Vol.: 17, #1
December 10, 2001:
Graduation for Four of my Maasai Girls
Four of my Maasai Girls graduated this from Ngarenarok Technical
School in Arusha. They have now returned home to their Maasai
villages much better prepared to become wives and mothers and leaders
in their areas. During the three year program, they have learned
sewing, tailoring, cooking, preventive health, and basic gardening
methods. Knud Erikson from Denmark is giving each one a new hand
operated sewing machine. I will also try to get each of them a bolt
of cloth to get them started on their road to self-reliance.
December 16, 2001:
Two Girls chosen for Secondary School:
A couple of Maasai girls that have been staying here during school
time for the last seven years so they could attend primary school,
have finished their primary education. Today, the list of those
chosen for government secondary school was announced. Both of these
girls, Naishipai and Nasharuwa are on the list. They are both good
clever kids and, I m sure that the tutoring that we have been able to
give them over the years has helped too.
December 19, 2001:
A Night Visitor
At about one in the morning, a couple of the girls went out of the
dormitory to take a pee. Sitting under the acacia tree some thirty
feet from the door of dorm was a very big lion. They told me this
morning that he didn t move a muscle just sat there glowering at
them. Needless to say, they turned tail, ran back into the dorm,
slammed the door and used a bottle. Today, Christmas eve, we are
trying to find a heavy-duty bar to put on the dorm door.
December 23, 2001:
What’s in a name?
This Christmas Naish’enkAi, a fourteen-year-old Maasai girl student
of our Osotwa Maasai Prep School, here on the mission, has led me to
the solution of a problem that has plagued me for years. I have
always encouraged the people to be baptized with their Maasai names.
Each year at Easter & Christmas time I sit with the people of my
various Maasai communities and talk about names.
I remind them that when they were infants, their parents, brewed
honey beer, slaughtered a fat sheep or goat and called their local
age mates together. Sitting around eating and drinking, the parents,
their relatives and age group neighbors would discuss and finally
choose an appropriate name for their new son or daughter. Sometimes
it would be the name of a rich ancestor, sometimes a local hero or
prominent person of some kind. Always a name connected with a
successful and blessed person is chosen. Then the gathered community
blessed the child and his or her new name by the sprinkling honey
beer, milk and the spraying of spittle.
Blessing by spraying spittle seems a bit strange to westerners, but
it really make a lot of sense. Dr. Gene Hillman points out in his
article Maasai Religion and Enculturation that The act of blessing
emayiana frequently entails, together with invocations, some modest
ritual gestures, such as a spray of spittle, Blessings supported
by spitting, inkamulak , are efficacious; they are fully expected to
have divine concurrence, and thus accomplish what they proclaim.
Spittle gives life to words and expectations. Combined with the
breathing out of words, spittle becomes a very efficacious symbol of
life communicated from one person to another
Afterwards, the new mother and her baby have their heads shaved, and
the new mother comes out of seclusion. She then begins to go about
her normal tasks of going for water and firewood, tasks others have
done for her since giving birth.
I point out to the people who are to be baptized that the name that
they were given when infants is holy, blessed by God and the
community. I tell them that I would like them to stick with that
name at baptism. With people who have not gone to school, I am often
successful in my efforts. With school kids, it is another story.
They see their friends at school with non-Maasai names taken from the
bible or some other place and want to be like them. They want a
modern name. After arguing as forcefully as I can, I go with
whatever name the person decides to take, although very reluctantly
in the cases of those who want to change their home name.
Last week, I gathered the adults and children to be baptized on
Christmas and, having given my spiel on traditional Maasai names,
asked them one by one what name they would be baptized with. I asked
Naish’enkAi (The name Naish’enkAi means She who is a gift from
God ) what name she would take on Christmas. She told me that
Rebecca would be her name because of a close friend at school by that
name. Then she asked me about my name, Ned. I told her that Ned is
a nickname and that my real baptism name is Edward Thomas . She
said: Oh, Thomas must be the name of your father? I told her, no,
that in Europe and America people very often, even normally, take two
names at baptism and that both Edward and Thomas are my baptismal
names,. Naish’enkAi thought for a minute and then said: Ok! I want
to take Naish enkAi Rebecca as my baptismal name. In a moment, she
solved a problem that I have been struggling with for years. All the
other Prep School and Secondary School students immediately agreed
that was a great idea. So on Christmas, everyone who wants to take a
non-Maasai name will add it on to his or her Maasai name that was
given and blessed when still infants. Both names then become their
official legal names.
December 29, 2001:
Plenty of Lions Still Around
The lion sitting under a tree in front of the girl s dorm here next
to my house was not an isolated incident. There have been and still
are quite a number around both day and night in our Endulen area. We
hear them and people come across them at night and regularly during
the day. A couple of days ago, on one of my regular trips to the
hospital on foot, I saw one myself at a distance. This is really
weird. There is plenty of grass on the nearby Serengeti and
therefore an abundance of game. Also, there are plenty of animals
every place in between here and the Serengeti. No one seems to have
any idea why there would be such a number of lions in our
neighborhood. Maybe a pride got chased out of their home area by
another pride and is looking for a new place to live. Perhaps they
have chosen Endulen because of the superb quality of life here. If
that is the case, I can t say that I blame them.
Till next month