Yayeda Chini Hadza Tribe: Hunter Gatherer Money Greed
It could have been one of the greatest days of my life in a quest to find the Hadza Tribe. Unfortunately it was spoiled long before I arrived by money and greed….
I started taking photos of people and they were really excited. They all wanted to be in pictures and then they wanted to see themselves in the photos. Faces were smiling everywhere. A girl of about 12 years approached me from the side and she was slowly moving her hand towards my arm as I could see that she wanted to touch my skin. When she was just millimeters from my arm, and jumped and yelled, “Boo!” She screamed and hid giggling behind her father. The group of men in tow were roaring with laughter. I got a photo with her touching my arm and then she would not keep her hands out of my hair. Meanwhile, the man behind the counter of his store filled a small black bag full of cigarette tobacco called ‘Sonyo’ in Swahili. Then he put some powdered sniffing tobacco called ‘Ugoro’ in another bag. I tried a little of the Urogo and it was so strong that it made really dizzy, like I was very drunk. I have never tried sniffing snuff that was so potent before. The villagers liked that I tried it and were smiling. The man behind the counter put a stack of sheets of paper with the tobacco that I was informed was for rolling. It cost me $3 for everything. We then walked down the street to another shack-shop where I bought two boxes of London Dry Gin that came with twenty 50 ml packets in each of them for $5.50 total. We had all our supplies and walked to the motorcycles where our drivers bought water-bottles of gasoline that they dumped into their tanks. We loaded up and headed out of the village to find the Hadza. Even if nothing else happened, the day would have been great just at visiting Bashay.
Our drivers took us down really rough roads where we passed many people walking on the sides, met people with oxen-drawn carts, and we weaved through others moving herds of goats and cattle. It seems like you could never feel lonely in Africa because even when you are in the middle of nowhere, because there are still people in the bushes on the side of the road. We passed a tree that had nothing around it anywhere, yet there were three children in the tree.
I was afraid that my motorcycle-taxi was not going to make the drive to find the Hadza. We had to travel slow because the back sprocket was so wore out that the chain kept on skipping notches. We also had no brakes, so my driver, Mathayo, had to gear down on hills. Then we had to stop on the side of the road so that Josphat, the driver hauling Paulo, could do some maintenance and tighten up the chain on his bike.
It took about an hour of travel down through the Rifty Valley, and then we passed bushmen walking down the road with spears in their hands. Then we came across a bushman crossing the road who had a bow and arrows in his hands as he and another hunter were after a gazelle. I got off the motorcycle to meet him. His facial expression was entirely unresponsive as I shook his hand. His hunter companion would not come out of the bush, but this man I had met allowed me to hold his bow and arrows. There were metal tips on the end of the arrows and Paulo explained to me to make sure I did not scratch myself with them as there was poison on them made from some candelabra (a type if cactus) mixed with snake venom. I gave the man a handful of tobacco for allowing me to take photos of him. Paulo said that I was very lucky to have come across him.
We arrived at Mwongo Wamono Village a few minutes later. A group of people were sitting around and we ended up going into an office to sit down. There was a calculator on the desk where a older woman who seemed to be in charge sat in a chair. I knew that calculator was for sure there to be used for calculating money and I immediately knew there was going to be a fee for me to enter the land of the Hadza. Paulo confirmed this when he embarrassingly told me that they were requesting $50 for me to enter and I would have to pay anyone their requested/negotiated price for photos. Paulo knew it was a skin-tax though the man in the office said it was ‘Hadza law.’ Paulo told them about the gifts I had. They said gifts are just gifts and they wanted money. He bargained with them, told them I was a university student and I would be able to get other students from my school there so they would benefit in the future. It took about 45 minutes, but eventually the fee became $30. I paid it, as we had come to far to turn back with nothing. An official hand-wrote out a permit for me to be on the land with permission. We headed into the village with about 15 local Hadza people dressed as normal as anyone else from Tanzania.
There were four small huts, and a shack on the side. The locals moved a small door from the front of one of the huts and went to sit inside to pose. One of them inside said that the photo would cost me 5,000 shillings ($2.50). It was all a joke and completely set up. There was nothing official about any of it except for the huts. I realized at that moment that the Hadza had been visited by many tourists. Everything was money money money. I had just paid $30 to be there and now they wanted money for me just to take photos. One of the people asking for money for photos was an elder who had been part of the negotiations in the office for me to enter the land in the first place. So, the Hadza were charging me money to be able to come onto the land where they could charge me money. I could feel that was what this was mounting to long before the moment came. I was pissed off and knew this was nothing but a money grab. I took the bag London Dry Gin and tobacco from my driver who had been carrying it as I did not want it to be in anyone else’s hands. It was clear to all that I was pissed off. I said I was not paying any more money for this. The locals retreated, realizing there was backlash, and translated though Paulo, “Okay, we do not want money. We want the gifts you have brought.” But it was too late for that. The Hadza of Mwongo Wamono Village were vultures looking for any way they could to pick away at a foreigner. Their greed and this façade was too much for me. There was another tribe on the land called the ‘Barbaig’ that I would have liked to have seen, but the Hadza wanted the cigarette tobacco and alcohol to cross their land get to them. It was enough for me. I said, “Let’s leave!,” to Paulo and my drivers. I was not giving these cockroaches anything. Their greed was far too disgusting for me.
I walked off of their land, having seen nothing for what I had paid for. A group of greedy plain-clothed un-authentic money-hungry Hadza thieves followed. They wanted the tobacco and alcohol, but I was not giving them anything. I wanted them to watch me leave with it. It likely made no difference, but if it made just one of them think for just a moment of how shitty money has made them… They were upset that I was leaving with the gifts. We got on our bikes and rode off.
However, the best part of the day began as soon as we left because I would make my driver stop next to every single person on the side of the road and I would give them two packets of London Gin and a handful of tobacco.
In town, I tipped Mathayo an extra $5, paid Paulo’s driver, gave Paulo $25 for his time all day, and paid $2 for another motorcycle taxi to take us to the bus that cost me another $2 for us to get home. I spent about $100 today, which was an African fortune (and a month of salary) to not get what I was after…
It was a long day and I was pretty tired when I got back to my guesthouse. I rested and went to meet Paulo at the restaurant where he spends his days with his friends who are becoming my friends as well. I still had half of the alcohol and tobacco left from the day, so I gave the London Dry Gin to the restaurant owner named Andre, and I gave the tobacco to a friend named Duro who smokes cigarettes. I made Duro roll me a cigarette as a fee so that I could try the tobacco. A group of five men sat around me and laughed and laughed as I tried to smoke the harsh local tobacco. I was coughing and my eyes were watering so much that tears were running down my face. Oh, they all liked that. We had some of the Ugoro sniffing snuff together which was also a lot of fun. I stood like Superman flying into the sky to show them how high I was, much to their amusement. Tomorrow I will take my pipe tobacco and Czech sniffing snuff to them to share.
Today could have been an experience of a lifetime. Instead it was spoiled by excessive greed…. So, I did my best to salvage as good of a day as I could..