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  • annehope19

A Trip of a Lifetime...Africa

If you’ve ever contemplated a trip to Africa, don’t wait. You will never regret it. 

The beauty, the wonder, the sunsets, the people, and the wildlife are amazing and often surreal.

After returning from a 16 day trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I felt compelled to share with others, the majesty and grandeur of these amazing countries and their people. 

Please forgive the numerous pictures shared in this article. However, words alone could never properly express the magical splendor of these two African nations. 

After leaving Nairobi, I was assaulted by the smell of eucalyptus on my way to Amboseli National Park where the 19,340 foot Mount Kilimanjaro could easily be seen in the background of the parades of animals. 

Although the wildlife inspires awe, you cannot dismiss the excitement of every day experiences with both the people and the ubiquitous creatures that surround you daily.

Leaving my tent on the second morning, I was shocked to find a family of baboons sitting just outside my tent. My presence didn’t seem to bother them in the least. I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the human like-face nestled in the pouch of the mother. 

I appreciated their patience as I photographed them on my way to meet a young woman from the Masai tribe. She, herself, had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 14 and sought to help young Masai girls escape the horror of this practice. 

After completing secondary school while living in the tribe, she found her way to college in Nairobi. Upon completing college, her mission became returning to her people to educate young girls of their choice. She works with an organization, Kobe Tough, that aims to help these young women who are brave enough to choose not to accept this cultural norm.

FGM is still a practice among most of the Masai tribe despite being illegal in Kenya since 2011. FGM is a brutal procedure which involves partially or completely removing the clitoris and sometimes the labia. 

It is performed without anesthetic or sterilization of the knives used in the procedure, and it marks a girl’s transition into womanhood and adulthood at the age of 14 to 15. This procedure also signals a girl is ready for marriage and considered virtuous. 

Keep in mind, Kenya and Tanzania allow men to contract polygamous marriages. Many men have five or more wives. FGM keeps women from seeking sexual fulfillment from other men and encourages them to remain dependent on their spouse for support. 

These girls and women become baby making machines, creating potential wealth for the husband. Female babies are a welcome commodity as the father can gain much through the dowries that are required for them.

The young woman I met with is on a crusade to educate young Masai girls, helping them to understand they can refuse this procedure and make different lives for themselves. Should the girls refuse to undergo the procedure, they risk being cast out from their tribe. 

This woman also tries to work with tribal leaders to stop the practice of FGM. That, in itself, is quite the feat since unmarried women (which she is) are not allowed to have private audiences with men. 

The organization, Kobe Tough, sets up housing, teaches trade skills, and provides educational opportunities for these young women who are kicked from their tribe. In Swahili, Kobe means turtle. She is teaching these women they can be as tough as the shell of the turtle. They can choose and survive on their own without having to mutilate themselves.

As we sat outside and talked in an open field by an outdoor tent café, my attention was, at times, diverted by wild zebras creeping up ever so close in curiosity at these two humans sitting in their territory.

There are many different tribes in both Kenya and Tanzania. Over 100. In both countries tribes may intermarry. All tribes still adhere to the tradition of a dowry being required in order to marry a young girl. The average rate for a bride is 10 cows. A lesser female might be 10 goats. So, if a man has many daughters, he can accumulate many cows (and/or goats) and become a wealthy man.

Each tribe has their own version of a homemade brew of banana beer. When a man wishes to marry a girl from a different tribe, he must bring a bucket of the homemade brew to the elders of the young woman’s tribe. 

The elders pass the bucket of brew around and discuss (in front of the potential groom) if he is worthy to marry the girl in their tribe. (I think that brew better be strong and good. We have no room to complain about our in-law issues!)

The Masai tribe is perhaps the most well-known tribe in those two African countries. They still follow the old way of life for the most part, living in dung mud houses with brush fences in open plains with wild animals. Their preference of clothing is easy to distinguish, preferring bright colors and shaved heads.

They make their own fires with with wood in friction with their machetes, cooking on open fires. In recent years, the government has made sure to build schools near Masai villages for the children to attend. 

The children are walked to and from school each day by the men of the village who fend off wild animals with fighting sticks and machetes. 

The men’s ears are pierced and gradually widened by larger pieces of stone as they exhibit more and more bravery. It’s an honor to have a large loop in the earlobe as in the photo above. Sometimes the loop hangs so low, it is looped over the upper ear.

At the age of nine, boys are often kicked out of their parents’ house and must build their own dung house. At the age of 27 all Masai men in the village receive tattoos made from the stick used in making fire. The circular marks are burned in patterns on the upper arms.

Overall, the beauty of the African people shines brightest in the eyes of their children. Their intense eyes and curious demeanor always brought a smile to my face.

Creativity exudes from these people of Kenya and Tanzania. From bead making to pottery to wood carving, their products were exquisite. 

I visited the gallery of an artist who teaches art to young Kenyans. The quality of the art was so astounding, I struggled to pick out pieces to bring home. Below is a photo of an original sketch I purchased by the artist, Malhumu.

Yet I always return to the magnificence of animal creation living in these nations. What an imagination the Creator had when assembling the mighty splendor of the elephant, the cunning of the hyena, the sleekness of the leopard and cheetah, the regality of the lion, the majesty of the buffalo, the ferocity of the hippo, the beauty of the zebra, the bizarre traits of the wildebeest, the humor of the wart hog, and the elegance of the giraffe and antelope. 

And these are only a few of the many wonderful creatures to see. From Amboseli National Park to the Ngorongoro Crater to Lake Victoria to the Masai Mara to the Serengeti, Kenya and Tanzania do not disappoint. 

The sunrises are brilliant and the sunsets are the stuff of movies.

And along the way I learned many other interesting tidbits. For instance, one morning I came across a wildebeest that had been killed by a lion. The lion ate all the meat of the wildebeest and left the entrails and organs for the scavengers. Hence, the term “lion’s share.” 

And I discovered all antelope breed for speed. The females make the males (who all have horns) chase them. Only the fastest males get to breed. Hence, the term “horny.”

You cannot help but be enthralled by the sights, smells, creatures, and people of these beautiful countries. So, if it is on your bucket list, “Sawa Sawa!” or “Let’s go!” Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Life is short. There is much to experience and much to learn.


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