NOVEMBER 11th, 2009 – We visit a Maasai Village
The next morning after a very early breakfast we went to visit a Maasai village. We arrived at 6:30 a.m. There were a few Maasai men to welcome us outside the village. The leader of this particular tribe’s name was Andrew. The Maasai use their Christian names just for the sake of the tourist because we would not be able to pronounce their real names. They are also very long names. Andrew instructed us what we to expect when we entered inside the village. He told us he would take us into one of their huts and explain how they were built. He said we would have to stay together and not talk to the women. Then we would go visit their school, which was quite a long walk from the village.
After his talk the whole tribe came out to greet us. There were no children with them. They welcomed us with a ceremonial dance and jumping as high as they could. They wore sandals, which they made them selves. I can’t imagine how their backs, legs and spines endure the pressure of continually jumping straight up in the air as often as they must do it.
The village was built in a circle with the huts very close in proximity. There were about fifteen huts. In the middle of the village goats were penned up with thorn bush, but some were walking around among us. They build the huts with hard sticks and support the sticks with cow dung and urine. Then mixture is spread throughout the inside and outside to cover all the wooded sticks. The entrance to the hut is very tiny and we had to bend way over to get inside. It is shaped like a sideways U to keep out the cold, heat, wind and bugs. There are tiny openings for windows around the top of the hut, and an opening in the center so smoke can escape. The small windows block out the sun to keep it cool, it also avoids flies and mosquitoes from getting inside. It is so dark it takes some time for your eyes to adjust to so little light. The really tall Maasai must have very strong backs to be able to bend over each time they have to get into their hut. My back hurt the first time I did it. Only five people at a time could go in with Andrew. Once inside it was so dark you were completely blind for a few moments. We were taken to where they slept. There were two beds made of woven branches and cushioned with dry grasses and covered with a leather cowhide. It was very hard when you sat on it. They do not use pillows of any kind, and the only blankets they use are their clothing. The beds were on each side of the hut, one for the parents, and the other for the children. In the center of the hut was a small place for a fire, a pot for cooking, a few utensils, and a bowl for washing. The ceiling in the center was higher so you could actually stand up, but not if you are tall. There was no odor from the cow dung and urine.
Later they displayed how they make fire. The people on the reality show “Survivor” need to take a lesson from the speed they can do it. All they do is use dried elephant dung and rub two sticks together and “poof” you have fire. It’s that fast! Later they use cow dung to fuel the fire.
The women do all the labor. They build the huts, which takes about seven months. They milk the cows; they fetch the water no matter how far the walk is. Twenty miles would be a short walk. They are not allowed to own land or cattle. If they never give birth to a son they are scorned and forced to beg in their old age. Many tribes still circumcise their women even though it is illegal. The one thing I could not help notice was the women never smiled, but the men looked very happy and their smiles were huge. Gee! I wonder why? Our guide Tony told us that’s the way it is “The men did the thinking and women did the working” Women in this country have come a long way baby!
For the boys, fifteen is the coming of age ritual, when they become circumcised and become Moroni warriors. They used to have to hunt and spear a lion, but since it’s illegal they are not allowed. Who can say though for there is no one to stop them? They wear mostly red clothing so the animals fear them. MORE TO FOLLOW…