This week Tanzanian Spiritans are here at Maua, the Capachin Sisters House, high on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a time to take stock both personally as Spiritan family. Tony Gittins, who teaches mission studies and Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, is giving us two talks a day and the rest of the time is for good food, good talk and hopefully some fruitful reflection. For many years now, the snow grows less on the peak of Kilimanjaro. Years ago it hid the rocky summit and now is reduced to some anemic fingers of the white stuff. Some experts tell us that it will be totally gone by 2020.
Looks like I’ll be getting the use of a car beginning sometime next week. It will be far from new, about 17 years old I am told and recently in a fairly serious accident. The Spiritans, my missionary organization, have agreed to lend me the Toyota Land Cruiser till my own vehicle is granted and arrives from Japan. I will have to find the funds for the repairs. My own vehicle, after it is granted by the funding agency in Germany, will probably take till the end of the year to arrive. Having the “lender” car will make the difference between getting out and doing the work and waiting around day-to-day to use a car normally needed at Ngorongoro mission.
Note: The thumbnail shows the kind of car not the actual car I’m getting.
There have been suspect arrests in the Cattle Market Slaying of last Friday. Two Maasai warriors were captured just short of the Kenyan border. The police tracked them North across the Serengeti Plains. The culprits had been just about to cross into Kenya and disappear with the goats and cattle somewhere into Kenya Maasai country. Yesterday, prior to the daring daylight capture by the police, a great crowd of Irak warriors had gathered for revenge. They vowed to kill the first four Maasai that they found, slitting their throats, as had been done to their friends. The arrests seem to have scotched that plan and the Irak warriors have dispersed.
The Maasai traditionally pass back and forth across the border without difficulty. There are no checkpoints in the bush and the people of Maa (Maasai) extend out from both sides of the border for hundreds of miles.
Maasai market days are great fun. People get together with relatives and friends not seen for weeks, necessities like beads for making jewelry, cloth for wearing, and basic foodstuffs are bought and sold. The cattle market is where people find corn, their staple diet, since there is never enough milk to satisfy hungry stomachs. Tea, sugar, cooking oil, salt and other necessities are also available, and oh yes, and cattle, goats and sheep are bought and sold too.
But the cattle market at Esere some eight miles to the West of Endulen was anything but ordinary and fun on that day just a week ago. Two Irak “julusi” stock traders had trekked their herd of four cows and twenty goats from Mang’loa below the rift wall up onto the highlands near Endulen to sell them to Maasai at the Esere cattle market. It was a sunny beautiful day when a small group of Maasai “julusi” after some offers and counter offers agreed to buy the cattle for a good price. The Maasai not surprisingly suggested that they move off to a nearby dry river bottom for the exchange of cash. This is common practice and regularly done to avoid paying the government tax on livestock sales.
Off they went to the agreed place by the riverbed for to hand over the payment. The Irak never returned to the market and the Maasai haven’t been seen since. The two Irak “julusi” were found with their throats slit from ear to ear and various other deep slashes on their bodies. Within hours a large number of Irak warriors appeared prepared to do battle with the Maasai. This made possible by the recent cell phone explosion. And, Maasai warriors in their hundreds had gathered also. Fortunately, the police also have cell phones and they too arrived in force. It ended up a standoff with the police promising an investigation. The killers had disappeared and the cattle and goats with them. In the past, the incident would have resulted in all out war between the Irak and Maasai, now there would be an investigation. As of yesterday, the 6th of January, Nothing more has been heard of murderers or of the promised investigation.
Making my way along the foot of Ngorongoro Mountain and some few miles out on the plains, I came across a line of six or seven foot high poles set about fifty feet from each other. Each pole had shred of old gunnysack or cloth tied to the top. These are to deflect the wildebeest herds so that the migratory herds of gnus don’t move into the grazing of the Maasai herds.
Every year, at the beginning of the long rains, wildebeest in their thousands migrate from the Western Serengeti to the East to Ngorongoro. Early on, in the wet, they drop many hundreds of calves and of course leave the “afterbirths” lying on the ground. Maasai cattle just love those tasty morsels and swallow them down whenever they come across one.
Herein lies the problem and the reason for the line of flapping cloth. Maasai say that the afterbirths of the wildebeest make their cattle sick and can even cause death. The hope is that the waving fluttering strips will turn those birthing gnus back out onto the plains. Most years and in most places, the Maasai simply move out of the path of the wildebeest during calving season.