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