"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.

Monday, February 8, 2010

8/2/2010 6:56pm

The day started out cool... it wouldn't last.

After a short debate inside my own head, I decided I'd try to have some breakfast. It's fairly constant here at the Guest House: fried eggs, toast, bananas and tea. The fried egg didn't agree with me, so I gave up. My stomach made the decision for me. It was apparently Jim's turn to be sick today. Although at the time, he just said his stomach was upset.

We took a matatu to Layla station, then walked to Huma Secondary School. When we got to Layla, I got out first, then Jim followed. We walked past a line of men waiting to get on. Jim started laughing, and when I turned around, he told me the as I passed them, one of the older men turned to his friend and said, "kubwa." That means "big." It gave us both a chuckle. Huma is an all girls high school about 2.5 miles off the main road. It was a nice walk. The road to Huma was nothing like the road to Mbaka Oromo - very flat and very smooth. The rich color of the soil contrasted nicely with lush surroundings.

As you can see by the sky, it was shaping up to be a beautiful day, and I was glad that I put sunscreen on before we left. The headmaster is a woman named Mareb. She's a wonderful woman who looks after these students as if they were her own children. Jim had to stop several times on the way there to deal with his upset stomach. I gave him a gift to further aid him in his battle. See photo below.

Yes, probably too much information, but it's still funny. We decided we'd do some work with Mareb for several reasons. 1. In the 1+ years that Jim has known her, she's never asked our organization for anything. 2. She lives on the school grounds, so she can easily supervise any project. 3. She's honest. The latter is probably the most important. The majority of student must be from at least middle-class families, as not only is their tuition paid, but the parents have also help apy for the construction of 2 new classrooms and pay for their bus. We've sent several girls from Mbaka Oromo to Huma, and she always been very welcoming. They've also started their own baseball team, and I'm told that they're quite impressive. We'll have a game between them and the Mbaka Oromo Secondary School on Friday. that should be a great finish to this trip. They have a beautiful field where they play. It's perfectly flat and wide open, unlike Mbaka Oromo. They've also agreed to provide a bus to bring everyone from Mbaka Oromo to Huma. The bus can't make it all the way to MBPS (Mbaka Oromo Primary School), but it will save them from walking the full 7 miles each way. I'll be distributing t-shirts from the Rochester Lady Lions and Fairport Girls Softball on Wednesday.

We followed the road back to Layla, then proceeded to walk another 5 miles to Mbaka Oromo. The sun was rising quickly, and so was the temperature. To pass the time, Jim and I had a quick board meeting. Steve wasn't there (nor was he notified), but the two of us constituted a quorum, so we forged ahead. The first resolution we passed was to work on a project (of thier choosing) at Huma. This was also the last resolution we passed, as the conversation began to drift off to other topics, like how the road to MOPS is much different from the road to Huma.

One of the things we like about our "jobs" here is the walking. It gives us the opportunity to meet several people including the families of students that attend the schools we've built/rebuilt. It's a part of who we are. As we walk ("tutambaya"), we'll here people yell from their shambas (gardens) "Jamo Jemo!" Many will come running towards us to shake our hands and welcome us back. We ran into Lawrence as we walked. He was actually on his way to Huma to enroll his neice. Lawrence's brother and wife died, and Kenyan tradition puts the daughters welfare in Lawrence's hands. This is very common, and I've never heard anyone complain about the certain financial burden that accompanies such an "adoption." As always, things are, "Nzuri sana." (Very Good) He's the head of the school committee at MOPS. It's always amazing to see men dressed suits in this heat. Lawrence is no exception. If the suit wasn't enough, he also wore a hat, one that I've never seen him without. I believe that might be his trademark. We're having a meeting with the school committee on Wednesday at 10am. If we can keep William Kabis from talking too much, it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes.

Also along the walk, Daniel was driving by with some women from the local church of Israel. Daniel is Samuel's ("My height")brother, and another member of the school board. He stopped to say "Jambo, karibu!" (Hello, welcome). I couple of quick handshakes and he was on his way.

We arrived at Mbaka Oromo, and things were very quiet. When the students are in their classrooms, the only thing you hear are the birds chirping and the occasional cow or goat. A bell will be rung periodically for what amounts to recess, but shortly after we arrived, the bell was rung for lunch. Children spilled out of their classrooms, and the majority headed home. Many, however, stayed. It could be due to the lengthy walk, or it could be because they are orphans whose caretakers now work at the school. Either way, it was a chance for some photos.

William was busy enrolling additional student for the new secondary school, so when he came out of his office we informed him of our school committee meeting. As always, he wanted us to stay for tea and ground nuts (peanuts), but Jim was still feeling ill, so we started back home.

Samuel was working outside, so we stopped to say, “Jambo.” Once again, we were greeted with strong hugs. This time, however, I was smart enough to keep my backpack on to lessen the blows. Mission accomplished. We talked for a short while, told him we’d be back on Wednesday, and, “tutaonana” (see ya later). We were off again. Samuel pulled me back for a moment to tell me something terrible had happened. William had already informed me of the situation, but I let Samuel tell me anyway. The phone I had given him 3 years ago got wet. Water = the global kill switch for cell phones. At a whopping $30, I told him I’d take care of his problem in May when I return. He was very excited to hear that my “first born” might be coming with me. Everyone expects our children to be tall. Won’t they be surprised! She’s going to be a hit here! Here are some pictures of Samuel… he’s rather tall for a Luo. You can see why he calls me, “My height.”

