"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I have to be honest with you.  I was writing so late last night and this morning that I don’t even remember what I wrote.  I finally fell asleep at about 3am and then woke up at 6am.  Like I said earlier, my body will be perfectly adjusted just in time to fly back the US.
I still can’t get a good internet signal in this room, so I’m typing it into a Word document and will later cut and paste it into the Blog.  Uploading pictures will be the slower process, but I’m going to try and multitask by uploading the pictures while I type.  It doesn’t sound like there are many people at the bar today so it should be quiet.
We started the day with a typical breakfast.  This time I remembered to take a photo.  They know that I’m not crazy about a fired egg every day so they’re changing over the menu tomorrow.  I have no idea what to expect… perhaps mandazi (a favorite of Katie, Kevin and Karen), and me AGAIN without my powdered sugar.  A mandazi is essentially a triangular shaped fried donut.  Always freshly made that morning.  You can buy them on the road along with ground nuts (peanuts) and green grams (lentils).  I’ll let you know how it turns out.
We walked across the street to the Chuolembo Station and started our daily walk to Mbaka Oromo. School was starting and we needed to pay the school fees for a boy we sponsor in Secondary School.
The station was not as crowded as it was the day before.  Sitting in the shade of a makeshift office were about 5 piki piki drivers.  They are motorcycle “taxis” that take you where you want to go… provided you can hang on and don’t mind getting  your back dusty.  They asked me to take their picture yesterday and I think I forgot to post it.  Here it is now… I’ll be bringing back copies for all them when we return.
The sun was hidden behind a hazy sky for the majority of the walk.  The same haze did nothing to cool the sun’s rays.  I’m being careful and applying sun screen before we depart, but it’s something that I bought when I landed in Kisumu (I forgot to pack some, although I remember exactly where I left it at home).  I’m not tired or overly hot during the walk but the sweat pours out of me wherever the sunscreen is applied.  I may try and go without it tomorrow.  The deputy teacher at Mbaka Oromo Primary commented on it today, “It looks like your cheeks were stung by bees.”  Yeah, I’ll take a pass  on the lotion tomorrow. As we walked, my phone beeped indicating that I got a message. It was close to midnight back home, so I removed my phone to look at the message.  It was a note from one of our friends we met in Italy.  I got your message Carmel.  Asante sana.  While I'm at it, sorry about the loss, Mike - tried to stay up to see the Patriots/Colts kickoff, but I just couldn't make it.  I now know I missed a great game.
We passed by houses of many students before coming upon Amos. 
Amos is a member of the clinic committee and is an incredibly jolly fellow.  It’s hared to find him without a smile on his face and he is eager to help in whatever way he can.  When we were planting trees, he grabbed a spade and jumped right in.  When we were clearing the ground for the ceptic, he picked up a panga and started peeling away the earth.  Other members of the committee also helped, Ezekiah and John come to mind, but we haven’t seem them yet.  We had passed Amos’ home when he came running out calling my name.  We shook hands and greeted each other – that entails touching temples on both sides of the head.  It might be better described as touching your right ear to his right ear and repeating the process on the left side.  He was happy to see me and asked about the rest of the family and how everyone was doing.  We moved on after some laughs and a few short stories.
As we came upon the Primary School we passed by children wandering in groups of 6 or 7; some from the secondary school, but most from the primary.  They were on recess and simply walking and talking.  There’s a slight downhill grade as you enter the grounds, passing by Samuel’s farm (although he calls it his office) and the latrines before you find yourself standing in their courtyard.  It’s a good size and the younger student from Class 1 (1st grade)   I could tell as they got closer that some were curious about me while others were just coming along to avoid being left alone.  Those that recognized me came running toward me, came right up and shook my hand, “How ah you?” they would say with their voices getting higher as they reach “you.” I would normally respond in Kiswahili or Luo which puts them back on their heals a bit before they giggle and turn to run back to class.  Those that are more timid usually require me to take a knee so that I’m not so imposing.  “Cuja hapa,” I’d say softly “Come here.”  They’d slowly approach as I held out my hand.  Some would touch it with a finger and run away while others would take my hand and turn it over for inspection to see if the pale color exists on the other side, too.  Once that test is passed, I usually see smile creep across their face as they tell their friend next to him or her that I’m safe to touch.  It’s a common occurence that never gets old.  They love seeing their picture, too, so I take a few quick shots and immediately show them.  That is always followed with laughter and screaming and pointing.  Children are marvelous.
We need to follow custom and meet with the Head Master of the Primary 
school before heading over to the Secondary.  Before I left, I was given some pencils to give to the school.  One of the women that came with the faculty members from the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College had dropped them off.  Via Facebook she told me that she was handing out pencil to some children during her visit and ran out.  There was one boy who didn’t get one and I truly believe that it’s been bothering her ever since.  She sent a picture of him (I recognized him immediately) so that I could find him and deliver a couple for her.  In the hopes of ensuing the boy knew whom the pencils were from, I had to do a little Facebook stalking.  Sorry about that Tamara.  It worked out perfectly though.  As it turns out, he was among a group of children that ran up to me when we arrived.  Job called me and signaled that he was in the back of the small crowd.  I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I waited for a more appropriate time when there were few people around.  We went and saw Charles (headmaster) while I waited for that moment to reveal itself, and I knew it would.  The fact that he came to me, one of a group of 10, in a school of over 400 was pretty impressive.  That's him in the striped shirt in the back of the group. Everything happens for a reason.  I will later learn that it does, indeed. 

