To have Kenya receive a Silver and Bronze during the Closing Ceremony was wonderful to watch but it was an incredible achievement for David Rudisha, the 23 year old from Kilgoris, to set a new WORLD Record
in the 800m. Not only this – but it is poignant that a maasai should become pacemaker to the other runners, effecting six personal bests, including TeamGB’s Andrew Osagie.

Talking of incredible maasai, I wanted to share a story written by Karina Campos, who recently stayed at the Mara Sokonoi Camp. Tranlsated by Solomon Njeru, Karina is from Argentina. She works for the Inter-American Development Bank and is based in Nairobi.

She writes: “Kenya is made up of 42 tribes; all inhabitants belong to one of them. They are amazed when we tell them that we’re not any because in Argentina almost all the native peoples were exterminated after the Spanish conquest. Belonging to a tribe does not mean bows and arrow and feathered dresses singing all day. It means that you share a common past, language and customs. They are a micro-nation. Almost all these tribes were “modernized” and today many members wear jeans, use cell phones and long for a good car. But there is one tribe to which neither the British nor capitalism, neither globalization could conquer yet. They are the Maasai. Safe walking, slender legs and eternal. His hands are tanned and smooth skin, dark as ebony cane carried in his hand. They use colorful and elaborate necklaces and bracelets, sometimes become large holes in their ears with fire to beautify and always a shuka red dust covers and the cold. 

Masaai Mara, one of the regions inhabited by the Maasai in Kenya, is located only 270km from Nairobi, around 6 hours drive if you’re not caught by rains. In those few km many things change. Not only the lush vegetation gives way to savannah but modern civilization seems to give him a little bit of earth to a space without time, an ancient kingdom where men are blending into the landscape and blend into the horizon surrounded by a swirling wind lifting the dry land. In Mara man is part of nature and it is part of men. The Maasai do not know exactly how old are they do not use the calendar as well as us and is difficult to say how old Koikai also prizes for guessing what year we are when we are engaged in their communities, little changed in recent centuries.

Pic by Ecoadventurer

I do not want to convey that the Maasai were left in time and that their habits and their culture is backward and wrong. No, please no. I just want you to know that in other corners of the globe other communities followed a different path. They prefer to live in community rather than clearly defining private property. Do not take from nature more than they actually need. They do not measure their wealth by the number of zeros that have their bank accounts or by the brand of the clothes they wear, they
prefer to accumulate cows and goats. Who is right? Why would someone have it?

Yes it’s true that when we walk those 270 km and we meet we look carefully, amazed. My attention with their ears greatly enlarged the hole and how dark is your skin. They stop at my camera, my legs bare and my hair straight. Do not know what to think. We quickly recognize distinct but equally we know that we are sacred in the eyes of God. God will surely put a different name, but it certainly is the same. I smile to catch up and they seem to start to relax. The hours pass, the smiles are multiplied and the distances are shorter. Language is a barrier, only two of the children learned English after working with tourists a couple of years. But looks help.

One afternoon I hear a very catchy music and I realized it was Enoch, one of the few I had cell phone. Minutes later, thanks to a simple song, we were all dancing. Nobody wanted anything in return, neither they nor we silver funny pictures, just enjoying the game. It was a magical time full of joy, of those that remain in memory and fill the soul. They enjoyed sharing their music with us and we find out and see how they fell down barriers and open hearts. Enok wants to share with me that and other songs, but I do not know how to use my phone. He shows me, almost without knowing English is a way to use Bluetooth. The roles seem interchangeable, and I love that.

Our last evening we are invited to visit one of the communities and see the house of Moi who was married three weeks ago. We walked covering our eyes because the wind picks up dust. Great herds of goats with a Maasai behind and illuminated by the last rays of sun make you feel immersed in one of the paintings sold at the maasai fair in Nairobi. But no, this is real. And it’s all so harmonious, so soft, the light fades and our bodies and souls seem to begin to give up and prepare for rest, but much remains to be discovered.

The community is composed of five pens for cattle, less than ten manyattas (Maasai house made of mud and straw). Women shaved head dressed with colorful fabrics enliven the landscape, and is that really they are the heart, arms, and the engine of the community. They seek the wood for cooking and drinking water, they raise their children, make decorations for their husbands, and now also for tourists, and they who unaided and alone with his own hands built the Manyatta before going to live with her husband.

We entered the house of Moi, his wife received us in the dark near the wood stove. It gives me a lump in my throat as the girl who is single and thinking that built this house for her husband. Husband she hardly knew before marriage and who will probably share with another 2 or 3 wives. Her husband rarely give away a caress or a kiss on the mouth but who share that manyatta no electricity, no gas, no bathroom, no running water, made of earth mixed with twigs and cow dung with thatched roof and livestock fourth baby is the most precious treasure of the family. Room where the wedding night his mother sat beside the bed to make sure the marriage consummated, another bed without mattress some cowhides. Room where you will deliver four or five children, where, like any other women anywhere else in the world, will feel alone and tired, but which also laugh and dream. I never learned her name, but I will never forget her look scared when we entered her house, her sincere smile when she gave us with freshly milked goat milk and her arms still not knowing what to do when I hugged her as I was leaving (all women around her laughed ashamed … of course, is that they do not usually hug!). Shoes made from recycled tires, long skirt, shirt worn and weathered skin. I felt admiration.

While we were in the house of Moi, women in the place put together an impromptu show for us. When we left the Manyatta had about seven or eight women with articles on a cloth on the floor and the entire community around waiting for our purchase. Some kids looked at us, laughed and hid behind the skirts of their mothers. The beauty of the crafts and the scarcity of our budget made it very difficult decision. And in that community lost in the African bush while trying to sell bracelets and pendants in all colors, was evening. We were surprised. I think people did not understand why we indicated the horizon so excited. The sun was orange, almost as orange as in the Lion King we had seen. We did not want to go but had to follow away.

It is difficult to understand how they see the world the Maasai and, back in Nairobi, I wondered what are their hopes, dreams and fears. As we exchange mails with Enok, I hope to do something for them.

Obviously when I read the emails it gave me goose bumps and made me want to do anything to help. My desire but are still thinking a little more, I realized that the challenge is much bigger than build schools. The goal is not to “westernize”. No culture is better or worse, they are all different and all have room for improvement. Certainly I believe in love and to share our lives with someone we love is one of the best things that can happen, therefore I wish that women would choose to marry. But on the other hand, I do not want to spend time and money needs invented by a world that bases its development on consuming regardless of the consequences. I do not want to spend at least three hours of his life on a bus to get to work. I would not want women to lose their characteristic strength, or that men lose their depth look. I would not speak perfect English and invest in expensive formed 20 years to finish college cheating their own people sitting on a bench MPs. Not if I can finally help them, but I am sure they gave me many lessons.

If you gain something from my writing here, I hope it is to demonstrate that we are not so far that there is something magical that unites us, that any barrier can be broken down by a look or a warm genuine smile. The fact that we looked wary at first but when we parted we hugged strong is the best proof of that. I hope I have been able to illustrate that no one owns the truth, we all have something to learn from others, those who are “developed” or “developing” is not so clear. And above all I hope it helped demonstrate that all communities are formed by equally fragile beings, equally sacred, equally human.” Karina Campos