moments with the maasai

Sitting in a wooden panelled, palm frond bedecked bar on the outskirts of Mtwapa, with rum freely flowing and the billiards tables full of competition and laugher, our party was an incongruous site. Myself and Sophie, perhaps, weren’t so different from the backpackers often seen wandering across eastern Africa, beach-touched skin and sun-bleached hair, and nor, perhaps, would our companions have been out of place were they on the beach visible just beyond the bar. But all of us together, laughing, drinking, arms slung around waists or across shoulders, endlessly teasing (on our part), and idly flirting (on their part), well, reality had slipped away. At least it certainly felt that way for us.

This is one of many such gatherings, at the pool tables, beach, bar, or in the village, that stretched out over a month under the hot Kenyan sun. We all sort of fell together, Sophie and I drawn by the exotic allure of beads and red and spears and dancing and blood drinking and lion stalking, Titus and Moses by our freckles and freedom and delighted smiles, and despite all language and cultural barriers soon very real friendships had ripened. With our Maasai, we walked deep into the bush villages, sprawled easily on the sand, and sunk ball after ball, as we discussed the ins and out of life – theirs, ours, those of our friends and family back home.

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Sophie and I would set out by motorbike to find them at the bar each night, and when we were finished with talking they would safely see us home again. Once, they were the two on the bike, something they’d never done before, to come to where we were staying. Before long, they had discovered, with great astonishment, the shower. Which inevitably bought about much more laughter.

It was with a very real and very deep sadness that we all said goodbye that last night. Moses, who I had grown close to, showed me the Maasai way of expressing sadness with deep throaty clicks instead of words, and I with my teary smiles showed him mine. It would be easy to read a subtext into our times together, a belief that there must have been some darker motivation – money, sex – on their part and a great naivety on ours, but that would do such injustice to what it actually was. Such kindness, such humour, and an insight into their lives, and the life of the Maasai Mara from where they originated that would have passed us by otherwise. We witnessed their reliance on tourism to meet their responsibility for caring for the family out in the bush, and heard about how life used to be.

And recently, I heard that Moses had gone back home to take part in the lion hunt that would make him a man and eligible to marry. He was to be gone for two years, and Titus would have no contact from him for that time. I still haven’t heard whether or not it was successful, whether or not he made it back home. I’ll go back one day, maybe with Sophie, and I’ll find out though. But until then I have only the bracelet that he had given me on the first night we met, and many amazing memories of our two beautiful Maasai men.

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