Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Amongst the Samburu

Oh these beautiful Samburu women and their bright colors!

Our Quiltville Goes to Kenya group paid a visit to a local Samburu tribal village while staying at in the Samburu Nature Reserve in Kenya. The gorgeous colors worn by these beautiful people will capture you and inspire you – the ground is very sandy and the perfect neutral backdrop against a blue sky with puffy clouds.

It’s like that commercial for “Claritin Clear!” you know? VIBRANT. BOLD. Breathtaking.

The Samburu people are a sub tribe of the Massai. They live their lives as semi-nomadic pastoralists who herd mainly cattle but also keep sheep, goats and camels.

One of the things I really strive to do when visiting other cultures is to leave my white bread American born and bred middle class blonde hair blue eyed pre conceived notions on my doorstep at home and dive in with an open heart and mind, focusing on the things we have in common and allowing differences to sink in with a different mind set than “Oh, they have it wrong and we have it right.” kind of mentality. 

So I encourage all who are reading this to leave your judgement in another room and just come with open eyes to experience what we did amongst the Samburu people.

Our guide, giving us a diagram of the village lay out.

The Samburu are a polygamous culture, each man having up to 3 wives.  I asked if there was ever jealousy amongst the women to be the “favorite wife”  and he sheepishly said SOMETIMES!  I also learned later that it is the elders amongst the men who have the authority to claim the younger women of marriageable age as additional wives, making it harder for the younger men to marry them based on their lower status. 

Young men achieve warrior status as they reach adulthood, but don’t consider themselves to be of marriageable age until they are about 30.

I told him that both of my sons are in that rank too – 29 and 35 and neither of them are married either!

After our explanation – we were welcomed with singing and dancing!

Click to Play:

While the men were performing, the women presented us with beautiful beaded necklaces for our "ceremony" and we had the option to purchase them at the end of our visit.

Oh, I so can NOT Dance! How the women are able to flip their beaded colors and move their lithe bodies – it’s something that comes from childhood.  So fluid! 

My best interpretation of a turkey.  LOL!

This beautiful lady! Such a genuine smile!

The Samburu diet consists mostly of meat, milk or blood from sheep, goats and camels.  There were chickens about, but I was told that they don’t eat chicken or eggs.  They raise them to sell them.  Everything they raise goes to the community as a whole, benefiting everyone.

Love the babe on the back!

I had never thought about animals as blood donors before, but I learned that they can drain a couple of pints from a camel (Just like donating blood to the red cross) and it can be mixed with milk and used in their cooking – the camel replenishes, and the food source is preserved. Pretty great when you consider that there is no refrigeration here so any meat that they prepare has to be eaten right away.

Children in the yard – with goats!

According to our tribal guide, there are at least 13 ways that blood can be prepared, and may form a whole meal!

Milk is a valued part of Samburu diet and may be drunk either fresh, or fermented; "ripened" milk is often considered superior. Beef is eaten mainly on ceremonial occasions, or when a cow happens to die. Meat from small stock is eaten more commonly, though still not on a regular basis.

They have also added things to their diet from nearby agricultural areas like ground corn cooked into a porridge.

GRITS!  It's like GRITS!  Hey, I live in the south, I can do grits!  There, we've found common ground in our eating habits after all!

Family hut.

We were welcomed inside!

Those of us who could, sat on the floor while our guide told us about the making of the family dwellings.  There is a branch framework covered by burlap and then cardboard, followed by an outer layer of cowhide that keeps things dry and rainproof.

When I was young, my brothers and I built a fort in our backyard one summer, in the corner of the side yard where the fence met the side of the house.  We used pallets and blankets and whatever we could find to make it cozy.  We wanted to “camp out” overnight in our fort.  This felt a lot like that.

Bad lighting – sorry.

This is a sleeping quarters – the “cot” area is elevated above the ground.  Simple stick shelves hold bare necessities.  It’s a simple life, and in many ways a hard one, but I can’t help but wonder if there is also much more peace among the people because they don’t have the GO GO GO demands of everyday life we take upon ourselves here in the modern world.

I don’t get up to greet the sunrise – I get up feet running to get the blog written and the orders out and prepare the mystery introductory post, and make the quilts for the next book, and worry about not doing Quilt Cam often enough due to dial up internet and so many of the things we STRESS about daily they just don’t seem to have.

Not that I want to drink camel’s blood – but I’m trying to keep an open mind about different cultures!

Asking all the questions!

Getting the best of funny answers!

Connecting heart to heart.

“But I can’t be your 4th wife – I already have a husband!”

And then – we shopped!

Beautiful beaded collar – SUCH artistry!

Beaded bracelets, earrings necklaces -

There were so many “stations” with women sharing their pieces and I wanted to be able to buy something from every one of them but couldn’t possibly.  I was told not to worry, that everything goes to the community as a whole so it is the same.  That didn’t help my choosing!

