Now that I've got the modem working and pictures are being taken, I'll try to write a little less... the pictures speak volumes.
We woke up all through the night. It seemed as though we would sleep for 2 hours then wake up refreshed. We'd toss and turn for awhile before repeating the process. I paid for the time I spent blogging instead of sleeping - I hit a wall at about 8:30pm which is why I'm posting this blog on Sunday morning as opposed to Saturday night. I was unable to maintain focus on pictures, and decided to call it a night when I woke up with my laptop on and my finger resting on the "N" key. That was as far as I'd gotten, but there were a lot of Ns.
Everyone was awake by 7:15. Andrea and Kevin went out for a run and soon were reminded that we're close to 5,000 feet of elevation. It's a little tougher to breathe. I went out with them to take some pictures, but they were too fuzzy to post. Apparently I was still a bit groggy. Andrea and I had no hot water and we later learned that Richie didn't, either... yet we all survived.
We finished breakfast, loaded Isaac's van, then headed off to school. Isaac would certainly get there before us as we all preferred to walk. The students that normally fill the streets of the university are away for their break, so the campus is quite peaceful.
The rains are making the vegetation quite lush and the soil quite muddy. Once we left the school grounds, we would encounter patches of road where the mud would cling to our feet so badly that we would stop and do our best to knock it off. It was remarkable how quickly our feet became so heavy from the weight the mud added. The rain was intermittent and, thankfully, not heavy. It was more of a nuisance than anything else. It also made the walk cooler than normal. It was in the mid 60's during the night, another rarity, and the rain prevented the temperature from rising. It was still quite cool when we arrived at school.
We got to the school and were met by some members of the Clinic Committee, as well as our team here in Kenya: Job, Samuel and Caleb. After a few introductions and a lot of hugs and smiles, we had to sit for some chai. It's customary (almost required) for Kenyans to offer visitors something to eat and drink. We had hot tea and ground nuts (peanuts), both staples in this area. We were surprized with a special gift brought from a committee member. "Do you remember the promise I made you?" he said as he unwrapped small container. I watched, guessing mangoes and papaya. He smiled as he removed the lid. TERMITES! Yes, and prepared two ways; fried and live (with or without wings). Despite what Walt Disney says, they don't taste like chicken. They were somewhat smokey and I thought they tasted closer to burnt popcorn. Not horrible, and if it were on my bucket list, I'd check it off. Andrea, who never had it on her bucket list, ate a handful! No hesitation!... well, maybe a little.
Following the chai, and also customary, was a tour of the grounds. The site has changed a lot since Kevin and I were here last July. An incinerator, laundry and placenta pit were added by the septic tank that Kevin and I helped with last year. And yes, I said, "placenta pit." The name says it all. We toured the inside of the clinic as well, and the finish work inside was almost completed. I regret to inform everyone that our contractor, Simon, has passed away. He was an honest and very hard worker, who was clearly interested in our success and ensured all of the work was done efficiently. He will be sorely missed, and this beauty of this compound will be a constant reminder of his workmanship and the help he provided us. His fundis were still there today, finishing up the incinerator. As we walked we talked about some of the other items that would be helpful, and often necessary, for the site. Another water tank needs to be added by the clinic, gutters still need to be installed, too. It continued to sprinkle off-and-on as we walked around. Now, it's time for work.
Job had informed us that there were 200 hundred trees to be planted. Yikes! We later learned that his count was bit off (I don't know if the metric system had something to do with it), AND the when a Kenyan says "tree," it can also mean "sapling." Few of them were above our knees. We divided and conquered! Kevin, Job, Isaac and Richie grabbed shovels and a wheelbarrow and finished digging out holes and adding soil and compost. Andrea, Karen, Amie and Sam planted the trees... moving from hole to hole. Each "tree" had a small plastic wrapping around the base, and it's removal was probably the most difficult part of the exercise. Richie came with enough gloves for everyone, including the committee members that also helped. It was a very welcome gift. If we didn't have them, we'd still be scrubbing the dirt off our hands. Watching the ladies from the committee members help was pretty interesting. It's a site that is often seen, but also often overlooked. When we would squat down to plant the tree and move the soil around the base, their legs never bent. It was as if their hips were never going to get any closer to the ground, but acted more like a hinge for their torsos. They fluidly bent over without hesitation. If I did it, and managed not to fall over, I would have at least thrown out my back... and probably needed assistance getting back to upright. And these ladies were not spring chickens! It's quite remarkable when you look at the pictures. We see a lot of it as we walk to school, as the women are often in their fields tending to the crops.
