Morning Rain–unlike any rain I’ve seen. Huge drops close together, almost more water than air. Then sunshine. The day veered from authenticity to cheese and then back. The main excursion was to the woodcarvers market, a skill Charlie has been developing this past year, though what we saw was more than intimidating. The market is a row of stalls roofed with corrugated steel along a highway. Each sells paintings and carvings (mostly African animals in ebony). We got a tour though, so went to the back where the carvers were working–an entire community with their own kitchen and even a soccer pitch. There they worked the wood– primarily ebony–with bow-lathes and hand made chisels. Most were formed from a piece of sharpened rebar. The lathe turners sat on the ground next to the frame and bow, holding the gouge in place with their feet. There were trunks of ebony six or more feet long, a foot in diameter completely carved through with figures in the round, sanded and finished with oil–took years of labor. They rough-shaped with hand adzes, carved with chisels, and wet-sanded everything to a high gloss. No power tools, really nothing more complicated than a hand drill. I watched as someone was beginning a log project. He didn’t sketch figures onto the surface but instead used the whorls of the grain and the knots to determine the pattern. Fascinating. Before going to the market, we had coffee at a nice hotel which was having a traditional feast with music and dance that night. We put on our tourist hats, and headed over first for beer by the pool watching a European friendly soccer match (UK/NL), then up for traditional Tanzanian food, some not so traditional music, and dancers. Of course the hostess made me dance (or shuffle which is more descriptive). There were moments where the cheese factor was a little high, but we all did have a great time and the food was good and the dancers amazing. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner tourist.
T. Hugh Crawford