I woke up at 6am and tried to make some calls but alas, I wasn't able to talk to Andrea... hopefully she was sleeping soundly. I didn't wait long enough for the heater to warm up, so I ended up taking a cold shower, too. Perhaps that is why I feel so wide awake now. The internet is still giving me grief so I came outside to post yesterday's blog and finishing uploading pictures. Everything was still closed up... the rising sun hasn't rousted anyone out of bed yet. It was quite peaceful on the veranda. There wasn't much traffic and when I closed my eyes I would have guessed that I was in an aviary. The birds were busy having conversation and carrying on. I sat for about 30 minutes before I saw my first signs of life. At 7:05am, the workers came out and began sweeping the pathways. A young lady emerged from a room to begin mopping the veranda. It's a daily routine that's impressive to watch... she doesn't use a mop. Instead, she uses a bath towel. The women here do much of the physical labor here, and the way in which they bend continues to amaze me. Whether they are working the maize fields or mopping floors there posture is astounding. They bend at the waist as if their torso barely hanging on to the lower have of their body. They literally fold in half with their legs completely straight, and move there heads right dow to the floor. Amazing. She cleaned the opposite half of the veranda first and as she moved to where I was I got up to move so she could finish her work.
A young man came in and waved to me. I responded with "Oh-yah-oh-ray" (don't forget to roll the "r") with is "Good morning" in Doluo. I stopped him in his tracks. As the smile grew he decided to test me. "Ee-dee-nah-dee" (how are your?) "Ah-dee-mah-bear-ah-enya," I replied. "I am very well." He came up and we talked some more, most of which entailed my explaining how I knew the Luo language. He shook my hand and went on his way.
The table I moved to was very wobbly. Here they would say it was "dancing." No matter, I'm typing in my lap. Job has arrived and informed me that our driver for the day (George) had raised his daily rate from 4,000ksh to 6,000ksh. George found out I was a mzungu (white man). Although there were several phone calls between he and Job, George wasn't budging. Even though 4,000 Kenyan shillings is equivalent to just $50, I wasn't going to be cheated. I told Job to call him back and tell him to forget it... "The mzungu is calling a friend that can do it for 4,000." He called buck to say that he was able to get the price down to 4,500. I still said no. We found other transport. We're heading to Huma to see if there's been any progress with the dormitory we're building, then we're off to meet with Noelle Shanali in Sereba.
|These are plants that I've never seen|
before... passion fruit!
Merab Nyapola and Madam Linette are the principal and deputy at Huma Girls Secondary School. They run tight ship and it shows. The girls are very well behaved and their marks are very high. The drive to the school is flat which was a welcome change even though we weren't walking. It's further off the main road than Mbaka Oromo is, and it's also much busier. The lack of rain has made the roads exceptionally dry and the traffic causes tremendous dust. There's a thick coating of fine red dirt on everything within 10' of the road. I would prefer it dry than wet, though, as when this stuff gets wet, it gets sticky. It only takes a few paces before your shoes are caked with it... adding up to 5 pounds to each foot, and it's a bear to clean off.
As we entered the compound through a narrow manned gate the first thing we saw were stacks of neatly piled blocks, sand for concrete and stones - all supplies for the new dormitory. The ladies met us in Merab's office and had breakfast ready. Breakfast #2. Boiled eggs this time so I didn't mind. While we ate with them we discussed the reason construction hadn't started. They're building a new laboratory and have been having issues with the construction. That has slowed things down because the current lab takes up some of the space being dedicated to the dorm. We can't build the dormitory until the old lab is demolished, and we can't demolish the old lab until the new one is finished. Dominoes. There's an engineer coming from the government today to see if we can begin construction even though the space will be tighter. I'm supposed to break ground on this project on Friday. They were joking that I'll be digging a hole that's 6' deep. It makes me prefer a ribbon cutting ceremony.
We walked around the campus talking as the girls moved from class to class. This is a beautiful, sprawling campus that the teachers, students and parents take great pride in. When we returned to the office the driver was waiting to take us to the Green Park Hotel (although it's a restaurant) where we were meeting Noelle. The Green Park has good chicken... and it's ready in less than 30 minutes!
