It Takes a Village to Make a Cup of Coffee

Three months have passed since our African Chagga Coffee experience and it’s still an event that’s worthy of a few words. As part of our tour of Moshi our tour guide, Sophie Angostino, arranged for a visit to the Chagga Culture and Coffee. The Chagga people are an ethnic group, and the village we visited was just outside of Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It’s hard to explain this experience in words. You’ll just have to imagine standing in a circle around a mortar of coffee being pounded with a wooden pestle while chanting and clapping. Music and rhythm are part of the African experience.

The coffee is pounded twice, first to break off the hulls. What results are the tan colored raw beans.

The raw beans go into an iron pot where they are roasted on a wood fire. Then they go back in the mortar to be pulverized by pounding.

The fine grounds are then brewed into coffee, using a variation on what I would call “cowboy coffee,” but somehow their method results in a rich tasting coffee free of sediment. We sipped the resulting  coffee with a great sense of community and camaraderie.

Reflecting on Culture

Earlier this week I was driving down a street in my home town, Marin Avenue in Albany, California. It’s only been a few days since our return from Tanzania. There is a orderly stream of cars moving along. The street is lined with neat single-family homes. There are no people on the sidewalks, no bikes on the bike path, just an orderly stream of traffic, each car with a single occupant. Each of us in isolation. I’m struck by the the contrast to our experiences in Tanzania. Where are the people, the humanity,  the motorbikes, the thousands of small shops, the roadside vendors and the people going about business? My own neighborhood seems stark and sterile compared with vibrant throngs of people on the streets in Arusha. A stark contrast in cultures. I feel like a fish, having just returned to my fishbowl, and having a whole new perspective about water. I see my own culture as one where people are isolated, insular, each in our own carefully constructed realities, where fear, suspicion and anxiety are prevalent. I wouldn’t even notice this if it weren’t for the opportunity to step into another culture. Even a brief visit gives insights about my own insecurities and biases. As we visited with the people in Africa, I began to appreciate a people that seem less anxious, less fearful, and free to express themselves. One morning as we toured the market place in Moshi, I wanted to photograph some of the people. I had been informed to be cautious about photographing people; many people do not want to be photographed. As I worked with our guide, Sophie, I found, that while some people clearly did not want to be photographed, others were more than willing, and became quite expressive. As we passed one little butcher shop the butcher invited Joann into his shop to pose for a photo, nearly grabbing her off the sidewalk. His enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious and something that seemed to create a bond of friendship, transcending our cultures. I doubt that such and interaction would happen on the streets of Berkeley.  I doubt that my idea of “normal” will ever be the same having spent time in Africa. Or if life does start to look normal, that will be my cue to plan anther trip.

 

A Walk to Materuni Waterfalls

We spent our last two days in Tanzania in Moshi, a town on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Our primary motivation was to visit Sophie Augustino. Sophie recently graduated from the College of African Wildlife Management and has started a tour company, Matriarch Hill Safari. We became acquainted with Sophie a couple of years ago when my sister Laurie connected with her while doing some non-profit work in Tanzania.

Sophie did an excellent job of showing us around Moshi. Our tour included a walk to the Materuni Waterfalls, a tour of a family run coffee farm, and a walking tour of downtown Moshi. The walk to the waterfalls took us through the lush, green picturesque farmland of the Materuni Village. The waterfall is a spectacular fall with water cascading 300 feet into a pool below.  A worthwhile visit if you have a reason to be in Moshi.