During a couple of weeks our six religious teachers banded together for a team teaching effort. Usually each of the teachers has his own area in which he visits
the Maasai villages for prayer and bible based teaching. On Sundays he gathers the people for a prayer service in a central place. Fr. Arkado and I get around to the various places as often as we can, usually a couple of times each month.
The last fortnight was different. The six met a couple of times with us to A qplan the strategy. The group of six would spend two days with each of the nine small communities of Christians. They would have prayer services in the various places, do some teaching about the life of Jesus and put on a play that they had carefully prepared and rehearsed. The play told the story of the prodigal son. There was a lot of singing too. Matayo,, who is also an expert in composing Maasai music and a gifted singer, had composed a new Maasai song telling the story of the Prodigal Son.
At one place a son was reconciled with his father following a long period of misunderstanding.
The Team effort went very well. The people liked the time with the group of catechists. The people report enjoying especially the time spent singing and watching the play, acted out by the teachers. The teachers themselves came away enthusiastic and enlivened by their time with each other and with the various Christian groups.
Growing up in America, one learns very early the importance of saying “thank you.” Kids that don’t learn this lesson are constantly being told to say thank you. It is so ingrained in us that a child who doesn’t say thank you is sometimes looked upon as badly brought up,
Here in Maasai country a person that says thank you is suspected of trivializing the gift or gesture of the giver. One doesn’t hear the word “ashe” spoken by one Maasai to another. The word itself is not originally a Maasai word and seems to have come from the Arusha people living on Mount Meru, who speak a dialect of Maasai. I am told that the word may be a corruption of the Swahili word “asante.”
Anyway, the Maasai seldom use it among themselves. Any gift or act of kindness triggers a relationship rather than being rewarded by a voiced “thank you.” Consequently it can be problematic to accept the gift of a sheep or goat from a Maasai person or sometimes even a gourd of milk. In the case of the gift of an animal, the giver and the one that received the gift will, from then on, call each other by the name of the gifted animal, for example “pakine” in the case of a goat.
A Maasai elder gave me a walking stick some years ago and for the last ten something years he has been calling me “engudi ai”, “my walking stick” and I call him by the same name. Years ago, someone gave me a goat and ever since, when the family has a problem, they come to their “pakine”, meaning me, for help with school fees, food or whatever.
The Maasai don’t say “thank you” but rather respond by acknowledging the relationship set up by the gift. For this reason I try to avoid receiving gifts, something that it is often difficult to do. Gift giving in Maasai country can be a dangerous game.
The Maasai depend very much on their donkeys. Many travel long distances to draw water and to buy the corn meal that is an important part of their diet. Without donkeys the women would find it impossible to carry the heavy containers of water and bags of cornflower over long distances. Hence, a donkey is a highly valued possession. A family living far out on the plains without a donkey has a very hard time of it. These tireless helpers can be very expensive to buy and can cost as much as a milk cow.
One problem with donkeys is that they generally will not stay with the family herd when the cattle are taken to pasture each day. Donkeys form groups of their own and wander the plains at their own whim and pace. Often the donkey can’t be found when a woman needs it to accompany her on a trip to a spring or dam to carry the bucket size containers of water back to the village. It can take many hours to locate and bring a donkey home. The animal is often times is grazing with other donkeys far from the Maasai village.
Another disadvantage to the donkeys not wanting to be part of the family herd of cattle, sheep and goats is that they are roaming unprotected. Out on the plains, warriors take the village herds to pasture because there is constant danger of attacks by leopards, lions and hyenas. Donkeys, grazing on their own, lack this protection and are often killed or maimed by a hyena or leopard.
Here at Olbalbal recently, there has been a number of hyena attacks on sheep, goats, cattle and often donkeys. The resulting wounds in the animals that survive these deadly assaults are horrendous. These deep gashes made by claws and teeth can take months to heal. In include here some pictures of a frequent visitor to our water point here on the mission. We have come to know this particular donkey so felt badly that he was in so much pain. As it turned out our badly mauled donkey died a few days ago.