Answering Some Questions
Maggie asked if the women accept their position in society, the “order of things,” or whether they question it. The way I understand it, Tuareg society is matrilineal but not matriarchal. I don’t have a real understanding of what this means. My sense is that the women don’t question things much. There’s a separateness between men and women, and I’m not sure what role Islam plays in that.
What bothered me much more was that the Tuaregs have slaves, Bella tribespeople from other parts of the country that have been in their families for decades or more. The Tuareg women don’t cook or make fires or do much work. The slaves do it. So, the women will be sitting around while slaves do all the work–chopping wood, cooking, milking cows, etc.
The thing is, if you ask them if they have slaves, they’ll say no. If you ask them if so-and-so belongs to their family, they’ll say yes. If you ask if they’re paid, they’ll say no. If you ask if they can leave, they’ll say no. There isn’t any question that these are slaves. If you think there’s no slavery left in the world, think again.
I think as a foreigner, I gained status as an honorary man. I was with all men. In my last post, that’s my driver Oumar on the far left, my host Aboubacrine next to him and in the picture with the girl, and my translator Mohamed with the flashlight.
And the goat...I’d gladly give the leftovers to you, Jen! A lot of the reason eating goat (which I can’t really tell you how it smelled or it tasted, since I blocked it out) is nearly impossible because I eat vegetarian mostly. But I have such a strong sense of cultural acceptance and correctness that I try to eat whatever is put in front of me, knowing that whomever is serving it has probably made a real financial sacrifice to do so. People (except in India) do not understand not eating meat. It causes a lot of confusion. Tuareg food is cooked with some wonderful spices, crushed right before using. They’re the same as those used in Middle Eastern food. The bread is called roti, the same name as Indian bread, but it’s different.
All of you reading this are really extraordinary. Often when I’m writing, I wonder why people read this. I think no one is going to relate to or be interested in this odd life I have on the road. I started blogging between a trip to Madagascar and this trip to Africa, so the travel stories started after I was already writing. I don’t have a desire to go back and talk about dozens of trips before (although something may pop out now and again), but I am motivated to come back and tell stories about trips I’m taking now.