Today was “Baseball day,” but first we went to the equator with everyone. It’s about ¼ mile from the guest house, and it’s on the main road. We took various pictures as the Kenyans walking by laughed at us. We didn’t care one bit; in fact, I’ll bet nobody else even noticed. Slowly but surely, I think everyone’s becoming quite comfortable here. Although we haven’t really had much time to dedicate to the children of Mbaka Oromo thus far, today was marvelous. Literally. Jim and I would come here each year, and Jim would have me take his picture with whatever stuffed animal that Karen had given me (for protection/comfort). Although he's not seen in the pictures, trust me, he's all around us.
Andrea asked for a picture of Rich and I, then she asked us to do something silly. Rich suggested we both jump in the air! I had a better idea! P.T. Barnum had it right! We laughed that he not only fell for it, but she also got this shot! As we continued to walk, we continued to laugh.
Walking was what Jim and I enjoyed immensely. Our families and friends were no different. We took in the landscape, the foliage, the people walking to and from market with their livestock. It was a typical Kenyan day, with sights I've seen before, but this was special. I imagine this is how Jim felt as he watched me seeing all these new things unfold before me. I beamed as I watched everyone talk to perfect strangers, trying to speak Kiswahili... this was what Jim and I talked about... making the world a little bit smaller.
We first went to see Samuel’s farm. Jim and I have always been helping him in different ways… providing a cell phone to use while I’m gone, buying necessary supplies for his crops etc. He too is a wonderful man, and helps us every chance he gets. His children are just as good and kind as he is. Samuel asked if we could come back before we left to take a picture with him. Of course we said, “Yes,” and we heading for the school compound. Now, most of the younger children were playing outside… jumping rope, kicking around a taped up ball of plastic bags… and as we approached the center, out came Susan who jumped into Andrea’s arms. It was priceless. Karen said, “How do I say, ‘Where’s Emma?’” Seconds later she was asking, “Wapi Emma? Wapi Emma?” Emma emerged from a crowd, and Karen scooped her up immediately. “Rafiki yangu Emma!” she’d exclaim over and over again. The two sisters giggled with two very distinct laughs, but never said a word. Their faces did their talking for them.
Margaret was there (from the Grail Center) along with Kristen. We chatted a bit, while the older elementary school students practiced in the makeshift diamond. Kevin was giving a lesson in “flow” to a group over by a small bush, Casey with some older boys laughing and taking pictures, Rich and Tamye were doing much of the same. They’d go from “gota!” to “High five.” The former seemed to be more successful than the latter, despite Jim introducing the high five several years ago. It didn’t stop Rich, though. He continued to try. Katie, meanwhile, was impressing everyone with her hair. It’s a beautiful auburn color, and hangs a bit below her shoulders. It’s also incredibly thick. The girls that surrounded her were touching it as if it was spun by angels. “How do you get it?” “Does it grow back if you cut it?” Will it get longer?” The questions kept coming while everyone tried to have the chance to touch it. I finally had to come over to push the crowds back a bit, “Tokeni hapa!” I’d yell. Away they went.
Rich tried teaching the younger kids about a "high five" while Kevin sat and talked to the boys about "flow."
The laughter was contageous for us all.
I’m happy to report that everyone’s learning a little Kiswahili, too. Susan, Emma and Dante (who by now had found Jack and was holding onto him with every ounce of energy he had. The bell rang, which meant the students had to go back to class. It took one of the teachers to coral them back into their classrooms. We then headed over to the Administration block for tea, ground nuts and peanuts.
The bell rang again… Andrea, Karen and Jack disappeared. The rest of us slowly sauntered outside. The time for the game was rapidly approaching, and the heat was just as rapidly rising. We wore pinnies that they had made up years ago to separate the teams… the wzungo wore the yellow Mbaka Oromo Lady Yankees, and the primary school students wore light blue ones. The field was exceptionally small, but what it lacked in size it made up for with uneven terrain. The distance to first was no more than 30’, but the path was an undulating surface. Because the rules are so extensive, we play an abbreviated game… everyone bats, and we kept score… for most of the game, at least. We started off slow, and got worse. We were laughing for most of the time, though, even though the sun and lack of sleep was getting to us. We were down by close to 10 runs, when Tamye turn at bat came up. She hit the ball and took off toward first... and she almost made it. Almost. Running on the uneven ground is like walking down a flight of stairs in the dark; you always think there’s an extra step, and almost stumble when you run out of stairs. Well, Tamye ran out of stairs. She fell to the ground and tried to drag herself to the base. No such luck. She was out, and despite the laughter from the crowd, she got up like a trooper. Suprisingly, she looked as though she didn’t have a mark on her – no scratches OR dirt. It was only later that we saw the bad brush burn she got from sliding forward as she fell. Her damaged pride would soon be forgotten, as Father Ed did the same. Although he made it to first, and did it by getting up and limping to the bag, he did not look so fresh. His knees were badly cut, and the cuts from the hike up the mountain the day before opened up next to new cuts. He strained his hamstring when he fell the first time, so when he got up, it looked as painful as he felt. When we finally got him into a classroom to tend to his wounds, he was bleeding from his arms and both knees, and his hamstring was badly strained. Andrea and I later wondered if he wished we liked him a bit less than we do.