Nuts! The Green Park is no longer in business. Job talked to a man outside who said that they left, and then he suggested the Maseno Club.
It's on the north end of Maseno University's campus, closer to the equator. They have a hotel and a restaurant; the latter of which I've experienced. Service was always slow, and 3 years ago they were doing upgrades to the hotel. The upgrades were completed, so we took a tour of the place. Either nobody was there or everyone was out for the day. It might be a bad sign but I think there were no tenants. We looked in each of the room options; single, double, double with two beds and the "palace" which contained a king bed and a single. Each had it's own bathroom with hot showers. It could probably use a container of clorox wipes, but it was definitely an option. At the very least we can use it to help get a more reasonable rate out of the Peacock. A double at the Peacock is 2,500ksh and here at the Maseno Club it's only 1,700ksh. We ordered drinks while we waited for Noelle to arrive. I've known her for many years, and she's been very helpful. She's always eager to assist inane project we've had from scholarship recommendations to the Sanity Pad project, she's always been eager to help and I can't recall her ever saying "no."
She sat between Job and I and after getting updates on all sides we started talking business. They had told us that the food would take 45 minutes; it's difficult not to be cynical here. We ordered and kept talking. Noelle is a Community Development Professional and always has wonderful insight into the projects that we work on as well as additional ones that we might not consider. She called me one day to tell me about Mercelynne, a young girl with a poor mother, a runaway father, no money, but a brilliant mind. Her mother was active in their church and wanted a better life than she had. She was admittedly an uneducated woman but worked tirelessly for the betterment of her children, usually hocking items in the street. She told me her story how she tried to have her daughter enrolled in secondary school, but was chased away by the faculty when she could not meet the payments. Noelle then called me. True to form, everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that Mercelynne was the reason that God put Noelle on my path in Kenya. Now, 4 years later, Mercelynne awaits notification from college regarding an academic scholarship. I've always tried looking for her mother, Mama Rembo, but have never been able to find her. Noelle agreed to take us to her home after lunch. She's not answering her phone, but maybe we'll get lucky.
Almost 2 hours later, our food arrived. I can't imagine what a fast food restaurant would look like here. I ordered dry fried chicken and they brought me wet. That just means that they pour soup over the top of it. I'd have sent it back if I wasn't hungry, and if I had another 2 hours to burn. The conversation continued as we ate and shared stories about Jim. We laughed so much that the people at the surrounding tables kept turning to look to see what all the commotion was about. Once finished we moved on to Sereba in search of Mama Rembo.
We pulled into Sereba, the small town across the street from the Maseno Guest house. It might have been safer for the car if we got out and walked, but our driver George navigated the dips and rocks pretty well as we left the asphalt and entered the dusty dirt road. We drove a few hundred yard before turning down a small alley and stopping. We got out and headed into what I can only call a Kenyan apartment building. Three floors of single room apartments and from what I could see, not one of them had a single occupant. The most I saw inside one room was 5. We navigated under clothes lines where every imaginable article was hanging there drying. We walked up two flights of stairs that OSHA never would have approved and turned down a narrow hallway.
Noelle entered first to shouts of joy. She has been a friend of the family for many years and they are eternally grateful for bringing Building Futures to Mercelynne's aid. Job went next, and though he was a stranger, the cheers continued. I was a bit uneasy as if my presence would have silenced Rembo. I soon realized that I was the only mungo she knew, and was more than likely the only mungo to step foot in her home. To my surprise, the first face I saw as I rounded the door was Mercelynne. We didn't know she was there and her reaction made me smile immediately. She quickly put her hands to a gaping mouth and shouted a muted "Oh!" Then I came
into Mama Rembo's field of vision. She began clapping and praising God. "Welcome, welcome, you ah most welcome!" She shouted. She repeated that phrase until I sat down, at which time the mantra changed to, "Asante, asante, may God bless you!" I wasn't sure which one of us was going to begin crying first. It took some patience, but she finally relaxed onto a couch next to Mercelynne.
