"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.

Friday, January 23, 2015


We had a meeting with the Clinic Committee scheduled for 8am.  As expected, the meeting started promptly at 9:15... and 2 members showed up at 9:45.  While we waited I wandered over to the far corner of the compound to try and get a better signal.  The issues with computer signals has been plaguing me since the second day and I haven't been able to shake them.  You would think that the signal would be better up in the hills.  Apparently not.  I sat, rather stood for 8 minutes just waiting for the Google homepage to load.  I placed the computer on the top of the cement septic tank and waited.  Dr Piyo came up behind to say good morning.  We were by ourselves so I had a perfect opportunity to I've him the bracelet and more importantly, tell him the story about last night.  He stood smiling as I went through each part and then ended it by showing him the picture of the bracelet with the shadow of the praying hands.  He was in awe.  "Wow," he said as he held the bracelet in his left hand and gently touching it with his right.  After a long pause he said, "I must do something special with this," and proceeded to tell me he wanted to fashion it into a bracelet using the same elastic bands that the tiles originally came on.  He just stood there quietly, staring at it before raising his head to me and saying, "Thahnks, thahnks a lawt.  Thees theeng ees very spesee-al."  I then explained what a selfie was before taking one with him.  "Please, kahn you send thaht peek-cha to my phone?"  I sent him to him right away.
John Aguso appeared over Piyo's shoulder and cam down the hill to join us.  We spoke briefly and then he told me that he would see me later because he had meeting in Kisumu that he must attend.  A said, "Too-tah-oh-ah-nah-nah" (Tutaoanana) (Talk to you later) and watched him walk up the hill.
 John stayed behind and we talked about the rain from last night and the beautiful sun that was rising in a brilliant blue sky dotted with soft clouds.  "The light of tomorrow is lit by the candle we burn today," he said.  He always has little pearls of wisdom that he gives me.  We talked about the meeting that would be taking place and somehow, as always, he began to pull out some bible quotes to link to the subject matter.  We were talking about the work that we have been doing and how God works through all of us.  Kenyans in general, and John specifically, have a beautiful way of looking at things.  "Christ weel wahn day geev us ahn een-tah-vew.  'I was thahsty, did you geev me dreenk?  I was hungry, deed you geek me food?  I was naked, deed you clothe me?"  He paused for a minute glancing to the valley behind us and said, "You don't have to go to university to know what those ahnsahs ah..."  No, you wouldn't think so.
Our friend Tamara who donated pencils to the primary school, also asked me to fulfill a promise she made to John.  An envelope, presumably containing a not from her, attached to a package of pens.  He was very pleased.  This resulted in my 3rd Kenyan selfie.  I think I've taken more selfies here than I have in the states.  The subject changed to my family.  John is always asking about them.  During this discussion he held the rosary that Andrea gave him on her last trip.  He passed the sparkling blue beads through his fingers as he asked about each one of them.  I inquired about his family, too, and they're all well.  His elder son lost his leg just below the knee and the prosthetic that he was given was piercing the skin and caused more damage.  It has been a almost a year since then and the leg has healed better and his physical therapy completed.  His "new" prosthetic leg is much better, and John told me that he's going to have it plastered so that it looks more real.
The next person to join us was Job who said that most of the members had arrived and we should get started.

