"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Andrea, Karen, Sergio and I don’t leave until 11:59pm tonight.  Sam leaves at 8pm.  We got up early to make sure that we had plenty of time to do some shopping before we freshen up at the Royale in Karen – that means a 7am departure.  As always, that’s the plan. 
We left at 8am. 
First stop was the Sekenani Gate.  Immediate recognition – Nalatuesha!  Mama Maria was the first to approach, and three or four women trailed close behind. Each of them was smiling and waving hello as they came forward for a hug.  It was nice to see Maria one more time before heading out.  She was the one who came and sat at Andrea’s side during the meeting.  She is a calming presence among these women and the same followed through to Andrea.  We snapped a couple quick photos of them before turning our cameras to Karen and John.  John was the young Masai that offered 25 cows for Karen.  He had dimples like Karen, as well as a wide smile, but it’s just not happenin’.  Karen and Sam clowned around with him for awhile before Karen gave up her St. Bonaventure baseball cap.  I’ll be sure to check if he’s still wearing it when I return in the spring. 
We all headed back to the car and Maria was still wearing her smile as we pulled away.  We were in a different vehicle this time, with a different driver.  Paul was behind the wheel of the big Land Cruiser.  This vehicle will certainly handle the bumps much better than our first foray down the Mara Road.  Having an extra body in the car, however, did not help with the luggage space… though we managed.  Karibu Kenya.
The ride down the Mara Road was  like driving on the Audobon compared to the trip when we arrived.  Paul was quite adept at navigating the larger potholes, and the grooves in the road that loosened your teeth on the way in were virtually nonexistent.  There was one pit stop along the way.  It was at the only curios along the Mara Road, and it was a nice one.  They had some beautiful pieces that I wanted to buy while everyone used the restroom.  I finally got them to agree on a price, so I went out to the car to get some cash.  When I returned to the store, the price had tripled.  I simply turned and walked out making sure that the shop owners could see the cash in my hands as I took larger strides toward the vehicle.  Before I closed the door, they were both next to me with yet another price.  They had come down a bit (not enough to consider), but remained nowhere near the agreed upon price prior to the baitand-switch.  I said, “Ah ah, Tokeni!” as Paul started the car.  “No, Move!”  They did.
We were cruising, and got back to Narok in under two hours with our teeth and spines in tact.  Another quick stop to see Sharon before continuing on to Nairobi.  She waited for us at the restaurant next to Kim’s curio shop.  I know that it’s not named, “Kim’s Curio Shop,” but I can never remember the name of the place.  I know everyone that works at the restaurant and the gift shop, but the name always eludes me… or I’m just getting old.  We drove to the back of the restaurant where Sharon was sitting with Veronica.  They had been to the hospital in Nakuru to get glasses for Sharon, but she wasn’t wearing any when we got out of the car.  She met us with big hugs and smiles as Veronica informed us that the glasses would be ready on Tuesday.  She quickly pulled out her phone and showed us some pictures of Sharon wearing black-rimmed glasses at the hospital as she was being tested.  We can’t wait to see how the real ones look, OR how well she sees with them!  Her mother was there too, along with her younger sister.  Her friend was their with her mother, too.  We hadn’t met her before, but she was in a similar situation as Sharon.  She was 21 and enrolled in the special needs school because there was nothing else available for her… at least not within her family’s means.  We learned that she was masai, while Sharon’s family were Kalenjin and her name was not as easy as “Sharon.”  She was called Nasinkoi.  Told you, not as easy as “Sharon.”  She was just as sweet as Sharon and their bond was apparent.  We brought her and her mother into a small meeting room behind the curio.  Also seated around the table were Veronica, Sharon and her mother, Karen, Sam, Isaac and Sergio.  We spoke to Mama Joyce (Nasinkoi’s mom) first, and asked her if she thought her daughter would like to go to school in Nakuru with Sharon. Before Joyce could answer, Nasinkoi shouted, “Yes!”  The rest was easy as everyone held their smiles, occasionally hiding them behind a hand held up to their face.  We had some tea and continued to talk with everyone.  Veronica’s son and daughter were also there, but they played on the swing set that was behind the curio shop.  When we finished talking with the girls and their mothers, we ventured back out onto the dusty area separating the gift shop from the restaurant.  Veronica’s children joined us as we said our goodbyes.  We were sending two students to a vocational school specifically designed for children and adults with Down’s Syndrome.  The girls were the only ones that were more excited than us!  After assuring them that we would take care of all the necessary fees and find them sponsors to continue there studies, we loaded back in the truck.  We had one more surprise in store for us.  Veronica’s parents happened into the same lot to go have lunch after attending mass.  This was a fortunate meeting that ended with an invitation to come to their home for dinner when we returned.  We have to stay for a month to accommodate all the meals we’ve been offered, but personal experience tells me that Veronica’s is a must.  If Veronica cooks that well, her mother must be pretty darn good, too…  we’ll be sure to keep you updated on our Kenyan version of “Top Chef.”  We love that show.
