Dennis came back from his vacation today, just in time to kick additional energy into summer camp. He may be our wildlife program officer, but he’s also the most friendly and outgoing member of the AWF staff. He got the kids riled up with his dancing and games.
The escari (guards) heard the hubbub and the music and came to investigate, it wasn’t long before the Maasai started to show off for us by dancing the adumu. I’m not yet totally clear on the context, but apparently as a way to flirt and show off their fitness, the warriors will perform these fantastic leaps into the air while the others around him create a low, rhythmic, chant. They will jump a few times into the air, gaining height each time, and then land with a loud thud. Each one has a unique jumping style - some kick out a foot in the air, another will leap from a wide stance. They end by running directly at the woman of their choice, veering off only at the very last second. The women, in the meantime, usually are wearing their enormous necklaces of beads and as one of the girls demonstrated, will sing back to the men and vibrate their shoulders very quickly while the men perform their leaps. The feeling of standing with a group of women, being faced by a wall of chanting men who were vying for our attentions, is one I won’t soon forget. This flirting is not subtle! Christy asked me later, “how many times did you get married tonight?” and I told her, “I didn’t get any cows, so I’m going to say 0.” As I walked back to my tent at night, I reflected on the fact that I was much more comfortable with the nuanced rituals of western courtship!
The rest of my day was spent reading “Imposing Wilderness,” which is a book by Roderick P. Neumann on the rise of the Western civilizations concept of nature, and how that concept has shaped the way that colonizers such as Germany and Britain, and later western NGOs, approached national park creation in Tanzania. He talks as well about the ongoing effects of national park conservation on the ability of local people, especially those living adjacent to parks, to pursue traditional livelihoods. It is eye opening and fascinating – especially for someone who for many years has been just as enthralled with the portrayal of the Serengeti National Park that nature shows perpetuate. I have been lucky enough to borrow Laly’s copy, and seeing her margin notes has made me especially mindful of why APW has been so successful here in Loibor Siret. I believe that this organization exhibits a unique sensitivity to the community that it serves, and in doing so, is able to do more for long-term wildlife conservation than most others.
This has been an eye-opening day. Now, I sit in my tent and listen to the crickets outside. These past night I’ve woken again and again to the moon’s ragged traverse. Tonight it floats orange in a blurry night sky, like a slice of pumpkin. The hyenas’ whooping carries into a sky.