Good morning and Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful moms! I want to do a special shout out to my amazing mom who has showed me the meaning of sacrificial love and devotion. Mom, I miss you and am sad I can't share this day with you but if anything, traveling to Kenya by myself has taught me to appreciate both you and dad infinitely more and I can't wait to come home and embrace you. I thought that it being Mother's Day and all, it would appropriate to write about the women in Samburu. Granted, most of the people we talk to at the wells have been men so far but I have encountered many beautiful Samburu mamas and have learned so much from them already.
Let's start off with Jennifer, Lucas's younger sister, who has been cooking for me since I got into Wamba. To say that the food is scrumptious would be an understatement. I must say, I was a little nervous about eating African food for three weeks because of my weak stomach and because I've really never had African food. However, my first bite into the goat & potato stew on Thursday night erased away all of my trepidation. Oddly enough, it reminded me of one of my family's favorite dishes, ox tail stew, which made me feel right at home.
For breakfast I have had a egg omelets with tomato and amazing pancakes that taste like a hybrid of crepes & green onion pancakes without the green onions. Writing about it makes me crave another, good thing I have one more left! For lunchtime and dinnertime (they always bring me so much that my lunch time meal is enough for dinner and a small snack) Jennifer has whipped up some goat soup (similar to the stew) and some kind of vegetable dish. In addition, Jennifer has been really kind to boil water for me every morning since I was warned not to drink the tap water here (though the well water looks so refreshing!). Today, she made me chai tea. To be honest, I never liked chai tea but while we were in the Wildabeest camp, I took a sip of Lucas' tea, to which he added milk and sugar, and it is AMAZING! It remind me of Hong Kong milk tea, or for people that like boba, the milk tea that is in boba drinks. It is absolutely delicious.
As Lucas and I went around to five wells yesterday, we heard the same story over and over again: it is the women who used to walk up to 10 km each day in search of water for their family. It is the women who would have to endure this burden and those that were pregnant at the time would have miscarriages due to the distance they had to walk and the load they were forced to carry. While the entire community benefits from having a well nearby, it is the women who benefit tremendously. Women now have time to pursue economic endeavors like go to town to sell their beads and jewelry, trade livestock, and start their own garden. While all of these are profound changes and should not be overlooked, the following answer to the question "What do people do during the time saved (of not having to go far distances to fetch water)?" really moved me. At Lentanai/Ntepes Well, one of the elders said that now women can have quality time with their husband and with their children; before, women would have to leave very early in the morning (around 6 AM) in search of water and would return in the afternoon (around 3 PM), exhausted from the long journey. Now, women have time to bond with their family and really be present. To me, having been raised by a mother who dedicated her life for the well being of her children and sacrificed so much to raise us, I know the importance of this change; not only must it mean a lot to the mother to be able to play a more active role in maintaining her household but I can only imagine the positive impact it has on the children.
After we talked to the elder man from Lentani/Ntepes Well, we walked over to a nearby tree where some of the women were resting, waiting for us. There, I had the chance to hear how a well close to their home has transformed their lives. Ellen Lenamarker said that before it was difficult for the elder women to find enough water for their survival; instead they would languish in their homes. We talked with them for a while and before we left, Ellen pulled out a beautiful bracelet and presented it to me as a gift. These women have very little yet they are so generous; they went on to say, that they had just learned that morning I was coming and if they had known before then, they would have brought more gifts. Their willingness to share their possessions with me really touched and moved me. To say it was a bit of a struggle to fit the bracelet on my hand would definitely be accurate. At first glance I thought that was no way I could fit my big hand into such a small opening but after a lot of twisting and pushing, Ellen and I were able to get it past my palm and it is sitting very snuggly on my wrist. Lucas said he will show me how to take it off with soap and water though I am afraid if I take it off, I may never be able to put it on again!
Lastly, I have noticed just how strong the Samburu women are, both physically and mentally. When we were sitting on a fallen tree branch talking to the elder man, a few women walked past us including one who was carrying an enormous load around her head. Lucas also noticed her and after talking to her for a short while found out that she was carrying charcoal to sell in town (as an energy source).
I asked him just how heavy he thought that load was and asked if it was heavier than the heavy luggage I had brought to Kenya (which at the time of arrival was about 50 pounds). Lucas said it was probably double that weight which meant the woman was carrying around 100 pounds on her back!!! I can't even begin to imagine how heavy that might be. It must take a lot of mental and physical strength to be able to carry this load for a few miles; the thought of carrying that makes me wince at the inevitable strain. It's things like this that really puts everything into perspective. By this time, I had been carrying my backpack which probably weighed around 10 pounds around for a few hours and I had finally set it next to me. After realizing just how heavy her load was, I was resolved never to complain about how heavy my bag was. Though Lucas has been doing everything in his power to make sure I do not have to walk long distances in the sun, I will not complain if we have to walk even farther distances than what we walked yesterday. If these women can do it for every day of their life, I can put aside all my comfort and do it for three weeks.
So far during my time here in Wamba, I have witnessed women who will dedicate their lives to better the Samburu community at large, who will cook for complete strangers, and who will do whatever it takes to sustain their families. To me, these women are the epitome of strength and devotion. To all the mothers around the world who will do anything to make this world a better place for their children!