Back to the road, back to the Rift Valley.  Although quarters inside the vehicle were tight, just about everyone had fallen asleep again.  I was gazing out the window as we came upon one of the larger towns we drive through.  This town holds one of our usual “stopping points.”  It’s a restaurant that has nice bathrooms and reliable food.  Paul turned to Isaac who then turned to me and said, “Should we stop?”  The head turns continued as I looked back at everyone.  With the exception of Sam, everyone was out cold, sleeping on a mixture of travel pillows and suitcases.  Sam glanced back at me.  I said, “We stop now, or travel another 45 minutes to the next restaurant/bathroom.”  She looked at Karen and Andrea and said, “Let’s let them sleep.”  We got about 100 yards past the restaurant when everyone, as if on cue, opened their eyes and began to stretch.  Seat backs and more suitcases made it someone difficult, but they all managed.  I quickly told them what the options were,  and normally the bathroom was ranked higher than a meal.  This time, though, they said, “Keep going.”  By then we had come to a T in the road and it was bustling with people selling their wares.  We made our left and headed toward the climb up along the Rift Valley.
I’ve made this journey many times and I have never seen someone so adept at navigating this road as Paul - who Andrea has grown to call Mufasa – which he likes.  The name suits him.  Broad shouldered, barrel chested and wide smile.  The earth moves a little when he laughs out loud.  Behind the wheel, he was brilliant.  Climbing this mountain in a single lane with the oncoming traffic stacked up like cars waiting for the train to pass can be harrowing.  The average speed is probably 25mph, but it seems much more when you have a lorry carrying a shipping container coming at you.  Those trucks can’t go as fast, so the ones climbing the hill are averaging 15mph and the ones coming down are trying to maintain 15mph.  There are no areas to pull off if your brakes fail - no shoulder to speak of, either.   He, quite safely, weeved in and out of traffic shaving at least 30 minutes off what turned out to be almost a 3 ½ hour drive.  The curved sections of road were the most daunting.  Curve to the right and you could see the traffic coming, but turns to the left were completely blind.  We watched several vehicles force their way back into their single lane as trucks were bearing down on them.  It’s like a slow motion, 10 second game of chicken.  Except the little guy always loses and retreats back into the lane they came from.  Inches often separated the loser from the winner, but everyone we saw left without a scratch. 
We finally made it to the outskirts of Nairobi and taller buildings began to come into view.  We had made it to the next stopping point.  This one I was not familiar with, but Paul/Mufasa was.  We pulled into a spot in front of the restaurant, a couple feet off the road.  Everyone slowly fell out of the vehicle to get their bearings before heading in.  To the left was a section where people were washing cars and doing mechanical work.  There were 4 large bays and every one was occupied by a vehicle and 2 workers.  We knew we were in the right place when we saw a car with not one, but TWO New England Patriots decals proudly displayed on the rear window.  I chatted with the mechanic about the owner for a bit before coming back to the crowd who found a seat inside.  They first tried an outside area, but that was “reserved.”  Even in Kenya.  Inside was more quiet.  There was only one couple in the bar area where we sat, so we pretty much had this area to ourselves.  The girls wanted anything but goat, so we got some fries and vegetables.  Don’t worry, we still ordered goat.  We laughed and smiled as we traded stories.  Mufasa finally opened up and started holding court.  His stories were always lively and held our attention… even after the food came.  He told us about a Kalenjin wedding he attended, and spoke of one of their more unusual customs.  The husband and wife cane each other until one submits.  Yep, you heard me.  They smack each other with a ¾” thick piece of wood until somebody says “uncle.”  The mean cheer on the groom and the women cheer on the bride.   Ahhh, lamour.  Terrifying.  None of us could imagine anything like that and informed Paul and Isaac that the law doesn’t really like it either.  That turned into a discussion on Kenyan customs that would not be allowed in the US.  Walking along the highway – not allowed, you’d get a ticket.  Sleeping on the embankment of a highway – ticket.  Selling items in the streets – ticket.  Assaulting your bride at the altar – jail.
