October 18, 2011

Nomadism - like an entertainer's lifestyle?

Nomadic life requires moving a home and all of the family belongings. The men ensure the animals are cared for on the move to a new location. Beja women are responsible for constructing the home, which is traditionally made of woven palm mats laid over a framework of large tree branches. The interior of the home may have woven blankets hung to acts as decorative walls. A raised sleeping platform keeps crawling bugs out of the bed.

It's unclear how frequently a traditional rural Beja family moves, but seasonal efforts are common as the need is to find pasture for the herds of goats and camels. Rain falls in the Red Sea Hills in the winter, and elsewhere in the summer. Overnight camps are very basic if a destination is more than a day's journey away. Some Beja go to the Atbara River or Nile River, while others make their way to the harvest fields in the Tokar Delta or Gash Delta north of Kassala.

In parts of the developed world, there are many occupations that have a somewhat similar lifestyle. There is the circus. Large operations Cirque du Soleil may set up in town for a few weeks at a time, and then move on to another city. In America there are about 30 travelling circuses. The people live temporary lives, not settling down in any one place, because the economics of their work demands that they move on.

Amusement or carnival shows may run a weekend in a small town, or three weeks in a large city. Demand for midway rides is especially high during the fall fairs. The season may call for 30 different locations. The community needed to support such shows may be a dozens of people. They are guests in the city, but not always well served, though they entertain the citizens.

Who has time to get to know the workers? Who cares for them? How do the children of circus families get a good education?

Other examples of nomadic lifestyles include Nascar or Indy style car racing, professional tennis and golf tours; these visit a different region every weekend.The sportsmen are usually paid enough to travel home during the week.

There's a rodeo circuit. Cowboys visit a different town to enter a competition each week. Farm workers will travel with the harvest, so teams of  combine drivers move steadily north from Texas to the Dakotas working the corn or wheat fields. This may take a few months away from home. Small music bands may go on tour for months at a time.

Many immigrant farm workers in the USA and Canada are from Mexico. They live in very basic barracks supplied by the farm operator and work hard in the fields harvesting vegetables like onions, carrots and peppers. Their time is limited, but their work is far away from home, and their life is fragile because not all their support systems are in place.

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Here's an example of a Catholic priest who has a ministry to circus people for many years. He travels with them part of year, and he mentioned that there were 30 different travelling circuses in the United States in 1993. The people really seem to respond to his availability. He offers his spiritual services when he's there, or he can connect people to his network. Many circus performers are taken advantage of when they need help in a town they are visiting, so he has a list of trusted helpers, like car mechanics and dentists.
 More info about an outreach ministry to circus nomads in the USA.

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