Thursday, April 3, 2008

Masai Guide To Miserable London

The London Marathon takes place on April 13 this year. While that might not be overly exciting to you, it is likely very exciting for six Masai warriors from a remote village in Tanzania who will be running in the race as they try to raise money for water supplies back home. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Masai warriors, they live to the north along the Great Rift Valley. Anything else, you're on your own. It took me long enough just to figure that out for you.)

office worker And while you might be on your own, the Masai warriors are not, as some volunteers from the British charity Greenforce have compiled a four page guide to serve as a basic "Do's and Don'ts of Britain" entitled, "Visiting England - A Cultural Briefing." It is apparently intended to prepare the warriors for anything they might encounter within the culture of London, including the disgruntled English office worker.

The guide begins by stating that there will be a lot of people everywhere they go and that these people will always seem to be "rushing around". Given that they are there for a marathon, that should come as no shock to them. But the guide is apparently referring to the everyday person, one who is not running a ridiculously long distance for a ridiculously long period of time (even when not being chased by a bear.).

office workersIt continues by warning the Masai that "hunting lions will seem simple when compared with dealing with the English." (Nice. Does the Chamber of Commerce know about these guys? How about the Tourism Board?) "Even though some may look like they have a frown on their face, they are very friendly people - many of them just work in offices, jobs they don't enjoy, and so they do not smile as much as they should." Well, doesn't that just paint a lovely picture of what life is like in London?! A bunch of miserable people, rushing around to get back to being miserable at their miserable jobs that they hate. I'm sure the Masai are just clammoring to leave their village more often after gleaning that cultural nugget there.

The guide also delves into the importance of not relying on their conventional methods for telling time and keeping track of time while they are in London. "You cannot rely on the sun to tell the time accurately and will have to rely on clocks and watches. The sun will rise and set at different times." (At different times than what? I've never been to Tanzania, but I'm fairly certain the sun rises and sets at different times there, too!)

no spittingNext chapter, Manners! "Whereas at home for you it is acceptable to spit, in England it is not but, if you have to, you must do so in a sink or in some trees when no one is looking." (See, now I was expecting something about which one is the salad fork and which one is the dinner fork. Actually, I was kind of hoping for that; I always get confused.) Are the Masai big spitters? I'm assuming they must be if the Greenforce Welcome Wagon felt the need to address it, as to not get London all saliva-y. And as they are prone to do in the UK, Greenforce also chose to go below the belt by instructing the Masai "not seek out a tree or a bush when nature calls but to use the public conveniences." (OK, that one might confuse them. A tree of a bush is extremely convenient if you're a Tanzanian warrior who has to pee.)

They must be expecting some sort of crime spree during marathon or something, as they have also chosen to address the issue of how to deal with criminals. "If someone was to see a thief and chase after him and, when they catch him they hurt him, then the person who hurt the thief would go to prison as well as the thief." I find it amusing that it implies that after they catch the criminal, they hurt the criminal. So, none of the ol' Chase N' Beat whilst in London. Got it. What's next on the list? Did I hear livestock? Great!

sheepThe Masai are instructed to "not fall prey to their temptations to herd any sheep or cows" they might encounter. (Wow. London is extremely multi-faceted!) "You may see these animals in a field, seemingly left alone. It is important to remember that these animals are owned by someone and are being looked after." (I'd really like to know where they thought these guys were going to herd the sheep and/or cows to exactly.)

And while they can't herd other people's animals, they will be allowed to have their shields and sticks while running in the marathon (for the purpose of what they did not say). But they will not be allowed to brandish them when they are out sightseeing. There are limits in London.

But what about race day? Oh, that's covered, too, even though some of the participants may not be. The guide prepares the men for what could be "a shock" when they see what other runners are wearing. (OK, I'm thinking, since these guys are jungle warriors, that means things like "shoes". I don't recall ever seeing any warrior, anywhere, wearing Nikes. And if you thought that also, well, then we'd both be wrong.) "You will see many people who are wearing only small clothes and you will wonder why they are cold and may think they are being disrespectful." Now, while I am unfamiliar with what the traditional warrior-running-marathons-in-London garb is these days, I'd assume that it's not much more than the other runners are wearing. The guide makes it sounds as if these Masai people run around Tanzania hunting lions and spitting everywhere while they're wearing parkas and snow boots. But if you'll look at the picture below, you'll see that's not the case. I have a hard time believing that the London marathoners will be wearing less than the Masai warriors.
Maasai Warriors

And the guide does nothing to clear this up when it continues with,"This is normal for England, especially when it is sunny or in the evening. However, it is illegal to show certain parts of the body and for this reason it is important that you wear underpants if you are wearing your blankets." (And, actually, showing certain parts of your body, whether it's sunny, in the evening or illegal, is pretty normal for England as well.) But, seriously, what are the chances that someone whose attire of choice is a blanket is going to pair that blanket with underpants? Correct. None. Not a whole lot of Masai warriors out there prancing across the plains in tightie whities.

But here comes the good stuff...the after the race celebration. "Many people drink alcohol intavern England. (It's because they're so miserable at their lousy jobs, remember?) They do so at bars, at homes or at clubs (Really, anywhere they can. They're always drunk.) - the English equivalent to a Masai party. When people drink they [seem] sillier or different. I am sure you have seen it with the Greenforce volunteers." So, a bunch of drunken Greenforce guys writing the "Welcome to Miserable Drunken England Guide For Visitors". And another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

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