This is Frances. I think. To be honest, I can’t remember. It seems like there were two guys named Frances though, and I think he’s one of them. At least, that’s his anglicized name. I think …
ANYway … whatever his name is, this guy is awesome. He is a Maasai warrior. I met him on my first trip to Kenya with 100 Humanitarians. Once we got to the Maasai village that we visited, he took me out in the brush to show me how the Maasai people clean their teeth. Tooth brushes and toothpaste aren’t available anywhere within less than a few hours’ drive, so they do what they can. There’s a particular kind of tree from which they slice off a green twig with their razor-sharp machete, then they simply chew on it. They also kind of rub it around on the front surface of their teeth.
It isn’t terribly effective, but hey–it’s what they have to work with, so they make it work for them.
After that little demonstration, Frances showed me his machete. According to him, it was worth about $100 American dollars. I winced, but I really wanted one. In the end, he wanted me to buy the machete, his rungu (a dancing/battle stick… they’re awesome!), and a necklace for about $350. Now … I knew they weren’t worth that, but I didn’t know exactly what each was worth. I knew I couldn’t get all three at that cost. If I remember right, I ended up with the necklace for $45.
Funny story … my last name has become a verb for those who went on that trip and have gone on subsequent trips. If you got “McCabed,” you got ripped off. Hard. Like … laughably hard. I’m okay with that. It really is kind of funny.
Here’s the thing though: yah, I got taken. Is that Frances’ fault? No. Is it my fault? It certainly is, but in all honesty, I know what that money does for their tribe, their village, their families … and in that moment, I simply didn’t mind.
You have to remember that, in that area of the Mara, the villagers see “mzungus” literally every day. A mzungu is basically an outsider who’s easily duped. No, a simple soapstone carving of some elephant is not worth $50. It’s worth *maybe* $10 if it’s intricately painted.
I haven’t seen Frances in well over a year. I have a lot of love in my heart for him, his village, his family, his people … And I have his rungu tucked away in my box of Kenyan artifacts that I’ve picked up on my trips. When I pull out that stuff and look at it, I remember him. I remember Kenya. I remember the incredible experiences I had over there–the feelings of unfettered love for a people who I had never met, and knowing that that love was and is reciprocated on their end. In the interest of fairness, Frances’ job is to sell me stuff. He did that. The common villagers, though … their job is to simply *live*. Survive. When we come to their village and help them set up a garden box, or provide them a goat or cow, their joy and gratitude is ELECTRIC. I’ll talk about that in another blog post down the road.
I really miss Kenya. I can’t wait to get back over there and see my friends. I hope that you’ll come with me on one of our expeditions. I can tell you these stories and experiences all I want, and you can read them and think, “Oh. Well, that’s awesome!”, but I promise you … there is no way to adequately do justice to the experience using mere words. You *have* to be there. Literally.
Come play with us in Kenya. Join 100 Humanitarians. Change your life. Only then will any of this make sense in any kind of meaningful way. 🙂