"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.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Good morning! It's a little after 6am here, and I'm grateful for the 5 hours of sleep I got last night.  I was Facetiming with Andrea and Karen yesterday when my computer died in the middle of the call, hence, no blog posting.  There wasn't much to say, though.  The flight from Dubai to Kisumu was uneventful.  There was a man on the first leg from JFK who was coughing like it was his job.  The cough wasn't as bad as his failed attempts to clear his throat afterward.  It was as if he was on the plane alone.  Suffice to say that it was loud, it was fairly regular, and it even grossed me out.  After 12 hours of hacking, he's probably down to one lung.
Thankfully, he wasn't coming with me to Nairobi.  The plane from JFK left late so the two-and-a half hour layover was reduced to about an hour.  Nothing new in Dubai.  Shops still look the same and construction continues - every year this airport gets bigger.  As I said, the flight to Nairobi was also uneventful.   I watched a horrible movie and fell asleep for a bit before landing.  I try not to sleep on that leg because it's only 1 hour off of Kenya time and it gives me a chance to start changing my sleep patterns.  It rarely works, but you know what they say, "If your behavior doesn't yield the results you're looking for... keep doing the exact same thing."
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as been under construction since the fires they had 3(?) years ago.  It looks wonderful from the outside but I won't get to see that until I fly out.  They had a bus take us from the tarmac directly to where the luggage vehicles unload.  It was similar to the visit Kevin and I had in July with one exception.  As we walked into the tunnel leading underneath the airport, we formed two lines and waited for 2 official-looking (they wore the equivalent of a white lab coat) individuals waved us through. We stopped at a yellow line painted on the floor then, one at a time, proceeded to another yellow line 6 feet away.  Two angled thermal imaging screens above let everyone watch the excitement.  Each person's hands and face glowed a bright white as the walked forward.  I was the 5th or 6th person in line but near as I could tell, they were checking your body temperature.  I'm only speculating here, but I would guess that if the your face glowed the correct color, you were pulled out of line.  I'm also guessing that this was my first screening for ebola.  On a more humorous side, as I watched the people ahead of me go through the line I stared intently at their thermal image as if I knew what I was looking at.  I stared as I walked to the second yellow line and was disappointed at the image I saw when I stopped... my head and shoulders didn't even appear on the screen.  Apparently I was "cool enough" as the image moved from bottom to top.
My bags cam out very quickly, but I wasn't in any rush.  I had three hours before my next flight.  The domestic airport is across the street and before I crossed over I wandered into a small alley of shops to buy some cell minutes and make sure my old SIM card worked.  I'm batting .500.  The card in the modem worked, the phone did not.  Safari com (cell carrier) sets them off after 6-8 months of inactivity.  One new SIM card later and I was able to make phone calls.  Great!  Who should I wake up at 6am to say, "Jambo!"  I waited a bit and called home.  Although at that time I was disappointed that I never got an answer, I was glad that Andrea and Karen were fast asleep.  They both slept in late (8am is late for Andrea, not so much Karen) due to Ann's migraine the night before.  
To answer another question I got asked, the cell service in this country is outstanding!  They have a couple consistent carriers (Safaricom has been the most reliable for me), and then a handful of others are constantly changing.  You can buy minutes anywhere and they are available in every denomination down to 10 kenyan shillings (just a little less more than a penny).  The modems work the same way.  They're look like a thumb drive and act like a cell phone for you computer.  With the modem, though, you buy data bundles... $12 gets you 1.5gigs.  If you want your smart phone to act smart, you need to buy minutes AND a data bundle.   
The domestic airport at JKI is a little tiny thing. You walk through a pathetic excuse for a metal detector when you first walk in - this is before you get to the ticket counter.  It's literally 6' inside the door.  You place your luggage and any belongings on the belt and walk through.  I have NEVER seen them stop anything on the belt, ever.  I left my water in the luggage cart as I walked away, but no worries, the "security guard" (this official was identified by a mustard colored vest and a "JKI Airport" pin) was kind enough to hand me my water as I walked through the X-ray.  I should have checked to see if either machine was plugged in.
Another 30 yards away sat the ticket counters for Kenya Airways, Jambojet and Jetlink.  Don't fly the latter unless absolutely necessary.  I've flown them all and Kenya Airways really IS the "Pride of Africa." Finally, a slogan that was accurate.  After they took my bags I made my way to the gates... another 60 years away.  I had to pass through another questionable x ray machine.  I think you need a 2' piece of lead pipe in your backpack before the alarm goes off.  Not comforting for the faint of heart, but it was fine for me.  The chairs are situated in 2 groups of about 100, with each group facing a different direction.  Three gates are easily visible from any chair.  When I say "gate" I mean "glass door."  Again, everything is relative.  When it's time to board, they check your ID and ticket and proceed through the "gate" walking to your plane.  
