December 1999

Endulen Diary
Vol. 14, #11
December 1999

It wasn’t malaria after all:

When a group of some fifteen warriors appeared on the front porch with young girl on a stretcher of cow skin stretched across rough cut poles I was not particularly alarmed. The girl was screaming but this has come to be a common occurrence with the rise in the frequency of cerebral malaria. In recent years ordinary malaria drugs have ceased to have much effect because of the drug resistant strains of malaria these days. Often also, because of the absence of ready cash, people don’t resort to the hospital until the sick person is near death and there is no other option. Presuming the girl had serious malaria, I ran for the keys to the car, bundled her into the front seat with her mother-in-law to hold on to her and set out for the hospital about fifteen minutes away. You can imagine my surprise when about four minutes into the safari the girl began to shout “etupukuo!, etupukuo!” (It’s come out! It’s come out!), and I look down to see a tiny baby emerge from between her legs. I stopped quickly and her husband’s wife grabbed the baby so it wouldn’t fall on the floor between the gearshift lever and the emergency brake handle. The mother-in-law covered the baby with her clothing to keep it warm. It began to cry somewhat less enthusiastically than its’ mother was yelling seconds before. We arrived at the hospital minutes later and the sisters took over. Needless to mention, she didn’t have malaria after all!

Highland grass draws buffalo:

It has begun to rain here in the highlands while remaining very dry on the Serengeti and the rest of the lowlands below Ngorongoro. We seem to have the only green grass at the moment for miles around. The animals, especially buffalo and zebra are gravitating in our direction looking for the new growth of green. This can present a problem at night when one needs to visit the outhouse. A couple of nights ago, I went out at about eleven and narrowly missed colliding with a small herd of buffalo ambling by the front porch. Fortunately, they seemed as surprised to see me as I was to meet them. They took off a brisk trot, and left me free to finish my outing to the outhouse.

When a guest says good-bye:

If a Maasai has paid a visit to some friends, and wishes to return home, he ties up his things. When he is ready, he says: “Well I am about to go.” The owners of the kraal reply: “All right! Good-bye! Pray to God, meet only things that are safe, and meet nobody but blind people.” (ie. “Don’t meet anyone with the evil eye” The guest then says: “Sleep with honey-wine and milk”, to which his hosts reply: “Nai” (Amen.) After this the stranger is at liberty to depart for his own country.

Rain and Mud:

The rains have now arrived here in Northern Tanzania with a vengeance. They may go right through till June or stop for a couple of months between January and April. These are the rains caused by those same great winds which each year allow the small Arab dhows, small single sail ships, to travel from the Arab coasts, southern Yemen etc. to the trading ports of East Africa and back again. They used to bring cloth, pots and pans and other things like beads to trade for spices from Zanzibar and other ports on the East African coast. Even these days at the port of Mombasa in Kenya and in the ports of Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar here in Tanzania, there are to be seen quite a few of these old trading ships of the Indian ocean. They are crewed and seem busily engaged in some business or other, although I don’t know what kind of cargoes they might be carrying these days.

Here in Endulen, it usually begins to rain about two o’clock each afternoon; you can almost set your watch by the first drops of the usually very heavy rain. It frequently rains during the night too, pleasantly drumming on the tin roofs which most of the non-traditional houses have here in East Africa. The Maasai, after a few days of rain, begin to repair and improve the walls and especially the roofs of their houses. Having lived among the Borana of Southern Ethiopia, also a semi-nomadic people, with a life a style similar to the Maasai, it is interesting to note the very different way the Maasai and Borana deal with their house building. For the Borana, a house is more a protection from the sun than the rain. Except for the little sleeping compartments in the back of the house, the rain comes through the grass thatching almost as if it were not there at all. When it begins to rain everybody in the house looks for a cow or goat skin to put over their heads like an umbrella. The Maasai, on the other
hand, put great store, in making their houses, not only cool refuges from the hot sun, but also rain proof. A woman, whose house is cracked and patchy, allowing the rain to come in, is called “enduruai”, a poor house keeper. During the long dry season of the Maasai steppe (not so long here in the of the Ngorongoro highlands), the cow dung plastering on the houses dries and cracks and tends to slightly curl up and even sometimes pieces fall off. The plaiting of thin branches and tightly twisted grass, which forms the basic covering of the walls and roof even become visible in places. This is difficult to avoid during the dry season, because so little wet cow dung is to be had. But with the onset of the rains, everywhere one goes these days in Maasai country, after the cattle leave in the morning, one sees the women and girls gathering the cow dung in wet piles near their homes. They heave a moist clump on to the roof of the igloo like house and then climb up on top themselves. Then they painstakingly put down layer upon layer of new plaster onto the roofs and walls of their homes, using the palms of their hands as mason’s trowels, thus making their houses totally impervious to all but the most torrential downpour. A Maasai home is almost always a warm snug place to spend the night, with its’ warm fire and well worked mattress-soft skins on the beds.

Taking stock of our Osotwa Maasai Education for Leadership Project:

Looking back on our Osotwa Education for Leadership program for the year of 1999, we have supported 24 Maasai girls and 14 Maasai boys in secondary and technical schools. Five of these girls and six boys graduate from high school (secondary school) this month. During 1999, our one year updating program in English and Math here in Endulen has seen 22 boys and 12 girls hone their skills in these basic subjects in preparation for high school (secondary school) and technical school entrance examinations that take place this month. Due in large part to the agitation of young Maasai men and women, products of our Osotwa Education for Leadership program, the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority has agreed to support two boys in secondary school (high school) from each area within the geographical limits of the Conservation Authority. On our part, we will try to find funding to send six of our girls and two boys to begin high school (secondary school).

I hope you have a great Christmas and many thanks to all of you who have helped with our Osotwa Maasai Education for Leadership Project over the past year. Please help me to continue the work here in Endulen. Sandi Grey will receive your contribution and let me know so that I can write to you. Sandi Grey, 47 Berkshire Ct., #3B, Akron, OH 44313-6761, U.S. of America (e-mail:

Till next month…….ned

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *