We woke up before the sun to go on a drive. By the time we were on the road, the sun was barely peeking over the horizon and we stopped to take in its beauty forgetting, momentarily, about our hunt for cheetahs chasing after wildebeest or perhaps a baboon holding a lion cub up over an audience of animals bowing before them while magically, Elton John descended from the clouds playing ‘The Circle of Life’ on a white grand piano.
This thought alone prompted me to start singing “MAAAAHHHH-ZABENYA!” Everyone laughed and humored me as I burst out in song at random moments on safari. At least, I’d like to think they were humoring me and weren’t annoyed in the slightest.
I’ve become slightly (Andrew thinks “oddly”) obsessed with maribou storks. I just think they are the absolute coolest birds ever. I was ecstatic about a whole tree full of them in the morning.
The game drive in the morning wasn’t as exciting as we thought it was going to be, save for the line of zebras we stopped to watch in awe at their penchant for traveling in single file. We saw a hippo out of water, zebras rolling around on the ground to get the mosquitos off their backs…
And more leopards in sausage trees (I swear, that’s what they were called)! But, sadly, no cheetahs.
On our way out of the park, someone called out “Giraffe!” and sitting in the back seat, I looked out either side of the jeep wondering where it was, figuring it was way off in the distance, that is, until I looked up and the giraffe was right. there. Less than two meters away from our jeep, he loomed above us and then it seemed figured we weren’t a tree with leaves for him to nibble on, so he ambled over to something he could take a bite out of. It was hands down, my favorite part of the day.
We agreed to stop at the touristy Masai village on our way to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. There was a small entrance fee, and we knew it wasn’t going to be the most unique tribal experience, but I was still curious what they were going to present to us as their “day to day” life and what they would say about their tribe.
Immediately we were greeted, and the men started chanting and did something of a skip back and forth in front of us. They got Josh to join, but Andrew hung back with a camera instead of skipping and singing with the warriors. Then Leanne and I were led to the semi-circle of women, and a beaded necklace was placed around our necks and the women began singing. Now, usually, I think I handle myself (for the most part) pretty well when I’m in a new environment or surrounded by people much different than myself. But for some reason, I could not wrap my head around the fact that I was standing in the midst of a group of Masai women, one who was gently holding my hand, as they were all singing around me. It’s clear, from Andrew’s videos and Leanne’s pictures, I look quite the fish out of water. It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable- not in the slightest- it was just a sheer moment of awe of our trip.
The Masai continued to sing and then the men jumped. Those men have some serious ups and I debated how they would fare on a basketball court, amused by the thought that they would probably kill it, all while playing in their Masai shuka wraps and plastic sandals against the western style jerseys and shoes.
We were led into a modest cow dung and straw hut. A man slept on the bed behind us as we sat on its edge listening to the Masai way of life. Leanne and I asked a few questions about the women- who helped them when it was time to have a baby, etc. Our guide brushed it off saying, something along the lines of “The women know.” We smiled, amused that he didn’t seem to want, nor care to either know the answer or perhaps to simply communicate the answer to us.
Josh asked why there were so many more women than men in the tribe. How is it possible for one Masai man to have so many wives and there not be more men for the amount of women. It was a fair question. One that was not given a fair answer. “That’s just how Masai are. More women are born instead of men.” He answered. This really got Josh’s goat. He wasn’t having it, and neither were we, but we didn’t have another source to ask, at least, not yet.
Our guide tried to lead us to the makeshift shop in the middle of the village, but we skirted around it, instead walking along the huts and asking more questions. We were then led to the “school” a small hut (if you could even call one) outside of the circle of houses. Children ran around outside until they saw us coming and then immediately ran into the school to sit on the benches for their latest visitors. A blackboard was behind us with letters and numbers and sentences that was clearly set up as a prop for the stage that the students promptly took before us, reciting their ABCs. It made me uncomfortable. I should have taken some video, but I was too… I don’t know… aghast at the thought that they clearly do this for the donation box that is set up in front of them, even after we were told that our entrance fee was for the children and their education.
Again, after the school, we were led to the display of necklaces in the center of the village. Again, we avoided it and instead photographed the women sitting against a house making more necklaces. This is why I wanted to visit the village. These women are so beautiful and I’m sure they have led such an interesting life. Again, I wanted to know more, more about the women, not the men whom the tribe is so famous for.
This is a patriarchal tribe. Males- known as warriors- are in charge, they have multiple wives, and there are rumors of continued FGM practices even though it is illegal by Tanzanian law. Girls at our hostel told us stories they had heard that blew my mind and made me so curious of the realities of women in these tribes. Do the women comply readily with these expectations of them? Is there ever any dissent? Aside from all of the work they do for the men in the tribe, are they treated well? Could a woman ever be a warrior? Women can play football in the states if they really want to, right? It’s practically the same thing, right?
I asked our guide. He burst out laughing. Like it was the absolute funniest thing he had ever heard of in his life. “But… why not?” I asked, curious. “A man has to be circumcised…” He trailed off, amused by my curiosity. “But, women ARE circumcised.” I replied. He laughed, like it was still not possible for a woman to ever be a warrior, like the mere thought was simply… wrong.
I smiled. “I don’t understand, if all a man has to do is get circumcised and then go into the woods for three months to learn how to become a warrior, couldn’t a woman do the same? She will be circumcised anyway…” He listened, paused, and then continued to shake his head, but didn’t offer any further rebuttal.
The women sat in a circle nearby with several babies, oblivious to the content of our conversation. I desperately wanted to bring them into the conversation, but I had a feeling that was not possible. It seems as though the men enjoy their women uneducated, pregnant, and oblivious. Perhaps I’m mistaken, and my observations- at least from this tribe is not necessarily accurate. I became anxious to go to a real Masai village to talk to the woman about their role within the Masai after our safari.
Our guide deemed our time was up and we were ushered out nicely, but in a clear “Ok, it’s time for you to go…” kinda way. Our curiosity was piqued and we sat in the jeep on our way to the rim of the crater playing the visit over again. “Something is going on there, more women than men? No way.” Josh pointed out. We all agreed and wondered if even at another tribe, not visited every twenty minutes by a jeep full of safari goers would we get a more accurate answer.
The rim of the crater was beautiful. That is, until I was sure something had gotten in our tent and then Andrew saw a large mass of blackness eating grass around our tent. “It can’t be a hippo, they can’t get up here…” The cooks assured him on his way back from the bathroom. “It’s probably just a buffalo…” Because, that certainly makes one feel better walking to and from the bathroom after dark…