Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sopa~~ Hello in Maasai

More than a hundred years ago, the Maasai ruled over much of East Africa. Their feared warriors were renowned for their bravery and cattle stealing escapades. At which time countless Maasai lived inside the lush green Ngorongoro Crater. East Africa chose to make the crater a national park, thus forcing the Maasai to reservations out side the crater. They continue to cling tenaciously to their culture and customs, while the pressures of the modern world build up around them. Their many rites of passage--rituals that transpires the participant from one stage of life to the next, give life a meaning and purpose that is often lacking in other cultures.
The Maasai Tribe were so intriguing to me. From the bright colorful shawls, to the jewelry and its meaning, to the spears and sticks the men continually carry. Going to a Maasai village was one of the most extraordinary things I did while in East Africa. This particular tribe live high above the crater, but still have grazing rights inside the Crater. Each day the young men and boys herd the cattle approximately thirty miles from their village to inside the crater. They stay with the herd, protecting them from all predators and thieves. At the end of the day it is backup the very steep road, back to the village where the herd will stay inside the enclosed fence area of at the village. The amazing thing is the herders have no water or food for the duration of the day.
When I first arrived at the Maasai village in the Upper Rift Valley, I was nervous with anticipation, but curiosity. After paying a small fee to the leader, I was soon the center of attention. Oh my! I soon found myself encircled by the men of the tribe, singing and chanting a welcome song and all the while dancing and jumping with spears in their hands. For a brief moment I wondered if I was going to be dinner!!! As the men continued to dance around me, the women of the tribe stood almost reverently singing a different song. I was told that the men and women never sing the same song, as the men and women have different roles in the welcoming process. However, then again the men and women have different roles in the Maasai Tribe. The men do very little, yet the women do almost everything, from building the house, to hunting for food, and caring for the children.
After I had officially been welcomed as a guest, I was allowed to enter the small fence compound they call home. I am sure my eyes spoke volumes about my many thoughts. I tried to take photos without making them feel like they were on display, but I really had a hard time not just staring.
There were small children crawling around in the cow manure left from the night before, a woman was beating the hair off a cow hide that had recently be scarified, and the village women had a huge circle of beaded jewelry set up all of which was for sell. So much of what the villagers wear are symbolic of some thing. They were red as they think the lions are color blind and there fore can't see them. The jewelry also has meanings. A mother can not wear earrings unless she as had a son that has been circumcised. A young boy can not carry a spear unless he has killed a lion, of which makes him brave and a warrior of the tribe. Customs worlds apart from Americans.
I was invited into one of the twenty-nine huts, to sit and have tea, but it was so small and very stinky. The huts are made from mud, cow dung, urine and sticks, no wonder they smell. Shortly after entering the hut I got claustrophobic and ask to please move on. The head matriarch continued to show me all the village including the school. The children obviously rehearsed were in a small pen looking room chanting and singing the A,B,C,'s and counting for me. One small child caught my attention as he or she kept waving and smiling at me. I so wonder what the thoughts were of this young Maasai.
After an hour asking questions and trying to take it all in we left. These people are without a doubt the most intriguing people, with the most intriguing customs and cultures I have ever seen. Should I ever have the opportunity to visit Africa again I would love to spend a day or two with the Maasai.

Maasia Village

From Mom: Everyone, today is the last day of safari. Yesterday was great. I got charged by a huge elephant, wow! I also was a guest at Massai Village--very interesting to say the least. Africa is a totally different world and I am amazed. I will be meeting the AILC group tomorrow and have been invited to Bryson's house to meet his family and have dinner before flying out to Kenya. Love ya all! So far, what an AWESOME experience!

From Andi: Take care of yourself, my friend. I am so proud to call you my friend. I miss you tons. ENJOY YOUR BUCKET LIST. I can't wait to see what's next. I'm sure the list goes on forever! Love, Andi

From Sana: Our hearts are very proud of you. The team leaves today and we are packed and ready to meet you at the airport soon. Here's my in-country phone 0716266038. Looking so forward to seeing you.

From Tiffany: Wow! I'm not sure what is going on in this picture, but it's interesting. I am glad your trip is all you dreamed of. Have a good time at Bryson's house and call me when you get to Kenya.