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I regretfully didn’t write down any of their names, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the community I met that day. I doubt I will ever forget them. I had originally journeyed to Kenya to see the annual wildebeest migration, and as magnificent as that was, it turned out to be four friends, their cattle, and a small circle of mud huts that stole my heart. When friends ask to see photos of my African trip, they expect to see wild game and savannas; I always pull out a candid shot of four smiling warriors in red plaid blankets.
When I first arrived at the remote Maasai village outside Nairobi several years ago, I was met by a small group of four men. They were close friends, and like many close friends, there is much that they share. As members of this pastoral tribe of southern Kenya, these traditional nomadic herdsmen lead lives that have remained unchanged for centuries.
Tall, thin, and elegant, the Maasai uniformly possess impeccable manners and perfectly articulated English. Yet there is also a cool and almost detached manner in their bearing. Some would call it pride; others might see it as indifference. But it really comes down to perpetually living in the moment. An often-repeated tale about the Maasai is that if they are imprisoned, they will die because they assume the condition is permanent. Their native language, Maa, attests to this perspective. They routinely speak in the present tense which translates to such habitual actions as “I wake up” or “I cook breakfast.” Past tense refers only to a past action, not to a specific time or place.