Five little Maasai girls came to draw water, Nalosoto, Jennet, Encamburui, Sombe and Nalanda. I was washing my lunch dishes under a tree in the back yard and they offered to help. They ended up also helping me wash the cement floor of my room getting rid of a week’s accumulation of dust. A Maasai lady, Noonkera EnolAilo had given me the gift of a large cup of newly harvested wild honey this morning. I gave it to the girls when our chores were done.
These days I am presenting the message of Jesus in a couple of new areas, Golola and Ndene. I go together with a small group of Christians from here at Meshili, the place I live at Olbalbal. In one of our first meetings we talk of the Maasai narrative to explain how death came into the world.
One day Naitera-kop (God, the creator of the world) told Leeyo (The first Man) that if a child were to die, he was to say: “Man, die, and come back again; moon die, and never come back.” A child died soon afterwards, but it was not one of Leeyo’s, and when he was told to throw it away, he picked it up and said to himself: This child is not mine; when I throw it away I shall say, “Man, die, and remain away; moon, die and return.” He threw it away and, out of jealousy and selfishness, spoke those awful words, after which he returned home.
One of his own children died next, and when he threw it away, he said: “Man, die, and return; moon, die, and remain away.” Naiteru-kop said to him; “It is of no use now for, out of your hatred and jealousy, you spoilt matters with the other child.”
This is how it came about that when a man dies he does not return, whilst when the moon is finished, it comes back again and is always visible to us.
Jesus came to sweep away the bitterness, and vengefulness of Leeyo. Jesus came to reverse those terrible words: “Man, die, and remain away,” that brought suffering and death onto the plains and into the cattle camps of the Maasai. Naiteru-kop sent his oinoti (first born son) to proclaim to his people: “Man, die, and return”
Noorkishon came to me yesterday asking for a help. She needs $20. The Maasai have a custom that is hard to understand. On the day of marriage, a wife becomes her husband’s perfect bank, the place that he can keep his money in absolute safety. His bank, read wife, is safe because she is responsible for whatever money he gives her. If the house burns down and her husband’s money burns, she must find the equivalent amount to return to him. The same is true if the money is stolen or lost. She can’t refuse to keep his stash and if something happens to it, she must scrounge around every which way to replace it. If she can’t come up with the cash, he beats her.
Noorkishon put the $20 dollars into her small wooden box, locked it with a pad lock and put it under her bed. She closed the makeshift door of her Maasai igloo shaped cow dung covered dwelling and went off driving donkeys carrying plastic jugs to draw water. Returning, she found the door wide open, her box broken into and her husband’s $20 dollars gone. For the last couple days she has been going around to friends tearfully asking for contributions. She is very afraid of being seriously beaten.
Last Saturday Endulen, the mission I left to begin work at Olbalblal, welcomed me for a “farewell” celebration. OleMaporo, Olondooki, Sinyati and Noonkera, two elders and two women from here at Olbalbal accompanied me. It was a great celebration where I got a chance to meet a lot of old friends. Among other things, a whole goat was roasted. The day brought home the realization that living with a community of people for over 25 years brought so much more to me than I was able to give.
Sikona appeared before the community elders of Olbalbal and asked to explain why her goats were regularly breaking up math classes, a subject that is so important to our Maasai kids. She couldn’t and was fined $8 dollars and made to promise to keep her four footed friends away from the classroom.
The two victims of the leopard attack are out of the hospital and recovering from their ordeal at home. One remarked that the next time a leopard wants my goat; he or she is welcome to it.
We are getting plenty of heavy clouds here and even a brief sprinkle from time to time. The big rains couldn’t be too far off. The winds are wild here, threating to carry off everything that isn’t nailed down. My fold up solar panel almost became a victim.
Olkitok, an elder living in the boma next door to me, got a phone call from Kenya that his son was poisoned and died. The caller was anonymous and no location where it happened in Kenya was given in the phone message. The family is in mourning for the young elder who left two wives and a number of children. He was Olkitok’s only son and the mainstay of the family that has few cattle. Olkitok is old and the family is now in danger of breaking up. Family and clan elders from the area have been meeting with Olkitok every day of this past week to figure out the future. I’ve gone twice with groups to sit with the family.
