"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


Okay, now I'll try to pick up where I left off this morning.
Yes!  Hot water was flowing freely.  Well, it was more warm than hot but beggars can't be choosy.  They use these European heaters here.  They attach to the water supply and heat the water as it flows through.  You only get to choose 2 temperatures, but it works.  This morning, I may not have let it warm up enough before I got in.  I'll give it more time tomorrow.
I ate a quick breakfast on the veranda that consisted of a fried egg, a sausage, and two pieces of bread.  Despite my love of eggs, I can guarantee that I'll be tired of eggs in a few days.  I'll probably switch on and off between that and the some breakfast bars I brought with me.  The same will go for dinner.  I'm still not hungry (lunch at 2 was a bit much), so I'll probably have a PB&J before in a few hours.  I don't anticipate sleeping much tonight.  Karen's heading back to school so I know I'll try to call/Facetime her when she arrives in a few hours.  Kevin's at home with Andrea, so I plan on being up for at least the first half of the Patriots game.  We got back early today (around 3) and I was grateful because it gave me a chance to nap.  Apparently, I don't "nap" like most people.  3 hours was just enough.  Yes, I am wide awake now... it's only 8:45pm, so by the time I'm done writing it will probably be close to midnight.  It takes awhile for pictures to upload so that slows down the process significantly.  The fact that the signal is intermittent doesn't help.

I can't get a signal in my room, so I'm sitting outside at a table.  There's a cool breeze which is very comfortable... it also keeps the skeeters away.  The main road is behind me over a hedgerow so I here the cars and lorries passing by.  I'm thankful that there's not much traffic.  Because this is the only main road, it's often lined with tankers and trucks.  We're situated at the middle of a steep incline so the diesel exhaust can be quite overpowering.  Tonight it's barely noticeable.  I am probably 40 yards from the hotel, and the veranda is loaded with other guests and locals shouting in Luo and Kiswahili. Banging fists and uproars of laughter must be echoing across the valley.  Local music is playing softly behind them.  Uhungala can best be described as a style... it's like a mix between reggae and 80's music.  Yes, everything sounds the same.  The only difference is that some of it is fast and some of it is slow.  Just another reason not to need a jukebox.  Here's a picture of the hotel from where I'm sitting.  Before anyone gets nervous, the entire compound is fenced.  The only way in is an 8' high gate that is manned by a guard 24 hours a day.  He opens it when vehicles come in with guests.  Next to the gate is a small foot path for foot traffic.  He sits right next to that opening.  Hakuna matata.  As a side note, trying to type in Kiswahili in conjunction with spellcheck is incredibly difficult.
Job and I set off walking this morning after breakfast.  The temperature was comfortable but it didn't last.  30 minutes later it was quite warm. We're probably 1 mile south of the equator here so we're barely in the southern hemisphere.  We'll cross the equator as we get closer to the school.  I'm trying to convince myself that the walk is more stressful because it's all uphill; as if all things "due North" were.  Normally, Kevin would be interjecting comments about the Coriolis effect about now.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.
We first stopped to see Wendy.  I do believe that she is one of the cutest little girls I have ever seen (barring my own of course).  She came running out with a wide smile as we passed by the shrubs that marked her home.  We sat with her and her mom a bit.  This girl is constantly smiling.  Constantly.  She has wide brown eyes that are loaded with innocence and curiosity.  She sat next to me as we gave her some gifts from her friend Amie back in the US, as well as a supply of rice, beans, sugar, flour and cooking oil.  
I threw in some lollipops just to be safe.  Her mother only speaks the native Luo, and my Luo is pretty limited so Job translated.  She wanted us to stay for tea but we managed to artfully take a raincheck.  Wendy's mom looked ill and I asked if that was contributing to Wendy's declining grades at school.  The resounding response was, "Yes."  Wendy is given many responsibilities at home, and it's detracting from her studies.  She has gone from the top of her class to below the middle and I am understandably concerned.  We have some suspicions about her mother's condition and I'll wait until we find out more (rather than speculating) before we formulate a plan.  Her health plays a vital role in that plan.
We continued on toward Mbaka Oromo (still uphill by my standards).  We stopped in to see Esther and her grandchildren, Susan, Emmah and Danton.  Like Wendy, they came running as we approached.  Emmah is the outgoing one in the bunch and her personality continues to be right there for you to see.  She's much like a smaller, Kenyan version of Karen - curious, funny, a bit mischievous, and very protective of the ones she loves.  Susan is a bit more reserved and quiet.  Her smile speaks volumes, and she lets it do most of her talking for her.  Danton is the youngest and is coming into his own.  He hasn't grown much since June, but he was much more outgoing.  We brought gifts from Andrea and Karen, but decided it would be best for them to come see us at the hotel to pick them.  Susan (especially) has been getting harassed at school because of our relationship so we're very cognizant to avoid behavior that will encourage that.  By coming to the Peacock, nobody sees what we're carrying and nobody sees us going to their home and leaving with empty packs.  We anticipated seeing them at 4.  That way we could try to FaceTime with Ann and Karen - it will be 8am back home.  We were invited in but didn't stay for tea.  I'm getting very good at graciously declining.  I'll get away with it once each trip, and I know we'll need to concede the next time we see them.  We said our goodbye's and moved on to Mbaka Oromo Secondary School.
The new semester officially starts tomorrow and that's the main reason we were heading there today.  We avoid the formalities of tea and greetings and speeches that can take up a significant amount of the day.  They are customary, however, and therefore necessary; just not today.  We first cam upon the secondary school.  The grass was high and need of some cutting.  Job assured me that it would be done before we arrive tomorrow.  There was no Kenyan flag waving from the make shift pole (made from the trunk of a blue gum tree) and the entire compound looked like a ghost town, sans tumble weeds.  It looked smaller without the hustle and bustle of students and teachers.  We snapped some pictures and moved toward the primary school.  There's a stream that separates the two schools, but don't let the term "stream" fool you.  It's probably a 30' drop to get to the stream.  At one point it was level, but water erosion is just as powerful here as anywhere else.  There quite a ways from their own Grand Canyon, but it's still quite impressive.  That was actually the reason Jim first came to the school.  That erosion left classrooms sitting on the edge of that 30' drop.  Literally.  
As we walked down the embankment, I spotted some parents sitting behind a classroom. As we walked up the other side, there were more seated in the shade of the same building. All-n-all, there were probably 15 sets of parents waiting for the Primary School headmaster, Charles.  We believe that they were being interviewed for high school sponsorship interviews that Joining Hearts and Hands sponsors.  They had just been here last week.  We didn't recognize any of them, so we waved and smiled as we walked toward Samuel's house.  We stopped out front on the other side of the cornfield but saw no movement.  Music was playing from a radio, but that was the only sign of life.  We decided to head toward the clinic and pass by Samuel's again on the way back.  

