by Sr. Noeleen Mooney, MMM Ireland 17.01.2022
I have never had a good sense of direction, though I believed that if I walked somewhere, I would at least be able to retrace my steps. This almost let me down once when I went to a baptism celebration in south Maasailand, Tanzania. Houses there are built in a ‘boma’, a circular compound, housing different family members as well as the livestock. It is all carefully surrounded by a thorn fence to keep the lions and hyenas out at night.
There were many well-trodden paths leading to and from the house. My companion left early leaving me to find my own way home. When I emerged from the house, I realized I had no idea which direction to take. Home was quite a distance, and darkness falls quickly. Then I remembered I was wearing runners with a distinctive ridged patten on the sole. I searched and eventually found my own footprints in the sand, and so, literally I retraced my steps. It taught me the wisdom of being more observant.
It reminded me of a trip up a nearby mountain in the company of some Maasai warriors. At one point we came to a sandy pool, with various animal paw prints around the edge. Not only did they recognize the kind of animal from the print – but they were able to tell just how long ago they had come to drink! I was astonished and realized just how keen the powers of observation need to be when you live so close to the animal kingdom.
The same warriors told me what to do if I met a lone buffalo – fling myself down, hands by my side (in this way the buffalo cannot get its horns under the body), then roll away, hopefully to safety. I must admit that I have not had to put this into practice – maybe if I improve my powers of observation, I won’t have to; but it may be useful information to pass on!
OBS: This was an audio recording for RTE Radio 1: A Living Word.