Today started off early again. The sound of traffic driving through town and other unusual noises with my surroundings, woke me up around sun up. Got coffee and breakfast and filmed a bit of the sunset and surrounding town as it woke up. As everyone else began waking up and getting ready we soon did our daily hike to Ngeya school to start our day with the kids teaching them about colors.
As we started class and taught some basic principles of color and blending colors, we began to learn that many of these kids had only ever drawn anything with charcoal.. They never really had much concept of using colors before. As the kids drew in the classroom we decided to migrate outside and draw some real world surroundings.
I grabbed a sketchbook and some colored pencils and went to join them for a while. As I sat, looking up at my subject, and drawing. I noticed a smaller kid that came from somewhere else, sitting next to me, looking really interested. I gave him a piece of my paper and one colored pencil.. He went right to work! He sat next to me as I continued to look up at my subject and back to drawing… He was doing the same.. Except he would look up at me.. Look where I was looking.. Then back to drawing on his sketch. I truly had a young Padawan!
After our morning class we broke for lunch. This part requires a little backstory. For months leading up to our Kenya trip, I told Cali time and time again. “I’m going to sneak out at night and go live with the Masaai.”.. “I’m going to get them to teach me how to hunt like a Masaai.”. She would tell me how it’s not a good idea and I may get kidnapped in the middle of the night, but I kept pulling her leg… So as we met for lunch this day, Cali had an anouncement. We had the rest of the day off and we were taking a trip to the Masaai market trade days in Suswa. This is where Masaai traded animals and goods with each other. We arrived and were the only westerners anywhere! If we stood on one place for more than a minute, people began to swarm around us. Most people were curious and many wanted to sell things. As we continued on two Masaai joined us and began talking to us.. Showing us around. I assumed someone in the group paid them to give us a tour of the area.
We walked around with Simon and Eric for a while, learning all about Masaai culture. After an hour or so our van pulled up ready to take us back to Maai Maihiu for the night. Everyone jumped in the van, but as I went toward the van Cali asked me “Did you enjoy hanging out with Simon”. “Of course!” I said. She looks at me.. Puts a backpack in my hands with water and malaria pills and says.. “Good! Your staying with them tonight!”. I was honestly in shock for a minute.. Thinking she’s joking around like I always did to her. Nope! She was serious! As I slowly evolved from shock to excitement I realized how awesome this was and how incredibly amazing Cali was. She had been working to put this together for some time now. As they drove off into the dusty sunset, leaving me alone in the Masaai Mara with two Masaai I had met only an hour ago.. I began to realize what a lucky guy I am for her to pull this together. Cali is an incredible and giving person with a heart of gold. Simon and Eric took me around town some more after the left. This time, I went into the heart of the town. We weren’t just looking at items for sale and walking the streets. We went into back rooms and shops! Simon asks “Ever try Nyama Choma?”. We tried some of the best cooked goat I’ve ever had in a very small, dusty room big enough for one busted up wooden table. excellent! After town we got in Simons small beat up car and began our looong dusty drive out to the area of Masaai Mara where he lived. There are no roads built by the government out here. This is tribal land! Picture the worst dirt roads you have ever driven on and multiply it by a few more times. I’m fairly certain we drove through washed out river beds for at least half the 60 mile drive. At one point Simon is driving and we passed about 6 Masaai walking IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. He passes them and pulls over like it’s no big deal, as they all pile and squeeze into the small car. We drive for 20 more minutes and they all get out in the middle of nowhere again. I asked Simon, what just happened? He says people will walk for days to get places. They just help each other out however they can. Not many Masaai have cars and they will walk very long distances to get things they need. As we continue our drive our conversation swings to what needs the Masaai really need. I eventually tell Simon I’m a filmmaker and I also have my camera with me. Now, I know Masaai don’t like to be filmed and don’t really allow it at all, but Simon took to it immediately! Simon is a rare breed in Masaai and understands the need to be somewhat involved in modern culture to survive. He tells me that CTC is building a resource center out in the Mara, just like the one in Maai Mahiu. So we drive out to see it and filmed a couple segments talking about the building and how it will help the future of the Masaai when it’s complete (Video coming soon). After visiting some more locals and drinking some amazing Masaai Chai, we started the long drive to the Dung huts where he and his family lived. Yes the huts are actually made of cow dung, mud and sticks. They aren’t very big and they cook food inside the small area, which means the cabin is filled with smoke! I tried to take it for a bit, being a bit of a country boy, but my eyes burned and teared up pretty bad!
After experiencing the inside while mom was cooking everyone saw my eyes were watering so bad. We decided to go outside and check out the stars! We sat outside talking and meeting all the other local family members as they came by. Then Simon presented me with a Masaai blanket in the middle of the night! I didn’t expect to come out here on this day, so I was wondering what I could give back in return. The only thing I could come up with… Angry Birds! That’s right.. I showed them how to use your finger to move on the screen and fling Angry Birds across the sky. They were blown away and the kids played for hours. When it was bedtime Simon gave me the main bed. Not really a ‘bed’ per say, so much as it was a cowhide hardened across some sticks. The hut was built with a few small ventilation holes and I got to sleep right next to one. At times I put my face right up to it for some fresh air. The smoke was really tough to deal with! The cowhide bed was really small but Simon came in to lay beside me as to make sure this new living situation was comfortable. We just sat up laughing and goofing off and even jumped on Facebook to mess with a few friends through facebook chat. There may not be much out in the Mara, but there is ALWAYS cell phone coverage for the Safari crews that frequent the area for animals. Tomorrow is sure to be a big day! I fell asleep staring out the small air hole as I could see the faint glow of lights that was Maai Mahiu far in the distance down the Rift Valley.