I proudly clutch my Masai dancing stick. I earned it. I danced with the warriors. I’ve also paid for it.
The Masai welcome us warmly after the young chief deftly separates the dollars and shillings, counts the Canadian tribe, and counts the money, which then disappears under his red blanket. They have pockets under there?
The warriors dance for us, demonstrate the jumping contest springing high from a standstill, their long thin legs, wire springs. The men of our group are invited to compete. The warrior who jumps highest has the most girlfriends. The Canadian judged winner has a wife who says no girlfriends allowed. The Masai say never mind girlfriends; what about cows? Do we have cows in Canada? We do. Good. All cows belong to the Masai. They’ll be coming to Canada to claim their cows. All cows belong to the Masai.
I’m given a dancing stick and invited to join them. I do my best to imitate the steps and must have it right because now I’m wearing the lion skin hat. We circle under the blazing sun and others of the Canadian tribe are invited to join in. The warriors grin, shake our hands, and tell us to keep the dancing sticks.
We watch a demonstration of fire starting. “We don’t buy matches,” the warrior says. “They’re too dangerous. The children could start a fire and burn down the compound. Starting fires our way is very hard and the children can’t do it.”
It is hard. It involves sticks and spinning a wooden rod and a whole lot of discussion, and fetching of fresh sticks and more spinning and more discussion, but at last they are successful. We applaud and cheer.
We’re shown inside their homes, come back into the open, and suddenly we’re negotiating a price for the dancing sticks. Clever, clever Masai. We danced with the warriors. We’re not about to give up our dancing sticks. We pay. Have to admire their business acumen.