Category Archives: Blog

Hyena Raid

A hyena got into the boma next door to me. In the goat enclosure it killed one goat and broke the back of another with its’ powerful jaws. People woke up to the loud crying of the goats and looing of the cows. By the time people realized what was going on the hyena had fled. The two goats belonged to Yohana Wandai, my teacher who is away taking a course in catechetics at the Capuchin sister’s school at Sanya Juu on Mount Kilimanjaro. This is a tragedy for Yohana since his herd is so small.

It is not unusual for hyenas to find their way into villages at night and kill goats and sheep. Years ago, in the area of Loliondo to the North of us, hyenas were getting into house not carefully protected by a wicker door tied shut with leather straps. Their bone crushing jaws found exposed feet, legs and even heads. A number of people didn’t survive their wounds. This happened numerous times over the space of a few years and then stopped.

Moved Away

I went to one of the two places that I have begun to share the gospel. The boma of Olomoton  in the area of Ndemwa is on the plains between Olbalbal and Oldupai Gorge. There is no road or even a track leading to the place. This hasn’t proved an obstacle to getting there since, on my first visit, I marked it on my hand held GPS. The hour and a half drive across the dust blown savanna only becomes difficult when the wind is at your back as it was today. At times the way ahead was totally obscured by the whirling dust clouds made worse by the passing of my car’s tires.

On reaching the cattle camp, I was met by a boy about 13 years old, a girl a couple of years younger and another boy of about 6 years. They told me that the adults with the cattle had moved a few days ago, leaving only themselves and a warrior to care for the sheep and goats. It has become so dry that the cattle were now at risk, and the older people had driven the cattle herd many hours into the hills to find forage and build a new boma. I am regularly amazed to see Maasai young people shouldering immense responsibilities in precarious situations.  Here they are, by themselves for weeks on the plains many hours walk from grownups and any kind of help. They care for their village’s herd of sheep and goats, having no idea that they are doing something very unique and special.

Students Visit

Naishorua OlDumu and Lazaro OlDumu are brother and sister. They have been with me since their first years of primary school. since their family was not able to help them with school fees. Naishoru has the added handicap of diabetes, needing injections twice a day and a special diet. She finished her junior college studies with the Christian Brothers three years ago. In September, after three years of study, she will graduate a clinical officer from Machame Hospital on Mount Kilimanjaro. Clinical Officer is the step below a medical doctor and they do pretty much what an MD does, except brain surgery, heart transplanting and a few other things. We badly need Maasai doctors in Maasai country, people who understand the people and are sympathetic to their particular needs and problems. In the course of our conversations this week, Naishorua talked of her long held hope, after gaining clinical experience, of becoming a full-fledged medical doctor.

Lazaro is a seminarian in Form VI at our Spiritan seminary at Usa River. He also had many setbacks during his early years at school, needing, at times, to suspend his education to help at home. He will graduate this year from junior college and enter our Spiritan Philosophy program. Lazaro first studied for our diocese during his secondary school years and then decided to become a Spiritan. I am hoping to attend both graduations.

Scary Night

A roaring lion kept us awake all night. Last night there was a very noisy lion in the ravine next to the mission. If he was looking for dinner in the form of a cow from a neighboring boma, he wasn’t going to be successful after alerting the whole neighborhood with his booming voice. Why do lions roar all night? I sure would appreciate an answer to that question. A couple of years ago, My cousin Art and I were sleeping in a tent at Terengire lodge. About one in the morning, a lion began to roar close by and kept it up for about half an hour then went silent. On that occasion, I guess the lion found what he was looking for. Happily, it wasn’t Art and I.

Time for Eating the News

 

Waiting for water to be turned on.

 

My Front Yard

One of the great things about living here at Olbalbal is the location of my house. The front yard is the place people from the neighborhood draw water and the front porch is twenty five feet from the water tap. Sitting on the porch, one is always assured of someone with whom to “eat the news”, since the Maasai of the area come to draw water here. The water is turned on, when available, from about ten in the morning till about one in the afternoon. People often come early to be first in line when the water to be turned on, so there are always plenty of people to talk to. I am trying to learn names but it is an uphill battle. I keep a small notebook with me for writing down names but once written down, I mostly don’t remember what faces the names belong to. I’m working on it.

