Another cool day to start; no matter, I had hot water this morning! The manager, Duncan, had them install a new heater. The added bonus in that is that the water comes through with great pressure. It was fabulous… the little things.
Breakfast was outside today, and it was so “chilly” that Job may have preferred us to be inside. He new we were more comfortable, so he poured himself a large hot tea and drank it quickly. John joined us this morning, and ate any unfinished smokies – chicken sausages. The ones this morning were actually quite good – they can sometimes be very dry. John got to eat Job’s and Kevin’s. He has very large dimples, and they were quite pronounced as he chewed, smiling wide between bites.
We arrived at Mbaka Oromo early, and Kevin didn’t waste any time before playing with the children. They surround him almost immediately. He likes to stand still until they get with an arms length… they’ve learned to be apprehensive, because whoever gets that close first has a tendancy to get hoisted high in the air while everyone else either shouts in delight or runs away in terror. It’s fun to watch.
Each one of the kids have different “thing” with the children here. Katie loves to sit and talk with them and show them her long red hair – she’s definitely a local celebrity with the girls. Karen, as expected, loves to mimic what they do. There’s always one that tries to push her to the limit, but with Karen, there isn’t one. I finally had to have Kevin put them down so we could get to work.
Our first job today is to check in on the pad project. We teamed up with St. John Fisher College to help provide young girls with reusable/washable sanitary napkins. A misspelled facebook posting gave us cause to call this, “The Sanity Pad Project.” The rest is
history. The nursing students from the St. John Fisher School of Nursing have held sewing parties, and my wife has organized a group of women with 5 sewing machines that took over two rooms in our home to make the pads. It was a thing of beauty. Over the span of 3 weeks, there was a constant influx of women who would sit down at a machine and sew as long as they could. No sooner did one leave, another would arrive. Our doors were open and we took all visitors. It was a huge success and would have been duplicated prior to this trip if we had more time to plan.
Through donations, we were able to purchase 4 sewing machines that were placed inside a classroom at the secondary school. There are 3 women that supervise the program, and high school students enter in groups of 4 to lean how to sew by sewing pads. It’s a great program that has been very successful. We make improvements as time passes, and this visit would bring about some more. Another friend of ours joined us this time. Because Andrea and Karen were not able to make this trip, I called Noelle Shinali for help. A man talking about such things is a bit awkward and might make the girls uncomfortable. That would be counterproductive, so that’s where Noelle comes in. She is familiar with the project and has helped us with it before.
We talked about the design of the pads and ended up making some pretty big changes to the design. Despite my gender, the women were fine talking with me. I was concerned that I would be blamed for the need of the napkins, but nobody got the connection. When Andrea and I were in Israel last September, we spoke with a restaurant owner in Bethlehem and eventually, he asked me my name. When I told him, “Adam,” he didn’t even hesitate with his answer. “Oh. You are the cause of all our misery.” When I looked and Andrea and said, “What about her?” He merely replied, “She is just an instigator.” Nothing like a little Old Testament humor… but I digress.
We (they) began sewing different parts of the kit. We had to modify some of the pieces that were already made, but everyone was in agreement that it was a big improvement and will resolve some of the issues that have risen since the project started. Noel started sewing, and Job helped with cutting out patterns. At one point he
even sat down at a machine and started to sew! I’ve never seen anyone concentrate so hard. Truth be told, he did a good job. When he stopped sewing, he continued to try and "best" Kevin. He's 0:a lot.
We wanted to check on some other things, so we made our way toward the memorial. We passed by the other secondary school building where a water tank was being installed. The secondary school students have to walk across the revine to the primary school for water… this will same them quite a bit of time. We’re guttering the 3
classroom block so that the rainwater will fill the tank.
When we entered the courtyard of the primary school, our friend Wendy walked right up to us smiling and shook all of our hands. She’s just a sweetheart. I know we’ll see her again tomorrow.
We went back outside to check on the progress at Jim’s memorial. Just to recap, we’re having the area fenced in, planting a special tree and flowers, installing a bench, and having an engraved plate mounted on a marble stone to be inset on the base. We can’t plant anything in the area until it’s fenced in. It can’t be fenced in until the cement at the base of the poles is dry… so we wait. The post holes were dug, and the poles were in them waiting for concrete to be thrown in to support them. Things are moving along nicely.
