So, how did we come about hooking up with a maasai family?? On our very first trip to Kenya in '99, i was sitting next to this man for the last leg of our plane flight. We discussed our plans & he told us where he lived & I eventually took his name & address to keep in contact. He offered us to stay next time we visited. Well the next time was 2 years later, 2001, Joseph met us in Nairobi & together we drove down to his home at Olelmoncho, way out in the sticks. (at that stage we hired a car with a driver,. All the family was there to greet us, It was a exciting day. All the family live in one group, called a 'manyatta'. Each brother (& dad) has his own hut with his wife, (extra wives get their own huts, dad has two). The huts are usually set around the cattle boma where the cattle and goats are brought into each night. Joseph (& the family) have taught us many things about maasai life, he also travels with us on safari,... he had a great bush campsite to stay to begin with, and then we traveled to various other spots, seeing lots of wild animals.
Since those small beginnings, we were offered to come back, which we have been doing nearly every year since. Having Joseph with us on safari means we have seen some amazing sights. I vividly remember our first lion kill, when the female waited so long for the wildebeest. We have been enormously lucky to see leopards on nearly each trip we have been on,... some with a kill... one.. stalking right along the side of our car, looking up at us occasionally. wow, that was the best!!!! We have seen the cheetah chase and score their lunch, crocodiles in the Mara feasting on gazelles, which all sounds rather morbid, but, watching life as it happens, the patience and the skill needed to be able to feed yourself, & family, is simply awe inspiring.
Over the years, we have seen the Naimodu family grow,... each year there are new babies,... one even named after myself, but sadly it died around 2 years of age. Josephs 1st wife Nadoya also died. We have seen many tragic moments, many happy ones, taken family to the Aitong clinic more times that we can count or care to remember. It is difficult to know how to help these people some times, but building the clinic and the school is great, but on a more personal level, we have found that just the simple effort of cooking our last meal with them, singing & dancing, is a great delight. Each time we visited we would take the car to fetch the water, some 1 -2 kms away, until one year, that water resource was broken and they had to walk 7 kms to the next nearest clean water. The water there was lovely, so the next day, our job was to purchase 2 donkeys and a cart. Nothing ever happens quickly or easily in Kenya, but before we left, we had both items at home, and the women where as happy as they possibly could be. It is those scenes that make it so rewarding when you give just that little bit extra. This year on our last visit, we had solar installed in Josephs house, it is amazing how much difference a light can make. plus, the entire family can charge their phones from there, which saves them money & having to leave their phones at Aitong, 7 kms away for charging. Naturally we then saw that the kitchen hut was still in the dark, so Joseph came back to Nairobi with us to pick up a solar lantern which we were informed would be great for the kitchen hut, ..plus charging phones!!
The entire family has been a great friend to us,.. as far as the women go, there is only one that can wife that can speak any english, so at first it was difficult,.. but,.. a lot of sign language and gestures, and the barriers are broken. We always have taken some thing for the family, beautiful cloth for the woman to wear, hats, glasses, etc, this time i gave the children books to read and game cards of snap & go fish. They truly enjoyed it,... but the key is to be able to share the experiences with them, not just pass on the gifts. Mum, who cant speak any english, laughed and got so excited playing a game of snap... and doing actions as i read "if your happy and you know it". These are some of my most treasured moments. Sharing our time. We are slowly building up our own herd of cattle that dad looks after for us, (yes, the woman have taught me how to milk the cows)!!!.. Joseph is keen to build a bigger house later this year, with a extra room just for us, so that when we come to live there,.... we will have a place to stay.
What does that say about your friends.!!
UPDATE MARCH 2014 Joseph did end up building his 3 bedroom home in brick and it looks lovely.... even other maasai come to look. We supplied solar for the house, and helped him purchase furniture, then in July 2013 Bob finally retired and Sept. 2013 started our long travels over Africa which of-course started in Kenya. We stayed a total of 5 months with Joseph and the family. The family has taught us much over the years and now we are teaching them about new ways of living.
Times are changing for the maasai, and they need to change their ways before problems arise. WE have helped the family start a business of breeding BORAN cattle. Even though maasai have been raising cattle all their lives, they had an enormous amount to learn, so lessons in animal husbandry began, how to look after and replenish grass that the animals need, the need for separate paddocks, cattle crush and especially water!!!! So, we built the crush and holding pens, organised and purchased boran bull and heifers, and finally had a DAM made.
That will keep them busy with the cattle, but for Joseph and his families own living conditions, we have left them our gas cooker which came with practical lessons on how to use it. This will be a huge improvement to their standard of living and especially their health. Am sure it will cut down on the amount of pneumonia that is treated. Nairesho will be able to SEE what she is cooking, due to the solar lighting and power, she and the children will no longer have to breathe in heavy smoke from cooking over a fire in the dark, so their lungs should improve greatly, and the fact that their clothes, hair and skin will not be full of smoke all the time, also means that when she does wash the clothes, the water can go further. As it is now, the water is black with the first garment, because it is so smoke filled, then everything else just follows.... now, that wont be the case and she will be able to rinse the clothes better too. The next priority is to get gutters on the roof so he can catch all the water from the rain into big tanks. the dam for the cattle and the tanks for the family. One step at a time, but Joseph can now seen the rewards and is making sure his plans come to fruition.
UPDATE as of 2015 Seems Joseph and the family have been paying attention, they moved their sheep and goats to another area so when we visited it was good to see that the grass had grown and had the chance to re-seed itself thus giving the cows better pasture to graze on. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and the family is happy to see the difference. Putting the Boran bulls over their zebu cattle also continues to give them better quality cattle. win win all round!
UPDATE 2018 It was very sad news when we heard maasai DAD (Josephs father) had died in August. but it is very exciting news that we have now purchased the flight tickets for Joseph and his 2nd wife Nairesho to come to Australia for a 10 week cultural visit. They arrive on 4th April 2019, and during their 10 weeks, we will head off for a 5-6 week roadtrip through the middle of Australia and East Coast.