The last two weeks have probably been the best two weeks of my life. I met amazing new friends. I befriended an entire community. I learned from Maasai warriors. I contributed to the foundation of a classroom. Finally, I taught English and Math in a grade 7 and 8 class, but learned so much more from them than they learned from me. This trip impacted my life in such large ways. I want to share with the world my experiences and how doing service abroad or at home makes such a large impact on the lives of people and yourself. I did so many activities it’s difficult to talk about them all but the trip had 3 large components: Atmosphere, Building and Teaching.
Welcome to my 3 part series focusing around the three components to my trip to Kenya. This trip was 15 days of learning, whether conventional or unconventional. I was an eye opening experience and I’m excited to share it with you all.
The first thing that shocked me when I got to Kenya was the landscape. It was so diverse and it felt like every turn you took you had a different view and felt like you travelled to a different part of the world. You had mountains to your right and prairies to your left. There were rich green forests then the dry barren desert surrounding them. Crop fields for miles then bright green grass accompanied by Maasai huts and farms.
A lot of the landscape that I saw was during a safari tour. I might not have seen any Elephants or Lions but seeing a herd of Zebras running through the Maasai Mara is the most majestic thing I’ve ever seen and I feel as though I could have watched it for hours on end. Another amazing thing was the Giraffes. African animals in the wild just seem to have a free spirit to them, it’s wonderful. They are the definition of wild and free, because of that they make you feel as though you are too.
The next thing that contributes to the atmosphere is the community and the culture that I learned about while I was there. In the Maasai community they call their mothers Mamas. If you’ve ever worn a Rafiki Bracelet then you might be familiar with them. The Mamas make these beautiful beaded jewelry pieces. They are traditionally made and used for themselves and their families but recently they are sold as a way for the Mamas to make income. I had the honour and pleasure to bead with two wonderful Mamas who were so filled with joy, laughter and strength. The way they make Rafiki Bracelets is a lot easier than I thought it was, but it’s a lot harder than the Mamas make it seem. When I did it there was a lot of string breaking and beads being spilt on my shuka. That just goes to show you that the work that they put into making these bracelets is worth the $10 (but it’s also worth it because $5 goes to a cause and $5 goes to the Mama and her family).
Women not only bead to make income, but they also have daily chores to do. They have to walk up to 20 km or more on a daily basis to get water for cooking, cleaning, drinking etc. It’s a painful process to carry the water. My group and I carried it for only 1km and that was tough enough and halfway through the walk we traded off. Now imagine a 7 year old girl having to do that once or twice a day. Here in North America, we have such easy access to water but in most parts of the world it’s not that easy. We learned about a statistic after the water walk: “By the year 2025, 50% of the world’s population won’t have access to clean water.” This is extremely shocking. Imagine having to choose between you and your partner, only one of you can drink clean water and the other as to drink contaminated water. That’s basically deciding which one of you will live a healthy life and which one will live a life filled with sickness. It’s easy to be aware that not the entire world has clean water but to think of it so drastically is scary. If you want to make an impact it’s the little things that help:
- Turning off water while lathering your hands, body and hair
- Using energy efficient appliances that conserve water
- Drinking tap water or filtered water instead of bottled water (water is needed to make the plastic)
- “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”
- Take a shorter shower!
- This might sound wrong but… use the dishwasher. They are actually made to wash dishes and they save water because you are able to wash large amounts of dishes with less water waste.
There’s so many more ways of saving water, I just gave a few examples
The living conditions that the Maasai live are totally different from the ways I live, in North America. In North America, people are always looking for more square feet. People want fancy homes. They spend years collecting decorations to make their homes unique. In Kenya, they live simple lives. They don’t have the tools to build beautiful large homes. They build their homes to be as functional as they can make it. I had the pleasure to sit in a traditional Maasai home that a Mama built (and maintains) with her own two hands. Out of respect for her and her privacy I’m not going to share photos of the home but I can share a rough blueprint I created to match what it looked like:This blueprint is just an example that I made. In reality the walls are mud; the floors are dirt; the ceiling is sticks, dirt and grass. The beds are single sized thin mattresses. There’s very little ventilation in the kitchen space but not enough to allow smoke to be completely freed. They don’t live in their homes though. They live outside. They are farming, playing, singing, dancing, working. They live simple lives that aren’t spent indoors. It may sound like they have poor living conditions but they are very happy people. They don’t focus their time indoors, they’re more or less always outside. I wanted to share their home because it becomes more of a health concern, rather living in poverty. They sleep in a smoke filled home with their farm animals in the next room so they don’t get eaten in the night. That’s a huge problem for their health and health care centres are needed and are so far from communities.
Their living conditions shows how important heath clinics and hospitals are there. The organization that I travelled with recently converted one health clinic into a hospital and that means they can now do surgeries. They would never do surgeries that the doctors aren’t qualified to do, so there’s a lot of cesarian sections and other minor surgeries. I think in the future it will expand and more people will be able to go to school, become doctors or surgeons and their hospital will grow to large city level hospital. I also think that their health clinic is growing rapidly and soon it will reach hospital status as well.
The last thing I want to mention is the Maasai Warriors. It’s the last generation of warriors in the Maasai Mara and they are the greatest people I’ve ever met. The organization I toured with pairs two warriors with every group that travels to Kenya. My group had the two best warriors (at least in my opinion): Justus and Livingstone. I don’t want to share too much about them because I want to respect their privacy but if you want insight about the Maasai ways, their culture, traditions, how they become warriors and how it feels to be the last generation of warriors then I would recommend reading: The Last Maasai Warriors: An Autobiography by
Justus on the left, Livingstone on the right
I shared a lot about my trip in this post. I hope that you all enjoy it and if this inspires you in any way to do service aboard, please feel free to contact me. As for my next blog post, I’ll have it up as soon as possible. I’ll be giving you a look into the build that my group did. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had recently and I’m glad I have the chance to spread what I learned and my insights with all those that read this article and the others that will follow. Thank you.
Until next time and happy adventuring,