After we had finished the planting, the guys gave up their shovels and wheelbarrow for hoes and began levling out some of the grounds. If there was grass, this grounds would look like a pitched fairway full of pot bunkers. They moved the dirt from above the pit, pushing it behind them to fill it. With the help of Sam and Isaac, it moved along quickly.
They "sent out for lunch" which means that someone was about to catch some chickens. While we waited, we were happy to find that some of our younger friends have slowly made their way to the clinic site. Despite the recent teacher's strike (which is supposed to start up again soon) they have short school days as they prepare for exams on Tuesday. Classes let out around 2, and some of the younger students were peaking at us from behind some shrubs. Job called to Andrea who came down the hill. He said, "I think there is something you should see..." He glanced over at the bush, and she immediately recognized Susan who had walked up with her younger brother Danton. Susan, Danton, and there sister Emmah have a special relationship with us. During Jim's ceremony here they were drawn to Andrea and Karen. We didn't know they were sisters until later. They, much like all of their friends, are why we are here. The smiles fill our hearts, and are met the same response. Their giggles echo through he clinic as we tickle them in our laps. Andrea had earlier removed some picture frames that were wrapped heavily in bubble wrap (I'll get to that story later), and Danton and Susan spent the next 30 minutes popping every bubble. The look of determination on Danton's face was priceless. Susan smiled with every "bop" as she pinched her finders along the plastic.
At some point, and I honestly can't remember when, we went down to the primary school and met with the headmaster Charles in one of the classrooms. It was a short visit, as we'll spend more time with the Primary School on Monday.
Back to the clinic, we brought several bags of supplies, and stored them in the clinic. We'll retrieve them on Monday when the "Kotex for Kenya" project continues. More on that, too, on Monday.
Lunch finally arrived. Time, like distance, here is very relative. The sent for lunch at 11:30 - it got here at 3:30. When they say something is in the distance "just there," it could be two miles. The fact that it sounds like, "just they-ah" does not shorten it in any way. Lunch was finally here, and some of it arrived on Andrea's head! She Amie and Sam went to help with the preparation and delivery. We ate our fill... with our fingers. After we finished lunch, we talked a bit more before departing.
Emmah, as compared to her brother and sister, is quite shy, so we went to visit them at their home. We also brought them gifts, so this enable us to distribute them without other children seeing. They would get teased by the other students if too many prying eyes watched.
We then moved on to Wendy's house. Much like Andrea/Karen and Susan/Emmah, Wendy easily found her way into Amie's heart. She is a very smart girl with adorable doe eyes and a wonderfully easy smile. This time we got into the van with Isaac, as she lives at least 2 miles from the school. She saw Amie coming from the side of her home. She stood motionless at first as this stream of wzungos (white people) approached. Then she recognized Amie! Her arms rose above her head as the smile expanded across her face. She was no longer motionless. She ran to her! It was marvelous to watch. It was even nicer to see Amie's sister Sam's reaction to all of this as it unfolded in front of her. These are the moments that are difficult to describe to people back home. They are the experiences that remain engraved on our souls and scream of complete joy and happiness. The tears are forming around my eyes as I write this and recall of my own memories with Andrea, Katie, Kevin and Karen.
We headed home and took 30 minutes before heading across the street to the Green Park - our favorite local restaurant. Great kuku (chicken) and phenomenal chips (fries). Although disappointed to find darkness at the top of the stairs, we were informed that they were remodeling, but had a smaller restaurant opened downstairs. We went in and sat down at a large table that accommodated all of us, and the first order of business was to order 8 cold Tusker's and one Coke. The conversation was lively loaded with laughter and smiles. Everyone participated, and that was good, because it was an hour before we got served. It was dark by the time we left and everyone retired by 9pm.