Memoirs

Morning With The Masaai: “I Am More Afraid Of Planes Than Lions.”

We had just left a Masaai village where we had been given a tour of their homes and livelihood.

Sameri, a friend we had met at our camp site led us down the road towards what was also his village. The sun had risen but because it was still early the temperature was lukewarm accompanied by a cool breeze that kicked up small plumes of sand and dirt. Young men and friends of Sameri greeted us as they took their cattle out to graze.

Sameri stoped and showed us a plant the Maasai traditionally used to burn and ward off mosquitos. I can’t remember the name but Sameri gently crushed it and rubbed some on my forearms. The smell, though not strong at all, would be recognizable in the future.

We arrived to the entrance of Sameri’s home village and was met by one of the Chief’s sons, Macha. Soon after and strong man walked up to us with a grin and I greeted him with “Oh you MUST be the chief” and he was indeed. We shook his hand.

We all gave 1000 Kenyan shillings each (roughly 10usd) that would go towards the Maasai community, naturally, especially their schools.

Being a teacher the past 3 years, a soft spot for education has blossomed in me and so I asked so many questions about the children of the villages and their education.

I was the worst student growing up; lazy and lacking motivation. I’m still horrible with math but visiting remote places from China to Kenya and telling people I’m a teacher is an amazing feeling. It’s almost an honor how they gush and beam, looking towards me as if I’m the key to their educational future. I often feel overcome by that fact that I took my privilege so lightly.

Some men came out from the village chatting in Masaai and greeted me in return after I gleefully waved and shouted “supai !” ( hello in Maasai).

They started to do a traditional dance and soon invited us to join them while wrapping us in their clothes. One of the guys motioned for my camera and I was excited to hand it over almost as much as he was excited to hit the button and listen to the quick snap of the shutter.

The men were making a plethora of sounds from guttural to high pitched and took turns leaping into the air like sure arrows.

When they go low, we go high

I, myself tried and though I  closed my eyes and imagined myself plummeting into the clouds above like a beautiful gazelle, it wasn’t until I looked at a video recorded of me only to realize that my feet barely, BARELY grazed the top of the sparse blades of grass. Surely if it was a completion I would have been disqualified.

Since the men were so pleasant and I didn’t speak any Masaai apart from the “supai” I gave to every soul that walked by, we all just laughed it off.

Test Of The Outdoors WOman

We were all lead to the side of one of the tradiotionally built buildings, all no more than one story high. There were two men resting on their knees preparing themsleves to start a fire from scratch. Within seconds of rubbing the narrow stick against the top of a sliver of metal, small plumes of smoke appeared and then naturally, the fire. Feeling in tune with with an energey I can only describe as pure determination, when they asked for volunteers to try, I boldly stepped forward.

After thirty seconds of manically vigorously rubbing the stick between my palms, it felt as if I had given a hundred high fives…to a boulder. My palms were sore but I had to get this, haha.

I asked “Bob” to show me again.

I mimiced everything as best as I could, from the friction and speed down righ to the bit of saliva he had spit into his hands beofre rubbing them back and forth. At that point the men seemed impressed that this young, American girl was ready to get down and dirty for the cause.

The next day, my palms were purple and blue from bruises. And no, I still was not able to create a fire lol. But A for effort.

Home Of The Chief’s Son

After my bout with the unconquerable fire stick, Matcha, who had initially greeted us at the entrance of the village led us to his home a few feet away. I ducked upon entering throug hthe low doorway and placed my hands gingerly against the walls to help guide me in as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

“You can make pictures with the flash, Hakuna Matata.”

Besides a few , glassless windows and a near smoldering fire in the center of the sitting area which also doubled as the bedroom for the children there was another room and the kitchen area. Inside was significantly warmer without the wind and lead to what was nearly a thirty minute conversation with laughter and interjections of Swahili and Masaai.

Matcha’s wife had just had their third son recently. She stoped by their home briefly and shyly said “supai” in response. I women, I learned weren’t well versed in english as many of the men as the men were usually the one’s to host tourist.

Fun Fact: The women of the Masaai are actually responsible for building the family homes. I thought that to be an impressive gender role for women to have and was informed that it usually takes two months to complete. After six to nine years, termites will have a go at the sticks used to reinforce the homes. In this case the women will build another home for the family.

Towards the end of our stay, Matcha was telling us about some of the old customs of the Masaai, now technically illegal. Young men, boys I would say, around the age of fifteen years old, after undergoing their circumcision, would be sent off into the wild for three years in groups to kill a lion and ring in their manhood.

Along his scalp and his side were scars from which Matcha almost lost his life to a lion nearly thirty years prior. Naturally and frankly I said i’d probably be too scared to “become a man” but Matcha just said “But for us, we don’t scare.”

The mood remained light. Matcha brought up a memory he had, of the time his friend allowed him to take a trip on his hot air balloon (They have tours you can add on to your safari ). It would be the first and last time because shortly after, he realized he was afraid of heights so he concluded;

“I am more afraid of planes, than I am of lions.”

Puts things into perspective doesn’t it. I’ve taken three flights in one week but if it came down to b**ch facing my way through customs or the lion, i’ll take the grumpy less than impressed with my mandarin customs agent please.

By this time, Matcha’s wife had returned with a baby in tow.Everyone was so warm and laughing as Matcha made the amusing sound of some exotic animal that left the baby grinning and flashing gums.

Departure

It was time for us to go and Matcha showed showed us some souvenirs he had on him, one which included a lion’s tooth necklace. I wanted to purchase it and wear it the entirety of my trip. I felt so empowered, like i had a bit of warrior in me too. Matcha offered me the cloth from around his shoulders as his pattern symbolized membership in the chief’s family. He told me he enjoyed my spirit and i was so overwhelmed with gratitude and honor.

Does this technically make me an African princess?

He told us the name of his village, Guerroro, after the tree that stood in the center and invited us back one day and bid us farewell.

Side note: Has anyone else picked up on the mass amount of Spanish and Indian influences in Kenya?

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