Watch out for the Lions

Maasai in Kenya

If there’s one thing I’m famous for amongst my friends, I’d love to say it’s my witty repartee or beautiful skill in chatting up ladies, but sadly it’s probably the fact that when I’m in a bar with them, I’m basically going to the bathroom every five minutes after the first drink. It’s one reason I get to the bar early, at least then my weak bladder can be serviced by a seat near the Gents.

But when you’re filming abroad, bathroom issues can be a little more interesting. When you’re in a village somewhere outside of Nairobi, well, where do you go?

The Zayed Future Energy Prize is a celebration of sustainable energy projects. Unlike some prizes, one of ZFEP’s unique features is the prize-winning projects are often still on the drawing board, and the prize is money to implement them. My job is to film each project for the awards ceremony.

Solar energy has amazing uses around the world. For this video, we are meeting the Maasai in Kenya, who are receiving solar-powered lights and mobile phone chargers.

We take a Land Rover from Nairobi, and after an hour of roads of varying sizes, we arrive on a dusty dirt track that takes us to the Maasai village. It’s a small hamlet in amongst sparse trees, made up of ten mud-brick houses, surrounded by spiky gorse bush all around. When I arrive there are kids playing football outside their house, a ball made of lots of plastic bags tied together with string.

I would like to film the football match but I’m informed I shouldn’t film anything until we meet with the Elder. I’m unsure what that involves, but I keep the camera holstered for the time being.

We walk to the bigger house, and I ask the translator for the Maasai for ‘thank you’, (which is ‘ashi’ if you ever need to know), and we walk in and meet the elder of the village. He’s tall, striking and has a remarkable presence to him. I sit and explain what we’re up to with a smile and a nod as the translator does his thing, he nods, I then get up, smile, offer my hand and say ‘ashi’. He laughs, shakes my hand and says ashi back to me. Hope I got that right.

The power of the solar-powered light for change shouldn’t be underestimated. In this village there’s no mains electricity and when the sun goes down, that’s it. Students doing their homework just have to stop unless they can use expensive fuel to keep lighting their way. When they have a solar powered light, they keep doing homework until the light runs out, resulting in a huge improvement in their exam scores.

I film the beautiful people, including the kids playing football and another doing his homework under the light, and their Nokia phone happily charging in the sunlight.

Then nature calls and I look around. It’s unclear where to go and I don’t want to cause an incident. But also pea-sized bladder isn’t going to make it all the way back to Nairobi in a bumpy Land Rover. I quietly ask the translator, who goes over to the locals, and they have a conversation and a bit of a laugh as I try not to do the world-famous Chesman ‘I need a pee’ dance.

He comes back and points to a tree just outside the village. “Go to that tree and use it. But be quick because there are lions”.

Say what?

Turns out that’s what the spiky gorse bush is for. Keeps out the lions. Great.

I walk out of the village, take a look round for any actual real-life predators, and go to the tree. This isn’t the time for stage fright, I just need to get this thing done and get out of there. I do my thing whilst looking furtively around, hoping there isn’t too much laughing in the distance, and get everything done in express time.

All in all the people were kind and fun, and I feel very privileged to see their culture and meet with these lovely people.

I remain unsure if they were joking about the lions.