"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swiss Lady in Masai Territory

This is why I asked all those questions about marrying into another culture the other day.   (Thank you to all who commented!) I think I was still in disbelief about how this book ended, about the trouble Corinne encountered and how if what she wrote is true**, I could not have stayed either.  And although I get infatuated with other cultures and people from other countries pretty quickly, I don't believe I would have married someone like this in the first place.   I suppose my practical side is just too strong in some matters. 

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to read this book, this may tell you too much information.

The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann -- A Swiss lady goes to Kenya with her live-in boyfriend, sees a beautiful Masai warrior, realizes she's in love with this long, lean man, and decides to go back to Kenya with the goal of living there with him.  They don't even speak the same language!  As in, no common language because she knows very little English and neither does he. Forget his knowing German or her knowing his tribal language.

After reading the first chapter or two, I was laughing at myself for reading such a book, but I stuck it out. And it was pretty interesting.  I did enjoy the cultural aspects, and mentioning the Samburu was great since Andrew had his own experiences with them just last December when he went to South Horr.  In fact when they talked about a wedding ceremony, slaughtering goats, drinking the blood, and the circumcision ceremony, I had pictures and tales from Andrew's trip to help me visualize what Corinne experienced. 

By the way, Corinne refused the cliterodectomy when she had her marriage ceremony.  Her husband told the tribe that white women had that done as babies so Corinne wouldn't have to undergo this rite of passage. 

Some things I learned: warriors cannot eat meat that women prepare although they can drink tea - and they like it plenty sweet.  Masai don't kiss - the mouth is for eating.  Never ever ever use both hands while eating. Everyone will stop and a hush will come over the crowd as they stare at you for violating social norms.  When Corinne brought a brown baby doll to someone as a gift, the little girl ran away and even the grandmother recoiled in horror. "Is this really a dead baby?" they wondered.  This book showed how frustrating it is to own a vehicle in Kenya - or at that time anyway.  I remember Andrew speaking of how bad the roads were and how often tires needed changing. You just expect delays from flat tires when you go anywhere there, I suppose. 

I think the greatest lesson I learned from this book is to make sure of the other person before you invade his culture.  While I admire Corinne's sincere attempts to fit in, I was struck even more with how difficult cross cultural marriages can be - especially when there are such vast differences. (Or maybe her husband truly was crazy.)  There are sequels to this book so maybe things turned out better in the long run.

**  I realize, too, that I never got to hear the Masai warrior's point of view, his perspective since he didn't write a book.  I don't think he could have. He didn't know how to read or write much.


LK said...

That is a pretty extreme version of that situation though. Most people who do engage in multicultural relationships won't have an experience remotely close to that. Some will, but its a rare version of the situation. Its not a wonder that it didn't work out.

Susanne said...

Good point, LK! Most people who marry at the very least share a common language. Or I'd imagine so. :)

sanil said...

Sounds like a very interesting book!

Amber said...

Sounds interesting, but a really weird situation. For all the difficulties that exist in a cross cultural marriage, I expect that in the majority of them they at least speak the same language well enough to communicate or understand something about one anothers' cultures. Because, not having read the book, I assume that she didn't make any sort of study of Masai culture before falling in 'love at first sight' *rolls eyes* with the gorgeous specimen.

Susanne said...

Haha...Amber, not that I could tell. Really, it was a British translation of "the German" so maybe some things got lost in translation. Apparently this was made into a movie.

I have heard of people marrying who didn't know each other's language. I always thought that was super-strange, but I guess it happens.

Yes, I assume she didn't read up on Masai culture too much. She probably never thought she'd go to Kenya and fall in love with a warrior (especially since she was there on holiday with her Swiss boyfriend)..it just happened. Love at first sight, I suppose. :)

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

I can't even fathom that. I would never have been able to do that (maybe because I value conversation and debates very very highly).