Some time ago I mentioned that the Maasai have constructed a barrier, like a line of scarecrows to stop the wildebeest from grazing near their villages. When the rains begin the wildebeests will give birth and the cows love to eat the afterbirths that make them sick. I include a picture here of the barrier.
Noorkishon grew up in a very poor and troubled family. Her father, Simel, was a heavy drinker. By the time Noorkishon was old enough to be married, had drank his way through the small herd of cattle inherited from his own father. Noorkishon’s mother, on the other hand, worked hard to feed and cloth her three children. Sitalu gathered firewood to sell at the Olbalbal trading center shops. Somehow Sitau and her children survived and Noorkishon grew into a very beautiful young woman. Sitau was happy when Lepilal, the oldest son of a Maasai elder with many cattle showed interest in marrying her daughter. As is customary, the marriage process took a number of years, but all the preliminaries were finally accomplished and Noorkishon was taken to the “boma” of her husband. For some years, things went well. Noorkishon was given cattle to care for her house and future children. She was well liked by her husband. Soon, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Things couldn’t have been going better. Then things began to go down hill fast.
Many of Lepilal’s cattle died of “Oltikana”, a cattle disease widespread in this part of Maasai land. At the same time, her husband took a second young wife. When Lepilal’s new very young wife came to the “boma”, there were not enough cattle left for the new wife to comfortably take care of her house. The husband then took more than half of Noorkishon’s cattle and gave them to his young “siangiki.” On top of that, it soon became evident that the new wife was barren and would never have a child. Still Lepilal favored her over Noorkishon, who now did not have enough cattle to feed herself and her son.
Finally, the new wife’s resentment and jealousy grew to the point that she prevailed upon Lepilal to chase Noorkishon away from his village. He sent her away back to her father and, in line with Maasai custom, kept Norkishon’s son to be raised by his second wife. Noorkishon, now destitute and alone, returned to the boma of her alcoholic father. That is where she is today. Women have little claim on justice in Maasai country. Noorkishon, with no one to take up her cause and speak for her, lives with her mother and together they cut and gather firewood to sell to the shopkeepers at Olbalbal.
The wind here at Olbalbal is powerful. The fold up solar panel that I use for electricity and put on the roof of the car during the day was in danger of blowing away. I solved that by using very thin twine to crisscross the panel numerous times and tying the twine to points on the car. The wind can no longer get under the light weight flexible panel and I’m back in business. I took some pictures of the fold up panel on top of the car and have figured out how to load them into my post.
OleKiridi and his son Saitoti were taken to the hospital yesterday. They were herding their village’s goats in a sparsely wooded area at Engruman in the hills above the mission. A leopard tried to make off with a goat. OleKiridi and boy gave chase, hoping to drive the leopard off. The cat dropped the goat and sprang at the boy sinking his teeth in the back of the boy’s neck. His father struck the leopard a number of times with his herding staff and got his cheek torn off with a swipe of the beast’s claws. Both have horrendous but not life threatening wounds and are recovering in hospital. The leopard then killed twelve of the goats and made off with one.
Oloicura’s mother-in-law has agreed. We had a meeting a few days ago, a couple of elders, some older women of Olbalbal, Nalepo, the mother-in-law, and me. It lasted four hours and Nalepo had a chance to totally lay out her reasons for taking the drastic step of prevailing upon her husband to take their daughter and her children away from Oloicura. This was a meeting where everyone got as much time as they wanted to have their say… It was long. Much of the rapid back and forth Maasai went over my head, but I was able to keep track of where they were going. I made one small intervention. I commented that it seemed to me that Nalepo may have over reacted but she was right to be so angry. Oloicura said some truly awful things to her and called her some horrendous names. We are in a society that values respect for parents and in-laws as a sacred duty. After it was over, I asked the people if they thought any headway had been made. All gave an emphatic, “No Way”. Nalepo was not ready to give an inch. At the end of the discussions, she said that she would go and think it over, but no one believed she was serious.
Then yesterday evening a big surprise, Oloicura came to me and said his mother-in-law had just brought his Lele, his wife and their three children, Parmes, Nanta and Metoi, to him agreeing that the family be reunited. Then, she took them back to her village to await the formal agreement of her husband, which I am told will not be a problem. I wasn’t there when she arrived with the so and so and the kids. I wish I had been. I can’t figure out how things were so against Oloicura a few days ago and then the situation reversed so quickly.