it's so hot. Definitely should have flown in bikinis.
We walk the tarmac to the immigration shed (how quaint, a shed!) and fill out visa forms. It's the first time I've been asked nationality at birth (which was German) as well as current nationality (which is Danish) in all my years of travel. For US$50 we get our visas and proceed through to collect our luggage and change money (one of the few places in the world where it's actually cheaper to exchange money at the airport Bureau de Change!) 
Masai with his characteristic stick - all the guards tend to be Masai

A friendly Masai man greets us and transports us an hour to the northern most tip of the island, Nungwi, where we have booked 3 double rooms at the moderate rate Smiles Beach Resort ($90 per night - though the term 'resort' might be stretching it a bit far)
It's 4 little double storey houses with 4 rooms in each, arranged in a semi-circle facing the beach. Thatch covered beach huts shade lounges and the houses sit in sand running all the way to the shore. It's perfect! Palm trees sway in the breeze, the water is an iridescent blue with a tide that varies hugely. At low tide the coral reef is completely exposed, numerous native dhows list on their sides and locals comb it picking edibles and shells from it. 
India - there were so many starfish in the water
Monkeybuns & Venus

We dump our luggage and tear off for a swim in the warm water.
Local muslim girls play on the beach

Lion-boy & the Indil-poodlecat
Later we wander down the beach to a local bar and have a wonderful but expensive meal - 15,000 shillings (US$10) for a meal - though we were slightly appeased by the free vodka shots, even if they were served in some sickly sweet strawberry syrup. Tomorrow we are definitely finding out where the locals eat! (And THAT is a tale of woeful toilet experiences to add to the 'worst toilets in the world' list)

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Ethiopia: The Fascinating Hamer Tribe

Ladies with pots at Hamer market

In the scorching heat, four of us set out for the local Hamer tribe market. We spotted Hamer women, with their characteristic red clay and fat matted hair and clothing made from animal hides decorated with shells, carrying large loads of trade goods on their backs heading for the market.
Three Hamer women going home from market  
Photograph by Dorit d'Scarlett

As we pulled into the market square, a large expanse of unshaded red earth, the curious and somewhat suspicious stares of several hundred market goers met us. All market trading was conducted on the ground, not a table in site.
The women sold dried foods, mainly sorghum, as well as liquor in earthenware jars and the heavy metal bracelets, anklets and necklaces the women of this tribe favours.

Elder women adorn themselves with zau, thick iron rings stacked on their arms and legs. Zau  can only be purchased with cattle, one cow fetching 25 zau. First wives wear a special ‘first wife necklace’ made of tightly bound animal skin tethered together with metal bindings and a phallic protrusion called a binyere. This (as well as their animal hide clothing) must be lovingly cared for by applying a mixture of red clay and animal fat to prevent the skin from drying out and cracking. Together with this ‘first wife necklace’ they also wear the esente worn by the other wives. Men will typically have 2 or 3 wives but their houses are often built quite apart from each other to prevent inter-wife conflict. 

Hamer woman in cowrie shell decorated goat hide and silver bangles

The men tended to wear slimmer brass bracelets with no decoration. These are made from smelting down bullet casings. Also being sold or traded were tobacco and moringa leaves, as well as some other necessities such as goat bells and the wooden headrests that each tribe styled in their own characteristic way. 

Naked children in the desert on the way to the Hamer village
The terrain we drove thru to find the Hamer village Photograph by Dorit d'Scarlett

After bartering for some metal bracelets and a first wife necklace we set out to find the nearest Hamer village. We were given a tip-off as to where we might find the temporary nomadic village and had to leave the main dirt road and follow goat tracks for some distance before we spotted a group of naked children wandering with their goats, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Portrait of a Hamer woman  Photograph by Russell d'Scarlett

Young Hamer girl with child on back Photograph by Russell d'Scarlett

Monkeybuns & Venus with Hamer children

Occy & me with Hamer child

A bit further on we eventually spotted the low lying village consisting of a dozen grass huts set in a rough semi-circle, similar in style to the neighbouring Karo villages with whom they intermarry to prevent inbreeding.

Hamer village Photo by Russell dScarlett

The huts are constructed with flexible poles set in the ground in a circular pattern. The poles are bent upward, joining at the top, then tied. Thatch is laid over this in the dry season and skins during the rainy season. When the campsite is being set up, beds for the women and young children are built first; then the tent frame is built around it. The tents Men and older boys usually sleep on cots in the centre of the semi-circle of huts guarding the cattle. 

The children were all eager to hold our hands, stroke our white skin and touch our hair.

The adults were just coming back from the fields or the market. A group of four older teenage girls posed for their photo, giggling shyly as we took their picture.

Hamer tribe girls
Four gorgeous Hamer girls

Most of the tribes practise female circumcision. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Hamer quite progressive in their attitude towards sex. Sex before marriage is allowed – but, if the girl becomes pregnant she must either abort or practise infanticide. The Hamer men cannot marry until they have killed either an elephant, a lion, a buffalo or a man and they say it is much easier to kill a man than a lion.
Hamer beehive close up

Hamer man making a Beehive
One of the young men was busy making a traditional beehive. These are made from a hollowed log, sealed with the exception of one hole for the bees to enter and exit, then stung up to hang from a tree branch. One tree will often have a dozen or more beehives hanging from it like some modernist mobile artwork.

The Hamer are very famous for their traditional bull jumping -  a rite of passage for boys coming of age. The event last three days and involves only castrated cattle.  Boys have to jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completely nude without falling. The task is made more difficult by the cattle's back being greased with fat. To have jumped the bulls is to be declared a Maza.  While the boy is jumping the cattle, the women of the tribe provoke the Maza (those that have already achieved the feat) to whip them on their bare backs.  This is extremely painful and causes severe scaring on the women.  If a man really likes a woman he will whip her harder than anyone else and the girl is proud of her scars because they are a symbol of devotion to the man.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see this ritual but we did see plenty of deep scars on the women's backs.