It was December 19th, the official three-month mark of my trip abroad. I awoke to the sounds of baboons fighting and the bells that hung from the necks of the Masi cattle. It was 6 a.m. I stepped out of my tent, took a deep breath and saw my breath. It was actually chilly. On the horizon, I was privileged with a beautiful sunrise. In the distance there were faint wisps of clouds which appeared to be on fire and growing brighter by the second. My first night of safari had been a treat. I had slept soundly. It was a great way to start into my fourth month overseas. As the others of the group slowly wandered in there was a definite feeling of excitement. We enjoyed a good breakfast of eggs, toast, and sausage. Almost all you could eat. We all woofed our breakfasts down and jumped into the van. We were off!
As we traveled towards the gate of Masi Mara Park, we saw many Masi people that were very distinguishable. The men all wore a light red blanket for clothing. Many of the blankets had a plaid pattern. (I wondered if the Masi men realized that each different plaid represented a clan of people in Ireland). In addition, each Masi man carried a two-foot-long knife sheathed on his hip and a two-foot-long club. Most of the clubs were made of carved wood. Occasionally the club would be made of carved wood with a very large 2 1/2-inch metal bolt screwed in at the top, where the normal club head would be. When you held either club it was easy to see how they both made a highly effective weapon. In addition to their knives and clubs, each man carried either a short 1-inch diameter walking stick or a spear.
Both the men and the women wore brightly colored, beaded bracelets and necklaces. The beads represented their standing in the tribe. Some of the women wore beads pierced into their earlobes, which were stretched up to five inches in diameter. The men also had large earlobes. Occasionally a heavy ornament hung from them, but most of the men looped their earlobe over the top of their ear to avoid tearing them. I was told that it was a great disgrace to the entire tribe if anyone allowed the piercing in their earlobe to be torn. I silently wondered if they had any idea how hip they would be in any of the body piercing shops or moshpits at home. Then there was footwear. The footwear of the Masi varied dramatically. I have seen everything from barefoot through the bush to wing tips, Converse low tops to sandals made of old tires. (Many people have asked me what I had to trade a Masi to get my sandals. Seldom could they believe that I had bought them in Peru from the local people.)
How these tall, very slender and fit people could simultaneously coexist with modern society; the occasional pair of shorts under their blanket, modern footwear and maybe even a watch sometimes, was nothing short of amazing.
As the Masi men tended the cattle, the young boys took care of the goats. Occasionally women could be seen walking along the very rough road with children or firewood, or along the river washing clothes. All the people seemed to be friendly; especially the kids, they always waved. The one exception to this rule was discovered as one of our group stood to take a photo of the children as we passed by. As the camera was pointed at them, the kids all dived for cover, hiding behind bushes or whatever they could find. Most Masi were Christianized and didn’t believe a camera would hurt you. The hiding was more due to the fact that the kids were tired of people taking their pictures all the time. Most only allowed their picture taken if you paid them.