Where do I begin? I arrived at Peace Matunda School and Orphanage at 1 in the morning on Wednesday. Just to really make sure the culture shock set in I decided that on Thursday I would travel to the “nearby” Maasai Villages and stay in the Maasai community for 3 days. I packed a small backpack with a change of underwear and a toothbrush and off I went with Harry and Sombuoy in a rattly old Land Rover to the bush. We drove (and by drove I mean veered wildly in and out of traffic) for an hour until our turn-off onto a dusty dirt road. We continued on this road for another 3 hours deeper and deeper into the depths of dusty nothingness. I shouldn’t say nothing; I saw some giraffes, a few ostriches, dikdika, zebras, and gazelle. At the point where I thought I was surely going to choke to death on savannah dust we pulled off the dirt road into a Maasai community. This was clearly a booming metropolis for the Maasai because the community had a well, a school, a few houses made out of cement (as opposed to sticks, rocks, and mud), and a few “shops”. As we rolled into town, everyone stopped and stared. And I mean, EVERYONE. You know that awkward feeling when you walk into a room and people had just been talking about you and everyone just stops what they are doing and looks at you? It kind of felt like that. What I found rather ironic is that they were staring at me! As if I was the one that looked weird! I guess my skin, hair, and eyes were a different colour, and I guess I was wearing different clothes; I wasn’t wearing sandals made out of recycled tires, and I guess I didn’t have giant holes in my ears, but really, I didn’t think I looked that odd. My first clue that I was the only white person for miles around was when all the toddlers ran away crying when they saw me.
After I was shown my room (I got to stay in one of the cement houses) and we ate some ugaldi (mushed up maize) we took off in the LandRover with Michael who owned the house I was staying in. We went on a “safari” but I think it was just an excuse to go bomb around in the bush. We did get out a few times to try and find baboons but had no luck. After dinner and sunset I went to bed.
The next day after breakfast we took the Land Rover out to a school that Peace Matunda supports. Years ago the school was a mud hut with no desks or chairs. The school I saw was upgraded to metal sheets and had wooden benches inside and a chalkboard. It was surrounded by prickly bush which acted like a fence. The surrounding desert was the toilet. I watched the Maasai teacher give a lesson and then I got to teach the students. After the lessons we went outside to play and I taught them the game Octopus. All the other games they played involved various forms of racing. Like, the game “run and grab the stick”, or “run around the bush fence”, or my personal favorite, “run to the tree and back”.
Next we went to Bombei, a nearby Maasai community. I was welcome to look around at their mud huts and they showed me their goats. I had no idea I would be meeting up with one of these goats later that day. Inside the mud huts it was very dark. The women slept in one section of the hut and the man in another. The men had multiple wives and they would visit different huts each night and eat with that family. But the women could not watch the men eat and the women and her children would get the leftovers of the man’s meal. …. I don’t think I would have survived in a Maasai community.
As I wandered I took a picture of a Maasai woman and her children, then showed them the picture. This lady howled! She thought it was the funniest thing. The other women came and they all wanted pictures. They were especially loving the selfies; I guess that it must be a universal thing with young women.
After saying goodbye we went back to the main town and I wandered down the street and to the well which was the happening place! There were goats and cows and donkeys all trying to get a slurp of water. There were people trying to fill up their water jugs and hitting their animals with sticks to try to herd them in a certain direction. A bumpin’ little spot. When I returned home I sat on a rock for awhile. It seemed like the thing to do, everyone sits on rocks and watches everyone else. Exciting times. But a little downtime was OK because I had to rest for the big BBQ that evening! I had no idea we were having a celebration but I’m usually up for a party so I was in!
After dinner we took the rattly Land Rover to the edge of town and picked up a Maasai man. This man taught me that Maasai don’t hunt, they herd their meat. I asked why they carry big spears then and he said it was for self defense against lions. I asked him if he had ever killed a lion and he said, yes, 9 other men and he had to kill one because it was going to attack their herd. Their herd is their livelihood so I guess they have no choice but to fight the lion because if they don’t, it’s death by starvation for the whole tribe. So, Harry, Sombuoy, Michael, the Masai man, and myself drove out into the darkness of the desert. I have no idea how they knew where they were going, it was pitch black! At one point some Maasai people with sticks and flashlights starting chasing us and Harry sped up. I don’t think they were threatening, they probably just wanted a ride somewhere but I was happy Harry shifted into high gear and tore oughta there.
