(Sorry in advance for the spelling & grammar errors)-
I have no idea where to begin this blog post, it has been such an amazing week! I'll go in chronological order of events. Well, a few days ago I was m.o.d., which is kinda like student of the day. Being m.o.d. I had to give a r.a.p. (reflection, announcements, presentation) after dinner. For my presentation we played a game where everyone gets in a circle and has to do a goofy dance move. The catch is that you have to repeat the dance moves of everyone a head of you. It's pretty funny by the time it gets to the end and the last person has to repeat the dance moves of everyone in the circle. For my reflection I read a passage out of my favorite book, The Grapes of Wrath. Here's the passage I read (the last fews lines are my absolute favorite ever)--
"And the stars down so close, and sadness and pleasure so close together, really the same thing. Like to stay drunk all the time. Who says it's bad? Preachers, but they got their own kind of drunkenness. Thin, barren women, but they are too miserable to know. Reformers, but they don't bite deep enough into living to know. No, the stars are close and dear and I have joined the brotherhood of the worlds. And everything's holy, everything, even me."
On friday I had four hours of my Environmental Policy class. It was a loooonnnggg day. We also had a guest speaker come in and talk to us about Maasai culture. It was extremely fascinating. She talked a lot about FGM and how it is still really prevalent in Maasai culture. She explained how it was practiced and perceived by the women and community. The rest of the day was spent doing homework, which is really difficult to get done since there's been no internet for 4 days and my current homework involves researching articles.
Saturday was AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING. (I know i keep using the same words, like amazing, wonderful, incredible, fascinating, but my vocabulary is limited and those words fit so perfectly with my experiences so far.) Anyways, I went to Amboseli National Park again on saturday and did a census of all the animals. No other SFS students have been apart of a censes before, we were really lucky. The census was through KWS (Kenya Wildlife Services) who are the head government conservation people (they are pretty much a big deal). Taking part in a KWS census meant we got special access to the park, so we got to go off roading! The only vehicles allowed to go off the roads are ones doing research in the park, so we got to go pretty much where ever we wanted. We could ride our jeep right up to a herd of zebras or wildebeest, it was the coolest thing ever. Our job that day was to count all the animals we saw, so each jeep took a block of the park and counted all the animals in that block. Our block was filled with large herds of elephants, zebras, gazelle, and wildebeest. When we got to a large group of animals we would count each species and write it down. It was a hard task. There was one time when we counted over 250 wildebeest in one little area of land. Now every time I see animals my initial reaction is to count them. It was so fabulous to go off roading at Amboseli National Park, definitely a highlight.
On sunday we went to a huge Maasai celebration. This celebration only happens every 15 years and it was incredibly special to see. The celebration was for young men and boys to become junior warriors. Maasai from all around Kenya and even Tanzania gathered at this one village to hold the celebration. The men going through the ceremony were dressed in red and had their hair and faces painted with dark red paint. In the early morning they slaughtered a few cows and roasted them in a circle were the men would go in, eat a piece of meat, and get a cow skin ring placed on their finger. They would than exit the circle as a junior warrior. There were tons of people at the celebration and it was so much fun to walk around and talk to people. The people there were some of the most welcoming people. I had so many interesting conversations. I talked to one guy about FGM and it was really fascinating to hear a locals perspective on it. He told me although it's still going on, in his community it has become less common. It was also fascinating that he was so open and willing to talk about it. I talked to another guy about music for a little bit and he told me all about the local music scene in Nairobi. He also told me all of his favorite artists, which included Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Usher, 50 Cent, and his favorite, Eminem! I found it so interesting that he listened to all the same artists that are popular in the U.S..
