"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, July 27, 2011

26.07.2011 Nakuru... a must see

Our day didn't start as early as I would have liked, but that's what happens when you plan things last minute... you know, like a trip to the other side of the world. Joseph’s wife Molly, (they’re the owners of Springs of Hope Orphanage in Nakuru) was kind enough to make some time to see us this afternoon. The Mbaka Oromo Choir was also performing there, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to see them both. Well, it would have been. But I'm way ahead of myself.
We left Maseno at 8:30am. It’s a 4 hour drive to Nakuru, and the plan was to meet Molly after lunch. The road to Nakuru was definitely memorable. When people found out we were going there, their first reaction was, “Oh. The diversion.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, a “diversion” is simply a detour, but this is Kenya. Here’s the road we started on, the other picture was of the “diversion.” 12 Kilomters of bad road.

I think I may have ground the crowns off my teeth. The scenery was beautiful, and repeatedly tried to keep my mind off the rattling of everything in the vehicle. I kept expecting pieces of the car to fall off, and imagined that this what it must feel like in the space shuttle as you enter earths atmosphere. We stopped for gas, and the girl that was filling the fuel asked me, “How is your underbonnet?” Being the linguistic magician that I am, I had her repeat it 3 times thinking that I would be able to figure out what she was saying. Oh, thinking it would help, I got closer to her each time I asked. It didn’t help. It was then that I realized she wasn’t even talking to me, and a “bonnet” was a hood… “under,” “bonnet”… yeah, engine. Duh.

We got back on the road and proceeded through several towns. It was interesting that each one seemed to have their own produce to sell. The first town we came through was potatoes. They were stacked in bright white buckets, but they looked like prayer stones you’d see in the Bahamas. The rose over a foot out of the bucket, with one vertical potato perched on top of the rest. The next town was carrots. It was the brightest orange color I’d ever seen. They looked like they fell out of Bugs Bunny’s hands. Every time the car would reduce speed to go over a speed bump someone would run up to the car asking us to buy some. They were packed in fours and wrapped in plastic… they looked fabulous, but I didn’t want to add the act of chewing to grinding of my teeth. The next town was Kerecho. It was beautiful… then I learned why-this is where all the Kenyan tea comes from. The plantations were beautiful. Houses dotted the skyline with the bright green plants everywhere. It was harvesting time, so acres upon acres were scattered with little dots that were the cultivators picking leaves.

We then approached Nakuru. Wow. It was a stark contrast from Kissumu. The roofs of the houses weren’t the standard grey steel. These were white or blue or green or red… it was striking to see them against all the green vegetation. The city itself seems quite spread out and is very clean – it’s all relative, though. As we drove in, Kevin sat up in the back and said, “Woah, where are we.” I said, “We’re in Nakuru.” He responded with, “The last think I remember was tea leaves.” A two hour nap through rough roads… and he’s sleeping now as I type this.

I was texting with Molly as we drove into town and the plans changed slightly. She was now going to join us for lunch. She said “we” in the text, so I didn’t know what to expect. We parked the car and headed for the CafĂ© Guava. I was going to her text that said, “I should have worn a carnation so you can pick me out of the crowd.” Rather than being funny, however, it was almost necessary. We walked in, and already seated at different tables were 6 white people (2 men, 4 women). As it turns out, the restaurant is owned by an Australian, and everyone comes there because they cook western food. Kevin was happy to be able to order a pizza. It took 30 minutes to prepare (as stated on the menu), so we ordered before Molly arrived. In she came smiling with 2 people in tow… Daniel, the Kenyan man that manages the orphanage, and Kate a girl from London that happened to have crossed paths with Molly the day before. It didn’t take long to see that Molly and Daniel were regulars. Molly said, “I’ll have the usual,” and although I couldn’t hear what Daniel ordered, Molly statement said it all, “You always get that!” The exchange between each of them was constant through our visit. It’s obvious that she likes the people she works with very much. Our food came intermittently, and the conversation was non-stop. Having lunch with Molly is like eating outside with the mayor. People kept coming in to say hello, and she gave time and attention to everyone that did. We talked about the orphanage and about Building Futures and about Jim. Kate was very engaging despite not really being affiliated with anyone. She just came over to Kenya to visit a friend and all these little chance encounters began. It wasn’t until she went outside for a smoke that Molly told me she was only 19! I’m definitely not saying that in a derogatory way. Jim and I used to talk about people like her. Her confidence in the way she carried herself and the way she spoke put her well into her twenties. It wasn’t until then that I’d also realized that Kevin could only eat 4 of the 8 slices of pizza. He said it was delicious, and blamed it on the milkshake he started with. “I’m still embarrassed,” he said.