Kenya Airways has updated their planes!  Somehow the planes always look new.  Very clean, leather seats throughout the plane with a  first class cabin.  This time, however, they had tv screens on the back of each seat!  Bonus!  I instantly started tapping the screen to see what the options were (yes, they were touch screens).  Classic Movies - Unforgiven, Police Academy, The Mask.  I didn't have the courage to look any further.  "Classic" is clearly a very relative term.  A group of 3 Americans entered the plane (I know this because they were wheezing as if the stairs into the plane led them to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Well, the southern drawl gave it away, too.  I sat in my seat and closed my eyes.  That did not stop the evangelical Christian from Arkansas (sitting across the isle from me) from carrying on a conversation... for the entire flight!  It was his first trip to Kenya so I gave him some of the more valuable pointers.  
1.  Don't drink water from anything unless you have to break a seal to get to it.  
2.  Calling the US is ridiculously cheap on a Kenyan cellphone.  A SIM card will cost you $3USD and $10USD in minutes will last you two weeks.
3.  They will bring you a pitcher and a basin to wash your hands before every meal.  Make sure your hands are dry before you touch any food.  The water will be teaming with bacteria, but it's their custom so don't offend them.
4.  See #1.
The plane landed quickly in Kisumu.  This is an even smaller airport.  You again had to walk down the flight of stairs and onto the tarmac before walking to the terminal.  To give you an idea of the size of the airport, my bags got to the terminal before I did.
Our friend Job met me just outside and we got in the car with our driver Elly (the "E' is a hard "A") who drove us into town for supplies (water and bread) and then off to Maseno and the Peacock Resort... yup, there's that "all things are relative" again.
This place is really quite nice compared to the places we've stayed in before.  The bugs are much fewer (a disappointment to many who read this blog) and they have fans and tv's in every room.  Only one channel on the tv, though, and it's operated by the guy behind the bar out front.  You watch what he watches.  While the food here is quite good, dinners are notoriously slow.  We order to plates of chicken before we left Kisumu.  We arrived at the Peacock 45 minutes later.  We unpacked the car, checked into the room, unpacked my bags, went out front to a table and STILL waiting 45 minutes for the food.  I was told that when we arrived they had just started pealing the potatoes for the "chip" (Fries).  Job and I talked about the week ahead of us while we waited.  All I could think of was John Steinbeck... "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."
Despite a well laid plan, everything has changed.  The government has been even more uncooperative and troublesome than usual.  Perhaps it's because the President is the Hague on trial for war crime.  Perhaps.  Anywho, some shoddy construction in Nairobi has led to deaths when buildings have collapsed around people.  That led to all construction plans being put on hold until a secondary review of the structural drawings is completed.  They made this decision last week.  We have all the supplies we need to build a dormitory at HUMA; we just can't do anything with them until the drawings are approved, AGAIN!  Hopefully we'll get started on Tuesday.  Hapuna matata (it really means "no worries").  If I got upset ever time we were thrown a curve ball here, I would always be upset and it would detract from the work that we do.  This is their country and we need to play by their rules.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.
As I said before, I was able to speak to Andrea and Karen (FaceTime/Skype are wonderful things!) before turning in.  I just love being able to see them when I'm on the other side of the world!  I unpacked my belongings and organized them as best I could.  I was having greater difficulty organizing my thoughts.  It got to be about midnight when I gave up trying to get my iPhone to fulfill it's "smart" end of the smartphone bargain.  I don't know why but I wasn't able to access the internet or send texts.  Oh well, there's always tomorrow.
Welcome to tomorrow.  Clearly, when I said, "I don't have much to write," I was mistaken.  It is now 7:30am and my phone is back to being smart.  Apparently it needed some sleep, too.  We've got a long day ahead of us, so I'm thankful that my headache from last night is gone.  I'm stilling feeling a bit "off," but we'll see how the day progresses.  
As my new friend from Arkansas would say, "Talk to y'all later."
And I promise pictures.
Time to get ready, so let's go see if there's any hot water.  Please keep your fingers crossed.
Also, one last thing before I go.  Andrea's been letting me know of all of you that are "watching" over me on this trip.  I can't thank you enough for that.  I travel with you when I'm here, and that friends list has grown larger thanks to a recent trip to Italy.  Thank you all.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Don't forget to take your malaria pills! Looking forward to photos!