Kenya Update #7: Students Experience the Masai (B)

Camping on Safari — America writes:

Masai SchoolchildrenWe left from Joseph’s boma and headed to Kili Springs Camp.  I did not expect to be traveling down a bumpy dirt road for hours on end.  After a while we got to a paved road that led us to a road that led us to a town called Kimana. It was a small but energetic town; I learned that it was recently developed to capture the tourism potential of being near Amboseli National Park. We saw a sprinkle of other Mwazungus (“whites,” in Swahili) traveling on motor bikes and in other vehicles, also headed to Kili Springs Camp.  Kili Springs is owned by a man named Benjamin who was affiliated with our last host, Joseph.  Benjamin made our stay incredibly comfortable and kept us very well fed.  It was a nice surprise to arrive and discover that our tents were already set up, with real beds in them!  Every pathway in camp was lined with volcanic rock and lit with oil lamps.  The restaurant had a delicious variety of food served buffet style.  From chapatis to fresh vegetables to meat stew, everything was delicious.  Although our stay there was short, we were constantly served with tea and coffee from our friendly host Benjamin – though were not able to get to know him well, he treated us like friends.

BloodlettingBloodletting — Myles writes:

We woke up early. It was six am and there was tea waiting for us. The Mandazi was still hot from Joyce’s kitchen; we were blessed with Joyce’s cooking and constant tea brewing.  Joseph, our main host, was going to take us to a blood letting. He said that it had been five years since the last one. Some students were uncomfortable with the process, so they stayed behind watching the morning fire.

Myles Learns to SpearWe walked to where the cattle were kept.  Joseph told us to wait outside of the acacia thorn fence until his men had a strong hold on the heifer.  He had a bow and one arrow that had a blunt, fingernail-length tip: Just enough to puncture an artery but short enough to avoid further damage.  We gathered up around the heifer while another man tied a rope around its neck exposing the large artery. Joseph fired the arrow multiple times but never reached the artery; the arrowhead could not puncture all of the layers of skin. He got a longer tipped arrow, pulled back and fired. Blood began rusihing out as a man named Jonathan, put a large gourd up to the wound.  Once the gourd was filled he began plunging it with a stick.  He pulled the stick out, caked with congealing blood. It looked like red string tangled around the lower half of the stick. He passed it to the surrounding children who were delighted and excited to eat. None of them were over the age of 12 and they were eating chunks of clotting blood.  Jonathan poured some blood into a coffee cup and passed it to our group.  After seeing a few of my classmates take a sip, I gave in. It was warm, very warm, salty, and very thick. I caught a small bit of clot in my teeth to make the flavor last.  After I swallowed, I felt my stomach go into a panic of confusion.  My heart began racing so i made a hasty walk to get my tea to help keep the blood down. After swishing the black tea around my mouth, I felt much better and was able to retain the blood.

Learning about PlantsWildlife Management — Daniel writes:

Kenya’s primary income is tourism, and in part to protect this income the Kenyan goverment has created Kenya Wildlife Services — known as the KWS — to protect, manage, and sustain the natural wildlife. The quality of the job KWS does is questionable, with many reports of bribing and turning a blind eye.  Their values are observable in their actions: when a Kenyan civilian is hurt, or their crops are damaged, KWS does little and will often deny the event and any responsibility. Nearly all spending on parks goes to the government, and the locals see very little of it.  Staying in the park can cost over $100 per night per person.

We stayed on the other side of the fence, where the locals have quality inns, ranches, and hotels.  Our base was on a large tract of land, 5 miles square, that is communally owned, well taken care of, and used for safaris.  All the wildlife that is seen in the KWS-managed park land is also available on this parcel, and the cost is less than $40 per night.  What is typically provided for you as a tourist is only superficial — to be responsible is to do research on your own to  better understand the situation.

As of now, our group has left the Masai and crossed the border into Tanzania.  It was a fairly smooth border crossing, though a bit surreal to have to get out and walk across some fifty yards of a sort of “no-man’s- land” to get to the other side.  The trip down to the coast, in hired vehicles associated with the resort we were heading for, was relatively uneventful but tiring.

The most exciting part of the trip resulted from the fact that Logela, who so generously hosted our group in his village,  refused payment for all he had done to help out.  Our teachers tried earnestly to pay at least something, without success.  So a compromise was reached, in which Logela accompanied the group down to stay for a day or two on the Tanzanian coast!  He had been to the ocean only once before in his life — despite living quite close, by American standards.  Logela, loved by everyone in our group, was a wonderful companion — he even led an evening circle discussion with students on respect and listening to elders.  Logela’s highlight was to go swimming for the first time in his life — it was a powerful experience for him!

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One Comment on “Kenya Update #7: Students Experience the Masai (B)”

  1. Thanks you, Daniel, and all of your traveling companions for sharing your experiences with us back home. It sounds like you have had a priceless experience that will be with you for rest of your lives. I have been deeply touched reading of your adventures and will have many questions for you when I next see you in Bellingham. In love and gratitude, Steve.

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