morning began the most cross-cultural experience I've
ever had. Our group left for Olepolos, a Maasai village,
in two matutus. The drive there was an experience
in itself. Near the beginning of the drive we stopped
to gaze over the amazing view of the Great Rift Valley.
It was a beautiful sight, but it was hard to appreciate
the depth and breadth of it. We saw zebras, giraffes,
baboons, and other wildlife as we made our way through
the valley, across roads filled with potholes and
on a very bumpy journey needless to say.
After arriving in Olepolos we walked to the church
to meet our hosts for the weekend. Paired off in twos
and threes we departed late afternoon with our "mama's".
Krista, Wendy and I went to one of the most traditional
Maasai homes and families. We walked 5-10 min. through
corn and wheat fields, across natural land, to our
home made of sticks, mud, and dung. I entered the
house but froze in my tracks as I rounded the corner
and was in almost complete darkness. There was one
window about 7 inches in diameter, on one side of
the house that was the only light (besides the fire)
and air flow source. After being in the home for a
number of minutes my eyes finally adjusted, and I
could see much more. We were served chai, ugali, and
sukumuwiki for dinner.
No one in my house spoke any English, so communication
was difficult and seemed almost impossible at times!
We sat in silence lots of times or listened to their
conversations in Maasai. About an hour and a half
after the sunset we went to bed with the rest of our
family (around 8:30 P.M.). The three of us shared
a bed that was sticks raised up off the ground about
18 inches, covered with a leather animal skin, and
very short. Our legs stuck off the end from our knees
down. We went to bed with the goats and cat right
beside our bed and a number of cows and calves in
the attached room.
Sat. morning everyone met back at the church where
we went for a hike down to the river. After lunch
at our homes we met back at the church where we watched
them slaughter a goat in honor of our visit. That
was quite an experience! The local pastor of the fairly
new Mennonite church gave us a very interesting Maasai
culture lecture before we ate the goat meat that was
roasted over the fire. Sat. evening we played volleyball
with many of the younger men for a couple of hours,
which was very fun.
Soon after this, we returned to our host homes for
dinner---a heaping bowl of rice and beans for me.
Something you must eat all of, or it will be seen
as an insult to the mama who made it. Another night
sleeping in the very hot and smoke filled one-room
house passed as I listened to my mama softly singing
a song as I drifted off.
When Sun. morning came we took some pictures at our
house...more than I originally intended! The children
and women love to be in pictures and to take them
theirselves. Church was Sun. morning as well. There
was lively singing, clapping, and a sermon given in
Swahili and Maasai. It was neat to experience a different
style of worship than what I am used to. We sang "Praise
God from Whom all Blessings Flow (606)" for them
at the end of the service before they had a prayer
of blessing for our group. We left the village shortly
afterwards and traveled back to Nairobi.
were the main events of our weekend. Each person had
a different experience. Some of our group stayed in
more modern multiroom homes with furniture and linoleum
on the floor. Some had families who spoke English
well and who they talked to a lot and build some special
relationships. All of us had an unforgettable learning
experience in Olepolos with stories too numerous to
recount here, but hopefully this gives just a tiny
taste of what we experienced.
7/28/03 These are just some thoughts that Ben Bixler
had while he was lying awake one sleepless night in
Olepolos. Some are funny and some are thought provoking,
but they all seem to reflect the experience our group
had in the village.
Even though our host father prayed for supper in Swahili,
the four-to-five minute prayer truly moved me. It
has been a long time since I have been moved by the
passion in a prayer. Though I couldn't understand
a word of what was said, the enthusiasm was so moving
that I felt more in touch with his prayer than I have
most prayers in the past weeks. I was able to simply
sit and listen and worship.
In the big scheme of things, what's 20 shillings to
have your picture taken with one of the smoothest
talkers in Narok (a town close to Olepolos)?
I am nearly paralyzed with the fear of having to get
up in the pitch dark, make my way outside, and take
a leak. I know I have to do it, but after six hours
of listening to the night noises of Kenya, my mind
has constructed every possible situation that awaits
me outside the door.
After fifteen more minutes of lying here, thoughtless,
I summon up the courage to move outside. I am greeted
by the calm of the night, by the stillness of the
sky. Is there anything more beautiful than a night
sky that looks totally new?
Wipe left, eat right; wipe left, eat right; wipe left,
Though these people seem to have less than what I
brought to Africa for four weeks, they seem so much
happier and content than most people I know. I think
that even though this life is hard--with the work
and the constant cycle of things to be done--there
is a peace that comes with living a simple life. I
would love to know, to really know, what it is like
to live off the land--to be in touch with the earth
and with the rhythm of the seasons. I know it is easy
to romanticize this life in the first few days, but
having lived on a farm, I think I can understand a
bit of what it would be like. The escape from the
pressures of modernity seems very appealing--at least
in the short term.
The generosity of the people is very comforting. Even
though we struggle to communicate, they offer what
they have. Am I able to do the same?
Just how much caffeine and sugar are in four mugs
The world is getting bigger; I'm gaining more of an
understanding of how different things really are.
Do I truly understand what I'm experiencing? How do
I bring this world to mine?
Falling asleep without Sarah (Ben's wife) is hard;
not falling asleep without her is even harder.
In some ways, these thoughts contain more questions
than answers, but these questions can only come from
lying awake in a strange, new, exciting place for
nine hours, and will hopefully lead to a more clarified
Doreen Shirk writes:
was not able to talk much with the family I stayed
with unless one of the men who knew English was around.
Yet, on Sunday morning, as we walked to church, I
started singing a Swahili song I learned fourteen
or so years ago. When the children started singing
with me, I felt that I had made a connection that
hadn't been made before. They were surprised that
I knew that song. I was able to enjoy being with the
children before, but this was special to know they
understood me in a new way.
Don Tyson writes:
had arrived in Olepolos with excitement and wonder
about what we would experience. After a long walk
from Janzens' (missionaries from Canada living in
Olepolos) to the church, Welby and I walked back towards
Janzens' to our home. We were escorted by Solomon,
a man in his early 20's who plans to go to a university
in the United Kingdom to study biology. We were introduced
to our host mother. She, speaking no English, asked
Solomon to stay until her husband returned. He took
us for a walk to the river. After walking a while
and talking about the differences in life between
Africa and the USA, he asked if we could pray. There
on the banks of the river, three fellow Christians
prayed for their families, the church, forgiveness,
discernment, and peace. We were no longer strangers,
but "members of one family--the family of God."
This is the embodiment of one church that transcends
cultural differences, language, and oceans.