My new sister sent us an email awhile back relating our blog posts to receiving letters via snail mail back in the good ol’ days. For those of you traditionalists, then this must be great! (Although most people who love the Pony Express probably aren’t reading these new age blogs.) For everyone else, we’re sorry for the delay. Here’s a timeless post to make up for it.
A couple of our drivers in the Masai Mara National Reserve are native Masai warriors, so this morning one spoke about their culture. In general, I try not to lecture about stuff you could read on Wikipedia (today’s only reliable source for anything factual), but this was pretty interesting and I’ll keep it short and sweet anyway.
Unlike a Golden State Warrior in American culture, whose status is defined by the thickness of his beard (see: Baron Davis), a Masai warrior’s wealth is defined by how many cows he has, and thus how many women he can marry (for each wife he must negotiate a dowry of cows to pay the woman’s father). In fact, Masai warriors got the title of warrior because they will defend their herd of cows against even the fiercest predators.
[One story that was apparently in the news recently involved a Masai warrior successfully saving his cows from a lion attack, only to have both arms bloodied in the battle. Shortly after the fight, a pack of hyenas smelled the blood and attacked the warrior, eventually killing him.]
I’ll admit I’ve been living in my American bubble for the past 24 years, but it amazed me to see and talk to people from a culture where no one is measured by his wealth (wealth as defined by Donald Trump). This is not to say that Masai do not need money, but just that it is much less prevalent in their society (and usually when acquired, the money is spent on more cows).
Here are a few more interesting money-related tidbits that we’ve noticed while touring Africa:
Exchange rates: When a large safari truck stops almost anywhere on the roads here, people come up to its windows trying to sell things. I’m not really sure who buys things this way, but someone must otherwise I wouldn’t think the sellers would target temporarily stopped vehicles. At the border though, interspersed with these sellers are people wanting to help you exchange your money.
Using these people is just one of the many ways to exchange money here. In Uganda, for example, we saw the exchange rate vary from 2,050 Ugandan shillings per U.S. dollar to just over 1,400 Ugandan shillings per U.S. dollar. We’ve found that hands down the best way to get local currency is through ATMs and our Capital One card. If you don’t have one, make sure you know approximately what rate you should be getting, because even banks will rob you in this department if you’re not careful.
Grocery stores: Twice now in Africa Zhou and I have been buying something in the local Shop-Rite, when someone has encouraged us to try another similar product instead. The first time, we bit, and the Tropical Heat chips turned out to be very good, but the second time I realized what was going on, so I stuck with the Dairy Fresh warm chocolate milk I had chosen. Apparently food companies here in Africa send representatives to make sure the shelves of their product look good and also to convince customers to buy it. I don’t think grocery stores in America would go for that.
Taxi rates: As my cousin-in-law Jason told us before we left, always know the rate of your taxi ride before you get in the cab. One time our taxis were late (to the baby elephant orphanage), so we rushed into the cabs without negotiating a price first. What should have probably been a 2,000 Kenyan shilling ride there and back turned into a 4,800 shilling ride (split among 11 of us).
Visas: For future Kenyan travelers, we discovered that if you’re leaving Kenya to visit Uganda for a few days, you don’t need a $50 multiple entry Kenyan visa to return to the country. Instead, buy a $25 single entry visa – it works for the return trip into Kenya as well. Also, you can get your Kenyan visa at the border, despite what the embassy website may tell you. (You can do the same to get into Tanzania, and its visa only costs $100 instead of the stated $120 online.)
Puzzles for Postcards
Near the Serengeti Anagram
Animal Took Jim… Run!
Picture of the Day: Zhou looking extremely “babushka”