We entered the administration block where all the teachers were seated working on paperwork presumably for the incoming students.  We greeted each one with a quick hello before stopping to talk to them in smaller groups while we waited for Charles to become free.  He had parents and students waiting to see him and we certainly didn’t want to interrupt.  Christine, Madame Otieno, Peter Mze, Peter Onyango, and Willis.  The last hand I shook was the deputy teacher’s, Alan.  I first met Alan when he was at Esivalu Primary School, one of the other schools we rebuilt.  We sat and exchanged some very fond stories from those days.  We’ll be visiting Esivalu tomorrow, although all of the teachers that I knew are now long gone.  When the line of parents died down, we entered Charles office and sat having tea and ground nuts.  We talked about the political climate, the recent teachers strikes, and how the school is doing despite the aforementioned.   We gave the donated pencils to Charles after explaining how they came to be in my possession.  I showed Tamara’s picture to Charles and he immediately responded, “Oh, yes, I remembah hah.”  Soon thereafter we had to push on to the Secondary School.  As we exited his office, I could see John Aguso had just entered and was making the same rounds with the teachers that we had done a couple hours before.  His back was to us, so I snuck outside and waited for him around the corner.  When he saw me, he asked if I was running from him.  Not a chance. 
Conversations with John are long.  I mean really long.  He’s a very curious and knowledgeable man who is 70 years young.  He joined us on our walk to the Secondary school.  We talked along the way holding hands until my pack started to slip off my shoulder.  He showed me that he still had his rosary and asked about Ann.  I know that she’s anxious to see him so they can talk more about it and pray together. He’s looking forward to that time.
As we came up the other side of the embankment, I could here a boy trying to get my attention.  “Ssssst, sssst,” was coming from the other side.  Sure enough, that moment had just presented itself.  For   I signaled to him to come over and knelt down behind a couple of well placed bushes.  I asked him if he remembered the woman in the picture as I held up my phone. “Yes,” he said grinning.  I told him upset Tamara was at not having a pencil for him and that she wanted me to see him to right that wrong.  The grin got wider and brilliant white teeth shown as I handed him two pencils.  “Thank you,” he said in English before turning and running back to the other school.  Mission accomplished.
whatever reason, Tamara’s friend had followed us, but keeping a
very safe distance behind.
We entered the administrative office and repeated the customary greetings with the teachers.  We then sat with John and Tom Owur (Secondary School headmaster) and discussed many of the same topics we spoke about with Charles.  I’m always interested in getting many viewpoints on the things that can adversely effect the work we do.  John is also very adept at informing us of the history behind the changes that this country has seen.  Katie and he could spend hours together talking about history.
We paid Manasse’s fees and started our journey back.  The 3 hours of sleep I got finally caught up with me and I was beginning to feel all the pressure of gravity on my shoulders.  Tom was kind enough to offer us a ride back to the Peacock.  I was thrilled!  As we drove, I told Job that if we had to walk he’d have probably left me dead in the road and used me as a speed bump.  That got the two of them laughing.  Tom was hesitant on turns, and I attributed it to the somewhat steep dips in the road that we traveled.  I was wrong.  “Do you believe that I just learned to drive in August?” he asked.  I reached for the seat belt.  No, just kidding.  He was actually a very good driver displaying the same types of slight hesitations that any new driver does.  The reality is that I wouldn’t have cared if he drove on the wrong side of the road the entire way.
