This trip has been the first of many new experiences for me. Who would have pictured me, a girl who can't even ride a bicycle and who fell off a horse while holding onto someone in front of me, on the back of a motorbike without a helmet? It only shows just how quickly I have come to faith in Lucas... from the moment I saw him in the airport after panicking for a few minutes when I couldn't see a familiar face to now, I have come to really trust Lucas with my well being. I truly am blessed to be working with people both here on the ground and back home in the states that I consider to be more than co-workers... they are my extended family.
When I told Lucas that this was the first time I've ever ridden a motorbike, he reassured me that I was in excellent hands and he was not lying! Driving any type of vehicle in Wamba is no easy feat... the roads are very rocky (literally there are rocks everywhere) and there are many ravines and holes that keep you on your toes. I am amazed at how Lucas can read the land and can spot a small valley/crevice from far away.
I can't think of a better way to experience the beauty of Wamba than to ride on a motorbike. At 40 kmph, you are kept cool by the wind and can enjoy all that nature has to offer as you whiz on by. Even though I've seen countless pictures of the land, none of the pictures really captured how striking the trees are. As we motorbiked along, Lucas pointed out all the acacia trees to me and told me that they were cherished by the Samburu people. During the rainy seasons, the branches are filled with green leaves which provide relief from the unrelenting sun. More importantly though, during the dry season the acacia tree bears some kind of fruit that is enjoyed by the goats; during this dry season which lasts from January through March, the land is parched and there is no pastures to graze on. The only thing keeping the livestock and the livelihood of the Samburu people alive are these fruits. Thus, if you were found to have cut down an acacia tree, the elder chair in the community would come to your household and demand that you pay a fine and also hand over a goat which is one of the biggest source of income for a family. In other words, it is considered to be an extremely serious offense. To me, these trees leave me breathless and in awe of our creator.
Paul, our extremely talented well maintenance guy, led the way on his motorbike and brought us to the very first well that The Samburu Project ever drilled, Lendadapoi Well (D1W1). There we ran into Lmerongo Lenamarker who is a dear friend of Lucas's. I could tell how comfortable the two of them were by the tone of their voices and the frequent laughter. When I asked who uses the well most, Lmerongo answered lightheartedly though very seriously, "The women because the well belongs to them." I was astounded at how this community really took ownership of their well and made improvements to best suit their needs. Not only is there a very formidable bush fence around the well made out of large sticks and branches but the community has hand constructed a pipe to put over the well opening that channels the water from the well to a watering trough a few meters away. Lmerongo said that more than 2,000 goats, 500 calves and 200 camels drink from this trough EVERY DAY. That is incredible.
We heard from Walter a few days ago that "Water is Life" but what does that mean? For the Lendadapoi community, before this well, men and women would have to walk their animals very far distances to find green pastures and less than half of the baby goats/camels/calves would survive the drought. Now that they have this well, not only is the water very clean which means they spend less money deworming their livestock, but each household makes a lot more money because all of the baby animals survive! For the Samburu people, their livestock = their livelihood so water = life to their animals = life (not just survival, but the ability to adequately meet your family's needs) to the Samburu people. When we asked what are some of the major issues faced by the community, Lmerongo smiled and said "We don't have any problems- the only problem was water and now we don't have any problem. Well, the only problem is lack of green pastures but I doubt you have control over that." What a way to start my day!
As we continued driving from well to well, I began to feel one with the earth and got very comfortable on the motorbike. Enough so that I began finding myself drifting off much to my dismay. And then there was one big jolt and I instinctively tightened my grip on Lucas as I realized how dangerous it would have been if I feel off. (Mom and dad, don't worry I promise I won't do that again!) Which brings to my next story which only serves to highlight the importance of having a nearby clean water source to the community. At Lorian/Glolgoltim Well we had the pleasure of talking to Mrs. Lepuiyapui Makaka and Joyce Leseela. When asked how far they used to go to fetch water, Mrs. Lepuiyapui pointed to a distant mountain and said they would have to go behind that mountain to find water. The trip there and back took 8 hours every day! Even worse than the time spent looking for this water was the fact that there was a high chance of running into wild animals such as elephants and buffalo. At this point Joyce spoke up and told a personal testimony of this danger: one time she and her friend went behind the mountain in order to get water for their families. As they were sitting by the water source a big poisonous snake quietly came up and bit the friend on the back of her foot. Because they were so far away from their homes, they were unable to get her friend help in time and she passed away.
I had known that these far water sources, which were often shallow hand dugs, were dangerous to the people because it was the source of many water-borne diseases but this story made me realize that walking these far distances actually led to deaths. The impact and importance of these wells suddenly was elevated a hundred fold. When these people say that "Water is life" they aren't exaggerating.
I am learning so much about our work, our impact, and about this land. I am looking forward to whatever tomorrow may bring!