We left the restaurant to see the sewing shop that Springs of Hope owns. When we got to the car, there was a clamp on the front tire. They have these guys in yellow coats that wander the street and are the equivalent of a traveling parking meter. You pay them and they give you a ticket to put on your dashboard. There wasn’t anyone around when we arrived, so we didn’t think there was a charge. We were wrong. I gave Vincent the money to pay the fine, but it was taking too long to have the boot removed, so we decided to go with Molly to the shop and come back for Vincent before we go to the orphanage. The shop was a nice sized open space in town. There was a mural on the left wall, bags displayed on the right, and two handmade shelves displayed additional bags and material. They have their own name, and they use this shop to teach women to sew. They then sell the merchandise through hotels at Masai Mara (and anybody else interested. Their hope is that this shop will be a stop for tourists that come through. They make bags and clothing, and their quite pretty. She told me that they had fitted Jim for a shirt and they still had the material. After a few minutes I said, “I’d really like to have one.” Then she started to read my mind. Before I could finish the sentence, she pulled out the material that Jim had picked out. “I think that would be really nice,” she added. I agreed. They’re going to mail it to me, and I can’t wait to get it.

Kevin has been much more talkative today. He’s seems to be much more comfortable. At one point during lunch, Vincent said, “Thank you.” Kevin, without hesitating said, “You know, they say ‘asante’ not “Thank you.” They both laughed. He continued, “Stick with me, I’ll have you speaking Kiswahili in no time.” Even in Kenya, he’s funny.

We headed back for Vincent who had successfully had the boot removed. Off we went. We travelled outside of the town itself, then up into the hills. This place stuck out. Springs of Hope really personifies everything about the property. They care for 36 children ranging in age from 2 to 12. These are boys and girls that are complete orphans or were abandoned. At least one is HIV positive. Many have suffered from physical and sexual abuse. This place, however, gives them security and an unconditional love that they’ve never known. The building itself is built into a hill and is quite striking. Two masai greeted us as we pulled into the guarded gate. We parked the vehicle and proceeded to be introduced to everyone. Anyone that knows me realizes how dangerous that can be. I am horrible with names. Thankfully, they were repeated a lot, so I was able to muddle through… I took some notes, too. We walked up 6 steep steps that led to the main house. Young girls were sitting talking as we approached the front door. We were met with smiles and handshakes. We walked past a veranda with two round wooden tables with 4 chairs at each one. I’d say they were wicker, but the branches were too thick. It was a beautiful place to sit and do anything. The main room was large with two large tables in one section, and large comfortable furniture in the other. The kitchen lies behind the main room with a large windowless opening that allows them to make plates for all the children and hand them through to each one. That “great” room separates the girls section from the boys. They are identical except for the decorations - several bedrooms with a large bathroom at the end of each hall. The children were just waking up from a nap, so they were all still in their rooms. In back of the building are four tiered levels that continue up the hill. The first is home to 2 very large tortoises that roam freely. The next holds a fountain. The next is a grassy space with plantings, but the top level is the best. A gazebo with chairs sits next to a swing set! With a slide! Kevin, Molly and I leaned against the fence and talked about children and their plans. The view was breath-taking. You could see Nakuru and the lake unobstructed. They own four additional acres across from the school, and they’re trying to decide how best to use it. She also explained why they hired 2 Masai as guards. They are more reliable, “and nobody screws with the Masai.” The children’s security is incredibly important.