Just before the goat arrived, in walked another moster of a man, although he was much younger than Mufasa.  He looked to be of middle-Eastern decent and walked in as though he was expecting to see people he knew.  He abruptly stopped, removed his glasses, and in perfect English said, “Are you guys the Patriots fans?”  We erupted in cheers as he extended a greeting and informed us he was in Kenya visiting his family but now lives in Boston.  It was a brief stop, but a very welcomed one.  He departed saying, “Go Brady!”  Again, met with cheers.
Then came the goat.
The first one was delicious – rib cage and all.  The second round (yes, there was a second round… and don’t judge me) was even better.  “This meat is softer,” Paul said as he passed the plate toward us.  Fun fact:  In Kenya, “Soft” = “tender.”  This was, without a doubt, the best goat I have ever had.  It was absolutely delicious…  and the girls weren’t having any of it.  I don’t say that as if it were a command, they chose not to try it.  It would probably make more sense to say, “they have tried goat in its various forms and have not come across one that they liked so they have suspended all goat tasting.”  No matter, more for Sergio and me.
We returned to the vehicle and returned to the road headed for Karen (the town, not the daughter).  We stopped at our new, favorite gift shop where the same faces met us.  “Love Birds Gift Shop and Curio.”  The name says it all.  They gave us bags to place items in, then sent us on our way to browse.  Sam, Sergio, Karen and Andrea each had bags.  Andrea and I finished first, then Sergio, then Karen and last, Sam.  Trying to dicker over all the items would have been impossible, so we broke it into 4 transactions.  We didn’t have a lot of time so I tried to speed things along.  I finished up with Sergio and left him to haggle over a couple hundred Kenyan shillings.  Next I did Andrea and mine – easy peasy.  Then came Karen.  Not bad, but they were starting to wear me down and I was getting tired of hearing the same responses from the previous two sales.  “The carvers are on strike.”  “Please give me something.” “Okay, okay, name your price.”  They were like a broken record and we needed to get to Sam to the airport.   After several departures, and begging to return to the shop, we finally agreed on a price.  Things were quickly bagged and we were on our way.  While I was haggling, the rest of the crew sat outside with water or soda and planned out the remainder of the day.  Sadly, there would not be enough time for the giraffe park.  We decided to head to the Royale Hotel in Karen and Paul and Isaac would take Sam to the airport.  We waited in the vestibule for them to return.  It was much longer than we expected, but when they did we quickly went to our rooms and freshened up.  We had an opportunity to nap, but nobody took it.  At least Karen, Andrea and I didn’t take it… not sure about Sergio as he was in the next room.  We were busy shuffling the itmes in our bags to include the things we bought at the curio (along with some of Sam’s things as she ran out of space).  We got it all in, then showered and headed back to the front of the hotel as we waited for Isaac and Paul to return.  Once back, we loaded up the truck  and headed out for dinner at a local mall restaurant.  It was next to a place called “Javas” which is a local chain… there’s even one inside the Nairobi Airport.  I can’t seem to recall the name of this one, but the food is always good.  We sat down and ordered and Isaac and I went to a nearby ATM to sort out some last minute bills.  I had to pay for the vehicles we had been using, as well as a few other items.  The food came shortly after we returned and the next thing we knew, we were headed for the airport.  It’s been a whirlwind trip – short, but we accomplished a lot.  We said our goodbyes to Isaac and Paul and waved as we entered the screening area.  Although we’re always sad to  leave, we’re ready to go home and anxious to get back now that the last journey has begun.  Nairobi, Amsterdam, JFK, Rochester. 
