The Masai women and girls, some with babies on their backs, form a line facing us and sing a welcome song. We line up opposite them and they pass by, greeting us one by one with a palm to palm gesture.
The third from last is a girl with sparkling eyes and a warm happy smile. She grabs my hand and leads me into their line. I see my fellow Canadians similarly led into the circle and we’re dancing again.
“Your name?” the young girl asks when the song ends. She’s lively and lovely despite the shabbiness of her clothes, the sores around her eyes, and the flies hovering.
“Darlene,” I say. “What’s your name?”
“Me Mary,” she says, clasps my hand in both of hers, and leads me to the village market behind the compound. A semi-circle of tables made of sticks lashed together and filled in with cow dung are covered with goods to sell. Mary leads me to her table
I pick up a beaded bracelet. Before I can blink, Mary whips a similar one off her arm and puts it on my wrist. A gift? What a sweetheart, I think. Seconds later both my wrists are adorned with bracelets.
“How much?” I ask. Mary points to each bracelet naming her price–five dollars. The old one from her wrist–the gift–is the most expensive. She wants ten dollars for that one.
Hadn’t I learned my lesson from the dancing stick? “Mary,” I protest.
“My friend,” she says with a gleam in her eye. Again she grasps my hand in both of hers. We negotiate. Mary smiles, calls me her friend over and over again, and doesn’t once let go of my hand while she offers more and more bracelets. She’s on to me.
I hold out twenty dollars for five bracelets. She wants twenty-five. “Mary, my friend,” I protest again. Maybe she’ll relent. After all, we are friends. She smiles. Her eyes twinkle. How can I resist? I pay the twenty-five dollars. I buy key chains, necklaces, more bracelets. Seventy-five dollars later—the warriors have nothing on Mary, my Masai friend—I say my last farewell. Mary waves wildly from behind her table. I depart reluctantly, pockets bulging with my purchases, dancing stick clutched in my hand, and a warm glow in my heart.