Kenya, part 2 of 2
Enoosaen, Maasai village
February 15, 2006
Simon accompanied Marcia, Peter, Paul, and I to visit the brother of our friend, Ole Ronkei. When we arrived, however, he was preoccupied with harvesting maize and was not able to be tracked down. His wife surfaced though and we visited with her, only to encounter her again later that afternoon at market at Arami’s stall. I was glad I recognized her because we were to discover that she is Arami’s sister! On my way downtown, I met little Jim, Simon and Ben. Jim was crying and I picked him up, took Simon by the hand and beckoned Ben to follow and hauled them to Janet’s restaurant where we got them a soda and a donut to ease their pains! Janet presented me with my Masai dress and I put it on and we girlfriends posed for the camera. At market, we ran into many of our friends, Chief John, Arami, Jonathan, Peter’s mother, etc.
In the company of angels
Our friends at Enoosaen Catholic Church planned a special prayer service for us. The scripture from Exodus talked about God’s angels accompanying the early prophets in their faith journeys. We truly feel accompanied in spirit by angels from Enoosaen and will carry their many faces of Christ with us in our hearts always.
Matthew invited us to his home for tea, bread and bananas and yet another special blessing upon us all. We continued to discuss, with great excitement, the many dreams we birthed together over the course of the last two weeks. Peter, in conjunction with his friends Matthew and Benson, even took on a new project—a community library in Enoosaen. Matthew pledged to have a kiosk built by the time we return to Eugene this summer, and Peter drafted an organizational outline for the project and preliminary design for the library card, featuring the Maasai shield. Start saving your spare books for this worthy venture! The crew eventually headed to the restaurant of Jackson (Julius’ brother) where we had our last meal in Enoosaen in the company of many friends. Though we enjoyed lively conversation and wholesome Maasai food of goat, potatoes, cabbage, and chapatti, our time was bittersweet as we were all too aware that we would miss each other terribly.
February 14, 2006
That afternoon we received a Valentine’s visit from our friend, Grace, Joshua’s wife. Grace, who is from the Kikuyu tribe of central Kenya, met Joshua at a social. They were married last summer. Her father did not approve of her marrying a Maasai, but she is very happy with her circumstances. Here, unlike the overpopulated land of the Kikuyu, she has a large, spacious lot in the countryside of Enoosaen that she can cultivate and develop. An industrious, intelligent woman, Grace will certainly produce a fruitful yield.
Seria also accompanied Marcia and me to visit Kokoo, grandmother of Ole Ronkei. There, we were served our first chicken during our visit to Enoosaen, and Marcia received the healing benefits of chicken soup, just what she needed to soothe her unsettled gut. On our way back to the house, we saw a truck drive up. It was Matthew, Benson and Evans seeking out Marcia to discuss cobb houses. Engrossed in conversation, I didn’t realize how late it was until Peter and Paul returned home from their day at Keen’s primary academy after 6 p.m. brimming with reports of their experience at this virtual boot camp! They both were very enthusiastic about their learning and very impressed with the strictness of the academic environment (children were caned for unsatisfactory work as well as discipline issues) and the rigors of the physical education program, which they likened to the try-outs for the West Alabama football team!
We hustled to Jane Chacha’s house for dinner and enjoyed conversation with her husband, Dr. Chacha, the town’s community health nurse, and John, a new teacher at Keen’s, who after reviewing Peter’s class 8 English test, announced that he was “brilliant!” Dr. Chacha told us about the antigraft commission that President Kibaki recently instituted. Though it is rather late in his term to be carrying out this pivotal campaign commitment, the commission is being chaired by a very well-respected leader and is actually working very hard to uncover and root out the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government. Though the problems many Kenyans—and Africans, as a whole—face are overwhelming, Dr. Chacha was very hopeful by the positive changes he’s seen in the last few years: One community health program that Dr. Chacha instituted recently is malaria prevention, spraying the walls and providing mosquito nets for children and mothers, the most vulnerable groups to malaria. Since this program has been in effect, the incidence of malaria has been reduced dramatically. In addition, community health professionals from around the country scored another major victory when their suggestions were finally heard by the Ministry of Health and procedure was changed. Medicines used to be distributed uniformly from district to district irregardless of the specific needs of the region. For instance, the same quantity of anti-malaria drugs was allocated to mountainous regions, where malaria is not an issue, as regions where malaria is rampant. Once again, I was impressed with the optimism of the people in this village, despite the challenges they face regularly. It takes exceptional character to transcend the struggle and see progress in even the seemingly insignificant steps.
