Monday, September 16, 2013

Extreme Travelers: Warrior Princess

Mindy Budgor was a California girl living the California dream. She had a great job, drove a nice car and was able to shop at all the expensive stores such as Gucci and Prada. But she still felt empty inside.

Mindy decided to take a humanitarian mission on Kenya to help build a health clinic in a Kenyan game reserve. While she was there she learned about the Maasai tribe from a member that was also a local chief named Winston and he spoke English. Winston told her about the tribe's warriors and how they protect their community. When Mindy asked if women could be warriors he said no because "women aren't strong enough or brave enough to do it."

This didn't sit well with Mindy and she made a deal that if she could leave behind her old glamorous lifestyle then he would take her through the traditional rites of passage to become a Maasai warrior.

Mindy returned to California where she trained for 6 weeks with a personal trainer to make sure she was in shape for her upcoming challenge. Mindy returned to Africa with a friend ready to take on the challenge but Winston reneged on his offer. Mindy wasn't going to let that stop her so she found Lanet in Nairobi and he agreed to take her and her friend on.

They headed into the African bush with "essentials": tartan sheets for clothing, metal tips for spears and, for Mindy, a bottle of Chanel Dragon red nail polish (“It just made me feel fierce,” she said) and a pair of pearl earrings to remind her of home. 

Lanet and six other warriors then led them through a month of surreal tasks that were both physically and mentally challenging: sleeping on the ground in a communal bed of leaves and branches, going days without food, getting bloody blisters on her hands as she practiced spear-hunting skills, and, incredibly, suffocating a goat to death and drinking its warm blood (which Mindy vomited up immediately). 

During this whole time Mindy never put a brush through her hair, she would wash herself with the same water cows and buffalo used, but yet she still felt beautiful. She felt strong. She felt proud.

In a final test of bravery, Mindy speared a massive buffalo, inspiring cheers from her warrior trainers. She had passed, and was deemed a warrior, and succeeded in changing the Maasai gender policy; this year, 12 girls in the village she had been in will go through the warrior training. 

Since leaving the Maasai tribe she went on to graduate from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and currently lives in New York.

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