I hope you have some free time, and possibly a cup of coffee. There's a lot to pack into this day!
Sadly, it started with a cold shower. Hakuna matata (no worries). I just need to wake up sooner. It was going to be another hot day, but I wanted to start with a good breakfast. I knew we'd be in the sun most of the day, so applied my sunblock and went to have a vegetable omelet with Jim. It was pretty good, actually. More onions and tomatoes than egg, but pretty good... and NO corn oil. They served a mandazi, but it was like a 5 day old fried cake. Neither of us ate them.
As always, we walked through Maseno University on our way to Mbaka Oromo. Now, I know I haven't mentioned it in prior blogs, but when you walk 5-6 miles, you get a lot of talking done. Jim and I talk about everything... food, family, politics, relationships... nothing out of bounds really. When you are without the common distractions we all have in our daily lives, you're given a marvelous opportunity for reflection - as much introspective as retrospective. This blog has turned out to be quite cathartic for me, so I thank you for your interest. But I digress. Our conversation today was as lively as ever. I won't bore you with the actual topics. I will, however, give you some of my favorite quotes from the day. Some things I may have said, some things Jim may have said... some may have been said by strangers. Here they are in no particular order:
1. "I don't need to be married." (for safety reasons, I'll tell you that this quote isn't mine)
2. "I tried talking to him. He does not impress me."
3. "There's a lot of potential energy getting stored in this story."
4. "Yeah, I've got your 'sawa'... right in the nose."
5. "Fortunately, she was feeling ill."
We stopped at Samuel's house, and this morning he was preparing to go to work. He was clearing his side "office." I took a couple of nice pics of the school compound, and happened to catch a couple of young girls that seemed to be admiring the school, too.
We continued getting closer, and we were drawn to the library. There was a pile of different pairs of shoes in front of the door. For some reason, they remove their shoes before entering the library. Job was busy with a group of younger students. Even with their meager selection, it was a sight to behold. these books, no matter how mundane they may appear to us, act as windows to the rest of the world for these students. We have very high hopes that soon this library will be overflowing with books for all ages, representing all subjects: be they fact or fiction. There are people working diligently in the states to make this dream a reality.
I was a bit off yesterday when I said Kenyan time can be +/- 30 minutes. Our 10:00 meeting started at 11:30.... but what a great meeting it was. The school board was very attentive, and Jim did a great job presenting the concerns regarding the health dispensary, and the necessary involvement of the Hilda, the Public Health Minister. John Ogongo stood up and affirmed everything that we said. Other members of the board also voiced their support of the project, and assuring us that it would be set up properly. Basically, the issue was who would comprise the Dispensary Committee... the group responsible for choosing the site, approving the initial plans, program approval etc. It appeared that William wanted to be in charge of the dispensary. That could not happen. Hilda told us that there must be a baraza (gathering).... and a big one at that. The local chief must be there, as well. At this meeting, with probably 200+ in attendance, each clan will select one person to be on the committee. By having one representative from each clan, it ensures that everyone's voice is heard, and there is no favoritism. Oh, by the way, a clan is defined by a common father, so two brother could not be on the committee. This was the first step that was necessary before building could begin. They hope to have the baraza next week. After that, things get rollling. The site and plans are approved by the committee. The plans are then approved by the Public Health Minister. Building begins. The community owns the dispensary; not us, not the school. Provided all these things are followed, Hilda will return, and officially give the Committee the equivalent of a CofO. That registration number is sent to Nairobi for further approval. Once completed, THE KENYAN GOVERNMENT supplies a person to man the dispensary 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! The community does not have to worry about staffing the community! The dispensary will not only serve the Mbaka Oromo community, but what may very well be a 15 mile radius! It's a wonderful opportunity for this area. The well-being of every man, woman and child should dramatically improve over the coming years. Here's a photo of all those in attendance at the meeting.
After mandazis anc chai, we went to inspect the secondary classrooms. These mandazis were outstanding! I have to remember to bring powdered sugar & cinnamon with me next time... But I digress, again. The floors of the most recently built classrooms had some cracks that gave us great concern. We were assured that they would be repaired, and proceeded with the review. The board wasn't aware that lockers (desks) had already arrived for the secondary students, so they were very pleased to see them all looking like high school students.
