Joy: Living in a Maasai Village

This is going to be a post that is FULL of pictures. Get ready!

In case you haven’t caught up, read the first part of my Tanzania village recap HERE!

We walked out of our hotel in Arusha, Tanzania after breakfast to find these massive off roading trucks waiting for us. We were going to ride for 4 hours in these things! We loaded water and our luggage underneath the truck seats, prayed for safe travels, and started the drive.

As soon as we got to the village, we set up our tents and tried to communicate with the families in the huts nearby. At first, the kids were very shy; some probably hadn’t seen white people before and most definitely hadn’t seen such a large commotion (with trucks, bags, and tents getting set up) happen in their village! We found that cameras were a great way to talk or express what we wanted to say to the Maasai. They LOVED pictures! I would take 5 or 6 at a time, the kids would all crowd around me, and I would flip through and point everyone out.  Their mamas would watch at a distance, smiling with approval and laughing when their kids made funny faces on camera.

The Maasai tribe lives in Kenya and the northern part of Tanzania. They are well known for how they dress and their traditions. Look at the photo above and you’ll see a plaid-like patterned wrap (called “Shuka”); this was how you identified Maasai in the village or on the outskirts of the city. Their people are pastoralists, meaning their lives are dedicated to farming and herding. They are historically nomadic. They are beautiful people. 

In the mornings, we left our tents after an AMAZING (seriously amazing) breakfast to head over to the village school. There were about 400 kids there, with 8-10 teachers. I was told that out of all of those children, only 2 or 3 would go on to university.

Some of the kids knew English, and I could have fluid, back-and-forth conversation with a few of the older students. One of the sweet girls I met, Anna, always said “Hi, hi, girly!” whenever she saw me. She also said “Savannah” over and over after discovering that our names rhymed (she’s to the left of me in the pic below). She looooved taking selfies.

The school was beautiful – out in an open area, with pretty red flowers lining the school buildings and a huge play yard in the middle. The water, however, was a different story.

I was horrified to learn that the water you see above was the water they used for drinking, washing, and cleaning. One little guy fell and cut his head pretty badly, and the other students were quick to get a bucket of this water to flush the wound. I immediately grabbed my first aid kid and applied some Neosporin to the cut, even though it definitely needed stitches. That kind of medical care wasn’t common here, so I did the best I could. I put a band aid over the cut and the boy’s fellow students erupted into giggles, saying my “white rubbed off” on him, since the band aid was white.

Around 2pm, we would pack up and head back to the village (a 20 minute walk). Some students had to walk as far as 6 miles to and from school, so we held their hands and walked as far as we could with them. Can you believe that?? A 6 year old, by his or herself, walking 6 miles home to their family.

When we were back to our tents, we spent a lot of time playing with the kids in the huts next to us. These kids didn’t speak Swahili like the school kids did; they spoke Maasai (which no one knew) so we just used hand signals and lots of smiles to communicate! The language barrier was really frustrating at first, but the villagers were so patient.

The chief of the village was…interesting. He had over 50 children. FIFTY! We showed him Snapchat and he was OBSESSED. He was sort of creepy, honestly. But very interested in learning about our culture and how we lived in America.

After returning from the village, we would eat lunch, write in our journals, and play before dinner at sun-down. After dinner, we gathered around the fire and sang, talked, and danced for hours. We encouraged the kids to come sit in our laps and we loved teaching their parents our songs!

One thing I’ll take away from this trip and the biggest thing I discovered was the amount of pure, genuine, raw joy that was expressed constantly. There was no anger, no frustration, no envy, no sadness. Just joy. Just love. Hugging, holding hands, kissing cheeks. That’s it. Isn’t that really all you need?

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  • Rachel Mariana Timmerman

    Wow what an experience! I can just see the pure joy in these pictures. We definitely need more this in the cruel world we live in. Thanks for sharing this! Definitely added a bright spot to my day 🙂

  • Kristin Thompson

    I love seeing all of your pictures! This sounds like an amazing trip!

    The Blush Blonde

  • Elly Leavitt

    what an amazing trip! I loved reading about it and think it’s so great you could do something like this. The pics say so much too!

  • I loved reading this post!! I laughed out loud at the selfies that girl took. These are beautiful pictures. This trip sounds amazing – it’s so true that at the end of the day, joy is all we need!


  • Ruya Kirac

    Incredible post! I’m so sad that out of all those children, so little of them will be able to go to college. This trip sounds so life-changing and you’re so inspiring.


  • Thi sis so neat. I loved reading about your experience

  • Thanks for sharing this! It was so incredibly enlightening to read and see all the great photos, loved your comments on joy!

    Pick Your Beau