Saturday, January 16, 2010
Editor’s note: Clark resident Mary Walker volunteers at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center was built in 2002 and provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker’s updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.
I am accompanying three girls from the rescue center who just finished high school to a computer training program located in the Maasai Mara of Kenya, the premier safari location in the country.
The Mara is a vast expanse bordering Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain. Combined, the Mara and the Serengeti are home to the largest concentration of wildlife in the world.
Computer training is offered free to Maasais at the supply camp for Rekero Tent Camp, one of the Mara’s most successful safari camps. It is one of many ways in which Rekero is giving back to the indigenous community upon whose homeland the camp is operating. Kenya is far from being able to offer computer training in any but a few of the very best — and private — high schools in the country, so computer literacy is outside the reach of the vast majority of its people. I am very grateful to Rekero for their help in offering this training to the girls from Tasaru on an ongoing basis.
So, we are here for about three weeks while the girls study to receive a certificate in computer studies. The atmosphere here is wonderful — very “smart” (in the British sense) — and the girls are having a great time. Days are spent in class, while evenings are spent washing clothes, watching the news on television, having the ubiquitous ugali Kenyan supper, and “ongea, ongea” (“talking, talking” in Swahili).
The supply camp is deep in the bush. There are animals everywhere. One afternoon, we were just outside the camp looking for phone network coverage when a couple of the girls came running in saying there was a group of buffalo just around the corner. Another day, a member of the Rekero staff similarly came scurrying in and told us to move on, there were two elephants just there. Having grown up in the bush themselves, these girls are well aware of how dangerous these animals are. We all ran into the relative safety of the camp compound. Later, I jokingly told them the old adage, “I don’t have to be the fastest runner, only faster than the slowest runner.” They laughed. This should not be confused with something I recently read, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly in Africa.”
When the lights go out at 10 p.m. (electricity is via a generator that operates only from dusk to 10 p.m.), it is dark — very dark. And that is when the animals really come out. Not five minutes after the lights went out one night, a buffalo was just outside my door. And last night, we all heard the lion that sauntered through camp.
As a woman of a certain age, I usually need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. But obviously there’s no going to the latrine, about 20 yards from our rooms, after 10 p.m. So the last thing I do at night, at 9:59 p.m., is rush to the latrine for one last visit. “Saangaapi bwana simba?” is a Swahili children’s song and means “What is the time, Mr. Lion?”
The girls will get a day off from class, and we will go on a game drive and picnic. It seems that animals view vehicles much as they view trees — we are just part of the natural landscape. So from the safety of a vehicle, it is possible to get very, very close to the animals in the Mara. And there will be many to see — safely.