  Traveling was going well for everyone.  We sat and had a coffee/chai at Starbucks in the Schlipol Airport while we waited for our next flight.  Exhaustion had already begun creeping up on everyone, as did the excitement to be back in our own beds… and eating anything except goat.  The flight boarded uneventfully and we were on our way to the states.  We separated from Sergio at immigration and quickly made it through to baggage.  We got our bags and moved quickly through the airport to get to our domestic flight.   It’s amazing how much faster you can get through customs & immigration.  Those kiosks are wonderful!

We left a modem and phone with Sam so that she could keep us updated with her whereabouts as we travelled. We caught up with her (at least her messages) in Amsterdam.  Traveling was going well for everyone.   I snapped these two pictures in the gift shop at the airport.  The Dutch believe in "Truth In Advertising."

We sat and had a coffee/chai at Starbucks in the Schlipol Airport while we waited for our next flight.

The bags were already tagged through so all we had to do was drop them at the appropriately marked, “BAG DROP AREA.”  Then through security one more time and the waiting began.  We waited longer than we wanted to but we had no choice.  Flight delays.  We knew we were in trouble when we weren’t called to board 30 minutes before the flight.  I quick peak outside showed us why – no plane.  That’s kind of important.  Karen fell asleep and I was incredibly punchy.  Sergio had his nose in his phone.  Andrea was holding strong.  Don’t know how she does it.  She held Karen’s head in her lap and waited patiently for the plane to arrive.  I went up to see how much longer.  The Delta rep was incredibly helpful.  “It won’t be long.  The plane is in range.”  I’d have felt better if he wasn’t spinning around in his seat as we talked.  I expect that from a 6 year old seated at a bar (yes, unusual scenario but you get my point), not from an adult customer service rep.  “Very informative,” was the only thing I could muster as I walked away.  It would seem that “within range” means “about 20 minutes.”  You know, like “a few” means “3.” 
We finally boarded and I’m pretty sure I was asleep before the door closed.  Andrea updated me when I woke up as we landed.  “Yes,” she said, “you were snoring.”  I didn’t care a bit.  Still exhausted, we texted Kevin who was already here in Rochester waiting.  As we passed through the exit, there he was.  There’s something about seeing a loved one when you come off a trip.  It’s especially nice when they greet you inside the airport.  I could have cried.  He hugged his mom first, then Karen.  He gave a firm handshake to Sergio before I was able to drop my bag and give him hug.  We then ventured downstairs and waited for our bags before stepping out into the cold night air.  It felt wonderful!  Thankfully, he drove home.
We’ve been back for quite some time, and I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to post the last day.  I know that you’ve grown accustomed to me typing these daily.  Frankly, so have I.  I’ll blame it on age and my ability to deal with fatigue.  I will continue to try to improve on the timeliness of these posts, as well as posting things that we learn about the ever growing list of projects and friends that we meet along the way.  TTFN.  Tata for now.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 16, 2017

We decided to give up on the rhino, which meant that we could sleep in.  We did.  Breakfast this morning was at 9.  This morning we were headed back to the Masai village to distribute the pillowcase dresses, followed by a trip to the hippo pool at the Mara River.  It’s quite a drive, but something that youdefinitely don’t want to miss while you’re here.  Although hippos are the main attraction, you’ll usually see crocodiles, too, as well as some birds that stay closer to the river.  Unfortunately, if you want to see flamingos you have to go to Nakuru.  Don’t ask me why.  I have no idea.  I’ll try to remember to ask Isaac the next time I talk to him.
