Dear _______ (yes you),
Well, here I am. A week in Africa, siting under a large and bizarre half-tree half-cactus plant which oozes a milky white substance that I’m told if dripped into your eyes will cause blindness. The sun is screaming quickly into the sky from the eastern horizon and the coolness of the air here in the Ngong hills will soon be a sweltering if not breezy 30 degrees Celsius.
The Maasai family I’m staying with is large at around 19 (I’m not sure exactly how many; they’re transient, and I’m embarrassed to have probably introduced myself to repeats), which I believe isn’t exactly out of the norm for families with multiple wives.
As expected (and welcomed), life out here with the Maasai family is different from back home. The first thing you’d probably notice about the premises (after spending about 6 minutes swatting flies out of each orifice) is the simple and colourfully painted shelters made out of metal sheeting and some plywood. No insulation required here. You’d also notice huts made out of a creative slew of mud, sticks, and cow dung. These are the kitchens the Maasai women have built themselves, which I’m told can be accomplished in just a couple days. Dank, dark, and hazy on the inside, your eyes soon adjust to the blackness, though not as fast to the smoke. As simple meals are cooked over an open fire, a stingy and nose-clogging aura fills the air. I’ve determined the lack of ventilation serves as a logical insect repellent. Although feeling a little bit like Luke Skywalker hunched inside Yoda’s Dagobah home, I’m more than pleased to gorge on the miniature rations.
Food conneseurs would best leave their critic’s pens at home and their appetites modest. Food serves its purpose, or at least makes an attempt: my breakfast this morning consisted of toast (2 slices of white bread – sprinkled with flies a la carte) and the staple drink of choice for Kenyans called Chai. Chai here simply means ‘tea’, and they love to load it to the max with sugar granules and milk. And serve it at scalding hot lava temperature. I tell them I take my sugar and milk with a little Chai. Other common dishes include ugali, chappatti, rice, and beans. The nearest market with fruit I’ll be dreaming of soon is maybe a 40 minute off-road drive. Perhaps when I go into the nearest town on the back of a piki piki this weekend I’ll find a cheap bicycle to get to a Maasai market somewhere which I’m told set up on Tuesdays (more vague information, and many mangos, pending). I’d like to send Breakfast Television a story that I’ll try editing on my iPhone this evening together but will need stable wifi for it to reach the producers. It may be impossible, though I’ll make an attempt this weekend if I can find an Internet donkey. So watch for that Monday morning at the earliest on City. The little kids I’ve exploited should be bait enough to get me some airtime.
As it relates, I’ve explored several areas of need in the area. My main focus outside of teaching at Olmararoi primary school will be to raise funds for the nearby daycare. Walking there from the school is about 10 or 15 minutes. Some of the needs of the daycare include a kitchen to be built (they currently cook for the kids outside on a fire – at the mercy of the rain during wet season), food stock (such as grains, corn and beans), a large water tank plus gutters to collect rainfall, beds to be built and mattresses for the younger children to nap on, toilet improvements, and a fence to separate the kids from the dangerous plants and animals in the area. There’s also no glass in the windows and the daycare teacher hasn’t received a wage.
The school I’m teaching at has had the benefit of some past volunteers who’ve been able to contribute small improvements over time, but there are still sizeable projects to work on including replacing some decrepit classrooms. My biggest immediate concern is the lack of supplies and overall structure of the school system. This is basically due to lack of government funding or investment, as far as I can tell. So, small little things like a fastened pencil sharpener in each room would make big differences. Although I’d like my fundraising efforts to concentrate primarily on the daycare, the school is lacking some things we might take for granted at home.
The improvements to the daycare would help it and the immediate community receive sustainable solutions to current problems. I wish I’d brought things like pencils, books and donated clothes from home. Simple craft supplies and dollar store items make the children’s day over here. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to mail such items, but purchasing similar stuff here isn’t an impossibility. Just logistically challenging with my remoteness.
The daycare welcomes any donations. The things I listed are very attainable solutions. Check out the About page to learn how by donating you can receive handmade Maasai gifts that earn Maasai women income. Also check out my Instagram and Facebook pages and follow this blog for stories and updates.
Lemayian is the Maasai name a class of students gave me….probably to butter me up. Ok no homework.