Monday, July 2, 2007

Ol Doinyo Sambu, a Maasai village

Laura and I spent the weekend in Ol Doinyo Sambu, a central village for the Maasai tribes. The village hosts the largest Maasai market every Saturday. The market is partitioned into 2 sides, the vegetable/goods side and the cattle/goat/chicken trading side. We arrived in Ol Doinyo Sambu around noon and after lunch, headed to the market. We decided to start with the vegetable/goods side; this market was quite familiar to us because of the many other markets we have attended. The only unique thing about it was that there were a ton of Maasai people in their traditional wear.

One of the highlights of this part of the market were the men sewing the Maasai blankets. The Maasai blankets are worn by men and women over 18 years of age and the blanket colors represent various feelings like love, peace, etc. At the market, you could buy an unhemmed blanket and have these guys clean it up for you!

On the other side of the market was the cattle/goat/chicken trading. This is the main reason this market is bustling. City folk come long lengths to trade their money/goods for Maasai cattle and goats. The Maasai survive off this trade. Here's a photo of the cattle market.

Their culture is basically to groom young men to herd cattle/goats for the family. The cattle are taken to wherever the best grazing land is and boys aged 8-18 are required to make sure no cattle escape. The richest Maasai man is the one with the most cattle and the children to handle them. Boys grow to become warriors after they are circumcised... no pain killers and no tears are the requirements. Every 7 years, a circumcision festival is held to circumsize the boys. After that point, a boy becomes a warrior. His function changes to a protector of the village instead of a herder of the cattle. Although, if grassland is scarce, the warrior will take cattle to farther lands instead of the younger children. From warrior, you become an elder at 45. Elders are the wise men of the tribe and are called upon to solve disputes in the village.

We met a very special elder, the liboni. The liboni is the medicine man of the village. He has knowledge in all the local medicine and is known as the village healer. I decided to give him a few bucks to check my health. After some crazy shaking of a bottle, speaking into a bottle, and looking over some rocks that came out of the bottle, it turned out I had a small fever, nothing to worry about and was going to have a stomach ache later in the day. It turned out that later in the day, I was about to eat a popsicle that most likely didn't have the water boiled... I recalled the liboni's words of wisdom and tossed the popsicle instead of eating it. Maybe he saved me some pain.

The Maasai are a polygamist society so one man marries many women. Each woman costs 10 cows to marry so it's expensive to get a wife. Unfortunately, women don't appear to be treated very well in the society. Men only watch over the cattle and provide the village with protection, everything else is the responsibility of the woman. They cook, collect firewood, clean, take care of young children and they've got no say in the family decisions that are all made by the male. Other tribes say a Maasai woman is the best because they know how to work. It's unfortunate the way they are treated as inferior.

The land the Maasai live in is desolate. The best way to explain it is that they graze their cattle in the middle of the Arizona desert. I couldn't believe how dry and dusty everything was and this was just the start of dry season. During wet season, it floods. During dry season, it's dry as a bone. Very hot too.

Laura and I slept in one of the homes in a boma (Maasai homestead). It had 4 rooms. One room contained a single bed which both of us had to fit in. One room was the sitting room and kitchen (the kitchen is a small pit for firewood). One room held a young heffer (yeah, a baby cow) that they family was protecting. The last room held the family chickens which they have for the eggs, not to eat. So, we spent the night with a baby cow and a bunch of chickens. The chickens were pissed when we didn't let them out once the rooster called so they crapped all over the place.

Finally, the Maasai diet consists of very few things. Daily, they eat makonde, a bean and maize mixture. On special occasions, they kill a goat or cow for eating meat but it's rare because their hurting their business when they do that. Finally, they eat/drink loshoro. Loshoro is a boiled milk/ maize mixture which tastes like yogurt. Laura loved it, but I couldn't down it. It was rough.

Here are a few more pictures of from our stay. There's a lot more I could write about but my hands hurt! I've got pictures from Laura's orphanage that I'll put on an upcoming post.


Cinthia Williamson said...

Hey you 2 mzungus!!!

We loooove reading your blogs! It is like being there with you! Zeca says he would love to go with you to all the crazy markets, his nose would go absolutely nuts!

I love the pictures too! You guys give us a great view of the whole thing.

On our neck of the woods. We had our last ultrasound today. Baby (and mommy) are huge! Baby is almost 5,5 lbs and a few weeks to go! Above average again...

Can't wait to see you guys in August and hear all the stories live + a million pics!


Cinthia, Craig, Conrad and Zeca

Greg said...

A fellow has got to appreciate a Cow Culture such as the Maasai. Kinda like Vermont of old. Don't you think.

Landscape reminds us of portions of New Mexico.

Trying to get your dad out in the boat for fishing tomorrow.

Sure do like hearing from you guys.

7-6-07 0850 AM

tonyp said...

this adventure sure is eye openning --some historical similarities between our Native Americans plight and the Massai.great colorful clothing that those people make and wear--how do they make the cloth so colorful?do the Massai have any say in the country government?? DAD

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

Greg said...

Me again. Just read email from your Dad. Glad you guys got a voice connection. Were you on top of a hippo to get a good signal ........ or what?

Off to UVM with your papa and Laurie Souliere tomorrow to watch the AAU team she coaches. Want to join us? We are meeting at Lauries and 0830.

Ta ta. 2307 7-7-07