Arrival in the Mara!

Arrival in the Mara!

UPDATE!! (29 June 2011) We are fundraising CHICKENS for our Maasai family. We want to give them 500 chickens so they can sell the eggs for about $50/day … which means their entire village has enough income to survive on. Pretty good investment, at just $6/chicken. How many can you give?? Please PayPal your chicken money to jason@28page.com before the 4th of July holiday so that we can get to 500 and get our new family sustainable!!! Thanks!!    - Jason & April

Giraffe Manor

So yesterday was a dream, right? I mean … where else does one stay in a colonial mansion with amazing people, incredible service (like hot water bottles to warm our feet in bed), umm … and giraffes which come to the door to eat? Well … if yesterday felt like a dream, today even more so.

Giraffe eating at Giraffe Manor

Giraffe eating at Giraffe Manor

We experienced more giraffe heaven, feeding them at the door and out the window for breakfast. We enjoyed more incredible food … and we generally loved every moment at Giraffe Manor. There were so many fantastic pictures they won’t all fit in the text here … check them out below in the gallery.

Breakfast at Giraffe Manor

Breakfast at Giraffe Manor

With sadness, we left Giraffe Manor, promising ourselves that we somehow need to find a way to come back here … even if it was the most expensive (by far!!) place on The Wedding World Tour. We left to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where we giggled as we watched a bunch of baby elephants get filthy dirty and play in the mud. Oh, the joys of childhood!

Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

The Kenyan school children, dressed colorfully, loved it was well.

Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

And then … it was off to the airport, where we finally met Charles of Maridadi Safari, who was our amazing travel agent in coordinating many of the difficult details of a Maasai wedding. Many thanks, Charles!!!

Mahihu of Maridadi Safari in Nairobi, Kenya

bush plane in nairobi, kenya to Mara

We boarded an 18-seat Otter twin-engine bush plane. We flew low, and it was amazing to see Maasai villages as small circle below, and to see the left half of the Mara completely dry, and a massive storm off the right hand side of the plain, with flooding clearly evident … realizing that “we weren’t in Kansas anymore” … and quite literally anything could happen out here. As we landed, we saw a Maasai (and a TV crew from Kenya Broadcasting Corp) awaiting our plane … our excitement level jumped: was this Sammy, our kind and generous email friend whom we had been indirectly communicating with this whole time?

Maasai meeting bush plane in Masai Mara

As we greeted him, we instantly saw that he was an intriguing mix of modern and Maasai. A large silver watch and a cell phone merged with his traditional Maasai attire. “Call me Sekerot,” he said as the plane roared up the dirt runway and off to it’s next destination.

Maasai meeting bush plane in Masai Mara

We took a 2 hour game drive en route to Leganishu, the Maasai village which was soon to become our adoptive home in Africa. (In fact, we loved it so much and want all of our friends and family to travel there … so we built a website! We urge you to visit … it’s incredible!)

bird in masai mara or maasai mara

In those couple of hours, we saw wildlife that’s just incomprehensible to see wandering around in the States. Rainbow colored birds near wandering elephants next to sleeping lions … it’s all just normal in the Maasai Mara. And yet, it feels like it’s 1,000 years ago and humankind hasn’t overrun everything yet.

elephant in masai mara or maasai mara

lion in masai mara or maasai mara

We arrived far too late at our village, and the surprise of being met by various villages was somewhat ruined as much of our greeting party needed to go back to their own villages.

Maasai in the Masai Mara at wedding ceremony

We were surprised at how nice our accommodations were. We truly had no idea what to expect, and for that reason we kept our stay there short … which in retrospect, was a big mistake. Our manyatta (hut) was clean, had hot water and a standard toilet (!!), and we ate tasty and safe food.

We spent much of our time in the center communal hut, where we met our new  family members. At one point, I was asked to try on my Maasai clothing … and received a message: “Jason, your father would like to speak with you.” As this usually foretells a scolding, I was a bit nervous to see “Baba” (papa) Ole Mpetti, my newly adoptive father.

Maasai in Masai Mara doing traditional dance

I was brought into the tribal hall area, and several elders sat, swatting flies with their ceremonial whisks, looking sternly at me. I sat, and he looked intently in my eyes. After a burst of Maa — completely incomprehensible to me — and I awaited the translation of this deep, serious piece of advice.

“You must always feed your wife, so that she does not starve,” came the translation. Hmmm … not exactly what I was expecting … however, as both an indicator of cultural differences and as a metaphor, this has given me pause for thoughts many times since.

I learned further that “A man is not a man without a wife. And a man is not whole without children.” It was impactful, heartfelt, and honest … and I don’t feel that there’s any equivalent in our culture.

Maasai in Masai Mara doing traditional dance

This was followed by dancing and singing from April’s newly adopted “brothers” from her neighboring village. (April didn’t have any “official” duties that night.)  At all times I was accompanied by my best man, new brother, translator and planner of this entire wedding: Samuel Sekerot Ole Mpetti. He guided me through the rituals, and helped me at every turn. It would’ve literally been impossible to experience a Maasai event such as this without him — and as I learned later, this was the only non-Maasai wedding that any of them could remember in the past 15 years.

Maasai in the Masai Mara at wedding ceremony

We headed to bed, our heads reeling with an intense day, my stomach churning, and a large spider guarding our toilet all night … curious and ready for our Maasai wedding to come…