I am not sure how to put yesterday into words. It was 12 hours that might take 12 pages to adequately describe.
Yesterday, Jayne and I picked up two new teen moms. I should have learned by now that when I am told it is not far, close to Dol Dol that what it means is that it is REALLY REALLY far away. Anything near Dol Dol is automatically a 3 hour drive if you are lucky. The good thing is that the drive to Dol Dol is beautiful and the road is fairly good. I have to qualify that by saying that my standards for a good road have decreased in the last months. To me a good road is dirt, passable in the rain, no potholes or rocks bigger than the car and there are areas where you can go at speeds above 20 miles per hour. That is the road to where we went in the beautiful hills of Laikipia.
Since we knew that we were going to be near Dol Dol we decided to follow up on a couple of cases that we had heard of earlier. There were three Maasai girls who potentially needed help, 12 showed up. We had space for only one. How do you explain that? How do you choose? We were finally able to narrow it down to one based on whether she had parents, was in school and had a place to stay. Hope* is Samburu and has a one month old baby boy. Her story is long and sad and further complicated by tribal customs and expectations. She was living with a wonderful woman named Mama Safi, who had taken her in, helped her deliver and provided her with what little she could. Hope came to us with only a Samburu name. She told us she wanted a “Christian” name so we made a list, and she chose Hope. A great choice! Hope speaks only Samburu, thankfully, the other girl who joined us is also Samburu so she acts as translator.
After picking up Hope, we headed out to meet with Faith’s* parents. Faith had not been living at home, but we had to meet with her parents before admitting her to the home. They live in a very remote area. As you drive through the rocky terrain, you see manyattas (traditional Samburu and Maasai homes) dotting the countryside. Suddenly, there were no homes anywhere. Why? You might ask. Because there are elephant herds and elephants are very dangerous. We saw several herds of at least 100 along the hillsides. It is in these moments that I think, “Wow! I live in Kenya!” As we were driving out of the elephant area our car got stuck in the mud. After about a half hour of pushing we were finally free. I was covered in mud, but mud is a reality during the rainy season. What is a car trip in the bush without at least one breakdown or mud incident?
We finally reached Faith’s home. It is a beautiful manyatta. Jayne and I felt honored to be shown inside. They are amazing houses. I couldn’t believe how warm it stays inside. Most manyattas don’t have actual doors. I asked them if it made them feel insecure. They quickly said no except that during the rainy season sometimes hyenas or leopards come in and steal the small children. How is this prevented? A bush with long thorns is put in the doorway.
We had a great visit with her parents. She cannot stay at home because of tribal customs and rules. It would not be wise for her parents to allow her to come home since she is expecting a baby. Generally speaking, Maasai and Samburu women are not educated and marry at a very young age. This is slowly changing but the further you go into the interior, the more it occurs. Faith took some time with her family, and then we packed everyone back into the car and started the drive home.
This area is known for charcoal. It is what is widely used for cooking here in Kenya. We try to use as little as possible because of deforestation, but we need a little for an upcoming event where we will be forced to do most of the cooking outside. We asked how to ask for it in Maasai. “Ya ta ta nguk” Do you have charcoal? You should have seen the look on the guys face when I leaned out the car window and asked in Maasai for charcoal. The whole car was laughing as Jayne and I tried to master buying charcoal in Maasai. We finally got our bag of charcoal and about 20 minutes later we could smell something burning. The charcoal was HOT and beginning to smolder. Oops. I guess we better learn to ask for cold charcoal.
I was so proud of the welcome the girls prepared for our newest family members. They had Faith and Hope’s beds made perfectly, their new things neatly set out and had prepared chapatti and stew for dinner. As we drove in I could see their smiling faces peering out the windows waiting to get a glimpse of Imara’s newest family members. One of the girls was so excited she was standing in the doorway dancing around. Hope and Faith have settled in and now begins life with 15 kids in the house!
*names changed for privacy