Monday, October 1, 2012

Quality time with the Maasai

Jambo jambo!

So I have had an EXHASUTING past couple days. Literally last night I went to bed at 9:30 and was still in bed when the bell rang for breakfast this morning at 7:30. For reference, most nights I am in bed at 11, but up at 6 to 6:30. Note: I don’t actually mean to get up at 6-6:30 every morning but that’s when the birds start to get pretty talkative. Today was actually fairly relaxing in comparison to what we’ve been doing. In the morning we went over statistical stuff in excel, but it was fairly hard to follow along because we had no power for the projector. After that we just had our third to last environmental policy lecture! Then we only have field exercises left for that class. I enjoy the topic, but I’m glad that there’s not so many lectures left. I much prefer being out and interacting with people! Or just being outside the chumba at all. We only have one main building (the chumba) here and it’s awesome and open air but we spend a lot of time in here. We eat in here. We have lectures in here. We use anything that needs to electricity in here. We ended the day with a super fun Kiswahili lesson where we watched more Kiswahili music videos.

In between classes I got to do fun relaxing activities like taking a shower and painting. I have two assignments that I could have worked on, but my computer wasn’t charged and the power was out, so I pursued other activities. ALSO today was the first day that I not only tolerated my ice cold shower but I legitimately did not mind it (which was funny because I finally got the one shower that was apparently warm but the power was out so the heater did not work at all). So, since I was able to wash my hair relatively easily I decided not to shave my head. That’ll probably disappoint the barbers I was scoping out in Kimana who were probably looking forward to 50 shillings and the endless entertainment gained by the random mzungu who was seeking a drastic haircut. Oh well.

Then we moved 2 tons of water in about 5 minutes. SFS ladies are STRONG (and efficient at moving 19 liter bottles). Also I upped my resistance today with my resistance bands. WORKIN’ OUT.

We gained all those calories back by eating s’mores and by s’mores I mean not s’mores at all. I mean, they had marshmallows but they were East African marshmallows that melted in the heat rather than catch on fire. Instead of graham crackers, we used “nice biscuits” which  are just like coconut cookie things that get soggy if they’re even in the same tupperware compartment as my sandwich. The chocolate was the best part because our student affairs manager is the BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD and shared his nutella that he brought from the States with us. So they were chocolatey and marshmallowy, which was good enough for me. We sat around the campfire and sang songs and came to terms with the fact that we are basically 30 adults at really academic extended summer camp in East Africa and it’s okay.

Speaking of academics, things are getting TOUGH but that’s okay. We’re staring our poster and gearing up for directed research already. We had probably one of the toughest academic days the other day. We were volunteering with Kenyan Wildlife Services to help out with a complete census of Amboseli National Park and it was SO INTENSE. We got to drive around off road and had a super not-official looking sign that said “Do not follow off road” on the back of our land cruiser. We got super dusty and took like 8 pages of census data that was mostly noting herds of hundreds of zebra. Then we chilled out with KWS employees and other guides at the employee cantina and watched soccer. Apparently all Maasai are Chelsea fans. One junior warrior (Maasai word: Moran) put a Chelsea jersey on over his traditional garb. He was very enthusiastic about the match.

And since we like to keep busy, after that long day we had another! Our Maasai homestay which was legitimately super awesome. My Maasai mama’s name was Jen. She was very nice to me even though I was completely helpless at every task she gave me. She was also like 6 months pregnant and a total boss at cutting firewood with a machete. She also spoke just about as much Kiswahili as I did, so there was a lot of signing and pointing and saying things in Kimaasai and trying to figure out what actually was going on. We had an incredibly long conversation about my water bottle (I think). She was apparently very concerned about my hydration status. The day was filled with lots of fun things and a ton of chai drinking. At one point I had to wrangle baby goats and I think the kids are pointing out more goats to separate from the herd just to see me try and wrangle them. I actually did pretty well with that. Cooking ugali and cabbage? Not so much.

We also exercised our neck muscles by carrying water on our head. I’m not totally sure how to describe how we carried stuff with our head, so I’ll upload a picture later this week. It’s pretty neat though. My neck was sore afterwards.

Funny parts of the day: the door to our boma was latched from the inside. Jen was not worried about this at all. She just slid her machete between the door and the wall and popped the latch open. Also, she was always asking if I wanted pictures but wasn’t too interested in taking any herself at the beginning of the day. Then she started looking through my photos, though, and she got really into them! She really liked looking at my photos from Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary, which was cool.  She found my huge collection of Guinea Fowl amusing. She also got really into taking cute photos of some baby sheep near the end of the day.

Her boma isn’t too far, so I'd love to visit her another time. I’d also like to get some of the photos of her and her daughter printed out in Nairobi next time someone drives up there so I can bring her a few. We’re also looking into inviting all the families that hosted students to camp, which logistically probably is really tough, but I would LOVE to have them. Everyone had a totally awesome family and learned a lot! I had a great day. I felt so lucky to be invited into her home for the day. I definitely hope that isn’t the last time we meet!

Cook crew tomorrow so boo... but late breakfast so yay! It's 11:40 PM. This is definitely the latest I've stayed up in a long time. I feel kind of old.

Lala salama!

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