September 2000

Endulen Diary
Vol. 15 #6
September 2000

New Hip
I’m back in Endulen after getting a new hip in the states on July 1st. The arthritis pain is gone and I hope to throw away the cane in another few weeks.

Kaiyanda breaks an arm…..
Last week, about the time I was getting off the plane from Europe, Kaiyanda broke his arm. Kaiyanda is a six-year-old boy, one of fourteen handicapped girls and boys we care for here at our place. They would otherwise just vegetate at home, not physically able to herd cattle, go for firewood or draw water. These children attend the local government school here in Endulen that is quiet close to the mission.

About two years and a half ago, Kaiyanda was herding the cattle of his mother. His father died years ago. Two bulls began to fight and Kaiyanda tried to separate them by hitting their horns with his stick. In the course of the battle, while Kaiyanda was standing beside them, one of the huge animals fell and Kaiyanda was in the way. The rump of the bull landed on his leg and smashed it flat. As often happens in Maasai country, the people didn’t immediately take the boy to the hospital. Lack of cash money and the reluctance of people to carry a stretcher over 50 miles to the hospital resulted in Kaiyanda staying at home untreated. When gangrene was already far up the leg, the people finally decided to make a stretcher and take him the 50 odd miles to our hospital here in Endulen. At the hospital, it was clear that the only way to save Kaiyanda’s life was to immediately amputate his leg. They did that and it was necessary to take most of his hip too. He recovered and his mom asked me to take him here so that he could go to school.

I was able to get a prosthesis made for him here in Tanzania and he finally came out walking on the artificial leg with only a limp. He has even gotten to play football with the other kids and runs faster then some on his wooden leg. Last week one of the fastenings on the wooden leg gave way during a football game and Kaiyanda fell, breaking his arm. He’ll be wearing a plaster for some weeks and then, I’m sure, will be back on the football feild.

Fr. Dominic Gathurithu describes the three big surprises he got when he went to prepare Maasai people for marriage at Engaruka. (taken from the East African Spiritan Newsletter of July, August and September 2000)

My First Surprise: The chairman of Engaruka church has five wives. Now, for those unfamiliar with Maasai culture, this may come as a surprise. The number of wives a man has is a measure of his wealth. Some have 15 wives! We asked the man, who was baptized with his five wives a few years ago, to marry in the church – with one wife of course. He asked, “Can you let me marry one more wife before this?” And I asked him why he would need another wife when he had 5 already. Answer: “In our culture one should have and even number of wives, so that three are on my left and three on my right – five is not acceptable.

I told him that marrying another wife was out of the question, and that, strictly speaking, he should live with only one wife. After an hour of questions and answers he gave his final word that he would not take the sixth wife, but would have to take her later – maybe next year. We had no choice but to strike his name from the list of families to be married. He commands a lot of respect among the people there, but I wonder whether he should continue being chairman of the church. How far can we go in accommodating cultural values?

My Second Surprise: Another elder asked in Swahili: “Nikifunga ndoa, je nitakubaliwa tena kumpiga fimbo mke wangu?” (When I marry in the church, will it be alright to continue to beat my wives?) This was question posed by a middle-aged man on our second day of instructions. Again, for those unfamiliar with Maasai culture, wife battering is commonplace. I explained to the men that love must be the foundation of their marriage. That their wives deserve respect. The very act of beating your wife is beastly. They must be ready to forgive, and correct each other in a dignified way. My point was received with much laughter, a sure indication that…wife battering is here to stay and that there is no better way of showing that you are in charge.

My Third Surprise: Of the eight men present, only three had brought their wives. Excuses: Some had gone to visit relatives far away and two had just given birth. One young man said he didn’t bring his newly wedded wife because he needed to know her better. I explained to them that it was advisable, actually necessary, that before marriage the two should adequately know each other – especially about character and other traits. I further explained that they should be driven to marriage by the love they have for each other, since “the two shall become one flesh.” That got their attention and scared one woman badly. The woman, who was not yet baptized, had missed the first two days of instruction. She said that she would much rather be with her women companions than with her husband all the time as becoming one flesh indicated. We explained to her that becoming one flesh did not mean that she would have to spend all her time with her husband. They would not be tied together as a literal translation of the Swahili: “kufunga ndoa” (to tie the marriage) might indicate.

Fr. Dominic says that, in spite of the surprises we shall be back to Engaruka for more instructions – and the remarkable day when the spouses will finally say “I do” is set for 1st October.

Till next month….


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