Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Fascinating Read - Finally

I'm just finishing up a book that drew my attention months ago as I was putting away biographies on the new book shelf. The White Masai is such an amazing story that I began to wonder if it could all be factual. I hoped that Corinne Hofmann wasn't another James Frey and, just to be sure, I scoured the Internet looking for interviews and evidence. I now believe that Ms. Hofmann was truly, deeply in love with Africa and, by extension, with her Masai warrior, Lketinga.
My friend Don and I have talked about this phenomenon at length. He has been lucky enough to have lived and worked in several countries including Africa and the Middle East. He told me that it was common, among the women especially, to become enthralled by a certain culture and to then choose a husband as an entree to that life so different from what they've known.

When Corinne Hofmann arrived in Kenya from Switzerland, boyfriend in tow, she couldn't have dreamed that she would leave her business, family and friends behind for a life of loneliness, illness and poverty with a Masai warrior whose eyes met hers across a crowded room. (I feel like breaking into song....) I've never really believed in love at first sight, which isn't to say that I don't think there can be an immediate physical attraction between two people. To truly love someone you must know what's in their heart and mind, don't you think?

Corinne relentlessly pursued the warrior, Lketinga, for months. He at first, thought she was married to the boyfriend, and studiously avoided her. She on the other hand, had made up her mind. What's remarkable is how the two lovers managed to communicate enough to forge a life together in the Kenyan Bush, building and living in a dung and stick hut. Hofmann was accepted by her warrior's mother but distrusted by his friends, who undermined their relationship at every turn, planting seeds of doubt in Lketinga's mind about Corinne's faithfulness. This is where her inability to learn the language caused her a great deal of consternation and I was frankly surprised that she didn't try harder to understand what was being said around her.

Facing extreme prejudice among the Kenyans against their own Masai, Ms. Hofmann breaks through the red tape, obtains a marriage license and makes Kenya her home for four years, giving birth to their daughter at great risk to her own health. In the final analysis though it's not so much the cultural differences (and there are many) between Corinne and Lketinga, but the universal differences between men and women that forced their separation. The romantic in me so wanted to see them succeed in their union even as the skeptic in me knew that, as she said in an interview, she had to leave before she lost sight of herself.

Don't have time to read the whole book but perhaps I've caught your interest? IF you have high speed (the buffering can drive you crazy!) you can link to this website for a video clip of an interview and information on the film that's been made from Corinne Hofmann's story.

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