Another early day, and again, it’s starting out very comfortably. That doesn’t include the time at 4am when my body decided that 3 hours of sleep was enough. I took advantage of it though, and called to speak to Karen and Ann. I was jazzed up after hanging up so falling back asleep was difficult. I did manage to get another hour and a half before the alarm went off, and a cold shower certainly knocks away the cobwebs. Breakfast was at 7:30, and the plan was to be on the road by 8am to get to 9 o’clock mass in plenty of time. Like all things in Kenya, time moves at a different pace. Everyone hopped in the van after some pictures, and Job to his "reserved seat" on the hump. We ended up leaving closer to 8:30 because we dropped Isaac off at the bus station so he could get back to the Mara… between a schedule change and increased responsibilities at the camps he works with, he needed to tend to some customers Tuesday – Thursday. We’ll see him again on Thursday.
Needless to say, we got to church about 5 minutes late. St. Theresa’s Cathedral was packed… and I mean packed. We walked in through the back doors and an small, frail elderly woman wearing a sash that identified her as an usher found us seats. It didn’t have the same feel as the ushers in the US. This little old lady would look down a row that appeared full to me, and begain to gesture with one hand to move in while simultaneously making the “sss, sss” sounded like air leaking out of a tire in short bursts. Everybody moved in. Job and Kevin were the last two occupants of the row she was working, then she went in search of a spot for me. Two rows ahead of Kevin, she signaled where the space was, “sss, sss,” a couple of demonstrative finger waves and people moved in. I squeezed between a young girl and another elderly woman. If you’re not comfortable with people sitting on top of you, there are two place in Kenya that will be stressful – matatus (mini vans converted into taxis) and church.
Church here is truly a celebration. This mass was said in Kiswahili, but it’s amazing how your still able to follow the order. We were seated shortly after I found my spot, and my size was quite evident the next time we stood up. I think Kevin was the next tallest in the church… and we stood out for another reason, too. We both have blue eyes. Just kidding. I’m not sure about Kevin, but I watched as small children would grab their parent’s leg and slowly peer around it to get a look at me. Shock and awe would slowly turn into a slight smile as I winked and grinned back at them. I learned early not to go so far as to cross my eyes… apparently, that’s terrifying. The temperature was rapidly rising outside, and paring the temperature with the number of warm bodies in the pews meant it was only going to get hotter. Church ended at 10:30 and we proceed outside into the morning sun. The church is very close to the matatu station so it is a very busy place. Matatus run all day long until sundown. The pick up people from point A to point B but eventually they end up at the station in Kisumu. That is usually the only place where you see them empty because that is where their day begins, and where the final stop is before they begin another run. Their incredibly uncomfortable for people my size… actually, they’re pretty uncomfortable for people of any size! I’m thankful we have John to drive us into town in his Toyota SUV.
From there we headed to the Masai Market to buy some trinkets. This is a hagglers paradise. The numbers start so high that even cutting the first selling price in half isn’t enough. You can buy soapstone or rosewood carvings, banana leaf sculptures, paintings, drawings, clubs, spears etc, and you never, ever pay them the first price they ask you for. Kevin and I made pretty quick work of things and hopped back into the car to drive to see Demaris. Job volunteered to take pictures, so I gave him my small camera. Job took more pictures than a… person who takes an awful lot of pictures. So many, in fact, that Kevin was beginning to feel like the popperazzi was following him. We managed to sneak it away from him from time to time to give all of us a break.
Demaris is a girl that we sponsored at Huma Girls Secondary School (high school). The headmistress asked me to sponsor her. In fact, she said, “Mr. Adam, I have a very special girl that I think you will want to sponsor. You need to hear her story.” Intriguing to say the least, because Madam Mareb has never asked me for anything. I obliged and went to listen to what turned out to be a wonderful story.
Demaris is a girl who knew what she wanted, and was willing to do anything to reach her goal. It started with her “sneaking” her way into the school. She said her parents, ‘lived on the other side,” too far away to make the trek to school. They were very poor, so they would come pay for her schooling when they had another reason to come this way. Mareb agreed to let her stay. Mareb was constantly reminded her abut the tuition until finally she laid down the law. “Unless one of your parents comes to talk to me, I shall have to expel you.” Not wanting to bother her parents ( who may have not even known where she was), she walked to the closest village and found a woman to pretend that she
was her mother. Mareb saw through the charade, and began asking questions until the woman finally gave up. Demaris was performing at the top of the class, so Mareb did not want to lose her. That was when we were contacted. She is currently enrolled to begin college in September… on scholarship!