February 13, 2006
I accompanied Steve to the gate today at 6 a.m. so that he could catch a matatu to Kisi and then to Nairobi. He was scheduled to give a presentation on the progress of phase 2 of the water project to the Nairobi Rotary Club that evening and appeal for the funding necessary to protect the source and begin the hydrological engineering. The sky was just starting to lighten with the first rays of the morning, unveiling God's canvass in soft pastels of red and orange. Julius, who was also headed to Kisi on business, met us, along with our friend Jonathan and his sister who was coughing up blood and needed to be examined at a hospital in a nearby village. Sele soon appeared and picked them all up.
An hour or so later, Simon, Joseph and Benson arrived to accompany me to the project. We had our morning tea together and sampled wedges of the juicy pineapple Peter had given us the day before from his farm. They relied on me to lead them to the site so of course we got lost! As we were meandering near the riparian corridor where the site was located looking for the entrance to the site, we saw a Masai man and boy and hailed them down. It was Douglas, a man I had met the week before who lives in the region that this new phase will serve. I was glad to see Douglas because we had worked as a team uprooting and removing boulders but I hadn’t seen him again for the remainder of the week. I knew he was a rural resident of the area and was concerned because he appeared somewhat emaciated and lacking in strength. The project leaders have often made this point—that those people who have been drinking clean drinking water from phase 1 for a couple of years now are healthier and more robust than those who do not have a consistent source of clean drinking water. I was certainly glad to encounter him this morning as he led us to the site from the entrance on the other side of the corridor—somehow we had managed to circumnavigate the corridor! We spent the morning removing still more creek-bed rocks and earth. Just before noon, Joshua urged me to leave because the sky had turned an ominous black and he did not want me to be assaulted by the "hard" African rain. On our way back, the clouds dispersed and Simon, Joseph, Benson and I dismissed any concerns about the threat of impending rain and enjoyed a comfortable amble on the return trip, engrossed in conversation about cross-cultural issues. We were both curious about our perceptions of one another's cultures and began posing probing questions back and forth. Their most salient and disturbing perception of Americans is our lack of hospitality. They have heard that when a visitor arrives, they may not sit down and share a cup of chai. They may come and go. This is astounding to them because in African culture, no matter what you're doing, you stop, warmly welcome your visitor, usher them into your home and offer them food and drink. We can attest to this treatment as we have all experienced this warm hospitality while we've been in Enoosaen. They consider it a great honor for us to visit them in their homes and no matter how limited their means, we have always been offered food—tea, hard-boiled eggs, porridge, rice, ugali, a starchy food made of maize flour and water (the consistency and appearance of mashed potatoes), fresh and cooked banana, and usually an abundance of sliced bread and soda. Oftentimes, the women are busy preparing food in the kitchen while we sit in the living room or the area prepared for us, sometimes in the shade of a patio, arbor, or tree outside. If we are in their homes, the tables and chairs are usually dressed in their finest linens.
Also, you always stop, shake hands and greet acquaintances on the street. People exchange news updates on family and friends and then move on. While we’ve been here and hosted by Julius, people have been curious if we’re friends of Wilson, Julius’ brother and a beloved member of the community who went to study in the United States but contracted and was treated for cancer a year or so ago. As we’ve passed by or while in conversation, they will inquire about us and his brother.
I was curious about what they found peculiar about us and they categorically said nothing in the negative. They have been very impressed by the way we have integrated ourselves into their culture without reservation. They were immensely pleased, as were other villages who don’t even know us, that we wore our Masai garb yesterday throughout the town. It made them feel proud of their culture, that their culture was worthy of respect. They have also been impressed with the way we travel everywhere together as a family unit. Joseph said that Luci, his wife, plans to spend more time with her children because of our example. And, Simon is now committed to finding a way to bring his family together under one roof. Presently, his wife Rebecca and his two children live in Kilgoris while he resides here as a catechist for this parish. I told them that we too wrestle with the problem of not having enough time to spend with our children when we are home and immersed in our normal lives. In many cases, both parents work outside the home and family time is also limited and severely constrained. Americans also deal with the added complication of generally not having extended family in the area.
We also talked about the familiarity between children and adults and we all agreed that every system or model of socialization has its pluses and minuses. Here, we are impressed with the reverence and respect afforded elders. In the United States, however, this familiarity allows children and adults to interact more freely and as a result the relationship between child and adult is more intimate. The drawback is that the boundaries are not as well delineated.
When I returned home, Peter was waiting to visit. He had been so overjoyed by our visit the afternoon before that he had been literally unable to articulate a coherent thought! He came this afternoon to have the opportunity to converse properly. I learned about his desire to establish a secondary school on his property that would be open to all students of academic aptitude and that would provide the opportunity for hands-on learning in sustainable farming and natural resource appreciation and protection in an applied, outdoor laboratory.
