Saturday, June 21, 2014

Masai Mara: Day 4 Part 2

Up until now I'd been doing pretty well on not a lot of sleep. But this (late) morning I was feeling it. My body did not want to get out of bed, even though I only had an hour to rest. But I finally sucked it up and got ready and went to meet Joseph. We drove out of camp and to the nearby Olonana Maasai village. A number of villagers work at Olonana, and the camp supports it through its philanthropy - a nice synergy.

D met us there with Julius, who leads many of the Maasai village tours. He asked us if we would permit one of the women to put ochre on our faces; we both agreed and soon sported three red marks - one on each cheek and the forehead. Men and women from the village next lined up for the welcome song and dance. It was similar to what I experienced at Amboseli last year but even more fun because D agreed to join in the fun. I juggled her camera and my camera, trying to capture both video and stills. Next we all proceeded to join hands and dance into the village itself. Then the men headed off in one direction and the women formed a circle around us and asked us questions. I thought this was great fun, and it added a personal touch. They asked where we came from; we answered "Obama!" as Julius had told us to say - this got a very excited response.  "Obama!" they all repeated. They asked if we were married, how many children we had, what we liked best about Kenya. Julius translated, and we had a lot of laughs. There were lots of little kids and puppies running around and laughing and playing, all vying for attention but shying away when it came.

We saw the paddock for the cows at night and the more modern one for the goats and sheep. In an effort to cut down on predators taking livestock and becoming targets for revenge killings, several foundations supply chicken wire to make more secure enclosures in which the smaller animals can sleep safely. One of the women invited us into her home, proudly telling us how she designed and built it herself (a Maasai tradition) out of mud and cow dung. She had decorated the insides with different shades of mud, creating lovely designs.

She and Julius told us about a lot of aspects of Maasai culture and patiently answered all of our questions. We then joined the men in the Maasai Parliament. This village's main gathering place was a round enclosure built of sticks and with wooden benches built in. A number of men were gathered to speak with us and demonstrate how the Maasai make fires. It was a windy day, so this process was more difficult than usual, but we finally got there. Once again they explained about the village's decision-making processes, the judicial system, and about traditions and ceremonies.

As the final part of our visit we went to the outdoor market where the village women proudly displayed their beadwork. We walked all around and then went back to pick our favorites. I chose a beaded peace club, a beaded necklace, and a seed-bead neck decoration. D chose her items as well, and then we started negotiating prices. We were both floored by the initial prices quoted; for me, it was $180 for these three items. I appreciate the work that goes into these crafts, but this seemed ludicrously high, especially since we'd already priced out similar objects in the camp's curio shop. These were exponentially more expensive than the already-expensive curio shop. At first they didn't seem willing to negotiate too much, but I finally settled on about $50, which was exactly how much I had brought with me. I wanted to be generous but didn't want to taken advantage of. I live in East Africa and have a pretty good idea of what things cost; even adding in the artist-sold factor and the setting (catering to tourists at a high end camp), it wasn't a positive experience.

Nonetheless, we all parted on good terms and waved goodbye as we drove back to camp. D and I had a late lunch by the river and enjoyed being out of the hot sun. She went to the spa, while I settled on the deck to read before the afternoon's game drive. Stay tuned to find out whether we saw any leopards!

The lovely walkway to the tents at the camp

Stone path, well landscaped, gorgeous setting.

The entrance to my tent. Unni means three in the Maa language.

My veranda, complete with daybed.

Well-protected from the elements.

My tent.

Very comfy beds!

Welcome song and dancing. Joseph, our guide, joined in!

Asking and answering questions with the women.

Dung beetle! The only one I saw on the trip.

Puppy came to visit while we were talking.

Making fire.

Team effort.

There we go!

Entrance to our camp.

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