“Yeyo takwena” I said to the first Maasai lady I met at the market. She fell about laughing! This was my best effort at a newly-acquired greeting in Maa, so it seemed I needed quite a bit more practice.
I was the only ‘mzungu’ in this Maasai market. I wasn’t exactly hard to spot, especially with a bright purple umbrella protecting me from the fierce sun, so within minutes everyone knew there was a stranger in town. Tourists very rarely come here. And how friendly and welcoming they were!
Sambeke introduced me to everyone we passed, translated questions to and fro, and explained to me what was going on. Don’t shake hands with these ladies because they have been snuffing tobacco and they have dirty hands. This lady is making a beaded belt for her boyfriend. These sandals made out of old car tyres are the very best for walking in the bush. The man driving the motorbike there has never had a driving lesson in his life, so keep out of his way. This is my sister and she wants to know about your family.
We spent about an hour just wandering around chatting to people. I felt relaxed, no-one tried to sell me anything (I really didnt need tyre sandals, vegetables or a new ‘shuka’ – the Maasai blanket), and I was simply and respectfully accepted as someone that Sambeke had brought to show around. It was OK for me to be curious about them, and it was likewise fine for them to ask about my life.
Sometimes the meeting of two very different cultures can be less than satisfying or comfortable. This was different. This was really enjoyable.