On my Cowhide bed with my small airhole I slept better than I had most nights so far in Africa. It was probably because I was in the middle of nowhere and there were less strange noises, such as cars in the distance and metal doors banging around in the middle of the night.. I slept well until around 5am when I was awakened by another noise. Probably about 100 yards on the other side of my airhole in the wall was a very loud and noisy Hyena hunting food. Their hunting calls are very deep and earthy sounding. That definitely got me wide awake. After 45 minutes or so he seemed long gone and I was wide awake in a dark hut with nobody else waking up yet. I did the most rational thing a foreigner should do in a dark and unusual place. I went outside before the sun came up! It was really dark, but my eyes were well adjusted to it already and I don’t think there were any wild animals stalking me just yet. As the sun came up I started taking pics while waiting for folks to wake up.
After a while the sun was up, people were still waking up and I was ready to go. I did the second most rational thing a foreigner should do in an unusual place. I hiked up the hill behind the homes! It took about 45 minutes to get up and I had this uneasy feeling that I was being watched.. Or maybe stalked.. I kept looking over my shoulder.. buuuuut I kept going. When I got to the top of the hill I could see red colored clothing moving about by the homes as people started waking up and tending animals. It was really peaceful sitting on top of the hill and watching Masai wake up for miles around. Masai are a herdsman culture and have been for a very long time. Typically one herdsman will move several hundred cattle by himself across the Mara, looking for the next patch of grass to graze. Now in Texas when your herd cattle there are several ways. Pickup trucks, four wheelers, horses or whatever other means you can find to be faster than cattle and flank them on the outside. It also takes several cowboys. This was one man and it’s all he did.. All day, every day! With this much time on their hands they perfect techniques to move the cattle. As I sat on the hill I began hearing a faint sound of what I thought was a loud cell phone ring, but the ring never stopped as if someone answered it. It also had multiple really bizarre sounds. As it got closer I began to realize it was a herdsman. He would run back and forth across the back of the cattle line and whistle really loud and with amazing sounds that didn’t sound human.
I soon began making my way down the hill while looking over my shoulder. As I got to the bottom a Zebra ran up at me and got spooked. He slid to a halt and ran a large circle around me. Right then SuperMom came out to greet me and asked Eric, in Swahili, “Did he go up that hill alone!!??”. She said there were Hyenas Lions and everything else up there, but the Masai guys were convinced I could take care of myself. Masai boys from early age are taught to use their knife to protect themselves from wildlife. When they are ready for ‘manhood’ around the age of 15 they head out to kill a Lion to become a man. They don’t use spears or guns.. They wait for the Lion to attack and hit them as they plunge the large Masai knife into the heart or lungs. I’m pretty sure on this morning I wasn’t ready to join that kind of manhood!
After some more amazing Masai Chai and Maze with cabbage for breakfast we all went back outside the hut and took photos of each other to remember our experience together. SuperMom came up to me and took off a necklace and put it around my neck to remember them by:
We spent a good portion of the morning goofing off with cameras when Simon saw me with my video camera. I guess he was talking Swahili with one of the elders about how maybe a video could help the Masai reach the world. The Masai, especially the older generation, don’t want anything to do with photography or videos. Simon asked me if I interviewed them could we make a difference by making a video. Surprisingly one of the biggest requests of the Masai is the be connected to the rest of the world. To access information that much of the world takes for granted and possibly be trained one day to work in the tech industry from the Mara. They really need computers out there! Here I am with an extremely old culture of amazing people as such fast and eager learners, asking me to film them with hopes of bringing their culture into the digital age. How could I turn them down!
As I left with Simon and Eric to tour the Mara on my way back to Maai Mahiu, one of the kids ran up to me and said excitedly, “Thanks for Angry Birds!!!!”. I know how you feel kid… I know how you feel. Simon took me to the Stone quarry where workers bust out rocks to sell for building local towns in Kenya. These guys worked HARD and with primitive tools! Afterwards he took me to the home of a little girl with some real problems. She couldn’t walk and had to be spoon fed. I interviewed the family with my video camera. The families hope is for CTC to have an operational building in the Mara where more rehabilitation resources can be accessed. These are all easy problems to fix for Westerners, but they lack resources and know how here. (Video soon). After several more hours driving dusty and super bumpy roads we finally reached the highway to Maai Mahiu! I was excited to go back, but pretty sad to leave. The Masai are incredibly hospitable people even though they have very little to offer. They are kind and look out for each other in any way possible. I feel blessed for having been part of their lives for a short time.
Once we arrived back at Transit hotel we all met and had lunch. Everyone was curious what happened way out there and I was still sitting with all my jewelry on trying to process it all. Soon we were off the the second half of the school day where we began adding features to the Monster Heads!
After a full day of getting sticky with glue and paper mache everywhere, we took the Monster Heads back to transit for the night. While I was in the Mara, the girls held morning class and everyone worked on a Plaster De’ Paris project making hand molds. They put those in one of the rooms that had a lockable door, but we were bringing the Monster Heads back so we could work on them tonight and fix any problems. We had dinner and a Tusker beer then sat around talking about ‘Hi’s and Low’s’ for the day. I really began liking this time of day because I could reflect and think about what impacted me the most that day. It was even better hearing where everyone else was coming from and how their experience of the day was different than mine. Good times and good peeps!