Me: That was a lot of lions roaring outside the tent last night.
Salaash: It's okay. You don't have to be afraid of roaring lions, because they only roar when they have caught food. A lion that is hunting you makes no noise.
Me: So whenever I DON'T hear lions roaring, THAT'S when I should be afraid?
Salaash <patiently, like I am a toddler>: No, because I told you NOT to be afraid of lions.
Note: Usually, "don't be afraid" means "there is nothing to be afraid of". As in, lions-don't-kill-people. Except that they do kill people, but according to Salaash they only kill people who look afraid, so "don't be afraid" actually has an entirely different meaning from what you'd think.
Salaash's plan is that if I would just stop being afraid of the lions, I would be fine.
This plan has problematic corollaries.
His monkey advice is similar. “If you are afraid of them they will bite you really, really hard” just might be THE LEAST HELPFUL ANTI-ANXIETY ADVICE IN THE HISTORY OF TIME.
Team afraid-of-nothing-Maasai has been bolstered with the addition of Lanoi-Charity, who works for the Oltumo project (which is the actual reason I am here). You can tell that Salaash and Lanoi come from the same culture because she says things like "Oh! A Leopard! They say that if you see a Leopard, you will be lucky!"
She said that right before the Leopard tried to attack us.
Well, there is some debate about whether it actually tried, but I have photographic proof of said leopard attack.
You can see it bearing it's teeth menacingly, which Lanoi described as "yawning". I said it looked like it was about to kill us. She said it looked sleepy.
Me: I do not understand how you guys are not TERRIFIED OF BEING EATEN ALL THE TIME.
Lanoi and Salaash exchange glances and shrug.
Growing up as a Maasai warrior, Salaash has fought all kinds of things. In his village, coming of age involves a ritual in which a few teenage boys head out together and have to kill a lion with “spears” that are basically sharp sticks.
In my home community, coming of age involves going to meetings and writing personal credo statements.
Me: Don’t people DIE fighting the lions?
Lanoi: Not usually.
Me: Not usually?
Salaash: I know a guy who died, and another who was mauled. But that hardly ever happens.
Me: “Hardly ever happens?” How is that good enough? Why doesn't everyone come together and say it is not okay, and the culture must be changed?
Salaash: White people always ask that.
Me <makes “ya’ think?” face>
Salaash: Then they go home and get in cars and drive really fast and a bunch of them die in car accidents.
Me: That is a fair point.
Salaash: Yes. I know.
Note: By "awkward silence" I actually mean "Kenyan awkward silence" which is actually “silence that means that maybe lions are hunting me RIGHT NOW”.
Then, he said something about guns in the US, but I did not engage. I came to rural Africa in part to AVOID American politics. I felt that in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mud huts would finally be where news of Donald Trump could not reach me.
For the first week, I knew the utter bliss of being surrounded exclusively by people who couldn't care less about that guy.
The second week, I started hearing Swahili phrases punctuated with the word "sh*thole".
It was so strange to read about that description while surrounded with the reality of Maasai Mara. Laughing women, hanging brightly coloured laundry in the sun, as kids played at their feet.