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Dear James and Anel

I have been recording some of the daily happenings up here, which we will put into the journal that you gave Claire before we left. I thought you could print this out for some bedtime reading? We really miss you guys and look forward to seeing you soon.

Some anecdotes:

‘I had a truly awesome African afternoon last week! I was on my way to go photograph at the waterhole as per my daily routine, when suddenly the sun disappeared. I looked up, only to find enormous billows of smoke blocking the sun. This time of year, the Maasai burn everything they can, to produce a green flush for their cattle and for weeks now, we have seen these fires glowing on the horizon at night (a most beautiful sight)! The smoke seemed close enough and I decided to try drive to the fires. When I arrived, the flames were unbelievably huge, spewing ash high into the sky, not too mention the roaring and crackling! The grass stood taller than me and the fire seemed alive, as it devoured and raged impressively in an easterly direction. Out of the masses of smoke, a large herd of cattle appeared from the west, with two Maasai morans (warriors) trailing behind, spears in hand. The cattle were beautiful with long horns and traditional colouring, each scarred accordingly by its relevant owner. I offered the moran some water which they eagerly glugged down. It was a wonderful moment, standing on the hot dry rift floor on my own and in the middle of nowhere, with fires blazing and Maasai warriors disappearing into the distance with their spears resting over their shoulders. Full moon has subsequently been spectacular, with the smoke turning the moon blood red. The Maasai seem obsessed with the colour red so they too must be enjoying it!’

‘We realized this week, that we are indeed living in a remote and rural corner of Africa, when a Maasai friend we have, approached us for a loan. When enquiring as to what he needed the loan for, we were horrified when the interpreter explained that he wanted the loan to pay for the circumcision of his wife! This practice is still very prevalent amongst the Maasai, and speaking to them we have learnt that the act of female circumcision is an important right of passage for every Maasai woman. So much so, that the woman themselves have, in the past, protested to the Kenyan government outlawing the practice? Ideally, we feel that a new right of passage needs to be identified. We are however constantly reminded out here, that the western world, together with its ways and views, are not an accepted norm in Maasa-land! It is this exact and seeming lack of respect for the wazungu’s (white people’s) ways, that keeps the Maasai a separate and wonderfully unique culture! Introducing any change whatsoever must be very carefully thought about. Subsequently, our views of the world are constantly challenged out here and fortunately, although I have anthropological tendencies, my photography remains my focus. On a lighter note, another of our Maasai friends, only today, after six weeks, learnt the difference between Claire and Greg. Claire has actually been called Greg a good few times in Maasai-land!’

‘Life in East Africa is quite entertaining at times. This morning I had our head askari  or camp guard, request an urgent meeting? He came in with his team of local askaris who don't even speak Swahili but only Maa (the traditional language of the Maasai). He then proceeded in length (always in length out here), to explain that they need better weapons! I was not sure if he meant guns and ammunition and just when I was about to interject, he proceeded to tell me that he knows of someone in the next valley who makes ‘potent’ bows and arrows. I find it amusing that in this new millennium, there is a place on earth where people still see bows and arrows as powerful weapons! I granted him his request and we are now a little hesitant to answer the call of nature at night, in case we fall victim to an arrow in our buttocks?!’

‘We were woken early this morning by a leopard coughing outside our house, which incidentally has no walls and sits on top of the water tank. The feeling of freedom out here is immense! The wildlife is highly illusive as we are not inside a game reserve or park but simply on Maasai-owned community-land. Last week however, I tracked down a pride of 8 lion and although it was an average sighting by most standards, what makes it so incredibly special, is that these 8 lion are roaming free and wild amongst Maasai villages and without any fence keeping them here. How to photograph these cats still remains a mystery as they are unhabituated to a vehicle?’

‘Last night, I was woken up by what sounded like, in my half asleep state, the trickling sound of the water-tank overflowing. I remember thinking that I need to repair the valve in the morning and rolling over, I went back to sleep. About an hour later, we were woken by a similar but much louder sound? Lifting our heads off the pillows, we were flabbergasted to see a HUGE bush fire heading straight for camp! The fire was still a couple kilometers away but the sound of the crackling grass was horfically unbelievable! I hastily grabbed two aprons from the kitchen together with some kerosene and a box of matches and rounded up a team of askaris. We raced down the hill only to discover a fire with flames lapping 10-12 feet into the air! The major concern was that our camp has no fire-breaks and the thatch makutti roofs would burn down in seconds! The only thing to do in such circumstances (if anything), is to light a back-burn, the purpose of which is to burn a new fire towards the main fire. Great in theory but, the problem with back-burns is that they often back-fire, turning around and causing more damage than the original fire? So there I stood, with an apron dipped in kerosene and tied to a rake in one hand, and a box of matches in the other? Deciding to follow through on the back-burn idea, I lit the apron and dragged it through grass which being taller than me, meant that in no time at all, there were two huge fires roaring seemingly out of control. My Maasai helpers thought I had officially lost the plot and starring at the now - two massive fires, I could totally appreciate their skepticism! Thankfully it worked and the two fires met, extinguishing one another. The ordeal ended shortly after sunrise which incidently was one of the best sunrises we have experienced!’

All our love
Greg and Claire

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