Chicken Vaccination

After a restful weekend with my homestay mama and baba (father) over the weekend, I returned back to Longido Maasai village with the other trainers on Monday morning to the same place.  But we had a new group of women participating in the HIV and nutrition training program.  There were about 35 women in the group.  We tell the group what time we will begin class each morning- usually at 10am, but these women don’t even own a watch!  They use the sun to guide them of the time of day and of course, as it is with African time, the majority of them are about an hour or more late in arriving!

This week I got to participate in the chicken vaccination program.  There is a serious virus called Newcastle disease that is very contagious to poultry and can kill many chickens very quickly.  We had to be up at 5:30am each morning, left at 6am, drove the 10 miles up to the Maasai village, picked up the two Maasai mamas in training, and then visited some of the Maasai compounds to vaccinate the chickens.  It is a special eye drop vaccine- just one drop in one eye.  The process must be repeated every 4 months for a total of 3 doses in a one year period.  By going early enough while the chickens are still inside their coop, it was easy to grab them out of the coop, hold their heads to the side and put the vaccine drop in the eye.  I even got to do a few chickens myself!  Occasionally, a chicken would get loose, and several men and boys would run around the yard chasing and cornering the chicken to catch!  It was comical to see everyone running after a frightened chicken!  We did this for three mornings and a couple of the mamas even invited us inside their mud hut- boma for chai (tea)!  What a rare treat to see the inside of their living quarters!!!!

These bomas are made by the women-darn good work, yet so primitive living conditions!  The boma is about 20 ft long by 15 ft wide- made entirely first with a twigs and stick frame, and then covered in mud and cow dung which dries to a smooth rust color finish.  They also mud the entire inside as well.  The inside floor is hard packed dirt.  There is a small ‘foyer-sitting area with maybe 2-3 little 3-legged foot stools to sit on.  One small “room” is where mama and children sleep together- they sleep on cow skins.  On the other side, there is another larger area where the father sleeps- by himself.  Husbands and wives do not sleep together!  In the center, is the ‘cooking’ area where the charcoal fire is lit to prepare food.  There are hardly any utensils or cookware, except for some coffee mugs.  This is ALL they own and have!!  No furniture, no clothes, no toys for kids, period! The bomas have no windows, although some had small openings for natural lightning.  It is smokey and filled with flies inside.  Of course they go outside somewhere to do their bodily functions, since there is no ‘bathroom’ inside.  I was actually quite awed to be invited inside to sit with them and observe their life.  There are children everywhere, and since many of the men practice polygamy, one man usually has about 20 offspring among his 2-3 wives!  By the way, a new thing I observed about the women- I thought something else was different besides the shaved heads and huge holes in their earlobes, but Maasai women also shave off their eyebrows too!  Some of the Maasai women think that I should get my ear pierced? They think I have great looking ear lobes and want me to stretch and have a hole for man’s jewelry in my ears!  I am contemplating it……

John K.

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