We have made it back to Vijiji Center, and after our second boma stay in Maasailand it feels comforting and almost like home to return to the place where we started our journey almost a month ago. So much has happened during our last week in Tanzania, and these final days have given us the time to process and reflect upon our adventures and experiences.
Throughout the program it has seemed as though the rain signaled our every departure to a new location. The night before we left for our second boma stay there was a steady pour from ten at night till six in the morning, putting us a few hours behind schedule and leaving us to trudge through a sea of mud to get to there.
On a good day, the walk to the boma is only about 45 minutes, but it took us two and a half hours to cross the muddy and slippery terrain of Maasailand. Despite the pounds of mud caked onto our shoes we made it there to find camp already set up for us and lunch waiting.
Compared to our first boma stay, this boma was a lot smaller in size and it reminded us of the kind of community lifestyle we enjoy at Luther. Every morning the neighboring children would come over to our camp and entice us to play with their smiles and giggles. On this boma stay we were able to experience more of what Maasai life entails. In the morning, we were able to help the women milk the cows and goats, and later tagged along for herding and grazing.
Definitely our most interesting day was Orpul day. It is comparable to a picnic but with a very morbid beginning. The traditional Maasai Orpul can last anywhere from one month to a year. We experienced an abridged Orpul lasting only for the afternoon. The Orpul ceremony is traditionally used as a healing process to strengthen the Maasai warriors after their circumcision or any other illness affecting them.
Orpul begins with the suffocating and butchering of a goat. All the meat and organs of the goat are consumed raw or roasted over the fire. The left over parts of the goat such as the head and the intestines are used in the medicinal soup made and eaten at the end of the ceremony. By using all parts of the goat the Maasai are respecting the animal and honoring it for the strength and nutrition it provides.
One of our last days in the boma we were able to have a conversation with many of the Maasai women in the surrounding area. With them we were able to ask questions concerning marriage, female circumcision, and the various roles and jobs the women are responsible for.
The time spent with the women allowed us to gain a better understanding of the Maasai because we were able to reflect upon and think about different aspects of their culture from a women’s point of view. Towards the end of the afternoon, we enjoyed some more displays of song and dance by the Maasai women, and we even showed them a song and dance of our own. Doing the Hokey Pokey for a group of Maasai women earned us much laughter, and eventually they joined in!
Our time has been well spent here in Tanzania. Our many experiences and lessons from our Maasai guides have given us all a new global perspective. Through our exploration of all the factors driving the cultural change of the Maasai; religion, education, conservation, and agro-pastoralism we have come to understand the current culture of the Maasai and where it might be heading in the years to come.
Most importantly, we have come to realize that despite the influence of rapid cultural change the Maasai are able to and will continue to adapt and preserve their unique and vibrant culture.