Monday, July 30, 2018

Maasai Warriors and Around Narok City (Part 4)

One of the things our hosts hoped to secure for us was a meeting with a group of actual Maasai warriors. One day, our host Oldere (OD) got a call from one of his friends that a group of warriors were in the area and headed from Narok out into the bush along a highway.  They were waiting in the bush for us because it was unwarrior-like to meet with anyone (wazungu - white people - included) in an obvious manner. We piled into the vans and headed out to the designated spot. Sure enough, one of the warriors in his red shuka was at the designated spot. We crossed the road and followed the trail away from the highway. 

As we walked along into the bush, the first indication of the warriors was the smell. That is certainly not meant as disrespect; it turns out that they carry and apply rendered goat fat to use as a combination mosquito repellent and sunscreen. It probably has many other uses that the warriors have discovered over the centuries. We came into a clearing and there were six warriors.  

OD served as our interpreter since he is native Kenyan and served as a Maasai warrior once himself. He explained that we could think of the warriors as the elite fighters of Kenya, much like the Navy Seals.  For centuries Maasai men have held myriad rituals that begin in boyhood (about age 10-11), including male circumcision sometime around puberty. The ceremonies are many and complicated, and even OD admitted that he was not familiar with all of them. And different areas of the country perform - or not - different ceremonies. 

The Maasai warriors are not to be approached. They are accorded respect and distance when they do come into town. However, if the warriors need supplies, they can go into shops or visit farms, where people are allowed to interact with them and offer them meals in exchange for their protective services to the people. The group we met with ranged in age from 14 to 20.

Shortly after explaining that, to us, an old woman appeared down the trail carrying a load of firewood sticks. She saw the warriors and stopped dead in her tracks. The leader (the oldest young man, age 20, with the long braids) called out to her her first, asking what she needed. She requested passage, and he granted it to her. 

Everyone was silent until she was well past us and on her way. This woman had to be 80 years old if she was a day....

We asked about their red coloring, and they showed us their cans of red paint and goat fat. Red is the primary color of the Maasai tribe. They believe it scares away lions.

The warriors carried knives, machetes and spears and had no natural predators to fear in the bush. The lions and other would-be attackers are familiar with and fear the smell of the red creatures who smell of goat fat. There are so many interesting customs and facts, and we learned a great deal through their generous sharing and education. I found a really good article that explains some of these customs and facts HERE if you’d like to read more.

There was lots of posing and picture-taking, and we even had some Instax film and took instant pictures of them to keep for themselves and give to their girlfriends and moms when they returned home.

One of the warriors showed us some of his ritualistic burns, a test of manhood and strength.

They performed a warrior chant and dance for us.

And, of course, they all jumped for us. I’m not posting some of the best pictures of that, though, because, um.... let’s just say that the young ladies got a lesson in anatomy.

It was a great visit and I believe everyone was respectful to each other and made good impressions, if not actual friends!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Around Town - NAROK

This seems as good a time as any to post some pictures and show some of the things we saw and learned in our week in Narok.

The red Xs on signs show the world that this business owes taxes. They’re put on by government officials. I’m not clear if it indicated delinquent taxes or just that taxes were now due, because we sure saw a lot of red Xs!!

Here is dear, sweet Ellen (the comedian of our group - she lives in San Diego but was originally from Boston. Her sense of humor and accent never failed to make us all laugh!) This picture is taken in front of a little store (closed at the time) in a nicer neighborhood of Narok.

A building in downtown Narok.

And off on the side streets, you can find dress shops and all manner of stores. And yes, dust is everywhere. Only the main roads are paved.

Another downtown snapshot.

It’s very common for cattle, donkeys, goats, etc. to be in town on the roads too. The donkeys are usually tied to carts. In the picture below, it looks as those this man is bringing in barrels to be filled with water or milk before returning to his home or village.

Lots of the people (primarily men) hang out. And in many places, the body-bodas (motorcycle taxis for hire) congregate too.  Did I mention - there are car washes everywhere? Not traditional modern facilities like you’d see here in America, but places where you can pull up to and have a person hose down and clean your car for a fee. There were car washes everywhere, and I’m sure they do a lucrative business!

Produce stands and open air markets abound.

And on weekends, there are places where special, huge markets spring up!

In my next post, we’ll visit a very poor, but utterly amazing and heartwarming primary school. And I’ll probably sneak in some pictures of some of the beautiful flowers, bushes and plants we saw.

For other posts of my African journey, here are some links:

Part 1 - Elephant Orphanage and The Escarpment
Part 2 - Tenkes Elementary and the Mau Forest
Part 3 -  Days for Girls and Lunch in a Mud Hut

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Recapping Red

Surprise, surprise! I may have been off galavanting around the globe this month, LOL, but I got my red scrap sewing homework done!  I’m joining up with Angela and the Rainbow Scrap Challenge gang for the Scrappy Saturday linkup and some red hot fun.