Peter and Paul spent the day with Elijah as Masai herders, shepherding Ole Ronkei’s sheep, goats and cows throughout the Enoosaen countryside. One cow meandered away from the herd a couple of times, and Peter and Paul had to climb up a steep slope—twice—to retrieve it. This errant cow caught the wrath of herder Peter. They both returned, glowing with enthusiasm, from their escapades with a set of staffs and herding devices that I’m sure they will now unleash on their parents to keep us in line!
February 11, 2006
Paul’s #12 Maasai birthday
When we first arrived in Enoosaen, we mentioned that we would be celebrating Paul’s 12th birthday in Enoosaen and immediately the water committee donated a goat for the occasion. In the meantime, Paul, fearing he might not be able to physically tolerate certain Maasai traditions, namely drinking goat’s blood and adolescent circumcision (!), and not wanting to offend his Maasai friends, had a heart-to-heart with Julius earlier in the week who assured him that no such feats would be required. Not to worry, this was purely a celebratory occasion. With those concerns allayed, we all awaited his big day with great anticipation. When the day finally arrived, we woke up early to begin preparing for the grand feast. With Sereya supervising the kitchen production, we peeled barrels of potatoes, chopped two gigantic heads of cabbage and soaked and washed the rice, sorting out all pebbles and other debris. By the time these preparations were nearly done, Joshua arrived with the goat. After a few ceremonial poses for the camera, Joshua quickly dispatched the goat and he and Julius prepared it for cooking, while Peter and Paul received a most graphic biology lesson in the process! Fairly frequently, Peter and Paul would come running in to give me a progress report on the dissection, full of all the gory details of entrails and other organic matter. In the end everything from the goat was used. Even the stomach and head were given to KoKoo to use for soup. The skin was also dried and tanned and in fact, the next day while visiting KoKoo, Sereya and Lea for dinner, the hide was already dry and ready to use as a mat.
By mid afternoon, most of our guests had arrived—about 30 Maasai friends in total. Peter and Paul were busy serving sodas, an essential item for any gathering; we had bought 4 crates for the occasion! When Simon asked us all to congregate under the arbor for a prayer service/reflection in Paul’s honor, we hustled Paul up to the house and Steve and I presented him with our gift, a traditional Maasai robe. Janet and Jonathan helped dress him in his robe and then bedecked him with gifts of bead necklaces and bracelets. After a few press photos on the porch, at last he was ready to be presented to the larger group! It was a moving moment as he walked down the slope to the arbor, fully arrayed in Maasai regalia, his staff in hand. Though we accompanied him down the hill, we remained on the sidelines as this radiant celebrity walked elegantly and confidently by himself toward the gathering of friends. It was an impressive entry, and everyone felt Paul’s quiet yet profound presence, but we, as his family, were particularly proud at the maturity, grace and humility of spirit he exuded. Peter, in true paparazzi form, tracked Paul on his illustrious procession on video footage, and Steve captured the whole scene in a photo that reflects the multi-layered richness of that moment for Paul and our family. When Paul had taken a seat of honor amongst his friends and family, the proceedings began. Simon gathered us in an opening prayer, and Evans, who would like to study to be a priest, read the scripture about the multiplication of the fish and the loaves of bread. What followed was a beautiful outpouring of love as everyone in the company had an opportunity to wish Paul every manner of goodness, and, just like the multiplication of the fish and bread, the blessings multiplied. Our friend, Jonathan, who had just found out that he was accepted to West Alabama University the day before, stepped forward to translate from English to Maasai and vice versa, and for the next couple of hours, he very adeptly translated one tender, stirring sentiment after another. Joseph christened him with a Maasai name, Lekishon, which means promise of blessing, because we hope through him, many blessings will flow between us and our friends in Enoosaen. Kokoo presented Paul with a beautiful gourd she had made, decorated with her own unique pattern of beads, and Sereya with bead bracelets she had made for all of us. Each of us also had an opportunity to reflect on what Paul means to us, and I knelt before my youngest son and told him how he has enriched my life with his many gifts, especially his soulful spirit, and I can’t imagine what my life would be without him. After everyone had finally delivered a tribute to Paul, it was time to hear from the birthday boy. With his voice broken with emotion, he delivered a moving speech from the heart, thanking everyone gathered for making this the best birthday he has ever had, and he and the rest of the family handed out friendship bracelets we had all helped braid in the last several days. The red and black bracelets were the most popular as these are traditional Maasai colors.
