Brian & Linda Travel to Africa – Part 2
When we arrived in Arusha, Tanzania we gathered with a group from the U.S. that we had never met and who predominantly came from the East Coast and South. We all gathered for the purpose of being part of Young life Expeditions Africa. Little did we know at that first meeting we were about to have an experience that would change us forever and bind us to new communities in The states and Tanzania forever.
Our purpose at this point was to partner with local Tanzania Younglife staff to do a community work project in a school located in the village of Landanai. This area has a large population of Massai. We were taken on a six hour drive in a great vehicle named Christina to a remote area. We were privileged to camp in a Massai compound.
Our host was Gideon who was the eldest son of the chief’s 28 children. It was a shock to observe this village still living in the traditional ways of their ancestors. No running water, no electricity, traditional dress and mud hut homes. In addition the tribe still adheres to ancient customs. These included killing a goat in front of us that was served for dinner that night. Despite our extreme differences we were welcomed with amazing hospitality.
Our arrival was the buzz of the community and all came out to observe these strangers from a distance land. As in most cultures the children were the first to come close and check us out. We could tell by their faces that most had never seen folks that looked like us before. They were fascinated to stroke our skin and hair and check out our jewelry. It wasn’t long until they were hand clapping with our team. It was a humbling feeling to have children fighting to be next to you or simply hold your hand.
Our time at the school was an eye opening awareness of all that we take for granted at home. In the days that we worked on replacing a classroom floor we learned that the school had 800 children with 5 teachers. This meant that most classrooms had no teacher only an assignment on the board. The children were self supervised until we walked in then pandemonium usually erupted. In addition, only 1/3 of the children could afford the $2.00 per month cost of school lunch. So lunch consisted of 2/3 of the children watching the 1/3 eat lunch. Most students walk miles to school each day and generally eat only one meal a day at dinner. Needless to say it was heartbreaking to see for us but the children just accepted it as their reality.
Our work project involved 2 days of back breaking work, as all steps were done the “old fashioned way” by hand. This including tearing out the existing broken concrete floor, breaking large rocks with sledgehammers, hand mixing and pouring the new concrete and passing them along bucket brigade style. During this the children were eager to help. It was amazing as we mingled and played with these children the awareness of no matter where we have traveled in the world we have more the similarities than differences.
These children also loved to have their pictures taken. They knew the English word picture and they immediately learned how to “swipe”. Many would scream when they saw themselves for the first time. I’ve never had so much pleasure from just taking a photo. The love and appreciation we experienced in this school will stay with us forever.
The hardest part for us to process was that most of the Massai children that we were camping with do not attend this school. They instead had work responsibilities at home that were a priority. The men, and boys herd and farm daily while the women and girls take care of the needs of the home. Most girls in the tribe are married around the age of 12. We befriended Gideon’s oldest son who is 8 and watched him herding his goats. Needless to say, you don’t want to be around this firecracker when he is wielding his whip on his herd!
We happened to also have visited at a very special celebration time for this village. It was circumcision time which only happens every seven years. This is a two day celebration with traditional dance involved. Fortunately we did not witness the procedure only the pleasure of seeing the dances. I kept asking Brian is this National Geographic? It was surreal and beautiful to be welcomed in this manner.
I have so many more amazing stories and thoughts about our time with the Massai to share but am limited by space. If you would like to hear more stop me in the shop and I can fill you in on more. My take away from this experience was the power and importance of a community.
The way of life we experienced would not be possible without everyone working together in the family and community to make survival possible. As I reflect on our country and our Gilbert community I have a new view on the measurement of the success in our lives. Success comes from being rooted in human relationships.
Our families, schools, church’s, teams etc are the building blocks for successful communities. Technology is an amazing gift of convenience for us in so many areas but we should never let it be a substitute for the real gift of human interaction.
Our goal at Bergies continues to be a place to nurture relationships over great coffee in a peaceful environment. We are proud to be part of this Gilbert community and I encourage you today to take a few moments and nurture a relationship in your life. We would be honored if it includes some time at Bergies.
So thankful for our Bergies team and customer family!
Stay tuned for part 3 climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.