September 2013 through January 2014 met me in a small village seven hours outside of Nairobi, Kenya. I lived among the Maasai, specifically with a family comprised of two parents and ten children. The mother, who was a lovely lady who spoke mostly Ki-masai and some Swahili was married at the age of fourteen. At the age of forty-five when I met her, she had children ranging from ages thirty to six.
I spent my mornings volunteer assistant teaching with the oldest daughter (18) at the preschool held outside under a tree. The church was awaiting funds to build an actual facility. Afternoons were spent going to the river to wash clothes or hiking to the water hole to fill up jugs of water dug from the sand, for cooking and drinking.
On drought days, the watering hole could be dangerous because elephant were in search of H2O even more than humans. Sometimes, the water would be contaminated from goats or cattle drinking and walking through it. With no electricity or running water, life was sometimes a struggle, but mostly simple and uncomplicated.
The women worked extremely hard fetching water and fire wood, washing clothes, tending children, cooking, cleaning and generally doing everything for the family. Meals consisted of ugali, the staple flour porridge, mixed with milk or cabbage, onion and tomato. I was graced with pasta or rice. Meat was only offered on special occasions and the only spices ever used were salt and sugar. Tea was the favored beverage of choice.
The town was small, about four hundred in population, not including the neighboring more traditional Samburu tribe who still used donkeys for transportation. Most people were related by blood or marriage and the Christmas season marked the time for circumcision ceremonies, both male and female. I attended two male and one female ceremony - ouch! Market days took place each fortnight and small shops and restaurants, owned by outside tribe members lined the village center.
I married a Maasai warrior and together we built a house and an impressive garden. Upon denial of visa extension by immigration due to the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, I left the country with the intention of returning, but I did not. With just seven months of matrimony, the Maasai warrior, who adopted the practice of Christianity many years ago, dropping his traditional ways and customs, and I divorced. Though I no longer keep in touch with him or his family, my mind still runs on the village and the people that I lived among for those months; a special place remains in my heart for the Maasai.