Our visit with the Masai tribe

We traveled to the southern part of Kenya over the weekend to go on safari in the Masai Mara. It is a 6 hour journey from Nairobi – the last 3 hours over very rocky roads, sometimes paths thru the bush. We were met at the last town before the road ends by our Masai guide. He was dressed in traditional garb and looked somewhat odd standing at the gas station talking on his cell phone. Jonathon was 29 years old and one of 25 siblings. His father had 5 wives. He had never attended school but spoke 3 languages, including English, and was able to write his name. He is on facebook and has friends who can read English update his status. Jonathon has been married for 3 years Dand has one child. He only plans on one more wife because the dowry of 7 cows that he has to pay is too expensive for more wives. We were able to travel to his village, a 20 min walk from our tent camp, and were toured around the village by the chief’s son. They request a fee per person that is used to help support the local school. Many of the children are now able to attend school thru grade 8. Education has helped them to refuse some of the traditional cultural practices such as the cutting of the ear lobes and female genital mutilation, while keeping their nomadic way of life. Villages are composed of all the family members of the elder chief and are established for 7 years before they are burned and moved, due to infestation with termites. The prized cattle are kept in the middle of the village at night to protect from thieves. I was able to meet the traditional birth attendant (midwife) who assists with 10 deliveries a month in this village and surrounding villages. Deliveries are done on the floor in the cow dung coated huts with no light except for the daylight. Hospital assistance is 3 hours away. At the end of our visit, we decided that polygamy was the least of the reasons that we would want to become a Masai. Flies and cow dung topped the list!

The safari we were able to experience was well worth the 6 hour car trip. Seeing a herd of giraffes running is incredible, as is a group of elephants and zebras. The scenery was breathtaking and difficult to capture on film. When I am finally home, I will try to post some pics.

We are now in Kisii for the final 3 days of cervical cancer screening. The staff was very welcoming and we saw 40 patients with their help interpreting. One of our patients was 94 years old and brought in by her 2 daughters. Polygamy seems much less prevalent here, as
is the HIV rate. Only one patient had a positive screen and it was easily treated. The local staff was trained in cervical cancer screening 2 years ago and performs 50-80 screens a month. We are just here to help for one week – they are the ongoing, daily education for these women.

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