Part 2: Our experience of the Masai Christian speaker
By popular demand, we are expanding our three-part blog on our Masai experience to four parts. We will divide each Masai event into one blog post. Part two will be about our first day and the Masai Christian speaker. Part three will be about the Masai singing event. Part four will remain a conclusion or reflection blog.
Last week, the “Inspirational Tid-bits” section gave a brief history of the Masai. We provided a brief overview of their culture and briefly discussed their tense relationship with westerners. With this general background information, it will be easier to understand our experience, our thoughts, and our feelings after reflecting upon the experience.
The first Masai event we attended included a Masai Christian speaker. As mentioned, the Masai have been very reluctant to accept the cultural influence of the west. Likewise, they have also been unwilling to accept the dominant religion of the west, Christianity. The Masai tribe has received many Christian missionaries from the moment they were first contacted by westerners until now. Conversion of the Masai has proven to be very difficult for Christian missionaries. When the Masai accept Christianity, it is considered an abandonment of their tradition, their beliefs, their relatives, and their culture. It seems that they feel Christian conversion is the first step to accepting western ideals and abandoning their culture.
After taking a few daladala’s and a bus, we arrived at the community where our friend, Pastor Joshua lives. He is a Masai pastor and he leads an Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Northern Diocese of Tanzania. He is a great person and he is the individual who set up our visit with the Masai.
Upon our arrival to the village, we were not sure what to expect. We were unsure of how we would be received by the community due to the tense relationship between the Masai and westerners. It does not take a tourist or western volunteer very long to understand that the Masai are not as friendly as the other Tanzanians. However, his village was very hospitable and incredibly welcoming.
When we arrived at Pastor Joshua’s house, it was about lunch time. He took us to the room where we would be eating the lunch that his village prepared for us. We sat down and we were initially confused. There were two large bowls on the table. One was filled with rice and the other was filled with very undercooked meat. We sat down and were offered Cokes. Since international Coke tastes AMAZING, we gladly accepted and expected that the rest of the table would be set.
To our surprise, Pastor Joshua and the other two Masai representatives started eating out of the large bowl and grabbing the meat. Although we have heard that many Tanzania’s eat with their hands at home, we did not think about the fact that the Masai might eat with their hands! We looked at each other and just started trying to eat with our hands. It proved to be a very difficult task! For our entire lives we were told to not eat with our hands and now we had to learn on the fly! Needless to say, we were not very good with eating using our hands.
After lunch, it was time for the speaker. We went to a large field and Pastor Joshua handed us a video camera. He told us to “be free” to record the event. We have learned throughout our stay that the Masai do not like their pictures being taken. They are very vocal about wanting payment for a picture. We asked Pastor Joshua about this and he said that we should not worry because everyone knew we were with him.
At that moment, music started and Masai warriors started entering the field. There were over 100 Masai warriors and over 200 total Masai people attending the event. The Masai warriors walked very slowly and entered in a single file line. See below for a photo. Everyone in the crowd started cheering for them as they entered! Pastor Joshua patted us on the shoulder and told us to start recording. Again, he told us to “be free” and walk around. At first we were apprehensive, but once we figured out that people were expecting us to record the event, we felt more comfortable!
The Masai Christian speaker was from Kenya. He was talking about how the Masai tradition fits in with Christianity. In the Old Testament, one of the decedents of Moses was named Masai. The speaker was tracing their heritage to a long lost tribe of Israel. We looked into this and scholars do not really confirm or deny this claim. We are not sure if it is true, but it seems to be an area of thought, especially since they are traced back to Egypt, they have a cultural emphasis on circumcision, and they believe in one deity who matches the characteristics of Jehovah in the Old Testament.
The event was very interesting. We do not speak enough Swahili to understand everything that the speaker said, but everyone in the crowd seemed to enjoy him. We were more fascinated with how warmly we were accepted into the culture. We could not communicate with everyone because most people only spoke their tribal language. Many individuals took pictures of us with their camera phones, and wanted their picture taken with us. It felt very odd to be on the receiving end of this situation.
After the speaker was through talking, the people slowly left the event. Many people traveled from far away and they needed to get back to their village. We stayed around that village until almost dusk. The distance between this event and our next event was very far and we had to leave.
It was very humbling to be accepted into this culture. We kept asking ourselves, “who gets to go and be a part of something like this?” We were so happy and grateful to have an experience like this. It made us very excited for our next Masai experience, the Masai singing event, which we will discuss in Part 3!