The goat stood in the office compound, loosely tethered to a post. It was a bright and warm Sunday the day I arrived at Loliondo, my mind crammed full with images of Serengeti wildlife, and the wandering Maasai tribes herding their cattle.
A Maasai man’s wealth and position in the community is measured by the number of cows he possesses – not goats.
A pet, I thought. Bit like having an office cat or dog. I shrugged - Sunday was not a working day - and my driver, having parked the Land Cruiser wanted his free time also, so we walked the hundred metres to where I was booked in for the week.
Couldn’t call it a hotel, or even a hostel – the dingy room more akin to a prison cell, but with an ensuite cold shower and rudimentary toilet bowl, being buzzed by mosquitoes. Single bed, lumpy mattress, cold stone floor with a doormat. A chair to hang my clothes and a bedside lamp resting on a solid wooden box. I plugged in the lamp to the one electrical socket, and switched it on.
The bulb fused.
Undaunted, I ventured back outside into the enclosed courtyard, smelt the fresh air, and asked the smiling host - all sparkling teeth - for a “Safari lager”, a new lightbulb and a bug spray.
My day off, also.
Monday morning early was cold and damp, rain spitting down. Not the Africa I knew. While I supped hot tea with added ginger – warming the cockles – I was engaged by a few locals wrapped in overcoats, woollen hats and scarves. After the ‘where you from?’, and ‘what you doing here?’ and my mention of England and my visit to the Aid agency outpost, the elder told me about Loliondo.
‘We call this place “Little London”, he said, with a wide grin on his face. Lit a roll-up, coughed and gulped down his mug of tea. ‘Always wet and cold.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
At lunchtime in the office – “vegetarian”, I said. Looks of surprise. The weather had improved enough for me to venture outside with my egg sandwich.
The goat had been moved into a shelter. Out of the rain. I mentioned “how kind” to the accountant on my return from the latrine.
She looked away.
Come evening, a welcoming barbecue for visiting Maasai guests.
Chunks of sizzling meat on wooden skewers.
‘Oh,’ I said.