So, I’ve been back from Kenya about a month. It’s definitely a hard re-entry, going from the US to Kenya and back to the US. The lifestyle over there is almost nothing like it is over here.
I believe that there’s a difference between poverty and destitution. When you’re destitute, you have *nothing*–no money, no hope, no happiness. Poverty is an absence of money. And while many of the Kenyans I met live in the poorest of poverty-ridden areas I’ve ever seen, they are by no means destitute. Their smiles and warmth prove that. There was not one village that we visited where we weren’t greeted with kindness, immediate love and acceptance, generosity, and open arms.
My favorite constellation is Orion. In our neck of the woods, Orion begins to rise in the late summer with his right shoulder poking above the horizon in the early morning hours. As time marches on into winter, he features prominently in the southern sky, standing straight up with his sword held high. As winter turns to spring, Orion goes to bed in the early evenings of late April/early May, resting on his right shoulder.
Interestingly, Kenya sits on the equator, which means the position of the constellations shift dramatically from our perspective. In Kenya, Orion rises similarly to how he rises in my area, but things change once he gets about 10 degrees above the eastern horizon: his position doesn’t shift. He continues to march straight north. If you want to see Orion in late November/early December, you have to crane your neck and look straight up. And I mean STRAIGHT up.
In my analytical yet symbolic mind, I see this as Orion guarding the entire Kenyan sky–not just the southern portion, as he does from our position. From his position of 90 degrees off the horizon, he can protect the whole night sky. At least from mid-November through late December. 🙂
It’s an interesting parallel, I think. There’s much to protect in Kenya. There are the obvious endangered species, such as the elephant, rhino, or cheetah, but then there’s the not-at-all obvious to the typical, western-cultured mind. The Maasai culture is eroding quickly. Their culture is beautiful. Their dancing, their jewelry, their singing, their warrior mentality … there’s almost nothing about their culture that isn’t incredibly wonderful. There are a couple of horrific aspects (See: FGM. See also: early marriage.), but those points are quickly being eradicated by the newest generations of Maasai.
It’s the wonderful aspects of the culture that need to be preserved, and they need to be preserved quickly before they’re nothing but a faded memory. As it stands, their elders adhere to strict, orthodox Maasai ways. One generation younger, and they’re dressing in jeans, running their own businesses, making music (See: Lemarti, Jeff Ole Kishau, Thee Stargal). Not that there is anything wrong with dressing in jeans, running your own business or making music … but that’s not what their culture is about. Their culture is about males defending their villages from predators. Their culture is about dress. Their culture is about harvesting. Their culture is squarely *not* western, but it’s quickly becoming westernized, and for the elders, I’m sure it’s disorienting. And that’s just within one generation. Give it another 50 years, and what will be left?! WILL it be here?
One of 100 Humanitarian‘s goals is to build a cultural center that will help preserve the Maasai culture through video, audio, spoken language, interviewing elders, and archiving all this culture for their posterity. And ours, if we’re being honest! It’s an incredibly rich history, and we need to capture it. We have 5 acres dedicated for the cultural center. We have a director. We have an architect. What we *don’t* have is the money. Yet. We’re feverishly working to raise funds.
Right now, our group has over 1000 members on Facebook. If everyone contributed $100, we could have that cultural center built within one year. At least the first phase of the cultural center would be complete.
My wife and I are going over in June. I will probably be going back in November 2017 as well. That’s when we hope to have the ribbon cutting ceremony for phase 1 of the cultural center.
I have to go back. There is a feeling over there that you just don’t get over here. I can’t explain it. There’s an actual pull to go back. I’m not going to ignore it. There must be more trips.
There *will* be more trips.