June 30- By Imani
Today on our last day at Orkeeswa, we are having a day of celebration. In the morning we played a fun game of elbow tag with the students. Instead of language exchange, we watched the film Black Head Cow; a film made by Orkeeswa students about the pressures of early marriages in the Maasai culture. We then had small discussions about the film with the Orkweesa students.
After the film we had a dance party with the Happy Boys: Kim, Richard, and Levison. Verity and Kate taught the other Groton/St. Mark’s students the dances they learned yesterday in afternoon activities. This morning we are doing various activities such as new games, speedball, dancing, agriculture, and service work on the new football pitch. Currently, I am in games and Phoebe is the guard in the game, night at the museum.
Later today, we will have a large party with all the students and we will give the cards and gifts some of us made for the students. Game update: Phoebe was the first one out. Tonight we will have a closing ceremony- we will have a dinner with a few selected Orkweesa students and then have our final circle meeting where we will talk about our trip and want we want to take home with us. It should be very fun! I think I can say on behalf of everyone that this trip has been amazing and truly unique. We have had so much fun and getting to know the students has been a one-of-a-kind experience and the highlight of the trip.
So much has happened since my last update! The students have made a new soccer field for Orkeeswa, they went on safari, made robots, and recited poems in Swahili in front of the school. Attached are some photos.
We have loved having this Groton and St. Mark’s trip at Orkeeswa. We’ll be sad to see them go tomorrow, but we hope to see them again soon!
Back from our homestays, we have settled into a normal routine at orkeeswa. When looking around nowadays you can see dirt flying as we work on leveling the soccer pitch and students nestled in quite corners doing language exchange with their partners.
As we approach the school every morning we are surrounded by many red sweaters with eager faces. When getting out of the car we are greeted with an orkeeswa handshake and a smile. Following the normal routine we partner up with our language exchange buddies and get right to work. Each Groton/St. Marks student is paired with a few of the younger students from orkeeswa. Going over things such as greetings, fruits, animals and much more we soon advanced to making sentences.
My partner and I quickly became more comfortable with each other and could talk about a wider variety of things. We would talk about the similarities and differences of our schools, America and it’s politics, a typical day in our respective lives, religion, the challenges we face being girl in our society and much more. From language exchange we have not only learned how to say different words, but we have also gained so much information about the lives that our partners lead and the ways in which we are similar.
On day one when the soccer pitch project was introduced we were faced with bumpy terrain and a slope that was less than ideal for a soccer pitch. Methodically we started digging, taking the dirt from the high ground and by assembly line we transported it to the low parts of the soon to be field. When standing in the assembly line you can hear the fall of the pick-axe on the hard ground, the sound of the shovel hitting the bucket every time it is filled and the chatter of many voices. Although it is hard work physically it is also a social time. People in the line converse about a variety of topics, and it is ideal for free form conversation. When people in the full bucket line get tired and switch with the empty bucket line it is an opportunity to see a new face and start another conversation. We work on this for a good part of the morning, and by the time it is lunch everyone is always ready for food but looking back at our progress is satisfying.
When back at the place where we are staying every evening it is comforting to debrief with the group. We have done many things such as highs and lows, having speakers come and playing bonding games. The games are usually silly, end with us all laughing, and are such a nice way to decompress. My favorite thing to do is highs and lows because I enjoying hearing about what stood out to certain people. Some common threads in the highs have been meeting new friends, immersing ourselves in the culture here and recognizing the beauty of the country and the privilege that we hold by being here.
Over the weekend, we went on a boma stay with several Orkeeswa students. For those of you who don’t know, a boma is a collection of mud huts in which the Maasai people reside. These individual huts are their homes and normally do not have electricity or running water.
