Ever since the first hominins gathered around as a group, societies throughout time began to emerge, advance, conquer, and most importantly, survive. From the first apes to the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union to the United States today, societies took the basic ideas of theories of Evolution and expanded those theories like a tree. While traveling the world to locate the genetic and cultural connections of his ancestry through the National Geographic Genographic Project, Donovan Webster meets several different “societies” that solidify the ancestral relations he has with them: The Hadzabe Bushmen of Tanzania, The Lebanese Arabs, The Tribal Uzbeks of Central Asia, and The Spanish Basques. Each one of these different societies have survived for a long time, some longer than others, from their original establishment to now. Although all groups are classified societies that have survived, the way they survived differs vastly.
One group may have relied on a larger civilization for protection while others relied on tourism for economic stability. One thing is certain, their existence has proved their longevity among other cultures and civilizations in the present day. By finding a way to cope with societal problems as well as a stable source to survive, these groups become societies that express a sense of recognition similar to how sovereignty is shown by countries. During his time in Tanzania, Donovan Webster spent an allotment of time with the Hadzabe Bushmen Tribe, more importantly with his “distant family member” Julius Indaaya Hun/!un/!ume, or just Julius for simplicity’s sake. Noted on page 29 in the “Africa” chapter, the Hadzabe are a near-extinct tribe, whom speak via oral movements like clicks and pops, recognized by anthropologists as one of the oldest surviving African tribes based in Sub-Saharan Africa, which happens to be the start of where the first men roamed the planet. In order to have a conversation with Julius, Webster acquired a Masai tribal native by the name of Robert, as stated on pages 28 through 29 in the “Africa” chapter.
On page 28 of the “Africa” chapter, Webster notes Julius’s characteristics and apparel that he is, “small-boned and dark, wearing animal skins and carrying a bow and some arrows,” features that are not normally found in the Western World. Throughout pages 33 and 38 of the “Africa” chapter, it is noted that Julius and Donovan are out hunting. The Hadzabe are recognized as a foraging society, a type of society rarely found in the western world. A foraging society usually rely on wild animals and untamed plants and berries for a food source. While they rely on mother nature to feed them, in a world where technology has proved a vital source for many countries, the ability to win a war are lower than the Ethiopians pushing the Italians out of the country by trickery. To survive in our world, they went to the Tanzanian government for help, thus the creation of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a set of land dedicated for the Hadzabe stated at the top of page 28 and on page 29 in the “Africa” chapter. Because they sought help for their survival, they are not true foragers, as foragers are individuals or a group of individuals.
This however allows for their survival as close to being foragers as possible. While they get help for reinforcing their borders from farmers who ignore the borders, when the government sends shelter and other contemporized supplies, the Hadzabe “politely accept them” and never use it, because of being as independent as possible, as stated on pages 61 through 63 in the “Africa” chapter. As a recap, the Hadzabe are an extremely ancient African tribe that mainly forages for food while both relying on the Tanzanian government for protection and establishment of their lands from farmers illegally grazing on their lands and declining the gifts that the government has provided. As simplistic as they are, the self-exclusion of modern technology and the reliance of a stronger government, the Hadzabe would have quickly perished among the rising civilizations throughout the ages. After his visit of the Hadzabe in Tanzania, Donovan moved on to a prosperous farming plateau, named Bekaa Valley, in the country of Lebanon. Lebanon, as stated in pages 115 to 118 in the “Lebanon” chapter, have been an independent country ever since World War II, yet through conflicts on the surrounding borders, their peace eventually caved into violence and paved the way for a militant political group known as the Hezbollah.
With the help of Maya, his translator, Donovan was able to communicate with his “distant relatives” such as the two Arab men, the shopkeeper, and Halim Taha in Baalbek. Many people would think a country like Lebanon would be dry and arid like Afghanistan, yet a small country sitting by the Mediterranean Sea has its benefits when it comes to making a living. Baalbek is a beautiful countryside infused with distinct cultures and architecture throughout the city’s lifespan. Stated throughout pages 124 to 130, Baalbek has been under the influences of Alexander the Great, The Assyrians, The Romans, The French, and many more as the list goes on. Being absorbed by these groups have allowed their influence to improve upon any current standard they have, such as agriculture. Because Lebanon is situated along the Mediterranean Sea, it also gives the country an accessible option to trade with other powers. By use of trading materials such as fabrics and types of ceramics along with the reliance of agriculture, Baalbek and the rest of Lebanon were easily able to make some profit out of their resources.
As stated by Donovan Webster on page 126 of the “Lebanon” chapter, “And as we roll into town, activity is everywhere. People are working in the fields…their cargo beds freighted with potatoes and sugar beets, onions and other row-crop produce.” To recap about the people of this region, they are a peaceful group of people thrust into violence by the surrounding nations yet are gifted with the Mediterranean Sea and fertile land which allowed the ability to trade goods and grow crops that could be sold for profit. Had the country of Lebanon never been captured by superpowers like Hellenistic Greece or The Roman Empire, they would most likely have developed technology at a far slower pace. Following his three day visit in Baalbek, Lebanon, Donovan Webster gained more influence about his genealogy when he visited the Tribal Uzbeks, also known as the Tajiks, in Central Asia. Based in Samarkand, the Tajiks are, “located at the crossroads of ancient India, China, Persia, and Russia,” and are known to be a central hub for, “human affairs,” as stated on page 184 of the “Uzbekistan” chapter.
