Growing Up Maasai
It’s been a few days since our last update. This was not from a lack of attention on our part but merely the lack of internet. For the last few days we traveled north of Nairobi to a town called Ngong on the edge of Maasai land. We made Ngong our base of operation and traveled into Maasai land each day. In Ngong we were working with MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) and their local partner MIDI (Maasai Integrated Development Initiative).
The travel in and out of the Rift Valley where the Maasai live is difficult and rough terrain requiring 4 wheel drive. Thursday it took almost two hours to drive 30km to the farm we were visiting. The Rift Valley stretches from the Middle East all the way to South Africa. It can even be seen from space. What an experience for our group to see God’s creation in such magnitude. How many students can say they had a picnic lunch overlooking the Rift Valley?
However, the rough journey was well worth the effort. The Maasai people have a rich culture and heritage in this region of Kenya. They are traditionally private and until the last 15 years or so an outsider could rarely go into villages as we were able to the last few days. The Maasai are most known for their colorful usually red shawls they wear on their shoulders, and their herding staffs. Pictures of these herdsmen are commonly connected in references to Kenya. We were incredibly honored to have been their guests. I can’t speak for the students but I know I as a leader was very humbled by how much the Maasai welcomed us and were excited to show us their work. Everywhere we went a crowd from the village was there to greet us and individually shake our hands.
Being from Indiana and exposed to the Amish community, I saw so many similarities. The Maasai are a culture struggling to hang on to their traditions and way of life, but at the same time are facing the realities of a changing world much like the Amish. So, just like the Amish, they have adapted to maintain their culture, while being able to make a living and survive. It is common to see a Maasai with a cell phone attached to their traditional dress. A funny example of this was while a Maasai women was showing us how she carried a bale of hay on her back, she got a phone call and was standing there with the bale on her back talking on her cell. The Maasai have also changed the way they farm and raise livestock with the help of organizations like MCC & MIDI. Again, like the Amish, they have diversified their communities to produce other goods and crops.
The students continue to work hard and respond well to all of the challenges that have popped up. They may be the lucky ones to have been able to go to Kenya for a May Term class, but unlike their peers attending class for 4 hours a day, 4 days a week in Goshen, these students are working from sun up to sun down every single day, dealing with unfamiliar places and cultures outside their comfort zones.
Our time in the projects with FRB is done, and I can’t believe how quick it flew by. Now we will go tomorrow to visit the Maasai Mara game park to be tourists for the last two days we are here. Thanks for all of the support and prayers back home.
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