Holy mackerel! What a day! It was action packed with many funny stories and a lot of emotions. Unfortunately, our official, unofficial camera man (Job) left with the camera tonight so I don’t have any of his pictures. You’ll have to settle for just mine for now… that means that they’ll be some entries that will have to wait for photos until tomorrow. Pole sana (very sorry)
We left breakfast and headed immediately to the ATM to get some Kenyan shillings. I’m pretty sure I have enough, but I like to play it safe… plus, you never know when the machine might eat your card, so it’s always to aim a little high.
We started at the hospital in Kumbewa. This is where Hilda Aiyeko is stationed. She is the local Public Health Officer that Jim and I consulted with when this project began, and continued until its completion. It’s close to 45 minutes, and we were a bit early, but she received us anyway. Kevin and I have visited her here before, and she recognized him right away. She asked about our family and filled us in on hers. She is extremely busy; as indicated by the multiple stacks of paperwork on her desks. Being as busy as she was, it’s a big deal for her to accept us early. We talked much longer than I was expecting – reminiscing on how we started and how we managed to get to where we are now. She was very engaging and quite happy to be part of the project. Frankly, it could not have been completed without her. She pushed the government when they needed to be pushed and was very helpful every time we called. We continued to be ahead of schedule when we left. Huma Girls Secondary School was next.
They were dropping marrum in piles on the dirt road to Huma, but thankfully we had enough space to get through. When we arrived, Linet Odur (Deputy/Head Teacher/Asst Principal) greeted us (if you recall, the Headmistress, Merab, was called away to Mombasa with the other secondary school principals). She was a bit of a surprise to me, because the last person in her position was shorter and rounder. She was tall, and confident. We sat and talked for quite awhile while we waited for a few of the school board meetings to arrive. They trickled in one by one. They only totaled 3, so it wasn’t that long a wait. We passed most of the time with the first member who arrived – Mister Maker (pronounced Mist ah Bay kah). A jolly Kenyan with a big belly, Mr. Baker also happened to be Job’s Godfather! We talked about everything from Job’s background to how he sees his future, to teaching me more Luo (I learned that just like English, Luo have words that mean multiple things – ie. Kendo means, “Say that again” and “fireplace” and “married.” It all depends on where you put the accent). The conversation was very lively and everyone participated. Even as the other board members arrived, they began interjecting their thoughts. Finally, it was time to get down to business. Jim and I had promised to build them a dormitory after a fire drew attention to the need. It was an electrical fire, and the girls were lucky to get out with their lives. We provided them a solar array so that they had light, but we needed to wait until the clinic was finished before we could commit the finances to build them another dormitory. That time has finally arrived. I took some pictures of the existing dorms. One of them is the picture of the structure that had the fire… and that wasn’t the worst one. They don’t have sardines in Kenya. Instead the have omena (which is ostensibly a minnow) that is dried and used in a variety of dishes. They sell it in the market based on the can size. They scoop up a small tomato paste can, or a somewhat larger soup can, or the largest stewed tomato can. Before I get too far away from the story, I’ll say that they pack these girls into dormitories like omena in a can! Sorry, long way to go for a corny remark, but they thought it was funny. Seriously, they have 60 triple bunks (yes, I said triple) in a 110’x22’ room. Every governmental agency in the US would have a field day in this place. Even by Kenyan standards, it’s not a good environment for educating. That’s why we’re here. Now that the clinic is done, they’re next. Huma also happens to have a very active group of parents. After discussing the costs involved in building a single story dormitory, they asked if they could accept the funds from us, then have the parents pay for the balance of a two-story dorm. I smiled because prior to Mr. Baker raising the idea, I had already written that question down on my pad. They’re currently building a two story science building, so we went over to take a look. It’s very rough, and construction had been halted due to some faulty work. We first walked to the second floor that was just a concrete slab with rebar and conduit’s emerging from below. We went back down the concrete, switchback staircase (OSHA would have had a heart attack over the rise of the stairs, or should I say, “varying rise of the stairs”). We walked underneath the area where we were moments ago, and I have to admit that I was a bit uncomfortable. It was all concrete construction, and rebar was used to support the ceiling/floor. There were spots where the concrete was crumbling, and others where the rebar was exposed. This was why construction was halted. They’re waiting for the fundis to come back and correct the errors. At one point, I looked at Kevin who was looking at me wide eyed. “This is terrifying,” was all he said and immediately moved toward an exit. We walked back to the office talking some more, closed up our conversation and took a quick picture. Kenyans document everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.
We made our way to the metal works shop owned by the same man that owns the Peacock – Nelson. There was short cut from Huma to Layla (where his shop is) so we took it. It wasn’t bad. The shop was a beehive of activity. Most places like this are in kind of strip mall design. It’s just shop after shop, just much more rudimentary than anything you’d ever find in America. In the first room, they were working on the bench for Jim’s memorial, in the second, they were working on the gate, and in the third, they were using a planer. The bench looks great and the door, although much taller than I was expecting, will do just fine. Nelson searched for some pictures of the work that he does but he was unable to locate them. Again, one more picture and we were off to Mbaka Oromo.
We had a meeting scheduled with the clinic committee and the doctors at 1:30. We got there at 1:35, and John was the only one there. It didn’t appear as though anyone would be there for a while, so we headed over to the memorial and secondary school to check on progress.