Male Spring Buck
The village was close by, so after breakfast we packed up the duffel with dresses and headed out.  Because we only had about 40 pillowcase dresses, the plan was to go inside one of the fenced areas and distribute them slowly so that we didn’t draw a crowd.  More importantly, Andrea was really concerned about having to turn away children if we ran out.  We stopped in front of the fences gate and didn’t make it 5 paces until we were deluged.  Children seemed to be pouring in from everywhere.  I don’t know if word got out or they just sensed it, but it was like breaking a piñata in a elementary school courtyard.  They were spilling in from all directions and to say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. 
Fortunately, some of the Masai men that were nearby came to assist and we were very grateful when all was said and done.  They helped thin the heard significantly once we showed them the size of the dresses.  This made a huge impact on the size of the crowd.  Next, I’ll tell you that it’s not easy to distinguish boys from girls when everyone shaves their head.  Fortunately, again, some of the younger ones weren’t wearing pants.  I think it’s a given that if you’re under 3’ tall and you’re not wearing pants, you’re a boy.  That might be universal.  Anyway, we finally started removing dresses and holding them up to the children to check the length.  Once we were sure they would go past the knee, we had a winner!  The dress was slipped on and every time the head popped through the top, there was a smile on the face.  This was all being done close to the truck, so Andrea wisely took a higher position inside to survey everything that was happening.  We asked them all to stay so we could take a picture afterward, but many of them took off running.  I think this might be why Andrea searched for a birds’s-eye view.  She spotted some mothers quickly removing the dress and sending the child back for another.  This wasn’t rampant – she only spotted two, but that was enough to keep a watchful eye on them.   Interestingly enough, I’m only just now realizing that those were the only mother’s I remember seeing, and I didn’t even see them – Andrea did.  I’m not sure that signified anything other than they were probably working; preforming chores or selling handmade jewelry and the Sekenani Gte (that’s the entrance to the park that ever visitor passes through).  For them, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  A truck full of foreigners pulls up and stops while pasports are checked, and the women surround the vehicle’s open windows holding bracelets and chains and earrings and necklaces.  Once you touch one, they have you… at that point, the hook is set.  We’ll get back to that later, though.
Karen, Sam and I continued to hand out the dresses until they were all gone.  Andrea continued to keep one eye on the surroundings and one eye on the girls.  It was easy for her to point out a girl that a dress would fit.  The men watched her and would bring the girl closer to the front for fitting.  She stuck the landing every time.  I don’t want it to sound like we picked girls for dresses and didn’t pick others.  It was always a manageable crowd that consisted of very young boys (who stood around like boys do) and slightly older girls who wouldn’t fit in the dresses.  That fact did not prevent them from blocking the path for their younger counterparts.  All the same, we managed.  It took all of us to do so.
There was a small group of girls still milling around.  I’m guessing they may have been related (in one way or another) to the men that were helping.  We snapped some quick photos and thanked them for their help.  They seemed genuinely grateful for our visit and the gifts we gave their daughters.  The young girls ran alongside the truck as we pulled away.  All-the-while cheering and waving.  Another great start to the day.
Off to the hippo pool!  First, though, we had to pass through the aforementioned, “Sekenani Gate.”  We stopped the vehicle to get out and were immediately recognized by John (Karen’s suitor/husband from before).  We stopped and said,”hi” and chatted a bit.  Andrea had an entirely different experience.  5 women rapidly approached her with their “jewelery for sale” hanging off every inch of them.  I thought this was a well planned attack, but I was wrong.  They extended their hands and smiled saying, “Nalatuesha!”  They just came to say hello to the “rain bringer.”  If I didn’t mention it before, it’s been raining on-and-off since we arrived.  We had packages of underwear for little girls left over from the village so we gave them to the women to distribute.  Moma Maria was among them so we knew they would go where they were needed.  The lines in her face spoke kindness and honesty.  Her smile; compassion.  She’s one of those women we will always remember.
