A few days ago I mentioned AirBnB and Couch Surfing. A few people were surprised to know that I had used Couch Surfing in over 60 Countries and I still use it occasionally today. This is the story about my CS profile picture. People were asking where this photograph came from and I love to share a little story about how it came about.
This was one of my most fantastic cultural experiences EVER!
I remember back before I had ever left my home country, back in my early 20’s, my partner at the time was reading the a book about the Masai. I was really focused on work making money and going to Africa was not on the cards. There was no way I could picture my self here in this place.
Maybe I was Couch Surfing and back packing but I was doing the Europe trip. Africa was kind of by chance. And in this village, there is no internet, no Wifi, actually, there isn’t even electricity. At night there was a house however there were no lights or plumbing. There is no running water. There were one or two buildings and the rest were all Mud huts.
This village is one of the many Masai villages that are spread vastly across Tanzania and Kenya. Across the famous Serengeti Savannah. This is the scene for many books and adventures. The Lion King by Disney, was also made out here.
After 10 months of backpacking Europe, my parents wanted to catch up. Since East Timor, Afghanistan, Backpacking I haven’t seen much of them and thanks to the deployments, we were all doing well financially. My parents organized a 2-3 week Safari in Kenya. They paid the Safari, my sister and I paid our flights and spending $. One of the first stops on our Safari (a truck with camping gear and about 12 Westerners) was near this village in Loita Hills, near the township of Narok. Although we were only there for a 2 days, I was at a bit of an advantage being x-military and already speaking basic Swahili.
Within minutes of meeting everyone I was separated from the tour and by myself laughing and playing jokes with some of the Masai. We went on a bit of a walk, saw some huts, and they put on a dance and performance. Despite sounding touristy, and being on a Safari (which is a tour group) it was a pretty unique and ‘green’ eco conscious tour.
At night time the Chief came to our Camp site and told us a story or two about the Masai. At the end of the story, he offered his hut if anyone wanted to spend a night in the smelly hot hut that we had visited during the day. The one with the cow and babies crying in it. Of course, no one was keen. So I said yes. And that was one of the best YES’s I have ever given in my LIFE. While the rest of my Safari were getting ready for quiet sleeps on Air mattresses in their tents, I walked with the Chief and the Masai back to their village. (Two Masai Stayed to guard the Safari from wild animals). The walk was ….. The Chief had his torch out ensuring the lion wasn’t near. Before we got to the hut, I could hear the music.
We entered this hut earlier in the day. We walked in and out as there wasn’t enough room and it was hot, yucky smelly, but something you ‘had’ to see. But this night, there was a gathering inside. Fire blazing, at least 15 people were around the fire with a dance circle, kids at the back, and a baby cow by the fire. The music, was all made from their vocal cords. They were chanting and taking turns dancing. And I must have been one of the luckiest Muzungu (white person) to be alive witnessing this.
The singing and dancing went on for some time. We drank some herbal, home brew drink, and even I had a dance. After everyone left, I went to sleep on one of the spaces, like a bench a foot off the ground, made of sticks, with cow hides over it for padding. The next day I returned to the Safari, breathless. I couldn’t and still can’t describe the sensation, the ultimate travel cultural experience of ones life time. After my family left Africa, I stayed for another month. I hitched a ride back to Narok. Met the village Chief. Bought a small goat. And joined them again. This time, no safari, just me, my 8kg bag, and a goat which quickly became barbequed.
These young men on the left of me are the Masai Warriors. They are only young. around 16-18 years old. They have left home. Their job is to patrol the outer perimeters of the villages. They are responsible for chasing and hunting out any Lions or big predators.
The boy to my right, he comes from a far away village. He comes to work and live as a ‘herder’ in this village. He spends his day with the animals making sure they are safe and taken care of. He earns a very small salary. The little kids on the right, are children of the Village Chief. Would you like to see the Chief?
Here is the Chief, enjoying the goat I gave them for having me.
Now the Chief is very fortunate. He has a lot of land under his control. He has some wealth. He also has a fair few children with 3 different wives. His religion is limited. He believes in Nature and “the big daddy in the sky” (as he told me). However his last wife is Christian. The Chief respects this and says, he will not have any more wives now.
One thing with Wealth though, they don’t have luxuries but the Chief’s children go to a local school and focus more on education where some of the poorer kids will work on the farm. Such is life.
This is the school. There are actually a couple of buildings like this. No Electricity, lights, no windows, Hakuna Matata.
But they have desks!
The people here are so happy. Its very interesting that they have so little but are so content. It really made me relise that us ‘Developed’ People, are maybe not so developed after all. Perhaps these Africans can teach us a thing or too about having a successful happy life.
Now as we sleep tonight in our beds, these men here, they currently hold all of their possessions in their hands. They don’t have beds. They don’t have blankets. They don’t have bottled water or even a tap. Yet they have many things we may lack. Curiosity, passion, enthusiasm, and time.
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