Besides writing memoirs, I love to read them, and this week I let other things go while I sat reading this book.
Eti Dayan is an Israeli woman who has led tours to Africa. Over the years, she kept returning to one particular Maasai village in Kenya. After some dramatic events that she helps with, she is invited to build a house there and she is given a Maasai name, Nayolang, which means “One of Us.” To read the book, or find out more about it at Amazon.com, click on the image.
So she does build a house there, with some help, and over some twenty years, she spends much of her life there. And happily for us readers, she tells a lot of stories about how the Maasai live.
I once long ago spent a summer on a workcamp in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and it left me with a respect for the people I met and a greater zest for life, as I tell in my memoir African Summer, which is described here on this website. So I may have gotten more absorbed in One of Them than the average reader would. But maybe not! You get to know a lot of the individuals, and you see how as in any culture, there is a lot of variation.
One thing that stood out for me was how non-attachment is of much greater value for them than it is for our Western cultures. For example, children live with a variety of relatives and friends as they grow up. This is partly because life expectancy is shorter there, and by having the kids form a variety of attachments, the parents are protecting their offspring from the loss if they–the parents–die young. But this non-attachment also includes material objects, which people have very few of.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the end of the book, where Eti Dayan says:
I’ve experienced the most mature, best, and happiest years of my life in the little village of Maasai Mara. Here I was privileged with insight about generosity, tolerance, pluralism, accepting others, and giving. I cherish and appreciate it every single moment of my life.