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February 2008

Endulen Diary
Vol. 23, #2
February, 2008

Maasai Women gather for prayer…

“Oldoiyo Le’nKai… Stop raining soot on us!!!!”
This month the women of Endulen and the surrounding countryside had an “elamal”, a pilgrimage to offer their prayers to God that “the almighty one” halt the sacred mountain of Oldoinyo Lengai spewing forth the dense clouds of smoke and ash that is blanketing the countryside and making the grass bitter and unfit for the cattle to eat. It was a very moving sight. Hundreds of women from every direction came in large groups to gather at the oreteti tree. They all wore dark blue or black skirts and cloaks and each had a gourd of milk with fresh green grass stuffed in the mouths of the gourds. Under the vast spreading branches of the sacred Oreteti tree, the women ritually slaughtered a black sheep without blemish, then sang and prayed for hours. They sprinkled milk from their gourds on each other, on the sacrificial sheep and around the Oreteti tree, a sign of their dependence on God for all good things, among them, milk and food of every kind for their families. The ceremonies were so moving that I stood mesmerized by the ceremonies forgetting to turn my tape machine on to record the beautiful songs.

The shade of the Oreteti, a wild fig tree, is a place where the Maasai traditionally gather for prayer. Also individual Maasai, when passing by the tree will often stop to place some green grass or a trinket on the trunk and prayer for family and village.

Some R&R on Kilimanjaro…

Recently many of us gathered high on Mount Kilimanjaro. Our hostesses were the Capuchin sisters. They call their place of retreat “Maua”, a Swahili word meaning “Flowers”. The name is apt. The grounds are a riot of color; every hue of the rainbow is represented. I recognized roses, dalias, snapdragons, lilies, and there must be hundreds of others. Mawenzi and Kibo, the twin peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, seem very close. In the crystal clear air of the early morning, it feels as if one could reach out and touch them. The houses for sleeping, meeting and eating perch atop a small hill overlooking a dense gravillia and Eukaliptus forest. A rushing mountain stream fed by melting snow from the mountain curves around the base of the hill. Wherever one goes on the Maua grounds one hears the sound of water making its hurried way down the mountain to be drunk by the cattle of the Maasai out on the plains far below.

Paul Flamm, a Spiritan missionary working with refugees from Burundi in Western Tanzania gave us a lot to think about. One of his discussions aimed at allowing oneself to listen as God speaks to us through creation. We couldn’t have been in a better place for it. During one of the afternoons, I made my way down the hill to the stream and following it some way up into the mountain. As it went higher it became narrower and the trees and brush more and more dense. At one point, I came upon a beautiful small meadow filled with wild flowers bordering on the by now quite narrow rock strewn stream. I lay down in the grass and only a half hour later did I realize that I’d been asleep for some time. What a terrific place. The only sounds to be heard were the calling of the birds and the rush of water. It was a good week.

After a day of shopping back in Arusha and one on the road traveling, it feels good to be back here in Endulen. I arrived to find it still raining. It looks like there will be no break between them short and long rains. Endulen is still wall to wall mud and has been this way since the early part of November. It is great for the Maasai who have had milk from their cattle for some time now, but doesn’t provide much electricity from my solar system that I depend on for lights and internet access.

Not a good thing…

Last week two goats being overseen by some not so attentive Maasai herd boys got into our outhouse and fell into the pit. A few young warriors were quickly mobilized and they went to work saving one very frightened stinking goat. The other has become a permanent addition to the out house, or rather the hole underneath it.

Till next month,
Ned

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