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Hemingway Adventure

Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Chyulu Hills, Kenya 
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Young warriors circle their companions at the circumcision ceremony.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureIn the middle of the night I’m woken by the sound of light scuttling, followed by a crash and the rapid dripping of water on to my suitcase. I feel around blearily beneath the pillow, find my torch and shine the beam through the mosquito net in the direction of the noise.

A few feet away, on the wooden work-top that runs at the back of the cabin, a furry creature with a beautiful black and white striped tail is lapping away at a small pool of water. It carries on quite unconcerned until I utter a grunt of indignation, at which it flits away behind the cupboard, where it hides very badly, leaving most of its tail sticking out.

I tell the story at breakfast and Alex shakes his head with mild exasperation.

‘It’s the genet again,’ he says, as if it had been an ant on the toothbrush. ‘Large-spotted genet. They love the water, you see. We put covers on top but they just take them off and tip the jug over.’

While I’m mulling this over, Richard arrives in a state of great elation. He’s just heard that the cheetah has had a movement.

Things continue in this visceral vein as he tells us that he is on his way to the local village to attend a circumcision ceremony and would we like to come along.

Well, there’s nothing on television, so why not.

As we climb into the Land Rovers and head off up the hill through trees and green meadows Richard fills me in on the background. Circumcision, both male and female, is still practised by the local Masai. For the boys it is seen as a rite of passage, part of the process of becoming a man, and the operation is not performed until they are in their teens.

It is all done to a carefully prescribed ritual. The circumcision itself takes place, like so much else in Africa, at first light, and outside the main entrance to the boma. By the time we arrive it is already underway. A group of six or seven young men surround the boy whose body looks limp and inert beneath a loose black robe. A man in an old coat and a Kenya Tea Company sports hat is kneeling before him. This is the surgeon. His knives and some antiseptic spirit are in a filthy old box beside him.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Chyulu Hills, Kenya
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Chyulu Hills
  • Book page no: 177

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