November 2000

Endulen Diary
November 2000
Vol. 15, No. 8

Our Students gave us a party:

Our Osotwa Prep students gave their teachers, matrons, and cook a party this week. It was graduation time and they found a goat and took up a collection among themselves to buy soda and beer (beer for the teachers). They even put on a short play for us. We were really bowled over by their sensitivity and thoughtfulness. I think it is unusual to find a group of twenty 15 and 16 year olds who would take the time to plan such a thing and find the money to put it on.

I write in anger:

Ngoto Morindat stopped by yesterday. In the course of our conversation as we sat on the front porch, she told me that she badly needs an operation on her leg. She had polio as a child and had an operation some years ago that helped her to walk more normally, but one leg is substantially shorter than the other. Now, the pressure on her hip, because of walking on the toes of one foot for years, her whole side gives her constant pain. She needs an operation that will cost about a hundred dollars to put her right. She is the first wife of a man with six wives, one of the richest men in this area. When she asked him to help her get the needed operation, he was quite up front with his feelings in his response. He said: “I’m not helping you older women any more. Find the money yourself or live with the leg as it is”. This is a common attitude on the part of Maasai husbands. The younger wives get all the attention and help. The older ones fall by the wayside as far as interest and help goes on the part of the husband. The only thing an older wife has to fall back on is a grown son. Ngoto Morindat has a half grown son who is presently off visiting people in Kenya. The only thing she can do is to borrow the money for the operation and hope that her son can help her pay it back when he returns.

Retiring warriors in trouble:

It seems to me, although viewing the situation from the outside, that the retiring warrior age set, “Ilking’onde” as they are called, has some real problems. They are the people who were teenagers in the eighties and now are entering young elder hood. The younger ones would be in their middle to late twenties and they go all the way to almost forty. The age group above them made a smooth transition to elder hood. They are the “ruling” elders these days and can be seen playing the board game with its parallel rows of scooped our places representing cattle crawls. They play with small smooth stones representing cattle. It is a little like our cribbage. The person rounding up the most cattle at the end of the game wins. These “Ilmakaa” elders sit in the shade and play this game in the heat of the day. In the morning, it is they who decide and tell the young boys where the cattle are to be taken for grazing that day. When the herds are to be watered every third day, they usually go along to make sure everything goes well. Theirs too is the task of doctoring the cattle with pills or injections when necessary. During the day from time to time they ask for progress reports on the herding of the young calves and very young goats which is done near the village and is the chore of the young children, watched over by the women. They elders usually take a nap in the afternoon, and always have plenty of time to shoot the breeze with fellow villagers and passers by. Life for them usually goes on in an unhurried pleasant way. Somehow this model, which has been the life style of successive age groups of elders from time immemorial, does not fit our retiring warriors. The country is not that much different than it always was. Very few of these people have gone to school. It is hard to put ones finger on just what has changed. There is a new restlessness in the air, a desire for change manifested mostly by dissatisfaction with the life style that brought contentment in the past. These young men can’t fit into the old way of being elders and they have no new models to latch on to. Here in the Endulen area great numbers of them have taken to drinking. In fact, there are few to be seen in the villages during the day. On the other hand the local beer shops, and there are many here in Endulen, do a thriving business. And as one passes by a large proportion of the patrons seem to be the “Ilking’onde”, the retiring warrior group. I don’t want to be over dramatic, but it appears to me that a whole generation is going down the drain. Leaders from the government and from the missions need to do some really creative thinking about this.

Mike Jemmett contributes the following.

Mike is a Canadian volunteer doing a three-year stint of teaching at out Osotwa Maasai Prep School here on the mission at Endulen.
Rats! Dozens, hundreds, thousands of ravenous rodents; eating, gnawing, burrowing, stealing our food, perforating our clothing, disturbing our sleep, all at the speed of greased lighting. What to do? Perhaps the top three traditional lines of attack have been cats, poison and the classic rattrap.

Although many Osotwa students already knew how the last option works with deadly efficiency, just to be sure, we demonstrated one. Then, as part of the creative problem-solving aspect of the education program here, I turned the rat problem over to the students for inventive solutions. However word must have gotten out, because the entire campus pest population mysteriously decamped en masse that very week.

The Project: Build a better rattrap in 21 days

Goal: To produce a rattrap that is:
1. Effective (It catches rats)
2. Easy to handle
3. Re-usable

1. To have fun
2. To Exercise your creativity
3. To reduce or control the local rat population

1. Safety first
2. Work in teams of two to discuss, draw plans and make one or more working models of a rat trap designed to catch one or more rats, dead or alive.
3. Test the trap in a suitable location where you, other people and animals will not be hurt.
4. Re-design and re-test the model if necessary.
5. Make a finished product.

1. Your own team’s ideas and efforts are important. Do not ask for outside help.
2. You may ask for, borrow, find or but any materials needed. Do not take without asking.
3. Try to keep your designs and model secret. Do not let others copy your work.
4. Products will be judged on originality and effectiveness.

After the three weeks, the students’ productivity was rather paltry. Of ten teams, only four participated: one wan an antiquated commercial trap (disqualified); two were recreations of the classic (unoriginal in design, but originally reworked from scrap materials); and only one showed ingenuity.

With rubber straps, thick sticks hewn from trees were attached to a gallon (five liter) plastic container with a narrow mouth. The sticks provide stability for the container, and access to the mouth at the top of the trap. Once the rat dives in for the bait, there is no escape back up the slippery plastic sides, and the victim is trapped for future disposal.

A few eyebrows were raised by non-participants as we awarded third and second prizes; and many jaws dropped and eyes popped as a shared 10,000/= shilling (almost $13 US) first prize was dealt out. “But we didn’t know we could get anything for this! We didn’t see the point of bothering! The slackers whined; the winners beamed. Ah, such are the surprises of education for leadership; such are the rewards of life.

Till next month… .


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