Sarah Gold

7 of 9

Game
scouting with Issa at the wheel feels a little like riding with a brand-new
stick-shift driver: there are a lot of abrupt lurches and shuddering stops. It
takes a while before I figure out that Issa, who is piloting the car forward
but craning his heavily beaded neck out the side window, is tracking. When he
sees something—the cloven hoofprint of a giraffe, a kudu-shaped depression in
the dirt, a freshly laid turd—the jeep bucks to a halt. Once he’s assessed the
situation, off we go again in herky-jerky pursuit.

I’ve
grown fond of Issa over the past couple days. Yesterday, he’d taken a group of
guests to visit a local Masai village, which included a look into the homes of
Shompole’s part owners. I had ducked through the baked-mud doorway of a hut and
into thick, smoky darkness, lit only by embers of the hut’s fire pit.
Encouraged to sit on the occupants’ bed (a straw pallet covered in cowhides), I
had listened as Issa pointed out where everyone—including the goats—slept.

Earlier
this morning, he’d accompanied another group of us on a bush walk, along a dry
riverbed shaded by fig trees. On the way, he’d imparted traditional bush
medicine tips—how certain brewed plants could treat dysentery; how the
pulverized bark from a particular tree drew poison from a snakebite. But he’d also
talked at length about his own personal life: about his one wife and two
girlfriends (Masai men are polygamous); about what men in his village bartered
in order to marry (cows, blankets, and, in his own case, a jug of home-brewed
liquor). Most unsettlingly, he’d spoken about how Masai women (or “mamas”) are
customarily treated as beasts of burden.

“Our
women, they have no rights,” Issa had said, a little sheepishly. “They build
our houses, raise our children, fetch wood and water. But they make no decisions.
That is for the men.

“This is
changing,” he’d said. “But it will take a long time, because it is in our
culture.”

Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

Game
scouting with Issa at the wheel feels a little like riding with a brand-new
stick-shift driver: there are a lot of abrupt lurches and shuddering stops. It
takes a while before I figure out that Issa, who is piloting the car forward
but craning his heavily beaded neck out the side window, is tracking. When he
sees something—the cloven hoofprint of a giraffe, a kudu-shaped depression in
the dirt, a freshly laid turd—the jeep bucks to a halt. Once he’s assessed the
situation, off we go again in herky-jerky pursuit.

I’ve
grown fond of Issa over the past couple days. Yesterday, he’d taken a group of
guests to visit a local Masai village, which included a look into the homes of
Shompole’s part owners. I had ducked through the baked-mud doorway of a hut and
into thick, smoky darkness, lit only by embers of the hut’s fire pit.
Encouraged to sit on the occupants’ bed (a straw pallet covered in cowhides), I
had listened as Issa pointed out where everyone—including the goats—slept.

Earlier
this morning, he’d accompanied another group of us on a bush walk, along a dry
riverbed shaded by fig trees. On the way, he’d imparted traditional bush
medicine tips—how certain brewed plants could treat dysentery; how the
pulverized bark from a particular tree drew poison from a snakebite. But he’d also
talked at length about his own personal life: about his one wife and two
girlfriends (Masai men are polygamous); about what men in his village bartered
in order to marry (cows, blankets, and, in his own case, a jug of home-brewed
liquor). Most unsettlingly, he’d spoken about how Masai women (or “mamas”) are
customarily treated as beasts of burden.

“Our
women, they have no rights,” Issa had said, a little sheepishly. “They build
our houses, raise our children, fetch wood and water. But they make no decisions.
That is for the men.

“This is
changing,” he’d said. “But it will take a long time, because it is in our
culture.”

Sarah Gold

Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge

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