Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Masai Land

After returning from Nairobi two weeks ago, Lily and I spent the beginning of the week on follow-up work and preparing for our little vacation at the end of the week. From Wednesday through Saturday we visited Isaac, our Masai friend.

Isaac is the founder of the first international chapter of the Student Movement for Real Change. He came together with some fellow university students in 2006 in an attempt to address the poverty that surrounds them. The Student Movement receives many requests to open chapters in Africa and the rest of the world, but we do not yet have the institutional capacity to support international branches so most of the requests go unanswered. This did not matter to Isaac—all he needed was a name and a website to add credibility to his efforts. Together with his community, he formed a Masai dance troupe that gives performances at hotels and events for fundraising. In addition to other fundraising activities, he sends Masai beadwork to SMRC, which is then sold by our US chapters. He used the money to purchase desks and supplies for schools in rural areas, and most recently to support friends in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Of all our chapters, Isaac actually raised the most money in 2006-2007!

Isaac took us to his homeland to meet his family. He attends university in Nakuru, where he is majoring in Economics and Math (we get along well...), but he spends his holidays at home with his mom, dad, 24 siblings, his dad's four other wives and countless cousins. The family welcomed us into their homes with astounding generosity, and Lily and I now have our own Masai Momas! (Wives number three and four, respectively).

The week is full of amazing memories--far too many to attempt to describe here. One of my favories was "hunting".

On Friday morning we got up early to go hunting. First, we dressed up in traditional Masai garb, which was actually pretty comfortable (for me—Lily was significantly less happy with her outfit). Hunting involved running around the bush with our cameras making fools of ourselves and laughing hysterically. They dressed us up in ceremonial outfits, not hunting clothes, but we tore through the bush nonetheless. They were about the least effective hunting clothes ever: they were as bright as possible, jingled with every step, and severely restricted Lily’s movement.

On Saturday we walked to Nairobi. Poor Isaac told us on the first day that he doesn’t like hiking, but all we did the whole time we were there was run around in the bush then walk all the way to Nairobi. It was a beautiful hike up out of the rift valley to the Central Highlands. The contrast between the ecology of valley and the highlands was stark, as was the contrast between the lives of those living in the regions.

We met Emily and Abdallah in Nairobi and came back to Mombasa via night bus.

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