Feb 24, 2010

Maasai Village

Friday, we traveled about 2 hours outside of Nairobi to a Maasai village. Sharp contrast to the slum in Kibera. The Maasai people hold tight to tribal traditions, and live on an abundance of land. (And let me just say that if you ever travel here...do NOT take your neck pillow because you think you will be able to take a nap on the early morning drive...you will be sorely disappointed...I was airborne most of the ride...)

When we first arrived, we went straight to the church where the Compassion project meets. We were greeted by the Project Director and other staff members. I can't tell you how excited they were to have guests. It's very humbling to sit as honored visitors and have them pour blessings over us.

Next, the children of the project paraded in, singing songs:

We divided into groups and headed out for home visits while some of the tribe prepared our lunch. They slaughtered a goat for us. Learned that they never eat their goats unless there are honored guests visiting.

Roger, Graham, Beth Ann, Brooke (LDP) and I headed to Simon's home. He's the one in pink:

Simon and his family used to live in a mud hut, no taller than 4 feet. But through Compassion, they were able to build this home:

As a group, we participated in what we called "a day in the life ," where we walked through what a typical day would hold for Simon.

The first thing we did was to herd his goats and sheep. They take the goats out to feed several times a day. And that sums up what the men do...

They told us that the majority of the daily responsibilities belong to the women. It's their job to cook, clean, fetch water, raise children and do whatever else may come up. The men are there to tend to the animals and be manly. Oh, and if you are a Maasai man who is out being manly and you come home and see another manly Maasai man's walking stick outside your hut...it means that someone else has decided to "borrow" your wife for the afternoon. Wow. Good thing they still practice polygamy.

In all seriousness, we had a conversation over lunch the day before about these practices. What happens when you are a Maasai man with three wives and many children who becomes a believer? Do you divorce all but the first wife? Stick with it because it seems the right thing to do? Quit having "relations" with all but one wife? It's a real problem they face.

Back to the daily chores...

The next thing we did was fetch water. Sounds nice and lovely. Looks easy, right?
Just look at Beth Ann and me with our cute little headband-looking water-toting contraptions:


Boy, if I could just tell you how much we did NOT know what we were about to do! 
We walked for a bit to the water source for Simon's family. It is basically a large pond full of brown, nasty water that people and animals share. They go here 2 to 3 times a day to get water.

I could not believe this man filled my water jug for me. He had to check with one of the women to make sure he was doing it right. I was sure it was the first time he had ever assisted in water-fetching. 

Graham and Roger also carried water jugs, which we found out was not the case for the other men in our group. The other home visits stuck to the "girls only" rule.

Graham was really thrilled about this part:

Do you know that when you go through customs on your way back to your home country, they ask you if you were near or handled livestock? Just sayin...

After herding goats and fetching water, we headed back to the church where we were to partake in eating the slaughtered goat. I wasn't so much nervous about trying the goat as I was concerned about catching some random Kenyan parasite. Ask Andy about that (and also, go to his blog-he's a much better writer than I am!)

Anywho, I don't have any pictures of the lunch they prepared for us, but it was actually pretty good. They made a stew with potatoes, and there was rice and chapati (picture.) Chapati is Y.U.M.M.Y.

The last thing we did with the Maasai was to go on one more home visit. We divided into groups again and headed out to meet moms who participate in the Child Survival Program. This is a relatively new program being implemented by Compassion. They realized that while child sponsorship is an amazing thing having great impact...there are hundreds of thousands of children dying before reaching sponsorship age. And they are dying from PREVENTABLE DISEASES AND LACK OF BASIC KNOWLEDGE.

Compassion takes pregnant women and new moms and provides education in these areas:
  • Growth Monitoring — steady growth is a good sign of adequate nutrition
  • Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) — restores fluids lost to diarrhea
  • Breast-feeding — promotes infant growth, facilitates bonding with the mother, and reduces incidence of illness
  • Immunization — an effective way to reduce or eliminate many diseases that cause childhood death and disability
  • Female Literacy — the mother's level of education is directly tied to child survival
  • Food — food or supplements fight off malnourishment
  • Family Planning — greater spacing between births allows the mother's body to be better prepared for the rigors of pregnancy and to provide greater attention to each child's needs
Meet Elizabeth and her twins, Ruth and Naomi:

Well, part of Ruth and Naomi. They were extremely shy, and honestly a little scared. Pretty sure we were the first mzungus (Swahili for "white peeps") these baby girls had ever seen!

Elizabeth told us about being pregnant with twins and how, without the Child Survival Program which paid all her medical expenses and made sure she delivered in a hospital (can't imagine the bumpy ride to the hospital while pregnant,) her twins would not have survived. She was alive with joy and hope, and was so happy to share her story.

She told us the things she learned in CSP, like how important it is to make sure your kids eat their veggies. She had even grown a vegetable garden behind her house with spinach, potatoes, carrots and several other things. She also learned the importance of washing and drying dishes to avoid contamination. And hydration. In the past, these moms thought that diarrhea meant their children needed to stop drinking.

And let me just tell you about the twins. ADORABLE, I tell you! They reminded me so much of my little bit. They were doing all the things 2-year olds do. No evidence of poverty in them. Just normal toddlers doing toddler things. They are even a little bit chunky! No swollen bellies here, no mam!

One more thing about the CSP that is just amazing. There is a limit to the number of moms who can participate in the program. So what about the pregnant mom in the hut next to Elizabeth who is not in the CSP? Well, don't worry about her because this program fosters discipleship to the max. We were driving back to the church and noticed several other drying racks at the surrounding huts. Oh yes, they are teaching all the moms what they have learned. AMAZING, just AMAZING.

And then she went and melted my heart by taking off one of her necklaces and putting it around my neck. I. WAS. DONE. This woman is amazing.

At each home visit, we always brought a large bag full of food to leave behind. Here is V, giving Elizabeth her bag of food. Sorry it's blurry.

So there you have it...our day in the life of the Maasai. I say that very loosely. They definitely did more than we did and had their fair share of laughs at our attempts to do the things they do every day...but fun was had by all. And if you ever find yourself on a trip to Kenya, which I hope you do, DO NOT FORGET TO PUT ON YOUR SUNSCREEN. I mean it...even if it's overcast and feels amazing. You WILL burn and look like a lobster...really...I am such a mzungu.

The hope and joy we continue to see in the faces of those impacted by Compassion is truly phenomenal. Blessed beyond measure to be along for this ride.


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