We bumped along a dusty road heading toward the hills, passing by the occasional Maasai boma and groups of women and children. Smiles and two-handed waves all around. When the little girls we passed saw that we were a Land Cruiser full of women being driven by a woman, their faces lit up and their welcome was even more enthusiastic.
You could feel their surprise and delight. It was a tangible thing!
Would any of them grow up to be like Grace and break from their restrictive social norms? Was Grace inspiring them to go their own way and chose for themselves, a different life?
Seeing their faces really brought home the full scope of the importance of what Grace was doing, just by being herself and doing what she loved. So.fucking.cool! And truly, a nice way to end the day. All day long our Grace had been shrugging off questions and dirty looks about what she was doing out ”there” with us, away from her family. “Who’s looking after your kids?!” ” What does your husband think of this?” It must have been so stressful for her. Yet she answered all queries in her quiet way and didn’t seem ruffled one bit. If I’d had to endure the stares and glares and questions and lectures the way she did…I probably wouldn’t have been so nice.
Isoitok Camp was unassuming from the outside. Completely fenced within a perimeter of acacia thorns was the most interesting place!
Isoitok means many stones and so stones are used liberally throughout the camp to form pathways and other much more interesting structures to honour that. It was so interesting and pleasing to the eye. We were greeted and seated and offered juice and hot towels while our genial host told us all we needed to know about our new home.
Isoitok Camp has a partnership with the Maasai communities surrounding the camp through its African Roots Foundation. How cool is that?! They use the foundation as a platform to run small-scale, sustainable projects that seek to help improve the daily life of the communities surrounding the camp.
We freshened up and met back at the main tent to watch the evening show which for us that night consisted of watching the sun set , accompanied by the soothing sound of cow bells as the Maasai led their cattle back home for the night. When people say “More cow bell” I think of something else entirely now 🙂
Dinner was bloody fantastic!
Avocado Salad & Stuffed Eggplant, Chicken stuffed w/ veg then battered and fried, Stuffed tomato to mimic the chicken, only the tomato was roasted and all caramelized , Vegetable Gratin and Cheesecake for dessert!
We sat under the stars and enjoyed a fire until bed. Bed being real beds in canvass tents. So cool!
We were up early the next morning to visit a Maasai family but first…
Coffee on my porch!
We spent the morning with a lovely family and were formally introduced to Maasai culture.
We visited with one of the wives in her boma and had fun asking questions and answering hers in return about our daily life. She was so open and welcoming to us, interested in our lives as we were hers. Of course we all admired her children, an older daughter – about 5 or 6 – and a baby girl, probably about one years old, who was the most beautiful child I’d ever seen in my life. She had the brightest eyes and the longest eyelashes. She made us all gasp with astonishment. We were welcomed to take photos and we took some from a distance but it still felt wrong, so we refrained from close-ups. (That subject is a whole other post!) But we didn’t have any problems cuddling her when her mum plopped her in our laps 🙂
It was an interesting experience. We were welcomed and the people we met were friendly and engaging. The money that comes from cultural tours help improve the lives of those in the community.
The idea of cultural tourism opened up questions for us about responsible tourism. This was a mild, gentle reciprocal experience. It felt respectful but we were still questioning ourselves and thinking about how tourism has an impact on the world around us…unknown to us at the time, even bigger questions, from an even bigger experience were just around the corner.
Up next, *Ngorongoro Crater.
( I totally spelled Ngorongoro right from memory. Go me! I’m so proud. )