Once again, we were back in the truck.  It was a long ride, and I think this was where Isaac let Karen get back behind the wheel to drive.  I may be mixing this up with a different day and if that’s the case, I have nobody to blame but myself.  This blog is already 7 days late, and I’m still trying to get back to Eastern Standard Time.  We spotted more animals that we were able to get closer to than on previous days.  We saw large packs of hyenas and a few large elephant herds.  Even the giraffe’s gave us some new poses.  When we finally reached the hippo pond, we found that all of them were in the water.  As if on cue, Sam once again called out the name of the animal she spotted, “Hippos!” with a wide smile.  That’s been the norm, and it never get’s old.  Her first sighting of an animal gets us all excited, but Sam’s is childlike.  That’s not a dig in any way.  It was just such genuine joy and “childlike” is the best way to explain it.  That joy makes everyone smile, too.  It makes you wish you could bottle it and give it to people who need it.
We got out to watch them from above the embankment.  Climbing down would have been a very poor choice.  These animals are very territorial and once your shoe hit the beach you’d have an enormous bull coming out of the water like an orca at sea world jumping to catch a fish held high on a string.  I’ve seen it happen first hand (the hippo scenario, not the killer whale) and it’s as terrifying as it is awesome.  They made their baritone gurgling noises while they rose and sank in the water.  There wasn’t a lot of action, so Isaac decided to up the ante.  He lowered himself onto a fallen tree that Andrea, and Sam were standing on, then grabbed onto a large bush that was growing on the bank.  He began to make the noise of a male lion while shaking the life out of the bush.  Mission accomplished.  The hippose rose much higher out of the water, often climbing on top of one another as the huddled closer, with mouths wide open showing their tusks.  Isaac is like the Rich Little of Masai Mara.  All of you under 30 may have to google him, but suffice to say that he can mimic any animal on the mara… including birds.  He will explain the species, then the sound, then what it means.  It’s very impressive… as demonstrated by the hippos.  Sergio gave it the college try, but the hippos weren’t impressed with it.  They just went about their business.  Karen pointed out something that we’d never seen.  The hippose that were deep in the water would not break the water with their heads to get a breath of air.  Instead, many would just barely poke their nostrils above the surface.  It looked like a couple tricycle tires floating in the water before they once again submerged. 
We headed downstream, but it was too cool to spot any crocs.  They prefer to sun themselves, and although it doesn’t make any sense, they had retreated into a cave… where there’s no sun… and it’s probably cooler… in the water.  I’ll chalk that one up to tiny brains.
We started to head back and admire the landscape as we did so.  The animals were everywhere and usually in mixed heards.  We’d occasionally stop when we saw a herd of gazelles all staring in the same direction.  That usually means that there’s a predator coming from the direction their gaze falls.  There’s no telling how far away they are, though, so after a quick look through the binoculars, Isaac would let us know whether we should stick around or keep moving.  The few times it happened, we always kept moving.
We got back to camp before dark and then managed to get to Entumoto’s version of “Pride Rock” before the sun set.  Isaac calls them sundowners.   This enormous rock (yes, it really does look like Pride Rock from the Lion King) is only a few hundred yards from camp and it’s a wonderful spot for drinks, a snack, and a fire.  We hit all three and clowned around for about an hour, telling stories and trying to get some portraits of Zachary and Sam.  Zachary is the young man who has been serving us our meals and drinks every day since we arrived.  He’s an incredibly nice man… and Sam is single.  Andrea and Karen asked if he could join us for the sun-downer and Isaac immediately said, “Shoo-ah!”  We took some wonderful pictures before heading back to camp for dinner.
Steak!  Everyone was excited.  Not so much Andrea, because she doesn’t eat much red meat.  I am always the benefactor of that choice, so I split hers with Sergio.  It was delicious.  The group split up with some going to bed and others (myself included) heading for the lounge to type.  My head kept dropping in exhaustion.  The fact that I’m 7 days late with this entry tells you that I accomplished nothing.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve tried on several occasions to publish posts, and sometimes it works, and other times I’ve got to do it all over again.  A friend of ours is going to help redesign our website and help me with a better blog solution.  Sleep awaits, but it won’t wait for long.  Tutaoanana kecho.  Talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

It’s going to be difficult to top yesterday, but we’re going to try.
