The Masai

On the way back from Ngorongoro Crater, we were offered the chance to see how The Masai lived. Truth: this was pretty much a show for us tourists. We paid USD$15 each, and were shown around one of their little villages and were encouraged to buy beaded jewellery and things. So yes this was a tourist trap. Yes, everything had a price, and sure it probably wasn't 100% authentic. But I also feel like I wouldn't have otherwise have had an opportunity to even see the glossy tourist version and I was happy to get whatever glimpse I could. I was also very aware that this is how these people made money, and as I was very much feeling the privilege guilt at this point, so I had no problem handing over shiny dollars to go see how these people supposedly lived.

Here's what I took away - the Masai have a very rhythmic style of song, that really didn't make sense to my ear. I both enjoyed listening to something so very different, and cringing because its such a rough kind of song (with added screaming). The jumping was novel, and I wondered how high I could jump (I tried later, turns out not very high).

I loved the women, with their brightly coloured cloths and loved that they carried their babies on their back. I admired their bead work (it was pretty, I bought an overpriced bracelet) and generally was kind of interested in their houses (which they make, from cow poo, sticks and ash). It was such a different way of living. The houses were dark on the inside, ridiculously so. And smokey, because the smoke from their fires has nowhere to go. Their possessions that they had were so few, and so many people lived in such a small space, it kind of blew my mind.

Heres the other thing, I'm pretty sure that what we saw used to be authentic, but I'm not sure it is now. The idea of the Masai I had in my head was of people removed from society. That their warriors walked across the plains and animals would flee from them. I don't know how naive I was being, but the next day at the lodge? I recognised from of the boys from the village. They helped me carry my bags, and I tipped them well. But they weren't in their typical red and blue robes.

It was a bit of a clash really. It mostly highlighted how even nomadic societies that deal mostly in cattle and keep to themselves have adjusted to tourism and banking (they only accept USD bills). I think my problem was that everything felt so glossed over. I'd have loved the opportunity to stay, to learn and speak with them, as they were rather than as the people they were trying to portray. Alas, it wasn't to happen.

Still, it was a fairly pleasant way to spend an hour or so.