This week, 150 men and women, our Spiritan representatives from all over the world gather at Bagamoyo on the coast of Tanzania. During their month long meeting, they will elect our new leader and make decisions about our work throughout the world. In the picture, Spiritan Bishop Agustine of Zanzabar reenacts the coming of the first Spiritans to Tanzania in 1868.
These days warriors go off to school and during leave time join in the activities of their age mates. But it wasn’t always so. In 1967 when stationed with Fr. Vince Donovan at Loliondo near the Kenya border, Vince asked for my help. He had chosen a boy, Parkurito, to enter the seminary and asked me to talk to the parents and get him ready to go off to school. I was still new to Maasai country and little did I know what a formidable task that was going to be. It seems that Parkurito was a warrior and there were some major hoops to jump through before he could join his secondary school mates. As a warrior he could not eat anything or even take a drink of water without sharing with at least one other warrior. It turned out that the boy must become an elder before leaving for school. He went through a telescoped version of the rites of passage and thus technically became “old”, no longer a warrior. No one batted an eye. This, clearly, wasn’t the first time such a process had been employed. Parkurito’s head was ceremonially shaved of warrior pigtails; he drank milk without the presence of another warrior and ate meat from the cooking fire of his mother. All this accomplished, Parkurito could now go off to school. During leave times though, he could no longer dance with the warriors and girls at celebrations, and although a teenager, he was counted among the old men.
These days, here at Olbalbal, the Ilkurianga warriors are taking a major step in the process of becoming elders. They drink milk, each one individually. The warriors in transition are presented with a milk gourd by their wives or if single by their mothers.
KINDERMISSIONSWERK “Sternsinger”, Stephanstraße 35, D-52064 Aachen
Father Brendan Smyth CSSp
Centre Spiritain Européen pour la
Coopération et le Développement
Rue de Mérode 78
Project No.: D 11 0154 057
Title:Purchase of a Vehicle for Olbalbal Mission, Archdiocese of Arusha / Tanzania
Dear Father Brendan,
The Toyoto Landcruiser for Olbalbal left Nagoya Japan on the 8th of June. Exepected arrival in Dar is the 10th of July.
Stefanie FrelsProject department
It is the third hour of the night here. In East Africa we tell time in two halves, day time and night time. Each of twelve hours, so it is three o’clock at night here. There is the sound, loud even at a distance of three football fields, of chanting warriors. They are at least a hundred strong and have gathered at the nearby complex of “bomas” to sing through the night. They have assembled to encourage their 22 age mates who will be circumcised at dawn. It will shameful for the boys to show fear during the procedure, where a little cold water is the only pain deadener. At sunrise relatives and age mates will carefully watch for signs of flinching. The stories told of families embarrassed and celebrations spoiled are heart rending…aimed at sending a powerful message …”You better not flinch or even twitch an eyelid.”
Surrounding my solar panel with thorn bushes has not been enough to keep out the donkeys. Every day Maasai ladies come for water and those that live a distance come with their donkeys to carry very heavy five gallon container back to their villages. The donkeys have little to do while waiting to be loaded with plastic water containers. They nose around and get into everything. One blundered into my small living room the other day. Looked around, found nothing of interest and ambled back out. Theirs is a mostly boring job.
This morning, sitting at my desk, I heard the line to the fold up solar panel just outside the window being pulled by something. Fearing a silent high wind attack, I jumped up and ran outside. A curious donkey and somehow penetrated the thorn bush protective fence surrounding my fold up solar panel and become tangled in the line leading into the house through the window. Fortunately, after dragging the panel a few yards, it managed to disentangle itself and made off. No harm done to the hardy solar panel but a wakeup call to build a better fence.
Victor, the water person from Ngorongoro Conservation came yesterday with three of his helpers. They fixed a broken pipe unearthed and smashed by our local mastodons. There has been no water coming from the spring to the village and my place for a couple of weeks. Elephants smell water from deeply buried pipe and are expert in digging for it.
Also, they very graciously did some pipe work here at the mission and now there is a two hundred gallon storage tank on the roof and water on tap in my house. I now even have a flush toilet, something I haven’t had the benefit of for the last twenty seven years. I am totally spoiled and living the good life. My thanks go out to Victor, his helpers and Ngorongoro Conservation.
Yesterday I traveled with OleWandai and Noonkera to the village of Nduyalu Loormoton on the plains. Baptism of his large family was at Easter time and we were returning to celebrate Mass for the first time with OleWandai and his family. After the service there were large cups of very sweet tea for everyone. It is good that we went yesterday since soon OleWandai will be moving as the dry season deepens grazing must be found for his small herd of cows, sheep and goats. We’ll have some difficulty finding them for the next visit.
The hills in the Ngorongoro high country are covered with yellow flowers signaling the end of the rains. It is a very beautiful sight but means that good green grass for the cattle will be harder and harder to come by in the coming weeks and months.
Although the rains have been over for just a couple of weeks, the scarcity of grass is already causing people to move their herds to places that are still green. As the seasons change, it is brought home to me that the Maasai are totally dependent on their environment and must live in sync with it.
It has happened again. Two grade school girls here at Olbalbal are pregnant. It happens every year in many of our Maasai schools. The problem, of course, is not unique to Maasai country or to Tanzania. It is a worldwide problem happening in America as frequently as it does here. I guess it has such a local impact here at Olbalbal because we are a small community far off in the bush and our primary school is small. Here getting pregnant has really bad consequences for the school girl. Although theoretically she is allowed to continue her education, usually her chance for an education is finished. Often it is not the girl’s fault. At home peer pressure is very strong. The girls spend time with the warriors and there are very few girls who can take a stand and, in effect, isolate herself from her friends and their activities. The picture is not all dark though. In recent years, the government has taken ever stronger measures to deal with the problem. Although in the past, the girl has been blamed and the boy ignored, now there are some good laws and they are enforced. In the case of our two girls here at Olbalbal, the girls were questioned and they gave up the names of the boys. Police came yesterday and arrested the boys. Hopefully, there will be successful prosecutions that will act as a deterrent for the future.