Game Drive and Beading with Maasai Mamas

Posted: October 4, 2012

Name: Georgia Macy
School: Scripps College
Major: Biological Sciences
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Kenya

Our second non-program day was much more mellow than the first, although that isn’t saying it wasn’t exciting. I was still up and out of the door by 8:00 am; we were on our way to do a game drive in a nearby sanctuary.  The most exciting part was seeing a herd of mother giraffes with their calves; I’m talking about maybe 4-5 baby giraffes. This was especially cool because I had just finished a research paper on the social behavior of giraffes, and here I was witnessing it first hand. These experiences remind me why I decided to undertake such an adventure.

As wonderful as our game drive was (a waterbuck posed for us, I swear!), the afternoon was absolutely superb. We had asked eight Maasai mamas to teach us how to bead, and I hadn’t actually thought about how the fact that I know four Kimaasai words could hinder my ability to learn beading. Fortunately, the woman teaching me kindly started my bracelet and was not shy about taking it from my clumsy, novice hands and correcting the pattern as she saw fit. It took me until the third section on my bracelet (a good hour; my legs were going numb from sitting on the concrete patio for so long) that I received the comment ‘mrembo’ (‘beautiful’ in Kiswahili – easy to remember because is sounds like ‘rainbow’). I smiled widely, said both ‘asante sana’ and ‘ashe’ (thank you very much and thank you in Kiswahili and Kimaasai, respectively).

By the end of 2.5 hours, I had made a bracelet, a pair of earrings, and a new friend. As soon as I finished the earrings, she pulled my hair back and put them in my ears, and I was nervously hoping that I wasn’t about to get a new piercing. Thankfully, they went in the normal lobe spot, and the mama kept pulling my hair back to show them off to various people taking pictures. Of course, she had no such problem with her shaved head and multitude of more complicated, beautiful, and bulky earrings and necklaces. It is amazing what people can create together, despite lacking a common language. Excuse me; I misspoke. It is amazing what people can create with the most basic communication – body language.