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.

-Addison

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.

-Halle

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!

Final day

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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.

More photographs

Hello families!

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!
Asante sana,
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Return to Orkeeswa

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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.

Emma Keeling

Boma

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!

 

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Safari

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

 

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Hello Families!

Attached are some more photos of the students at Orkeeswa. They have been settling in wonderfully and are developing great friendships with the Orkeeswa students. Along with doing language exchange every morning (their Swahili is really coming along!) the Groton and St. Mark’s students have been spending their time working on the road for their service project and doing various workshops. The Garden Workshop built an an amazing greenhouse in our garden!

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

Field day & Swahili lessons

Greetings from Tanzania! Here is some of the group in their Swahili lessons with the Orkeeswa students! It was a long day of traveling but we are settling in well. Our first day at Orkeeswa was field day where we competed in four different obstacles alongside other students in the “hot lava challenge,” “dizzy lizzy,” “water-carrying challenge,” and an infamous egg toss. The food sights and sounds are all quite different but amazing nonetheless! Tomorrow we are starting a poetry workshop and getting ready to attend a soccer tournament at a nearby school to cheer on Orkeeswa students. We hope all is well at home and more stories to come later as we continue to settle in!

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