My Maasai Stool

Reads: 325  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

I had been searching for a Maasai stool.

Whenever I went into Arusha town, there was always some business to be done in the bustling area where tourists used to congregate to access their emails or to meet up with their safari companies for expeditions to Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater or Serengeti national parks. Because the tourists were there, so were the touts, trying as best they could to prise money from what they presumed were loaded wallets. It was always a colourful scene, made colourful by the Maasai women sitting in traditional dress doing their bead or leather work. The fruit women dressed in their colourful kangas added to the scene. The touts, young men, always dressed in western clothing, were selling newspapers or tourist booklets but most were selling curios, batiks and mementos.

Like touts anywhere the Arusha guys have to be fairly thick-skinned because tourists and local expats alike could become frustrated at their constant approach and often reacted harshly towards them, because ‘no’ isn’t in their vocabulary. The prices the touts set for the goods they sell is high, and sometimes outrageously so, but they were prepared to be beaten down through bargaining. Life wasn’t easy for them and making a living was difficult, but at least they weren’t out there picking pockets! Busy as the place was, the people frequenting the area get to know who’s around and they knew me and my vehicle. By displaying a good attitude towards the locals, leaving the vehicle was safer and therefore getting around was less stressful. You need to take the time to greet people. It’s an investment - anywhere.

The fruit women, ladies, we called them, bought top of the line fruit from the central market; oranges, mandarins, mangoes and other seasonal fruits - even water melon! How’d you like to lug a watermelon around on your head? Actually in the village markets we could buy fruit of lesser quality, but for a quarter of the price, however on a weekly basis we bought fruit from the ladies, more or less to keep in good with them. We tried to rotate who we bought from, which was harder that you might think, but they kept tabs and knew who’s turn it was. They called me ‘Babu’, Grandfather, on account of the few grey hairs perched on my head.

It’s all very well having a harsh attitude to the people on the streets, but there are advantage in having a rapport. There were a number of street boys, young buggers who would thieve the eye out of a needle if they could get away with it. They would beg too, but we knew that money would go to smokes or other drugs, so we gave them fruit (from the ladies) or a few biscuits perhaps. Anyway, someone thieved our Field Rep’s satchel from out of her car, she forgot to lock it in her rush! Inside there were important papers, pens and female stuff. I told to one of the street boys that I had given Mr. Boma, at the post office five hundred shillings for the return of the satchel and the papers. That’s all that we wanted back. Sure enough, that afternoon, the satchel and papers were handed to Mr. Boma.

There was one young tout, well he was young when we first knew him, who because of his non-pushy attitude, we bought a few items from. He was a likable young lad, and whenever we had guests staying with us, we would meet up with him so they could have the opportunity to see what he had to sell and make their own decisions. With practice I pretty much knew what the items were worth, but decided not to interfere with the process. When people travel to Africa, they need to experience Africa in all its little ways and buying tourist trinkets is one of them. When a deal is struck, it’s up to the people involved. If they’re not happy, then more fool them for buying the item. Likewise no tout will sell at a loss. They have their bottom line.

Our man disappeared for about six months and we wondered what had happened to him. The other touts didn’t seem to know or care. Even we weren’t at all perturbed because people come and go as issues befall them. Until one day as I passed by where the Maasai women sat and they called out ‘Karibu’, welcome, I came face to face our friendly tout! It was hard to miss the fact that he was minus an ear! After our greetings were concluded, being careful not to look where his ear had been, or mention the lack of it, I asked him where he had been. He had been in a bus crash, one of those fifteen seater buses, but there were twenty three aboard. It had impacted and rolled! He had been in hospital for three days and the rest of the time, he had been convalescing at home. We were expecting visitors in a week’s time, so I told him to expect us.

Our visitors bought a few items from him, and I reminded him I had but a couple of months left in Tanzania and that I was still looking for a Maasai stool. They are called Maasai stools, but most tribes use them principally as milking stools, but also to sit on beside their cooking fires. Most are three-legged and carved out of one piece of wood. There are plenty available in tourist shops, all nicely painted, even with Tinga-tinga designs if that’s what you like. Some have the legs inlaid and look really flash. But that’s not what I wanted. Our tout had often shown me likely stools, but all of them were well, new.

A week or so later my friendly tout took me to his little cubby-hole where he stored his personal possessions while he was on his selling beat. He brought out a battered and chipped Maasai stool, which came from his home, it had been in his family for decades! Perfect! It was just what I had been looking for! He presented it as his gift to me, would be offended if I offered him anything for it! It is four-legged and slightly larger in diameter than most. It is decorated with small beads of red, white and blue that were pressed into the wood while it was still green. The beads are in simple patterns, groups of three, four or five. I’ve not seen another quite like it.

The stool sits in our lounge, beside the fire welcoming anyone who comes in from the cold. When I smell it, I still detect the cooking fire of my benefactor. The stool my treasure! And hey, if you find yourself in Arusha, and you see a guy with one ear missing, buy something from him! 




Submitted: February 18, 2018

© Copyright 2020 moa rider. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:




You are so good at bringing scenes to life, Moa. Your descriptions are fantastic.

Tue, February 20th, 2018 9:02pm


Thank you Mama Hullabaloo. I appreciate your comment. But even so there's so much to describe and there's always more to the picture. Usianguke

Fri, February 23rd, 2018 11:35am

More Memoir Short Stories

Other Content by moa rider

Short Story / Romance

Short Story / Romance

Short Story / Fantasy