After this emotional outpouring, we were all utterly famished, and heaping plate after plate began coming out to serve the hungry masses. And, oh what a feast it was! The goat made a delicious stew, and we all ate to our hearts’—and stomachs’—content! When all had had their fill, it was time to partake in an American birthday tradition—the birthday cake! Out came the cake that Julius had had made at a bakery in Kisi in Paul’s honor—yet another impressive procession down the hill to the appreciative audience. It was a lovely double layer cake and on it was written in Kiswahili and Maasai:
“Asante, Paul, miaka kumi mbili, February 11. Ashe, en gai,” which literally translated means, “Thank you, Paul, for 12 years this February 11. Thank you, God!”
The rest of the celebration was done in Maasai style. Before serving the cake, Luci, Joseph’s wife, led us in one of our favorite Kiswahili songs, “Bwana akubariki,” “Lord, bless us.” Her rich, melodic voice swept this song of blessing over us again and again, like the lapping of gentle waves on the shores of our hearts, as we sang round after round with our friends. When it came time to cut the cake, Luci fed Paul the first piece and then Paul fed pieces of cake to all his guests! As we partook in these delicious, sweet morsels and digested the rest of our feast in the company of our good friends, we all savored the moment, basking in the waning afternoon sun and the warmth of true friendship. We were all also filled with gratitude to the Ole Ronkei family for making it possible for us to visit and live in this special village and share this occasion of Paul’s birthday with our friends and family in this glorious setting.
February 7-15, 2006
From friendships to partnerships
Our time is Enoosaen was filled with community, fellowship and partnership. As our friend and catechist at the Enoosaen Catholic Church, Simon, said, we will journey together from friendship to partnership in the truest sense of the word. During our stay in this spirit-filled village, our lives became inextricably woven with the glorious people of this village, and I believe that we will always remain connected personally and in the work of building this special community.
On our first day at the volunteer project, I walked with Julius into town to buy a calling card to call David Muiru of the Nairobi Rotary Club to check on the status of the funding for phase 2 of the project. It took us several hours to walk the few km there and back to Julius’ house because we were constantly stopped on the road to meet friends, neighbors and acquaintances of Julius. Julius told me that many of them were asking if I was a friend of Julius’ brother, Wilson, who is studying medicine in the United States and is well-beloved in this village, and were otherwise very curious about the muzungu in the neighborhood! We met several friends that we made only yesterday at church who stopped us on the street and invited us to visit them in their homes. In between all this visiting, Julius and I talked non-stop about the water project, his life, his family and his community and all other topics under the sun, as we did every opportunity we had in the two short weeks we were together. I feel blessed to have connected so deeply with this humble, hopeful and loving man.
Another day after working at the springs, John Murunga invited us to his home, nestled on the side of one of Enoosaen’s soft rolling hills. We sat among the trees on the slope near John’s home with him, his sons, and several members of the water committee and ate a most satisfying lunch of bread, soda and hard-boiled eggs so fresh the yokes were as brilliantly yellow as the sun. In the warm rays of the sun, we probed more deeply into the underlying motivations and inspiration for the water project and were fascinated and moved by the community-mindedness, generosity and foresight of these extraordinary individuals. When it came time to leave, John Murunga was so overcome with emotion over our visit that he announced that he wanted to give us a sheep. He summarily went to the pen, selected a handsome sheep, dragged him out and ceremoniously presented him to me. It was an awkward hand-off as the sheep was thrashing its limbs wildly and I have no experience in holding and securing farm animals! John Murunga tried to secure an agreement from us that we would bring our sheep back to our home in America and care for it but I tried to explain that that would be next to impossible and that we would need to bequeath it to Ole Ronkei and our ownership would have symbolic in nature only. As we were heading back to Ole Ronkei’s house that afternoon, we saw the goat being transported to our home. Occasionally, he would wander wayward and would have to be carried to get back on track. Upon arriving at Ole Ronkei’s house, he seemed to be happy to find a herd to belong to and quickly scampered to the pack. We named him “Murunga” after our dear friend, John Murunga!
We visited many friends that week. We were invited to Joshua’s hillside homestead and his wife, Grace, served us the best porridge I have ever tasted, made from some sort of dark maize meal. Once again, we visited after a work session at the site and we were famished. We collapsed in the cool of his arbor bedecked in brilliant magenta bougainvillea and ate mug after mug of this high-energy concoction! We also spent an afternoon with Janet, Julius’ wife, and Susan, Julius’ mother, and little Jim and Simon when they returned home from school. Despite the language barrier, we shared a riotous afternoon over soda after soda, looking at Janet and Julius’ photo albums and enjoying this pictorial account of their lives, and, as with all photo albums, the ridiculous and sublime! Susan also showed us photos of her at Wilson’s graduation from Stanford, as well as photos of Wilson’s time at the University of Oregon. Later that same afternoon, Rebecca and Simon hosted us at Simon’s small quarters and we enjoyed their company as well others from the church as we talked about the mission of the church in this region, their trials and joys, and how we might support them in their fervent ministry in Enoosaen and the surrounding area.