We arrived at our destination which was the Maasai village I had visited earlier that day. After greetings, the male children were told to go light a fire. The females were sent back to the huts. As I helped collect kindling for the fire I heard a “Baaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!”. It sounded like a cute baby lamb but when I turned it was a beautiful, white goat being dragged by the ear over to the fire area. I put two and two together when I saw the Maasai men sharpening their knives on a rock. If you love animals or are slightly faint hearted skip the next part of my story. In honour of my visit we were going to have a BBQ… a goat BBQ. So one man held the legs and the other held the goat head and started sawing at its neck. Unfortunately rocks don’t sharpen knives very well so the goat had a rough last few minutes of life. I swear this all happened, I mean, I can’t make this stuff up! Finally hitting the artery, they let the goat bleed out and it stopped kicking. At this point I thought to myself, “when in Rome ….” And I offered to help skin the goat.
They taught me how to get the fur without cutting the meat. When I asked they said they would use the fur for clothes or to sleep on. I also helped dissect the goat and I will give the Maasai credit, they did not waste ANY of that goat. The only thing they threw away was the intestines. Some ribs, a leg, and the liver were skewered with a stick and placed near the fire to start cooking. Everything else, except the head and the hooves, were thrown into a pot of water with acacia twigs and then put over the fire. The children gleefully took the hooves and bottom portion of the goat legs and put it near the fire to burn the fur off. Once the fur was off they mowed down on those goat hooves like it was a Chunky KitKat bar. I also witnessed two boys roast and share the goat testicles, the testicles!!! This was like a challenge off of a reality TV show.
After some chitchat and rotating the skewers the Maasai man decided the liver was done and gave it to Sombuoy to cut up. It was cut into delicate little pieces and placed on a dainty white plate with a little fork then handed, yup you guessed it, to me. Apparently the liver is the best part of the goat and because I was the guest of honour I was given the goat liver to eat. What could I do? They were all watching me. So I gently put the smallest piece of goat liver I could find on my fork, placed it in my mouth, and forced an “Mmmmmmm”, a smile, and a thumbs up. This seemed to please them and they started hacking up the rest of the goat and shoveling it into their mouths … no plates or forks for them. The liver really was the best part because they gave me a chunk of the leg and ribs to try and I had to pretend to cough and spit it out into some toilet paper I had in my pocket before I gagged. During our BBQ a stray dog wandered by and took off with the goat head. I thought, good riddance but the Maasai leader yelled at one of his boys to chase the dog and retrieve the head. The boy returned later with the goat head and they cut the eyes out (giving me one, I’m not sure why) and then put the head in the fire to roast so they could eat it later. The leftover bloody goat broth and acacia twigs were poured into cups and slurped down by the men and children. They said this was medicine and it helped them stay healthy and avoid malaria. I’ll just stick to my Malarone pills, thanks. Eventually the BBQ wrapped up and I was driven back to the cement house and put to bed. In the morning my body rejected the goat liver but I won’t go into details about that.
On Saturday morning I was lucky because there happened to be a massive Maasai market! Some people had walked for two days with their herds of cows and goats so they could buy and trade animals. There was also lots of rice, maize, sugar, tea, and other foods for sale as well as beads and other odds ‘n’ ends. It reminded me of a flea market, Maasai style! I didn’t buy anything but Michael bought a cow.
After the market I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and loaded myself back into my chariot. I waved goodbye to the Maasais as we ripped out of town. I was happy to shower back at Peace Matunda and pretty pumped for a change of clothes. Despite the dust, dirtiness, and slaughtering of the goat it was the experience of a lifetime jammed into three short days. My blog may have just jumped the shark, I’m not sure how anything can top this story, but we’ll just have to wait and see what adventures lie ahead for The High Class Hobo.