The room was very small, even for just the two of them. I'm guessing it was 8' wide and 12' deep with a sheet hanging on a string separating the back 4' from the remainder of the home. Rumba's sister was visiting and came from behind the sheet to say hello before leaving the room - probably more due to spacial constraints than imposition.
The meek little girl that I met 4 years ago had grown into a confident young woman. She was conversational and helped translate for her mother who often struggled with English. Remo ten retold the story of how she was hocking items trying to raise money for her daughters education. How she only had 500ksh so she spent 250 on the round trip to Busia to spend the remaining funds on small plastic bowls that she hoped to sell for 100% profit. She told us how the bowls had to be placed on the back of the matte due to lack of space, and how they had fallen off the matatu on the way to Maseno. She was heartbroken, but prayed that God would provide. There were 3 more similar stories of hope and despair before she crossed paths with Noelle who begged her to let her help. Noelle called me, and the rest was beautiful history. She insisted on buying us sodas that I'm certain she could not afford. She kept saying what a miracle it was that I found her. I kept declining the credit, not just because it made me uncomfortable, but it wasn't mine to accept. I didn't choose to begin walking on this path I find myself on any more than Andrea and our children did. This, however, is where we find ourselves because I truly believe this is where God wants us now. I graciously declined dinner and stood up indicating it was time to go (we were already late for an
|Mercelynne and Noelle|
appointment with a Reach the Children representative). Not so fast! We couldn't leave without Mama Rembo saying a prayer for us and our journey. It was in Kiswahili so I'm not entirely sure what she said, but she said a lot and meant every word of it.
Mercelynne walked us out and had her picture taken with Noelle and Job then stood waving as we pulled away.
The ride to Kisumu was hot! The sun was still high in the sky and it was focusing all of its attention on the car we were in. Rolling the windows down gave no relief because the air was just as hot. We arrived at the Royal Hotel and waited for Justus Suchi. He is the local contact for Reach the Children - another Fairport based NGO that we have formed a partnership with. I was so glad we got together! He arrived shortly after we did looking light and happy. We immediately started telling each other about ourselves. He had known of my from the visits over the past 9 years and was also grateful for the opportunity to put a name to the face. He's extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. I know that Job can learn a lot from Suchi and Suchi is happy to expose him to areas of service we aren't involved in. They got along very well, too. Another blessing. Lunch was so late that Job and I weren't very hungry (the sodas from Mama Rembo didn't help) so we just sat and talked sipping juice and water. Finally it was time to head back to Maseno - the sun was starting to drop and I wanted to be home before it disappeared. I snapped a picture of a common scene while seated in the passenger seat. Have a look at this, then imagine it in the dark. Although we're probably only traveling at 40mph, it's not for the faint of heart. I was beginning to get too tired to care.
Now I'm way ahead of schedule on the blog. I'd be done now but halfway through writing my computer battery ran out of gas. I've returned to my room to finish while it's charging, then it's back outside to upload pictures. I know that many of you have been unable to post comments. I will try to see if I can't remedy that situation, so please don't give up. If you keep reading, I'll keep writing
One last story then it's off to bed.Andrea and I were blessed to participate in a pilgrimage to Italy with our friend Immaaculee Ilibigiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor and author. During the trip we visited San Giovani Rotondo, the home of Saint Padre Pio. We made many friends during our time together, but Padre Pio's church was especially moving. One of our new friends gave Andrea a Padre
Pio bracelet that she cherished. I hope I'm not telling stories out of school when I say that they came into this pilgrimage somewhat broken and their newfound friendship seemed to help mend them both. Sadly, the bracelet had broken while there so I collected the pieces and dropped them into the bottom of my computer bag. I found them this morning and will make an attempt at stringing them back together so that I can give them to Dr. Pio before I leave. Saint Pio mended hearts while in Italy and Dr. Pio mends bodies in Kenya. Yup, another blessing.
See you tomorrow.