Vol. 19, #6
OSOTUA MAASAI EDUCATION PROGRAM UPDATE:
As we enter the second half of 2004, here is the situation…
Osotua Maasai Prep School here in Endulen (Pre-Form I)
Computer course of 6 months
Technical School (secretarial and tailoring)
Secondary School (high school)
Junior College (Form V & VI)
College & University
Teacher Training School
Naomon was fourteen years old when she was married to Lenana two years ago. Lenana is a forty year old elder of the Endulen area. Naomon’s home is a few miles from a village called Duka Bovu (The falling down shop) not far from the town of Arusha. Years ago Lenana’s father had given a daughter to a family there. Instead of the normal bride price in cattle, a daughter yet to be born was promised. Two years ago Lenana went to collect the debt in the form of his new bride and third wife Naomon.
Naomon was terrified at the prospect of leaving her mother and village. She trembled at the prospect of traveling hundreds of miles to a strange land with a husband she had never seen before. Maasai girls take no part in the choosing of their husbands. Fathers make these decisions alone or sometimes together with their sons, but wives only rarely and daughters never consulted. In the case of Naomon, the decision was made long before she was born.
It was a sad day for Naomon when Lenana took her from the village of her father and mother. To protest did not occur to her. This was the way of the Maasai from time immemorial. She boarded the bus for Ngorongoro with Lenana, if not willingly, at least resigned to her future whatever it might hold.
The first two wives of Lenana had run away to the villages of their parents after one or two years with Lenana. He had treated them badly, not providing them with sufficient clothing and food. He beat them regularly and on the slightest pretext. When he returned home from a day spent in the local beer shop, he was always in a foul mood. In both cases, their fathers received them back and realized their impossible situations. Although Lenana pleaded for forgiveness and offered cattle to show his repentance, both fathers realized the character of their son in law and refused to force their daughters to return to Lenana.
During Naomon’s first weeks in Endulen, it almost seemed things might work out. Lenana was drinking less and only occasionally beating Naomon. On one occasion, he even bought her a brightly colored cloth to wear to local feasts. This state of affairs lasted about two months, whereupon Lenana reverted to his normal ways. He beat Naomon every evening when he returned from the local millet beer shop. He accused her of everything imaginable. He said she didn’t gather sufficient fire wood, she didn’t have hot bath water ready for his return, and that she was sleeping with the young warriors while he was away. Lenana shouted all kinds of other accusations that occurred to his beer addled brain.
By the end of her first year in Endulen, Naomon was desperate. Her father’s village might just as well have been across the ocean as far as any communication would be possible for Naomon with her father. She had no relatives in the Endulen area to appeal for help, and no money to run away to Duka Bovu, even if she had known how to get there. She began to grow thin and haggard, totally despondent and despaired of getting help anywhere.
At this point she made a decision. She would force people to see her impossible situation. She would force her father to come and see her. She would not live in this hell one day longer. Naomon filled a large pot with water and rested it on the three stones of her cooking fire. When the water was boiling and bubbling, she grasped the large pot and poured it over her head. She got people’s attention for the first time in a year and a half. She even got the attention of the chronically dazed Lenana, who got the news at the beer shop that his wife had been carried to the hospital on a home made stretcher by the women of his village.
Naomon recovered permanently scarred. At the hospital it was discovered that she was three months pregnant and, by some miracle, she lose the baby. Her father was called and he came to Endulen and took Naomon back to Duka Bovu and her home village. She rested and was well fed and cared for by her mother. Some six months later gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Two months later Lenana showed up with a calf as a gift for Naomon’s father. He begged for forgiveness and asked that Naomon return to his village. He would not mistreat her again. Naomon’s father refused, saying that he wouldn’t let his daughter go back to Endulen. He now knew what kind of man Lenana was. Lenana promptly told him that if Naomon was not given to him he would take his sister back, the now thirty five year second wife of Naomon’s father with five children. From time out of time this has been the right of a Maasai man who quarrels with the husband of his daughter or sister. At any time he can take her away from her husband.
Since one month Naomon is back at the village of Lenana in Endulen with her infant son. These days Lenana comes home drunk each night and beats Naomon unmercifully. The future can only hold disaster.
Maasai Proverb of the month:
“Melo kiyieu oloolajijik.”
(He, of an age-group, does not walk alone.)
Till next month….Ned