Final Days

Today is a relaxing day for the group. We had a late breakfast around 9:00, and for the rest of the afternoon we will be doing some closing exercises. Friday and Saturday were our final days with the Orkeeswa students:‘( On Friday, we had our final performances in our workshop groups. The drama performances were top notch, featuring directing from Lyndsey, Mary, Claire, Luke, Eliza, and Richa. We were also blessed by dance performances choreographed  by Verity ‘17 who we have had fun spending time with during our stay! The poetry and leadership group (for girls) delivered some awesome poetry, including a Swahili poem from the one and only Candilla. Chioma amazed us all with her singing in the music group. As for the art group, we kept our performance subtle, as we selflessly donated our final painting to be used as sets for the plays. The performance time was a nice way for us to celebrate our efforts and see what everyone has been up to over the past two weeks. Friday ended with a sincere goodbye to students. We received letters from many Orkeeswa students turned friends, and gave letters to those friends as well.

Don’t worry, it was not our final goodbye! On Saturday, we spent the day in Arusha with students from the original tree planting group. First, we watched some of our favorite students in the try outs for the national rugby team. Congrats to the many Orkeeswa students who made it and will be competing in Rwanda this October! We also visited the Echo Agricultural Center, the center where we purchased trees, and received an informative tour. In the evening, we had dinner back at Emmanyata with a large group of Orkeeswa students and we said our final goodbyes. Now we’re getting ready for our departure tomorrow… see you soon!

Boma Stays!

Yesterday afternoon the other Groton students and I triumphantly stumbled back through the Emanyatta gates after a 2-night homestay at an Orkeeswa student’s Boma. We set out for our trips after lunch on Monday and walked anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to get to our respective Bomas. Once we arrived, both hosts and guests greeted the family (in Masai) then  spent the rest of the evening settling in and getting to know their surroundings. The next day, however, was not quite as simple; the day began early (6 or 7) and most students had already begun chores by the time tea was served. After the house was clean, the dishes washed, and cows and goats milked, we set out to complete longer tasks such as herding cattle, picking beans, visiting other bomas and/or collecting firewood. Needless to say by the time dinner rolled around we were all pretty exhausted. After dinner most of us played cards and spent time with the kids in the Boma – my group was even lucky enough to get a cooking lesson from our host’s Mama. The next morning looked very similar to the first (chores, tea, babysitting, etc) and after giving gifts and saying goodbye to the family, we set out back to Emanyatta. After a lovely hot shower (provided by our amazing chaperones) we sat around and shared stories from our adventures. 

Off on Boma Visits

All student left yesterday for their Boma visits. They were in great spirits and ready for their adventures in the village. After the first night the word is that all is well.  They return tomorrow and we will post on what is often the highlight of this experience 

Working Days at Orkeeswa

Today was another typical day at Orkeeswa. The schedule has been the same since Monday. We wake up at 8:00 breakfast is at 8:30 and we leave for the school at 9:15. After a bumpy car ride we get school around 9:45. Then, from 10:00 to 10:45 we have language exchange. Earlier in the week we were just learning Swahili and Maasai words but now the table have turned and we are teaching he kids in our language exchange groups about public speaking in English, essentially speaking loudly and clearly. At 11:00ish we headed over to the primary school which is on the hill right across from Orkeeswa secondary. We split into groups and carried our pick axes and shovels over to dig holes. Digging is fun. Using the pick axe is also fun and reminds me of splitting wood. The Orkeeswa kids are incredible at digging though. The dig holes at home too to get the clay that they put on the walls of their bomas (aka houses). We accomplished a lot today and headed back to the school at 12:30. Lunch was at 1:00. During lunch we have dance parties. Almost all of us have learned the dance that all the kids dance to so we dance along. Today we did the Macarena and Cha Cha Slide for them. It was tons of fun and is most days. After lunch, which ends at 2:00, we have workshops. We are assigned to one of the five groups, art, dance, drama, music, or leadership and poetry. I am in leadership and poetry which is all girls and it has been incredible hearing their stories. Most days after workshops we play sports for an hour. Yesterday I tried netball for the first time which was super fun! Then we typically walk back but today we didn’t because we have to prepare for our bomas stays tomorrow. Today is also Sunday so we went to the big market and I got some gifts (*wink wink*). The market is very exciting and hectic. Thankfully the Orkeeswa kids were there to help. Tomorrow we go on our boma stays and we are all super psyched.


Safari Day!

Yesterday we went on a safari through Tangarie National Park. In the morning, all the Orkeeswa 2nd Formers arrived to Emmanyatta so that we could load the vehicles together: 2 Groton kids and about 4 Orkeeswa kids in each car. As we rode in excitement towards the park, we nibbled on caramels and drank Coke. Once we finally entered the actual park, it wasn’t long before we spotted gnus, a resting hippo, ostriches, impalas, antelopes, elephants, and many beautiful birds. We shared a few pairs of binoculars amongst ourselves to see the animals better. We stopped briefly for lunch at the park’s picnic area, and continued afterwards. The day’s climax, a male lion’s desperate hunt for a zebra among a nervous dazzle of zebras, ended when the targeted zebra narrowly escaped the lion’s clutches. Our vehicle drove back promptly to Emmanyatta, from which exhausted Orkeeswa kids trekked back home. Later we heard that some vehicles witnessed another cheetah chase that was actually successful (for the cheetah, not the zebra). Nonetheless, it was an exciting day.

