Only when the healer takes my face in her hands and our noses are almost touching, I see: She has no eyes. Elias had mentioned that she was blind. But I assumed that she would inspect us with milky pupils - would see something in the fog that others would not see. But there are no pupils, and there is no fog. We sit on the floor of her wooden hut, through the walls of which the morning sun falls as if through bars, and as the healer uses her fingers to look for the pain in my jaw, I look into the pink slits under her eyelids. She mutters something.
"She asks if you've been beaten lately," Elias says. No, I say, no, not for a long time. The old woman keeps groping and my eyes wander from the caves in her face to the chain on her chest. On it hang two bronze-colored spirals. They look like big licorice snails, I think. Or like hypnotic gyros. Or like the shiny pair of eyes she lacks. The healer mumbles again.
"She wants to know if you've fallen recently," Elias says, smiling at me. We both think the same. Elias and I have only known each other for a week. We met at a lodge at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, where the Masai worked as a guide and driver and I checked in as a guest and reporter. I had the vague idea to learn about the culture of the Maasai. The lodge was built like one of their villages. The "Bomas", their round houses are called, towered like castles on the hills of the landscape, which was dug up like a giant mole. Everything in the lodge was in the tradition of the most famous ethnic group in Tanzania. The architecture as well as the program: Elias taught me how to throw a spear, how to put on the "shuka", the colorful garment of the Maasai, and how to kill a goat properly. You have to strangle them. This keeps the blood in the body. The 39-year-old knelt next to her open stomach like a leopard at the waterhole. When he had finished drinking, he handed me a cup of warm blood. It tasted salty.
One morning Elias asked if I wanted to visit him at home. He would soon submit his leave to travel at least once a month from the lodge to the city of Arusha, where four of his seven children went to school, to his home village and see the rest of the family. Normally he would take a motorbike taxi, but he would rather walk with me as he used to. Two day marches through the African Grabenbruch to his village. His name is Olchoro Onyokie. Red spring. Did I want to go with him? I was not sure. Of course, I wanted to know how the Maasai lived outside the lodge - what it looked like behind this backdrop of their culture. Besides, I firmly believe in never refusing spontaneous invitations on trips. In theory at least: Elias could have broken me in half. His hands were as big as shovels and his face when he was not laughing, so grim that he could have played the villain in any gangster movie. Luckily he often laughed. But I just did not know if I could trust him.
This article is from "Merian" issue no. 10/2019. © MERIAN
Then we had the accident. We were on a dead-straight gravel road when Elias lost control of the Land Rover. The car struck first to the left and then, as Elias countered, the more violently to the right, where the ditch lay. Elias hit the brakes, but it was too late: the Land Rover lurched over the edge, hung in the air for a fraction of a second, then turned sideways and plunged into the ditch. For a moment, only our quick breathing could be heard in the car. Then Elias asked, "Are you okay?" He asked twice before we released our straps and climbed out of the window. Who cares so much about you, I thought, with that you can run through the wilderness.
Of course Elias and I immediately think of our accident when the healer asks me if I fell. "Then I can not help you," she says, taking her hands off my face. "You have to go to the hospital." Elias and I thank you for your advice, leave as a payment a packet of sugar and a few thousand shillings at the old woman and leave as quickly as possible her hut.
Outside we start to laugh. I do not have to worry, says Elias. Although he wanted to show me the famous healer, for whom some Maasai are waiting for days, today at the very beginning of our journey - but he himself does not believe in their powers. Elias was treated by her right in front of me. Because he had no suffering, he invented abdominal pain. The healer dripped a little golden oil from an old fan bottle onto her hands and massaged his body. He's lucky to be alive, she said. A relative tried to poison him. The assassination had only failed because the jealous relatives had fortunately sex before the execution.