We continued up to the clinic and went to the doctor’s/nurse’s house which we’ve called, Hannah’s Home. It’s named for the daughter of a dear friend whose life tragically ended in a car accident along with three of her friends. She has been very supportive of the work we do, and Hannah’s “motto” was a perfect fit. We want to plant orange (Hannah’s favorite color - Andrea's idea) flowers along the base of the home. We marked off 13 spots and left a fundi behind digging holes as we pulled away. Here we go, back to Kisumu.
While I’ve seen nurseries before, I’ve never walked through one. They have hundreds of plants in varying sizes of recycled bags. Most of them were empty sugar bags, but some were from larger bags of rice, and some were even larger. Everything is very well organized. Just don’t plan on buying a tree that’s taller than 2 or 3 feet. It would appear that they don’t make bags that large. I’ve already picked the tree that I want to put in Jim’s memorial, but we haven’t found it yet. We’ll keep on looking. Here’s a fun fact: Orange flowers are hard to come by in Kenya. In fact, they’re impossible to find. It didn’t help that nothing was blooming. Everything had a yellow flower or a red flower… until we told them we were looking for an orange one. Miraculously, the yellow and red ones turned orange. We found another vendor who sold us 7 plants that will either be yellow, red or orange… we won’t know until they bloom. I bought the only flowering plant that I did see – it’s more red than orange, but it looked like a variation of a Bird of Paradise. I’ll wait a moment while you Google, “Bird of Paradise.” You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the picture, though. We had to drive to several different shops before we found all the flowers we needed, and just when we were about to give up on the tree, Job spotted it in
the open air market. We pulled the car over and he jumped out. It took some haggling, but we left with what can only be described as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. They have a couple larger ones here at the Peacock – pictured on the left, and they’re pretty neat. It’s as close to a pine tree as I’ve seen over here, and it reminded me of Christmas. The needles are a deep green and much softer than what we’re used to in the US. It will provide some wonderful shade for people visiting Jim. Unbeknownst to me when I picked this particular tree, it's a very rare tree for this part of Kenya. Fitting for the site.
That completed our shopping list for flowers, so we headed back to do some planting. We “hid” the tree and flowers for Jim’s memorial behind the doctor’s house, and planted the flowers for Hannah. John Oguso came to help, as did the doctors. We then went down to the memorial where we saw that the posts were set in cement. It’s really going to be beautiful when it’s finished. We walked over to the secondary school where the foundation for the tank was almost complete, and then we headed back. The children had already gone home, as did the teachers, and the only person we say was Samuel who came over to greet us before we went back
to the hotel for dinner.
We got back at 6:30pm and sat out front having a drink. John and I had a Tusker, Job and Kevin had a Fanta (which is orange soda) and immediately ordered dinner. At 7:45 they told us, “Just another 30 minutes.” We keep forgetting to order ahead. I won’t make the same mistake tomorrow. The wait was interrupted when the owner of the hotel stopped in to meet us. His name is Nelson and like most Luo, he’s a very friendly man. He also happens to own a steel shop and it’s the same one we’re using to make a bench for Jim’s memorial. We talked for quite some time… but even when we finished, we still had to wait. It’s difficult when you wait over an hour for just chicken, and although the first time we had it here it was delicious, it hasn’t been the same since. Tonight it was like the chicken had no intentions of ever being separated from the bone. Normally, that IS chicken in Kenya, so we’re not surprised. We fooled ourselves into thinking that the extraordinary is the norm. Not with Kenyan kuku. After all that, it still only took us 10 minutes to clean our plates.
Now I’m sitting in bed typing as I wait for text messages from the girls so I can call when everyone’s together at home.
For those fans of the “Critter of the day”… I’m not sorry to say there aren’t any “critters” here. This is a big step up from the Maseno University Guest House.
One last comment in case you didn’t notice. You may have noticed that I’m wearing a Green Lantern shirt. Kevin emerged from his room wearing Green Lantern socks. Didn’t even know he had them.
I decided to add some pictures that I took during the day that couldn't fit in the body of this blog. Hope you like 'em.