As we exited one of the secondary classrooms, Bjorn (that guy from Sweden that we met yesterday), was walking toward us. I tried not to judge him based on the "danger" feeling we had yesterday, but his appearance did not make it easy. (see photo below)
Seriously, who wears corduroy in this heat. And a man-purse to boot. He proceeded to follow us as we inspected the remainder of the classrooms. He took pictures and asked the school committee questions. At one point, when we were talking about the cracks in the floors, he interjected, "It lewks like de cracking is from eet drying too fahzt. In Shveden ve vater ze cement so zat eet dozent crack. Zee Kenyan sun drize is too fazt." Jim and I, almost in unison, said, "No, that's not it." The slab isn't poured until the walls and roof are put on. We know "zee Kenyan sun ezz hot." This way, it cures in the shade, and water is constantly thrown on it. This guy went from being creepy, to being quite troublesome. As we walked back to the primary school, Peter (another committe member ) asked if he was with our organization. When we said no, he gave us quote #2 above. That was very affirming, and made Jim and I laugh the rest of the way up the hill.
While Jim and I sat in William's office, Bjorn sat in the courtyard watching the children playing, taking photographs. This is when we learned Bjorn's story. William told us that after we had left yesterday he remained in William's office for 3 hours. He didn't say a word the entire time. William just continued to work, until after that time elapsed, he asked why he was still there. Bjorn gave an elaborate story. Here's the Reader's Digest version. Bjorn is married to a Kenyan woman (yes, in the 6 months that he's been here), and his visa expires in May. He wanted William to write a letter to Kenyan government that stated he was a teacher at the school, and should be allowed to stay longer. When William said, "No," he pressed on, asking for a job. Despite his self proclaimed prowess in chemistry, physics and computers, William was not impressed either. "Are you a teacher?" "No," he replied. At this point, Jim's blood was boiling. Was he going to use the pictures to show he was a part of our organization, or employed at the school. All of us were getting uncomfortable, and Jim had heard enough. (see picture below)
Again, Reader's Digest Version... "Put your shirt back on your head, and get the heck out of here." Ok, I may be gilding the lily a bit, but you get the point. This guy actually had the nerve to say, "Only zee headmazter kun tell me zat. Let eem tell me heemself." Jim said, "Ok, I'll be right back with him." At this point John Ogongo was leaving. William stopped John and told him that if he was a guest of John's, that he should stay with him, and not let him back on the school grounds. John obliged. Bjorn picked up his things and left. Jim said, "If you're not a parent, or a guardian, or a faculty member, you have no reason to be here." He was right. We watched him as he walked back toward his home in Chuolembo.
We then departed for... Chuolembo. That's where we pick up the matatu to bring us back to Maseno for another nap before dinner in... Chuolembo.
The heat was just unbearable, so the best I could do was just lie there. We were smart enough to put some water bottles in the Guest House's fridge. The cold water was refreshing, but it was fleeting. We sweat all day long, and I don't know how anyone can be expected to drink that much water! If nothing else it gives me a better understanding of what Karen must feel. She suffers from neuro-cardiogenic syncope. She needs to constantly be hydrating. I shouldn't say she "suffers," from it though. She, more often than not, handles it better than we do. She's a remarkable young lady. But I digress, again.
We're now ready to head back to Chuolembo, but we decide to bring a "house warming" gift that consists of 4 Tuskers and 2 White Caps... yep, it's a cold six pack. We wrap the 16oz bottles in towels to keep them cold, and place them in our backpacks. 3 bottles each... remember this, it will be important later.
