Arusha Project

Into Maasai Land
August 11, 2008, 9:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

At the end of my fifth week in Tanzania, I finally decided to go on a weekend long excursion into Maasai Land. I was afraid I was going to get separation anxiety leaving our house in Kwa Idd, since I was the only volunteer who had not left the house to go to Zanzibar, safari, or Kilimanjaro, but it turned out to be even better than I expected.

Our first day started on Saturday. Shannon and I met our guide and cook in Arusha town, and after waiting for one hour for the dala dala to fill up, then we were on our way to Monduli chini. From Monduli chini, we took a truck up to Monduli Juu, which was fun because I got to stand up in the back, as we made our way into the hills. Our first stop in Monduli Juu was to see the spiritual healer. We went into the healer’s home, where he explained the tools he uses and the various reasons for people to visit his home. Then we went down to the market area, and since it was market day, we were able to walk around a real Maasai market. The rest of our day was pretty much spent walking to our next destination- Eluwai. Eluwai was the village that we were going to live in for the next 3 days. We walked for what was supposed to only be 2 hours, but ended up being about 3-4 hours to get to the village. The walk was long and hot, but with the beautiful scenery and long conversations, time passed quickly. When we finally got to Eluwai, we found that our long trek through the hills was definitely worth it. Eluwai was positioned on top of a hill so the view was amazing. By now it was time to eat dinner and settle into our boma (hut/house). We enjoyed a delicious dinner that our cook prepared for us and then Shannon and I went to our boma to get an early night’s rest. Our boma was a mzungu boma, which meant it was built for tourism purposes, so there were several beds available. However, since it was cold outside and neither of us brought a sleeping bag, we ended up sharing one bed, one blanket, and our body heat.

The second day in Eluwai was eventful. We first walked with the medicine man, learning about all the different vegetation and their medicinal purposes. Then we walked about an hour and a half to Oropul, the designated place for animal sacrifices. Usually, only men are allowed at Oropul, but for tourist purposes women are allowed to watch the sacrifice. The Maasai believe that if a woman sees a man eat meat, it will make him weak. The men simply prepare the meat first, and then bring it home for the women to eat. The Maasai men from Eluwai, with the help of our cook, our guide, and Shannon, ended up sacrificing and skinning the goat. To kill the goat one of the guys put his knee on the goat’s neck and covered its mouth and nostrils so it could not breath, suffocating it to death. Then it took some time to skin the goat. Shannon helped out, while I took pictures, always staying at least an arm’s distance away. Then the Maasai men started opening up the goat, which was pretty bloody. Once in a while one of them would start eating different parts of the goat, like its feet. Being a vegetarian, I definitely had no desire to eat any part of the animal, but watching was truly interesting. After a while I went to the part of Oropul where the men go to eat and relax, and I ended up dozing off for a short nap. After the men and Shannon finished eating their meat, we took some time to take silly pictures, the Maasai warriors had a fun time dressing Shannon and I up in their clothes. They also performed some of their traditional dancing and singing which consisted of jumping up and down and a lot of feet stomping. After spending our whole afternoon at Oropul- eating, talking, and relaxing, we headed back to the village. After dinner, we had what they call a Maasai disco. Then men jump up and down while everyone is singing. Then the women get to choose who they want to spend the night with by dancing towards them. Shannon and I of course could not bounce up and down the way the women are supposed to, but we had fun trying.

On our third day we started our trek back to Monduli Juu. But first we played with the children and the baby goats. I also somewhat successfully milked a goat and cow as well. Our first stop on our way back to Monduli Juu was to speak with the women at their women’s center. These were women who decided to no longer practice female genital mutilation. They are living together, raising sheep and doing bead work, in order to raise money, since they no longer receive money from initiation ceremonies. Shannon and I had fun buying jewellery from the women and talking to them about FGM and midwifery. We also sang and danced for a bit with the women which is always fun. After spending time with the women, we headed to Noonkidin Secondary School. The school serves as a normal private school for kids in the Monduli Juu area, as well as for girls who run away from forced marriages or FGM. For only being 3 years old, the school has come a long way. However, besides the limited funds and resources, the biggest obstacle for the school seems to be its very limited water supply. Since it is the dry season right now, the school struggles to find water. The students sometimes have to travel far distances to get water from a dirty lake.

My three days spent in Eluwai with the Maasai is definitely one of the main highlights of my trip to Tanzania. I was able to learn a lot during those three days, but it was also a chance to relax in a very remote and serene part of Tanzania. I have so much respect for the Maasai, especially the women, and I think the culture is so beautiful.


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