Friday, January 27, 2012

Class, Wedding, Class...what?

New classroom, more new students everyday, and a wedding on a Wednesday afternoon...huh?

I arrived in Ilkiloret just before 10 am on Wednesday ready to teach. The first thing Rebeka said to me was, "Chief's celebration today, me cook."

"Really," I said.

I went to school to find Janet all dolled up in a pink suit.
"What's the celebration all about," I asked.
"My step-brother is getting married," Janet said.
"Do people normally get married in the middle of the day on a weekday?" I asked. (I was full of questions all afternoon.)
"They get married whenever," Janet said.

We had all of five students, one, Isaya, came about 5 minutes before the end of class. Come to find out he was just passing the time before he was due to preach at the wedding!

Janet and I went back to Rebeka's to eat lunch before the wedding. I wasn't told there was going to be a celebration. I had on a black and white skirt and a black tank top. I put on a belt so I could wear my camera case on my belt. Rebeka gave me one of the necklaces she made to wear. I put on a beach hat to shade me from the midday rays that are oven-like in Ilkiloret this time of year. As we were leaving, I grabbed a blue leso to put over my shoulder should I not find any shade. Rebeka immediately took it away from me and pulled out a red one and wrapped it Maasai-like around my shoulders. She took another look at me and grabbed another more Maasai-like necklace and put it over my neck. "Good," she said. "White Maasai!"

Janet and Jessica on the way to the wedding.

Waiting for the bride with a small friend.

Then we walked over to Janet's father's (the chief's) compound and sat in plastic chairs under a tree while we waited for the bride to arrive. The wedding was supposed to start at noon. A pick-up truck with some branches stuck in the grill came up the path toward the compound in a cloud of dust just after 2:30 in the afternoon.

Some of the brides relatives (all male) climbed out of the back of the pickup. The chief climbed from the front seat. Seated between him and the photographer, who doubled as the driver, was the saddest most stoic bride I have ever seen in my life.

Here comes the bride...

The not so happy bride. And yes that's a baby on her back and no, not sure whose it is.

I asked Janet why she looked so sad. Janet said she had to leave her family and move to her husband's compound and Janet said, you are not supposed to look happy to do that.

The mayhem that followed was nothing short of hysterical. The bride and what I assume were her maids started to make their way inside the compound when one of the women flew out of the crowd of women who had gathered and went off, yelling and carrying on like the world was about to end. I took a few photos and then went to find Janet.
"What's going on," I asked.
Janet laughed,"The woman yelling wants to know why they haven't laid down leso's for the bride to walk on."
The "conversation" went on for 5 minutes. I shot a 3 minute movie of it. I'll add a link to the video soon.

After 5 minutes of shouted "discussion" the leso walkway is laid down.

Anyway, the bride and the wedding party go into the new husband's manyatta and his family gives her presents and she drinks milk from his families cows.

The crowd gathered under a tree and when the bridal party emerged from the manyatta they joined us in the shade for prayers and singing and then a small offering was taken, (I assume it was for the newlyweds).

Preaching and praying...

And singing...

After the prayers, the crowd was fed rice, potatoes, meat stew and chapati. I gave most of my food to Ezekiel as we had eaten a big lunch of meat and chapati and I wasn't the least bit hungry. Ezekiel is Rebeka's five-year-old son who has an uncanny ability of knowing when I'm likely to give him food. He appears at the exact moment when I can't put another bite in my mouth and then gives me a huge smile when I hand over my plate.

The chapati was made on a three stone fire by young women from the area...most of whom are my students.

Chapati made over a 3 stone fire is the BEST!

The finished product!

Goat Stew! Num!

Mashed Potatoes!

The happy couple...I did see her smile...once...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As a rule I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. But if I did the list would look something like this (not necessarily in this order):

Resolution #1: To be a better mom.
Resolution #2: To be a better teacher.
Resolution #3: To learn Swahili, even if it kills me.
Resolution #4: To be a better listener.
Resolution #5: To take time for myself.
Resolution #6: To stop getting in my own way.
Resolution #7: To pray more.
Resolution #8: To be more loving.
Resolution #9: To focus on what’s important and let go of what is not.
Resolution #10: To make time for exercise, even when I don’t want to.
Resolution #11: To control my temper.
Resolution #12: To do a better job and staying in touch with friends.