Everyone I talked to kept on welcoming me to the celebration and told me to take as many pictures as I like. Even though all of us stood out as foreigners and were obviously not Maasai, I really didn't feel uncomfortable or like an outsider. It was such an incredible event, I felt so lucky to have gone to a celebration that only happens every 15 years. Also, I forgot to mention the jeep ride to and from the celebration. We literally drove out to the absolute middle of nowhere to get there. We drove for about an hour and a half and for a majority of the drive there were no roads. The jeeps we drive are so intense, they can handle anything. Driving on some of the roads here would be the equivalent of off roading in the U.S., only with way more bumps.
Today (Monday) was the best day here in Kenya thus far. FABULOUS. Words can not even describe what a great day it was, but i'll go ahead and try. Today we did home stays with local Maasai mamas. We were split into groups of two and went off to different Maasai villages. Me and another girl walked to our home stay, while most other groups drove. We met our host mama and she was so nice, her name was Joyce. She didn't speak any english and knew a little Swahili, but didn't understand anything I tried to say in Swahili. She mainly spoke a Maasai language. We didn't really communicate through speech, yet somehow we had a lot of fun together. She wanted us to take pictures of everything, it was kinda funny. We would be pouring tea and she would say "picture" and wanted us to take a picture, than she would look at it and have the biggest smile. She went about her daily routine and we helped her out, it was really cool to shadow her for a day.
We started the day rolling up cow hides, which the Maasai use as mattresses. We than walked a long ways to collect water from a stream. My host mama filled up large cartons of water and placed one on my back. That thing was heavy! A rope went around my head to help me carry and support the water, but I thought I was going to topple over. I can't believe the mamas do this multiple times a day, it's intense labor. The walk back was sooo long and after I set the water carton down my arms felt like jelly. We than did the BEST thing ever. My host mama handed us buckets and took us into the cattle area. We had no idea what we were going to do. She pointed to cow poop and motioned for us to pick it up. I started laughing hysterically and I could not stop! I just couldn't believe what we were about to do. It was so gross at first, but I embraced it. I picked up the mushy cow poop and loaded it up in a bucket. The mama than poured water and dirt in the poop and started mixing it together. We were going to be helping her fix up the outside of her house. She grabbed a chunk of the cow poop mix and rubbed it onto her house. I started grabbing the cow poop and putting it over the cracks on the house. It was actually really hard to blend it in, there is a definite strategy to layering the poop on the outside. Spackling that house was one of the coolest things i've ever done, ever. Instead of cow poop I just kept telling myself it was like clay haha.
After fixing up the house we washed our hands and started making tea and cooking lunch. Lunch was ugali, which is pretty much like grits in a cake like form. It doesn't have much of a taste, but is a very commonly eaten food here in Kenya. We also cooked cabbage, onions, and tomatoes with half a container of pure vegetable fat. I'm not exaggerating, we cooked the vegetables in so much fat! And they were delicious. The mama served us the biggest pieces of ugali, it probably weighed a pound. I proudly finished it all and gained 5 pounds in the process. Lunch was spent with a group of other women and although I didn't understand anything they said to one another, it felt like I was just 'lunching with the girls'. After lunch we hung out and played a little with the two kids my host mama had. They were so adorable. I also got to hold a goat! So cute. And there was the CUTEST puppy hanging around the village, I wanted to take him home. I tried to give him some water and he ended up drinking a little out of my water bottle, so now I have to bleach it so I don't get worms. Apparently most of the dogs here have worms, but I can't help myself, I have to pet them all. Later in the day we sat on a cow hied in the shade and did some bead work. It was incredibly time consuming and it made me appreciate all the work that goes into the jewelry the mamas make. I helped my host mama make a beautiful bracelet and than I got to keep it :) It's my new favorite piece of jewelry. It was so much fun to spend the entire day in the life of a Maasai woman. It was one of the best days of my young life.
~Lexi's weekly dose of Swahili~
Question: "Habari?" (pronounced ha-bar-ee) meaning "How are you?"
Answers: "Salama" / "Mzuri" / "Safi" (pronounced salama / ma-zer-re / sa-fee) meaning "Peaceful" / "Good" / "Clean"