Vol. 15, #5
Recently an old man came to the door yelling that he was dead. He was crying and beside himself with fear, saying that a snake had just bitten him in the big toe and he was feeling the poison spread through his body. He said the pain was unbearable and he was feeling weaker and weaker, in fact, just about to die. Knowing the virulent nature of the poison that many of the snakes around here have, we immediately had him lie down so the poison wouldn’t spread by more jumping around. We called a couple of the boys and they carried him to the car. We drove to the hospital and called the doctors and sisters, fearing the worst. The medical people all gathered around and carefully examined his big toe. The diagnosis of the best medical minds here in Endulen, with no dissenting opinions was that the guy had a big thorn in his toe and that he was very drunk. Unable to take the general laughter, the man jumped up and took off at a rapid but somewhat wobbly run for home.
We have found out a little more about the Lutheran pastor I talked about last month. He was a Tanzanian and a MwaArusha by tribe. He was the Lutheran pastor of Malambo a two-day walk northeast of Endulen. It seems that he was not targeted because of his affiliation with the church, but rather because of the clothing he was wearing. He had on an army fatigue hat and a fatigue jacket. He was taking around some white visitors. The Somali bandits stopped the car that he and his visitors were traveling in and, thinking he was army or police, shot him dead. They then stole the car and left the white people unharmed on the road with the corpse of the pastor. The Somali have a special hatred for the army and police. The feeling is mutual since the government is doing its best to get rid of the Somali brigands in any way they can. The Somali caught and executed the area police commander a year ago. The army and police on their part have captured a good number of the Somali insurgents.
The local health officials have been getting more and more insistent that everyone build outhouses (We have five one-holers on the mission here.). The threat of cholera is very real and this is the first year in five that we haven’t had a death from the disease here in the Endulen area. For the last couple of years the health authorities have been fining people who didn’t dig latrines. Now they have gotten very serious, way overly serious in my estimation. They arrested four outhouseless men and one outhouseless woman and sentenced them to six months in prison. I agree with the need to do all in our power to prevent cholera, but the punishment these Maasai people have received is way over the top in my estimation.
Comment of Fr. Gene Hillman on the story of Sein in the April Endulen Diary: (Gene initiated Spiritan work in Maasai country in the early fifties. Over the years, he has been mentor/father/guru to generations of missionaries, my own among them. As his comments indicate, he maintains a strong interest in what goes on here). Gene writes…What is the rationale, and moral right, for Sein not obeying her father? What does customary law say about the future of her child? And about the future of Sein herself? What happens in any society when the natural bond between father and daughter is ignored? Is the bond superseded by the way things are apt to be done in U.S.A?
My response: Gene…Many thanks for your letter. The beef the parents have is with me not with their daughter. They don’t seem to be able to believe that the daughter could seriously take such a stand. Secondly, invariably, within a year or at most two, even this bad feeling goes by the board and the relationship between the parents and myself is restored. As the parents see with their own eyes that the girls are not lost to them, but come home to visit frequently and have the ability to be of help to them because of their education, they become my close friends. This has happened over and over again. In the fifteen years we have been educating girls, mostly initially against the wishes of the family, I have not made a single long term enemy among the parents, nor has a single girl been alienated even temporarily from her family. None of the sixty plus girls we have educated has been lost to Maasai country or to their parents. Every single one has come back to marry an educated Maasai boy and either work in Maasai country or to return to her home village and marry in the traditionally arranged way. We have taken Sein to visit her father seven times during the past year. Each time they have sat and had long talks with each other. Their relationship if anything is closer than it was before, although they are still in basic disagreement over her future. He wanted her to marry an age-mate of his, whom he had promised her to some twenty years before she was born, at the time he and her husband to be were still warriors together.
In the larger picture, it is not our primary goal to further the education of Maasai girls or boys as individuals. We are fighting a battle for survival here. To site a couple of examples: As you know, more and more of the dry season pasture land is being taken by corrupt government officials and sold to the highest bidders. Maasai traditional leaders are among the worse offenders. Large tracts in central and South Maasai are being sold to European and local rich farmers to grow seed for export. In the North, great tracts of land have been given to Arabs as a private hunting preserve. There is only one way to turn this situation around; education is the key. We need a small but vocal leadership community of Maasai men and women who can sit on an equal footing with the non-Maasai people in the decision making councils with reference to land use, water, human and animal health, education, church issues and all the rest. In this leadership pool, we need women as well as men. The women are the ones most committed to the family and the stability of the Maasai as a people. Their priorities are their children, their parents and their extended families. The agenda of men is not always but sometimes their personal enrichment at the expense of the people they are supposed to be serving. Both men and women leaders are needed, and we am trying to do my part to provide these leaders.
We have a lawyer graduated December 1999 from Dar es Salaam University, a Maasai boy from Endulen, who is now working for the rights of the Maasai people here in the Ngorongoro area and elsewhere here in the North. In one year, Naado, one of our Maasai girls, will graduate as a registered nurse (four years nursing school following graduation from High (Secondary) school. She is resolved to return to North Maasai and work in one of the hospitals here, Endulen or elsewhere in Maasai country. The hiring practices of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority have radically changed in the time my educated boys and girls have begun to get jobs there. A small group of them are very vocal. When I came here fifteen years ago, there were a few game scouts who were Maasai. No other Maasai worked for Conservation. Now a significant percentage of Conservation personnel are Maasai, right up to middle management positions. They are on the councils that make policy. Only time will tell, if we are right in what we are doing, but nothing so far has happened to tell us that we are wrong.
I brought Sein home from the hospital 3 weeks ago. Her mother and sister have been staying with her here on the mission for some weeks and are still with us. She has a beautiful baby boy and her operation incision continues to heal nicely. Her father hasn’t visited because of advanced age, but I will take Sein and her baby to visit him shortly.
Some of you asked what happened to the two girls that didn’t work out in the hospital jobs. I pushed them to go because of the promise of further education if they liked working in the medical field and at the time there was nothing better on the horizon. One now will begin a course in Community Development in July, and the other has gone back to her home village till we figure out what she might want to get into and an opportunity arises.
Fr. Pat Patten, one of our Maasai missionaries and the pilot founder of our two-airplane Flying Medical Service here in Maasailand, comments on the renewal of cattle raiding between the Maasai and Sukuma people that I talked of last month. Pat writes: Concerning the cattle raids: Years ago we were able to stop this in the Loliondo area (the far North of Maasai country near the Kenya border) by simply suggesting that the police lock up the laiboni (spiritual leader giver of amulets to protect and cure people from every conceivable ailment) every time there was a cattle raid. The warriors — at least then –would never, ever, consider going on a raid without the blessing of the laiboni. No blessing, no raid. The laiboni is always at fault. No free laiboni, no cattle raids. The laiboni learned very quickly to stop blessings on warriors going to raid cattle.
Till next month…..