Saturday, March 5, 2016


       Our group met these children while visiting a Maasai village not far from our Eastern Serengeti Nyumba (tents).  You met William, the Thomson Safari Maasai liaison, in my last entry when we went to a Maasai crafts market.  These children in their collage of dirty western and native clothing were initially quite shy.  I sat down on the ground and through hand signals asked a little boy if I could take his photo.

      He seemed not to mind, and as soon as I showed him his image in the LCD screen, his face changed from polite, cautious curiosity to surprise and delight.  The other children rushed forward to have a look.

                                                                                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016 
      Now they all wanted their pictures taken.  Here are some:

                                                                                                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

                                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

                                                                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016 

       The darling girl below let me carry her about the village.  Note that the fabric of her clothing is a skier motif.   Eighty percent of the clothing Tanzanians wear are donations and resales from the United States and Europe:


       Adorable as she was, she, like the other children, was very dirty.  I took the above just after I brushed the flies off her face.  Seconds later they were back:

        No amount of brushing and swatting could keep the flies of this mucousy boy:

                                                                                                         Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

       Why on earth, I wondered, didn't their parents seemed troubled by the number of flies landing on their children?  And why were there so many flies to begin with?  I've been to lots of farms in my life and had never seen so many.  Certainly, they lived with a lot of livestock.  At night all animals are herded into the boma, a thorny fence surrounding the village to keep it safe from predators.  The youngest calves, goats, and sheep are brought into the mud homes and kept under elevated beds. These beds, by the way, are made of an assemblage of small branches.  None of us could have imagined lying awake, much less sleeping, on them for any length of time.

       During the visit I inadvertently became a source of laughter for several Maasai women. One of the numerous dogs, all thin, all in need, began to bark, while one of the women, through William, was explaining the set-up of the village to our group.  Another woman picked up a stick and began to beat the dog, which cried out, trying to make amends for whatever he might have done wrong by adopting a submissive posture.  I ran between the stick and the yelping dog and shouted, "No!" The Maasai women found this very funny.  I did not.  One of my group members attempted to calm me down by informing me that the people of Africa and Asia have a different attitude towards dogs.  You think?  I told her I didn't care.

      After dodging a final blow, the poor, emaciated dog ran off, so I resumed taking pictures.  At the same time, I noticed that the pervasive village dirt on every foot path and cleared area, was light brown.  Yet, in every other place that I had driven through or flown over, the soil was more orange because of its high ferrous content.  What accounted for the change?  It had to be dried cow, sheep, and goat dung.  The houses they lived in were made of thatch, manure, and cattle urine.  The Maasai were nomadic.  They traveled the plains of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania seeking fresh pasture for their herds.  As I mentioned in my previous entry, the Maasai would move onto new pasture, but not before they set fire to the depleted pasture.  This allowed new grass to grow again.  It surely also killed many of the parasites that their herds left behind in their dung.  The previous, completely nomadic life of the Maasai had to have been considerably more hygienic than it is now.

       These days the Maasai are adapting to a changing world.  The Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya, and the Maasai Moro in Kenya, principal areas where the Maasai had previously moved freely, have been declared national parks.  The Maasai are no longer permitted to take their animals there.  Ngorongoro, an area with the greatest concentration of large, diverse animal wildlife in the world, does allow different tribes to use the area in a limited manner.  Individual villages must take turns guiding their livestock into the grass-rich crater.   Here are some villagers returning after the end of the day:

Ngorongoro Returning Herd                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016 

      The Maasai pastoralists are most affected by Tanzania's burgeoning population and a government that successfully uses eco-tourism as a way to improve its economy.  In addition to their herds, the Maasai now raise guinea fowl and ostriches.  They growing a variety of crops including maize and red beans.  Hopefully, their health is improving with these changes.  

       The Tanzanian government is trying hard to discourage children from begging, and Thomson Safaris made it clear to us in their literature that it is not helpful to give candy to children holding out their palms as drove along various roads.  The prospect of sweets have caused children to miss school or even leave their herds unguarded.  These two Maasai boys were a case in point.  Our Land Rover got a flat as we traveled the road to Serengeti National Park.  These young men had not wasted any time coming down from the pasture to hold out their palms, but then decided that sweets were not forthcoming.

                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2016

       However, we had opportunities to give in more constructive ways.  For instance, after a tour of the Maasai school, we followed the headmaster to his office where members of our group lined up to donate the calculators, pens, pencils, and notebooks that we had brought with us.  This certainly was a help, but the students need so much more.  The school was critically understaffed, and the Tanzanian government would not send any teachers to the school until the local villages had built housing for them.  It seems to me that if a government requires its children to attend school, it should supply the facilities to enable them to do so. 

        Maasai children have obstacles to gaining an education.  First, some Maasai don't see the applicability of a conventional curriculum to their daily lives.  What many believe that they need to learn is taught in the village by the elders.  They must learn to be good warriors and herdsman (the boys), good builders of fences and homes (the women).  Secondly, the children often live too far from even local schools to attend.  Some students at the school we saw walked over four miles each way.  

       On the way back to our nyumba I asked William why mothers, or the children themselves, didn't brush the flies away.  This is what he said:  

       "The cow is sacred to the Maasai.  Anything that comes from it is good.  Their blood and milk feed us,  our villages are constructed from cow dung and cow urine.  The flies that come out of that dung are therefore good, too."

       "So when the mothers saw me constantly brushing the flies of their children's faces, they thought I was crazy?"

        "Yes, crazy."  William paused then added, "Absolutely and completely crazy."

Stand by for my next Tanzanian entry, and thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly --




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