This article was first published by our friends at Travel Off the Radar, who have agreed to its republication here. View the original article on their blog.
“Raw.” The simple, but evocative word Susan Fanning chooses to describe Africa. After spending a good chunk of her life on the continent (11 years), native Irishwoman Susan decided to return once again and continue her love affair with the country and its people. This time, she spent it within the Maasai community through a Maasai Warrior Training program put together by Laura Alessandrini and Silas Kitonga. Silas is a Maasai from Il ‘Ngwesi, the area where Maasai Warrior Training takes place. The eponymous Il ‘Ngwesi Lodge also happens to be the site of a documentary, Milk the Rhino, which focuses on community conservation by the Maasai.
“The Maasai show you a different way to live. They clearly define what is most important for them in life.” Laura and Silas began to envision what Maasai Warrior Training could be and what it would mean to the Maasai community, then Silas put together a team of warriors from the area. “The warriors present during the training are excellent spokesmen for their community, values, traditions and perspectives on the developing world. When you visit a normal lodge, the people are still restricted in how they interact, but the Maasai Warriors are extremely open and articulate.”
Although the training experience seems to emphasize certain hard skills to be learned, Susan explained the other side of the experience. “It gives you a chance to reflect on society and your own values. We can be extremely selfish in our approach to community, and we put our priorities ahead of others. When you look at the Maasai culture you learn how they truly practice equity. Everyone is provided for. We barbequed a goat on the last night of my stay and it was amazing to understand how the Maasai subsidize the goat between the community. For example the right hind leg might belong to the owners of the goat, the left hind leg for neighbors; there are specific parts for men, women and girls, circumcised and uncircumcised boys.”
The lessons continue to flow in as the Maasai teach you their traditional skills. When they protect themselves, the Maasai like to throw things: for example, they use a rungu, a short wooden stick to begin and then throw stones when they run out of sticks. Training also covers wrestling, archery, traditional medicine, identifying the parts that have healing properties. “The most interesting thing to learn was how the Maasai tracked animals.”
Guests are treated to a lush experience in a beautiful tented camp and feast on delicious food. Susan described the culmination of her stay with the Maasai: “On my last evening, the evening of the BBQ, I really had the chance to reflect. The Maasai are extremely musical, but the music and noise comes from within them. There was lots of jumping and body movement – it was all very hypnotic and relaxing. It put me in a place where I could get inside my head and pull it altogether.”
For more information about Maasai Warrior Training, visit www.bush-adventures.com. Check out some of the trips they have scheduled for December and ask about their Christmas and New Year specials or take a look at some of the new offerings for 2011 such as Endurance Training for Marathon Runners. Also, check out their listing on StepUp Travel, where you can find more photos, reviews, and other activities available in the area.