28 April 2014

traveling to the middle of nowhere.

Have you ever been to the middle of nowhere? What does that even mean? Where is nowhere?

I don't know, but I bet it looks and feels a lot like Magalata located in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania.

a 360 degree view from this point would reveal little more than this solitary outdoor toilet.

Good luck finding Magalata on a map. In fact, the nearest town Google can find is a two-hour drive away called Kishapu, which itself is not much more than a one-horse town.

Ashley and I spent Easter weekend (Thursday-Monday) with two other Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Liz and Kristle, Maryknoll Priest Father Dan Ohmann (who has lived in Tanzania for 50 years), and the Taturu people (one of the many tribes or ethnic groups in Tanzania).

We drove about six hours from the city of Mwanza (where we live) to reach Magalata, traveling across a mix of paved, dirt and rock roads, ultimately leaving all human-established roads behind. A local boy helped us navigate the final duration of our journey without roads in the dead of night.

To help explain our time in Magalata, let's take a photo tour.

the impressive and enormous baobab tree peppered the landscape on our drive prior to reaching Magalata.

and then suddenly there were no more trees - magalata is a largely barren, vast space.

though there were plenty of donkeys (pictured) and cows (not pictured).

goats also abounded, though hyenas came at night and attacked them - we could hear their howls in our tent.

the dirt landscape slowly gave way to greenery as we approached a small river where the taturu draw their water.
however, little water flowed evidenced by the dried-up river bed in the foreground. 

because magalata is so flat, it is quite windy. in fact, wind speed averages 25 mph every hour in the month of august.

this tent was our home for four nights. it was difficult to keep it locked down in sandy soil with the high winds.

father dan ohmann's simple one-room home in magalata. apparently this little taturu boy wants to be his guard.

this is the catholic "church" we used for easter holy week prayer and mass services.

taturu children wearing blankets. contrasting with these two, many taturu children do not wear any clothing at all.

a taturu man in traditional garb: blanket, sandals, staff, bracelets, necklaces (hidden).

a taturu woman (notice the earlobes).

two young taturu men - here you can see all of the necklaces they wear.

a group of taturu people of all ages.

a taturu man walks off into the distance. homes of the taturu people are in the background.

enjoying the sunny breeze for a moment.

we woke up to this type of sunrise every morning.

and said goodnight to this sunset every evening - if only our camera was good enough to capture the starry night sky.

This trip was certainly an Easter that I will not forget. Our time was spent sitting and chatting with locals, playing with children, eating infrequently, attending Mass, and praying.

Given how remote the Taturu people live, and that almost none of them are educated, very few spoke Kiswahili - the national language of Tanzania. Instead they spoke their unique tribal language. We could not help but comment on the irony given we just finished three months of Kiswahili language school, yet could not speak with locals because even they do not know their national language.

I often found myself staring at the face of a Taturu thinking how different our lives have been. Not all, but many of them - especially those without education - were seemingly unaware of the world around them. Children saw us and stared in utter astonishment. Their little minds could not begin to conjure up people that looked like us: white skin, blonde hair, jeans, sneakers, watches, etc. We were truly alien to them. So much so that one little boy cried out in fright after seeing us. Sorry, kiddo.

With that said, the Taturu people were incredibly hospitable. Even with the language barrier, we spent a lot of time together over those four days in Magalata. The ones that knew Kiswahili were a joy to converse with, and they certainly gave us an Easter to remember.


  1. This is interesting. So... have they ever seen a tv? Traveled to a city and seen western ads? Did they have any notion before seeing you that there are people who look like you?

  2. A small subset has ventured outside in order to get education in schools. I highly doubt there are any TVs in their village, but the Maryknoll Priest that lives and works with them has a laptop which he uses to show religious-based movies.


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