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Posts Tagged ‘kenya

Spoiler Alert: I’m going to talk about the book, The White Masai (by Corinne Hofmann), and how it ends. Read ahead at your own risk.

I had picked up ‘The White Masai‘ after hearing about it on a trip to Kenya. I didn’t know much about it except for that it was a true story about a Swiss woman who fell in love with a Masai warrior and moved to Kenya to be with him (in the late 1980s). I’ve had the book on loan from the library for more than a month. I kept renewing it because I wasn’t in the mood to read a love story about two cultures and how they made it work against all odds and I didn’t want to feel worse about not being able to make my own intercultural relationships work and blah blah blah.

I started reading while I sat at the Toyota dealer on Saturday and didn’t super enjoy the first half. It was a good book, but I think there was just so much of her life that could’ve been explored more, although I guess they couldn’t make it a 1000 pages. Anyway, she met the warrior while she was on vacation with her then boyfriend and felt this instant connection for the Masai. SO MUCH THAT SHE LEFT HER LIFE IN SWITZERLAND.  FOR A GUY. THAT SHE KNEW FOR A FEW DAYS. AND COULDN’T TALK TO BECAUSE NEITHER SPOKE ENGLISH! (They communicated through broken English and signs.)

Most people probably read that and thought ‘how romantic’ – I, jaded and bitter, read that and thought “how insane is this woman?” So to recap the first few chapters: they don’t speak the same language, they don’t really know each other and she abandoned her life to move to the bush to be with him. Except first she had to find him as he’d left Mombasa, so she searched for him in Kenya for THREE FUCKING MONTHS.   Seriously, at no point did she think she should just go home?!?!?

She found him and lived the life of Masai wife – no electricity, no running water, the only muzungu for miles and miles. They lived off her earnings. She had hepatitis and malaria, both while pregnant.  They barely had any money, but she started a few businesses. Then he started getting suspicious of her, thinking she was unfaithful, thinking she was lying all the time, telling her to ask her family for more and more money so they could live.

By the time I got to this point of the story, I was so curious to see what she did… how could she live with someone who didn’t ever trust her? Who thought it was ok to circumcise their baby girl (they didn’t though)? Who thought it was ok to have multiple wives? Whose life was so different from hers, even though they lived in the same hut?

I was sitting in my car, parked in front of the library, car off because I thought I’d skim the last few chapters in a few minutes. Don’t ask why I didn’t just go in – I’m a dummy. So with sweat running down my neck, door open for a breeze, I actually read the rest of the book — SHE LEFT HIM! SHE TOOK THE BABY BACK TO SWITZERLAND AND LEFT HIM!!!

Which, let’s face it, was the best decision possible but that’s not the ending I was expecting. I thought I’d be reading about how they were raising multiple children in the bush, all happy and together. Nope. Totally not. And to clarify a bit – she basically abducted her daughter. She told him she was going for a 3 week vacation knowing full well she was never coming back.

From what I looked up online, there are 2 sequel books, and she has since taken her daughter back to Kenya and she (the daughter) has a good relationship with her father and his family, which is great. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to read the books though, because for some reason they’re in the ‘Reference’ section at the library. Which… why? Why can I check out the first one, but not the others? Weird.

Anyway, she didn’t regret what she did, which is amazing. She holds nothing but fond memories of him and her life there.

I don’t think it’s possible to question someone else’s love or their story – unless you can feel exactly what they feel, there’s no way to say it wasn’t legitimate. But having said that, it did seem to me that it was LUST that drove her fucking crazy, not necessarily love. She hadn’t really talked to him, she just knew she wanted to be with him.  That’s not a bad thing at all – but she left everything, including her livelihood, to hunt him down to be with him? With no idea of what it would be like?  With no guarantee that he wouldn’t have moved on with someone else?

Just… What.The.Fuck.

(update: Found this post just now and the comments sum up pretty much how I feel too!)

Kenyan people are really nice and really chatty.  It makes for fun trips when you’re in the car for hours stuck in traffic and driving to clinic.

Yesterday, during lunch, the delivery person brought watermelon as dessert, which got one of our colleagues telling us about how watermelon is nature’s viagra. This led to some heated discussion on if this is true, and according to him, it very much is and eating too much watermelon can cause ‘twitching.’  We had the giggles all through lunch. But! Obviously, if nature creates a ‘pick-me-up’ it also has to have the opposite, right? Yin and yang…. so we then learned that papaya is the antidote as it’s a depressant! So apparently, if you don’t want any unintended twitching, you should always serve papaya and watermelon together. Which… gross.

Mind you, this was all in the same conversation as the world ending in 2012, UFOs landing in Kenya millions of years back and how we should have magnetic flying cars by now.  But for hours we discussed fruit and its effects on the male libido (male only, of course).  One of our other coworkers (we’ll call him E) quietly said, “Well, papaya’s out of my budget now.” And again, we all giggled and asked if it’d been replaced with watermelon. He said yes, but he didn’t want to eat anymore at that moment. (This entire conversation in the States would’ve ended with a sexual harassment lawsuit…)

We stopped at a true farmer’s market on the way back to Nairobi, where the women (and men) come running with their fruits and veggies to sell, right at your car, straight from the farms. We all decided we would not be buying any papaya that day, especially E. As he said, he “still needs a photocopy of myself” (i.e., he needs a child)…

Here’s the other thing I’ve learned in Kenya. People will throw their wares at you, hoping to trick you into buying them. This happened with the Masai women on our way into the Mara for safari: they leaned into the car, put bracelets on our wrists and then we got asked to pay for them. Um… no. It happened again at the market. I turned to look to the window and all of a sudden, E was just holding a single, random banana, looking around, trying to give it back to its rightful owner. But they didn’t want it! It was in his hands, so it was his… he just had to pay for it. Finally, the older woman took her banana back after he explained he had no need to buy that single one or the whole bunch. Have you ever watched someone try to find the owner of a lonely banana and people avoid eye contact so as not to admit it was their’s? I never thought I would… but I have now. Awesome.

Kenya makes me laugh, a lot. I love it here.

I’m in Africa for work… it’s not as hard as everyone thinks. Five star hotels, getting driven around, a daily per-diem that is completely unspendable, and drinks at the pool nightly. Yup, not hard.

I* love* it here. I love the heat, the crowds, the traffic, the bad driving, the near-death misses, the utter chaos all the time, the kids who yell “How are you??” and then giggle cause that’s the only English they know… I love it all. I would move in heart-beat if I could. I should’ve moved years ago and I let that chance slip by, but I have been lucky enough to keep traveling here.

The work I’m doing is different this time – instead of sitting in the headquarters office, usually air-conditioned and with electricity, this time we’re traveling to the clinics. And that means seeing the poverty and the sadness up-close. We were at a clinic in Tanzania that hadn’t used their generators in a few weeks because they were running low on fuel. We showed up with our laptops to do some chart reviews and capture data, and they ran the generators for us… I felt like such an asshole. We told them not to, but they insisted because we were guests. Foreign guests from America, who deserved electricity more than the patients.

In both Kenya and Tanzania, we’ve met with the HIV+ staff… and it’s awesome how healthy they are, and happy. They have all said how much they’ve appreciated this project and how it’s given them confidence to be happy and disclose their status and how their CD4 counts are higher than they’ve ever been. I almost cried when they talked about how much this study has given them personally in terms of being healthier and having safer pregnancies and how they can live the life they want to live without fear. I can’t take any credit for that – I came into this project at the end, but it’s been awesome to see how they thrive, and it’s been a great reminder of  exactly why public health is so important and why we do the work we do.

 

 

 


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