The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large game reserve in south-west Kenya, and is contiguous with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The Maasai people are it's name-sake and still inhabit the area.
And let me tell you.... this place will blow your mind. When you think of "Africa" this is what you think of. Tribal people wearing traditional garb, mud huts, lions, giraffes... you know - the whole African she-bang.
Our first stop was at a co-ed Maasai school called, Siana. This school boasts as one of the top schools in the country, with almost all of their students moving from Class Eight to the highest level of secondary school (National Schools) available. A little background, all class eight kids are tested nationally which determines which level of secondary school they can attend... sort of like our ACT/SATS over here... or even the GRE. But the test scores are the only determining factor in their acceptance - no GPA or anything else counts. So these tests are a big damn deal over there. Many kids end up dropping out of school or having to repeat Class Eight if they don't pass or get high enough test scores.
Anyway, this school was crazy. First of all, every student looked like a model. I swear, despite being dressed in sub-par uniforms, each child towered maybe 6 inches to a foot above me... and they were like 10 to 14 years old or something! Plus, they have that super swanky exotic look to them anyway. I love it, and may have been jealous with my stumpy 5 ft 3 frame. :-)
This school also served as a rescue school for young females and on campus a dormitory housed hundreds of girls who had been rescued from female circumcision.
Yes - you read that right.
Female circumcision. I am literally shuddering right now imaging it. Traditionally, the Maasai people have little regard for a few things... both women and eduction being two of them. First of all, they don't believe women should be educated. Plain and simple. Secondly, they do not believe women should be allowed to enjoy sex. So they circumcise them.
Luckily, there are people in the Maasai who don't uphold these old beliefs and work to help young women become educated. Hence, Siana School.
I have to admit, these children were a bit rough around the edges. This was the first time their school had ever received visitors... at least like us... and everybody was unsure of how to interact with the kids, or at least the older ones. There were a couple older girls who were actually borderline rude to us. It was very bizarre. At one point I ended up with a crew of about 12 kids, both male and female, around me... all just staring at me. We ended up chatting away and they asked tons of questions about where I was from. Oh, but don't be fooled. They knew EVERYTHING there was to know about American government, history, and politics. I was astounded at how knowledgable and smart they were. I would consider myself relatively well versed on the topic of our government, but these kids took the cake.
Oh yeah - and they love Barak Obama.
Anyway, while we were there, the male students performed a few of their award winning traditional songs and dance for us. Okay, when I say that, you are probably like, "yeah, yeah... another song and dance that was cool."
This was UH-MAZ-ING.
Their school competes yearly in a national music festival and they take first place every year. And I got to see exactly why. It blew me away. The boys wore traditional red dresses, carried spears, and even blew a shofar. One tiny little boy was the "leader" where he lead a sort of call-and-response type of song. They even created different harmonies with the different calls and whistles they yelled. All while jumping up and down, jingling their dresses, and posing with spears. I got chills listening to it and both Lacey and I were literally jumping up and down in our seats as they performed.... so much so that one of the teachers began laughing at us and how giddy we were. Ahh! I'm getting chills thinking about it now! Amazing.
That night we stayed in a tented camp resort. We ate dinner in the beautiful lodge and then headed to bed. This place was basically like a hotel, but your rooms were literally tents. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't my typical type of camping with sleeping bags, etc. The tents each had a bathroom and three beds. It was kind of eerie though because throughout the night, many of us could hear a herd of wild hyenas laughing and crying in the night. Creepy. But still cool.
The next morning, we all woke up at 6am or so and headed out to the Maasai Mara National Reserve for an all day safari.
Enter the Lion King.
Our twelve hour safari was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done. Unfortunately, my camera went ca-put while on it, so I had to settle to use my iPhone camera. We saw almost every kind of animal there was.... even four of The Big Five. (Water Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, & Rhino). Rhino was the only animal we didn't see, which is supposedly the most rare to see right after the Leopard. And we saw the Leopard twice! Pretty cool! My favorite part was seeing the cheetahs... or "duma" as they are called there. I just love cheetahs, and they got SO FREAKING CLOSE!! One even plopped down in front of my van and started rolling around in the dirt. I almost jumped out to cuddle with it at that point.
To sum it up - the safari was incredible. I take that back... the ENTIRE TRIP was incredible. Life changing, to say the least. I came back humbled, refreshed, renewed and completely and utterly jet lagged.
I plan on going back again sometime.... maybe 2014 is my year, after I pop this new kid out or something.
Thank you again to everyone who had a part in getting me there! Your efforts were not in vain and I believe I had a small part in God's work across the globe.
Below are some pics from the safari. Enjoy!
|Cows decided to cross the highway. Typical, right?|
|Nick drying his clothes on the way to the Maasai Mara after washing them that morning.|
|Maasai people headed to market.|
|Meet Jackson! We're Facebook friends, don't worry.|
|Speaking with the Maasai women.|
|Mary Helen, Jordan, Me, & Meredith|
|Love this pic I snapped on my phone of a lady with her beaded jewelry|
|Thuyvio hiding from the flys that got really bad at one point|
|Our armed tour guide showing up to the hippos|
|Rafiki the baboon|
|Britney with her girls, Mercy and Irene|
|This pic is deceiving... I could have reached out|
and touched him from the van. He was so close!
|Mud Hut village|