Maasai Water Wells Not Far From Tarangire National Park

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February 1st 2020
Published: February 12th 2020
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It is another beautiful morning here in Tanzania. Again we have an early start as Sultan, our most excellent guide, explained that our activities should take place before the day gets too hot. But it never seems too hot to me here; most mornings and evenings are downright chilly and the middle parts of the days are only gently warm. For me it's never quite hot enough! So we were all ensconced in our Jeeps by 7AM, punctually ready to go.

We were driving along in our two safari vehicles when fairly suddenly our driver, Morgan this morning, pulled off the road and onto a grassy hillside. What was happening? Sultan told us there were wells in this area belonging to the Maasai, that many times every day women of all ages would come to fill their twenty liter buckets with water and, carrying them on their heads, would walk back up the hill, across the busy road, and back to their village. This was no small feat! And each woman walked to and from these wells at least three times every day. Given that each bucket weighed over 40 pounds, plus the fact that the water in these shallow wells was not clean (by our standards at least), we decided to give them the four ceramic water filters our group had bought on our first full day in Tanzania, to give away when we found a need.

The award winning Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa organization located in Arusha was our very first field trip on this tour. Our Overseas Adventure Travel group had visited on January 29 (which seems very much longer ago than only two days - we are so busy learning about this country), and after watching the process of their making each ceramic water filter by hand, the ten of us pitched in to buy four filters, a rather fine gift from our small group. We had been carefully carrying the filters along with us since then, waiting for Sultan to make a decision on who the recipients would be. And here we were, bumping over grassy knolls, heading down to one Maasai village's water holes. I had thought that we would give one each to four different areas, but after examining the water in these wells, and learning firsthand the terrific amount of constant work involved in getting water back to their village, I understood why we were giving families here all four filters.

Sultan took time explaining to all the Maasai women (and one man, who seemed to be just sitting around, looking at us and watching the women work) what these gifts were and how to use them; the Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa organization would follow up by visiting this village to make sure they were using the filters correctly. Hopefully, when the Maasai here learn to use them properly, the filters will save them much work, plus offer freedom from water-borne diseases, an always ongoing threat to their health and existence.

While Sultan was teaching them how to use each expensive fragile filter we were also interacting with the Maasai. Learning how to use the filters took a bit of time, but Morgan's Jeep had gotten stuck in the deep mud so there was no reason to hurry. Eddy, our other driver, was trying to pull him out by using some kind of strap; this wasn't seeming to work very well. So our little group had even more time to take photos and mime with the Maasai, telling each other how many children we had, how many grandchildren. One older woman took a liking to me, so we stood together and ended up just standing there with our arms around each other's waist. One other time, three years ago in Zambia I think, our vehicle got stuck in deep mud, but we were in the middle of a very wild nowhere and could hear a lion roaring. That time the second Jeep hitched up a heavy chain to pull us out, but we still had to deboard and stand exposed while the rescue was happening, all the while every one of us was worrying about how close that lion really was as we could see the result of a kill in the bushes nearby. At some point the lion would certainly return for the rest of his meal. As soon as the Jeep was freed we quickly climbed back into it and both vehicles carefully drove away. Remembering that incident, this time I asked Morgan why they didn't carry a towing chain, but he said chains were too heavy for these Jeeps.

Of course we finally got freed, but had had an excellent cultural exchange of sorts, ample opportunity to interact with each other, filled with hand gestures, words and phrases and questions not deciperable by either group, and lots of smiling. I enjoy taking photos of people and then showing them their picture; usually there are happy reactions except in the case of one very small girl here who didn't smile the whole time we were visiting. Finally we left, waving our good-byes out of the windows as we bumped and slithered our way back up and onto the road. After this mini-adventure we were heading out again. What surprises would come next?


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