We take the 7 minute ride to Chuolembo, and exit the matatu where piki piki and bota botas are (motorcyles and bikes). These guys will drive you places for various prices. Jim says, "Do you want to take a piki piki or walk?" "How far away is it?" Jim replies, "About 10 minutes." "If it's only 10 minutes, let's walk." Now, even though it's 5:30, it's still 88-90 degrees outside. After 15 minutes, Jim calls Sam (who's staying with Job). No answer. "It's just up here." Tutambea, tutambea... (walking, walking). Now we're sweating, AGAIN! Still no answer on the phone. More walking. Remember those bottles in our packs? At this point, they may as well have been anvils. We finally get a phone call from Sam. When Jim tells him our location, he says, "You've got a 1/2 mile to go... not even. More like a 1/4 mile." One mile later, we finally arrive; 6:15pm. I was happy to take the back pack off, and happier to have a still relatively cold beer. We laughed and told stories with Job, his older brother David, and Sam. Job wanted to take me on a tour of their property, so he and David brought me outside, while Jim and Sam stayed behind to talk more. These two brothers have taken care of themselves and their 5 sisters since their parents deaths in 1995. They're currently trying to raise funds for their youngest sister's high school education... somewhere around $400/year. These guys are smart! And, they are well diversified. They have a tree farm (although the trees won't be big enough to sell for another 10 years), they have catfish and tilapia ponds (as well as a 3rd that they are constructing). They graft fruit trees, and grow mangos, avocados, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes... this list goes on and on. Despite not being able to see any bananas on the way home form Mbaka Oromo, they've got 'em here!
We returned to the place where they eat, and were treated to some wonderful food. First, they were the best chipatis I've ever had. We also had "green grams," aka dengu, aka lentils. Not really my thing, but they were good. The real treat was in a large porcelain pot, covered by a matching lid. You see, Sam had been staying with Job for a while now, and has been in Kenya for several months. His affinity for mexican food led him to the following conclusion. "You have avocados, tomatoes, onions and salt here. All you need is lime, and we can make guacamole." He then walked to Darenjambile to buy a lime. Thank the Lord that he did. The result was the best guacamole in the world. Normally I'm not a big fan of the avocado. In fact, I only eat them when I'm in Kenya. Andrea, on the other hand, loves it. I don't think you could get it any fresher than this. Jim joked earlier that if he put me on his motorcycle and something happened to me, Andrea would kill him. Well, if I had lost an arm while riding, and Andrea were about to kill him, all he'd have to do was give her some of this stuff, and she'd have said, "Don't worry, it'll grow back." Yes, it was that good! It was so good, I took a picture of it, along with the chipate i love so much.
By the time we finished our meals, it was pitch black outside. We were well beyond any electric lines, and it was going to be a dark walk back. I had brought 2 flashlights to Kenya, and gave them both to Job and his brother (don't worry, I have my own in my pack). They were very appreciative. They, along with Sam, walked us all the way back to Chuolembo and waited until we got a ride. We talked the entire way, and only needed the torches (flashlights) periodically.
We waited for a matatu for quite some time. By 8:30, we were resigned to the fact that we needed other means of transportation. Job saw a car pull in across the street, and went to inquire about getting us a ride. The driver came over and wanted 600 shillings. Now a matatue would cost us 40, and although 600 shillings isn't even $10, it's the principle of the thing. While Jim was telling him he was crazy, another vehicle pulled in, and let off a group of women from the Church of Israel. He'd give us a ride for $150 shillings, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous, and hopped in. The Holy Spirit is always looking out for me. This happened to be an air conditioned ambulance. I wish he would have driven slower, but the pleasant conversation only lasted 10 minutes, and we were back at the Guest House.
Which then brings me to sitting here in my bed under my mosquito net, listening to them buzz around my head like kamikazes at Pearl Harbor. I got my first mosquito bites yesterday. It was either a few skeeters on a strafing run, or a very hungry mosquito that left 5 nice welts on the back of my arm. I was reminded that a mosquito net is not an impenetrable barrier. If your skin's up agains it, that's all they need. I won't make that mistake again tonight.
It's now 11:30, and I'll be skyping my family at 4:30 due to practice schedules back home. That's ok, though... it assures that I'll get a hot shower. Then I'll just stay up and pack. We need to leave early for Mbaka Oromo to see their opening ceremonies.
Hope this one wasn't boring... I know it was a lot...
And I almost forgot again! The critter for the day has got some really nice camoflauge (sp). Unfortunately, he's dumb as a box of rocks, because he doesn't blend in very well on white drapes.