Spiritan Brother Francis Sullivan built the house here at Olbalbal during the late 90’s. At that time he was almost ninety years old and lived here for a number of years. Brother Francis was a determined missionary focused especially on helping Maasai families that had few or no cattle and lacked sufficient food to feed their children. He worked tirelessly visiting and writing letters to government offices and church organizations finding food for hungry people. Francis was clearly trustworthy always informing his donors how he used the money that he received. Consequently, few government officials or church organizations ever refused to help him. Many Maasai people here at Olbalbal are grateful to Francis for the help that he provided.
The Maasai word for grandmother is “koko” and is used by young people when they greet an older woman. I was puzzled and surprised on my arrival here at Olbalbal to find that the Maasai name for the mission here is “OlKoko”, which is the word for grandmother turned into a masculine form. It turns out that the people named the place here with the name of affection that they had for Brother Francis. Brother Francis was the old grandfather that the people came to love and respect. “OlKoko” is not the normal name for ‘grandfather.’ The word for ‘grandfather’ is “Engakui.” The people coined this word especially for Francis and the place that he lived. “Olkoko” continues to be the name of our mission here at Olbalbal.
During the rains we enjoy wild spinach at least two times each week. It is a tasty treat and provides a change from our usual fare of beans and stiff porridge made from corn meal. During the rainy season, on our daily trips to the villages, we stop along the way and gather some wild spinach for dinner. Now during the dry season, there is no wild spinach and we miss it.
During the rains the young Maasai girls are out every day gathering the stuff. The Maasai use it as a supplement to their bland diet of “uji” or corn gruel. The herd boys collect it during the day and bring it home to their mothers along with the cattle and goats in the evening.
During the last couple of weeks there have been signs of the coming rains, dark clouds and distant thunder. Soon we will again be enjoying wild spinach at Olkoko.