Samuel's an interesting man. He refers to his garden as his office. When he's in his front office, he's growing corn and avocados. In his back office it's potatoes. He's the only one that I know of that refers to his shamba that way. It's funny to hear him say that he's been, "working hard in my office."

We were back on our way again. This time, shortly before we reached Chulambo, another Matatu stop, we saw John Ogongo. John was the previous headmanster at MOPS, and is just a wonderful man. He’s got to be at least 65, although he looks like he’s 50. He acts like he’s 20! He’s always willing to help building by carrying bricks. He once accompanied me to the top of the mountain behind MOPS. Yes, it’s a mountain, and don’t let anyone tell you different. After the 3rd false peak, I was forced to try hard at not showing my fatigue simply because John looked like he could make the same trek 5 times before breaking a sweat. And all this while wearing a pair of torn rubber boots. The guy’s just amazing. Here’s a picture of him with his son.

He, too, is on the school board, and he laughed when we told him that we were going to try and keep William Kabis to a minimum. “He is not very direct, that one,” he said, and threw his head back laughing.

It was a quick matatu ride back to Maseno, where stopped briefly for a soda in the hopes of not only cooling us down, but perhaps helping with our upset stomachs. I’m happy to report that Jim didn’t need to make a pit stop the entire way back from MOPS. We got back to the guest house at about 3:30, and both laid down for a nap. Andrea will tell you that my naps tend to be a bit long. That, happily, is not affected by which hemisphere I’m in. I woke up at 6:30.

Neither of us were hungry, so we decided to go across the street to have another soda.
We stopped a new place this time. It was located on the second floor of a building, and was obviously under new ownership. In the past, they only served sodas and liquor, and drunk students would yell at some of our friends as they walked by. Three years ago, I was here with a young man named Sidney who was accosted every time he passed by. It stopped when I accompanied him, and he was thankful for that. Again, it’s apparently universal that big guys are more apt to pick on little guys. I’ve never had that problem here. Anyway, when we entered the restaurant, they were still very busy with Maseno University students, but it was a very peaceful place. The walls were pained a bright green on the top half, and white on the bottom. The tables were spaced far apart, both inside and on the balcony, to accommodate additional chairs. It’s quite common to see a table of 2 or 3 grow to a table of 7 in the span of 15 minutes. All we really wanted was Coca-cola baridi (cold Coke), but they brought us a menu, too. They are definitely under new ownership! The front of the menu had a little caricature of a stereotypical Italian cook. Once opened, it was easy to see why. Spaghetti and meatballs! And that was just the beginning. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it was a full menu. We’ll definitely be back for a meal. We sat on the balcony while we drank our sodas. We could feel the cool soda travel the entire route to our stomachs. It tasted great! Despite the lack of light, the area was a beehive of activity. Women were sitting on the ground and it small makeshift shelters selling everything from ground nuts to popcorn to mangos. There was a constant flow of people, too. Another city that never sleeps perhaps… but this one does it in the dark. While we sat, Jim sent a text to hire a car for tomorrow, and I people watched. It was then that I noticed there was a huge ice cream delivery truck sitting outside the restaurant. 10 minutes later we were eating vanilla and strawberry ice cream. It’s no Turkey Hill, but it did the trick. Karen, who is something of a gelato-spoon collector, will love the ones they gave us. They were blue plastic, and looked like a 3” shovel. It’s already packed.

We finished our sodas and exited. The walk through the dark was a bit unnerving. Although my eyes quickly adjusted to accommodate the dark, I didn’t rest easy until we stood in the shadows of the lights from the university. It’s very difficult to see the rocks in the soil, and they’re everywhere. It’s hard to not stumble, and I can’t imagine what it’s like doing it in bare feet.

We’re both feeling better despite not eating much (except for ice cream) for the last 36 hours. I may try an egg tomorrow, although they aren’t always easy to take. I learned today that they’re cooked in corn oil. I thought it was a margarine-like substance dripping off the eggs. I’m sorry I was wrong. I’ll be happy with some bananas.

Lastly, while talking to Katie the other day, she mentioned how I was living in the lap of luxury. i thought I'd share that lap with you.

There happens to be a mosquito inside my net, and he's driving me insane... part of it's from the buzzing, part of it's because I know he's biding his time, waiting for me to fall asleep so it can take a bite. No thanks.

Tutaonana kecho. (see you tomorrow)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey Adam, is that the infamous toilet seat? I notice that it's up. I wonder what Andrea is thinking of that??? (ha,ha) It sounds like you are getting a lot of exercise with all the walking. Can’t wait to hear the final score of the Huma vs. Mbaka Oromo baseball game. We are enjoying your blogs, so keep them coming. Stay safe…. The Brokings