I bought many bracelets – a few necklaces, a pair of earrings and a beaded color thing.

I couldn’t NOT buy them – knowing my purchases were of great help to these beautiful people.

Yes, I will buy.

But how do you choose?

I will never forget our time spent with the Samburu.

Africa. Kenya.  It does find a crack, creeps into your soul, and changes you.

On the home front – this morning I made it until 4am.  Whoowhoo! Back to the land of the living with my sleep patterns returning to normal. There is MUCH going on with getting our Quiltville Winter Mystery Intro post ready!  CAN YOU STAND IT!?  The countdown clock is ticking!  It’s a very exciting week around here.

This is also our LAST DAY to enter the Quilty Box Gift-Away for October.  Drawing happens TOMORROW!  Enter to win ON THAT POST and good luck to everyone.

And there was something else – but I can’t remember!  Whatever it is, it can also wait for tomorrow.

Quiltville Quote of the Day!

Vintage quilt top shared by Kevin the Quilter 

It’s pretty much a hot mess, but just look at those colors! Inspirational!

We are ramping up to the season of giving.

For many of us this also turns into a season of emotional depletion.

We can't do it all, or fix it all, nor should we!

This is your reminder to give yourself permission to say no to things and situations that are not serving your greater good.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!


  1. Such beautiful people and the vibrant colours so lovely. Is there a special significance with the big collars? I’ve often wondered if it’s to do with marriage or status in the tribe.
    Thank you for sharing these lovely pictures with us.
    Love and quilty hugs
    Anne xx

  2. Bonnie, as you spoke about the Samburu eating/drinking the blood of the camel, all I could think about was the Polish soup my aunt would make of duck's blood; Czernina [chehr-knee-nah]. Pronunciation is different based on the region. I believe blood soup is made by Vietnamese, too. I think it's great that you embrace the cultural differences and I don't blame you for not wanting to try them! I get it, really.

  3. ....Awesome post! The people were blessed to have met you !!! The one more thing may be that you might have wanted to remind us that there are only a couple of days left to order the Pumpkin pattern....it is so cute, quilting mine today.

  4. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this post, Bonnie. Your photos are beautiful and your words so open, informative and moving. Have a lovely day.

  5. Have you seen a vintage movie? "The Ugly American" ??? If i recall it's got political overtones, but mostly it's about the attitude Americans carry about doing things the 'right' way... i saw it long ago and I think i'm better person for it... learning to accept different ways as just that different, not better or lesser. What a fabulous time you have on your journey and thanks for sharing the love and color and culture. Glad you're almost back to your 'normal'... i do my best to sleep til 6, I don't have thousands of people waiting on a blog to start their day! Time change happens this weekend too, i think. sigh... heartily dislike that... waiting with a worm on my tongue (that's robin williams' speak for baited breath) for the color reveal... you are quite the tease building anticipation for your projects!!!! Blessings, Cats in Carlsbad CA

    1. Cats,
      I have to agree with you in much of what you share nearly everyday and appreciate that you shared the name of that movie. I will try to find it somewhere.
      Bonnie, if you are reading this, again , thank you for all your big hearted sharing of yourself and others.

  6. Perhaps we need to simplify our own lives on a daily basis not just read a plaque or banner with the words on it but really practice it. I'm sure we will find a new happiness. Love how you share the life of others in this world with us. Thank you.

  7. what an amazing trip you had, and I totally wish we could move to the simpler life, not that their life is anything but simple, their priorities are much different!
    I am trying so hard not to put so much pressure on myself, I am one of those perfectionist and trying hard to let it go! Thank you for sharing your adventures, look forward to your blog each and everyday!

  8. I'm so enjoying your tales from Africa, including today's post. Such a beautiful people! Thank you for showing us a little peek into their fascinating lives.

  9. Great post, Bonnie. So very interesting. I am not sure I could eat/drink camels' blood. I don't even like my steak to have pink in the center. LOL It would be very hard to choose from all the beautiful wares. Such vibrant colors. Now that you are getting back to your "regular" time, you can now change your clocks this weekend. pam

  10. Thanks for your heart of learning to find the similarities rather than differences. Funny you were asked to join a man and his 3 wives. Glad to only have 1 man to take care of! Watching for Thursdays Post!! #8 Mysrery for me, but so many others in the works.

  11. Your post today is really beautiful and broadens us all in so many ways. We as Americans are very fortunate in so many ways and seeing what others live without is sobering. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!!!Mary in Colorado

  12. Fantastic pictures and such wonderful information into a society I know nothing about. Bonnie, thank you also for the wisdom you share. You make a wonderful difference in a world that needs it.

