The White Masai – extract

Arrival in Kenya

Wonderful warm tropical air embraces us the minute we land at Mombasa airport and already I feel in my bones that this is my country: I’m going to be at home here. The extraordinary atmosphere works its magic only on me, however. My boyfriend Marco’s comment is more succinct: “This place stinks!” After customs control a safari bus takes us to our hotel. Mombasa is on a peninsula and we have to take a ferry across a river to the southern bank. It’s hot. We sit in the bus, gawping. Right now I have no idea that in three days’ time this ferry will change my entire life, turn it upside down. On the other side of the river we drive for another hour along rural roads through little settlements. Most women sitting outside their simple huts seem to be Moslems, wrapped up in black robes. At long last we reach the hotel, the Africa Sea Lodge. It’s a modern but traditional African-style development, our accommodation a little roundhouse, cute and cosy. Our first visit to the beach only amplifies my overwhelming impression: this is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. I could live here. Two days later we’ve settled in and are ready to set out off our own bat on the public bus to Mombasa taking the Likoni ferry over for a spot of sightseeing…

By now it’s late afternoon, time to go home. But which way is home? I have no idea how to get to the ferry and Marco is every bit as useless. Before long we’re having our first big row and then it takes forever before we get where we’re supposed to be going and catch sight of the ferry: hundreds of people with crates and chickens and crammed-full cardboard boxes packed between lines of waiting cars. And all of them want on to the two-storey ferry. At long last we get on board, and then something incomprehensible happens. Marco says, “Corinne, look, over there, on the other side, that’s a Masai!” “Where?” I ask and look where he’s pointing. It’s as if I’ve been struck by lightning. A tall, dark brown, extremely handsome, exotic man lounging on the quayside looking at us, the only white people in this throng, with dark eyes. My God, he’s beautiful, more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen. He is wearing almost no clothes – just a short red loincloth – but lots of jewellery and body paint. On his forehead is a large mother of pearl button with lots of little bright pearls, the whole thing glittering. His long red hair has been plaited into thin braids and his face is painted with symbols that extend right down onto his chest beneath two long necklaces of coloured pearls. On each wrist he wears several bracelets. His face is so elegantly proportioned that it could almost be that of a woman. But the way he holds himself, the proud look and wiry muscular build betray his undoubted masculinity. I can’t take my eyes off him; sitting there in the last rays of the sinking sun he looks like a young god. Five minutes from now, I think to myself suddenly deeply depressed, this man will disappear forever. The ferry will dock and chaos will break loose, people piling off, onto buses and shooting off in every conceivable direction. All of a sudden my heart feels like lead and I find it hard to breathe. And next to me Marco of all things says: “.. we ought to watch that Masai, they steal from tourists.” Right now I couldn’t care less, only one thing’s running through my head: how can I make contact with this breathtakingly beautiful man? I don’t speak any English and just staring at him isn’t going to get me anywhere. (Translated by Peter Millar)

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The White Masai – extract

Updated on 2015-06-25T14:06:02+00:00, by Corinne Hofmann.