Whilst on holiday Corinne Hoffman fell in love with a Masai warrior. After overcoming all sorts of obstacles she moved into a tiny shack with him and his mother and spent four years in Kenya. Slowly but surely, the dream began to crumble. She eventually fled back home with her baby daughter.
From wild animals through starvation to ritual mutilation, this is a book steeped in humanity and one that tells a fascinating tale.
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The White Masai
By Corinne Hofmann
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Corinne Hofmann
All right reserved.
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, gawking. 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 Muslims, wrapped up in black robes. At long last we reach our hotel, the Africana Sea Lodge. It's a modern but traditional African-style development, our accommodation a little round house, cute and cozy. 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 off on the public bus to Mombasa, taking the Likoni ferry over for a spot of sightseeing. A Rasta runs past us, and I hear the whispered words: "Hashish, marijuana." Marco nodsand says in English: "Yes, yes, where we can make a deal?" After a quick conversation we're supposed to follow him. "Leave it, Marco, it's too dangerous!" I say, but he pays no attention. When we find ourselves in a deserted, dilapidated district, I want to call it off, but the man tells us to wait for him and disappears. I'm uneasy, and eventually Marco agrees we should go. We get out just in time before the Rasta turns up with a policeman. I'm furious and lose it with Marco: "Now do you see what might have happened?"
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 no better. Our first big disagreement, and it takes forever until we eventually catch a glimpse of the ferry. Hundreds of people with crates and chickens and crammed-full cardboard boxes are packed between lines of waiting cars. And all of them want to board the two-story ferry.
At long last we get on board, and then the unimaginable happens. Marco says, "Corinne, look, over there, on the other side, that's a Masai!" "Where?" I ask, and look where he's pointing. And then it's as if I've been struck by lightning. A tall, dark brown, beautiful 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 anyone I've ever seen.
He is wearing almost no clothes--just a short red loincloth--but lots of jewelry. 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 braided into thin braids, and his face is painted with symbols that extend right down onto his chest beneath two long necklaces of colored 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 depressed, You'll never see him again. The ferry will dock and chaos will break loose, people piling off onto buses and disappearing 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 out for that Masai, they steal from tourists." Right now I couldn't care less, all that's running through my mind is how I can 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.
The gangplank drops, and everybody starts squeezing between the cars already starting to drive off. All I can see of the Masai is his glistening back as he lithely vanishes amid the mass of ponderous heaving humanity. It's over, I think, on the brink of tears. Why I feel like that, I have no idea.
Once again terra firma is beneath our feet, and we push our way toward the buses. It's already dusk; in Kenya darkness falls within half an hour. In next to no time all the buses are jam-packed with people and parcels. We're standing there, clueless. Sure, we know the name of our hotel, but not which beach it is on. I prod Marco impatiently: "Go on, ask somebody! "Why don't I do it, he says, even though I've never been to Kenya before and don't speak English. I'm unhappy; my thoughts are with the Masai who has somehow lodged himself in my head.
In total darkness we stand there and argue. All the buses have gone, and then from behind us a deep voice says, "Hello!" We turn around simultaneously, and my heart skips a beat: it's "my" Masai! A full head taller than me, even though I'm almost six feet. He's looking at us and speaking a language that neither of us understands. My heart is palpitating, and I've gone weak at the knees. Marco meanwhile is trying to explain where we want to get to. "No problem," says the Masai, and he tells us to wait. For the next half hour I simply look at this beautiful human being. He hardly notices me, but Marco is getting annoyed: "What's got into you?" he wants to know. "I'm embarrassed the way you're staring so fixedly at this man. Pull yourself together, you're not yourself." The Masai stands beside us and doesn't say a word. I only know he's there by the silhouette of his long body and his smell, which is giving me an erotic charge.
Excerpted from The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann Copyright © 2006 by Corinne Hofmann. Excerpted by permission.
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