Zipporah & Catherine
We were invited to visit the home of Zipporah, a Form 4 (senior) and her younger sister Catherine, a Form 3 (junior) from Graceland Girls School. Their family lived in nearby Maragima on a stretch of rented farmland. Zipporah’s parents and grandmother greeted us kindly and treated us to a chicken dinner and tea. It was incredible to see how the family made-do without the basic amenities that most find necessary for everyday living, such as electricity and running water, and how content they were. We were incredibly impressed with the fact that Zipporah and Catherine had worked so hard, come so far and were thriving at the head of their respective classes. Both girls looked forward to the day when they could finish university and start a career that would help them to buy the land for their parents and raise their living standards. Their loving parents supported their schooling and will insist on finding the funds or a sponsor for the remainder of the children as well. We greatly enjoyed our time with them and had the unique opportunity to interview Zipporah’s parents with her help in translating the questions and answers. They were most willing to help with the project and as a parting gift, gave us a live chicken to bring home for dinner. It was a precious and extremely generous gift!
Goodbye to Graceland
For our going away dinner, our friends slaughtered a large chicken for the feast and served it with the traditional ugali. We enjoyed some local wine and danced to Kenyan music videos. It felt wonderful to finally allow myself to put the video camera down and just play (if I ever put it down, even for a minute in the last few weeks, I regretted it as something of interest seemed to take place everywhere we went).
The girls came to tea the next morning to say goodbye and offered us hugs and letters of thanks, each of which were deeply touching. It was amazing to see and feel the impact you had on someone’s life even in just a few short weeks. The sentiments alone made the entire trip more than worth while and I found it hard to go.
The Maasai Mara
After a long ride in a mutatu along unpaved roads, we have arrived safely back in Nairobi for the night before heading out on our 7-hour journey to the Maasai Mara. The word Maasai means “the people who speak Maa language” and Mara means “spotted land” as much of the area is spotted with trees and shrubs, while the rest is open plain, hills and tall grass in July that inspires a magnificant migration of wildabeast and zebra.
Once in the Mara, we settled in at the Oldarpoi Camp where a percentage of the money we paid for our safari in the Serengeti goes toward a local Maasai primary school called Ole Keene. In addition, funds go to support I SEE Maasai Girls Recue Center that had recently been constructed for girls escaping/recovering from FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), which is still deeply embedded in Maasai culture, although many have since chosen to oppose the practice.
We visited a local Maasai village and learned more about their cultural traditions and way of life. I interviewed a Maasai girl who clutched a baby under her wrapped blanket with my Canon 7D and monopod. The camera does not offer ideal audio recording, but was the only tool I felt comfortable carrying on safari and provides a beautiful image. We were told that once Maasai girls reach the age of 10 – 12, they are deemed ready for circumcision and once circumcised are deemed ready for marriage. The girl was 21-years-old and was married off by her parents when she was a teen so that her family could inherit the dowry. The girl since had three children and only made it through grade five in school. It was interesting to learn that she would have preferred to stay in school if she had had the choice as it helped confirm for me personally that many of these girls who are married off at a young age by their parents may not have wanted to make that choice, but felt they had no other options either personally, financially or culturally.
As I write this, I am sitting in our hotel room drinking tea, waiting for our taxi to arrive to take us to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, which breeds the once nearly extint Rothschild Giraffes, which tourists can feed and even kiss, if they dare. I can hear the faint sounds of a piano playing Earth, Wind and Fire. We are then departing for the airport this evening to catch our flight to London and then back home. It feels a bit odd to have finally emerged from the rural countryside and back into city life.
We spent the evening hours at Graceland transcribing the many interviews we had captured as we begin the process of reviewing all the footage and photographs collected throughout our stay. I hope to launch a Kickstarter campaign this fall in order to raise finishing funds for the project, including editing, color correction and web design.
We have so many pieces to a larger puzzle that I know are just beginning to scratch the surface of the issue, but I am confident that the story will be a powerful one none-the-less and look forward to our experiences coming back to life again in the editing room once home in Boston.
Kwaheri Graceland, Kwaheri Nyeri, Kwaheri Maasai Mara, Kwaheri Nairobi, Kwaheri Kenya.