Visiting the Masai

I already described a visit to Tengeru and our safari. A lot had happened during those two days in Africa… After returning from safari we had a dinner with ladies from Sweden, with whom we were going to spend the next five days and we had to plan the next day. We started the next day with a quick breakfast and then our two Land Rovers arrived. We loaded our luggage and went shopping. We had to buy stuff for the whole week. When shopping, first in the supermarket and later at the local market, I felt a bit like an explorer preparing for the expedition in the nineteenth century. I know I exaggerate a little, but if we ran out of water, someone would have to run to the well in the morning and then boil the water. Being the only man in the group it’s easy to guess who would be responsible for this task 😉 Thats’s why it was important to buy everything from the list.

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Lots of vegetables and fruits. For a few pennies you can hire young boys who will carry the shopping for you

After loading our 4x4s we set off to Emboreet in Simanjiro district, located south of Arusha. The journey took us about five hours. Initially we drove towards the Ngorongoro Crater but soon we turned left where the rough terrain started. It was my first time in a Land Rover but what a first time it was! Unfortunately I can’t add videos so it’s just a picture. But I’ll upload the video on FB.

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Sometimes there was no road. During the rainy season this route is almost impassable

Every time my Matilda visited Simanjiro, living conditions were quite spartan and this time? A small pavilion with rooms for 2-4 people was built next to the church. Each room had a separate bathroom… Shocking, right?! OK, apart from beds with mosquito nets there was nothing else in the room, you could not flush the toilet, and the water in the shower (if there was any) was cold but it doesn’t change the fact that the conditions were much better than I expected. I would say that the standard of the rooms matched the hostels in Central America which is pretty good.

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Polish-Swedish team. Me in the lower left corner and going clockwise: Lena, Johanna, Hanna, Helena and my Matilda

The reason for visiting the Simanjiro was the completion of a 10-year “Youth councils” project, the creation of student councils in schools. Due to the Masai community being very traditional, the project was to create structures through which the youngsters could learn to speak in front of the elders. Next on the agenda was the education of the elders that children and young people have their own opinions and that they want to influence the surrounding reality. The school which we visited is probably the only school in Tanzania with such a project. And such projects are important because the aim is to change the mentality and help to adapt the traditional community’s life to the modern world. Until today the Masai and other tribes in Africa suffer the consequences of colonial policy – white man came, white man gave gifts. The project lasted 10 years and at the end even the locals who were involved in it for years, spoke about what needs they have, how much money they need. Explanining that there will be no money because that was not the point of the project was getting into the void. Sometimes I had a feeling that the elders had decided to create these councils so the Swedes can be glad and give the money. At the same time there is no pressure to take care of what was donated or built. The school has a dormitory for children who live far away and a few years ago mattresses were bought for them but they were destroyed by children because, as teachers explained, the children get bored after dark so they pull out sponge from the mattresses and throw it at each other. Nothing left of mattresses but memory. Another example – there were no decent toilets so some German company built toilets for kids a few years ago but the school does not look after it – the toilets were very dirty. I got the impression that people over there think – someone will come and build new ones… Poverty visible at every step, children walk in ragged uniforms, buildings do not have windows, shortage of basic materials and people do not have any inclinations to take care of what they have. It looks like some kind of social impairment. That is why such projects are important, it needs to be shown how to cope in the modern world and not, I apologize for trivializing, toss beads when all is well or chop off the hand when it is not.

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School kitchen – children can choose between rice and ugali

A visit to the school was a wonderful experience, we were guests at two meetings – the council of younger and older students. Each council has a chairman, secretary, children suggest topics and matters to be discussed. As an outsider I couldn’t stop thinking that perhaps we are looking at the future political elite, tribal elders – people, who were shown from the early years that they have the same right to express themselves as adults. I felt quite emotional and proud even though I was there only as a tourist.

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Children were very much into it

After the visit the time had come to play – the ladies from Sweden showed the children a very popular Swedish game called brännboll – something like baseball. If I had to sum up this part of the day in one word, I would say… chaos 🙂 children do not speak very well English and even less Swedish and our vocabulary in Swahili was limited. This led to a comical situation where the ladies wanting to show what are the rules, did the rounds around the pitch and children instead of watching, ran after them 🙂

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Everyone had a great time

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Kids were given by Swedish coaches very clear instructions what to do…

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And that was the result 🙂

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After a hard day’s work – a well deserved sunset

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But it wasn’t given to us to get a proper sleep as every morning we were woken up by school children merrily singing the national anthem of Tanzania 🙂

The trip to Masai land wouldn’t be successful without a visit to the boma. Boma is a fence made of bushes surrounding the cabin but it also means a homestead that is within the fence. First we went to Paulina’s who created women’s support group. They meet together, sing, make jewelry that they sell and the money they get they spend to help women in the group if, for example, one of them must buy a school uniform for a child. We bought a necklace that maybe wasn’t very cheap but at least we know where the money went and what’s even better we met a woman who made it. This is what I call Fair Trade!

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The necklace and… Masai knife. All warriors have one of those. I paid for it $7 at the local Masai market. In Arusha sellers ask… $100 for it. Unfrotunately all blankets, swords used by Masai are manufactured in… China. Globalization, eh?

No matter how poor or rich a boma is there is a certain savoir-vivre to be followed. The host/hostess presents all members of the household and at the same time welcomes us as members of their family then the guests must introduce themselves – a short speech highlighting how great the host and members of the tribe are will be satisfactory. Then refreshments – instant coffee or a very sweet tea served with lots of warm milk and depending on the wealth of the host – chicken (chickens seem to be much skinnier in Africa), hard-boiled eggs, fruit and compulsory warm sodas. After the snacks it’s time for small gifts. My dear Swedish companions were perfectly prepared and always had a gift for the hosts and children. I was very surprised when I got a gift – in every boma we visited. Normally a blanket or colorful scarf. I was grateful that I could be there and watch but gifts as well? It was too much. And I’ll tell you something, from the first day in Simanjiro something seemed very familiar to me but only during one of the home visits the next day it occurred to me that I have not met with such hospitality anywhere else… except Poland. The well known Polish saying “Guest in house, God in house” is very much alive amongst Masai and even though I spent there only five days, Masai people will always have a special place in my heart…

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Paulina’s family

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Presents!!!

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One big, happy family 😉

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Visiting the women’s group

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Presents again!

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Another boma and… a real Masai blanket!!!

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Julius – my Masai brother from another mother 🙂 Without him translating everything we wouldn’t get far

All I have yet to describe is the ceremony, the official closure of the project, but I’ll leave it to the next post, I’ll throw in a few more details of the visit in Simanjiro.

And to finish nicely – a picture of wall calendar with the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli. In each of the official pictures he is portrayed as a strong leader and it’s all about the symbolism. On the calendar, Mr. President is in uniform and around him one can see lots of military equipment. And so we see, among others, Russian helicopter and … German Panther tank from the period of the Second World War 😀 Until next time!

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I guess it’s easier to govern uneducated people…

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