I stepped away from the tours, the cities and the constant moving around and spent two weeks living in a rural village outside of Nairobi with a Maasai family and volunteering in a local primary school.
It was a small village called Kimuka about one hour from Nairobi, the closest town being Ngong which was a half an hour drive away. The village was situated at the base of the Ngong Hills and on a vast, barren and dry land that stretched as far as the eye could see with no sealed roads or tall buildings disrupting the view. The house I stayed at was made from corrugated iron and ply wood. The toilet was a hole in the ground in a shed outside and we collected water in buckets from a tank for our showers, cooking and washing. I had no access to Internet or mobile phone coverage. We cooked our food in a pot over hot coals and hand washed all dishes and clothing. Now before you feel sorry for me or think that it must have been hard, it was actually the most serene, humbling and wonderful experience. I was able to disconnect from life and constant travel and get back to basic, real living and I couldn’t help but think that I wish more people lived this way.
I would wake up when the sun rose to the sound of roosters and go outside to the toilet and look around at the amazing landscape with a backdrop of the Ngong Hills. I would walk to and from school every day, often with an entourage of kids. All my spare time I spent reading or helping around the house. Cooking dinner was the main activity in the evening and would include a bunch of people in the small kitchen surrounding the jiko (cooker), peeling vegetables and chatting away. There was no sense of time; dinner was anytime between 7 and 9pm, depending on whenever everyone got moving in the kitchen. Classes tended to be skipped and breaks would run overtime at school. Church went for over four hours on Sunday and if it wasn’t for church marking every Sunday you wouldn’t know what day it was. There was an open door policy in the neighbourhood, which meant anyone and everyone could come and go as they pleased, no prior arrangements required. It meant that often half the people in the living room were new people I’d never met and we never knew how many mouths we’d be feeding when dinner was finally ready. It was such a far cry from life back at home, but I enjoyed it and began to appreciate what a true sense of community really meant.
It doesn’t mean that life is easy though. The Maasai rely on livestock for their income and with severe drought in the last couple of years many people have lost a lot and struggle to get by. Kids have to grow up quick; it’s all hands on deck when it comes to house chores and farming. The oldest daughter had to take the cows out to the nearest water source at dawn and then bring them back at sunset. Everyone takes turns in cooking and washing the dishes. Everyone helps with the house cleaning and clothes washing on the weekend. Someone has to get up early in the morning to make tea for everyone. Kids walked a long distance to school, sometimes over an hour each way. But that didn’t mean that everyone was bitter or grumpy, it’s just the way life is. In fact, everyone was happy, no one ever complained and they would even wash the dishes like it was a party with loud music on throwing in some dance moves in between.
I admit that sometimes I wished I could Google something. Sometimes I wished I didn’t have to walk all the way back home from school. Sometimes I got frustrated at the amount of people sitting in the living room that were going to eat the food we had cooked. Sometimes (all the time) I just wanted to have a proper shower so I could really get all the red dirt out of my pores and feel clean again. But it didn’t matter, it was all part of the experience and I could have stayed months instead of weeks. I was welcomed straight away into the family and I instantly felt comfortable in the house. I met so many great people and will never forget the time I spent there. In fact, I’m already planning my return trip!
*post adapted from my trip here in January-February 2015 and from my original blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com