Thursday, May 13, 2010

A visit to the Masi Community next to the Mara

Our visit to the Masi Community just outside of the Maasi Mara Game Park had a lasting impact on both of us. These native people have cohabited with the wild life in the Mara for so long that a mutual respect has developed between beast and man. They do not hunt the wild life and the wild life for the most part (except during severe droughts like the one that they just experienced a year ago) do not bother them. However as a precaution, the Masi still bring all of their livestock (and kids) inside a circular enclosure at night. This is surrounded by their homes and a fence made of a dense thicket. This to ward off lion and hyena attacks. As a result the interior of their community is essential covered in dung and dirt. Most of them are barefooted all of the time and the children play on this surface.

In another time the custom was that a young man had to kill a male lion as his rite of passage. The current chief of the tribe had killed two lions in his youth. He had made a headdress out of its mien. It is also their custom to live much as the animals do in that the dominant males have more wives. The men herd and protect their livestock by day. We were told and we observed that young boys start herding goats as early as 3 or 4 with their brothers and fathers.

The women make the homes out of a woven twig frame coated with a mixture of cow dung and mud. We did not observe them washing their hands before preparing meals over an open fire pit. The young girls for the most part tended to the children.

It is still their practice to drink a blend of cows blood and milk a couple times a week especially for mothers who are still nursing. They poke the jugular artery of the cow with an arrow and drain out some blood and then seal the wound with mud. The blood is then mixed in a gourd vessel with fresh milk. As a result of this practice all of their cows have a kind of decorative wound around their necks that resembles a necklace.

As we ended our visit they had some hand-made crafts on display. They were authentic pieces that members of the tribe had created out of local materials and imported beads. This beautiful young lady had made the bracelet that Karen chose to buy.
The young men have jumping contests as they perform and chant. The custom is that: he who jumps highest gets the prettiest bride. No I did not get offered a new bride with this jump! I can't ell are they laugh at me??

The women involved the Missionary Sisters in their dance and chant. Notice the little girl out in front. She had already learned the dance and was giving all that she had.

This bashful little girl was sitting all alone in the shade of her home watching the visiting "Mzungus" (Swahili for white people).

Just as we left the park and entered the Masi community (there is no fence marking the boundary between park and community) we caught a glimpse of a small family of baboons.
This older guy stopped just long enough for me to snap his picture.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A new additional assignment

We are pretty excited about a new assignment that we have been given. In addition to our same office responsibilities during the week we have been assigned to provide support for a small branch called the Kilili Branch on Sundays. This little community is high in the Kilunga Hills Southeast of Nairobi. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive from our home. We went for the first time today. We were too busy to take pictures but expect some in the near future.

It was like driving back in time at least 200 years (and I have decided that that is not necessarily a bad thing)! The hills are lush green and terraced with crops. They are still without electricity, or running water, although both are in the process of being provided. For now though the women still carry the family's water from the river in 5 gallon buckets strapped to their heads, as well as carrying the firewood for cooking in the same manner. A few of the "wealthier" families have purchased a donkey to perform these labors. Currently at the church the water comes from a large plastic container that stores the run-off from the building's rain gutters. The restrooms at the church consist of two small out-houses with concrete floors in which there is a 6" X 8" rectangular hole-members bring their own T paper. We were saddened to learn that the water well that LDS Charities had drilled not long ago was not being used because the entire community could not afford the diesel fuel to run the pump. The Church always gets a prior commitment from the communities that they drill wells for, that they will maintain the wells after they are drilled and given to them. Unfortunately in this case the community has not followed through. Hopefully that will change before too long.

The people had been told that we were coming. They were very welcoming and asked us to speak for a few minutes after their regular speakers had finished. About a hundred people were in attendance. After the first meeting, Karen helped in the primary and Relief Society and I was asked to teach a small group of investigators and newly baptized members during sunday school. Even though English and Swahili are Kenya's national languages some of these people had not learned either. So I had to have a member translate the message into their native tongue Kikamb By prior arrangement, after the regular meetings were completed, we stayed and help train the men how to do home teaching and the women how to do visiting teaching. They had never done either before.

We have a lot to learn from them about commitment and dependability as well. Most of them walk several miles to attend church, rain or shine. They also walk 3-4 miles between each of the families that they will home teach or visit teach. I remember back home some of the men were not happy when they were assigned to visit families that required them to drive their air-conditioned cars across the bridge 3-4 miles.

We will attend church there 2 or 3 Sundays a month. On the other Sunday/s we will visit other branches around Kenya to train them on financial record keeping in preparation for the semiannual audit that I will do of their books in August.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Safari to the Maasai Mara on the southwest border of Kenya

Our group was composed of 29 people made up of: 10 Senior Missionary Couples from the Kenya Nairobi Mission; i Missionary Couple from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; our Mission President's sister and her husband; and 5 offsprings of 3 different couples. The flight from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, a game park on the southwestern border between Kenya and Tanzania, took about 45 minutes. It was the first time Karen and I had flown in such small planes. It required 3 single engine-12 passenger planes to get us all there. As we flew west over the Great Rift Valley, the scenery was spectacular. The long rainy season has made everything emerald green. It reminded me of the pictures I had seen of Ireland. The plane that we flew in had to make 1 stop before our stop. The landing strips were just gravel roads.

As we landed at our destination, our guides met us in 6 large green Land Rovers to transport us from the airstrip to Camp Intrepid. Upon arrival at the camp we were assigned to our tents. Each couple got a tent that was surrounded by lush green foliage and was far enough away from the neighboring tents to provide privacy. The veranda of each tent overlooked the Mara River. A 4 ft. high electric fence was all that separated us from the critters on the other side of the river. We were also informed that whenever we left our tent, we needed to prop the two deck chairs in front of the front zipper of our tent, because the local monkeys had learned how to unzip the front flap to get at any food or other goodies inside.

After settling into our tent we went for a great four course buffet lunch. There was then about an hour and a half to nap, visit the gift shop, or explore the camp before our first game drive. As much as I enjoy a good nap, we choose to explore.

Posing at the airstrip after arriving safely at the Mara!

This is not your typical Boy Scout tent! It had hardwood floors, a flush toilet, shower, his and hers vanity, mosquito netting for the beds. At night after we returned to our tents from our 4 star restaurant dinner, we found that some one had put a hot water bag in our beds so we had warm beds to crawl into. In the morning they brought us hot chocolate as a wake up call.
This the group with whom we went on all of the game drives (2 or 3 each day for 3 days). Our guide/driver was a Masai native who was extremely knowledgeable about all of the animals and where and when to find them. His christian name is James or as he said "James Bond". The other 2 couples are the McBrides who serve their mission in Mombasa, Kenya (on our left) and the Burgeners who serve in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania-he is a counselor to the Mission Presidency (on James' left).

One of the monkeys in our camp.

The King of the Beasts "Simba"
The matriarch of a family of elephants. She had just rolled in the mud to cool off.

Part of a herd of Zebras with a few Impalas mixed in
A young Giraffe with its parents in the background

Small part of a very large herd of buffalo

A family of Ostriches, the two black ones are the males the lighter four are females. They were jogging away from a pride of lions who were in the area.