Africa Trip Journal: Part Seven

9-22-2008 - About the Pokot...

The Pokot homes are gathered in familial homesteads not in a village. The homes have surprisingly small doors in order to keep predators out. The clasps & padlocks are presumably a recent addition.

Getting to the Pokot was quite a trek. We took a Range Rover driven by Peter, the church driver, and a 4WD Toyota Hiace mini-bus driven by Humphrey (the driver not the pastor). The ruggedness of both vehicles was needed often. Near Pokot there were times we were on roads like you'd see in an adventure movie--dirts, single-lane, hairpin turns and unguarded cliffs just a couple feet away. Cows, too. Quite exciting.

We got in close to dark and pitched our tents in an abandoned, half-finished church building. We were then serenaded in the dark by a group of 30-40 children. Such beautiful, pure voices. Really amazing. We ate dinner in a dimly lit kitchen building. That night a large group of drunken Pokot warrios slept in the church around our tents. They were committed to be our protectors, but that apparently didn't rule out a party beforehand.

The next day we visited the existing bore holes (wells)--six of the pluse the future site of a seventh. We prayed @ each and learned how dramatically this has changed life there in just one year. Sometimes, women & children had to travel up to 10km. to pick up a jerry can of water. Now it is only 1-2km and allow much greater freedom in the home for other activities.

The Pokot men really do little beyond sitting around talking, raiding cows and, theoretically, guarding the area. Many still dress in the shukas, or wraps--usually brightly colored and sometimes floral. Their heads are shaved and they wear sandals and generally carry a walking stick and small carved stool on which they sit. They also wear beaded bracelets and necklaces and earrings. Some prominent ones wear an ivory ring shaped something like a domino with a hole toward one end. Some have begun to wear pants/shorts, though that's a more recent development. Apparently, the men have traditionally worn the loose wraps and often preyed sexually on the young girls visiting the watering holes. They've been encouraged to literally keep their pants on and seem open to it. Their visit to Nairobi and the Massai last year seems to have made a difference in the perspective of many of the men. Though they carried bows & arrows occasionally, they were completely peaceful toward us, except when trying to trade for my watch. I told the young man "I need it to be sure I catch my flight in time." Pretty dumb of me, I know.

The area is lovely. Much like pictures I've seen of the Australian bush. Lots of thorns on everything, generally pretty dry & hot, though pleasant @ night. it is very near the Ugandan border and the misty mountains there made for a magical backdrop. The terrain was rugged, but there were really no predators of the animal sort. We walked for miles during the day without any apparent risk and I wandered off into the pricker bushes @ night to "go potty" before discovering there was a latrine (and supposedly a real pit toilet somewhere). No worries except getting scratched in sensitive places. This was a great surprise. I was expecting to @ least be mindful of snakes and hyenas. To date I've seen no snakes. I've seen other wild animals only in the park, by & large.

The Pokot women work hard tending the home, caring for the children, cooking and carrying water. They and the children are generally segregated from the men. It seems that some of that attitude pervades even the "civilized" parts of Africa, though there are increasing numbers of career women here.

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