Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rift Valley

Yesterday we drove a few hours west of Monduli to the Rift Valley where we'll be until Monday. As we get further and further from the city, Arusha, you can see differences in the Maasai. As Kisioki put it, these guys are more purely Maasai. You can see it in the clothes they wear. The Maasai in Monduli mix traditional Maasai clothes with western clothes (or as they say, Swahili clothes). A t-shirt covered with a wrap, a parka over the bright Maasai cloth (that's right, a PARKA. It's pretty cold in the more mountainous part that we've been staying at), tennis shoes... It's a hodgepodge of cultures. But here it's different, just straight Maasai clothing, and its beautiful and bright, especially in contrast to the dusty, monochromatic landscape. The women wear mostly red, blue, and black wraps. A long black wrap goes around their waist while the torso is covered by two crisscrossed wraps. All of it is covered by a shawl over the shoulders; frequently used to sling a baby or toddler onto their backs. The men wear similar clothes, but their waist wraps are never black, and they're much shorter than the women's. They also belt their wraps on so that they can hang a belt from them. Finally, their shawl is more blanket-like and looks super warm and comfortable, especially when it's cold out. 

One of the coolest parts of driving through the villages (besides the thrill of the bumpy, non-existent 'roads', more dirt paths than anything and filled with ditches that even our Jeep struggles to climb through at times) is seeing the stove chimneys peppered throughout the bomas. They're everywhere.  Similarly, at night you can see some lights dotting the landscape and you know that these are lights powered by the solar panels installed by International Collaborative. There must be a sense of pride in seeing the work spread tangibly amongst the Maasai. While we were in Esilalei (a village by the huge lake Manyara) where another stove was being installed, four Maasai men walked into the village to talk to Kisioki. They had seen the Jeep drive by their village and ended a meeting to come speak to Kisioki about buying a stove of their own. Word must spread fast. 

A funny moment in Esilalei: Erica and I were watching Kisioki climb up on the thatched roof of a house to repair a solar panel wire that had been chewed through by a rat. The women of the village were standing with us too, but they were fascinated by Erica's blond braided hair. They were touching it an admiring the color and how soft it was. One of them, in sort of a consolatory way, patted my head, as if to apologize for not being as impressed by me as by Erica. Since she was feeling the texture though, I decided to take my hair out of its bun so that she could get a better feel. When I shook my hair out though, everyone immediately moved over to play with it. I think that they were surprised by its length because Maasai men and women shave their heads. The best moment was when one of the women took my hair and draped it over her head. Everyone was dying with laughter, even Kisioki.

Driving through the brush out to our camp at night, we were overwhelmed by the sky. As the sun set, we were first able to see the moon, and next to it was Jupiter, brighter than any of the stars that came out later. But when the stars came out, they were even more impressive than the planet. There were so many that it didn't feel dark outside because of their collective light. And the Milky Way was incredible. It was bigger and more visible than I would have thought.

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