My holidays with Massaïs

"In life there are no coincidences, there are only appointments" (Paul Eluard).


ZANZIBAR :

In August 2012, we are my husband, my daughter and I on vacation in Zanzibar and we walk on the beach admiring the turquoise sea. I hear behind me: "Hello! Do you speak English ?"... I turn around and say, "Yes, a little...". This is Edward, a young Maasai selling souvenirs to tourists on the beach.

Here's how my adventure in Tanzania began. We sympathized with Edward, talked about our respective lives, our culture so different and all this has been rewarding for both the Masai and us. At the end of our vacation we exchanged email addresses. I was far from suspecting that this exchange and this meeting would change the way I see life ...


MY MASSAI FRIEND : 

Back in France, I wrote to him and sent him some photos we made together and we were happy to stay in touch despite the thousands of kilometers between us ... Contacts are difficult because communication costs are expensive and Tanzania network is not always good !!! .... But that did not stop our friendship to grow over time and take our respective news.

One day Edward contacted me to tell me he was getting married and wanted me to be present at the celebration of his marriage at his village, Sokoine, which is between Morogoro and Dodoma.

I invite my family to watch the show "go into the unknown" (documentary on French television) where precisely Mélissa THEURIAU discovers the massaï people (see vidéo)… What a coincidence ! The day after the show I tell to my family and my friends that I will live the same experience as Melissa and attend a Masai marriage, but they are not really excited when I tell them I want to go alone in Tanzania ... I explain that offers me the chance to live an exceptional moment and I do not want to pass up.


BACK IN TANZANIA WITH GIFTS FOR MY MASSAI FRIENDS :

In late April 2014, I am at the airport ready to board for Tanzania! My bags are filled with gifts for the entire Maasai family of balloons for "MTOTO" (Swahili child, where MtotoSchool), costume jewelry for women, razors for men, school supplies, toys, etc .... I say goodbye to my husband and daughter who are a little reluctant to let me go alone, but I tried one last time to reassure them by telling them that I will be well surrounded in Tanzania ...

It is more than 23h when I landed in Dar es Salaam, the weather is still hot in the late afternoon and wetness of Africa welcomed me with open arms ! I love the atmosphere ! Edward is there, we are happy to be back after so exchanged sms ...

I booked a hotel room a few steps from the airport and Edward join me the next morning to go to his village.




ON THE ROAD TO AN UNFORGETTABLE STAY WITH MASSAI : 

After a good night of rest, departure from Dar es Salaam to Sokoine (a journey of more than 4 hours by bus is waiting for me !). In the bus, all eyes are turned to the "mzungu" (white woman). Children laugh seeing me and I smile to them. I always thought that the most beautiful babies are African babies ! A well chubby little face, small braids for girls ... too cute ! We are crowded, there are more passengers than seats, but no matter, there is still the central path that is free, passengers sit on their bags and the driver is happy because he sold tickets in surplus !!!

During the trip, I admire the landscapes of Tanzania which are magnificent. The ocher and blue-gray sky offer a breathtaking contrast. There aloe vera out of sight and the roadside is constantly bustling. Buying a vehicle is expensive for some Tanzanians so they travel mainly by foot or so ... carpool.





At each bus stop, the men rush to the windows to sell food and drink!

After several hours of driving, we arrive at Sokoine. And I thought that the trip ended here, why not! We have to take a motorcycle as the house of Edward's family is in the forest and the "roads" are impassable by car ... My bags are placed on a motorcycle and I find myself on another bike between the massaï driver (see massaï culture ) and Edward !...  I laugh thinking about my family and my friends and I say "my god, if they saw me ... they would be laughing as much as me !". Of course, we are the end of April and we are still in the rainy season in Tanzania. The roads are muddy, water flows afloat so that sometimes we have to get off the bike, walk through the "little river" that has formed in the middle of the road to access the other side ...

MEETING WITH MASSAI PEOPLE : 

Finally, the bike stops. Edward told me that we arrived but we need to walk a little, the house is not far off. I sink into the mud up to the ankles, my bags are in terrible condition, my hairs wet ... I will make a sensational arrival !!! But that's okay, that's adventure ! So we head to the acacia forest and there, magical moment ... I thought we were alone but gradually as we entered the forest, the Maasai appeared to welcome me and say hello « jambo ! »

(Click here to listen to Tanzanian anthem). I had the impression to dream,  being in a movie ... I was at the Maasai village, me the little French I never done anything extraordinary in her life ! All Maasai came to see the "mzungu"! 

We arrive at the « manyatta » Edward's mother, the Maasai traditional house made of earth and cow dung (no electricity or running water!). Here, for sure, we do not take the head zap with tele-command ! Edward's mother and his family welcomed me with joy, as if they knew me forever. One of the girls of the family intend to change me and give her my clothes and shoes full of mud to wash them ... I am welcomed like a queen. Apart Edward and Emmanuel his brother, no one speaks English, Swahili only. Difficult to communicate with the "mama" but I still had one of my translators with me !

First night in the Manyatta, when night falls, everyone moved into the main room near the fire. The mama cooked rice (main meal) (click if you want to test for African recipes !) and everyone speaks. Everyone has questions for me so Emmanuel and Edward did the translation.