The game continued on, and we were beaten soundly. The Kenyan sun also took its toll on everyone. Fortunately, water was available, and surprisingly enough, it was cold! Some of them were even frozen! While some of the group waited outside, I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with William. There was no question that I knew I was speaking from my heart, as well as Jim’s. He was apologetic, and assured me that things will go smoothly moving forward. I told him that I was now the only judge, jury and executioner. I know he understood me because he didn’t smile during the conversation. I spoke to him about Priscilla, too. He said he was unaware of the situation, and as hard as it is to believe it, his body language showed shame.
I got up from the table and went outside to tell everyone to get ready for lunch. Andrea, Karen and Jack were nowhere to be found. While the others washed their hands and entered the admin block, I went searching for them. I checked every classroom. Nothing. Samuel’s son Alex saw me and asked if I was looking for my friends. “Come. I will take you.” They managed to find their way to Susan, Emma and Denton’s home. When came over the hill, Andrea spotted me. “I think we’re in trouble.” It was fine, though. They were all seated in chairs in an open area in front of their home. Susan in Andrea’s lap, Emma in Karen’s and Denton in Jack’s. They all looked incredibly happy. They learned that the reason none of them spoke earlier was because they only spoke Luo (the local tribal language). That made me laugh, and think it may have reassured the visitors. They stayed to have lunch with the family, and I walked back to school. When you visit a Kenyan home, you must eat… at the very least, have tea! Despite the poverty, Kenyan’s are very welcoming people, and will give you food even if it means they may not have any.
Everyone finished eating, Andrea, Karen and Jack returned (without any little one’s in tow), and we headed to Samuel’s for a picture. I also had some money to help him pay for his seeds and supplies. Well, as it turned out, I left the money in my room so I agreed to meet him at Chuolembo to deliver the loot. We tooked pictures before departing for the remainder of the chores for the day.
We grabbed the supplies we brought for the Huma Girls Secondary school and headed south. Karen didn’t know about the stop at Chulembo, so she was happy to see Samuel waving to us. He crossed the street still waving wildly, yelling, “Hahlloooo, hahlloooo my friends!” His accent is very thick. Of course this was followed up with tight hugs and pats on the back. We crossed back over where there were fewer people, and I handed him the money. “I’m sorry, but I’m not good at counting. I may have given you too much,” I said smiling. “Sawa,” I finished. It’s ok. I cupped his hands closed around the money, patted his hands and said, “Twende” (Let’s go). We walked back across the street to the matatu, one more hug for the road, and we were off again. This time, we were dropping off a bag to Kristen so she could take the books she brought to Mbaka Oromo. We met Margaret there, but it was a short visit… we still had to get to Huma… school ends at 5pm, and although the headmistress (Mareb) might not be there, her deputy should be.
We went down a much better road, another 5 miles off the main road until we reached the school. Many of the girls played in the courtyard. There was a basketball going on during a volleyball game and a soccer match. Karen and I stood in front of the office and waited for Mareb. We watched them playing, then Karen said, “Look!” Playing in the field was a girl wearing one of the white Lady Lions shirts we gave them last year. Karen was beaming. I talked to her about the layout of the school, and then we went inside and sat in the waiting area. The deputy came out about 10 minutes later. She looked at us, then looked away, then turned around with a big grin on her fade. “Aaaaaaahhhhhh,” she exclaimed as she came around the corner. We greeted each other, then she disappeared into her office. Mareb came out, and the same thing happened. “Aaaaaahhhhh, Adams!” I don’t know why they add an “s” to my first name, but they do. She called Karen and I into her office. We had a quick soda, and told a few stories about Jim. I emptied one of the bags of the t-shirts we brought from Penfield High School (donated by a friend of Deacon Bob) as well as a larger bag full of items donated by Karen’s travel team –the Rochester Lady Lions. Beautifully colored shirts, crayons, pencils, sharpeners, stickers… she was glowing. She clapped her hands when I told her that I also had letters written by the players in Rochester (along with some of Karen’s friends). She said, “I will find special girls to respond to these.” I explained that this was a short trip, and that I would collect the responses when I return later in the year. Jim and I agreed to help build another dormitory for her, so I’ll be heading back there. She’s a marvelous woman who runs a great school. Mareb asked Karen a lot of questions about baseball and how she liked Kenya. They laughed together quite a bit. When finished, we got our hugs goodbye, accompanied “Safe journey, tell our friends in America we said, ‘hello.’” We hopped back into the idling matatu, and headed back to Maseno.
When we got back, Andrea was still going through the items we got from Nancy Erot. It was a huge help. We continued going through them until it was time for dinner. Another trip to the Green Tavern across the street. We ate to our heart’s content. 10 of us ate and drank for $40. The owner stopped me on the way out to say, “Pole sana,” about the loss of Jim. I told him he’s spirit still resides in all of us… he agreed whole-heartedly. “Thank you,” he said, and we walked back to the Guest House.
I fell asleep several times while I was typing, so I just gave up again. Tomorrow we leave for Masai Mara at 6:30am. We’re hoping to find Kevin’s bag in Nairobi when we arrive. Keep your fingers crossed.