Kenya Day 6 - J M Neely Photography

Day 6 (Civilization, Development and Knowledge)

Culture.... it can mean many things, especially if you are on the outside looking in. However, for those who live within the confines of belief and tradition, that "culture" is what directs them and gives purpose to the journey they call life. Being in this place has definitely opened my eyes to this. I met a lady today, a Maasai grandmother who lives in a hut made of cow dung. This wasn't a tourist trap; this was a real Maasai home in a real tribal community outside the relative comforts of the city. She has no internet, no power, not even running water. She cooks from a fireplace, with her bed no further than five feet away. She does have a two-bedroom hut though and seems quite happy with where she is. Her property is surrounded by thorn bushes and branches stacked 3 feet high in order to create a menacing barrier to protect her from a myriad of threats. I met her children and her grandchildren and even her neighbors. They were all very interested to see who I am—or rather what I am. In my mind, I'm just a big white guy who can't speak to them, but when the kids came up to me, they looked at me as if I was a lion or something. They appeared unsure whether they should reach out and touch me or run away! Timidly, they approached and followed their mother's lead. I said hello and placed my hand on their heads which is the proper greeting from an elder to a child in Maasai culture, then I pulled out a camera and their eyes lit up! They have seen this before... All at once, I asked them to touch the camera lens as I took photos of them laughing and smiling. This was heartwarming. The ice was broken, and I was not the terrible lion I feared they saw! I was once again accepted in a way I didn't expect. This feeling alone has made the journey to Kenya worth more than I ever thought possible. I talked with the adult children who could speak English and we took some family photos. I bought some amazing beaded jewelry with bright colors and brilliant designs then we headed off to another Maasai home, but it was not like what I just experienced or what I was expecting. 

Enlightened... this is the word the man used to describe himself. Although he comes from Maasai village background, he is anything but traditional. He was more like a renaissance man who is reinventing agriculture in anticipation of the potential negative impacts of climate change. His property is located within a thick jungle area. He has planted crops, thousands of them, everything you can think of from bananas to strawberries to papaya. All along the side of a sloping hill, he has designed the water drainage from the high ground to funnel and/or drain water in a teardrop fashion to the next level of crops. Some crops are positioned such that they never receive water so they are given a drip pump and continuously fed small amounts of water. He has created smaller circular plots about 5x5 feet that are stacked in a teardrop fashion to mimic his larger operation. These small planters can be used to grow almost a thousand vegetables and herbs in a relatively tiny area. He captures the water from rain as well, which is also used for the crops. His cows produce dung which is then turned into manure to fertilize the crops. The biofuel from the cows is captured to run the kitchen and the lighting in his home. It was a model of efficiency that stood in stark contrast to the traditional ways that are still common in this area. There are chickens, ducks, rabbits, and goats—all meant as a source of food for his family. His children help him cut and tie bales of hay and store them in a nearby outbuilding. His whole operation uses minimal water through conservation and reclamation to sustain itself inevitably. When I asked what his reason for all this was he said: "global warming is very real, and my goal is to survive it." He later said, "he is not just a Maasai, he is an enlightened one.” He had been lifted up.

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