Before leaving for Africa on the 8th, I had sewn one of this month’s Squared Away blocks. Then this past week, I managed to sew a second one.

That completed all my regularly-scheduled red sewing, so I used my smaller scraps to sew up these ten crumb blocks, each measuring 6.5” (unfinished).

And that brings me to my Red Recap for July.

This month’s production included:
12 Selvage squares, 6.5”
2   Selvage squares, 4.5”
16 Quarter Log Cabins, 6.5”
6   Bow ties, 4.5”
1   Linked Squares, 16.5”
10 Crumb blocks, 6.5”
2   Squared Away blocks, 10.5”

For a total of 49 blocks.  

Before leaving on my trip, I also whipped out a cute little over-the-shoulder water bottle holder which came in handy for several days. I didn’t use a pattern, but just measured the water bottles - both my permanent aluminum container and a standard water bottle. Then I quilted a piece, sewed it in a cylinder, added a cross-body shoulder strap and boxed the bottom.

It came in very handy for carrying water, with my passport and money in my zip pouch around my waist. Totally hands-free. Until the dang money pouch zipper broke and our work days got longer and busier. So I switched to carrying a backpack instead, which carried everything (including my Maasai shuka blanket) for the day.  But I foresee lots more use of this holder in my future!

If you’re a casual Saturday reader of my blog, I’d just like to let you know that I’ve begun posting pictures and stories of my two-week trip to Kenya this month. The links are below.

PART 1:  Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, The Escarpment, Travel to Narok
PART 2:  Tenkes School in the Mau Forest and an Honorary Feast
PART 3:  Days for Girls and Lunch at a Mud Hut Farm

Maasai elders preparing nyama choma

I’ll be continuing the stories next week.  Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Days for Girls Workday and a Special Luncheon

Our days were filled to the brim with activity from dawn until evening. At this point of our trip, about the third or fourth day, my DGD Lauren and I found it nearly impossible to keep up with our written journals. Luckily, everyone in the group was taking pictures, and we’ve been sharing them in our private Facebook group. While all the photos in the first two posts are my own, from here on out I’ll be adding pictures taken by others as well. We all agreed to share, which is awesome, because a couple of the ladies in our group are accomplished photographers and their safari pictures are amazing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On this day, we had three items on our itinerary.

First, we visited the Days for Girls center in a village named Rotian, near Narok. Here our hosts Marilyn and OD, along with the official Days for Girls program, have two trained women to assemble DFG kits and do programs for the girls in the local secondary schools of the Narok area. We were bringing supplies to them; fabric (flannel and regular cotton), snaps and parts for their snap machines, two treadle sewing machines, yarn (for making bead trackers for menstrual periods) and more. We also knew there would be a lot of kids in the town, so we brought pillowcase dresses, wooden toy cars and stickers. Secondly, we had a scheduled luncheon to attend, and finally we had an afternoon Days for Girls program to teach and DFG kits to distribute to the girls. One of our team members, a Girl Scout named Mary from Texas, had also collected over 1200 pairs of new panties and washcloths to add to the kits. She and her mom Becky were absolutely amazing in their drive and focus. Mary is pictured in the photo, right.

These lovely ladies, Janet and Ann, run this Days for Girls center. It’s just a small corner shop in this rather run-down area. The men in our group unloaded the machines and began working on adding snaps to the shields.

The three young women in our group, accompanied by many of the adults, began distributing dresses, toy cars and stickers to the kids who gathered outside. Anytime the wazungu (white people) come by, they figure there’s something about to happen!

I stayed inside and worked with Ann, adding ribbon drawstrings to the DFG kit bags.

But the real action was outside!

These kids are so poor, and appreciate anything. But our goal was not to hand out cheap junk, which is why these toys are handmade wooden toys (Tiny Tim’s Toy Foundation, West Jordan, UT) that will last them and their siblings for years or even decades.

Another game for the locals; hoop and stick.

It was a satisfying trip, and we knew we’d be seeing Ann and Janet again in the afternoon at our DFG program, and later in the week for another program in another area.

Then we rode back into a nicer, farm area of Narok, where OD’s sister (and hubby and family) live on a farm. We had been invited to lunch at their little compound. It’s not really a compound, but a few dung huts gathered together on shared farmland.  What a view!

Our hosts Marilyn and OD had pre-arranged this luncheon with Margaret, one of OD’s sisters. Her husband travels the country, looking for work and is only home every few months. She takes care of the farm and children, as well as providing room and board for a widowed blind woman and her two children. Generous hearts run in the family. As well, Marilyn and OD had prepaid for the luncheon food so that no financial burden fell on these lovely women.

