The Massai are one of roughly 40 tribes of Kenya and arguably the most internationally notorious, due to their colorful dress, leaping warrior dance, and body modification.
My house is just off Ngong Road, past the Nakumatt Junction shopping center, on the western side of downtown Nairobi. It’s only short walk to work and, lucky for me, the firm has outfitted the place with wireless and 150 channels of satellite TV. There’s little yard out front^, as you can see, and it over looks a pond past the electric fence.
It’s not like I’m in a bad area or anything. Most of the apartment complexes and office parks by which I’ve driven have an electric fence around the perimeter. The fence is, I think, the first line of defense. My firm employs members of the Maasai tribe to be the second. They’re nice guys. They have they stretched out lobes that they loop around about the tops of their ears. They dress casually in sneakers, jeans, and rugby shirts; they always return a smile.
And they carry bows and arrows.
There’s this one guy who works in the tent factory (yes, the safari hotel/camp/tour/supply firm also makes their own tents) who also always carrys a stick. I don’t quite know what the stick means, but it looks to be carved from a single piece and heavily polished. It’s too short to be a cane, but not big enough to be a club. the stick wouldn;t knock anyone out or inflict serious headwounds, it would just elicit an, “Ow. Why would you do that?”
It may have some cultural significance—a status symbol—but I don’t know enough Swahili to ask.
At first I thought the bows and arrows were similar, since only a couple guys carry them, so I thought them to be only symbolic, rather than functional.
I still haven’t seen them shoot anything, or anyone, but the guys with whom I work have said they’re pretty lethal. I went for a little walk today, to check out the area. Goats seemed to be running around everywhere, and there were three or four little pubs along Ngong Road. I mustered up some courage to walk into one (of the pubs, not the goat) and ended up a having a great time. I had some beers with some local guys who asked a lot about The States, and said I had to go to Mombasa.
As I walked back to place, I said hello to young fellow on my way past headquarters*, and we talked a little. He was Maasai himself, as he proudly professed, and he said he was a pretty good shot. He also said that the weapon itself is indeed symbolic as a rite of passage as a warrior or something like that.
I’m gonna try to learn more.
I’m still working on understanding the accent.
It sounded like he said his name was Robot.
^no I don’t have to mow it.
*OK, headquarters is stupid term. But what else am I supposed to call it? It’s not an office, its tents and a factory…I’ve already dubbed my home The Compound. So I’m welcome to suggestions.