He came in to see the place before heading back.  He lives quite far from the school, so the car has become something of a necessity for him.
Because of the car ride home I was able to take a nap before meeting with Christine at her home just down the road.  She is among my favorite teachers at the school.  She takes a keen interest in each of her students and you can tell they admire her greatly. 
Job came to get me at 6pm and we started toward her house at 6:30.  She has a beautiful home in a gated area with two other families and their homes.  I wish I would have taken a picture of it.  It’s only 100 yards from here, so maybe I’ll get one tomorrow.  She wanted us to stop by and say hi away from the bustle of the school.  We sat and had something to drink with some biscuits.  We talked and laughed as Job brought us up to speed on his girlfriend, who happened to be the only interruption in the story due to her texting Job constantly.  That took quite some time, but was very entertaining.  There were many similarities between Job and Kevin.  “She said she didn’t want anything for her birthday so I didn’t get here anything.”  It was those kinds of comments that had Christine and I shaking our heads.  Although we had not prepared ahead of time, our responses were the same.  “I told her she should call me to remind me that her birthday is tomorrow.”  Oye.  It’s a work in progress.
Christine then informed me that she was now teaching class 4-6, when she had previously taught class 1-3.  She beamed with excitement over the change because the students that she left in class 3 were now her students again! She talks about teaching the same way Karen does, and it’s simply exciting to watch.  What a gift it is to be doing something that you love.  We finished our juice and began the walk back to the Peacock.
Thank God it was only 100 yards.  It’s pitch black outside… it’s like the exact opposite of a blizzard, and you still can’t see your hand in front of your face.  No ambient light from anywhere, and people walking along the road as if they were wearing night vision goggles.  I left my torch in the room, but luckily I had my phone.  That wasn’t enough, though.  As we crossed the street I almost walked right over a woman who was also crossing.  I didn’t see her until she was touching my right arm.  As a person who does not like scary movies, I was thankful I didn’t scream like a little girl.  She was dressed in black from head to toe!  Who does that at night?!  We passed by another person and I could only make out a very faint silouette thanks to the headlights from some oncoming traffic way off in the distance.  Job said, “He’s drunk.  Let’s move out to the road.”  We had been walking along a dirt road that parallels the main street.  It’s worn down by all the foot traffic.  “How do you know he was drunk?”  Didn’t you see him weaving back and forth?  He can’t walk straight.”  Nope, never saw it.  I promise not to do that again.  Please don't yell at me.  Next time I'll remember my flashlight, or better yet, I'll be home before dark.
The lights from the Peacock lit up the entrance so I was able to leave the camera light off for the remainder of the walk back to my room.  It’s just reaching 10pm now and Job sent me a message saying, “Go to sleep, please.”  I can’t just yet.  Now that I’ve got this typed, I need to go into the restaurant or back outside to upload it to the blog.  I’ll take that opportunity to talk to Ann, too.  I feel like I haven’t talked to her in weeks.  That’s just me missing her… and her missing me.  The days are going slower than I remember in the past.  The speed will surely pick up after Wednesday.


The J's said...

Sounds like you are having a wonderful and successful trip. Love to see all the smiles...especially yours.
Please don't walk at night without your torch!! Now, listen to Job...get some sleep.
We love and miss you

Adam Jablonski said...

I'm turning in now... love and miss you all, too!