As you see from the stacked up water containers in the pictures, sometimes the wait for water can be long. Often enough the water doesn’t come at all. High up in the hills, the spring is at the mercy of elephants and all kinds of other stuff looking for a drink. Frequently the pipes get kicked around or broken. This can mean no water for some days till the Ngorongoro conservation people get time to come and fix things.

I’m sticking with black

Green is the color of St. Patrick’s Day. The Maasai traditionally don’t wear green clothing or jewelry using green beads. Things are changing these days and there is an occasional green cloth to be seen and even jewelry with touches of green. I met a lady yesterday wearing the immensely popular and durable plastic shoes. I asked her why she was wearing green ones. She told me: “It is true. We didn’t used to wear any green stuff, but now people wear what they like. I like my green shoes.”

Black, on the other hand, is a very significant color for the Maasai. It is the color of the rain clouds and hence symbolizes God’s loving care for the Maasai, his people. For example, people wear black when they go on pilgrimage to pray at places like Oldoinyo Le’nKai, the mountain of God. When leading church services, I wear black for the same reason. It is our “praying color.”

I’ve hear that in the orient, white is worn a funerals, whereas in the West the tradition was to wear black when mourning a loved one. These days in the West, we mostly wear white at funerals signing our belief that death is a transition to new life. Here at Olbalbal I’m sticking with black, even on St. Patrick’s Day.

You Asked For It, At Least Some Did

Some have asked what I eat at Olbalbal so prepare to be seriously bored by this post. I cook for myself. This is a very pretentious statement, like I’m turning out delectable dishes using my vast cooking experience and my dog-eared Betty Crocker cook book. Not so, my cooking is at the pre cooking school level. Growing anything here in the Conservation Authority of Ngorongoro is strictly forbidden. One literally cannot plant even a flower seed. So, no vegetables, no fruit, no nothing that is not dried or canned. My pantry includes canned tuna, popcorn, dried peanuts, rice, pasta, potatoes bought by the sack, and Knorr dry soup packages. That is pretty much it. Oh, I am well stocked with wonderful Kilimanjaro coffee beans that I grind using my rechargeable electric drill.  A typical week might look like this:

 

Sunday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr Knorr Mushroom soup mixed with a can of tuna over noodles

 

Monday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr Mushroom soup over rice

 

Tuesday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr vegetable soup over boiled potatoes

 

Wednesday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr Mushroom soup mixed with a can of tuna over noodles

 

Thursday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr Mushroom soup over rice

 

Friday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr vegetable dry soup over noodles

 

Saturday:

Lunch: Knorr tomato soup and crackers

Snack: Maasai curdled milk

Supper: Knorr Mushroom soup mixed with a can of tuna over noodles

 

There you have it. If you’ve managed to keep awake reading this far, you see that I like tomato soup curdle Maasai milk. Popcorn and peanuts supply variety.

 

You asked for it, at least some of you did!

 

 

 

 

Bad Day

It was a bad day on the steep decent road from the rim of Ngorongoro Crater to Olbalbal and the Serengeti. One of the leaders of the Ngorongoro area was traveling in his small lorry down the mountain. Stopping to check what felt like a puncture, a helper climbed down to place a stone in front of a wheel so the truck wouldn’t roll. Most of our local lorries are old and have poor or no emergency brakes, this one included. There was no puncture after all and the young man went to remove the stone. Somehow the lorry immediately began to move and caught his clothing pinning him to the ground and rolling over his chest, killing him instantly.

No “1st World” Care at Olbalbal

At the boma of Olekiteyek, a young woman tried to give birth to twins for a couple of days. She was being helped by Maasai midwives. Finally on day three, due to their expertise, she did give birth, but both infants were dead and she had lost much blood. Then a car was found to take her to the hospital in Karatu where she died shortly after arriving there.

It is frustrating to experience the results of being so far from competent medical care. Here at Olbalbal we are an hour and forty five minutes from Ngorongoro on the top of the mountain where there is a bedded dispensary with nurses and a doctor’s assistant. The nearest hospitals would be at Endulen and Karatu, each an hour further. So, to reach a hospital from Olbalbal, a sick person is bounced over very bad roads for two hours and forty five minutes. It is no wonder that not all make it to a hospital for treatment.