When we got to the secondary school, they were just finishing cementing the base for the tank. It will take several days to dry before they will install the gutters. When we stopped in the sewing room, the ladies were happy to show us how many kits they had made. When we turned around to return to the clinic, a stood in awe until Kevin asked me what was wrong. All I did was point. There, in the middle of their courtyard, was a beautiful orange flower in full bloom. We laughed as we realized that all we had to do was come to the secondary school instead of running all over Kisumu. Then, as we walked up the hill to the clinic, right next to the teachers latrine were 2 more… full bloom. Kevin was starting to harass Job at this point, and his only response was, “I knew that I saw these things somewhere.” If it’s any consolation, they are exactly the same plants that we purchased. Like I said yesterday, though, they come in 3 colors and you don’t know which one you have until it opens. We’ve got our fingers crossed.
They were arranging chairs in the clinic to accommodate a small group. The entire committee was not going to be present, which also meant that the meeting should be brief. The meeting started with 6 of us crammed into a small room. Amos arrived, and it forced us to move back outside where normally meet.
We carried all the chairs outside and started again. While John spoke, 2 more members arrived. Thankfully, one of them was Andrea’s friend Joyce. I was told she was around, but hadn’t seen her yet. She gave a wide smile to Kevin and I as she sat at the other and of the chairs. When John finished talking, Sammy (the lead doctor) took over and talked about what a wonderful facility it is, then followed it up with how to further meet the needs of the community (and still more on how to make their jobs easier). Ultimately, they need 2 laptops and a modem, as well as a refrigerator to store specific vaccinations. The other big “ask” was for a store. Not the kind of store you and I would normally think of, but a storage facility. They’re currently stacking all the medicines and non-medical supplies in the laboratory, and they’re almost out of room. Requests have been sent to the government, but those wheels turn very slowly. I released Sammy and John (the other doctor) so that I could talk to the clinic committee alone. Our contractor passed away and his son took over the business. This was toward the end of the project, but there are still items that are unfinished. We paid to have gutter on the facility, but it was only half done. There was a problem with the tiles in one room, and that need to be repaired. I spent the next 10 minutes talking totem about getting those jobs completed. It was their turn to release me - they asked me to leave so that they could talk among themselves.We headed back over to the secondary school where the modem works the best - it was time to Skype with Andrea and Karen! Woohoo! Before I snuck away, I had a quick conversation with Joyce, a dear friend who worked side by side with Andrea last year as they planted trees. The seemed like kindred spirits then, and they apparently still are. "Please tell mama Kevin that I say, 'Hello' and please come back to Kenya. I miss her." I miss her, too.
The last time we skyped them, we had Susan, Emma and Danton with us. Job was there too. It was a lot of fun, so we thought we’d try it again. The signal was great. Andrea had been awake for several hours but Karen, had just woken up… “Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of people there,” was the first thing I heard from her as she tried to check her hair. I don’t think the girls or Danton cared. As soon as their faces were up on the screen, the smiles kept coming. They talked back and forth for quite some time, although most of the responses on this side were relegated to “yes” and giggles. By now a larger crowd had formed behind us. They were in between classes in a free period, so most of the students were looking for something to do. Many of them found their way to us. When they finished, Kevin talked to Karen and his mom, then I had some time with them before finally signing off.
Andrea probably doesn’t want me to talk about it, but she wrote a letter to John Agugo that she asked me to read to him. It’s enough to say that it was a very moving letter (“Please tell her that she has touched my heart”) and he asked for a copy… the power of the rosary.
Kevin had walked back to the car while I finished packing things up rom the skype session. By the time I got there, John (our driver, pictured below left) had informed me that he was now an “honorable masai.” Apparently he and John were talking and all he has to do is kill a lion. When I mention that Isaac was 13 when he was curcumsized, he said it was a technicality. Yes, I said 13… he also was not allowed to flinch or make a sound. Kids, don’t try that at home. Dear Lord, nobody should try that anywhere!
We laughed as we left the compound to go eat dinner. We had not had any lunch yet, so everyone was ready for food. We went back into Kisumu to Nakumat rather than waiting for 2 hours to have something made here at the Peacock (the owner and the manager have assured me that they will work on that). We went to Mon Ami in the same plaza as the Nakumat. Kevin and I ordered pizzas, Job got fish and John had stew. After placing our orders, Job and I ran into Nakumat to get some more minutes for our phone as well as a micro sim card. It was still another 20 minutes before our food arrived, but we sat talking to pass the time.
It was dusk when we left the restaurant. Driving during the day can be pretty daunting, but driving at night is absolutely horrifying. Many cars don’t have headlights, and the bicycles certainly don’t. The people still run across the street in front of you, tuc-tucs and piki-pikis are weaving in and out of traffic. People are passing whenever possible, and sometimes when it’s not. I actually closed my eyes a couple of times, partly because I didn’t want to see and partly because the dirt was killing me.
We made it back alive and Dedan (Peacock manager) quickly got us our keys. Kevin hit facebook and I finished packing. I got a lot done early this morning so it didn’t take long. Then I immediately went to writing. Dedan then brought the bill so that I could pay it now rather than early in the morning. Of course, we had to get a picture.
Now it’s 11:30 and I’m still waiting for pictures to upload. Hopefully I’ll be able to close my eyes at midnight. Please cross your fingers.
We’re driving to Nairobi tomorrow to meet up with Isaac in Karen – I very affluent suburb. Don’t worry, we won’t be near the city. It’s a 5-6 hour drive, so hopefully it’s all paved.
Here are some additional pictures from today
Here are some additional pictures from today
Kevin and John Agugo