Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tanzania Educational Tour, June 17-July 1, 2009

St. Olaf English Professor Joseph Mbele and Social Studies Teacher Larry Fowler will be leading an educational tour to Tanzania this summer. The purpose is to familiarize participants with African culture and introduce them to Tanzanian culture and families.

Spend two weeks in one of the most stable countries in Africa. Visit some of its fabled national parks: Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara.

Get a glimpse of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Meet the laid-back Tanzanians, famous for their friendliness. Visit schools and markets, shops and restaurants, churches and mosques in a country where people of different races and religions live together in harmony.

You will visit Oldupai Gorge, the home of the earliest ancestors of the human race, and Bagamoyo, an ancient sleepy city on the Indian Ocean coast, formerly a center of the slave trade. Walk its gorgeous sandy beaches and explore its historical and cultural sites. Then head to Tanga, further up the coast, a great center of the old Swahili civilization. The trip will emphasize interactions with the local people, including home visits.

Trip guides are Joseph Mbele and Larry Fowler, experienced educators, who enjoy leading Americans on study tours abroad. As a Tanzanian, Joseph will even teach you some Swahili words and phrases, which you can practise on the locals. They love it!

The cost of the tour should be around $4,000. We are currently working with airlines to reduce the cost. We will have fundraisers to help with individual costs.

For more information, including the itinerary, contact Joseph Mbele, or Larry Fowler,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cultural Tourism in Longido, Tanzania

Here is Namanga, a town straddling the border between Kenya and Tanzania. As you pass the gate and enter Tanzania, you see a mountain in the distance. That is Longido mountain. At the foot of it, on the other side, lies the little town of Longido. I have crossed this border many times, over the years, on my way to and from Kenya. I have visited it with groups of American students, such as the one seen jogging above.

Mount Longido is one of the many volcanic features in Tanzania. Its name comes from the Maasai word "oloonkito," which means the place of the stone for sharpening knives. Indeed, Longido mountain abounds with rocks, including the kind the Maasai use for sharpening knives. Longido has also some memorable history. For example, on November 4, 1914, during World War I, a British force coming in from Namanga attacked the Germans at Longido. The Germans defeated the British.

Small as it is, Longido is now the seat of the district of Longido, with schools and other facilities. It is also the center of a vibrant cultural tourism program, known around the world.

I have taken students to Longido as part of a course on Hemingway in East Africa. I have found the Longido Cultural Tourism program a wonderful way to introduce my students to Maasai culture. Under Ally Ahmadou, its director, this program is run by the local Maasai, for the benefit of their community. As you go around the town and its vicinity, you get the distinct feeling that the local people support the program and they talk about its significant benefits in their community, including schools and water projects.

Above is the guest house owned by the Longido Cultural Tourism program.

Above, Professor Bill Davis from Colorado College, who co-taught the Hemingway course with me, learns to throw a spear, from a Maasai guide, to the amusement of all present. In his Under Kilimanjaro, Hemingway writes about the challenge of throwing a Maasai spear. I have also seen photos of Hemingway learning from a Maasai man how to throw a spear. I have tried it; it is not as easy as it seems.

This is the Maasai women's market on the edge of Longido town. Here the women sell different products they make, from bracelets to utensils.

Students from Colorado College admire a lamb during a visit to a Maasai boma, May 2008.

Here are Maasai women and children in their home. The Maasai of Longido welcome visitors into their homes, eager to teach them about their lives and culture. I have enjoyed all my visits to this community.

A Maasai guide explains to my Colorado College group the uses of a particular tree, on our way to the Longido mountain, May 2008.

The Longido Maasai school children are used to visitors. Their parents want them to go to school and are happy that their cultural tourism program is making this possible.

Mr. Ahmadou gives a briefing to our Colorado College group, before our trek up the Longido mountain, May 2007.

Our guides explaining the uses of various medicinal plants, on our way to the Longido mountain, May 2008.

Here I am with our guides, May 2008. I am lucky to have these friends and to be learning much about their culture. Interacting with the Maasai not only frees me from misconceptions about the Maasai, which are rampant among non-Maasai people, whether in Tanzania or elsewhere, but also gives me a sense of what Hemingway is describing in his works, especially Green Hills of Africa and Under Kilimanjaro.

Above is the dining hall, close to the guest house.

It is very nice to be here in the center of Longido, beside the highway linking Tanzania and Kenya. It is wonderful, knowing that on December 20, 1933, Hemingway and his party passed here, on their way to Arusha and beyond. I have learned something else this year, while reading a book I bought last year, Barua za Shaaban Robert 1931-1958, published by the Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam. This is a collection of letters Shaaban Robert, Tanzania's most famous writer, wrote to Yusuf Ulenge, his younger brother, over a period of a quarter century. I knew for many years that Shaaban Robert had lived and worked in different parts of Tanzania. However, now I have noted with much excitement that Shaaban Robert stayed here in Longido, in September 1931, working in the Customs Office. He came again the first week of June, 1936, to work in the same office. This time, he intended to stay 56 days. As it turned out, however, he stayed over a year, up to about mid-July 1937. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this vital connection between Longido and Shaaban Robert, the founding father of modern Swahili literature.