Here are Margaret and her friend in the special cooking hut, preparing the meal. I wish I’d taken a picture of the deliciousness! We had chicken, rice, irio, chapati, and a delicious cabbage and vegetable dish. Naturally, they came around with water and soap for us to wash our hands with first!

Here you can see part of the outside of Margaret’s dung hut. That is my friend Mary Ann walking out the front door, below. The dung huts are actually animal dung mixed with mud. Once cured, it doesn’t smell of course, and is pretty strong. The mixture is used between slats of wood and is very sturdy and hard. The roofs are corrugated metal - very noisy in the rain!

This is the sitting room in the hut. The floor is compacted dirt. It’s customary to hang curtains in the daytime to hide the adjacent sleeping rooms (three in this case). The toilet facilities are an outside latrine. Those huge bins of shortbread cookies were brought by Marilyn for the ladies to distribute (over time, of course) to the kids.

Here’s another view inside the hut looking from the corner out to the front entry area. Margaret had just been able to have her hut electrified the prior week.

Guess what was hooked up to it? An Apple laptop! Another cultural juxtaposition. Ready for another? Their goat died last month, but she’s saving up for a new one. In the meantime, they’ve had to send the kids to town with empty milk jugs to buy milk in town, quite a bit more expensive.

The ladies then sang and danced a traditional folk song or two for us, then invited us to join in. We, in turned regaled them with You Are My Sunshine, Row Row Row Your Boat (in rounds), and Amazing Grace. See if you can identify another jarring cultural juxtaposition in the video below.

Black and White.
DGD Lauren and some of the local farm kids!

It was a fun time, and we all strolled back through the fields together, out to the road.

The school for our afternoon DFG program - a secondary school of girls and boys from ages 14-18 - was just a short stroll down the dirt road. Here is a picture of the entrance.

It was a really nice school, but I didn’t get any pictures (and so far, I haven’t seen anyone else post any in the group, either). There were 160 young girls to which we (along with Ann and Janet from earlier in the day) gave the presentation and DFG kits. And it was done in English, because at this stage of their education, it’s all done in English!

Afterward, we helped them make bead counters for their menstrual cycles. It was crazy, intense, and a bit disorganized as only young teenage girls can make it, LOL. But so satisfying! We were there for at least 3-4 hours. At one point, as everyone was going in different directions and I was temporarily at sea, I had to leave and walk the grounds. Like a wimp, I burst into tears - all the emotions of the last few days bubbling up and overwhelming me. OD caught up to me later and gave me a hug and a pep talk.  We can’t change the world overnight; we can only proceed one day, one school, one child at a time.

This is Part 3 of my African Trip journal.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 1 is HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tenkes Primary School in the Mau Forest

Our guest house in Narok had a great atrium full of lush plants and bushes. It was a joy every morning to walk out of our second-story room and be greeted by this sight on our way down to breakfast. Yes, that’s a poinsettia plant!

From our balcony, we had a view of the city, including herd of 9 cows on their way to pasture every morning at 7:15 a.m.

Granddaughter Lauren and daughter-in-law Kim on the balcony.

Our hosts, Oldere (OD) and Marilyn gifted us all a shuka - a Maasai cloth that can be used as a jacket, scarf, blanket, cape, etc. Its use (began mid-20th century) replaced the traditional leather of centuries past. You’ll see it here and there throughout the pictures.

On Wednesday morning we loaded up the vans for a day trip to Tenkes Primary School up in the mountains of the Mau Forest. The paved road ended when we left Narok. From there up the mountain it was a deeply rutted dirt road traversed by pedestrians and boda-bodas (rented motorcycles used as taxis) alike. Villagers from the mountains walked down the road (no such thing as sidewalks in Kenya) with goats, chickens, charcoal or whatever they had to sell. Children walked up to their schools. It’s difficult to gauge the distance. Had the road been paved, it would have probably taken us roughly a half hour. However, given the condition of the road, it was three to four times that.

When we arrived at Tenkes Primary School, we were greeted by hundreds of children (don’t know the exact count, but we were swarmed!). They treated us like celebrities. It was humbling and felt so undeserved.

Many of the older girls were wearing their traditional jewelry and costumes because they had a performance planned for us after lunch.

But in the meantime, they wanted to say hello to us, practicing their English (“Hello, how are you?”) and touching our hair and skin. They were also fascinated with the Fitbit on my wrist. Several of the older girls remarked how soft our skin was compared to theirs and how lucky we were. But I told them that their skin was a more beautiful color, so we both had good and not-so-good things to deal with.

Most of the children had discolored teeth, which I remarked on later to our hosts and group. One of our group is a dental hygienist, and explained that Kenya has one of the highest levels of naturally-occuring fluoride water levels in the world. The staining is called dental fluorosis. The fluorosis is merely aesthetic, and their teeth are otherwise very healthy and strong.