We woke up early (5am) because we were starting with a game drive at 6:15am.  The only way to see a rhino is early in the morning before it heads back into the hills.  Breakfast was packed and in the Land Cruiser when we got down to the dining area.  Isaac was there to greet us with the usual smile.  We loaded in the car and were on our way.  It was cool in the morning, and once the car got moving, it felt even colder.  We saw so many animals that I don’t know where to start.  It will probably be easier to just tell you that although we didn’t see a rhino, we saw a lot of other animals.  I’ll post the bulk of the pictures at the end of the blog so you can see what we saw. 
We had breakfast out on the mara, and it was delicious - the scenery was fabulous, too.  We had pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, coffee, tea, juices… the list goes on and on.  We also took some time to take pictures and fool around a bit.  There’s no shortage when it comes to “fun and entertaining.”  We’ve been laughing a lot.  The two of them make a good team, and they have no problem playing off each other.  Time passes quickly, and soon we were back at the lodge, then the dining room for a light lunch.
lot this trip and the credit for that belongs to Karen and Sam.
No luck with the rhino, but we did see some new animals today.  The lions probably tops that list.
 On our way back to the camp, we stopped in a Masai village.  We stopped outside the fence for them to show Sam and Sergio how they communicate between villages by blowing into an animal horn.  We then entered the compound to see how they make fires.  It wasn't working well, so we moved into one of the huts.  Masai are traditionally tall, and I have no idea how they can live in those homes.  They're made by the women, so the roofs are quite low.  Couple that with the fact that entire hut could fit inside a small American kitchen, it makes for interesting setups.  The reality is that they probably don't spend much time inside at all.  Meals and sleeping... that's probably it.  And trust me, if they're sleeping, it's in the total fetal position.
We went back outside to find them much closer to making fire.  It was a success.  Karen joked, "How
many Masai does it take to make a fire?"  It was a fair question.  The appropriately funny answer would have been, "It takes a village."  There had to be at least a dozen men trying to create a spark by spinning a stick on a piece of wood, and they finally made it happen.  We then moved into another area inside the fence.  Not all compounds have this, but this one is well traveled by tourists so they have their own little Masai Mall.  The women clucked with disapproval when we left empty handed.  I didn't see any familiar faces from previous meetings for the maternity, but regardless, we had to get back for lunch before our meeting at the maternity.  The sun was beating down on us without thought, and everyone had a nice sunburn working so seeking shade inside Isaac's vehicle was nice.
We got back to camp and had a light lunch before heading right back out. 

The meeting was to start at 2, but it was probably closer to 3.  We were the first to arrive, but when the builder showed up, it was time for a tour.  When you’re standing in a room that is under construction, it looks rather small.  I remember standing between unfinished walls staring up the sky thinking, “How is a midwife and pregnant mother going to fit in here?”  Now that it’s finished, I can see it plain as day!  When we stood in the delivery room, one of the men said, “A future president of Kenya will be born here.”  “That would be wonderful!” I exclaimed.  There were lots of thumbs up as we exited.
As the women arrived, you could see the smiles of recognition wash across their face as they 

approached.  Andrea was the most recognizable of the group.  They’d say “Nalatuesha” through wide smiles as they walked toward her with arms wide open.   For those of you that need a refresher, Nah-lah-too-ay-shah means “rain bringer.”  During that trip, they rain arrived the same time we did.  There were familiar faces and unfamiliar ones, reminding me that this maternity serves a large area… I imagine that we’ll never see all of the women this maternity will serve, and I think that’s wonderful!  I wonder if we’ll even meet all of the midwives!  As you would expect, the men arrived and came to me first.  I don’t know if they remember the name that they gave me (Lamangan = lah-mahn-yhan=blessed), but a smile works just as well.  They laughed quietly as they embraced me.  The laughter wasn’t so quiet when they saw Karen, but you’d expect that, too.
Some of the younger men began organizing benches for the ladies to sit on.  The men sat in resin chairs facing them.  The area chief spoke first, followed by the local chief (the village elder).   The area chief translated for us.  Next came the chairman of the maternity board, then Haret (the builder), then Isaac.   I was up next. 
