Monday, August 27, 2012

Africa and Its Wonderful People

I often write about the beauty of Africa and the amazing animals and scenery, but it's also the wonderful people of this continent that make it so memorable. At our camp, which is on Maasai land, we had Maasai guides who also served as bodyguards of sorts. If it's after sunset, they'd walk us to our tents, carrying their spears and a flashlight to illuminate the pathway. They were always there to greet us when we returned from our game viewing drives and would ask how our days went and what we saw. I'd honestly be hard pressed to find friendlier people anywhere in the world.

We had four Maasai drivers - Dominic, Henry, Jackson, and Wilson. They're so knowledgeable and can quickly point out animals hiding in bushes or in the tall grass. I love talking to them and learning more about their heritage, their customs, and their love of the land. Before leaving Austin, I made sure to download a Swahili app to learn a few phrases (although many speak English as well, plus other native languages). I learned the basic phrases, like "please," and "thank you," and "how are you today?" And of course the greeting "Jambo!"

The other people who worked at the camp included the cooks, the wait staff, the camp managers Toby and Maxine, and other Maasai who fulfilled various other duties around Entim. They were always extremely courteous and able to help in any way possible. I'm from the South and we consider ourselves to be very friendly and warm, but everyone I've spent time with in Africa has been equally nice and hospitable.

After returning from afternoon drives, we'd congregate around the fire with a drink in hand and share stories about our day, stories from back home, jokes, anything that came to mind. I was fortunate to be sharing this experience with a wonderful group of people from all around the world and it was wonderful to sit around a fire laughing at jokes or stories. By the time the trip was drawing to a close, we had all become good friends and were sorry to have to say goodbye. Maybe we'll meet up again one day in Africa. Fortunately, with Facebook and social networking, we've been able to locate each other, share our photos, and keep in touch.

The tents were on a double occupancy basis unless you wanted to pay extra to have your own tent. Another traveler was a female from Austin and although we didn't know each other prior to the trip, we shared a tent and had a great time swapping stories. The tents are, well, tents ... so you can hear each other at night when it's quiet. Bethany and I would return to our tent each evening and one thing or another would send us into gales of laughter; this seemed to be a nightly occurrence with us. We called ourselves the Two Hyenas because of our laughing bouts and silly antics.

The food was so good that Valerie and I had to go check out the chef's tent to see where he created all these dishes we enjoyed every day. I was surprised that it wasn't a large tent; it was actually smaller than the tent Bethany and I shared. But it had all the workings of a professional kitchen and they did a great job of keeping us well fed and happy. We even had steak one night, although it seemed to curse Bethany and me later that night in the tent which (of course) sent us off into more laughing fits.

If you left your tent after dark, as soon as you zipped up the flap one of the Maasai guards would magically appear in front of you. We found this humorous since they really seemed to appear from nowhere, even when we thought we were being as quiet as mice.

One night when walking on the pathway back to our tent after dinner, I looked down and saw these tiny little things glowing in the grass. Much like fireflies except they didn't fly but they did twinkle. They're little glowworms, about a centimeter long. One of the Maasai told me that they absorb the ultraviolet rays during the daytime. They were absolutely beautiful and yet another magical thing about Africa. Even the tiny glowworms were quite beautiful.

Me outside our tent

The female photographers in our group
L to R: Valerie, me, Susi, Vanessa and Bethany

David Lloyd, our tour leader posing with the camera equpment

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