“Sorry I am late for dinner darling, My Masai friend invited me over for a quick after work drink“. How cool would it be if you ever get to say that to your husband? By drink I am obviously referring to a glass of milk mixed with cattle blood, specially prepared to demonstrate the local hospitality and to celebrate the honor of my first visit to the family house…
Angel and I had heard so much about the natural beauty of Kenya, its rich culture, and kind people. We knew there was going to be a lot of animal sightings on this trip, but we didn’t really know how close we were going to be able to get to it all. We certainly hoped to find more than meets the eye, so we kept an open mind about it.
After few days of game drives all over the country, we were very glad we had slotted an open morning in our schedule to simply relax and see how the day goes. While enjoying a leisurely breakfast at our lodge, we were approached by a young Masai that goes by the name “Joshua”, for both our convenience and his. He spoke excellent English and pitched his side hustle as a local naturalist and tour guide to us. I had noticed him the previous day as we arrived and checked in, he was kind enough to get my door and helped me with the luggage.
Charmed by his natural friendliness and salesmanship, I chose to trust my gut on this one. When he asked if we’d like to hire him to get us out of the lodge and “go meet his people”, I said “Absolutely!”.
Joshua took us to his village and invited us inside his family home. The two of us, Joshua and Antony (our game driver) ducked our heads down to enter the hut, and were never able to straighten up after that. We found ourselves having an honest conversation about the daily routine and lifestyle of the average Masai in a multipurpose living space the size of the elevator of our apartment building in Dubai. As we sat hugging our knees, he also gave us the full house tour, which we only needed to turn our heads side to side for. We even saw where the goat sleeps at night to avoid being eaten by a roaming lion outside.
Sobering to say the least. We were looking at the epitome of the simple life and learning that it doesn’t really take much to make a house a home.
Noticing that I was the only woman in the room, I asked if we could meet his wife. He said she was a little busy outside socializing with and managing his other wives. A Masai it seems is allowed to take up to ten wives at a time, each would normally have her own house to live with her own children and cattle. The first wife is obviously the head wife, an occupation that comes with its various responsibilities as well as perks. Her house for instance might be slightly bigger than the rest of the wives’, and she would probably have the first say on how wealth and household resources are distributed and managed.
Fair enough. Sounds to me like the Masai ladies are better managers and leaders than the world gives them credit for.
Women are also responsible for all the construction work in the village. They raise their family houses and other structures using available material, such as a mixture of mud, cow dung, and dry tree sticks. In some occasions the roof of a building is fortified with human urine, apparently an effective binding substance that waterproofs them and prevents leaking during the rainy season.
At this point I sensed a need to offer some knowledge on our culture in exchange, perhaps showcase the common grounds of our human experience and prove that we’re not all that different after all. I mentioned that Muslim men in my country can take up to four wives too, though they don’t always get along as well. I don’t think I would’ve picked that precious cultural gem to speak of have I known it was going to lead into a relatively competitive situation. Clearly unconvinced that the folks of our modern world have what it takes to earn their polygamous rights, Joshua escorted us out of the house and into the central yard of the village to watch a traditional dance. On the other hand, a part of me was relieved this happened before he’s had a chance to offer us anything to eat or …you know, drink.
A group of around fifteen young Masai men emerged from…nowhere, melodiously humming and screaming as they kangaroo jumped their way towards us. They settled in a circle and spent few minutes burning quite a bit of testosterone, which immensely amused me. Then came the interactive part where Angel was challenged to prove that white man can in fact jump. Surprisingly he did very well, he kind of out jumped every single one of them! I had never in the three years that I’ve known him seen this white man jump that high! I’m glad he did though; the winner of this competition customarily gets to keep the girlfriend.
And what would it be if this visit didn’t end with us acquiring brand new elementary bushman skills. The boys were kind enough to offer to rub few sticks together and show us how to start a tiny fire. They were positively reassured by my obvious over excitement, clapping my hand and squealing “Yaaaaaaay”! Judging by how quickly this demo was organized, I’m guessing this is normally a popular segment of their irregular interactions with outsiders.
My fire never started, I am not naturally good with my hands that way. I was however happy to chase my curiosity to somewhere that interesting this time.