Prior to leaving for this trip, I printed up some large pictures of the ladies that have been attending the meetings.  I had them laminated, and I had a plan for them, but used this opportunity to introduce them into the conversation.   I retold the story of the future president being born here.  That was met with applause.  I said, “Just as it will be important to remember where he came from, it’s important for us to remember how we arrived here, too,” referencing the series of events that led to the construction of this maternity center.  I pulled out the first picture from my first meeting with the villagers.  It was a smaller group comprised of about 15 women.  Then I pulled out the second picture from our trip in July.  This one showed closer to 60 people!  I then suggested that they should be hung in the maternity so that we all remember those responsible for getting us to this stage in development.  They cheered, then passed the 13”x19” pictures among them.    Laughter began to rise above the conversation.  A lot of laughter.  Then Kiswahili and ma’a (the language of the Masai) amid the laughter.  Then a translation from the chief.  Although I never got the impression that they were laughing at me, I would soon be made aware of that fact.  After inspection of the pictures, the one from last year, and the one from 6 months ago, showed that I was wearing the same outfit.  The very same outfit that I had on today!  Oye vay!  Olive pants, light blue shirt, hiking shoes.  It wasn’t like they were similar, it was literally the exact clothing in each picture.  I joined in the laughter and felt compelled to inform them that I do, indeed, own more clothing.  When I told them I was going to throw it all away, they protested.  I have to keep the outfit for the grand opening!  The laughter continued for quite some time until everyone else was in on the joke.  I’m still laughing about it now.  What are the odds?
Andrea spoke next, and although it was brief, it was powerful.  Masai are predominantly Christians, many are Catholic.  She suggested we take a moment to thank our maker who brought us all together.  I do believe that the Holy Spirit guides us from project to project, and this one was no exception.  She then said, “Let us pray the Lord’s prayer together.”  That’s exactly what we did.  With all heads bowed down, she began with “Our Father…”  What followed was the Lord’s prayer said in three different languages.  It was simply beautiful.  Even though we each spoke it in our own tongue, we concluded at virtually the same time.  The following silence was broken by birds chirping, goats, and cowbells. 
Karen spoke next, as only Karen can.  She bounded up to the front of the group, through her hands in the air and yelled “Hello!”  Everyone smiled and clapped… including the village elder who doesn’t speak a lick of English.  Karen can have that effect on people – it’s why she’s going to be a great teacher.  She thanked everyone for taking time out of their day to attend and then introduced Sam.  Sam, who shyly approached the front of the crowd to greet everyone.  It was time for her to get a Masai name.  Naserian.  Nah-she-ree-ahn… accent on the “ree.”  As she returned to her seat, we were informed this means “blessings.”  Karen heard enough.  “Wait a second!” she shouted. “I’ve been here before and I get ‘third born’ and this chick shows up and gets ‘blessings’?  Laughter erupted!  It was hilarious.  I thought the area chief was going to wet his pants.  Again, no translation was needed – if it was coming out of her mouth, it was probably funny.  They should have named her “laughter.”  When the laughter finally broke, the chief clarified that the her name (namgak = nahm-nyak) means “good luck.”  “Oh, okay,” she said, “You can proceed.”  Again, laughter.
He leaned over to me and said, “She should be a politician.”  I said, “She’s a teacher.”  He then said, “So was I once.”  This time we were the ones laughing.  “Seriously,” he continued.
The meeting finally ended while pictures were being passed around.  Another picture was taken out front, then it was time to plant 24 trees.  They were seedlings, so it wasn’t as involved as you think.  I can say that because each of us (including Isaac) planted one before the chiefs and I began talking.  What I was (slightly) unaware of was that Andrea, Karen, Sam and the other women continued to plant the remaining 20 trees.  It was very Masai.  The men stood and talked while the women did all the work.  I played my role by making sure that no lions approached while they worked.  The men are the protectors, and I told them that when they returned.  They were not impressed.  We said our “goodbyes” and returned to camp. 

It was dark when we got back, and everyone was hungry.   Before I forget, if you’re wondering why Sergio wasn’t introduced, it was because he chose to stay behind at camp.  He was there when we returned.  Tonight we had tomato soup and chicken with green beans.  Delicious.  Now, sleep.