While because they are landlocked by surrounding mountain ranges and deserts, it would seem near impossible for the Tajiks to live off of traditional agricultural practices found in countries like Lebanon for example. Instead, because they are “the Silk Road’s most famous traffic circle,” as stated on page 183 of the “Uzbekistan” chapter, they heavily relied on trade as a living throughout the landscape. As stated by Donovan on page 226 of the Uzbekistan chapter, “what I came to find most fun about Samarkand and the Tajiks were the city’s markets. Given Samarkand and the Tajiks’ place in the world as traders along the Silk Road, this only makes sense.” While visiting the market, Mr. Webster found that, “interested shoppers can purchase anything from a chamber pot to live ducks to lightbulbs and car radiators…with plenty of yoghurt and fresh tomatoes and a Coke,” as stated on page 227 of the “Uzbekistan” chapter. However, after being under soviet control until the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, the city slowly began to lose economic prosperity in trade. Yet, thanks to the collision of cultures throughout the lifespan of Samarkand, tourism began to attract more people up until the more recent years. While visiting Samarkand, Donovan met a young man by the name of Dilshod.
As stated by Mr. Webster on pages 206 to 207 of the “Uzbekistan” chapter, Dilshod was a “skinny, black-haired, and slightly Asian-looking man in his 20s,” and that he’s, “wearing a white T-shirt, tight black jeans…his sunglasses are perched atop his head.” Dilshod is a native tourist of Samarkand, and judging by his appearance, it seems that tourism has started to become a reliable source of economic stability for the Tajiks, however it is not enough to help as in recent years tourism has slowly diminished. Without a reliability on tourism, people like Dilshod would not be able to make a living as well as attract more people to the city. To summarize the Tajiks, they are a mountainous group of people who base themselves off trade rather than traditional agriculture yet struggle to attract more people to the city because of a decline in tourism. Had the practice of trading and tourism never attached to Samarkand, there would probably have been an economic collapse among the residents of the city. Cycling back to Europe, Mr. Donovan Webster reaches the nation of Spain and visits the country side of Basque.
The landscape is a beautiful mix of emerald and rock-shaded colors of the mountainous landscape while the sky gives off volume and shadows provided by the fluffy clouds as told on page 243 in the “Spain” chapter. Spain has a unique history, being under control from the Moors and would later become a pure Catholic country, while still being majorly christened today. Webster states on page 246 of the “Spain” chapter that the Basques are, “Deeply agrarian people with a long social history, their traditions are nothing if not idiosyncratic, and they include whole fistfuls of unique social…with neither irony nor self-consciousness.” Although the people here are warm-hearted and welcoming, there is the presence of the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or the ETA. Noted by Mr. Webster on page 247 of the “Spain” chapter, the ETA are, “a sometimes-violent extremist organization that sponsors common kidnappings and public bombings throughout the region…with bombings that destroy power plants or government facilities, usually timed to take as few casualties as possible.” The group was formed as a rebel force against General Francisco Franco back in the post-World War II years of Spain, but now-a-days, they prove to be a public disturbance among the people.
While the threat of the ETA lowly looms over the people, it doesn’t stop the flow of the city of Bilbao. Stated by Mr. Webster on page 263 of the “Spain” chapter, “two decades ago, the place had been ground down into a shuttered, rusting, postindustrial wasteland…and services like communications, higher education, and advertising.” With the speed of the advancements on technology in Bilbao, according to Donovan on page 263 in the “Spain” chapter, Bilbao is the coolest and most energetic city on Earth. Everywhere you look, visual art has been consciously included in the vista…the city is forever catching your shocked gaze and watching you marvel. By quickly advancing and revolutionizing the city, they can be compared to up-and-going cities like New York, London, and Hong Kong. As a recap of Mr. Webster’s visit, with the current advancements of technology and proud heritage of their history and culture, the Basques feel energized as people proud to be “culturally divine” yet the threat of the ETA will always cause a disturbance among the cultured people.
A region of the world like Basque country seems to be a rarity to find in many other places of the world, and that should be a unique feature it will forever hold. With a memorable journey behind him, Donovan Webster feels more than thankful that he got to meet his distant family members. Although each group had struggles in economic, territorial, ethnic, and political trials, they still seem to hold together and remain as unique people throughout the endeavors. With solutions of trade, tourism, culture, and technology, the Hadzabe, Lebanese, Tajiks, and Basques stick out as their own wonders of the world, whether it is their culture or history. If there is a role model to follow a genetic journey to find family, I cannot say that there is any other example than this journey.
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