What are your resolutions? Have you ever looked back at the end of the year and been able to check any off your list? That’s my goal this year…to check one or many off the list. I want this year to be one I can look back and be proud of. It may be the most challenging year of my life to date, but that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to be the best person I can be while meeting the challenges ahead. Keep reading the blog, at the end of 2012 we can look back together and you can help me decide if they’re any check marks to be made. Until then – happy reading.

Blissfully dirty

Dirt is beautiful! Getting dirty usually means you’ve accomplished something or tried to.

Hanging on my wall in Ngong are three photos from when I was young, one is my father holding me when I was very young wrapped in a blanket outside our home in Litchfield. The second one is of me at about the age of 6 feeding our horse Joshua. The third picture is of my dad crouching down petting our dog Custard in field and me at about the age of 3 standing next to him in my bib overalls with Jackie O sunglasses on and a white clutch purse. I remember two other photos from my youth. In one I’m about 4 years old, I have on a white mini dress with big flowers on it and red mud boots. My right hand is firmly holding my dad’s hand, my left hand is holding up a gopher in a trap and on my face is a huge smile. The last photo is when I was about 9, my dad and I have big smiles on our faces­ – shoes off, pants rolled up, arms around each other walking through calf deep mud.

As I grew, I found less and less time to get dirty. With the exception of farm life like mucking out horse stalls or haying, and a few adventures along the way like mud volleyball in college you just have less opportunities to get really grubby.

However, when dirt makes you as happy as it makes me, you will always find your way back to it. Consider my current job with the Maasai. By the time I reach Ilkiloret, I’m covered in dust and the dust just accumulates during the day. My life in Ilkiloret is filled with visiting dung covered huts and swatting flies and children who play in the dirt and then come and rub their hands over my white skin and soft hair - and I’m blissfully happy.

Of course, purging the dirt is nice too. Bathing is an exhilarating experience in the bush, no simple shower in tiled sterility can compare. Where else can you have a clear view of nature while washing a thick film of dirt from your body? Once the dirt is gone however, and I’ve relished the cleanliness of my skin and hair, I often begin to muse about the next time I will be blissfully dirty…fortunately, I never have to wait long.

Filling the Space

I’m the daughter of a perfectionist. It just so happens that my father is a carpenter, so I pity the Kenyan craftsman who has must endure my critical albeit unskilled eye.

On Friday I picked up the furniture for the adult education classroom in Ilkiloret that was made in Ngong – 12 tables, 1 cabinet and 1 desk. This particular fundi was recommended by someone on Wezesha’s board so I thought he would be able to cut the mustard, I was unfortunately mistaken. He forgot to make the teacher’s desk, the cabinet leaves a lot to be desired and is not what I had designed, and a few of the tables have obvious flaws. It’s to be expected really, most of the furniture here is poorly made, or maybe my standards are just too high – thanks Dad!

I got a lorry from another board member who owns a hardware store and the driver, George, and some helpers proceeded to pack it.

Loading the truck in Ngong.

Amazingly everything arrived in Ilkiloret intact. The hardware store had provided one helper, but unloading the lorry was a three- person job and there were no able-bodied Maasai men around, so I got to do the honors. About a half hour later we were back on the road to Ngong, smellier and lighter than we started out and that meant George could drive faster on the road that in many places is not actually a road. My back ached by the time I was back in Ngong. I could write my name in the dust on my arm…lovely! And below is a picture of what I wiped off my face!

You have to love the summer dust in the Rift Valley.

Next week I will go down on Wednesday afternoon and help Janet clean and arrange the classroom. My first class will be on Thursday, January 19. With the new building I’m expecting a lot of new students and hopefully the former students will come more regularly. The real test of a teacher is how much his/her students remember after a school break. I also have to cram of course…I had learned a lot of Maasai and Swahili vocabulary… where did I put those notes!