Knowing how to word things & the value of language

In life I hate it when people insist. For this reason I tended to avoid the Maasais, because they’d never take a no for an answer.

When I crossed the border from Tanzania back into Kenya, the Maasai ladies insisted, they even fought arguing one had seem me first… Obviously I don’t like insisting in general but if people get to fight over who had seen their potential prey first … welll it gets hopeless. But then came a lady who spoke English. I repeated that I wanted nothing and needed nothing. But then she said gently “Please Madame I want to sell you something with your remaining Tanzanian Shillings”. She paused. Then she added: “You can give them to your friends“. Now that changed everyhing.It was not about something for me. It was about helping somebody looking for a small income.

And of course, again I need nothing and it’s true I don ‘t like having things. But this time the phrasing was different. She was asking me to buy it for her. For me I needed nothing. Neither did my friends. I wouldn’t do anything with the remaining shillings. So I bought two necklaces and as she said, I gave them to my friends. They were happy.


On my way to Amboseli in the low season the Maasais had harrassed me so much wanting to sell their beads, that I got out of the car and left my things inside only to escape them while they were pruchasing the entry tickets for the park. This was already after the precedent of the ladies fighting over me…I was really fed up, hurt also because I felt I was being used.

My friend told me: “Next time, when they insist on you buying something, just make eye contact and say : Hapana, sitaki”.

He  told me to keep some of the empty bottles for them. Obviously I was so anxious to be left alone that the last thing I wanted to do was give them something. I had noticed that whenever somebody purchased something they became even more and more insistant. It seemed there was no way to free myself from them!

So after the two days in the park, it was time to exit again and meet the Maasais, again wanting to sell something to the only people leaving the reserve.

This time I did as I was told. I looked at the ladies in the eyes and told them “Hapana sitaki”. They laughed and stopped offering things. I was so suprised that I couldn’ t believe it. It was really that simple! they turned their backs and left!

So what I did was that I called them back. I showed them the empty bottles and gave them to them. Then they started smiling and laughing and thanking me in Kiswahili also. “Asante sana, asante etc…” Guess what they then offered me a bracelet they had made! They said they gave it for free. I wanted to say “No thank you” because I wondered if the transformation was long-lasting of it it was another trick to get me to buy something. But this time they insisted I have it.

On the other side of the car my friend was busy buying two small wooden carved sculptures…. that turned out to be for me!