We made our way back down the stairs, past 4 smaller connected rooms. One’s an office, one previously held the sewing project, one’s store room… and I can’t remember what the fourth was. We went back into the main house where all the children were playing or watching TV. Kevin and I hadn’t passed the doorway before every single one of these children came to embrace us. Literally. The smallest ones grabbed our legs and the bigger ones grabbed us around the waist. They hugged us we had been looking for us for days and they suddenly found us. Kevin said, “For mom, this would have been ‘game over.’” There’s no question that Ann, Katie and Karen could have stayed here for days. They giggled as I said “cuja, cuja” (come, come) and “nakupenda san” (I love you very much). Kevin took a knee so the smaller ones could get the same attention. When he stood up, he had one of them in his arms. Every time he knelt to return them to the ground, he came up with another one. His smile went from ear to ear. “Who’s next?” he repeated.

Dave and Terry Paddock gave us boxes and boxes of donated items from friends of theirs. The orphanage was the beneficiary of dozens of boxes of crayons, lots of pencils and pens, flash cards, and coloring books. Molly was very appreciative. We also brought some of the 5k t-shirts. Like everyone else, she smiled when she saw Jim’s image in the heart on the logo. We sat and had chai with Molly, Kate, Daniel and Dennis (another Masai that works there). Dennis knows our friend Isaac very well, and he was in the Masai village when I was there with my family in February. Kevin was actually the first to say, “He was there when we were there.” Oddly enough, I knew what he meant and agreed. We joked and told stories about an hour. Then Kevin noticed it was 5:15 and the choir was to perform at 5. “Kenyan time is different,” I said. Daniel and Dennis laughed out loud and slapped me on the back. “Five could mean 5:30 or even 6pm.” When I finished saying that, the look on Kevin’s face was clear. “I think it’s more important that we stay here. We’ve seen the choir before, and although it would be nice to see them perform, I thing this is where we should be.” “I think so, too,” he replied. He and Kate were hitting it off quite well. They both appreciated each other’s humor, and seemed to carry on conversations effortlessly. I was glad someone was there closer to his age. I think it made it that much more enjoyable.

I can’t say enough about the children and how they are treated… how they are loved. You can’t see the scars that these children wear, because you can’t get past their smiles. Their innocence seems remarkable intact despite their circumstances. I would encourage you to look into their organization. http://www.springsofhopekenya.com Like Jim and I, they’re not the best at asking for donations, but I’m happy to ask for them. It’s a very worthwhile cause, and I guarantee that someday we’ll be working on something together. Also like Jim and I, the website is in need of a little updating, but everything you need to know about them is there. Molly had to go home but invited us to stay for dinner before returning to Maseno. We obliged, and were treated to rice, cabbage, skumawiki, and meatballs. At this point I must tell you that Kate cut the cabbage, and it wouldn’t have been as good if she hadn’t.
We ate with the children, then had to push off. Kate walked us out to the car and I said, “I have to get a picture of you before we go.” She complained that there’s never been a good picture of her. I said, “Go stand over there by the wall.” Until I looked at the pictures before posting them on the blog, I hadn’t realized that I had her stand in front of the sign for the men’s bathroom. Brilliant.

The skyline during the ride home doesn’t look as ominous as these pics. It was a beautiful sunset.
Now I’m exhausted. It’s 2am and we have to get up at 6 to be on the path to Mbaka Oromo by 7. I spoke with Karen on the phone an hour ago, and it got me jazzed up so I thought I’d write until I got tired. Well, I got tired.

See you all tomorrow.

Nakupenda sana.

I'm not sure OSHA would approve

Yellow car!  That's 2-0, Karen

This is our Masai friend Dennis
This is our new friend Kate

1 comment:

Karen said...

Your writing makes us feel like we're there - what an awesome day! Nakuru is beautiful - so is Maseno - but they are different... Love Kevin's T-shirt, by the way!!