Masai warrior who was sitting beside the road and asked him to guide us on a hike to Olmoti Crater in Tanzania, Africa. After hopping in the Land Rover—with his spear—the young man shared a bit about his background.
John (his Christian name, given at school) was 22 and had learned English while studying a science track that included chemistry, biology, and geography. He was on holiday from school and would return in a few days.
John’s father was a wealthy tribal man--he had 15 wives. John’s future wife, whom he will marry when he is 25, was chosen for him when he was a little boy. If he kills a lion or acquires many cattle, he can have as many wives as his father. His goal is to have more.
John explained that cattle are given to a boy to mark important stages of his life. As the cattle breed, his herd increases in size, providing him enough for a dowry (about 40 head) to give his future wife’s family when they marry. Marriage is necessary because women do the work: They build mud and dung huts to live in, collect fire wood, wash clothes in the river, fetch water, and tend the children.
John’s dialogue reinforced what we had observed during our earlier visit to a different Masai village, where people still live the same simple, centuries-old lifestyle of their ancestors. Despite his outside schooling, including knowledge of the Internet and an email address, John apparently had no interest in changing the culture—something that surprised (and saddened) me.
We stopped often, partly to view beautiful vistas of mountains and plains and partly to catch our breath in the thin air. It was a scene far different from the savannas where we had taken wildlife safari drives for several days. It felt good to be trekking in open air--outside of the van that was our usual refuge from unpredictable wild animals.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier