Monday, January 07, 2008

Africa Update #3

I think it's Monday today. Without a normal daily routine, I'm finding it hard to keep track of what day of the week it is. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I don't have an easy way to upload them right now.

The camping out at a Masaai village was a great experience. The Masaai village was near the top of a small mountain or very large hill. It's probably the most beautiful place I've ever been to. Every direction you looked was just open fields, small patches of trees, and large mountains off in the distance. There was even anactivevolcano visible off in the distance. I know the Masaai have a hard life, but this place looked like paradise.

As I mentioned before, we were bringing a goat to the village as a gift. What I didn't know is they planned on eating it that evening! While we didn't have to join in on the meal (we had brought along our own food as well hired a cook to come along on our trip), we were invited to watch them kill and cook the goat. Being a vegetarian, I had mixed feeling about it, but figured it wasn't an opportunity to miss.

Before it got dark, we first helped gather firewood for the evening. While looking for loose branches among the bushes and small trees, one of the Masaai warriors told us about the various uses of the plants we were encountering. There was the bark from one tree that could be chewed to get moisture when there wasn't any water, some other bark to help with stomach problems, another for aiding in pregnency, some leaves to get put under your arm pits for deoderant, some grass used for making tea, and bunch of other plants I can no longer remember.

Once we gathered enough firewood it was getting dark. We took a break and had a great meal that our cook had prepared. I've been camping many times before, but never had such a great meal. I wish I could hire a cook to come along with me on all my hikes! After our meal, we went to the area where the Masaai were going to kill and cook the goat. Only the Masaai men of a certain age were allowed to attend - the rest of the village would be allowed to come later after the goat was killed and most of it had been eaten.

For killing the goat, they layed out a bunch of leafy branches from a bush and then forced the goat to lay down on it. Then, while one warrior held the goat down, the other covered it's nose and held its mouth shut. After a minute or so, the goat had been suffocated. Then, the warriors began to remove the goat's skin. I won't go into all the details, but nothing from the goat was wasted. For example, after removing all the goat's organs, they even drank the remaining blood that had pooled up in the chest cavity. (Sorry, I didn't take any pictures of the whole goat killing and eating business.) After the Masaai had their goat dinner, they performed some tradition songs and dances around the fire. After the singing and dancing, we headed to our tents for the night.

We set up our tents a few hundred feet from the village huts. It was quite windy up there on the hilltop, and it got windier and windier as the night progressed. I have never before been in a tent in such strong wind. It was so windy that the tent poles were being flexed enough to force the roof of the tent down into my face as I tried to sleep. I occasionally felt like I was going to be slowly suffocated like the goat. Fortuntely, all our tents held together and no one flew off the mountain during the night.

In the morning we went for a hike further up the mountain to an area where the Masaai gather water. Along the way we stopped at a different Masaai village and were invited in to have some tea in one of the huts. Once we got to the water source, we were shown how they can make a fire using just two sticks and a bit of donkey dung. We also got a lesson on throwing a Masaai spear and got to each take our turn doing some target practice. We then headed back to camp, presented some more gifts to the village and then headed back to Arusha.

All in all, it was a great experience visiting the village. It really made it clear how little one needs to survive in the world.