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Nancee Rush, Kenya

Participating in a Maasai rite of passage

The most treasured experience with my granddaughter Holly, was participating in a Maasai gathering to celebrate the rites of passage from warrior to elder. We felt privileged to attend as the ceremony had not taken place in this part of Maasailand for twenty years and this was clearly not part of any tourist itinerary.

Upon arrival, I was awestruck by the array of color moving across the landscape. Multitudes of people in colorful kangae were converging together after walking many miles. The air was alive with excitement, anticipation, and a spirit of celebration.

Our Wildland guide had purchased a cow to donate to the Maasai community to honor their ceremony near our camp. We were welcomed into the village by our gracious host and watched the older warriors (men in their thirties and forties) proudly dance. Women in black attire surrounded them. These women took each warrior into a specified dwelling and fed them a helping of meat. This signified his passage from warrior to elder. The free independent lifestyle of the warrior is now over. As a new Junior Elder his time will no longer be spent taking care of his own needs hunting, or preparing his own food. For the remainder of his life his wife will cook and care for him, and his time will be with his family. This was an emotional experience for these warriors and many resisted. Some tried to run away and were captured and carried back into the circle! However, they were soon caught up in the celebratory spirit of the moment.

We were invited into an enclosed area and shared a meal of spiced rice and beef with other guests. Holly was amazed at the huge pot of rice. Although eating rice with her hands was a new experience, she rose to the occasion admirably. A friendship blossomed between Holly and a Maasai teenage girl named Zena who was on of the food servers. One of the more heartwarming moments was when Zena removed her own necklace and placed it around Holly's neck. Holly presented Zena with her bandana. The girls shared life stories and exchanged addresses. What nations could learn from those two young girls who spoke from their hearts.

As the sun dipped on the African plain, Zena invited us into her home. When we take time to mark a passage or create a ritual we flow with the river of life, honoring the sacred. And when we do this while traveling we make connections, bond our families, and are able to celebrate the seasons of life that unite us all. I felt honored being given this opportunity to observe and partake in this ancient ritual of these beautiful people. This experience was both humbling and inspiring.