'Jabbing, Whacking, Jabbing, Whacking, Yelling, Jabbing... That Was It For A Solid 15 Minutes'

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By Brittney Bennett

Back in 2009 my best friend and I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya where we spent a month volunteering in a HIV/AIDS program; we lived in a slum, saw some pretty heart wrenching situations, but most importantly got invited to a real-life Kenyan wedding within the first few days of our arrival.

Margaret was our host in Lenana, an urban slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, and it was her nephew who was getting hitched. Margaret insisted we join in on the day of festivities, and of course it would have been rude not to.

Being the *only* Caucasian girls within a 20 kilometer radius I don't think I need to explain how much we stuck out in Lenana, let alone at the wedding.

Anyways, in our volunteer orientation training we were specifically told that Mzungus (white people) should not take photos of people in Kenya without first asking permission; this is due to the fact that some people believe that a photo will capture their soul, but it is also just an act of respect. We understood and appreciated this, took it on board, but did not think the same would apply to animals...we were wrong.

For whatever reason, on that day, we decided we needed to take photos of the cows. As you do.

After enjoying a seriously awesome and cultural day at the wedding it was time for us to head back home. As we were walking down a dirt side road to catch our lift we saw a herd of cows coming towards us. Behind them was a Masai man, keeping them in line with a very large tree branch. I will call this 'the stick' going forward for dramatic purposes. The Masai man has also since been dubbed 'Frank' for comedic relief.

Both Denise and I are Canadian, and as a caveat to this story we have cows in Canada, lots of cows. Granted they do not freely roam the streets, but they are there nonetheless. But for whatever reason, on that day, we decided we needed to take photos of the cows. As you do.

Frank saw this going on and instantly made a beeline for my poor mate Denise. He first started demanding money... after all the cows are his property and he was not pleased that we had taken photos of them. Understandable.

We were told by the Kenyans we were with not to give him any money, though, as he would just keep asking for more and more. And to be fair the only money I had was the 20 cents for the ride home. After he didn't get any dolla bills out of us, he started demanding Denise's camera.

Again, we said no.

Frank was yelling so loud that people who lived nearby started walking towards us to see what the hell these white girls were doing.

Things escalated very quickly, and next minute Frank was aggressively jabbing Denise in the chest with 'the stick', yelling even louder. The jabs were interrupted briefly when he would smash the stick against the ground, but would quickly go back to jabbing her in the chest again. Jabbing, whacking, jabbing, whacking, yelling, jabbing... that was the gist of it for a solid 15 minutes.

I stood there with my head down, heart pounding, and thinking about what my parents will say when they are told I got beaten to death by a Masai man on a road in Kenya... Frank was yelling so loud that people who lived nearby started walking towards us to see what the hell these white girls were doing.

People then tried to lie to him saying they were police, which made him even angrier.

I don't even know how we ended up escaping his wrath...I like to think Denise told him where to go and how to get there but what likely happened is we were herded off, just like the cows, towards our lift by Maggie and her mates. We were both so grateful they were there.

It took a solid three hours for us to calm down after our Frank incident, and we both learnt a hard life lesson that day: do not take photos of cows.

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Written By

Aidan Coughlan

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