"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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

29.07.2011 Happiness is not having to dig a placenta pit

Wow, what a fabulous day! And not just because we didn’t have to dig a placenta pit.  There are too many other things that need to be done before we can start digging.  Maybe when we come in February as a family we can dig it together!  I'd like to see that on a Hallmark card.  We'll be the only grandparents in the neighborhood that are playing with our grandchildren saying, "Did I ever tell you the story about how we dug a placenta pit in Kenya?"  The next phrase will be, "Grandpa, please stop telling us stories."

We started walking early while it was still cool. The sun was barely up when we crossed the street and began walking through the Maseno University campus on the way to Mbaka Oromo. We hadn’t gotten far before Lucas called out to us. He’s a friend of ours that drives a motorcycle and carries passengers from point one place to another for money. He’s also trying to get a spot on the Kenyan national marathon team. He’s just a nice fellow who has always showed us great kindness. Kevin and I have been looking for him (because he’s always stationed across the street) but were unlucky up until today. We talked for a short time, he wished us well, and wanted to say hi to our family (he met them last February). We walked about 300 yards before Kevin said, “I’m worried that we’re going to see Benson again. Do we have to walk him to school?” We were too far into our walk to make that kind of detour. As it turned out, we saw him about 2 miles into our walk. He was coming up the hill grinning, “I am so very late.” It was just a quick handshake and we both continued on. He said that his dad had a problem that he wanted my advice on, but we never saw him. His father is Jactun… a painter that does all the artwork on the buildings once they’re finished. He draws logos free hand, and they’re quite good.

We passed many people of various ages and sizes. It’s always the little children that are the most curious. You can hear them running to us from their homes, “Wzungo! How ah you?” It usually surprises them when we answer in kiswahili or luo, and invariably, they return to their homes giggling and waving.

When we got to the school, the first stop was Samuel’s. Our packs were completely full with things for him and Job. I brought Sam some of the pants that I wear here, and he was very excited. We also gave him some colorful shirts for him and his son Alex. Now that he’s working with Building Futures, Andrea thought it would be a good idea to bring him an embroidered shirt. I reached into the bag as he held it, and just exposed the logo. I thought he was going to cry he was so happy. Instead he grabbed me and gave me one of his patented bear hugs. Every vertebra cracked, and he let go just as my toes began to turn backwards. He was very happy and that left a smile on our faces as we headed to the school to see Job.

Job was waiting for us in the library. We talked about the library and what it needs, as well as what it doesn’t need. He doesn’t want us wasting money with donations that are squandered or not utilized. That is one of the many reasons we asked him to help us. We wanted to get away from eavesdropping, so we walked up to the dispensary with Kevin. We hadn’t talked for 10 minutes before Peter Onyango emerged from behind a corn field. Job wisely changed the subject and acted as though we were talking about the dispensary when we were actually talking about the upcoming Clinic Committee Meeting and the roles that he and Samuel were going to play in future construction. It took awhile, but Peter must have been convinced that were weren’t talking about anything significant so he left. He was wrong, however, because once out of sight, I began telling Job exactly what I was going to say to the committee at our 10:00 meeting.

True to form, our 10am meeting started at noon. Karibu Kenya. That was fine. It gave Kevin and I an opportunity to play with the children and take some pictures. Emma wasn’t there, but Susan was. I went to her and picked her up… she immediately smiled and buried her head on my shoulder. Her shyness continues. She’s beginning to speak a little English now, so Andrea and Karen will be very happy when they arrive. By then she should be speaking English and Kiswahili pretty well.

The meeting finally started with the Chairman speaking first. John O’gongu spoke for a few minutes before it was William’s turn. John and I had previously asked William to keep it short. He said, “I will be brief.” It’s all relative. 25 minutes later… yes, I said “25” everyone was tired. He, for some reason, saw fit to talk about how the school began and how we got to where we are now. Not surprisingly, he broke his arm numerous times as he patted himself on the back. Then it was my turn. I have to say, I was rather proud of the way I handled this meeting. Their facial expressions while I talked spoke volumes, and the comments I got afterward said “mission accomplished.” Minus the aircraft carrier.

