Life in the Maasailand: school and family

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Maasai women and some students at a school event in Olmaroroi
Maasai mothers and some of their students at a school event in Olmaroroi

I love the Maasailand. It is hard not to. It is so easy to like and be liked here, to give and accept, to listen and hear. People are kind, sincere and humble. They take great pride in their ways, yet they open their minds easily. You have to keep your mind wide open too, because new experiences await you aroud every corner. While people are good, life is often hard, and it is important to be flexible and patient.

Life pace is much slower here than what we are used to in the West, and great importance is given to conversations. This is not surprising, considering the oral tradition of the Maasai language. Education was introduced only several generations ago, and for a while many tribe elders didn’t accept the concept, while others simply couldn’t afford to send their children to school. Primary education became free only in 2003. Many years of expensive fees and lack of preparation for such a reform led to overcrowded schools and shortage of teachers. Here’s where the need for volunteers comes in.

But not everyone embraces you for what you do. Things don’t always go smooth at school, and every now and then you bump into a wall of corruption and dishonesty. Learning to overcome these challenges, however, makes you stronger and teaches you to find a way through, even if there seems to be nothing but walls ahead.

Then there is always your new family to back you up. I think if you treat them with as much love and respect as you would treat your real parents, they will give back twice as much and always be there for you if things get messy. I’ve been sharing so many things with my host mom every day; I would cry and laugh in her arms. I’d run for advice to my dad when lost in this new environment. I’d have my little sister fall asleep in my arms while sitting around the kerosene lamp with the family in the evenings, discussing the news of the day. They have always made me feel at home and, above that, they have brought so much grace into my life.

One more thing, before I fall asleep on top of this notebook. Never underestimate the power of a gift, especially in the Maasai culture. Give something small to the people who care for you, and see what happens. Trust me on this one.

* * *

This was a “side note” to one of my journal entries. I think I will start writing about the actual events soon. I just wanted to get all the thoughts out of the way first.

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5 thoughts on “Life in the Maasailand: school and family

    Gaizabonts said:
    February 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I spent a couple of hours with the Masai folks, in July 2003 (I think) just after our excursion in Masai-Maara. Saw them as very proud and warm people, what little I interacted with them. It is, as you may have guessed, very interesting to read this! 🙂

    Jules responded:
    February 7, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Wow, it’s so nice to know that someone shared a similar experience, even if just for a few hours! Glad you found this interesting. I will be posting much more stuff about Maasai… I spent a month and a half with them and I miss them so much.

    gillian vogelsang said:
    October 12, 2009 at 4:16 am

    We are a small textile museum in Holland and are working on an exhibition about kangas. Would it be possible for us to use your lovely photograph, which shows various Maasai women wearing these printed cloths in the exhibition?

      Jules responded:
      October 19, 2009 at 7:46 am

      Gillian, you are more than welcome to! Would you kindly credit the photo to “Yulia Holko”? Thanks and good luck with your exhibit 🙂

    CHUCK said:
    January 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Good Evening! I happened to find spectacular thoughts ! Continue the good work!

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