Job knocked on my door this morning at 7:30, thinking he was waking me up. Not a chance. I was sitting on my bed with my laptop looking at pictures from the day before and reviewing yesterday’s events as well as the plans for today. I was also stalling because they weren’t able to fix the water heater and I am losing interest in cold showers. I told him I’d meet him in 15 minutes for tea. It’s amazing how fast you can wash yourself when the water’s cold.
We sat outside for tea today. We seem to be bouncing back and forth… one day they are serving breakfast inside, the next they’re serving outside. It’s of little consequence because the temperature at the time is very comfortable. They keep the windows wide open so the temperature inside and out are identical. Today’s breakfast consisted of the usual fired egg and a smokey (chicken sausage), but then they through a curve ball. Mandazi. It’s a Kenyan fried donut. I immediately remembered how every time I get these things, I say to myself, “I’ve got to bring some powdered sugar next time.” I have yet to bring powdered sugar.
Job and I planned out the day while we waited for Kevin. It’s a lose agenda because we’re trying to cover as much as possible while maximizing our efficiency. We need supplies for Jim’s memorial, as well as the gutters. We’re hoping to only have to make one trip to Kisumu. We first had to go to Maseno to make sure that my ATM card was working. Thankfully it was, and we got to see Job's sister Ruth on the way out. We dropped her at the matatu station at Chuolembo.
We arrived at the Mbaka Oromo early, and were immediately greeted by one of the doctors. He was out walking door to door on a government
sponsored polio campaign. We talked briefly and scheduled tomorrow afternoon to spend time talking. We then walked down to the primary school to talk to Charles about the memorial.
We walked up to the site first, as we have to pass it to get to the primary school courtyard. I’m very disappointed to tell you that it looks abandoned. The paint was very faded, the stone insert was broken so we bought some white paint and had them start painting it immediately. The weather here can be very harsh, and coupled with children playing and animals eating around it, I shouldn’t be surprised. The flowers that we planted were gone, presumable eaten by goats…
the tree we planted during his ceremony met the
same fate. Those will be some of things we remedy. We went and got Charles and came back to the site. The walk back was filled with me inquiring why the site was in such a state of disrepair. That seems to be a going concern regarding the primary school. He was quick to blame someone else for the state of things, and blame another organization for the lack of a fence around the compound. In Kenya, all schools are supposed to have a perimeter fence with a gate. This one doesn’t, and they need one. “They promised me a fence but never said anything again.” While I have little interest in correcting that situation, we will protect the area with a fence. If the other organization decides to uphold their commitment, we’re designing it so that one side of the fence will serve as a piece of the perimeter. I then decided on have a metal plaque made for Jim. It will better withstand the elements. It will be mounted on a piece of marble, then laid in the center of the slab. We’re (and when I say “we” I mean Building Futures) going to plant a new tree and flowers once the fence is in. If we can get the materials fast enough, we should be able to complete it before Friday.
I was happy when we were finished talking. The memorial sits on the grounds of the primary school, and protocol dictates that Charles needs to be informed about all work performed there, as well as approving it. I don’t like playing the politics, but it is a means to an end, and in the case the end is much more important to us. We pass through two classrooms where the kids like to gather. our in the courtyard, the children followed Kevin like he was the pied piper.
The secondary school headmaster, Tom Owur, had to got to Mombasa for the national meeting, so I met with the deputy teacher, Gabriel. He’s a very agreeable fellow, much like his superior. We talked briefly about the pad project – we’re spending most, if not all of tomorrow morning on the project. We then began looking at the quotation for the classroom guttering. The quotation was waaay off. We then modified the original plan and limited the guttering to the front of the building.
As we were finishing, a member of the clinic committee came up to greet us. Ezekiah is an older man, with a constant smile on his face. We talked for a bit about what we’ve been doing for the past year. He asked about Andrea and the girls, and I asked him about his family. As we finished, Samuel finally emerged from behind a row of tall, leafy trees and began to walk up the hill that I was standing on. I began to walk down and met him half way. Like every greeting from Sam, it was met with a tight grip and slaps to the back as if he’s trying to dislodge a chicken bone from my throat. Job said he thought the deep pounding sound could be heard throughout the valley. Kevin was next, and the pounding continued. He took one step toward Job who said, “Oh no, I don’t do that,” as he backpedalled away. Sam is still as strong as an ox, but he’s put on some wait. His face is much more round and the potbelly cannot be missed. Sam turned back toward Kevin and said, You have been doing something, you are bigger.” That was the reader’s digest version. Sam repeats himself a lot and can often not find the right English word he wants to use. In those instances, he uses sound effects. This is what he really said, “You, Kevin, you are ooooh ooooh….” (he held is arms to his side with his elbows bent pretending to be more muscular than he was). Then he said, “Kevin, you, you, you look like you have been aaaah, ahhhh, sssssst, ssssst (then he bagan to pretend he was bench pressing), lifting! Lifting things.” Kevin responded with, “Yes, Sam, I’m trying to.” Job than interjected, “I still think they should lock you and me in a cage, Kevin. I would beat you in a cage match.” Oh, Job. I don’t’ think he’s 100lbs, so Kevin’s got him by 60. Job is always leaning on Kevin like he’s trying to move him or intimidate him. He fails miserably, and it usually ends with the two of them laughing.
