Vol. 25, #1
Medical issues have occupied me for most of this year. In June I went to the states for medical checkups and extensive dental work. That stuff went on for most of my time at Hemet California, our retirement place in the states and where I spent my three-month leave. The medical stuff finally ended after the final procedure that was carotid artery surgery. Hemet is desert country with stark rocky mountains to the East. I am told that during the winter months there is snow on the upper slopes of the mountains and swimming weather in Hemet down below. It is a beautiful place and the Spiritans there were very welcoming.
After the time in Hemet there were two weeks with my family in Northern Vermont on Lake Champlain. Members of my family live or have summer camps at Hathaway Point on St. Albans Bay. We had some great days sailing on the lake. The wind during the week following Hurricane Earl was strong and made for some exciting moments.
Last week I traveled here to Tanzania and arrived home in Endulen on Thursday. The dry season has come to the Ngorongoro highlands with a vengeance. It is dry as bone now and if one had not been here for the wet season, it would be hard to believe Endulen could have been green just a few months ago. The Maasai have little milk during the dry season and many people have none. Everyone depends on corn to get them through this very difficult time. The price of corn has risen astronomically since the last harvest that was meager in most areas. Now we are paying six dollars for a five-gallon tin of corn and almost another dollar to get it ground into flour. This is presenting a tremendous hardship for people who must sell something to get cash money. There is no milk to sell and to come up with a goat for market is very difficult for most people. The inevitable solution is to share. One family might have a little flour today and share it with a neighbor that has none. Tomorrow the situation could be reversed, but at best, it is a pretty precarious way to live for a family and especially one with small children. So many things have been tried over the years, for example jewelry making groups of the women. The problem with jewelry making is marketing. Where is the stuff to be sold and if a market can be found, how to get it there on a regular basis. Another undertaking that has been tried is to create a corn grinding cooperative of the women. Experience has shown that maintenance is a big issue because spare parts and expertise at repair are both in short supply.
Nairorie died during my home leave. He was one of my former students and a very bright young man. It seems that chronic malaria with some chest complications had him in and out of the hospital for some weeks and he gradually weakened and some kind of fever pushed his already damaged constitution over the edge and he died at the age of 22. It is a real loss for our village.
An old man, Kengwele, just came to say hello and we had a cup of tea on the front porch. He tells me that his village is feeling the pressure of the dry season and they have moved their cattle up into the lands just short of the Ngorongoro forest. His son, Kimani, whom I sponsored at our Spiritan Secondary graduated late last year and has been unable to find a job. Kengwele brought me a letter from Kimani to say that he has found work at Oldupai Gorge with Ngorongoro Conservation. He doesn’t say what he is doing, but jobs with Conservation are great. They generally pay well and once hired the positions can last for many years with regular promotions and pay increases. So many of secondary school graduates these days find it impossible to get hired. There are just too few jobs and many secondary school leavers looking for them.
Kristofa, an electricion at our local mission hospital has his home some seven hours walk from Endulen at the base of the rift wall on the shores of Eyasi. His wife’s mother, a elderly grandmother, has her home on her family farm there. The lands around the lake are irrigated by the springs high up on the rift wall and produce abundant harvest of some of the best onions in all of Tanzania. During harvest lorries take this very lucrative crop to all parts of Northern Tanzania. The farms are handed down from generation to generation and seldom does land in that rich area come up for sale. Kristofa’s grandmother inherited her farm from her husband and she divided it in half, giving one part to her son and the other half she divided among her daughters. The new laws in Tanzania allow female children the same inheritance rights as their male siblings. The fact of not inheriting the entire farm has rankled the son. He has had the conviction that the whole of the “shamba” should be his and has made no secret of his deep resentment and anger towards his mother and sisters. His deep-seated animosity boiled over the day before yesterday when he set fire to the house of his mother during the night, burning to death his mother and six children that were sleeping with her in the house. Endulen is still in shock. How could this have happened? The young man is now in police custody.
On my arrival here in Endulen twenty-five years ago, there were two vehicles, the Toyota land cruiser of the hospital and my land rover. At this writing, there are more than twenty five vehicles belonging to various people here at Endulen village. This week we had a traffic accident. The double cab pick up of the hospital crashed into the land rover of a local Maasai trader. No one was hurt but the cars were badly crunched. Maybe the time has come for a traffic light in our village. If so, it would be only the second one in all of Northern Tanzania.
Till next time,