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The Butterfly Effect

The idea behind the Butterfly Effect is the essence of chaos theory, and it basically states that if a butterfly flaps its wings in South America, that action has the potential to change the climate in Central Park. Now, I’m certainly not a physicist, but I completely understand the concept. We had already experienced so much of what Kenya had to offer, and as our day continued, it became clear that the things we learned about the Samburu would have a profound effect on our lives back at home.

As we made our way back toward the lodge, we asked if we could stop by Julia’s workshop, and thankfully the answer was “yes”. Fittingly, the workshops official name is the Sampiripiri Arts Workshop; sampiripiri means “butterfly” in Samburu. Julia has created an astonishing place for women to gather and learn the delicate craft of beading. Their creations are then sold through the Ol Malo Designs, and the women are paid for their work. (Side note: If you’d like the opportunity to buy some of the astonishingly beautiful beadwork that these women produce, click here. Julia answered all of our myriad questions with supreme patience, and she taught us a little bit about the significance of the necklaces worn by the women. For example: It’s possible to tell a woman’s marital status by seeing whether or not she has a long strand of beads hanging from her pierced ear. Also, much like the Mexican milagros, the women sometimes attach special talismans to represent specific prayers , such as a prayer for rain. The pure red strands represent the “boyfriend beads”, as these are given to women by their suitors. The women also tag each of their handicrafts with their name, so it was especially meaningful to buy the works of the women to whom we were introduced.
Sampiripiri Workshop

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the spectacular shop; Ol Malo Designs had so much to offer that, unfortunately for Kevin, I just had to have. Some of my favorite things from the trip came from Ol Malo, from impressive beaded bowls (of course), right on down to a couple of extra kikois (because, hey, you just can’t have too many kikois). I was not alone, though; Dad came home with a couple of spears, Katharine bought a gorgeous beaded leather bracelet, and Dana commissioned a set of beaded necklaces that tell her life story, just like the ones worn by the Samburu women. It was right about this time that we noticed the rather large kudu wandering down the path. We were assured that he was a pet, and fittingly so: “Ol Malo” means “Place of greater kudu”. Kudu wandering on the path

High on our spending spree, and still full from breakfast, we persuaded Julia to take us over to see her school. Our curiosity was piqued when we drove past it the night before; we couldn’t wait to get yet another up close look at Samburu culture. We passed yet another elder on the drive over who informed us that they had just finished building a restroom for the new teachers (it was their first day on the job, and since it was almost lunchtime, they had apparently been “holding it” for a little while). Soon we pulled up to the little stone wall outside the school grounds. We were very fortunate to be able to meet a few more of the Samburu women who were hard at work putting new dung on the roofs of a few of the buildings; just beyond them was a circle of children (along with their new teachers as well as their Samburu ones) who were busy singing songs about nature. Hussein explained the importance of oral tradition: the songs are about the trees, the animals, and nature, and it’s how the culture is preserved. He told us that the songs that the children were singing were the same ones he learned as a boy.
Samburu Schoolchildren

Julia took us down for a closer look at the reservoir that had been constructed as part of her water project (side note: contrary to what Americans see on TV, the best way to help the water supply in Africa is not just to build a well. Thankfully, people like Julia recognize this and are working extraordinarily hard to provide sustainable solutions. For more detailed information, and if you’d like to help, please, please PLEASE visit the Ol Malo website, as they do a much better job at explaining it than I EVER could). She explained that the children are also in charge of tending the plants by the reservoir; as the plants grow and thrive, they become not only a potential food source but also a home for indigenous birds and insects. Everything is tied to both the Samburu people AND the environment, which makes it an exceptionally beneficial program. Back up by the school houses, we noticed some containers hanging from lines strung between the buildings. Julia explained that these were called “leaky tins”, and they are instrumental in preventing diseases like cholera and serious eye diseases such as trachoma. The leaky tins are ingeniously simple: clean containers (such as yogurt cartons) with small holes in the bottom that are filled with water (the holes are plugged with acacia thorns). As the need arises, hands can be washed simply by removing the thorn and letting the water flow. I’ll certainly never take my kitchen sink and foamy soap from Bath & Body Works for granted ever again. In case you haven’t figured it out, Julia is an extremely talented, intelligent, and BUSY woman! Again, if you’d like to learn more, please check out Ol Malo’s website. Samburu School...check out the leaky tins!

After peeking into the classrooms (the kids were coloring!), it was time to pile back into the Rovers and head to the lodge for some lunch….and some shenanigans. As we were driving back we saw a couple of young girls gathering wood by the side of the road. Andrew urged us to snap a picture as it was something not usually seen, so we did. Samburu Girls

It’s taking me forever to get this story told, and even then it’s still only in bits and pieces at a time. It’s hard, though, to sit down and write when, as soon as I do, I’m immediately taken back to these magical days. The whole of our time in Kenya defies description, but our stay at Ol Malo was truly something special. This day alone had served to remind us (well, me at least) of not only our human potential to accomplish great things, but also to appreciate the fabric that weaves our lives together, no matter how different we perceive ourselves to be. Jimmy Carter talked about humanity as “a beautiful mosaic”; Anne Frank said that “We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same”. I’m not sure there is anyplace on Earth that I could have learned that lesson other than Ol Malo, and I’ll be forever grateful for my time spent there.

7 Responses to “The Butterfly Effect”

  1. Angie Elkins Ezell Says:

    Chaos theory is one of my favs. Studied it in college. One of my profs was the pres of one of the big chaos organizations. Chaos is really non linear dynamics. There is no real randomness. If looking at a variable from 10k feet up, you can mathematically identify a pattern. Finance world, murder patterns, you name it. Crazy!!!! Thanks for making the point!

  2. Dana McCallum Says:

    I think you did very well! For me, who usually is not speechless, I was speechless after those three days. The experiences can not be matched and I long for another visit.

  3. Merrin McCallum Donahue Says:

    I had to go back and edit it on the original blog post (and unfortunately Facebook won't reflect the change), but I added the fact that the handicrafts were tagged with the name of the woman who made them. I think that just makes it so much more special.

  4. Dana McCallum Says:

    Oh absolutely. I have my bowl out WITH TAG. Brad came over Friday and was so impressed with the spears and Piggy's wife's necklace.

  5. Dana McCallum Says:

    I emailed your last two posts to Andrew.

  6. Merrin McCallum Donahue Says:

    Thanks! I'm working on the next one. After that, there will be a quick wrap-up of our time at Ol Malo and then it'll be on to Hippo Point, and I PROMISE it won't take nearly as long to get those cranked out. 😉

  7. Kevin Donahue Says:

    Very well said.

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