My Masai Mr Right

“My name is Colette Armand, and like many young women in love, my belief was that I’d hit the jackpot when I first saw my ‘future’ husband. The attraction was instant! We had an immediate connection.” But that is where the conventional nature of their romance ends. For Colette’s intended was a Masai warrior whose home is a mud hut on the vast African plains. However, the question is why did this middle-class woman give up a life of luxury to live in a mud hut with an African warrior?

Her husband, Meitkini's tribe have no possessions and no running water and their food is either plucked from the ground or killed with a spear. Nonetheless, after a courtship of three years, Colette, (then) 24, abandoned all the comforts of her western lifestyle to join her Masai warrior and his life permanently. Traditionally, Masai custom forbid physical contact between men and women who aren’t married, so she hadn’t even shared so much as a kiss with her 23-year-old fianc√© until the wedding was over.

Colette with her husband, Meitkini, a Masai warrior
Colette, Meitkini, and his best friend

And what’s more, she had to accept that in the future, she may have to share her husband with other women, as Masai tradition permits polygamy, or any number of wives. “In time I may have to accept that he will marry again,” she said. “But I do hope he chooses not to take another wife, but if he does then I will have to compromise.” Colette admits that she never expected her life to end up on such an unusual path. The daughter of a nurse and a businessman, her father is a director of a large mining company, and he took the family all over the world.

Academically gifted, at 17 she was studying literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. At 21, disillusioned with her studies and with a failed romance behind her, she decided to take a gap year. “I realised I needed to have an adventure and try and find myself. I had always wanted to go to Africa, so I found a job working for an organisation that runs orphanages in Kenya. In the space of a week I quit my studies, withdrew all my savings and got on a flight to Nairobi. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, except my mum, who was hysterical. She thought I was throwing away all my hard work. But I’d made up my mind.”

Colette met Meitkini after she found a job working for an organisation that runs orphanages in Kenya
Colette, surrounded by children from the orphanage

It wasn’t very long after that Colette swapped the comfort of her apartment for a rug on Meitkini's mud hut. “Yes, I suppose that it was basic, but the funny thing was that I felt instantly at home. Working with the children helped give me perspective. Most of them had been abandoned because they were disabled, which was very humbling. And at work, things were going fine too. A nine-year-old boy, who prior to my arrival, had never spoken a word to anyone, suddenly turned to me and said ‘mummy.’ It was a huge shock, and everyone at the orphanage thought I had magical healing properties. So much so that word spread, and a few days later, one of my supervisors told me that the head of a local Masai tribe wanted to meet me.”

The tribe lived several hours drive away over dusty, uneven terrain, and when she got there she was taken to meet the chief, Kehmini, who was incredibly welcoming. She was lucky that the tribe spoke quite good English, so she could communicate well. Kehmini then invited her to stay, and showed her to a hut that would be her home while she was there. But even after the privations of the orphanage, her first night was spent in insomniac discomfort. There were no doors on the hut, so she was terrified a snake would slither in. And she laid there listening to every movement.

Colette, outside her mud hut
Colette with Meitkini (left), and the Masai chief, (right)

“Further into my stay with the tribe, I was introduced to Meitkini by the chief and we started talking, it was like speaking to my double. He was clever and articulate, and there was an immediate connection between us. From then on I was in love.” Meitkini felt the same way, but Masai relationships do not adhere to the same conventions as they do in the West. The Masai don’t marry for love but for power and social position, so it is a slightly alien concept.

The tribe’s chief gave Colette and Meitkini his blessing to marry. He said the whole tribe felt something special had happened between them and that they were destined to be together. Unsurprisingly, her conviction proved incomprehensible to many of her friends, who cannot grasp why Colette wanted to turn her back on the luxuries of western life. But at the same time they can clearly see how happy she was. Sadly, the same could not be said of her mother, who is still unable to accept Colette’s decision and remains estranged from her daughter.

A blonde Western woman enduring village life
Western tourist Masai wedding ceremony (jumping the broom)

“The fact that I’m going to marry a Masai is a scandal in the family and, as a result, she and I don't speak. It’s sad, but we’re very different people,” she says. And so, Colette got down to the business of making the final plans for her wedding. It was a two-day affair, with Masai travelling from miles around to celebrate their union, and an ox slaughtered in honour of the happy couple. That, however, is where the festivities ended. Afterwards, Colette was back in the fields at dawn, planting grain and harvesting coffee beans.

“It’s a simple life, and one that would be an extremely arduous life to most people in the West, but it makes me happy,” she said. “I have no problem with giving up my western ways. When I’m here I feel so alive and free. Living with the tribe has taught me to live in the present. It taught me about what really matters.”

Melting Pot International (MPi) will regularly publish a “My Story” section which will focus specifically on our readers’ own personal experiences. However, in order for us to publish this type of material, we must rely quite heavily on YOU!........................We ‘need’ you to send us your personal experiences or stories about your relationship, together with photographs for publication in MPi. ¬†

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