Rites of passage

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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.

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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!

The Maasais

DSCF4066The Maasais are a tribe of shepards who still preserve their culture as it was hundreds of years ago. Last century they suffered the biggest expoliation of land in the British colonial history. They are nomads and when they were asked for they fertile lands, they invited the British. In the Maasai’s perspective everything is temporary. So they thought they would be given back their lands. But instead they were pushed up the hills and then to the Mara river, which is why the southern lands of Kenya towards Tanzania are called the Maasai Mara. This is where the main Kenyan game reserve is located.

DSCF4034The Maasais  live in huts made of cowpat, and branches. Their fences are made of branches and they are circular. It looks so beautiful. This is where their cattle sleeps at night.

Each hut has five rooms, the main room where they light a fire and cook one for the parents, one for the children one for the guests and one for the baby cattle. There are tiny window in each hut that mesure around 15X15 cm.Inside the hut

They sleep on a cow skin. In each land enclosed by branched fences ten families live.

Their diet consists of cow blood and milk. Continue reading