Day 1 at Nkenijii School

Meeting the kids on Day 1 (Monday, July 14) was like a scene in a movie.

Upon arrival, our vans were greeted by several hundred Maasai kids ranging in age from three to approximately seventeen, most of them wearing purple school sweaters and singing welcome songs.

After a brief assembly, I was introduced to my buddy, Steven, who greeted me warmly and affectionately. It was clear that my arrival had been an event he had been anticipating for some time.

Steven's multi-step handshake showed me that he wasn't completely unaware of American culture, but his desire to continue holding my hand afterward reminded me that Maasai ways are unfamiliar to me. 

Maasai boys have some things in common with their American peers (many love sports, for example), but are temperamentally so different. The students' affectionate natures and genuine warmth were so refreshing. They weren't at all self conscious about walking around school grounds arm-in-arm or holding hands (including between boys). 

Steven wanted to hold my hand or arm at all times. Unfortunately lots of other kids did too and at times, I had to dissuade him from shooing them away. He seemed to need reassurance that there was enough of me to go around.

My fellow volunteer Jesse and I, were asked to focus on "Recreation." Fortunately for Steven and the other football lovers, Jesse had skills. While they engaged in a spirited match on the school's vast fields, my new friends and I played Duck, Duck, Goose and other similar games. 

I also introduced the students to bowling. Yes, bowling.

Before I left for Kenya, my friend Diandra Asbaty, a professional bowler, suggested it and I thought it was a terrific idea. While out shopping for gifts for Steven, I picked up two miniature bowling sets.

The students caught on quickly.

If a future bowling champ happens to be from Kenya, make sure to give all the credit to Diandra!

By lunchtime, I had run out of game ideas and was starting to worry. Why hadn't I arrived better prepared to engage the kids?!

Plus, I was feeling the effect of Kenya's elevation, more than 5000 feet above sea level. When I sat down on the field to catch my breath at various points, as many as thirty kids would surround me, looking on expectantly.

I succumbed to using a crutch (in the metaphorical sense): I pulled out my phone and took selfies with the kids. For shame.

The problem was that the kids would squeeze in around me even more closely than before, creating what my fellow volunteer Ron called The Hive. The Hive made for a cool visual, however, I learned how quickly one starts needing oxygen at the bottom of it all!

Fortunately soon after I also learned a fun trick with the kids that took away my stress over not having more games to teach them. This post is long enough so you'll just have to come back.