  13. love reading your post everyday, traveling with you , seeing the world through your eyes and heart, if its a few days or even hours late, so be it, its worth the anticipation... please slow down and BREATHE deeply, you've got this! We are here with you no matter the pace. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO ;)

  14. I'm so excited that you got to really experience Africa. We went to Zimbabwe 5 years ago and it took me a good 3 weeks to acclimate when we returned home. It really DOES get into your heart. I'm so impressed with how you hit the ground running once you got back home. Trip of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  15. Bonnie I'm so grateful for this glimpse into the lives of those gracious lovely people. Amazing how people all around the world have adapted to their circumstances and live out their lives in ways we could only imagine. Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. What a wonderful visit you had! Their smiles and joy say it all. I think they have it right...enjoy every moment and take care of your neighbors. We have so much "stuff" that it owns us, not us owning it! Did you get a giraffe sculpture?

  17. Love it, love it, love it. What a good sport you are.(smile) All those photos are wonderful. I so appreciate the time, thought and effort that went/goes into getting those pics and working them into posts for us. Do you suppose that the bright colors are in part a reaction to the very beige surroundings? Altho the land is quite striking, I'm sure I would be looking for color at the market.
    Thanks again, Bonnie.

  18. Dear Bonnie,

    Thank you for sharing all the amazing impressions of Africa. Regarding blood as a ingredient. My grandfather was a butcher and one of the things he complained about was that people are less and less willing to eat everything that would be available after taking the life of an animal.
    There are blood sausages around. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_sausage
    I never liked them, so I need to eat less meat, as it is not nice to kill an animal and only choose very few parts to eat.
    I feel we often could learn a lot from societies that are more connected to each other and show much more respect to animals than we do.

  19. Bonnie, how did you communicate? Do they speak English? Do they always dress like that or were they dressed up to welcome you? How often do they have visitors? Just a few questions, smiling through heartfelt tears....

  20. Gracias por toda la información, me encanta seguirte todos los días, siempre se aprende algo y recupero fuerzas para seguir adelante. Voy conociendo tantos lugares con todo lo que nos transmites, que soy feliz, porque aunque nunca podré visitarlos a través de tí lo estoy viviendo. Gracias Bonnie.

  21. I'm Portuguese and we have a sausage called Marcella. It is a Portuguese blood pudding. Thank you Bonnie for sharing your adventure. I love learning about different cultures.

  22. It's like being there, when I read and look at your pictures. I'll never make it to Kenya, Africa to see first hand the Samburu people. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

  23. Super post. I was very drawn to the similarities of the Masai tribe - funnily that has stuck with me for so many years because I read and collected all the Willard Price Adventure books - great children's stories but a lot of information that had been sneaked in and eagerly absorbed by a 10 year old, even though a lot is now outdated! Your post brought the beautiful people to life! The colours, the people - the jumping! And I thought I spotted you in the circle dance! Many thanks.

  24. This hit home to me from your blog... "One of the things I really strive to do when visiting other cultures is to leave my white bread American born and bred middle class blonde hair blue eyed pre conceived notions on my doorstep at home and dive in with an open heart and mind, focusing on the things we have in common and allowing differences to sink in with a different mind set than “Oh, they have it wrong and we have it right.” kind of mentality."

    I had to explain this very thing to some folks on FB, as they were not approving of a toddler in South Korea who was trying to thread a needle, and the antics he was going through, even crossing his eyes to focus on it, which was the whole point of the video that was shared. It was cute! But they focused on the fact that a toddler had a needle in his hand (doesn't matter that he was handling it properly) and didn't approve of it. I tried explaining that this is normal in the Korean culture, as is many in the Asian nations, that a child that young is taught, and expected, to do these things to help their families. I believe in his case, however, it was because he actually wanted to do it, learning to thread a needle, learn to sew, not because it was expected of him to contribute to the family income. You're NEVER too young to learn, if you so desire! LOL!

    Thanks for sharing, Bonnie. Things happen at the most opportune moment, and to me, that comes from Father showing us things at the right moment, to teach or confirm something. Have a blessed day! Oh, and BTW, I'm sharing your statement... with credit to you, of course!

  25. I hope you bought one of the really large circle necklaces to hang in Quiltville. They looked like a quilt pattern. There is a really good picture of one above laying on the ground. What a wonderful trip.

  26. Bonnie, I love your passion for all things good and uplifting. Your ability to see beyond the outer, to join in and accept a culture other than ours is something to be desired. (except, no camel blood please) :-)

  27. I am so moved this morning with your sharing of the Samburu people. They all have big smiles in their simple life. Could we all smile like that each day? The colors are amazing and I can see your "Scrappy Heart" putting a few neutrals with these colors and making one of your beautiful, meaningful quilts. The beads were so beautiful and the ladies are very, very creative. Thank you for sharing this experience.


Did you know that ad space on this blog provides for all of the free patterns and free mysteries and challenges at no cost to you? Without ads, this blog would not be possible.

Thank you for understanding the many hours that go into this blog every day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. :)