Where does the time go

Kenia 2014 1547It was yesterday, exactly a year ago, that I got on a plane in Amsterdam and headed to first Cairo and then Nairobi.

It was today that I arrived in Kenya, in the midst of the night.

Since I got back after 5 weeks, Kenya has been in my thoughts every day. Close to every hour, to be honest. Though these days it’s not just the highlights, the best moments and experiences, that cross my mind, but every little feeling, fragrance and detail. Memories are playing themselves like movies in my head. And I have a feeling that this will go on for the next couple of weeks. Today feels strange, but yesterday felt really melancholic. Sometimes I wonder if I do not hold fast too tightly, if I do not over-romanticize. Yet is is true that I was happy, and above all, felt alive. It wasn’t necessarily being in Kenya, but being surrounded by love and lovely people and every moment experiencing and exploring this new way of life.

I remember riding back into Nairobi after spending a few days on the coastside, the modest skyline ahead of us, back in what after the humid ocean air felt as chillier air now, and although the coast-life made me feel more comfortable because of its laid-back pace, it felt as coming home, knowing that familiar people and places were waiting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few days ago I received this photo of my sweet Ciro, all dressed up in uniform in front of her school on her first day. I can see some nerves on her face, but her eyes are shining as always.

I remember how she’d come to sit on my lap and count the Maasai burns I got on my left arm real slowly, while tenderly touching them one for one. This girl had stolen my heart, and I’m glad that I can support her for her education – something that has a far bigger (and probably far better) impact than volunteering.

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Maasai Walkabout

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In my first week in Kenya I’ve spent a day with the Maasai. It has been the most special day in my life, by far. Kenia 2014 184 Kenia 2014 183 My roommate and I met up with 3 other volunteers at the mall, from where maasai Peter took us by bus to Ngong, and then by piki piki (motorbike) to his village. Imagine grazing on a motorbike through the breathtakingly beautiful Ngong Hills – so fucking amazing! If it was up to me we could have driven on for hours. Once we arrived we had a look in the relatively big hut where the chief and his first wife live. After that we got the typical Kenyan chai tea and chapati (a sort of pancakes) in the bigger and more modern living room next to the hut. After the wife of the chief, Grace, traditionally painted our faces we walked to a stunning view of the Great Rift Valley with a couple of men, through the bush and the heat and with pans, knives and cutting boards in our hands – goat, vegetables and other supplies on a piki piki ahead. After we first just enjoyed the wonderful place it was time for goat slaughtering… They said it would go fast – well, no. I can still hear the screaming of the poor little goat, the knife sticking into his throat, blood floating. And oh, the guys loved doing it. Then we could drink the blood. Only one of us was so brave to do that. The sweet dogs who walked with us had a blood licking party after. Kenia 2014 199 Kenia 2014 220 Kenia 2014 224 Kenia 2014 225 Kenia 2014 226

Kenia 2014 242 Kenia 2014 255 The Maasai we were with are pretty modern regarding clothing and intercourse, but they do still have their traditions and rituals. The Maasai we passed on our way to the village were certainly not that modern. We stopped to wait for the others who got behind, saw two giraffes – two tiny brown dots in the distance – and I grabbed my camera to zoom in on the animals and to make some pictures of the beautiful surroundings as well. Not of the people, because I knew very well that you shouldn’t just make pictures of people in general, but traditional people especially. Very traditional Maasai believe that you take ones spirit away when you make a photograph of someone. After a while, when I already stopped taking pictures, a young woman came towards us and tried to take my camera. Then a small group came as well, with a very angry man screaming at Peter. Peter was like, get on the motorbike fastly and let’s go! Pretty scary. But a very interesting experience as well!

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(Me after my first burn. It doesn’t look like it, but YES it hurt. We’ve been asked not to place pictures of the burning itself on the Internet)

In the burning sun and with an amazing view and good company we cut vegetables, sitting on a maasai blanket. I felt like that was for dinner instead of lunch – everything was so intense. We sat down, talked and had so much fun. The food was delicious. After lunch they would give us maasai burns! At that point I was still doubting very much, not because of the pain, but because of the fact that this happening is sacred for the Maasai and for me it’s not. I was one day with the Maasai and however it’s all very fascinating and intriguing to me, what meaning could I grant to the burns? But when the moment was there the men were pushing me so much that I thought ‘fuck it, I’ll just do it! And after all it seems it’s not that sacred for them.’ Three of us did it and we felt quite proud after. ‘Maasai warrior princesses!’ Amanda said. The burns have something to do with coming of age, so it was actually quite relevant for me. I am 18, this was my first longer trip, far far away from home and my parents. Now I’m very glad I decided to have the burns! After the burning we danced, wrapped in maasai blankets. We had the guys jump in a line at the same time, to see who could jump the hightest. Ahh we’ve had so much fun! These people are amazing. Peter imitated Batman from the rock on the edge of the rift and, why not, after that also from the tree hanging over the abyss, with a blowing maasai blanket on his back. Kenyans can be crazy, haha. So much laughter today! A girl who had already volunteered at the night school in the village for 5 weeks, walked with us this day. During that time she became very close with all of the guys and especially Peter. I think because she was with us the vibe was even more easy-going, that was really nice. And she brought her ukulele which made it all even more relaxt!

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Kenia 2014 296When we got back from the bush we bought some of the jewelry they sell and then we went to have a look at the (night) school, where volunteers teach as well. We had an interesting conversation with one of the teachers, James. The most important of it, I think, is what he said about ‘buying’ a wife. He said buying a wife is not about possession, but about appreciation. That’s absolutely not how we look at it in the Western world. He laughed when we asked him why only men can have more wives, but a wife can’t have more husbands. That’s just how it is, he said. Also, we said we are allowed to marry only one person, it’s illegal to marry more than one man or woman. As we were saying it, we suddenly all realized how strange that actually is. Do we think there is freedom in the Western world? What if one loves more people? And everyone involved is okay with it? Ridiculous.

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