In the afternoon, I went for a walk along the same dusty sidewalk as the day before. The rain had compacted the dust. It seemed to follow a sandy riverbank. Here and there, there were puddles. While I was walking at a slow pace, two men of the Masai tribe came up to me. Once I had watched a documentary about the Masai on television. This time, I had the chance to be face-to-face with them. They were lean and taller than me. They didn’t wear the typical red attire. Their mantles had a bluish hue. One of them wore three or four anklets and some bracelets. They held in their hands sticks made of light-colored wood, but they were not long.
“What is the use of your stick?”
“It is a symbol.”
I guessed that a true Masai always brought his stick, even though he didn’t breed sheep or cows. They wore shoes made of pieces of tire, fastened around their big toes with a tire buckle. There was a small button on the buckle. I had seen a similar kind of tire shoe in my hometown a long time ago. Usually, the farmers wore them in the countryside. The Masai asked me to barter their shoes for mine and their bracelets for my watch. I answered no, because I needed them for walking. At the same time, my watch was my friend’s gift and was a reminder of that friend. We said goodbye to each other. They walked away along the sidewalk. I followed them with my eyes until they disappeared in the distance.
Later, in the dining room of the organization, I talked about the Masai with a German lady who came to Tanzania for three months every year.
“The Masai recycle the entire wheel of a car. Besides making their shoes, they make ropes for tying up their animals from the tires. Moreover, since they have no bells, they hang a rim on a tree or on a wall and strike it with a piece of iron as if it were a gong. In this way, they inform the community whenever an event begins or ends,” she said.
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind