Emil Carlberg: Maasai people a reminder of life's simplicity


Many of us like to advance and go forward in time, not backwards.
 But when I lived with a tribe of Maasai people in Africa, it felt I had moved 1,000 years back in time.

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It was a unique experience I’m not sure I’ll try again, but nevertheless was a really good thing to have done. My time with the friendly Maasai in the middle of Tanzania gave me a new perspective on life, and some new friends for life too — even if they couldn't understood a word I was saying and if I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying to me.

Here in Canada, everything is comfortable. Even when I've slept hungry and cold in my tent during a rainstorm, it's paradise compared with how some Maasai people live today. But they’re happy with their life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever met more friendlier or happier people than them. Just to wake up and see the sun rise over the mid-African step was, for them, a blessing.

Words like faster or stress don’t exist in their own language, called Maa. Everything there is "poly poly," which means take it easy, no stress, just relax.

And that’s maybe why they are so happy, because nothing in their life is stressful. The only important thing for them is to see that their family, friends, and livestock, with cows and goats, are good. Nothing else in this world is as important, and maybe that’s something we in West can learn from them. Family, friends, and animals first — the rest comes after, always, no matter what.

My time with the Maasai was really special for me — to go out hunting with them, to try to pass their tests and walk a whole day without food or water under the African sun, to listen to their exciting hunting stories, to taste their homemade beer and wine, and to join a big party they held the day before I left, with more than 500 invited.

And I think it was really special for the Maasai tribe and their chief to have me and my three friends from Europe there as well. They had never seen a white person before, you see, and now they got the see four of us at the same time, and learned what a day for people in Europe was like.

We had brought some gifts to them from Europe: salt liquorice, snuff, and a really fine vodka. They liked everything except the liqourice, which they thought were witchcraft drugs.

Anyway, my time with the Maasai was a really unique time in my life I’ll never forget. You don’t know before you’ve tried. 

Emil Carlberg is a Swedish adventurer.

[Editor's Note: Another adventure called for Emil Carlberg last month, cutting short his stay in Fort St. John. Carlberg is off on a sailing trip that will take him from Sweden, and to Norway, Denmark, North Germany, Finland and Russia. His column about his worldly exploits will still appear weekly in the Alaska Highway News through to September.]

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