We passed by Jim's memorial and sat for a bit.  It looks good.  One of the students we sponsor, Manasse, has been caring for the site.  As I was sitting there he came walking up the hill to do some cleaning.  He's a secondary school student who is very bright.  He is soft spoken and shy, but he's growing into quite a young man. 
When I heard his voice I stood up and held my arms outstretched.  He didn't see me at first, but when I stood up he broke into genuine laughter and gave me a hug.  I told him he was in need of a haircut, which made the laughter and the hug continue.  This is his last year of high school and I'm happy to say he has pans for college.  His laughter and smiles continued as we headed for the clinic.

It looked great!  Nobody was there but that's
ok, although I would have loved to see a new mother and baby there.  The doctors were out working in the community.  I am extremely happy to say that the flowers that we blindly planted in June bloomed as promised.  We took something of a leap of faith when purchasing them.  The were green and dormant when we bought them, and despite the other flowers, we were told that these particular ones would bloom orange.  I certainly had my doubts, but this time I was the one with the wide smile.  We were probably a week late for the bloom, but they bloomed orange as promised.  I hope that Marilyn and Terry are smiling right now.  They are the parents of Hannah Congdon who this doctor's residence was named for...  I'm still smiling as I type.

I also wanted to point out that the trees we planted last year with Amie, Sam and Richie have grown incredibly tall.  That too was hard to believe... they were about 6" high when we planted them!  As evidenced, Job delivered.
We then returned to Samuel's home. to find him ironing his church clothes.  He came outside when he saw Job approaching, then he spotted me a few steps behind.  Sam is big, strong man with a booming voice.  "HALLO!" he yelled as I came close.  Much like a car accident, you need to try and stay relaxed when Sam approaches.  Despite being in his 60's he's as strong as an ox and his hugs have been known to break a man in two.  True to form, the bear hug ensued.  If it weren't for my height I truly believe I would be paralyzed by now.  He's much more gentle with women, but he must think he can go all out on me.  He did.  Job was afraid he was going to hurt me.  The bear hug is one thing, but he then bangs his big hand on your back repeatedly.  The hand is so big that it doesn't sting, but it sounds like he's slapping cow.  No pun intended.  I should have said, "horse."  He invited us inside and we sat and talked.  He cam in laughing, "You look very healthy!"  That means I'm fat.    It's a compliment here; not so much at home.  I tried to change the subject, but he just kept on repeating himself.  "You look well fed!"  "Oh, you are so healthy!"  "You surely have grown!"  STOP! PLEASE!   His laughter in between the commentary was not helping my self esteem. 

