Our expeditions and field work often require long drives, drives that often result in interesting conversations. During this particular drive we were headed to Taragire National Park, the first destination of our first expedition. The car was full of excitement and energy. Our Mwalimu, Professor, Kioko was in the front passengers seat of the land rover miraculously grading papers in silence as we flew over bumpy winding roads that threatened to make me sick.
In the village of Karatu the roadsides were crowded with herd after herd of cattle, sheep and goats. “They are heading to Mtu wa Mbu,” Kioko softly answered our unspoken inquires, “People will come as far as Karatu, nearly 18 kilometers, for the weekly market.” A few moments later we passed a villager herding a group of dogs down the road. Kioko spoke up again.
“They are going to sell their dogs in Mtu wa Mbu.”
“What? Really?” We questioned.
After a short awkward moment Kioko flashed his silent smile in laughter, “I’m kidding… would that work in America?”
“What, selling dogs? Well, would it work here?” I asked.
“Maybe, they do it with donkeys. Maybe that will be my retirement plan,” he responded, chuckling softly, “Selling dogs at market.”
I thought about it for a moment. “Well, actually. We do have breeders.”
“Breeders?” He questioned.
“Well in America we have a lot of different kinds of dogs, unlike in Africa where they are all similar, and sometimes people pay a lot of money to make sure that their dogs are of ‘pure breeding’ and only one kind.”
“Don’t you have dogs the size of… like… rodents?”
Another student laughed, “Yeah, and dogs as big as donkeys.”
“Why?” He inquired.
“Um… I guess they are used for different purposes? Sometimes they even show them.”
“Show them?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah, they clean them all up and teach them tricks and then -” I stopped midsentence at the look on his face.
“Why?” He burst out in soft laughter, eyes wide.
“I don’t know,” I responded, stumped.
Another student chimed in, “it’s like a hobby for rich people… like golf.”