On the second Sunday we were in Enoosaen, we attended services at the catholic church again. This time, the congregation once again called us up to thank and bless each of us. In turn, we all spoke and expressed our appreciation for each of them. Again, I spoke about how we were all branches of the same tree and that I pray that we help each other bear much fruit. After mass, I hung out with Laban, the choirmaster, and the choir singing songs of praise, while Carrol met with the church elders to discuss projects she is undertaking as part of a sister church initiative she is launching between Enoosaen Catholic Church and her church in Evansville. I taught the choir Psalm 100, a favorite song of mine from my ecumenical youth fellowship group in high school, and a few other songs in English, and they taught me a couple of songs in Kiswahili. Rosalee invited us over to her house for a multi-course lunch of plantain, rice and stew and then she and her sisters gladly presented us all with special gifts—Maasai robes for Marcia and me, a blanket for Steve, gourd for Carrol, and bracelets for Paul and Peter. We also visited Peter, another parishioner, and his family that afternoon. He gave us a tour of his property that includes riparian forest as well as an experimental farm of different kinds of trees, pineapple, bananas and other produce. He and Steven and Joshua from the water project are all on the Enoosaen futbol team and he gave us an autographed photo of the team, as well as other gifts.
We also spent a stimulating Friday night with Matthew and his family and catechists from the church discussing the gap in progress between Kenya and the United States and how to close it. We talked about attitudes, customs and quality of life in both countries and acknowledged that though the United States may be more advanced technologically and materially, there are many ways in which Kenyans are more progressive than us in the developed world, such as the Maasai’s strong cultural, environmental and community ethos and commitment.
We also meandered next door to Sereya, Lea and Kokoo’s house one Sunday evening and feasted, with them, Elijah, the herdsman, and the two young children, Letapa and Naserian, on a traditional African meal of ugali (a thick starchy compound made of maize flour), skumi wiki (spiced spinach) and fresh cow milk from one of their beautifully decorated gourds. Elijah, who eats ugali breakfast, noon and night, kept urging us to eat more and more ugali. By the time we left, I felt literally plugged with ugali!
All in all, we all noted that we have never drunk so many soft drinks in all our lives. Sodas were a key part of everybody’s hospitality menu! Our favorite was Krest, a bitter-lemon soda.
Dialogue in Kiswahili
During our stay in Enoosaen, I took advantage of our close contact with our Maasai friends and tried to learn more Kiswahili. On our long walks to and from the water project site, I would often walk with Julius and have him teach me useful phrases. As we walked, I practiced them over and over again, gaining a minimal level of proficiency. Actually I knew enough to be dangerous, i.e. to give the impression that I knew more than I really did! Acquaintances began launching into Kiswahili only to leave me in the dust in terms of comprehension! Still, I was able to communicate some important sentiments like “God bless you,” “Mungu akubariki,” or “Praise God, forever and ever,” “Tumsifu Yesu Kristu, milele ne milele.” Other useful phrases were:
See you later… Tuta onana tena
Nice to see you again… Nafurahi kuku ana
My friend… Rafiki yango
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit… Kwa jina la baba, la mwana, na la roho mtakatifu. Amen!
Also, in Maasai custom, young girls and boys greet elders by bowing their heads. The elders then bestow a blessing of “takwenya” for girls and “sopa” for boys.
