Kenya Update #5 — Living Among the Masai

Suzy writes:

We are on top of a small rock outcropping, watching the sunset in silence with mt Kilimanjaro and Lake Amboseli center stage.  Beside us is the senior Maasai warrior, Logela, clad in blue robes and intricately beaded jewelry, holding a six foot spear, who brought us here.   It’s an amazing ending to another day of adventure!

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We woke up around dawn to observe a special occasion, the bloodletting of a cow to so that the blood could be consumed by Logela’s sister, who gave birth a few days ago.  The birth prompted both this activity and also a giant celebration to be held tomorrow at the boma (compound) – we are invited! – to celebrate the baby’s birth.  The new mother consumes a little blood/milk mixture to help regain strength.

This practice is also done in times of extreme drought for survival.  A small puncture is made in an artery in the cow’s neck using a bow and arrow.  Then a pint or two of blood is collected in a special gourd and mixed with fresh milk using a wooden mixing stick.  Just a small amount of the concoction can sustain a warrior for a long time when food is unavailable, and the cow is essentially unharmed afterward.  It was very special to watch this!

Afterward we walked for about an hour to the nearby (yes, an hour’s walk counts here as “nearby!”) public primary school. There are about 400 students and 13 teachers- you do the math.  Luckily, they are very energetic and inspiring teachers, and we were impressed with their ability to handle so many children. We played games and taught the youngest ones some songs, including the Hokey Pokey to learn body parts and Five Little Monkeys for counting.  Our students were great sports, joining in with no prior warning that this would be happening.

The most valuable part of the visit was the hour or so conversation we had with the teaching staff.  We discussed American education, politics, funding, what makes a good teacher…these were very sharp people, curious about our experience and very straightforward about the joys and challenges of teaching here.  We found that we struggle with many of the same challenges.

On the walk back to the boma, many of the children came with us. It was their lunchtime, and it turns out that while some students live at the school, many walk there and back each day. If the government cannot provide enough food for all of them to have lunch, some are sent home midday to eat, but because the walk is so long, they just stay home after that.  They walked with us and at one point I had at least six delightful little uniformed bodies clinging to my hands, arms, and at one point armpit, enjoying the attention and companionship of the strange pale people who showed up at their school.

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Afterwards, we spent the hottest hours of the afternoon reading and completing assignments in the shade of Logela’s many gorgeous acacia trees, before launching out again for this sunset reflection hike.  We will be staying on this rock until it gets fully dark so that, walking back through the bush using headlamps, we may spot some bush babies in the trees along our route!

[Editors Disclaimer:  Once again the pictures in this post are not from this group or this expedition.  They are simply included to help provide a visual embellishment for the narrative.  We will post photos from our group as soon as they are available.]

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