09/21/2015

The Albino Society in Ukerewe, Tanzania

According to the Tanzanian Albino Society the estimation of people with albinism living in Tanzania today is between 180,000 and 270,000. Albinism is an inherited gene disorder, the albino gene is recessive and stops the production of melanin in the skin, hair and eyes. For the Tanzanian albinos it means that every day is a big challenge. They have to protect their skin from the strong sun which can easily cause painful skin burning and could result in premature death due to skin cancer. Albinism is often associated with vision defects like involuntary eye movement or the absence of an iris in the eye.

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Albinism is a disability and as there is no cure it influences massively the daily life of the affected people. It starts in primary school where children with albinism are often rejected by their fellow students. For adults getting a job is very difficult. Traditional field work in the merciless African sun is almost impossible for people with albinism. Many of them end up in their own little shop, they sell fish, fruits or vegetable on the local market, or they work as merchants or salesmen. In Tanzania there is no social security, and although albinos are handicapped they don't get any money from the government.

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04/16/2015

Morani - The Warriorhood Tradition of the Kenyan Tribes

The Samburu people from Northern Kenya are closely related to the people of the Maasai tribe in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Like most tribes of East Africa the Samburu and the Maasai practice a rigid classification system of their community into age sets and age grades. An age set describes a generation and each individual of the age set remains permanently attached to this set. The age grade (sometimes also called 'age class') describes a stage within the age set. It is the responsibility of the elders of a tribe to initiate a new age set with a specific new name. The initiation of a new age set is always accompanied by a big ceremony, which is certainly one of the most important events of a Maasai or Samburu man's life. The elders of a tribe also determine at which age the young boys enter their first important age grade, the age grade of the warriorhood. The Maa language of the Samburu and Maasai for "warrior" is "moran".

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09/26/2014

The remote villages of the Mursi tribe, Ethiopia

The Mursi are seminomadic pastoralist located on the eastern side of the Omo River near the Mago National Park in South Ethiopia. Sadly, the Mursi have a bad reputation among travelers and tourists. On the one hand for many visitors the Mursi tribe is one of the main attractions in Southern Ethiopia, especially the women with the huge lip plates. But often tourists are disappointed when they meet the Mursi people on a typical day trip because of their sometimes aggressive behavior. I experienced it myself being part of a group on a day trip to the Mursi in 2008. At that time I was wondering, if it would be possible to stay a couple of weeks in a remote Mursi village to witness the authentic and real life of the Mursi tribe. Over the last 2 years I spent 6 weeks in Suri villages and more than 3 weeks in remote Mursi villages, and I confidently can say: The Mursi as well as their related Suri neighbors are not only fascinating, they are also absolutely likeable, friendly and open-hearted.

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There is a lot to learn about the Mursi, starting with the language, which is fortunately almost identical to the language of the Suri tribe on the western side of the Omo River. They are eager to teach the Mursi language to their visitors, but they are also happy to learn a few words English. On the website Mursi Online even a dictionary exists in Mursi-Amharic-English which is quite helpful for the communication. The dictionary was published by David Turton, Moges Yigezu and Olisarali Olibui in cooperation with the Culture and Art Society of Ethiopia in 2008.

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07/10/2014

The Akha hill tribe people in Laos

The Akha people of Laos are an indigenous hill tribe who live mainly in the mountains of the province Phongsaly. The ethnical group of the Akha people originally settled in the Kuaichao and Yunan province of China, from there they moved also to Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The population of the Akha in southwest China, eastern Myanmar, western Laos, northwestern Vietnam and northern Thailand is estimated about roughly 400,000 people. In all these countries the Akha people are an ethnic minority.

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The best way to visit the Akha hill tribe people of Laos is doing a several days trek to the villages in the mountains. One possibility is to start the trek in Phongsaly. A guide is mandatory for the trek, because the Akha people don't speak English, and the accommodation or the food could be a huge problem without guide. Guided tours are offered in Phongsaly from the tourist office or a small local tour operator. There are not many tourists in Phongsaly, but it isn't a problem to find a guide, or if needed, other foreigners to join the guided trek.

The other possibility is to go by bus to Boun Tai and start a 3- or 4-days trek from there to Akha Loma, Akha Mouchi (Mochi) and Akha Eupa (Eurpa) people. Boun Tai is a small town on the way from Oudomxay to Phongsaly. The trek from Boun Tai is lesser known than the treks around Phongsaly and it starts by a songthaew to reach the first Akha Mouchi village. From there a hiking trail, sometimes pretty steep, leads from village to village and ends at the main road, where it is possible to catch a bus either back to Phongsaly or to Oudomxay.

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