Sunday, August 10, 2014

Visiting a Maasai Village

“We can make the power of those who exploit us irrelevant…Choose to know the truth about global struggles, and live in a way that supports a just alternative.” –Vandana Shiva

     Today I had the opportunity to visit a rural Maasai village. It was both interesting and enlightening. The long journey took us on a bumpy dirt road which lead to even rougher off-roading. The Canadian missionaries I was traveling with, like me, follow signs to find their way around. Three hours later out of our way, we saw the rusty sign that was our point to turn. Our Kenyan directions consisted of points like “turn at the big tree”. It was interesting to see a reflection of the low context culture they have through our confusing directions. When we finally arrived, there was nothing in sight but a few small mud huts, and cacti. It is Maasai tradition to be self-sufficient and live off the land. Our guide for the day was a local named Jackson that had been studying in Nairobi, the most developed part of Kenya. He is the first of his village to graduate from University. His Village was very proud of him, and the men his age now have growing desires to get an education. This is an astounding accomplishment, as many of the people living in this village do not even have a high school education. Jackson went to Pan African Christian University to attend seminary, where he learned that some of the Maasai traditional customs were creating more harm than good. For instance it is a Maasai tradition to preform female castration as a means of confirming a woman into adulthood. This is an illegal practice in Kenya, but because of the rural location of the villages it is not well enforced. He is now an advocate for abolishing the practice of female genital mutilation. Jackson is pastoring the first and only Christian church in his village, and he faces persecution for his faith. Christianity is only for women and children, men are to be strong and show no weakness. By no means do I want to discount traditional beliefs, as they do hold history and value to them, but when it compromises the well being of an individual that is when the questions are raised.

     Much of the Maasai tribal life is very interesting to learn about. I had the opportunity to join Jackson`s family for dinner in their Manyatta (mud hut), which was made of cow feces, mud and sticks. Unfortunately I was unable to see what I was eating because the small circular window was not hosting enough light into the house. In order to keep the flies away they only have these small windows. I understand why after constantly swatting flies out of my face. Because of the dry arid landscape the flies were determined to find water sources where ever they could, even if that was a human eye! The sad part about this was the condition the children were in, their faces and bodies where covered with flies. I felt as if I was on a World Vision commercial for sponsoring a child. Nonetheless, the children were very excited to see Mzungus for the first time, and enjoyed seeing themselves in pictures. Coming back to the meal I ate, although it was quite tasty, the lack of running water and electricity I believed compromise the food safety. Thirty minutes after our meal I had the awkward privilege of being the entertainment for the local children. I guess it is quite amusing and interesting to watch a Mzungu chuck their cookies.

     It was fascinating to see how connected they are with nature. Much of the things they used were made from the environment around them. For instance they used thorn bushes to fence in their cattle and protect them from wild animals. They made use of what resources they could find. This also goes to show how important food is to the village. It is neither easy nor cheap to purchase basic staples like flour or sugar because of their rural location. I can speak to this, as we had to fill up our car with purchased water bottles filled with fuel. When you know food is so scarce I believe it gives you a better appreciation for what you have. Reflecting on this visit, it really hit home how much we abuse and take for granted in the Western world, and how abundantly blessed we really are.

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