Monday, May 11, 2009

It ain't easy being Maasai

With my measly 5’5” height, my aversion to hot weather, and my personal dislike for red clothing, I knew I wasn’t born to be Maasai.

But hey, in the interest of cultural immersion, why not dip a toe into the local way of life? At Dupoto Forest, a gorgeous conservation area north of the Mara, we got some lessons on traditional Maasai activities.

And – as expected - it turns out I’m definitely not cut out to be Maasai. In fact, in everyone’s best interest, I should probably stay away from most of these activities. Bow-and-arrow shooting resulted in some humorous results. Needless to say, my arrows didn’t hit the target (or come even close). Luckily, I think my clever guides anticipated my ineptitude and gave me a particularly wide berth.

In an attempt to not burn down the largest intact forest in the Trans-Mara area, I left the next activity, fire-making, to the professionals. They have a very precise method: a smooth stick (made of wood from a fig tree) is inserted into a hole in a flat piece of wood (which must be African olive). After a mere minute of quick rotation, small shavings from the olive wood start smoking.

The shavings are dropped onto dry moss, and, with a few puffs of air, the moss catches aflame. Elegant, quick, simple (as long as you’re Maasai).

However, I am happy to say that I’m beginning to get the hang of one skill at which the Maasai excel: weather forecasting. Philomen can predict - to the nearest half-hour - if and when it will rain. Who needs when you have an expert around?

Anyway, in the midst of the rainy season, we’ve had a lucky streak of sunny weather. Yesterday, something just felt off, and I told Philomen it was going to rain. Lo and behold, my predicted downpour arrived, right on time.

I may not ever become a Maasai warrior, but if I pick up any of their amazing talents while I’m here, I’ll feel lucky.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Hi Kate,
If you get a chance, set up a dart board somewhere and watch the Maasai go about that. It is lots of fun.... The wind up, the throw, the inching back as they get the knack of it until they are at least twice the distance as normal dart throwers. You can't beat them at that either. But you can provide them great entertainment if you participate.

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