Monday, January 03, 2011
As part of our Christmas break, we headed to the Ol Masera tented camp near the Ngorogorno crater. When we arrived, the Slovakian proprietress, Barbara, was in Arusha, so the first couple of days were spent with the Maasai who staffed the camp. They didn't speak much English, so there was only a bit of small talk and a lot of misunderstanding. Despite the lack of verbal communication, we got a strong impression of our hosts' kind temperament, as well as their culture.
When Barbara arrived the next day, we learned more about the Maasai. Barbara has been in Tanzania for a little over 40 years, speaks fluent Swahili and understands the people and surrounding area quite well. Barbara told us of the Maasai's relative disinterest in the modern - and mostly Western - culture that is changing Tanzania. Many Maasai have stuck to their traditional occupation as cattle herders, still use tribal markings, such as facial scarring and decorative stretching of the ear lobes, and live fairly simply in round, thatched huts in the areas around northern Tanzania and southern Kenya.
So what are their observations of us? I'm sure they have many, but a particularly interesting one relates to clothing. The Maasai wear sweeping shawls that adapt well to the changes of temperature in this region, and are critical of Westerners and our tight clothes, which they refer to in their Maasai tongue as "fart smotherers".
I like my farts smothered, and the Maasai we met certainly seemed to appreciate his mobile phone.
I suppose life is full of compromises.
The landscape around Ol Masera, taken from our tent: