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.

Maasai Boma Visit

As part of our African safari we had arranged to visit a Maasai boma. The Maasai are an ethnic group that inhabit Kenya and northern Tanzania. There are some 120 ethnic groups in Tanzania, The word boma refers the the enclosures in which the Maasai live.

When we arrived at the boma, our driver, David, introduced us to the village chief. The first order of business was to negotiate a fee. We agreed on a fee of $50US, which we paid in small US bills. It seems that the tourist economy in Tanzania runs on American dollars whether it’s tipping a porter or paying a hotel bill. Small bills are preferred since there is really no way for the locals to break larger bills.

Having completed our transaction, the villagers invited us to join them in their traditional greeting. Jumping, chanting and prancing. Once we had been suitably greeted we were entertained with a lion dance. What struck me about the people was their genuine openness, and the passion they put into their activities. Even though we were just tourists the villagers were quite friendly and clearly have a passion for their culture.

Following the dancing we were given a tour of the compound including an a visit inside one of the mud huts, and a tour of the school where the younger children learn English. The older children have the job of tending the sheep, goats and cattle. At night the livestock is brought into corrals in the boma. A fence of very thorny acacia branches surrounds the boma which serves as a defense against predators.

Once our tour was complete we were offered the opportunity to buy trinkets that the villagers sell with the hopes of generating some additional income. We were warned ahead of time that the villagers might prevail on us to buy trinkets, so we were happy when they politely respected decision not to buy.

 

A Different View of the World

Red shoe on red carpet

I caught some attention this morning when I pulled my iPhone out to photograph my foot. A red shoe on red carpet. My wife explained to some friends that “he has a different  view of the world.”  In any event, I couldn’t resist the temptation. It just seemed like a striking scene and the natural thing to do. And we had just stepped out of a presentation about “social location” and how that affects our understanding of how we read scripture. It seemed like the morning was about celebrating diversity, which seems like a refreshing idea given how divisive and individualistic we seem to have become. So here’s to seeing things differently.