Mtoto- Swalili for baby

Published on 4 October 2023 at 11:55

Last night we stayed at the beautiful Bashay Rift Lodge - it is located in Tanzania's Great Rift Valley. The Massai tribes came from Ethiopia and followed the water source down to Tanzania. They herd their cattle, sheep and chickens along the route in search of food and water. The Massai are nomadic and make thorns around their settlement to protect themselves from predators. The Massai have been living in harmony with the wildlife in this traditional way of life for thousands of years. 

Today, we were all exhausted, especially the boys. We decided to have a chill, relaxing day around the lodge. Of course Nash wakes up at 5 am and finn at 5:30... After breakfast, we did some school work and reading while Paul was able to get some work done. Around 10 I decided to take the boys around the lodge for a tour. The lodge grows all its own vegetables, fruits, honey, coffee, eggs, fresh milk, etc. I asked a kind lady folding some napkins at the bar for directions to the trails around the coffee plants. She told me to wait right here and someone will help us. 
The boys and I decided to play a game of scrabble to work on Finn's spelling and also math - I made him add and keep track of the scorecard. Twentyish minutes later a kind man appeared and told us he was here to take us on our walk. He said his name was Charlie and asked if we wanted to go on a long, medium or short walk. I told him the medium would be good for the boys. 
He first showed us around the grounds of the lodge - tons of lettuce, avocado, papayapa, banana and coffee plants all around. The boys loved exploring the farm learning about the different fruits/vegetables.
Next we headed down a small, dirt road towards the local village. As we were walking, we saw so many friendly faces and smiles. All saying "Jambo" or "Musungo" to us. Charlie told us it was unusual to see any "white" person walking around here, much less children. We passed many groups of women, all speaking Swahili. Charlie would tell us - "they say your child is beautiful" or "the women ask if they can keep one of them". He said everyone loves the boys! As we continue our walk, we hear loud music playing and lots of people walking along the road. Charlie tells us it is a funeral happening in the village. I ask him what happened - he says "a very sad man put a rope around his neck and went to heaven". He continued to tell us his wife left him for another man and all the children blamed him. He continued to support his children and wife even though he was all alone. He had 6 kids and Charlie told us now the children will all be separated and live with other families.  It is too hard and too expensive to keep the family together. We walked up to the funeral - it was outside with a small tent, plastic chairs and the entire village was there. We stood back out of the way. The boys had so many questions. I noticed Charlie giving a man some money and getting change back. I asked him what he was doing. He said he was giving money to the family to help pay for this funeral. The family has to pay for the cost of the generator, the tent, chairs, digging the hole, food, music and burying the man. He said the entire village was sad because of this death. The boys felt humble to donate to this family to help support them. 
A group of older Massai women stopped to look at the boys and touch them. They were speaking Swahili to Charlie for a while. After they left, I asked him what they said. He told me they asked "why are they being punished? What did they do that was so wrong they are walking down here?" Like I said before, it is very abnormal for "white" people to walk in the small villages. Tourists typically stay at the resort or with their guide on safaris or visit the larger towns. I really wanted the boys to get an authentic and natural experience. We stayed at the funeral for about 30 minutes just watching and talking to people. They would come up to us and say "Jambo", shake our hand and look fondly at the boys. We probably saw around 80 different people that approached us, all kind, smiling and wanting to "keep" the boys or at least one of them! 
We stopped at the local store which was about the size of a closet. When all 4 of us were in there, no one else could fit inside. I noticed bottled water, some odd candy, giant bags of rice and flour that the cashier would scope out for you for sale. We also noticed glass bottles of Fanta, Coke, Sprite and beer. I asked Charlie about those. He told us, if you drink something from the bottle it costs 600 shillings - about 25 cents in USD. The thing is you must finish your drink in the store and leave the bottle so the store can refill it. All the bottles were not refrigerated and extremely hot! We bought 2 Sprites and 4 pieces of gum for 2,000 shillings which was 0.80 cents USD. We got "take away" bottles (aka plastic ones) which were more expensive. 
After we left the local store, the boys were tired and beginning to get a little wild. I told the boys if they didn't "step up" and be big guys no more Sprite. When I said that, Nash held his left foot up in laughter. He said "look mom, I'm stepping up"...
As we continued our walk, we noticed some boys pushing up a giant barrel. We asked Charlie what they were doing? He told us the boys had pushed the empty barrel to the hose here to refill it with fresh water to take back to their home.  Bashay Rift lodge provides 5 different hose "access" points for the local village to use to gather water. According to many people we spoke with throughout the day, the lodge is very kind and generous to the local people. Charlie said he grew up in this village but now lives about 4 kilometers away. 
As we continued our walk, we saw a group of small children running up to us yelling "Musungo, musungo"! They were so excited to meet the boys and speak with them. We hung out with the children for a while. The children asked if the boys could stay and live with them in their village. Nash says, "why don't you come and live with us in Pennsylvania". The children had some baby goats roaming around. Nash asked if he could buy one of their baby goats. Of course no one could understand him but they loved listening and watching him. He was very animated of course telling his stories. Before long, we had around 15 children standing with us all wanting to see the Musingo. One girl, maybe around 9 years old, was wearing a baby on her back and carrying a baby in her arms (each baby less than a year old). All the children were under 9 years old - some around 2 and 3 years old. We did not see an adult nearby. The children were in charge of each other and collecting the families goats and chickens that were roaming around.  We gave the children our extra Sprite and empty Sprite bottle. I asked Charlie before we gave it to them and he said it was ok. They will use the empty bottle to gather drinking water from the hose. 
On this walk, we learned that mtoto is swahili for babies. Brother is swahili for poop. Bubba is swahili for father. Pole is swahili for sorry and pole pole means slowly slowly. We also learned so many more that I can't remember or spell but we had an amazing and unforgettable time thanks to Charlie!


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9 months ago

Another amazing day of real interactions I can just imagine Nash being very expressive in his talks. They both look great, love the writing, makes me feel like we’re with you.

9 months ago

Sounds like a day full of more new experiences. ❤️❤️❤️

Karen Mary Schaefer
9 months ago

"Stepping up"....cute!
I look forward to hearing from Finn and Nash what they are they both internalize and express their experiences.