February 5-15, 2006
Introducing the Enoosaen Water Project…
Several of the Enoosaen Water Committee (there are 13 in total) convened the day after we arrived to brief us on the project and our role as volunteers over the course of the next couple of weeks:
Ø Samuel Leina Kararam (Sammy), chairman
Ø John Lemiso Kararam, verifier, brother of Sammy, teacher at Enoosaen Primary, and resident comedienne
Ø Joshua Leparan Naleke, treasurer and pipe fitter
Ø Steven Sakana Nairimo, secretary and professional soccer player on the Enoosaen team
Ø Julius Naiyoma, communications officer and our beloved and loyal host during our stay in Enoosaen
Springs of life-giving water
For the next 10 days, we walked 2 km through the pastoral hills of Enoosaen every morning to the source of natural springs. On the first day, we and several committee members and other volunteers from the community were confronted with a wall of thick brush, blocking access to the springs. Over the course of the next several hours, armed only with stick forks and our brute strength, we cleared this initial tangle of vegetation and penetrated the inner sanctum where the springs were. The next day we continued to remove vegetation, including a couple of trees and their stumps, and uncovered five springs! We were in business. These springs were indeed worthy of their “mega” rating, a superhero of a water source, capable of bounding over long droughts in a single bound! Once the vegetation had been cleared from all the sources, we were confronted with the never-ending task of leveling the earth, digging, removing boulders and other river bed rocks and stockpiling them to crush and eventually use in the cement mix for the protective wall around the source. This was a tough job all around—for the guys digging and heaving dirt high on the adjacent bank and for the rest of us who hauled rocks and boulders to the designated rock piles. By the end of the day, I was always covered in mud but since this was the work day after day, there was no sense in washing my one and only pair of pants and I wore them for the entire 10 days without washing them! Thank you Julius, Joshua, John Murunga, John Naleke, Sammy Kararam, Fred, Charles, Douglas, and the many other volunteers that came out to help—an average of close to 25 volunteers every day.
For a synopsis of our work on the water project, see the PowerPoint we prepared to present to the Nairobi Rotary Club to secure funding for the next phase of the project. Also, the following article, derived from a series of inspirational conversations with committee members over the course of our stay, tells the story of the history and evolution of the water project. Steve and I were regularly astounded by the exceptional leadership, organization, knowledge and vision this group possesses. In their planning for the water project, these committee members, none of whom hold formal degrees, integrated concepts that take the equivalent of a masters degree to practice effectively and take communities in the U.S. years to implement if ever!
Water is Life
By Therese Picado, Eugene, Oregon
In a country where drought ravages communities regularly, water is life. In Enoosaen, Kenya, a Maasai village on the western frontier of Maasai lands, a group of 13 dedicated community members are busy ensuring that every resident will have convenient access to clean water year-round. Deep in the rolling hills of their pastoral countryside, they have discovered natural springs and a reliable source of water during the long dry season which this year has lasted for nearly nine months. In phase one of the project, one of these springs was tapped and since 2003 has been providing clean, cool, life-giving water to more than 4,000 residents. Now, efforts are underway to tap a much bigger source, consisting of five springs, that promises to provide clean water to at least two-times the number of residents throughout the year.
The committee members of the Enoosaen Water Project recognize the essential role water plays in the health of their community, and this conviction has sustained them in their tireless efforts to uncover and tap other sources of water. “Water is life,” says Julius Naiyoma, communications director of the project. “Providing clean water to our people is the most important aspect of creating a healthy community.”
The impetus for the project came in 2000 from a group of women from the Enoosaen Catholic Church who attended a Catholic Women Missions course in Kilgoris on the importance of clean drinking water in fostering community health. The women returned eager to share what they had learned. Community meetings were held, village leaders recognized the importance of the message and a public education initiative was launched. Before long, ideas and proposals began flowing, members were actively recruited, and the Enoosaen Water Project was established. A small pool of funds was collected to begin efforts on the water project; women donated 20 shillings, one egg and/or a chicken and men donated a sheep or goat.
In 2001, the project was jump-started when Wilson Naiyoma, a community member who was studying in the United States, returned for a visit to Enoosaen with an American friend and benefactor, Bill Bryson. Moved by his experience in the village and the plight of drought in Kenya, Bryson funded the bulk of phase one of the project. The spring that was tapped in phase one serves more than 4,000 residents—400 rural residents along the main line, approximately 1,000 students in three schools and 3,000 residents served by the general kiosk in the town’s marketplace and 60 residential taps, the health clinic, individual shops, and the chiefs’ camp.
According to project leaders, the transformation of the community was nothing short of miraculous. “The clean water brought health without medicine,” says Naiyoma. The incidence of water-borne disease and even lesser maladies such as stomachaches and headaches declined dramatically. “The health benefits of drinking clean water actually change the faces of people,” says Joshua Leparan Naleke, project treasurer. “This may be in part because people are spending less time fetching water and more time enjoying life!”
Even the cows experienced improved health. With a source of clean water, warmed by the hot African sun, in the several cattle troughs off the main line, the cows are also healthier and as a result are producing more nutritious milk, yet another health benefit for the residents of Enoosaen.
