My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah

My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah

by Robin Wiszowaty

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Growing up in suburban Illinois, Robin Wiszowaty leads a typical middle-class American life. Hers is a world of gleaming shopping malls, congested freeways, and neighborhood gossip. But from an early age, she has longed to break free of this existence and discover something deeper. What it is, she doesn't quite know. Yet she knows in her heart there simply has to be more.

Through a fortunate twist of fate, Robin seizes an opportunity to travel to rural Kenya and join an impoverished Maasai community. Suddenly her days are spent hauling water, evading giraffes, and living in a tiny hut made of cow dung with her adoptive family. She is forced to face issues she's never considered: extreme poverty, drought, female circumcision, corruption — and discovers love in the most unexpected places. In the open wilds of the dusty savannah, this Maasai life is one she could never have imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781553658238
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 300
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Born in Schaumberg, Illinois, Robin Wiszowaty currently resides in her adoptive home of Kenya. With a lifetime of volunteerism and education research behind her, she serves as Free The Children's Kenya Program Director, overseeing development projects throughout the country.

In 2002, she spent a year living with the Maasai people, immersing herself in their culture and communicating solely in Swahili. Her explorations into poverty and seeking its solutions took her to sites throughout East Africa. My Maasai Life is her chronicle of these experiences, and beyond.

Read an Excerpt

From the Prologue:

I am squeezed in with almost three dozen unfamiliar bodies into the back of a rusted, white Toyota pickup truck, bouncing along the dirt road through the acacia-filled valley. We are headed for the market town of Ngong, a long hour's drive over the bordering lush and towering hills. We make the trek every Saturday over the eastern slopes to buy the week's groceries and supplies. By foot, the trip takes four hours over the hills' dusty, arid grasslands, then three back down. One of the earliest passengers on the road this morning, I was lucky enough to stake out a seat on our community pickup truck. As usual, we squish as many people as possible into the truck's bed, pressed in until no standing room is left, even balanced on one foot.

I'm seated in the only available spot in the truck's bed, above the wheel well. Milk containers roped to an iron bar above me thump against my skull with every bump of the road. A Maasai elder with long, stretched earlobes crams against me to my right, his wrinkled face and weathered feet telling of his many years of toil in the unyielding sun.

The truck slows, and a number of passengers together help boost an old Maasai grandmother up into the truck. She is unable to stand fully erect, her back bent from decades of hauling water and firewood. With a sheepish smile, I shift over to provide room as she wedges herself in to my left, balancing herself with a delicate hand on my shoulder.

The pickup jerks back into action, bumping down the rocky, craggy road, kicking up a breeze of gritty dust into my parched mouth. The combined reek of burning oil and close bodies, along with the ailing roar of the truck's engine, is overwhelming. With one hand I reach to help steady a small boy taking a seat on my lap; with the other, I swat away a chicken pecking at my foot. As the boy burrows further into my arms, I squint into the sun and wind, watching the women's scarves blow freely in the breeze, waving in bursts of vivid ochre and blue

I gaze out beyond this scene in which I find myself, focusing on the valley stretching into a hazy horizon, and I ask myself: how did I, an ordinary American girl who grew up arguing with her parents, swimming for her high school team and playing kickball in suburban streets, end up here? And what was I even doing here?

My story began just a few years ago, but it seems a lifetime away.

Table of Contents

Foreword ... xi
Prologue ... xiii
Chapter 1 / My Ordinary Life ... 1
Chapter 2 / Culture Shock in Nairobi ... 17
Chapter 3 / My New Family ... 31
Chapter 4 / Finding My Way ... 45
Chapter 5 / Samuel ... 61
Chapter 6 / Chop Wood, Carry Water ... 81
Chapter 7 / Traditions in Change ... 99
Chapter 8 / Research ... 111
Chapter 9 / A Boma of My Own ... 133
Chapter 10 / “Go with Peace” ... 151
Chapter 11 / Back in America ... 161
Chapter 12 / Return to Kenya ... 175
Chapter 13 / Faith ... 189
Chapter 14 / Lives in the Balance ... 203
Chapter 15 / My Maasai Life ... 223
What’s Next? ... 245
Notes and Background Information ... 251
Thinking Further ... 262
Questions for Discussion ... 266
Acknowledgements ... 268
About Free The Children / Me to We ... 271

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