– Candilla

For pictures please go to the Groton Geo instagram- we will post here when we can as well but are limited by internet access

The Tree Project

Day two at Orkeeswa! The tree planting planning group made a lot of progress and is very hopeful for our project. In order to learn more about local erosion and ensure the long term success of our efforts, we have been working closely with the community. Today the village elders, the chairman, and the headmistress of Orkeeswa lower school joined us, and we asked them questions to learn about what kinds of plants are best suited to protect the soil. At the end of our meeting each group, consisting of two Groton students and two Orkeeswa students, pitched their ideas to the larger group. We are not sure which idea we are going to use yet, but we know we are planting 600 trees around the nearby dam and primary school.  Planting trees creates landcover which reduces runoff and prevents erosion. Our project is inspired by the Greenbelt movement in Kenya whose leaders focused on listening to locals and planting trees to protect the environment and empower women. I like this project because it gives me a chance to work with the older students, and  I can’t wait to start planting trees on Thursday! Tomorrow is safari day, so a change of pace from a typical day at school. Lyndsey, Emma, Sarah, and I want to let our parents know we are craving grilled cheese, but we’re having a lot of fun.


First Full day at Okeeswa

Hi Moms and Dads!

Today we headed up to The Orkeeswa School for our first routine day with the students. We started paired up with 3-4 Orkeeswa students doing a language exchange. It was super fun and really useful to learn some new Swahili words that we can try out when communicating with other people around town. After language exchange we separated into two big groups. One group started a tree project designing where to plant trees around the small pond near the school and the surrounding area. The other group led “circle games” getting to know the Orkeeswa students better. We then ate lunch and were off to our afternoon activities. Activities include art, music, girls’ leadership & poetry, and dance. I am super excited to be directing a play with the Drama activity group for the next 7 days. To finish the day we played sports with the students and then said our goodbyes until tomorrow!

Happy belated Father’s Day!

Lyndsey Toce

DAY 2 Monduli Town

Today we went on a scavenger hunt in Monduli with the Orkeeswa kids. We were each paired with two kids and had to complete numerous challenges, including finding Julias, a man who sells eggs and moves around the village, and give him a fist bump. We also had to find a leopard, buy a Tanzanian ginger soda, and buy the best fruit at the everyday market. It was so fun to run around the town and see boda boda’s (motorcycles) riding by, goats on the side of the street, and young children who were eager to say hello!

Typical Day at Orkeeswa

Habari za asubuhi! (Good morning!)

Monday and Tuesday have been our typical days at Orkeeswa. We begin the day with breakfast served by our cook, Mama Minja. Then, we cram all 16 of us into a tiny school bus (2 people have to sit on the floor with the backpacks), and head up the bumpy dirt road to the school. On our way to school, we wave to all the kids we pass by and they occasionally shout “Mzungu” at us, which means “foreigner”. It’s like we’re celebrities here! Once we reach the school, we are greeted by students wearing their red sweaters and blue skirts/pants. They greet us with their traditional handshake and are always excited to see us and learn our names. Students have an easier time remembering names like Isabelle and Macy, but struggle with harder names like Phoebe and Verity, so they’ve taken to calling us Phe and V.

Then, we break off into groups to learn Swahili. Each Groton student is paired with about 6 Orkeeswa students of different forms. We’ve been doing language exchange for a while, so when that gets tedious, we’ve been exchanging songs, dances, and games during language exchange time. For example, Phoebe and Verity learned a dance to “Sorry” by Justin Bieber from a group of girls. In return, P and V taught a dance from the musical “A Chorus Line”. The girls are such good dancers! In other groups, Kate and Brit exchanged song lyrics and played Tanzanian hand games. After language exchange, we have morning chai, which consists of extremely sweet chai and two pieces of white bread…Yum? During that time, we get to chat with the students and show them pictures of our family. They absolutely love to see those pictures and hear about our lives at home! The kids are getting really good at telling Michael and Kevin apart, (we’ve been relying on memorizing what shoes each one wears).

Then, we split up into different areas to do service work. For example, we work in the garden and work on leveling out a dirt road that has been affected by erosion. By the end of the day, we are all exhausted and covered in dirt. After service and lunch, we move on to different activities. Our activity yesterday was particularly exciting. We had conversation pairs with one Groton/St. Marks student and one form 5 Orkeeswa student. We were given prompts such as “What are you most afraid of?” and “If you could give anything in the world to someone you love, what would you give?” We heard some incredible responses and got to know a lot more about people’s lives and Maasai culture.

After afternoon activities, we head back to home sweet E’Manyatta, the lodge we’re staying at, to relax or head to the Tumaini shop to buy soda and candy. Don’t worry, we eat healthy otherwise! Cheeks and Mama Merritt (Mrs. Harlan) are keeping us in check. We have also managed to keep Imani in one piece so far, as she is a bit clumsy!
Last night was a special night because three Orkeeswa students, Bertha, Sioni, and Memusi, joined us for dinner and told us their life stories. Emma was really excited to see Bertha and Sioni because they’ve been keeping in touch as pen pals throughout the year since their visit to Groton. We learned so much about Maasai culture, especially regarding gender differences, and how it applies to each girl’s life. June was full of questions to ask them as always, which we love!

We’ve been playing cards as a group each night to pass the time before bed. Rohan and Aly were crowned champions of a game called Kemps last night– an incredible feat! There are always lively conversations and laughter during this time, which has helped us grow closer as a group.

Kwaheri for now!

Phoebe and Verity

P.S. Happy belated Fathers’ Day to all the dads reading this!
P.P.S. Happy belated birthday, Mom! Love, Phoebs