Sabrina, our "bartered bride"

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
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15
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Trip End Jul 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Masai Village hut

Flag of Kenya  ,
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oh, I found the information on how to send the invitation letters to those we want to invite to the states: attach the invitation to:  VisitorVisaNairobi@state.gov    and check out the appointment website address:  http://nairobi.usembassy.gov    

We got away from Nairobi at 7 a.m., to get an early start to the Masai Mara Game Preserve and our lodge. We stopped at the view point down the escarpment into the beautiful Rift Valley, which stretches from one of Kenya to the other (and beyond in either direction, too)  There were naturally, as throughout the trip down, some "wash rooms," which could only be reached by passing through the shops, well stocked with Kenyan crafts, masks, jewelry, pottery, carvings, statues large and small, where we ended up purchasing a few items.  (“You're my first customer of the day, and it would be back luck not to sell you something!  I make you good price!”)

Leaving the main westward highway, and bypassing Limuru (where our Los Ranchos, Southern CA friends are partnered in the oldest partnership in the PCUSA), we headed down on pot-holed pavement, toward the southwestern corner of Kenya.  The Game Preserve borders on Tanzania and the Serengeti Park (animals apparently don’t know the difference, and are extremely difficult to get to stop and pass through the check points for passports and customs!)

Once again, the “wash rooms” are the only decent toilets on the road, and the Kenyans do know that if the wash rooms are not really good, the drivers and passersby will not stop again the next time!

We were in touch with our friends Job and Julius all along the way – in the Game Preserve, however, the signal allows only for Emergency Calls!  This was no problem (Hakuna Matata), since we didn’t have any emergencies ourselves in Masai Mara.  It was an interesting ride.  Our driver, Michael, was veering from left to right and back again, all over the road, trying to hit the fewest potholes!  Great fun, sort of a slalom ride in the tour van!

Our first stop was just outside the Masai Mara entrance gate, with an outing to Masai Village (a “living history” museum in which a number of Masai families either live or work and demonstrate life the Masai Village of old (and some of today as well, though several of the Masai “warriors” have learned their English in school, and perhaps don’t have to personally take on a lion anymore!

The Masai are still nomadic, herdsmen who follow where the goats and cattle take them or need to go for pasture!  Michael, our great safari van driver,  says that the Masai believe that all the cattle in the world belong to them, and they sometimes go about reclaim “their property” from those who might have borrowed some for awhile!

Simon, one of the Masai young men, spoke good enough English (from the school – boys are sent to school, but it apparently worse than pulling teeth to get permission to get the girls to school!).  He explained what would be going on (for an entrance fee of 2000 Ksh – $25.00, per person).  First there would be welcome song and dance by the warriors (who traditionally have had to prove themselves a man by taking on a lion --  not necessarily killing it, but maybe more like a “coup” of the Native Americans – touching it and getting away – spear or machete works!)  Then there would be a contest to see which of the warriors could jump the highest – highest jumper gets the admiration of the most young women!

Right away Simon was interested in our Sabrina (age 17, just right for marriage!) and offered a dowry of 50 goats and 2 elephants.  I told him that she was worth much much more than that!  So he sold me the machete off his belt, to earn some more and maybe buy two cows to add to the bid!  (Check today’s commodity markets, somebody, and let me know how much he is offering!)  I told him we would have to enter into serious negotiation with the family.  These matters were not to be decided lightly or without much family consultation.   I made Simon promise, that if he took Sabrina as a bride, he must treat her gently and never beat her, or I would come after him with my machete (now in my possession!)

Inside the circle of about 14-15 “cabins,” there was an open space, where the cattle were brought in for safety at night.  Needless to say, Simon told us that stepping in cow pods would be extremely good luck!  We did have some serious good luck, I’m afraid.  There was a separate pen, made of branches, with sharp points, at the edge of the circle where the goats were kept.  The women had to clean out the goat pen at least once every two weeks for the protection of the baby goats!  They and the cows are regularly milked – again “women’s work.”  The men stand guard in shifts through the night, and wander with the herds during the day.

In the circle the women also performed a welcome dance, and included our women in their line dance and song as well.

The huts are also the women’s task:  fresh branches, plastered within and without with cow dung for insulation, and the roof is similar, with more branches and then the “mud” on the outside, which keeps the rain off.  Inside there are a couple of openings along the edge of the walls, to allow the smoke to get out and some light comes in through a couple of windows.  There are basically three rooms inside:  one for the young heifer, another for the sleeping family, and the third for cooking and family life inside the “cabin.”

The men showed us how they build a fire:  with hard wood, a stick and a small piece with holes nearly through, where the rapidly spinning stick causes a spark, caught on the machete and quickly transferred to a small pile of tender grass or hay, where it is blown into a fire as starter.

Of course, at the end of the performances and displays, there was a circle set up in which the crafts and wares of the various women and their families was on display and for sale!  Each of us was accompanied by one of the warrior salesmen, led around the circle, and finally to the “check out counter” to settle up!  So now I have a machete, the fire-making tools and a set of salad servers.  Oh well, some transfer of funds from our world to theirs is always in order!

Then on to the Masai Mara Game Preserve and Lodge, where we would spend two nights, and go out on four “game drives” with our safari van.  More about that next time!
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