I met her two years ago, and she looks and sounds exactly the same. Although she is small, she exudes confidence. When she speaks, however, it’s barely above a whisper. She said a quick prayer before bringing out some food for us to eat - bananas, pineapple, and crackers along with a few sodas. This was a lot of food to put out, and it spoke volumes when you saw the modesty of their home. We ate, took some pictures and began the next short trip to Tom’s house. Demaris' brother came with us to show us the way to the main road. He got in behind me which made Job very happy.
He finally wasn't the one on the hump.
He met us out on the main road about 8 miles away. We were glad, too, because there was so much construction going on that we got turned around several timesl. We were beginning to wonder if Job knows his left from his right. He gave me a big smile and firm handshake through the window and hopped in the car… moving Kevin to the hump and making Job very happy.
Tom works for Ampath; a NGO operating at Chulembo Hospital where they specialize in treating AIDS/HIV. Our paths crossed several years ago when Hilda Ayeiko (the local Public Health Officer) sent me to him for help in procuring equipment for the clinic. Kevin was
with me for that visit, too, and Tom recognized him as soon as he got in the car. We got to his home where his wife Faith was cooking oxtail soup, tomato stew, chips and some of the best chicken I’ve ever had in Kenya. The food was absolutely delicious. Everyone agreed that we would forgo dinner (as it was already 3:30 and our bellies were full).
We continued to talk about how we met and all the work he did with us to help the clinic get opened. I then remembered another thing he helped us with… Leah!
Leah was a teenage girl that Andrea met during her first visit in 2010. A tall, quiet, slender girl, Leah tended to keep her head down and avoid eye contact. You see, she had a cyst just above her forehead that was close to the size of a baseball. “We need to do something about this, she needs our help,” was all Andrea said. That set a chain of events in motion that had more valleys than peaks. We continued to try and jump over hurdles placed before her, but it was difficult to do from the other side of the world. It culminated with a phone call from Job almost one year later. “Leah is very uncomfortable and her father is going to cut it off himself.” Feeling helpless but desiring to do something, it dawned on me to have Job call Tom. Tom was a nurse and would certainly be able to help, right? He did, and did it in spades! He drove to Leah’s home, and took her and her father to a friend of his who was a surgeon. He insisted on doing the procedure the next day, and Tom stayed with her and her father through the entire procedure. 2 days later, Leah was out of the hospital, and a year later, she was all smiles, and the cyst was a distant memory.
I praised him for his help in the matter, and he said he was very glad to do it. We then talked about procedures for the new clinic and how to help ensure that things run smoothly. He did a lot of behind the scenes pushing to get the clinic approved, and wanted to ensure it succeeds. We continued to laugh and tell stories until it was nearly 6pm and it was time to head back to the hotel. We continued to laugh and joke around until Job ran out of gas. He fell asleep next to Kevin, and actually fell into his lap when John hit a pothole. He woke up quickly with a terrified look on his face. That didn’t prevent Kevin from laughing.
Our friend Caleb is no longer working at Mbaka Oromo, as he was hired as a Kiswahili teacher at another primary school. He made a special trip to the hotel to say hello to us. He stayed with Job and I and we talked for a few hours before heading home. We’ll see him on Tuesday when we visit Hilda.
One story I forgot to mention. Job’s phone fell in the river (because it was attached to Job when he fell in) so I brought him Karen’s old iPhone to use. I thought I had erased everything, but I missed 15 songs. Twelve of them are from the movie Pitch Perfect. When I came outside last night, he was listening to the soundtrack through the speakers, lip-syncing every word. “I love this movie,” he said. We been listening to it all day. Kevin actually took a video of him singing along before he fell asleep. I’ll try to get a clip posted.
I get to sleep in tomorrow! We should be at Mbaka Oromo by 8. Work has already begun to clean up Jim’s memorial, and we plan on spending a lot of time with the doctors at the clinic. We’ll finish up the second half of the day with a visit to the pad project and guttering the secondary schoolclassrooms.
See you all tomorrow.