I had been in Kenya for only a few days when I found myself surrounded by 11 Maasai tribesmen, the golden grass of the savanna under our feet, waiting for lunch. The men were tall and lean, and dressed in traditional red shukas (sashes); some wore intricate bead bracelets and amulets around their necks. Their village of mud huts with thatched roofs was off in the distance. Lunch was the whole shoulder of a recently killed lamb, roasting, spit-style, on a branch. After a time, the warriors started pulling off chunks of meat and handing them to me. There was a language barrier, so we just smiled at each other and chewed. The texture of the lamb was perfect, with crispy skin and tender meat. But to be honest, it really needed salt.
I wasn't about to give them my culinary criticism, though, because these guys are totally hard-core. Never colonized by the Europeans, the Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe who live in the sweeping savannas of Kenya and Tanzania, guarding their herds of cattle, sheep and goats from lions. Their preferred drink is cow's blood mixed with milk. So you can see why I held my tongue.
Jonathan, a Maasai tribesman. © Lisa Linder.
I had come to their landthe 373,00-acre Maasai Mara game preserve, just north of the Serengetibecause I was hoping to learn from them. You see, I have goats myself. I also raise chickens, rabbits, vegetables and bees on a tenth of an acre in a gritty part of Oakland, California. But now I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I'm a city girl familiar with street thugs, not lions.