Once again the rains have come to North Maasai country. A few short days into the new season and one questions whether the plains here on the edge of the Serengeti were ever dry. The grass, although still short, gives the landscape a welcome green tinge replacing the ochre dust that for months has been the view where ever one looked.
With the heavy rains in the Ngorongoro highlands comes the flooding of the dry river beds. A phenomenon that can be the undoing of the unwary stranger and sometimes even the Maasai themselves. Less than a week into the rains, three people are dead. And these casualties are not the normal ones, children playing in the sand of the bone dry rivers or women digging for hidden water. Rather OleSeku and two young warriors braving the knee deep rushing water were taken by the sudden shoulder deep rushing wave.. The bodies were found a couple of miles down stream. It happens every year, but seldom to strong adult men.
I have been struggling with the connection to the internet ever since I returned from leave more than a year ago. Often there is no connection at all or the connection is constantly breaking off. My nephew Steve suggested that I look into a satellite connection. I looked on the web and most providers supplying such connections charge over $4,000 for the equipment and installation. I discovered that a Swiss family that has lived in Arusha for many years and are old friends of mine are providers of satellite internet. On contacting them, they said that they could give me used equipment for a fraction of the normal cost and the monthly cost of minimum bandwidth would be quite reasonable. Yesterday the system was installed and it works great. Now I have a good connection to post my blog, get the news and read a couple of magazines that I subscribe to.
There have been a lot of strange things going on with this web site in recent days and weeks. Many blogs have been posted that have not come from me. Also it seems that a couple of hundred people have also somehow gotten my password and the ability to change things on the web site. My nephew Steve, although super busy with work and family has sorted these things out. I am now feeling confident enough to begin blogging again. Many thanks Steve. You’re amazing.
Here at Olbalbal the rainy season has come to an end. Following the drought of last year, the rains have been good in many parts of Tanzania so there should be a good harvest. People are still hungry and the price of corn has tripled in the last year. If the expected and hoped for harvest becomes a reality, the availability of corn will improve come July. The price hopefully will come down too. It has been a brutal time for the Maasai who depend on corn as their staple food. Very few people have sufficient cattle to provide much milk.
Lenkangu graduated from Teacher Training College Last May, one year ago. Together with his classmates he has been waiting for the Education Department to assign him to a school to begin his teaching career. The class before his has also been waiting to be posted. For them it has been a two years since they graduated.
In recent days the government has let go almost ten thousand civil servants because bogus school leaving certificates. Many teachers are among them. Since this has left numerous schools throughout the country understaffed, Lenkangu is hoping that he and his classmates will be hired to fill the vacated teaching positions. There are thousands of Teacher Training School graduates from all over the country hoping for a posting.
Lenkangu has been doing volunteer teaching at the local grade school and has received some financial help ($225 dollars over the course of the year) from the school and from the village of Olbalbal. He has now been doing the volunteer work for a year now and is hoping to get is teaching career onto a more solid basis.
The young warriors are out bridge fixing. The rains have eaten away at the already narrow bridge near the mission. The bridge consists of a corrugated iron culvert covered with dirt and stones. The rains have worn away the passage so there is just enough solid ground for a car to pass. This makes it a scary drive across the deep rain water dug gully. The young warriors are adding earth and rock to widen the roadway across. Some of the secondary students home for vacation are also taking part in the project.
There are many places where the road passes over these water courses and they have become narrow and dangerous to pass. Fortunately, our young Olbalbal warriors have willingly take on the job of making our road safe.
Water is a huge problem at Loongoku, one of the Maasai centers that I hold a prayer service and teaching each week. There is no water for miles around. The people there hire a land rover to bring a tank of water. It costs them the equivalent of some hundreds of dollars to bring the precious stuff and and they raise that sum by paying the equivalent of 25 cents American for each buck of water that they use. I’ve never seen people who were so careful about their use of water.
Here at the area of Olbalbal called Meshili, we are very lucky to have a pipe bringing water from a spring high on Ngorongoro mountain. There is a water point here on the mission where lots of people come to draw water every day. Once in a while, elephants break the pipe requiring some patching up, but generally there is always water at the tap in our front yard. This in in contrast to most of Maasai country where the women walk as much as half a day to get water for cooking and drinking.
The ceremony that took place here at Olbalbal is called “Enkang oo-Kirin, The village of the meat. The Enkang oo-nkiri enables a warrior to eat by themselves food prepared by women. During this ritual a special bull is chose to be slaughtered and eaten by the warriors. Wives must also prove that they have stayed faithful to their husband by taking part in the bull’s skin ritual. Men wrestle with each other approaching the bull’s skin that is laid out on the ground to reveal whether their wife has or hasn’t obeyed their marriage customs. To remain faithful in the Maasai culture women are only permitted to have affairs with men inside their husband’s age set. If a woman is found guilty, her husband as well as his entire age set will no longer respect her. A female cow is brought to her husband as repentance gift in hopes to apologize. To conclude the ceremony all members of the tribe, male and female, fight each other for the meat.
During the early morning of the initiation, each warrior sits in a chair as
Hi oldest wife shaves them. After the ceremony is completed a warrior is now allowed to break away from his fathers homestead and start his own. He is now considered an elder and takes on full responsibility for his own family. Even though he is now able to live entirely on his own, a warrior in this position would still rely on his father for advice until he reaches about the age of thirty-five.
Although all these rituals and ceremonies are a vital part of the Maasai culture, some of these traditions have started to disengage. Many western cultures have started invading these Maasai tribes and forcing their cultural ideas upon them. Because of this invasion it is a lot harder for these people to practice their older way. The Maasai people have been very reluctant to adopt western ideas and remain in touch with their ceremonial rituals as much as possible.
Rokoine and Sophia were married last week at their “boma” here in Olbalbal. It was a good celebration and attended by large numbers of well wishers. I had the privilege of blessing their wedding. Rokoine is studying finances at the University and Sophia is a high school graduate.
A highly unusual and heart rending hyena incursion into a nearby Maasai village took place this week. It happened at the time of night when everyone was deeply asleep. The father of the family was on guard and asleep in the goat and sheep pen in the center of the village, a short distance from the houses of his two wives and their children.
The hyena entered the first house that didn’t have any kind of a door or closure. He grabbed and broke the neck of a two year old child that lay sleeping on the cow skin bed. Frightened by the mother’s screams upon having her foot grabbed by the intruder, the hyena ran out of the house and entered that of the second wife. That house also had nothing blocking the entrance. Once inside, the hyena killed a small child and was beginning to savage the woman of the house when the husband showed up. He killed the hyena with as single thrust of his spear.
By that time, two small children were dead and both of the man’s wives had been mauled. It was a horrendously sad day for all of us here at Olbalbal.
After having seen hyenas coming to drink at the tap in our front yard each of the last three evenings, we are being very careful. Usually our door is open till late at night and we sit on our front porch enjoying the cool evening breezes. The hyenas have been coming at about eleven o’clock each night and, at least for the the time being, we are inside and our door is shut well ahead of that hour