Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Noloholo, Day 20: Maasai names and trading safety

I want some air to flow through my tent and so before I head to breakfast, I pull my rain fly half off and loop it through another tent section. But after lunch, I find my rain fly has been carefully replaced and clipped back down by one of the guards who watches over Noloholo. I am so touched by the thoughtfulness that I can’t bring myself to unbuckle it again, even though my tent feels like a sauna.

My project for the day is to work on a grant. It feels so comfortable to be writing purposefully. This is a familiar rhythm to me, this is a mindset that I can find easily, and the struggle to say truthful things in unexpected ways is a delightful challenge. I write all day, and by evening I have something passable. It isn’t due until next week, so in the meantime I will have time to rewrite and rewrite and polish.. and learn much in the meantime.

I try to write outside of my tent for a while, but the incessant crawling of scouting ants across my feet, the tickle of flies and the appearance of a horrifyingly large insect that looks more like a shrunken-down drone from "The Matrix" than any bug I've ever seen, soon causes me to move back indoors.

Over lunch I learn about Maasai names. It turns out that most Maasai have an impossible number of names: their Maasai name, a Christian name, sometimes a Swahili name, their father’s name, a family name, and their grandfather’s name, and then a nickname. For example, there is a man in town named Robert. But there are actually two Robert, and he is the taller of them. Everyone calls him Tallu. Buddy called over one of the guards, Tony, and tried to get Tallu’s “real” name out of him, but even Tony just shrugged and said, “I don’t know, everyone just calls him Tallu!”

The reason we got on this whole discussion is because Christy has been trying to map livestock depredations to the boma that the livestock came from. Unfortunately sometimes the boma family name is different from the name on the depredation form.. precisely because people have many names and it takes a lot of wrangling to figure out how the reportee of the depredation is related to the boma! It makes American names seem so simple. It also makes me wonder at the simplicity here: why use a more complicated name if everyone knows who you are talking about anyway? Only when we begin to put our scientific constructs, these ideas of recordkeeping and information management, do we complicate things.

Andrew, Christy and I always walk down to the tents together after dinner. It’s been nice to see Tony or one of the other guards standing by our tents when we go – they make sure we get in safely and patrol regularly throughout the night. I can always count on seeing their lean figures, beaming a flashlight at us or leaning easily on the sticks that they carry everywhere with them. As I fell asleep last night I pondered the fact that if on the unlikely occasion I was to be faced by some kind of animal, these guards would unhesitatingly risk their lives to save mine. It is an uncomfortable thought. Would I do the same for one of them? What is the relationships, anyway, between myself and Tuma who cooks all my meals, or the people who cleared my campsite?

It is a much quieter night with almost no wind, and although we heard the distant "whoop!" of hyenas, I sleep peacefully.

Tags: travel - tanzania
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