Day 4: Fun with Maasai

Posted in africa 2008, personal, travel at 11:48 pm by wingerz


Day 4: March 18, before bedtime

after-dark frisbee

It starts with a silly after-dark game of tossing around Saadiq’s tiny glow-in-the-dark frisbee. Before long just about all of us have arranged ourselves in a rough circle in the open dirt area between the tents. Liz goes to see if the Maasai want to play with us. They are intrigued by the frisbee. One of them, expecting the glowing red frisbee to be hot to the touch, flinches a bit when it is handed to him. The frisbee whizzes back and forth through the darkness; its tiny size and high speed make it quite difficult to grab so we cheer whenever one of the Maasai is able to catch it.

the aggressor

We’re told that the Maasai want to perform a dance for us. They line up together and begin guttural chants. They plod towards us, keeping their arms at their sides. We don’t really understand what’s going on at first. Their song is completely foreign to us – it’s a mixture of sounds rather than melodies. All of us form a circle, with the women on one side and the men on the other. The Maasai, one by one, enter the circle, hop towards the center, face the women, leap as high as they can, and retreat back to the outside of the circle. The higher the jump, in theory, the more it impresses the ladies. They hand off their spears to us and we each take a turn in the middle – guys first, then girls. When it gets to be the girls’ turn, Jen picks an unfortunate quiet moment to declare, “I like being the aggressor”, making her the butt of jokes for the rest of the trip (and beyond).

After we all have our turn, the Maasai show us another patten. A man and woman enter the circle from opposite sides, face each other in the middle, then conclude with one final twisting jump to the side.

It’s quite an amazing experience, and we get the feeling that they are grateful to have been our hosts. Meanwhile each of us is touched by our inclusion in this world that is so far away and so different from ours. One of the things that Mark Thornton Safaris prides itself on is supplementing the typical safari experience of viewing animals from atop a jeep with activities that help visitors forge a stronger connection with the land and its people. In this respect the safari is a brilliant success.

The nighttime activities attract the lions’ attention, so they come to visit after we’ve all gone to sleep. The jeeps are turned on so that their sounds and bright headlamps will scare the animals away.

(Thanks to Ishan for all of the pictures shown here.)

1 Comment »

  1. ~wingerz » Africa 2008: The complete journal said,

    November 29, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    […] Day 3: We’re on safari! Day 4: View from above Day 4: Lion tracking Day 4: Eulogy for a goat Day 4: Fun with Maasai Day 5: Detour to Lake Manyara Day 5: Luxury camping Day 6: Descent into the crater Day 7: Waiting […]

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