When I studied cultural anthropology at Fordham University in 2002, I came across the hunter-gatherer Hadzabe tribe while researching an unrelated Botswana tribe. Burning with intrigue, I recognized that if I did not jump on the chance to find the nomadic tribe, I may lose the opportunity forever — Hadzabes total fewer than 900 persons and their extinction is expected in less than 50 years.
My only barrier was to visiting the Hadzabes in Tanzania was pregnancy, but after receiving approving obstetrics advice, I claimed the chance to indulge myself in an education of a lifetime.
I found someone who knew the Hadzabes’ approximate location near Lake Eyasi, and he agreed to translate for me. When we finally reached the Hadzabes, my gifts of goats and tobacco earned me a place in their community. Together we danced around the fire, slept under the Milky Way, and we discussed the meaning of their life. I hunted with the men and dug wild roots with the women.
When Tanzanian government officials learned of my presence, they approached the tribe with AK-47’s and ordered me to leave. They feared I was a reporter. In a blistering show of force, the Hadzabe chief and his tribesmen stood defiantly for my protection and they prevailed in their argument for my stay.
Though they won that battle, their ultimate fight for survival will end in extinction from malnutrition on Tanzania’s most barren land because government protects fertile areas for tourist attractions. The opportunity to live, even temporarily, with a nomadic tribe contributed to my understanding of how marginalization plays a dramatic role in the demise of not just individuals, but entire societies.
I am currently seizing yet another challenging educational opportunity. While supporting my son’s educational journey and team sports as a single mother, I’ve dedicated the Fall 2017 through Spring 2018 year to completing my anthropology degree at the University of California, Irvine. Despite all obstacles, I manage to maintain a 4.0 GPA.