Sunday was a workday, of sorts. After sleeping in and eating a filling brunch, Neo took Kelly, Andrew and I to Loboir for the chicken training. We spent 3 hours with the 17 women who came – they were dressed in their Sunday best and looking quite beautiful – as the training went out they started to wilt, but by the end they knew how to feed, house and doctor the chickens. We also gave them a rudimentary outline of how they should think about their business plan. I’m thrilled that my entrepreneurship coursework and my own start-up research is coming in handy.. this is exactly why I took those courses. Shayo comes along too, and he translates for the two Maasai women who also attend the training (and who, like me, don’t speak Swahili!)
I’m finding these types of trainings to be extremely helpful. Kelly speaks very clear Swahili, and the women did a lot of writing on posters on the wall. Neo is wonderful about translating, and I am finally finally grasping the rudimentary verb and noun structures of the language. My goal is to be able to make my own simple sentences by this time next week. I’ve been memorizing verbs, semi-successfully, and lots of nouns, successfully. Swahili is a lot easier to memorize than Chinese, I’ll tell you that much!
Today we went down to the Loibor market. It takes place on Mondays under the branches of a large grove of trees by the river. Here you can buy the fabric that makes the shukas and congas that the Maasai wear, as well as the common shoes made of tire tread, simple beaded jewelry and household goods like soap and dishes. The sellers spread their goods on low tables or blankets on the ground, but it is not too busy today when we arrive. There are some simple thin-log structures, with wooden tables and benches inside, made cozy and secretive by the shuka-curtains and the women who bake chapati (a flat tortilla-like bread) and serve it with chai (tea). The air is loose with ease, we run into a few of the mamas who are in the women’s group, and I’m learning how to respond to the Maasai greetings as well as the Swahili ones. What a contrast this is to being in China, where I could easily communicate with the people there. It is unsatisfying to be outside of every conversation, and yet the more I listen, the faster I learn. So I lurk and hope to be inconspicuous.
The real treat is roasted goat. Neo buys a piece of the ribs and a leg and then we go “into the bushes” to eat it. For one, it’s considered rude for young women to eat in front of men, and for two, by hiding behind some trees to eat you avoid people coming and bothering you. The gentleman who follows us into the bush with the meat takes a slice of goat as a tip. We gnaw on the flavorful meat, crispy skin and fat-veined bones, and are attended by 5 little African dogs who sit patiently just outside our circle and wait for our leftovers. Neo is disappointed that we don’t clean off the bones, “Your teeth are not strong enough!” he admonishes me, “if you were a Maasai there’d be nothing left for the dogs.”
After a stop at the school, most of us take the afternoon off back in Noloholo. The overcast skies and lack of exercise finally get to me. I’ve been growing more testy and grouchy as this week has gone on. At 5:30, I meet Kelly for yoga, and we go up to the patio. Two of the Maasai guards come over and watch us for a little while before getting involved themselves. Let me tell you, having a tall Maasai man in black galoshes doing planks, a downward facing dog, and the tree post, is incredibly amusing. It’s hard to create a sense of zen in such circumstances. Kelly and I giggled a lot, and by the end of it I felt at least a bit of release.
Christy, Andrew and I are finding it hard to believe that we’ve been here for over a week now. It feels like a long time already, as if the routine were already deep in our bones, and the place familiar. Durham and even Arusha, feel more distant than a dream that fades upon waking. I miss Ben a lot, as well as my family. More than I expected I would. It is that one sense of longing, and the sense of not belonging here, that reminds me how little time has passed.
I am still struggling to understand how I can be most useful to APW. I am still struggling to understand why I am here. I open my mind, ask questions constantly, and remind myself hourly how little I know. I am already moving quickly on my projects, and hope this means that I am not sacrificing progress for acclimatization. But my time here is so short, and I already feel the mounting pressure of time passing.