Friday 27 May 2016

Knitting for the Maasai

Part Time Maasai Warrior IV

OK a bit of cute before the blood drinking and other warriorlike activities to come.

My mother has been knitting and here's the result. I shall be taking Maasai Ted with me and will find a baby warrior to give him to. Not sure if we've got the robes (properly called a shuka) quite right, but there will be plenty of advice on site, and of course I will be wearing the correct gear myself for the initiation ceremony so I will know for next time.

Monday 23 May 2016

Mystery Tour

Part Time Maasai Warrior III

The travel plans for my trip to the Maasai Steppe are encouragingly vague. This is not travelling for those who like a firm itinerary. I do know that the big ceremony, during which I will be initiated, will take place over two days in early June. I know the name of the village where it will take place, but as I can't find it on Google Maps or indeed Search I am not much the wiser.

What I do know is that a young warrior will be dispatched from the village to Dar es Salaam to meet me at some point after I fly in. He will then escort me on the journey which involves a couple of long and uncomfortable bus rides and then a motorbike. It may take a day or it may take two.

How I will hook up with the young warrior in the chaos of Dar - one of the continent's fastest growing urban centres and slated as Africa's next Megalopolis - is to be decided.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Using Ideas As My Maps

Part Time Maasai Warrior II

I love this map of Africa from an old Victorian family atlas. The"Dark Continent" actually contains a huge expanse of white space representing the unmapped interior.

Fast forward to May 2016 and I consult today's equivalent, Google Maps, for my forthcoming trip to see the Maasai. I am delighted to discover that the village I am visiting is not on Google Maps - I am going to the digital equivalent of a cartographer's white hole. It feels like a real expedition.

Why would I want to drink more blood?

Part Time Maasai Warrior I

The days are counting down before I leave for my expedition to the Maasai Steppe and my thoughts - as well as my gag reflex - turn to the blood I will be drinking when I get there.

I am attending a very important ceremony which marks the transition for my Maasai brothers Juma and Frank into senior elders. As a sideshow, I shall also complete my own initiation into their tribe.

I have drunk fresh blood before. It would be fair to say that it's not my favourite tipple. The taste of warm blood is not at all bad. It's mixed with milk into a sort of smoothie and the flavour of the milk dominates over the blood. However the texture is challenging. The warriors whisk the blood furiously to prevent clotting, with only partial success. Globules of clotted blood can be a bit difficult to swallow. Best to drink it quickly before more form.

It's difficult to prepare myself for this. Black pudding is about as close as I can get. But I shouldn't fret. I am sure blood milkshakes are very healthy - after all the Maasai look pretty good on them. I may even repair some of the Mojito-induced liver damage from Barcelona last week.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

A letter to my friend Daudi who was killed last night

 “The good die first, and they whose hearts are dry as summer dust, burn to the socket.”   William Wordsworth

There is only one question – Why?

Why was one of the kindest, gentlest people taken so young, so suddenly and so violently?  

Regrettably your passing will not cause many ripples in a world of 6 billion souls, obsessed as we are with self, wealth and celebrity. But for that tiny proportion of humanity that knew you, this is an immeasurable loss. Your quiet loyalty as a friend has been more valuable than a thousand fake smiles and greetings.

If I ever introduced you to other friends I would say you were the most generous person I had ever met.  I stand by that assertion today. Life did not deal you a great hand, you strived and struggled for the little you had in the material realm. Yet for ten years, whenever I came to Zanzibar you would turn up at my home with gifts. I have appreciated them all – especially the wonderful shells and carvings. You should have sold them to wageni to make some money, but you chose to give them as presents. I shall never forget that. For one with so little to be so generous  is rare in this life. That spirit of kindness will live on in the hearts of the people who knew you. It is a greater legacy than wealth or fame.

I have been lucky enough to have met and known a range of people all over the world – presidents and princes, criminals and terrorists and all that goes between. I love meeting people and having a wide circle of friends of all races, ages and persuasions. You stood out. You had a very special heart and that is not easily forgotten wherever I am or whoever I am with.

It was only last month that I saw you on the East Coast. You described me as your best friend and I felt both touched and unworthy. You patiently went through the shells my mother had found on Michamvi Beach – very modest compared to what you would collect – and picked out and cleaned the best ones for her. Few words and small deeds but again not forgotten.

What happened to you last night was terrible and unjust. You were a true brother. We will try to do what we can for your family during these dark times and in the future.

 Daudi Armando RIP