Still another benefit is the gains in environmental conservation, a strong Maasai ethos. Impacts of erosion and destruction of the surrounding countryside have been significantly mitigated by the cattle troughs as the cattle no longer have to travel long distances and trample extensive trails across the bucolic hills in search of water. In fact the search for clean sources of water has allowed this Maasai community to realize deeply held conservation ideals. In addition to erosion control and protection of the source, they plan to restore the surrounding environment by planting new trees and creating a sustainable landscape. “The Maasai people understand that all living things depend on the water from springs, the rain and the forest, and that is why we have always been friendly to the environment,” says project verifier John Lemiso Kararam. In the plans is a tree nursery to help in the re-building of the riparian forest. “The forest is life. It filters the air and water; provides material for building, firewood, shade, medicine and honey; and protects the soil,” says Kararam. “We must fight for a beautiful forest for the future families of our community.”
The only drawback of phase one was that the source could not sustain the community in time of drought. This year the drought has wrought devastation throughout the country. Many people are suffering from famine because of failed crops and livestock. In neighboring Maasai villages, many cattle have died, and whole villages have relocated in search of water. Even with the water from phase one, Enoosaen has not escaped the ravages of this drought. Many farmers have lost entire fields of maize to the drought, and, for those crops that have survived, the yield and quality have been poor. As the drought bears on, many villagers, especially children, are resorting to drinking water from the Enoosaen River, one of the few sources of water that has not completely dried up. Unfortunately, the river is a highly contaminated body of water as it contains high animal fecal content and is used as the local car-wash and laundry-mat.
Phase two involves tapping a larger source and creating a larger capacity by building another main line and a holding tank for excess water. It is projected that this new source will provide water to an additional 700 rural residents, 1,000 residents at two more general and 100 residential taps, 400 students as enrollment and the number of schools grow, 3,000 permanent and 3,000 seasonal employees at the proposed sugar cane factory, and the new hospital. As the long rains approach, the work is nearing a fever pitch as committee members and volunteers, including those from homes that will directly benefit from this new water source, clear vegetation, level the earth and prepare to tap the water from this “mega” source. With only a few weeks before the rains begin, it is imperative that a wall be built around the exposed springs to protect the source and fully tap it. The race is on and in just one week, five springs were uncovered and the ground has been cleared and leveled in preparation for the protective wall.
Though the committee will require the expertise of a water engineer to design the phase two infrastructure and a mason to mix the cement and concrete, the committee intends to employ volunteers to perform the lionshare of the manual labor. Also, as the committee strives to become even more self-sufficient, it is seeking funding for committee members to receive training in masonry, plumbing and water facilities engineering. “Education is power,” says Kararam, a teacher at the local primary public school. “The more we can build our in-house capacity for this expertise, the better we can serve and develop our community.”
February 5, 2006
Cross cultural Catholicism
On our way to Enoosaen, I asked Julius if there was a catholic church in the village. I thought it was unlikely but to my surprise, he not only said yes but it was his church. So, the next day, Julius picked us up and we walked to Enoosaen Catholic Church in the heart of town.
It wasn’t clear exactly what time the service was supposed to begin. We were originally told 9:30 a.m. but didn’t arrive until close to 10 a.m. as people kept stopping to greet us, but when I asked Julius if we needed to hurry along, he always said not to worry (“Hakuna Matata” in Kiswahili, a common African phrase). In Africa, people are more important than time. (Our Ugandan friend, Edward, quipped, “Westerners keep the time and Africans wear the watches,” because we are preoccupied with time but watches, many of them imitation, are one of the most common goods for sale in Africa and many Africans wear a watch.) Sure enough, word must have traveled that we were on our way and they waited for us because, shortly after we arrived, the service got underway with a rousing processional hymn from the choir. Soon we were all swaying and clapping with the music. From the back of the church came a troop of children in formation, energetically dancing and praising God. Two of the older young people were dressed in lime green shirts and led this vibrant liturgical dance team in choreographical synchrony, though I think God presides as the chief choreographer in this spirit-filled community. The choir, liturgical dancers, catechists, elders, and other parishioners at this church were so full of the love of God that their worship just poured out in an effusive expression of praise.
The service was an incredibly spirit-filled, almost Pentecostal, experience. We were all deeply moved by the experience, even though we were separated; the men sat on one side and the women on the other, while the young children congregated on benches in the front of the church. Julius’ sons, Jim and Simon, and his nephew, Ben, sat next to Marcia, Carrol and me and sweetly held our hands throughout the service. We were the curiosity of young and adult alike. Children in adjacent rows kept peering at us with shy smiles and the catechists were very accommodating of us, switching off between Kiswahili and English during their preaching and presiding over the service. During the offertory, those who wanted to give followed the children leading the procession and deposited their offering in the baskets at the altar. At the end of the service, we, accompanied by Julius, were called up to the front of the church. Julius introduced us, and I was elected to represent the family with a few words. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say but I felt much moved by the spirit and started out by greeting the congregation in Kiswahili and then asking them how many spoke English. Several indicated that they spoke English. Initially, Julius continued to translate but at one point, he paused to ask the group if they needed a translator and they told him that it wasn’t necessary because I spoke “Kenyan” English, a clear, slowly articulated language. Of course, I think it was the spirit that allowed me to speak in tongues (!) because from then on out, I spoke without the assistance of an interpreter. I told our new friends gathered that Sunday that I was certain that I have African blood in me because, as we sang and danced in African rhythm and harmony, I felt as though my soul had come home in their company, and my heart, my very cup, was overflowing with joy and love. They were delighted with everything I said (again through the spirit), hanging on to my every word and responding with enthusiastic nods and amens! When the service was over, we were swarmed by new friends from the church, eager to learn more about us and share their lives with us. We walked away with several invitations to visit over the course of the next week.