"Job will be in charge of all communications between the US and Kenya, and between the school, this committee and me/Steve." “Furthermore, we have hired Samuel to be in charge of all construction. He will be responsible for all materials. He will receive quotations from at least 2 contractors, and the committee will evaluate each one, choosing the best. Job will then contact me with his (and samuel’s) recommendations and construction will begin.” Kevin, as if he was a defendant passing a note to his attorney, slid a piece of paper to me while I spoke. Perfect timing. There were a couple more points I wanted to make Daniel spoke, “This committee needs to be registered so that we can be audited.”  He continued, “Once that is done, that the money for construction should pass through the committee account rather than Mbaka Oromo?” I said, “That is the ONLY way it will be done, but not until the committee is registered with the government.”  There were some additional questions and answers, but my job was done. Job was very thankful, and conversation was light as we ate lunch. Thinking about it, I probably should have had a food tester, but it all worked out. I even got a picture with Kevin with our lunch before the meeting. I am pictured with the committee members. Daniel made the last comment in the meeting. “Thank you for giving my brother a job.” It was a touching comment, as their relationship had been strained as of late.

After lunch, a bit more play with the children.


Kevin, Job and I then went to Samuel to tell him about the meeting. He was very pleased. More importantly, I told him what his brother said. Tears welled up in his eyes and he gave me another bear hug. He turned and did the same to Kevin, then took Kevin’s hand, “Come, I will see you off.” He walked us out to the road on the other side of his cornfield.

We talked about plans for the future as the three of us walked. Kevin contributed very insightful comments along the way. Job wanted to take us to Ungugo Primary School just down the road (about a mile and a half). It looked much like Mbaka Oromo did. It wasn’t good. Despite the semester ending at noon, the head teacher/headmaster waited for us to arrive at 4. When we entered the compound she was sitting at a small desk outside the 5th grade classroom. Kevin and I signed the visitor’s book and we proceeded on a tour of the facility. The buildings were in bad shape. Two classrooms had been blown away in a storm, and the tin sheets were recovered to fashion make-shift classrooms that looked more like animal pens. The remaining classrooms made from mud and dung were showing serious signs of age and constant repair. This is a school that we can help. Add it to the list of future projects.

We then continued on to Job’s house. He’s quite the entrepenuer actually. Kevin looked in amazement as we walked by 2 milking cows, three fish ponds where he raises tilapia for personal consumption as well as sale, a healthy banana crop, corn field, mango trees, a tree nursery, a loaded garden (tomatoes, kale, peppers, carrots, potatoes) and sunflowers. It is a huge piece of land that he and his brother David own. There, they take care of their 4 sisters, although there are only two living with them now. Dave is a teacher at Kuoyo Secondary School, too. Kevin continued his amazement and commented about it as Job walked us to the matatu stand on Busia Road.

We asked him to join us for dinner when we got back. He agreed, and we ate our fill of kuku, chips, rice and sukumawiki. He was very grateful. We went back to the guest house (through the rain), and we gave Job some additional gifts. I thanked him for his help, and we saw him off.

Kevin and I packed most of our things yesterday, so there wasn’t much to do tonight. I sat on the bed and turned on the computer to check mail. As I place it on the bed for Kevin to use, I noticed a facebook message. “I’m home if you want to call.” It was from Ann.

It was great to talk to her after having difficulty with the connection last night. We learned that the reception is better when the call is made from a Kenyan cell phone than if it’s made from the US. Who’d a thought? Anyway, it was a great conversation filled with stories and laughter about things going on in both countries. It makes me even more excited to see her Sunday… I can’t wait. Karen hopped on the phone, and we joked about the yellow cars, and talked about when we’d be home. Ditto. Can’t wait.

I called my Katie and my mom to say hi. Katie was working and didn’t answer, but I got a comment from her via email because she was working. My mom was happy to hear my voice. Now I’m sitting in bed typing, and just like every other day, Kevin is sound asleep. He must be dreaming, because he’s talking a bit but it’s not making any sense. It’s the first gibberish to come out of his mouth during this entire trip. It’s 10:15, so it’s time for sleep. I’m getting sleepy and that usually means that typos begin, then I start repeating myself. Next thing you know, typoes will begn and I wil start repeeting myself. Just kidding.

We will be home in two days! 22 hours in the air, another 7 hours in waiting between flights… it can’t go by fast enough.

Lala salama rafiki yangu (sleep peacefully my friends)

Honey, I'll see you soon.

Here's a critter that's common in every room in the guest house.

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