The room we sat in contained his crop from the recent harvesting.  Things were very dry this season and it left many families with very little.  Samuel's home sits at one of the lowest points in the area so it's the last one to dry out.  The effects of the lack of rain was evident, though.  Normally, there would be no place to sit because the corn was piled halfway up the walls.  Compared to surrounding homes it was a great harvest.

The iron sat in front of me with glowing embers inside of it.  He ironed while we talked, occasionally dipping the iron in a bucket of water to control the temperature.  I stared at the iron and smiled at the history that lay within it.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

We left him to his work, telling him we'd see him tomorrow and headed back home.

There were spots along the way that looked quite lush and gave no indication of any drought, but there were other sections that were clearly in need of some water.  The road was cleared so that vehicles can go to the clinic.  Job said that some people call it, “Adam’s Road.”  That’s just a sign of their understanding that if it weren’t for the clinic there would be no road.  I asked Job to encourage them to call it, “Hilda’s Road,” because with out Hilda Ayieko (the local public health officer), there would be no clinic.
The walk home was much easier… obviously because it was all downhill.  I spotted a young boy carrying an object that was almost about his size.  Job told me that it’s a local fruit that has no name.  It’s very sweet, though, despite it’s appearance.

When we got back to the Peacock, I was hoping that my sink was fixed.  The down spout was poorly connected, so every time you ran the water, it simply flowed right onto the floor.   Well, no such luck.  They wouldn’t let a fundi in the room because of my belongings so they asked me to change rooms.  It was a surprisingly difficult endeavor probably because everything was unpacked and put away.  We had some time before the girls were arriving, and Job helped transfer items.  We got it done in time for  a 30 second nap (clearly not long enough) before Susan, Emmah and Danton strolled by my window.  I gathered their things and went outside to greet them. 
They were seated around a round wooden table identical to the one I’m sitting at now. Which reminds me that the slats in these matching cares cause you to switch positions about every 15 minutes.  Job had not yet returned so I handed them their gifts.  I went youngest to oldest.  Their things were in white plastic bags, but when I handed Danton his he didn’t need to open it.  It contained a blue and green soccer ball.  I bet he still has the same smile on his face.  He clutched it like it was a puppy and never let go of it.  Emmah was next then Susan.  They asked if it was ok if they waited until they got home to open them.  Susan was a bit more talkative this time and Emmah was Emmah.  We chatted a bit with their mom and they added comments sparingly.  I asked them how they were doing in school and then what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Susan quietly said, “a doctor,” and smiled.  Emmah blurted out, “teacher.”  No shock there… another similarity to Karen.  I wish I could better convey their accent when I’m writing because it really adds to everything.  For instance, when they call my name it sounds like “Ah-dahm” with the emphasis on the dam.  They often tag an S onto to the end, but I’ve never figured out why.  When Susan and Emmah answered, it sounded like, “dahk-tah” and “tee-chah.”  Danton was last and he said a word in kiswahili that I’d never heard before.  His response was the loudest and most firm.  His mom and Job started laughing immediately.  Danton said he wants to be a matatu conductor.  These are the men that collect the money as you get the matatu.  It’s akin to a large van that acts as a taxi.  Only the taxi driver is a maniac and there are no limits to the number of people permitted to ride at one time.  Sardines have it better.  Despite the comments from his mother, Danton remain unphased; still with a smile on his face.

They departed after a bit and Job and I sat and talked.  I wasn’t feeling very well again.  I continue to order kuku and skumawiki, and I have yet to have skuma.  They keep giving me a large plate of chips.  “Chips” are fries (sorry if I’m being redundant) that aren’t always cooked really well and usually have quite a bit of oil still on them.  They’re quite tasty but I have yet to come close to eating them all.  That oil may have something to do with it.  Who knows…
I went back to my room and sat down… then laid down, and you know what that means.  I slept through dinner but I’m still not hungry and it is now 12:07am.  The signal for the phone and the modem is better outside.  I’ve come inside to charge my phone and computer, and there’s no signal in here at all!  Soon I’ll head back out to try to upload some pictures for the blog and call Andrea and the kids.  If it all works as planned, I should be back here in bed by a little after 2am with another posting.  If not, you may have to wait until tomorrow.  You’ll be the second to know.
Lala salama.  “Sleep peacefully.”

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