Found in a Maasai village!

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Unexpected friendship

When we went to Lugulu, Kenya to learn to build biosand water filters with Room to Read, we didn’t expect to come away with lifelong friends, but that is what happened!  We met Tumaina and Osman who told us about their Maasai culture and the village of Rombo, Kenya in which they live.

Traditional Massai culture

Tumaina and Osman told us about the main foods of the Maasai, blood, milk and meat and that animals are sacred for all they provide.  (Did you know that in many cultures blood is taken from the animal much the way humans donate blood, which provides protein to people without harm to the animal?) The men travel with the animals to places with enough green grass and water to keep the animals alive and healthy.  In the past, women and children were also nomadic, but today they stay in one village with the children.  This way the children can attend school and life is more stable.  Cell phones have improved the quality of life without disrupting it as now families can stay in touch with one another.

A culture that is changing fast

Unfortunately, the many Maasai tribes have had to change their way of life in some areas, as it is becoming impossible to support themselves by raising animals.  This is the case in Rombo, Kenya, where Tumaina lives.  With development, they have access to less and less usable land.  Also, there are many more droughts these days.  One that took place earlier this year wiped out almost all of their cattle.  But Tumaina, Osman and other leaders in the village are finding new ways to survive.  They have implemented farming in the village, are starting to sell hand made crafts and are figuring out the best way to harness the power of tourism.  They are as careful as they can be to preserve as much of their traditional culture as possible, even though some new ways violate traditional beliefs.

Invitation to the village

Alex gets ready to join the Maasai with Tumaina

Not only did they invite us to the village, they tried to convince Alex and Bella to stay forever :-)  I cried as they dressed in traditional Maasai clothing and jewelry and prepared to head off to the village without me.  I don’t know if my tears made any difference, but in the end, the kids decided that just visiting the village would be okay – thought the were really disappointed that we only had time for one day and night.  On our way back to Nairobi after water training, we brought Osman to see his wife who had just delivered their second child.  It was an honor to meet his family, including his newborn son.

Visiting the village

In many Maasai tribes, it isn’t that common to invite outsiders to their homes, as they are private people.  Tumaina and Osman couldn’t have been more different.  Not only did they welcome us to their homes with open arms, they took us on a tour of the village and taught us many of the traditional ways, as well as the traditional uses of plants, Maasai dances, and much more.

Who would have thought Maasai would have so much fun learning the Macarena?

Well, it’s debatable whether they had more fun learning the Macarena or laughing as we tried to learn traditional Maasai dance.  I wish I could post video of this, but my video camera went missing soon after our visit to the village and I hadn’t yet uploaded the files.  Anyway, it’s moments like this that are my favorites.  We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, and suddenly we found ourselves on a five hour hike with Tumaina, learning all about the ways of the village, meeting families as we went, sharing a meal with one of them, and then dancing together with everyone having a joyful time.  We even met a mother and her child who was less than 24 hours old!  Mom was tucked into bed in a little wood and mud house with her newborn and a cell phone by her side.

Maasai are known to be able to travel 8 hours without food or water…but can we?

Tumaina didn’t tell us we were headed out for a five hour walk to the school and back.  His point was, the schools provided by the government are too far away!  He was just fine without water – we were SO THIRSTY!  When we went to the home where they served us lunch, we were so optimistic about getting water, but they had no filtered or boiled water that we could drink.  (Tumaina and Osman are working on a community plan to make the biosand water filters for homes in the village.)  The kids were so thirsty, they wanted to drink the contaminated water but the villagers wouldn’t give them any.  I think they were ready to drink the muddy water from the river bed.  It made us think about how important the water filters are and the fact that many people have no choice but to drink dangerous water.

You should have seen the kids eyes light up when they came out with tea – I think Jennifer’s throat was scalded for days afterward from gulping down the hot tea so quickly.  That was before the dancing.  Afterward, they were just as thirsty again – it was a long walk back to Tumaina’s house where we drank three pitchers of boiled water. Clean water!! A wonderful thing!

“Thanksgiving” feast

That night we enjoyed a wonderful feast at Tumaina’s house, a much more modern house than the others we visited.  We had mashed bananas and potatoes mixed together, a vegetable dish of peas beans and carrots, soup and some very delicious stew.  It was like Thanksgiving dinner with close family friends – even though we had only met them a couple of weeks before.

Planning the Future of their Tribe

That night we went to the office where Tumaina, Osman and others run a new community organization designed to help raise educational standards, increase women’s rights and roles in the society, deal with the changes they have faced in trying to make a living, develop eco-tourism, and preserve their culture.

A worthy cause and a great organization to support

We were very impressed with their work and would like to try to raise funds to support some of their projects, including the expansion of a school.  It will have to be decided by the Round the World with Us Board of Trustees, but we wholeheartedly believe in the cause and the way Tumaina and the other directors of Pillar for Maasai Development are implementing programs.

If you want to read about Tumaina, Maasai Pillars and Rombo in more detail, here is a wonderful post by Ivan Kruh and his wife Miral.

Here is some information about the school they built in 2008.

We will never forget our time with Tumaina and Osman and their families

They made us feel like family or lifelong friends.  We are so happy to have met them as Meagan will spend all of nect school year volunteering in Kenya and now she has a second family there!

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Posted on: December 22, 2010 | Categories: Blog, Education, Fun Facts - Cultures and Countries, Kenya, Snacks and Food, Water



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