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Sunday, 28 September 2008

The People: Meeting the Maasai - Page 5

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".

His goal is to help them receive an education like his own.  He was sponsored by World Vision as a child, the NGO that helps those less privileged to go to school and progress through life.

The People: Meeting the Maasai, Moses Pulei, Traditional Maasai, Maasai culture, Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club, Namanga, Kenya, East Africa, Jim DorseyTraditional Maasai do not believe in education as we in the west do.  Why would you need schooling to tend cattle or be a warrior?  Moses’ father called it “White Man’s Magic,” and his resistance prevented Moses from starting school until he was almost nine.  In high school, he walked 28 miles each day, wearing his shuka to save his uniform.  He bathed in a cattle trough before entering the classroom.  Missionaries helped him secure scholarships and he ventured from Africa to Whitworth college in Washington state where he excelled and became student body president.

Today, he is associated with the Presbyterian church and is working hard to give back to society, busy with numerous Church sponsored projects such as bringing water to the area and creating shelters for battered women.  He has also created his own foundation called Staff of Hope to initiate such projects.  On top of this, he is in great demand as a guest speaker.  He is trying to preserve the old ways while slowly bringing his village into the modern world.  He must walk a fine line to do this.

The Maasai are traditional nomads who used to move their villages to follow game. He told me when he first went to school in America and came home; he was never sure exactly where his village would be.  Today, they have no intention of moving.  They now have piped in water, thanks to his efforts, and are transitioning to farmers, as part of the “New Africa.”   This is obvious from those among them dressed in t-shirts and jeans and who have heard of the internet but have no idea exactly what it is.

That afternoon, Moses must leave for a meeting with a government official and we agree to continue our talks later. Before he goes, Moses calls everyone together and presents me with a spear.  It was used long ago in a lion hunt and it is the highest honor he can pay me.

The People: Meeting the Maasai, Moses Pulei, Traditional Maasai, Maasai culture, Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club, Namanga, Kenya, East Africa, Jim DorseyThe Maasai are among the last tribes in Africa to cling to the old ways and many people ridicule them for this.  We have witnessed first hand an ancient way of life that will most probably vanish in the next few years, some of it from outside influences and some by choice.

Before I get into the car, I tell Moses, when I see him next time, back in Los Angeles, I don’t have any goats, but will sacrifice a hamburger in his honor.  This sends his head back in laughter and I see my old friend who moves so easily between two very different worlds.

At home, weeks later, I still have the smell of this village with me.  It is dung and dust, smoke and cattle.  It takes me back at will.


Since this story was written, Moses has received his PHD from Fuller and is now an associate professor of philosophy at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.  He teaches there most of the year, but beginning in 2009 he will divide his time between Spokane and Kenya where the university is helping him to open a teaching annex.

©Jim Dorsey

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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