We managed to climb on the top of Kilimanjaro one day ahead of time so that I had a nice little conversation with my friend Elias, our well seasoned guide on the mountain.
Elias proved himself to be a good judge of people so he realized that me and Alexandra were in good shape for attacking the top by daytime and by doing so now we had one extra day on our arms. So, rather than spending another day on the slopes of Kili doing nothing I decided to let them go home and bargained with Elias over the matter.
Our guide suggested that in return we should go and spend a night in his home and after that we could choose between going to a safari or going to a Masaai village, off the beaten track.
After talking to Alexandra we decided to go for the village as wild animals we had seen plenty, in zoo gardens or in Safari Parks in Belgium or Canada.
So we climbed downhill, picked up our diplomas for climbing the peak and set off for the house. Which proved to be a very nice one, in the middle of a village and surrounded by high walls. This way we could have a peek at the way our guide was living and also take advantage of the amenities of the civilization.
We spent a nice afternoon, talking to people and also barbecuing. Our host Tecla entertained us with stories about life in Tanzania and also we could watch a little bit the Tanzanian TV chanells.
Next morning we bid goodby to our hosts and set off for the local craft market because there were still a lot of souvenirs that we wanted to buy and this was our last chance to do it.
For the second time since we had come to Africa we were hit right in the face by a fantastic exotic situation. First time happened in the fish market in Dar-es- Salaam.
Again as soon we climbed down of the massive jeep we were assaulted by a mass of vendors, especially Alexandra because they knew that if they managed to attract the kid they will draw the dragon too.
All of a sudden in the middle of this whirlwind I am approached by a very nicely dressed in a traditional suit lady that tells me in a fluent English : When you feel ready Mister you are welcome in my store. Man, this was impressive. Of course we went in. Immediately we were greeted by the Mama and her daughter.
And from that moment on I offered my daughter a view of her father that she has never seen before. For an entire hour I kept haggling and negotiating with the two ladies in a way that was amazing Alexandra.
‘Where did you learn to do this, Daddy?; she kept asking me. Well I was enjoying this and so did the two ladies. At the end they asked me ;And where are you from Sir? I am Romanian, I said, different species, you have not seen this one before;
Finally after buying a bag load of souvenirs we set off for the Masaai village. We were looking forward to it.
We entered the village, parked the car and began looking for the guide. The Masaai guide, I mean, because we were also accompanied by our guide, Elias and Lamek, the driver.
Finally we met the guide, a tall Masaai that asked for 150 dollars for the visit. Once again I had to show the different species thing and we settled for 30. And so it begins.
We started walking uphill on a dusty road. The village was stretched on the hill and it was formed from clusters of little huts. Usually every cluster was formed from a hut belonging to the man and the rest to his wives, but some had two men living in with their respective wives. They were all Lutherans, thing that apparently did not interfered with them being polygamists. Fanny life.
First we met a group of children and for my greatest stupefaction as soon as I take the camera out they flee like hell. This is great!
Five minutes later we meet a group of young girls, all dressed in traditional suits, and here we go again. I take the camera out and they flee.
All of a sudden I realize what is going on and I ask the guide to tell them that I will send the pictures back and not sell them to anybody. And it works, because next we meet an old man that accepts to be photographed together with Alexandra.
The guide takes us to a cluster of huts and we are invited to visit several of them by the proud owners. The huts are made out of clay and decorated with pans of mirrors or newspapers. People are very friendly and we enjoy talking to them. Masaai are very proud of their animals which are an extremely important part of their life. And here comes a fanny situation when we are shown the layout of one of the huts.
;Here, says the guide, we have the place for the goat, the place for the cow, first bedroom, second bedroom and living room; All of this in a 20 square meters area.
But this is their way of life and I am not going to make any comparisons. Still it is fanny. Our hosts noticed that we show them respect and became even more friendly.
After a while the guide tells us that we are invited for lunch in one of the yards because they were having a celebration there. Of course we accept the invitation.
We enter the front yard of a bigger hut, me in front with Alexandra behind trying not to get noticed by the scores of eyes staring at us. But all her hopes crumble to the ground when she hears her father shouting “Jambo” while tipping his hat. I was entering on somebody’s property, I had to salute the way a proper educated man is supposed to.
Now even the ones that were in the hut were staring at us. For Alexandra’s greatest delight.
We are invited to sit around a table and served portions of local food.Groups of children are gathered around us, looking at us with great interest and curiosity. Clearly we were the attraction of the day.
I signal to a little girl to come closer and finally, she, reluctantly, approaches me. She is extremely shy and does not dare to take my hand. She looks at me in amazement and at one moment touches me with one finger and than runs away. I do not know who is more impressed, me or her. Not to mention Alexandra. People keep staring at us as we try to eat, pretending we do not notice.
An hour later we decide it is time we left and I ask how much do I have to pay for the lunch. They decline my offer and we leave after bidding them goodby. But as I go out of the yard I have a moment of inspiration and I turn toward the headman and offer him a bill of 20 dollars while saying “ For the church”
They were so touched that they effectively queued in order to shake my hand. Man, was I proud of me.
We headed downhill after this episode towards the car as our trip was drawing to an end when all of a sudden we were attacked by a host of kids asking for sweets. We gave them every chocolate we had in our pockets and when I ran out of them I gave them money. But to my amazement, the Masaai adults that were walking us to the car asked me very politely not to do this again. Money was supposed to be given eventually to the headman in order to buy some staff for school.
I was very impressed by the dignity of this people and I understood that actually they were not poor by their standards, only by ours. I made the same mistake as the mass media in the developed countries does. I tried to judge a different culture by using foreign standards. Standards that actually did not apply to them. I never again from that moment did this mistake again. From that moment, every where we went on the planet we accepted things the way they were. And from that moment we tried to see only the good things, the bright side, the positive. Because as I read once in a book, even God waits for the man to die before judging him, so, who am I to do it?
A great lesson for me and my daughter, a privilege also for both of us to be able to meet these people. The Masaai.