Two boys stayed at a Form II student Simon’s boma. At his boma, there were solar lights and much livestock. In the morning, we woke up and ate bread and drank tea for breakfast. Then we walked to the forest with the livestock, which were herded by Simon’s little siblings. After around two hours of walking up the mountains, we came back for lunch—delicious rice and beans. After resting for an hour, it was back to the mountains. Some of the walking was intense, through burrs and thorns, trudging through intermittent rainfall. A few hours later, it was time for more rice and beans for dinner. After dinner, we had fun playing cards with Simon and his sister and then it was time to brush our teeth and then off to bed in complete darkness. The other two boys stayed with John for the weekend. They experienced much the same as the other two boys, although their arduous trek through the mountains and pouring rain made it all the more rewarding. They were sad to not have the opportunity to post on instagram as they felt the scenery was some of the best they have ever seen.
The girls, on the other hand, experienced days typical to Maasai women. Their day began early, beginning with sweeping and dusting all around the boma. Many of them then headed off to gather firewood or water with their host students. They were also given the challenge of carrying water buckets on their head, a task that they performed with varying degrees of success. Cooking was also on the menu— in a traditional Maasai kitchen, which is separated from the living quarters. They learned the recipes for pilao, rice and beans, and chai. At night, they interacted with the other children in the boma, a highlight of many of their stays. The children loved playing with the toys and bubbles they brought and by the end of the stay, many bonds were formed.
The purpose of the boma stays was to show us first hand the different lives of our peers in Orkeeswa. Although it was certainly a challenge, the boma stays were a highlight of the trip so far. The language barrier made communication quite difficult, but we were able to find many creative methods to get around it. During our reflection session, we went around and discussed the “highs and lows” of our homestays. The numerous “highs” listed were about strengthening and creating bonds while learning about the Maasai culture. The “lows” were minor in comparison and often comical. For example, one “low” included the numerous animals students encountered in and around their boma—one Orkeeswa student had to step on a mouse. All in all, the boma stays were a great way for us to learn about and partially assimilate into the Maasai culture!
By, Rohan and Michael
Throughout the past week, the Groton and St. Mark’s students have been participating in their service projects. Together with Orkeeswa, we have been working to level ground for a second football (soccer) field. Football is a widely popular sport here at Orkeeswa. The students compete in football games twice a week, even during the off-season. On Wednesday, after spending some time with a few students shoveling and others carrying buckets of dirt across the field, we lined up in a big loop and worked as an assembly line. The last hour or so of the work flew by, just like the dirt that sometimes spilled out of a misplaced bucket. Meanwhile, those who worked in the garden were tasked with digging a meter-deep trench to catch water during the wet season and direct it for irrigation. We have made great progress and are halfway done!
Yesterday, as a break from the everyday routine, we headed out with Orkeeswa second formers (eighth graders) on safari. The two-hour drive to the park gates was well worth it when we got our first glimpses of zebras out in the plains. Outside the parking lot, monkeys were jumping around with bananas gleaned from unsuspecting safari vehicles while the humans were using the restrooms. Dust flying up in our faces, we stood up on our seats in the safari truck to look out at the scenery. We saw female lions basking by a watering hole, waiting for thirsty prey to wander into their midst. A herd of zebras stood behind as the lions slept but disappeared when they awoke. A family of warthogs came by for a drink, and the lions stood at attention, but no one made a move. We happened upon a massive group of migrating zebras; some of the second formers started to count, but they gave up when we saw just how far the sea of black and white stretched. Families of elephants crossed the road right in front of the vehicles with their babies in tow, unafraid of us. During our picnic lunch, ruthless monkeys hovered in the trees above us, waiting to make their moves. A few were successful in abducting more bananas, even when people were right next to them. Unfortunately, we did not see any giraffes, but the countless other animals made up for our disappointment.
After a long drive back to Monduli, the group trekked over to the Thursday market, a spread of merchants selling goods from fresh tomatoes to beaded necklaces to full-length dresses. It was an exciting end to an exhausting day, during which we got a taste of what it is like to be a tourist!
By Macy and Isabelle
Today was the annual scavenger hunt through the town of Monduli. Great fun for all.
At the athletic center…waiting for a larger Bucky bus….