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Sunday, 28 September 2008

The People: Meeting the Maasai - Page 4

Written by Jim Dorsey
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We step out of the car into the hot blowing dust of southern Kenya, into a different world in a different time.
A dozen stately Maasai in bright red and purple robes surround us.  Ebony colored hands reach out for ours in welcome, and two different ways of life come together.  Maasai means those who speak Maa, but they simply call themselves "the people".

Inside the tent, we watch as tiny hands from outside poke and prod this strange mobile home.  More and more people arrive from other bomas who have heard of the exotic visitors living inside.  Throughout the night, people are running their hands over the nylon walls. We invite three small boys inside who sit with wide eyes and giggle at this alien creation.  One elderly grandfather bends to peer inside but we cannot entice him to enter.  He leaves, laughing and shaking his head.  Besides the constant flow of curious people, a goat goes into labor right outside and we realize there will be no sleeping this night.

They call us before dawn and I enter a dung filled corral to photograph the women milking goats and cattle.  It is like walking in mush.  They are much amused by me and smile for my camera as they work.  Irene is handed the baby goat, born minutes ago right outside our tent.  One life was given in our honor and another born to take its place, Maasai karma.

The grandfather who would not enter our tent asks Irene to step into the goat pen, saying they like her and she will keep them calm.  She wades into the dung carrying the newborn baby and is surrounded by bleating young charges.  She spends the day acting as alpha goat to the delight of all the women.

The young boys arrive to take the cattle out for the day’s grazing.   Maasai boys begin tending cattle at about age four and it is serious business.  Maasai measure their wealth by the number of livestock a village owns.  They never enter the bush without a spear and lions fear the sound of their cowbells because it is well known that they will take on a lion with a spear to protect their cattle.

The People: Meeting the Maasai, Moses Pulei, Traditional Maasai, Maasai culture, Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club, Namanga, Kenya, East Africa, Jim DorseyI ask to go with the boys but Moses says I will see more if I stay with him.

He is already on his cell phone, and men are lined up to talk with him, so he excuses himself to “take a meeting.” Standing under a tree, deep in conversation, I realize he is a very important man out here.  This is his office and he is working.  One man tells me, “Maasai can’t walk five feet without having a meeting.” I see this is true.

One village needs water and Moses promises to try to help dig a well while a mother needs some medicine for her children that he says he will bring on his next trip.

He is the neighborhood godfather, with everyone coming to him with their problems and needs and he treats everyone the same, with empathy and compassion.

I ask him if he has tried to explain his other life to his family, and he replies that he has, but most of it is beyond their comprehension.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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