Bedtime happens, I sleep with "mama". Her bed is made of intertwined branches covered with a canvas ... and ... that's all !!! I can tell you that before I turn in bed I was thinking twice about how I was going to do it! The first few nights were hard, bruised back, but after you get used ...! I thought that once returned to France I will find my good mattress but my mama, she will never have the means to have a better sleeping ...

After a short night ... I wake up and I see face to me two small boiled round watching me curiously ! Abigaëlle small Maasai girl 4 years and her brother Philomene approximately 1 year. I told them "jambo" but they come out of the current Manyatta ! They have never seen a woman with white skin ! (Or it's maybe my accent that makes them flee ... I'm from the south of France!).

DISCOVERY OF MASSAI LIFE :

 I get up, I was offered a breakfast, a pint of milk. The sun rises around 5.00 am in Tanzania and milking is done from the lift. The daughter of mama milk brings me in original container. This is an inedible fruit, dried that collects cow's milk and is also used as a bottle for babies. Milk is strong, I wonder why it is so different from what I drink in France ? ... In fact, to clean the container, women put some embers cooled and use a kind of brush to rub the inside . They rinse and reuse the container for the next treaty (hence the strong taste of milk). This milk is mixed with tea and lots of sugar. Apparently this drink is very energetic and compensates for times when food runs out.

Before leaving for Tanzania, I had prepared a "book" for the Maasai have an overview of how we live, technology, customs, our animals, our landscapes, our clothes .... We sit under acacia and I show them the different pictures I brought them. The family members who do not speak English are eager to communicate with me, nor Emmanuel nor Edward are here so we're doing miming to make us understand and have a good laugh !

The day continues, the Masai who live nearby come in turn to meet the mzungu ! They are all very nice, shake my hand and look at me from head to toe. My clothes make the children laugh (so what ?! T-shirt, pants ...). Women come closer look at my jewelry and seek to find out how they are made, children approach me and try to erase my tattoo I have on my shoulder ! I explain with gestures that it can not leave but as soon as one finished "erase" my skin, another comes to load !!! Too cute ! I sing them some children's songs and we laugh ! (Listen to some African children's songs).

There are many people around me so I tell myself it's time to unwrap the presents. The young and old are delighted to discover the balloons, small cars and all kinds of small toys that I could take with me. Women share the jewelry I brought them, men shave "dry" as they are happy to have a razor ! Everybody is happy, but the most happy person is me ... I sit back and I watch them with their gifts and everything seems unreal ...

 

I can not drink the water of the pond, at the risk of being sick ... So we're going to the village to buy my water bottle and enjoy it to recharge my phone. Three walk fifteen minutes to get to the village, it makes you think isn't it ? ... We who use our car for a yes and a no ... We arrive at the village, I sit on a bench and this time it is the schoolchildren (click for video) coming to me.  They are dressed in a blue and white uniform. Some speak between them and watch me. Gradually they approach me and I found myself surrounded on my bench, and I sat them standing all around me ! I spell Emmanuel for help me because the situation is still a bit scary ! ... I take out my camera but as soon as I pointed at them they run off !!! I still managed to take a few. I hand them each an inflatable balloon is euphoria, they are so excited that I have to perch on my bench ! We continue our way to charge my phone, children follow us and harass me to still have balls but I have nothing. I decided to get my camera and steer it on them ... won ! They all run off !!!


THE CHARM OF AFRICA :

We arrive at the "shop" to charge my phone, we go in and there ... big surprise for me ! In the room there is a large generator and around twenty phones on the ground being charged ! The problem is that sometimes when you get your phone back, it is recharged by half because there was a cut of the generator in the day. But that's what makes the charm of Africa !

We head to the village market and there Emmanuel told me that we will eat. We sat in a small hut made of branches and foliages, somebody brings us rice and goat meat. To cook the meat, Maasai sting meat on sticks over the fire is a real feast. Women do not have the right to eat meat with men. Apparently I make exception because I am European ... If at the end of the meal there is some meat that men have not eaten then it will be brought to the women and children ...


The days pass, already two weeks that I live as a Maasai and I must return to Dar es Salaam for my flight ... I'm happy because I'm going to find my family but how sad to leave my family Maasai. The mama accompanies me and asks me to come back soon and tells me she's going to miss me. I also will miss her and all the people I met during these unforgettable holidays... We separate in tears but I know in my heart that I will return, I promised.


BACK TO REALITY, BACK IN FRANCE, I DECIDE TO HELP THE CHILDREN OF TANZANIA :


Back in France, I said well sure my adventure to everyone and it's hard for me because in my head I'm still there, at Sokoine. I have some time to myself "reconnect" to my European life because living in African rhythm for 2 weeks, this calm feeling, I admit that I was slightly disoriented for a few weeks ...


I exchange text messages again with Edward and Emmanuel. They miss me and I miss them too ...


If you're still here, it means that the story of my adventure interested you and I thank you.

    

This family is in my heart forever and I tell to myself that I need to do a good deed in Tanzania. It is not enough to travel the world and bring back memories home. For me it is important to "give something back" to thank those who have welcomed me in their country and in their life ... I talk about it with my Maasai friends and we agree that there is a real need in Tanzania to schooling children aged 3 to 6 years because kindergartens are not in sufficient quantity. This idea enchants me because I childminder, so it is obvious to me.


That's why why I created with the help of my friends the association « MtotoSchool ».




    



Created by SANEMMA PHIL