On 2/9 we visited a Maasai elementary school. There were 230 students from ages 4 to 10—with only 4 teachers! They have no electricity or running water. The children sang for us. Then we gave them pencils, ballpoint pens, a soccer ball and Frisbees. We brought little plastic bracelets that they loved. The children loved having their picture taken—and seeing themselves on the camera. They speak only the Maasai language at home, so the first (kindergarten) teacher must speak the Maasai language before they can learn Swahili. After Swahili, they will learn English. Even the youngest children walk miles alone across the plains to the school carrying only a walking stick and a cup. (Our drivers told us that they were told to bring 5 liters of water to school each morning—and if they did not, the teacher told them to go home!) All Tanzanian children are able to go to school when they can touch their left ear with their right arm extended over their head! So even today, parents have their toddlers practice this.
After the school visit, we went into the village of Mto Wa Mbu for a walking tour of the rice paddies, a wood carving group, the banana fields, and an artist group. We had a typical African lunch that was delicious. Then we continued to a local outdoor market to buy food for our Maasai village visit tonight as well as a Maasai market before returning for an afternoon siesta. No electricity until 6 PM, though, so we found a shady spot to read and talk to Yamati more about the Maasai. The village is called a boma. Sharp thorn branches surround the huts in a large circle. One husband lives in each boma with his wives. Each wife is responsible for building her own hut for herself and her children. The husband alternates nights at huts of his choosing. More modern Maasai seem to have fewer wives now but our guide pointed out one huge boma in which one husband had 47 wives and 100 children!
At 6 PM we gather to walk to the closest boma, about a 15 minute walk. We are greeted by six Maasai warriors and four women dressed in their finest bright clothing and necklaces. We are greeted with a special song and led into the boma. The men and women then line up facing each other to do the “jumping dance”. The men take turns jumping as high as they can, and the women shimmy their shoulders in turn. To the side, three toddlers are screaming. I realize that they are terrified of us! They obviously hadn’t seen any strange white people like us. Then the cows and goats returned to the safety of the boma shelter for the night. Flies surrounded us. Flies cover the eyes, noses and mouths of the children. We present our market gifts to the wives of the boma—and return to our Lodge for dinner. Yamati tells us that he, too, can jump well. He said that all the boys practice their jumping as soon as they can walk and are very proud of the skill. Severin told us that he hires a Maasai to guard his house at night in Arusha, just as they guard our huts at night at the Lodge.
On 2/10 we visited the Lake Manyara National Park. The highlight there was seeing a herd of at least 50
elephants walk past our jeep. During the afternoon siesta time, we enjoyed watching the wildebeest and zebras in the Rift Valley plain as well as listening to the bells from the Maasai cows and goats.
On 2/11 we shared the experiences of the night before. Probably because of the BBQ, we could hear hyenas all night. Fortunately, several Maasai warriors with their spears guarded the grounds at night.
We packed up for the long trip back, sad to be leaving. We drove to Arusha and had lunch at Shanda Beads where 46 disabled Tanzanian people create beautiful objects out of glass and aluminum. Their motto: “Kindness is a language which blind people see and deaf people hear.” Finally, we enjoyed a day room for a few hours back at the Arumeru Lodge before going to the Kilimanjaro Airport for the long flights home.
We loved Tanzania in every way! Living in the midst of herds of amazing animals was an extraordinary experience. Getting to know the people and the Maasai was equally extraordinary. We found Tanzanians to be good natured with a sense of humor and dedicated to education and good government with all tribes represented and working cooperatively. Most spoke English—or were trying to do so. We always felt safe, both with animals and people. The giraffe is the perfect National Animal—placid but can kick when provoked. Their motto seems to be Hakuna Matata!