February 5, 2006
We were supposed to arrive in Kisi by early afternoon but our bus had persistent mechanical troubles and we didn’t arrive until 5 p.m. As we disembarked, we were assaulted by throngs of touts, eager for our business. I was hoping that Julius, our contact, would be there waiting for us. Sure enough, a friendly, helpful face emerged from the crowds and it was indeed Julius. We were starving so he ushered us to a restaurant where we indulged in good food and conversation with our new friends. Peter and Paul even caught some of the African Cup futbol action. Julius introduced us to Sele, the matatu driver, and we negotiated our passage to Enoosaen. Even though it was quite late when we arrived in Enoosaen, we were greeted by a large welcoming committee, all family of Morompi and Renoi—Lea, Morompi’s sister, Sereya, Renoi’s sister, KoKoo, Morompi’s mother, and Elijah, his herdsmen. They came bearing a thermos of African tea, a soothing remedy after a grueling day’s worth of African transportation!
February 2, 2006
Robbed in Nairobi
Today started out innocuously enough. Peter, Paul and I went to the nearby youth hostel for breakfast and to use the Internet café. We ordered our breakfast and sat down at a corner table out of the way of the other guests, several of which were busy working on laptops. Peter, Paul and I quickly became engrossed in mathematics as we waited for our food to be served. Two women sat down in the table next to us but I didn’t pay much attention to them. At one point, I went to get something from my pack and wondered why my pack was lying flat on the floor several feet from my chair but I just picked it up and put it on the vacant chair at our table along with Peter and Paul’s back pack and proceeded with my business. It was only when we were getting ready to leave that I realized that that fleeting unease was dead on target. Peter reminded me that we had to pay for our food and I went to get my wallet from the velcroed compartment in my pack. Though I don’t by nature assume the worst, somehow I knew in this instant that my most dreaded suspicions were accurate—and immediately began to panic and cry out, “My wallet has been stolen, my wallet has been stolen,” as I paced back and forth running my fingers through my hair. My panic intensified when I realized that my, Peter and Paul’s passports were also in the pack. I rushed back to the pack and sure enough, they were gone too! That’s when I went into my “Oh, my God, oh my God,” mode and then tried to rein myself in by talking myself through the predicament: “O.K., let me think, let me think. What do I need to do???” Within seconds, I had decided that we needed to get back to Flora Hostel where we were staying so we could collect information regarding our credit cards and initiate the process of canceling them. Peter, Paul and I power-walked the couple of blocks back to our hostel, mumbling and muttering all the way, and I said: “Well, Nairobi has now earned its reputation of ‘Nai-robbery.’” I still couldn’t believe that those decent-looking, middle-aged women had robbed us but I knew they were the culprits.
What a fiasco! The next 24 hours plus were spent trying to remedy the resulting mess. After several attempts to use the Kenyan calling card to the United States and finally seeking consultation from our friend, David Ole Konchella of Game Drive Safaris, we finally reached the two banks of our credit cards and successfully cancelled our cards apparently before any fraudulent transactions were recorded. We checked back with our friend Maurice at the Youth Hostel, and he said he would check at one of the many lost and found centers in town where stolen identification can sometimes be retrieved. When I spoke with him the next morning, he unfortunately had not recovered our stolen belongings but, though it was a long shot, he did tell us where we could check before going to the U.S. Embassy to request new passports. These other lost and found depots did not yield our belongings either so we headed to the embassy and submitted applications for new passports. In the meantime, we contacted our friends in Enoosaen on the western border of Masai Mara lands, the village of our Masai friend Morompi Ole Ronkei, and made arrangements to visit the village and work on the water project now instead of in March, since, without our passports, we cannot travel outside of Kenya.
That afternoon, Peter, Paul and I set up classes on the porch of Flora Hostel, including our first physical education class and a writing class where we began writing stories of our safari highlights.