Kenya Update #3: Clay International School

clay group copy

Our Explorations Academy group was welcomed to the Clay International School in Ngomano by an assembly of students, all neatly lined up in their purple uniforms, singing a song.  This was followed by a gift giving ceremony of sorts, in which we presented the many things we had brought along — chiefly art supplies for the students, a few bundles of Days for Girls kits, and specific things for some of the Clay school teachers.  Benson, the Director at the Clay school, was presented with an honorary laminated Explorations Academy staff ID card with his picture on it.

There were enough pens and pencils to give every student one writing tool; these were much appreciated.  Every student spoke up to say their name, age, and their favorite part of school.  For some unknown reason, when Nate spoke up, with his giant mane of red hair, to say that he loved to play music at school, all the Clay school kids broke into uproarious laughter!

clay bbuildings with tree copyThe first day at the school, our American kids attended classes with the Kenyan students.  By the second day, the Explorations students were teaching.  Some students taught Spanish, Elyja taught a bit of Mandarin, and at one point Suzy walked into a classroom, in which there was no teacher, to find Hannah C.  in front of the class teaching students about life in Bellingham!  Our students also got to participate in a geography class discussion about sustainable  salmon fishing in Alaska and British Columbia.

At the end of the school day, the Clay school teachers gather each day for chai tea and chapatis, something Suzy said she could get used to!  The exchange from this meeting involved planning for the coming days, which Aaron, Suzy, and Coop brought to their evening circle to discuss with Explorations students.  The evening circle followed a dinner of rice and beans, and was enriched by the sight of the moon rising over Mt. Kilimanjaro! 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALearning some Swahili has been fun.  Hello is “Jambo,” a word that is also used sort of like “Hey!” and is the brand name of a popular biscuit/cookie.  Thank you is “Asante,” sorry is “pole” and banana is “ndizi.” 

A basket-making workshop was presented to our students by members of a local women’s weaving cooperative.  We supplied some colored yarn that was used to add color to the woven sisal baskets, also called kiondos.  The sisal, normally harvested by the women, had to be purchased because a drought has made the local material too tough to weave.  The sisal forms the vertical structure in the basket, and the yarn is woven in and out for the horizontal rows.  Everyone got to try their hand at weaving, but what appears easy is really the result of years of practice, and most lacked the patience to persist.  Suzy reports that her three-hour effort resulted in something resembling a yarmulke for a cat.  Benson’s sister Patricia helped translate during the basket workshop, since the local women don’t speak English.  The finished baskets — the ones made by local women, that is — are masterpieces of craft and beauty!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAArts are an area in which the Clay school staff requested help, so Suzy taught a figure drawing class for a mixed group of Clay and Explorations students.  Even some kids who don’t think of themselves as artists (Daniel) worked hard and did quite well.  The class assignment was for one American and one Kenyan student to pair up and draw each other; the resulting portraits were then given as gifts to the subject of the drawing.  A mural project was the other primary art project our group brought.  This was created on the wall of the school’s main hall, which is used for large gatherings, church activities, and graduations.  The mural depicts two giraffes, acacia trees, and Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Many students and adults got to participate in the project, which is intended as a permanent installation.

The cultural contrasts are significant.  Fortunately, our Explorations group has maintained good appetites for the rather plain and unvaried rice and bean meals.  One meal, called “ugali,” is a staple made of bland cornmeal balls that are dipped into a stew-like meat gravy.  Most students preferred rice and beans!  It was also notable to our kids that lunch at the Clay School takes about ten minutes:  Eat and return to class.   Sophia was delighted to be invited to attend church with some of the local girls, an honor that was not extended to others.

boy crossing river copyThe ecosystem of eastern Kenya is dry and hot.  Some classes take place in the early morning to avoid the heat.  One Clay School teacher took our students out and did some birdwatching, taught some geology, and showed them how to dig for water in a dry creekbed.  The temperatures in Ngomano tend to run about 100 degrees F during the day, and down to 70 at night.  This makes for some dirty, sweaty people, and makes daily hygiene a critical priority.

Editor’s note:  Photos in this post are file photos from the Clay School and Ngomano, actually from our last Explorations Academy Kenya expedition.  We look forward to the time when our group gets Internet access and can send current pictures.  The stories posted herein are patched together from occasional text messages that have gotten through; responsibility for any errors is  attributable to the editor and limitations in the editing process.




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One Comment on “Kenya Update #3: Clay International School”

  1. Keith D'Angelo Says:

    Amazing experience for our students , looking forward to the photos , an internet connection is something I am very grateful for.
    Thank you Explorations Staff for keeping us in touch with the Expedition.

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