In the picture above, note the building in the background. That is one of two classroom buildings. There is a separate kitchen for cooking school meals and a separate latrine, discussed below.

Our first order of business after the greetings was to visit a washroom (the term used in Africa). At this school, the facilities were a very rough latrine, with one side for “Gents” and one side for “Ladies”. Our term for it was “squatty potty”, because they were just holes in the ground.

Here one of our group, Ellen, holds the door on the ladies side while my DIL Kim waits her turn. After our visit to the latrine, we used our packed hand sanitizers. 

Next we handed out composition books, pencils and pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, stickers and more.  It was an organized chaos, and the kids were appreciative. In many cases, the supplies they received would save their families the equivalent of more than a week’s worth of income.

Above you can see part of the line; a school child receives supplies from Mary (gray hoodie) and MaryAnn (red shuka) in our group. 

Next we planted some of the 300 tree saplings we brought. Here is my granddaughter Lauren planting one of the trees.

Many of the children were given trees to plant at home. The saplings will grow into trees and become a tangible savings account for them. The money they can earn by selling its wood eventually will help fund a further education beyond primary and secondary school.

Next we were asked to walk into the bush up the hill with the elders of the village (Entiak). They had slaughtered a goat and prepared a meal for us in celebration of our visit. This was the view across the road from the school. The Mau forest is breathtaking.

Just up the hill we passed their newly-built church. Most of the native Kenyans in this part of the country are Christian. The population of Kenya also includes a lot of Muslims, although they are concentrated more near Mombasa, by the coast of the Indian Ocean.

The Maasai ladies and girls had warm water and soap and greeted each of us as we took turns washing our hands. We were then directed to sit on cushions of mountain sage that they’d prepared for our seats.

After a speech by the head elder (translated from Maasai by our host OD), we were served nyama choma which means roast meat. This roast meat may be goat or beef, but is usually goat, as it was in this case. We all chewed on the pieces offered, and then the young girls passed out a delicious complete meal for us. We ate a meal of chapati (traditional tortilla-like bread), potato, rice and vegetables, plus another piece of nyama choma. The helpings were beyond generous, and our copious leftovers were scooped up for ???? (the goats? the kids?)

We were directed to use the sage leaves as the natives do - as napkins. And indeed, they were effective (and fragrant) in cleaning our hands of any grease and food residue. Further uses of the sage were then shown to us. The young branches, after being stripped of leaves, could be used as either a toothbrush (if left thick and fiber-y) or pared down by hand to make a fine toothpick. I was honored to have the village head elder clean my teeth for me. I think.

Next we were divided up into groups and enjoyed a ceremony in which we were accepted into the Maasai tribe and given our Maasai names. I have mine (and my DIL's and DGD’s) recorded, but the picture will suffice for now. My Maasai name is Nalakiti. It means (according to the elder’s speech): Admirable woman who walks in a stately manner, with grace.

I learned in later days that the pared-down version is Woman Who Walks Slowly. Hahahaha!

But Wait! There’s MORE!!

We were escorted back to the school and up the hill (in my case with the head elder guy holding my hand - I kid you not!) to get a tour of the classrooms. After seeing the outside of the building in an earlier picture in this post, the inside should probably not surprise you. There are no windows, lights (although some solar power exists in the village), or other power. This wonderfully friendly teacher was very proud of his students and their progress. He teaches the Second Level, and next year will move with his students to the Third Level.

Next, we all were lead to some chairs set up for us, along with the village elders, to view the entertainment prepared for us. Here is Head Elder Guy and I sitting together before dancing started. After following me around, cleaning my teeth, holding my hand and sitting by me, I was wondering if this was usual treatment. Just then, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, in English, “Will you give me your........      watch??"

What a great many chuckles I’ve gotten over that story! Of course, I said no. Heck, it was my Fitbit, not some ordinary watch, LOL.

I have a couple great videos of the girls dancing, but am hesitant to insert them. Yeah, I inserted the few-second video above (fingers crossed it works) of Narok, but I recorded all 6-plus minutes of the two dances, and don’t want to push my luck.

Two of our teammates, Ellen and Shelly, presented the school with a number of soccer balls for the kids. In Kenya, soccer balls are worth their weight in gold. Below is a picture of them with the athletic teacher (holding the balls) and the school principal (extreme left).

And that was our memorable day! All that was left was to traverse down the mountain. But we did stop to take a picture of this majestic umbrella acacia tree as the sun was setting.

With a little luck, I’ll have a third installment of this travelogue ready on Friday. And then on Saturday, I’ll be joining in with the Rainbow Scrap Challenge ladies to round up my July red scrap sewing. Hope to see you back here!

This is the second post of my Africa trip.
See Part I HERE.