Today we woke up early and went on our full day drive in search of animals. Our driver took us a bit further into the park relative to yesterday. We had seen most of the animals on our evening drive, but there were a few special treats in store. We saw a cheetah and a leopard in close succession! Our driver said that they don’t often see leopards, usually only once or twice a year! After this animal sighting we had seen four our of the Big Five: lion, water buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhino. The rhinoceros which live in the Maasai Mara, said our guide, are the Black Rhino. In a 1500 square kilometer area there are only 10-15 rhinos left so seeing them is very rare. Also most of these rhinos have been de-horned in order to protect them from poachers. Since they are endangered the Kenyan government opted to de-horn the animals to save their lives. Poachers will often kill the whole animal to take their horn. 🙁
The van ride was bumpy and not very comfortable, but I was so excited to see the animals it didn’t matter at all. We drove up to a lookout point where we could see for a long way over the plain. Shortly after that we stopped for a picnic lunch underneath a large acacia tree. I suppose that any animal who was interested could have got us, but I didn’t feel like we were in danger. The lions we saw didn’t seem very hungry.
After lunch we went to a river overlook where we saw a bunch of hippopotamuses and crocodiles!
When we got back to our camp it was around 4:30 pm. We had a few minutes break and then a Maasai guide came to our camp and brought us to his village. We saw a welcome dance by the men of the tribe and then he showed us the pen where they keep the baby goats. They were so cute! After that they showed us how they start fires using sandpaper wood and cedar. Finally Cassie and I were shown inside one of the mud houses where these people live. Our host introduced himself as Davis. He was 21 years old and spoke English pretty well. He told us that up to 8 people live in this house. There is a place to store firewood, a cooking area, and sleeping area. There is also a place to keep a calf when it is young. The Maasai rely upon their cattle for almost everything. They primarily drink the cow blood and milk for food and only eat meat for ceremonial occasions. They will buy or trade for potatoes, maize, and other vegetables. Davis said that they will bleed the cattle by cutting the fat on its neck. This doesn’t hurt the cows much and the Maasai certainly don’t intend to kill them.
When a young boy is seven years old he leaves the house of his parents and goes to live with his grandparents. From age 14 he can get married, but before he can do this he must go to the wilderness with other young boys for up to 5 years. There they learn to use a spear and they cannot return until they have killed a lion. Whoever spears the lion first is considered the killer, although the whole group of boys (30-50 in number) can claim credit for the kill. Once this is done the lion killer takes the mane, the teeth, and the tail of the lion back to the village where the whole group of boys is accepted back as men. Then they can get married. Davis said that he has already completed this rite of passage and had been back in his tribe for about one year. He was not yet married but was still living with his grandparents. When I asked him about his aspirations he said that he would like to go to university to study computer science because he wants to understand technology. The obstacle he faces is money because the Maasai traditionally do not use money for anything. They have only started to use it in order to pay teachers for their school and buy vegetables. Davis said that there are Maasai who go to university and there are quite a few there now, but he didn’t say how they paid their way.
I really enjoyed talking with Davis. We both had a lot of questions for each other. He asked about the animals in the US and I told him about ones which were similar to those that lived in the Maasai Mara Park. He also asked about the native tribes in the US. That was interesting explaining Native American people. “Yes there are tribes, but most of these people do not practice their culture still. When Europeans came to the US they took the land away from these people and eventually made them live in small areas where some still live today. Some of these people still practice their traditional ways, but most of them have moved into cities and adopted the culture of everyone else.” I think that’s the gist of what I said. He last asked about whether there were black people (“like us”) in the US, to which I replied, “Yes there are a lot black people in some regions.”
The Maasai Village was another one of the best experiences of the trip so far. I was a bit apprehensive about going because most of my experience with these people have been them trying to sell me jewelry through the van window. Fortunately this was a better time. The initial conversation with Davis and the introduction to their culture was so fascinating. It seems hard to believe that these people still retain their traditional ways. To my eye, the village is incredibly unhygienic. Their resistance to disease must be incredible. The animals live in and around their homes so poop is everywhere on the ground, as well as an assortment of plastic bags and wrappers that have no place else to be. No recycling out here.
This is home for many people and this is their normal way of life. The question I want to ask is not “how do we fix this?” but rather “where do these people want to go from here?”
Davis says that most people have cell phones and, in the last decade, they have replaced bells and horns as the standard method for communication. He says that he has a phone and can access the Internet on a touch screen.
While we sat inside his family’s hut he and his brother put their cloth capes on us. The Maasai wear this capes over their shoulders pretty much all the time. Functionally their are to protect from the sun, but they also denote the family that they each come from. In the village we visited there are about 20 families living.
As we came outside they put bracelets and necklaces on us as well and offered us a price. They were tourist prices, as expected, but I was able to bargain to a reasonable price. I also bought two extra bracelets as gifts. Now they are not just beaded bracelets; they have stories to go with them. Davis and our first guide walked back to the camp with us, just about 10 minutes down the bumpy dirt road. When we said goodbye I wished Davis the best and he said that he hopes we come back to visit to learn more about his people. I hope so too. I said I would look for him at the village, but I hoped that he would be gone at university. “God willing,” he said with a smile.