Vol. 18, #1
Conservation authorities are making a sweep of the Endulen area to round up everyone who does not live or work here. One needs permission to be in the Ngorongoro Conservation area. Last time I looked, two Conservation land rovers were moving toward the gate filled with people.
The Barabai and the Maasai have been at peace for a number of years. This week that ended with a cattle raid by the Maasai. Four Barabai cattle were captured. Barabai warriors tracked their cattle to the Endulen area where they were spotted by here boys preparing to make off with a herd of Maasai cattle. The boys ran for help. Since it was a cattle market day, hundreds of Maasai warriors responded to the alarm. It was a standoff for a while with much spear rattling and stick waving, with both sides not quite sure whether to fight or talk. A police land rover arrived in time to decide the issue in favor of negotiation. The upshot of the potentially lethal situation was the Barabai deciding not to go home until their cattle were produce. The cattle did not materialize and, after a couple of days, the Barabai went off to their country.
The Barabai are a pastoral people living on the plains that border Lake Eyasi. The front porch of the house here at Endulen gives a bird’s eye view of the rift wall and the lake spread out below.
The house was fated to fall from the beginning. Two years ago Noosidan built her house. Her mother was sick in the hospital with TB. Noosidan was dividing her time between cooking food to take to her sick mother and putting up a house for her husband and little sister.
Building a Maasai house is a tough job. Lots of trips have to be made to the forest for wood of all kinds. Splits are needed for the frame work to be sunk deep in the ground. Great numbers of light branches must be found and cut for the heavy framework of the igloo like house. Then lighter ones must be found for the out frame. Grass will be tied on this one and finally a thick plaster of cow dung will be smeared. The finished house is dry in the rain and warm when it is cold, although a little smoky at times.
The problem was splits; the right ones. Cedar splits are the ones to use. Every Maasai knows this. The ants don’t eat them and the damp doesn’t rot them, but Noosidan didn’t have time to go deep into the forest for cedar. Cooking for her mother took up to much time. She settlled for soft wood splits and has regretted it ever since. No one else knew. Her friends would have laughed, she never told a soul. Noosidan had used soft wood splits and her house was destined to fall, its’ chassis, so to speak, eaten by the ants and rotted by the damp.
Yesterday it happened. The rain had come in torrents all morning. The ground was soft and the plaster of cow dung was water logged and heavy. No one was inside at the time. All the women and girls were under a nearby tree giving the goats some “pills of two colors”, our local name for tetracycline. There was a heavy squishy rending sound and all turned to see. Down came the house of Noosidan in a pulpy mushy mound with the soft wood splits exposed for all to see.
The women and girls laughed and enjoyed the joke till sunset. Noosidan laughed with them after her initial tears of dismay and frustration. They even made up a song about her, about the foolish girl who built her house of termite food and watched fall over on a rainy day.
Till next month…