We waited for the fundi (worker) to finish revising the quote, and when he did, we started driving to Kisumu. On the way out we saw Emmah who gave me a tiny wave so as not to draw attention to it. I walked over and talked to her and her friends. She was already wearing the gifts we brought her. Before I left, Wendy came buy but stayed just long enough to be seen. She is very shy. Absolutely adorable, but shy.
We gave the fundi the money necessary to buy the supplies, and we headed to see the fundi that makes the engraved plates. We found him, but I insisted on waiting in the car. If I went in there, they would have charged us double. They assume that all white people are rich, and by their standards, we are. That means that there’s a Kenyan price, and a mzungo (white person) price. We never want the mzungo price. I’ve taken matatu rides and had to argue with the conductor over 20 shillings in change – it’s only about a quarter, but it was the principal. Anywho, Job returned with pictures of the plate styles so that I could choose. He then informed me that there was no way to have it completed before we leave Kenya. That was very disappointing. Job has assured me that I’ll have picture in my email before I land in Rochester on Saturday. We gave them a deposit on the work and placed the
order. We then went looking for a bench. I thought it would be nice to have a bench inside the gated are so that people can sit and reflect. We had no luck finding one at Nakumat, so we headed to Tusky’s. If Nakumat is the Kenyan Walmart, Tusky’s is Kmart. It’s a little smaller, and, well, Kmarty. No luck at Tusky’s either, and decided to take a break and grab lunch. It was already 1:30pm, and Tusky’s has a restaurant attached to it, so we went in and sat down. I ordered some waters, and looked at the menu. I’ve eaten there before, and the food was ok. The menu this time, however, didn’t look appealing at all. Then I remembered. I looked and Job and said, “We should have gone to Kiboku Bay!” He eyes opened wide and he said, “Yes.” I asked for the bill for the 3 bottles of water, paid, and exited. I almost forgot to tell you… John Oguso was with us. He and the other John had no idea why we were leaving, but they later thanked me. Kiboku Bay is a beautiful resort on Lake Victoria with wonderful food. John Oguso still insisted on a traditional Luo meal of fish and ugali, although this one was smothered in masala sauce. Job had fried chicken and Kevin had honey barbecue chicken wings. I had pepper steak, and John our driver had beef stew. Kevin and Job can’t come here without getting a milkshake – Job is strawberry and Kevin is chocolate. As always, everything was delicious.
We left full and I think everyone fell asleep as we passed through Kisumu heading back to Maseno. We were visiting Agulu Primary School next. They are waaaaay off the beaten path. A small school with a little over 100 students, their classrooms are absolutely deplorable, and yet the students are constantly improving their national scores. When we were there last, the CDF (Kenyan Constituency Development Fund) was helping them with a couple new classrooms.
As is customary, we went directly to the administration building (that not much better than the old classrooms) to meet the headmistress and her head teacher (the head teacher is the biggest Kenyan I’ve ever seen – he makes me look small). Fatigue has already set
in, and I’m trying to fight off the nods as I type, and right now I can’t recall the names of these two, but if I remember before I publish this update, I’ll let you know. They are a very effective duo who have been instrumental in the consistent improvements in national test scores. She told me that when she started here in 2005, there were 100 students and seven teachers. This year, they have 200 students, 8 teachers, and their test scores are over 50% higher than they were when they arrived to assume the role of principal/assistant principal. The children are incredibly well behaved, and they explained that one of the first things they did upon arriving was begin teaching personal responsibility and accountability from ECD through Form 6 (early childhood development (kindergarten) to 6th grade. It’s really working well.
We were expected there at 4, and we didn’t get there until almost 5:15pm. Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya). When you set an appointment here, there’s a two hour window around that time, whether you see it or not. They’re never early - they are always late. It’s just the way it is. I’ve been told numerous times, “You people from US are very punctual, much more than we are.” The headmistress wanted us to hear their new choir, so we went outside and
sat in wooden chairs in the courtyard in front of a group of about 25 children. The music began, and they were wonderful. They were going to perform in front of education officials tomorrow morning. We wished them good luck… I’m sure they’ll do well. We then inspected the new buildings and the old ones. Madame provided us with the quotations from the new building. I’d love for us to build the remaining classrooms for them. We need to get caught up on the commitments we’ve already made. The clinic pushed everything back, and we don’t want them
to have to wait any longer. As we walked out, I asked John about the comment he made to the vice principal. He has known him for a very long time, and as we talked about the food the children eat. He looked at the size of the vice principal and said, “is there any food left for the children?” It made everyone laugh out loud. Kevin then said, “I wondered if he ate the children.” That made us laugh harder.
We headed back to the car and returned to the Peacock. We put our things away in our rooms and headed to a table outside to have something to drink. Job and I reviewed the quotations and paperwork regarding the purchased supplies. Everything was in order. Job finished his Fanta and left for home. Kevin and I remained behind drinking a cold Tusker. While I was sitting there, I got a text from Karen asking which was better, Jeremiah’s boneless wings or regular wings. It made me laugh in amazement to think that we’re able to communicate in that manner when we’re on opposite sides of the earth. I told her just that, and she respondent with, “This is a serious matter!” That made me laugh again. I told them I’d call after I posted this blog, so I want to get the pictures uploaded. I’m already in bed typing this, and yes, I’m ready for sleep.
BTW here are some pictures of the Peacock Resort where Kevin and i are staying