Monday, October 15, 2012

Jump for joy like the Maasai

This Tuesday we visited a Maasai Manyatta, which is a Maasai village that is set up to display their culture to tourists. We were greeted with a traditional welcoming ceremony that included singing, chanting, jumping, and dancing. The Maasai were dressed in shukas and lots of beaded jewelry, which they let us try on and join in on the dancing. Then we were shown how to make a fire with just two pieces of wood (one of a hard acacia and one of a soft acacia), donkey dung and dry brush. Next we were able to ask some questions about their culture. Of course we had to write a paper about the visit so we drilled the chief’s son about his tribe. After that we got a tour of their mud huts. Finally we were able to look at jewelry to buy. It was interesting to see how a tribe has had to participate in tourist activities and can no longer survive on their traditional pastoralist practices. This tribe does still have livestock, but the manyatta brings in much more money. This just shows that Africa is changing and unfortunately the tribes must also change and modernize.

On Wednesday we had a travelling lecture to see how local people were living sustainable lives. The first stop was to a primary school that had its own farm and chicken coup. They also grew trees that students could take home and villagers could buy to plant and reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity. The school with over 800 students is able to do this solely because of the donations from a lodge owner. Yet, the students are learning all about conservation. Next we went to visit Mama Danielle (yes, I found another Danielle in Africa!) at her home, where her family uses biogas. Biogas is the utilization of products from cow dung in order to light her stove for cooking. It is a stinky process, but she is able to have a gas burner to cook food on instead of the typical coal burning fire that is of course terrible for the environment. Last we went to a brick making factory that also saves coal and wood by compacting bricks with a machine instead of cooking them. All of these conservation techniques are quite expensive, but local communities do support people to use them and help with some of the costs.

That afternoon we had community service at the Rhotia Primary School. Here we read stories, played games and worked on building a concrete wall for their new kitchen. The children are so sweet and love playing with the wazungu (what they call white people/tourists).

Saturday I spent the whole day with a local family and one other student. The father of the family works at the Shirt Shack, a local store that sells shirts and souvenirs to tourists, so they are wealthier than most other families. I spent the day with another student, Max, Mama Pascal, Francis (20 yrs old), Valentina (16), Martin (13), Veronica (6) and some other children that were visiting for the day. All of the children and even Mama knew pretty good English, so we were able to communicate pretty well and learn some Swahili along the way. We started the day with tea and bread. Then we started making the lunch that we brought: meat, rice, ugali, cabbage and some vegetables. Mama and Valentina made the lunch and Max and I helped by cutting vegetables and stirring the food while it cooked over coals or a fire. It was so amazing to see how much Vale helped around the house... She knew how to cook, do laundry, wash dishes and was a great hostess. After doing some chores we watched some tv and African music videos. This day taught me a lot about the values of being a family and every member helping out. Also, it was great to see such happy people that worked so hard and still had a smile on their face. 

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