Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Oh it has been more than a week since I last wrote! Apologies. A lot has been going on. Especially in the past four days. I am ever so slowly realizing how complex it is to live in a society ruled by tribes and tribal conflicts. Last week Ben, Robin and I began sending out emails requesting donations for various projects that we would like to complete in the next week and a half (Robin has a bit more time, as she is staying a couple of weeks longer than us). You probably got my email- and thank you to all that have donated so far! I can now begin planning all of my small projects, and we can start funding some start-up business groups at the camp. In fact, today I am in Gilgil to purchase all the supplies for the Nursery School blackboard, and I am hiring one of the very active camp members to install it. Ben was extremely successful in raising funds to build one of our favorite (and hardest working) camp members a house, as his tent burnt down in November, and he is left bunking with a friend in his tent, while his wife and children live far away with family. But, hopefully, by the end of next week, Daniel and his family will have their own house! Robin has been working on determining exactly what she wishes to raise money for, and it looks like right now she is going to work toward piping water to the camp. So yes, things are moving. And then again, things are not.

Ben and I took a weekend vacation to Lake Baringo, about 4 hours northwest of where we live, simply to just sit around and not operate on grandma time for a full two days. It was really nice. Similar to our last weekend trip, we stayed on a very hippo-filled lake. However, this time there was no electric fence to keep the hippos out! Let me tell you, when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but you can hear a hippo munching and grunting outside your tent, you decide it is probably better to hold it until daylight.

Upon returning to the camp however, situations had not been that good. Evidently a camp member had been killed by the Maasai for stealing a goat ("beheaded" was the actual term they used, but we realized later just his throat had been cut). The Maasai are known to be one of the fiercest warrior tribes in Africa, and they were the tribe that pushed most of our camp residents out of their old area during the 2008 crisis. Well, whatever genius decided to purchase land for the IDP camp just so happened to purchase on the Maasai grazing path, so tensions have been rough ever since they moved in last year. The Maasai don't want people on their grazing grounds (they are nomadic, so really, these grazing grounds are everywhere), and the camp is extremely scared of the Maasai, so they get a little crazy when tensions are high. Almost all of the camp is Kikuyu, a naturally non-violent tribe, so they have no weapons. After the police came and interviewed a witness to the crime (evidently some man on a hilltop somewhere), it was realized that the dead man was not in fact stealing a goat, but involved in a relationship with the Maasai man's wife. Ahhh yes, your typical crime of passion. Alright, so you think this would put everyone at ease. It wasn't really about tribes, so we're all good, right?

Wrong. The night after we came home I woke up in the middle of the night. Struggling out of my dream, I eventually came to and realized I woke up becuase people were wailing, and children were screaming. Like they were in pain screaming. I woke Ben up because I was horrified. Of course I thought the worst. Being in a dream-like state still, I imagined the Maasai burning down the camp and coming to our house next. Alas, after looking out the window, and hearing the commotion die down, I realized someone's tent was burning down. It was a cold night and I figured they had left the cook fire burning too long, and the tent caught on fire. Ben insisted that everything was fine (though I'm pretty sure he wasn't really awake for any of this). We found out the next day that 7 children (no parents) had been in the tent, and all were taken to the hospital for burns. Luckily, only one was seriously hurt, and all would be released sometime this week. Still. Scary.

That takes us to this morning. This morning I walked to town with Camp Secretary John, and he relayed to me the intricacies of everything that has been going on this week. Last night, no one in the camp slept. Around 7 pm, just as the sun went down, a man from camp spotted the Maasai at the base of the hill that the camp sits on. They were carrying arrows and torches. The women and children all slept in the school house, while the men guarded camp all night, through the pouring rain. The Maasai never made a move, but the fear is there. John insisted that they were probably just guarding their livestock, but it had horrified everyone. Peace talks need to come soon, or the culture of fear will take over and something bad will happen. The District Officer is coming to camp today to talk to people about a meeting time, and I really hope all will be resolved in a meeting of some sort. No one in camp is sleeping, and for good reason! John has also been in communication with two other IDP camps in the area, and they have been experiencing trouble with the Maasai as well. It's like going back in time. Or like being part of rival gangs. Africa. That's all I can say.

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