Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Sunday, January 08, 2012

An Etheopian Tribe

I was watching a documentary on NatGeo about a tribe in Africa. It was very antiquated. We are all familiar with these societies. I've seen the pictures. I've even watched other shows about other tribes. And this one showed nothing that I wasn't already aware that existed out there. But seeing it with my own eyes was just mind boggling. I spent much of the show with my jaw physically dropped.

Some of the things that just astounded me:

  • The whole dowry thing. These men had to pay for their wives with entire herds of cows. The poorer men had to ask their friends to donate cows.  They would go through intense negotiations with the other family. Mostly involving the woman's family saying "we need more cows". Hands down the best quote was this father who said, "My daughter is beautiful. She is a hard worker. I will give her to..." (and I'm expecting him to say something like "a good man") but he finished with "the man who gives me the most cows".  Whaaaaaaa?
  • They showed a man buying a wife. Then they go to the wedding and the girl is thirteen!!!!  I nearly crapped my pants. I was so relieved when they said she would stay with her family until she was older.
  • Certain members of the tribe were very beautiful to me and others were ugly. It was interesting to me that even across different cultures we can still recognize this concept of beauty. Also, the people that they called beautiful were the same ones that I found beautiful.
  • I was absolutely shocked when they showed a woman grinding grain. She was scraping at it with a rolling-pin like tool. The narrator said she does this for three hours a day. It made me very grateful for my leisurely life and ashamed of the way I am annoyed by my own chores.
  • When all the men were away from the village some of the women sat with the camera crew and allowed themselves to be interviewed. They said they have a hard, sad life. :( They said they have no rights and that their husbands hold it over their heads that they bought them for a lot of cows. They say that many of their husbands are not good. They said that they would be beaten if the men knew that they were even talking to the camera crew. I was very sad for them.
  • The tribe finds it fashionable to dye their hair orange by rinsing their heads in COW PEE.  (Note: while the cow is peeing). The orange color was actually a kind of a natural, pleasant color, but seriously?? Cow pee?
  • This was perhaps the most disturbing thing: if a cow wasn't giving milk the young boys would stimulate it to give milk by "orally copulating" it. That's an exact quote. And the camera showed it, to my horror and captivation. 

I saw a lot of breastfeeding, which was very nice to see and in that small way I felt connected to the women: a common bond across cultures so different. We all love and feed and comfort our children the same.
    Two questions I had while watching it: how is it that some societies did not develop? Though I think I know the answer to that. I was reading about evolution and talked about how advances came about because of people coming together, learning from each other and contributing to the development of society and it gave the example of "the pencil story" which talks about how no one person can make a pencil. Can you cut the wood? Mine the graphite? Insert it in the middle? Create the eraser? Attach it with the fancy medal thing? Create the paint? Type the little letters: "no. 2" on the side? No. A simple pencil wouldn't exist without the cooperation of an enormous amount of people. So these nomadic, isolated tribes never had enough contact with other people.

    The second question I had was why black people often have blood shot eyes. I googled that and couldn't find the answer.

    So in conclusion, I basically walked away from the show very very grateful to be a woman in a nation of prosperity and freedom.

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