Kenya Diaries Part VII - Christmas with the Maasai
Last night seemed very long. I kept waking up hearing lots of different noises - birds? hyenas? dogs? random growling? Check check check...
After a week on safari with no sign of the scary insects I feared, I discovered that the worst perpetrators are just ants. "Just" ants - I'm talking about Safari Ants. Alix got bitten by one yesterday in between her toes and it sounded like it hurt. On relative par with a bee sting or thereabouts.
Safari Ants have unusually large mandibles that they clench shut when they bite. When people get wounds in the bush, they purposely instigate safari ants to bite the ends of their wounds, because the mandibles act like staples. The mandibles keep clenched even if the body is ripped off.
I love nature.
So we have this bug spray for our tents, which has a delicious lemon scent barely masking the deadly chemicals. We sprayed our tent and closed it up, but this doesn't stop me from imagining ants getting in through the cracks (to be honest, there are no cracks... this is one intense tent)
ENOUGH WITH THE INSECTS ALREADY. I know, I am a pansy. End of story: NOTHING BIT ME, I WAS FINE!
I had a bucket shower! It was amazing! Here's how it works. Our camp helpers keep water on the boil pretty much all day. They give us warm water in basins to wash up with, but this doesn't compare to the amazingness of a bucket shower.
Imagine a canvas enclosure with a wood pallet to stand on. Above you is a canvas 'bucket' that can be lowered or raised on a rope tied around a tree. Hot + cool water is poured into the bucket to your preferred temperature. On the underside of the bucket is a lever and a shower-head. You just reach up and pull the lever open and MAGIC! hot shower! I swear I've not had such a good shower in my whole life.
I treated my blisters with spare polysporin and bandages and am ready for whatever the day brings.
PS: we saw bush babies last night, or at least the silhouette of bush babies and their crazy red eyes.
We left for the Maasai village just before lunch. What an incredible experience.
The village was relocated a few years ago and consists of wattle & daub huts around a circular enclosure for animals, fenced with thorns. The villagers greeted us with singing and dancing - songs to welcome warriors back from wandering (very perceptive of them to notice that we have the carriage of warriors).
I was all set to be an observer but the villagers had other thoughts - they grabbed our hands and pulled us into the dancing where I proved that white girls have no rhythm. The dancing doesn't look complicated at first, but once you are trying to imitate it you realize just how difficult it is to sway your head while moving. Glad I didn't know the words because singing would have thrown me completely off balance.
The songs are a call/response style, where one main person will sing out a phrase and the others will respond together. The dancing lasted a long time - 15/20 minutes is my best guess. I started out feeling incredibly self-conscious but after a while I felt like maybe I was doing okay and David said they were impressed with my dancing, so, hurrah!
We went into one of the huts to see the inside. It is very dark and I found a surprise chicken hiding in one of the beds. He sounded angry to have been disturbed. The walls are thick mud and the structure doesn't allow for large openings so there are just a few small circular holes for light, and the tiniest bit of ventilation. The man of the house sleeps on one side and the women/children sleep on the other side. There is a place inside the hut for goats and sheep, and a central fireplace for cooking.
After this little tour, we headed over to the school compound, where the chef and camp helpers had set up our table underneath an acacia, with a little string of red tinsel to mark the occasion. It looked absolutely delightful, down to the christmas crackers set at each place. We had a wonderful lunch of beef with mushroom ragout & potatoes with a tomato & mozza salad.
So as we were eating this wonderful meal, people were gathering from all the villages within 1-3km, waiting to meet us. David introduced us to them and Greg said a few words about who we are. Apparently it is really funny that Jed would bring his 'girlfriend' along because in Maasai culture you are a girlfriend for one of two reasons:
1. You are the 'other woman' of a man but not his wife (also you are probably a widow)
2. You are the 'girlfriend' of a junior elder (men 20-25 years old) before they are married.
We toured the school compound and learned a bit more about the Nairoshi Foundation, the goals of David and Merry, and the progress so far. Jed and I, with our keen foresight, took lots of panoramic photos. I plan to talk about the school and building project more later, so don't feel like I'm just skipping over it.
We handed out christmas goodies to the kids, bought some beautiful beadwork jewellery from the women, and said our goodbyes. It's kind of a difficult experience to analyse - a whole range of emotions flit by - mostly Jed and I are just filled with inspiration and possibilities to help create a true centre for the community.
We walked up the hill to watch the sun set, but the sun sets so fast and we were a little slow heading out so the sun was gone by the time we were at the top of the hill. David drove up with snacks and drinks, and we watched the light settling into night. It was wonderful.
Our Christmas supper was a vegetable/mango medley; tomato soup with our names written in creme fraishe; duck with butternut squash, cauliflower & broccoli; and a poached apple with chocolate for dessert. I don't need to tell you how damn good it was.
It started raining during supper (we eat under a big tent-shelter, by the way) and frogs came out! I, of course, had to catch one (just to prove to myself that I hadn't lost my frog-catching skills). Afterwards, we were sitting around the fire and I mentioned marshmallows. Ken (David's brother) was like 'you want marshmallows? we have them.' and LEGIT brought out HAND CARVED ACACIA MARSHMALLOW STICKS. 'We've been carving them for the last hour just in case.'
I think the British say things like 'I was gobsmacked by blah blah blah' but saying things like the British just feels like putting on clothes that don't fit right. However, if I were British, I would say I was gobsmacked (in a good way)
Germans, take note: that is what is called customer service.
So: a full day which included frog-catching and marshmallows. It can't get much better.