We sat in front of the maternity wing as we talked.  This was one of the more informal meetings we had.  John spoke briefly after an opening prayer.  The prayer is always present; John speaking briefly is not.  He reviewed all that we have accomplished together over these last nine years culminating with the clinic.  As he talked, mothers streamed in with
their children of all ages.  They came for immunizations which arrived by motorcycle shortly after the first few patients arrived.  Despite having electricity, the clinic lacks any type of refrigeration.  The government has said they would supply it, but these things take time.  Often years.  The night before, Dr. Piyo told his that the lack of a fridge requires them to send for certain immunizations and drugs every day.  The Chuolembo Hospital where they pick them opens their refrigerator sparingly, and if they are not taken at the right time, they are refused and have to return the next day.  That, in turn, means that anyone that comes for immunizations must be turned away - a practice that saddens and frustrates him.
John soon gave me the floor and I spoke about the need for the community to take more responsibility for the welfare of the clinic.  "The benefactors of this clinic need to participate and contribute to its success.  If there will be days, weeks, months, while we wait for something from the government, the community should gather together to fill that void."  They understood what I was saying.  They are a very diplomatic people who do not speak as plainly as we do in the US.  They are very reluctant to speak ill of anyone to me, regardless of how valid it may be.  They talked about their struggles in raising funds. The very government they are trying to aid is preventing them from doing so.  The Kenyan government suspended all harambes (fundraisers).  Perfect.  This wasn't the first time that I heard about this recent "proclamation" and it doesn't surprise me.  As I talked, the inoculations began.  The first baby got his shot and let everyone know it.  The screams were piercing through the quiet of the valley.  They may have made the trees stop bending to the breeze.  I told them those screams were wonderful - they meant life!  Everyone agreed.  I told them how this clinic needs to ensure that nobody is ever turned away - especially young mothers coming to immunize their children.  "If that words spreads, they will walk past here to go to Chuolembo," despite the distance.  "You only get one chance to make a first impression," I said.  Too much time will pass before a fridge arrives... how many first impressions will we make before that time?  The committee reluctantly informed me that the school committee was challenging them for "ownership" of the clinic.  Son of a nutcracker.  This is where are started to speak more plainly to them.  "This clinic is owned by the community, not a committee.  Who do I need to speak to so that I can fix their thinking?"  Everyone's heads bowed and their silence was deafened by the fundi in front of the clinic cutting the grass with a machete.  I knew who was responsible and would love to have words with him (and his cohorts).  Their attempts to take over this committee has been blocked by much of the community, but there are still many who do not know the truth; they only know what the trouble makers tell them.  The reality is that anything that I said to them would be meaningless.  Although I feel as though I'm a part of this community, I am not. This is something they'll have to deal with on their own, and they will.
The meeting ended with a prayer from the secretary, Ezekiah.  Every time I think of his name I try to count the biblical figures present at the meetings.  This time we had a good crowd:  John, Ezekiah, Job, Amos, Ruth, Elizabeth, Daniel, and yes, Adam. I brought some shirts over from one of our 5ks and handed them out.  I then opened my bag and pulled out every lollipop I had and took them to the patients.  They smiled as they accepted them.  Tomorrow,  I'll bring the bag from my room and give it to Dr. Piyo... that should give them something of a draw.  I'm thinking of another way to bring them in, too.
We finished up, took some pictures and headed to Esivalu Primary School.  We would have to head back to the main road first, so we gave Amos a ride and dropped him in Lela.  We finished rebuilding Esivalu back in 2008.  We had some disagreements with the headmaster at the time and hadn't been back to check in on them in quite some time. The school looked much like we left it with one exception, the CDF built them a classroom that was now being used as an office.
The headmistress was a former teacher here at the school when we were building.  She then transferred to Mbaka Oromo for awhile before being charged with being the principal here.  We sat with her and her deputy, Martha.  Martha barely said a word and when she did, she spent most of the time looking at the ground.  We wandered around the grounds and took some pictures.  The school is built into the side of a steep hill and the terrain is incredibly rocky.  I remember coming here with Jim teaching the students how to play baseball.  It was quite an undertaking when the area your playing is
loaded with granite stones that are upwards of 6' wide.  We always managed to make it fun.  Itdidn't take long for her to ask for some help in construction an administration block, a library, and installing gutters. Shoot for the moon, I suppose.  Pole pole.
We then headed into Kisumu to check on the Orange (carrier) modem we left to be repaired.  On the way down Job and I talked about bringing a surprise back to the clinic.  First impressions being what they are, we decided to buy a small fridge to stem the tide until the government came through.  We went to Nakumat (Kenyan Walmart) and bought what amounts to a large college refridgerator with a freezer compartment.  It barely fit in the car we had, but we made it work.
Next on the agenda was the Masai Market.  Karen made a request for some masks, and I always like to see what they have. It's a series of lean-to's where they sell items

"made by Masai" or at least they're items that can be found at Masai Mara.  It's a haggler's paradise.  Job and I walked down the alleyway with shops on both sides and immediatley came to Beatrice.  She's owned the first shop on the corner for as long as I can remember.  They're widening the road, however, so her shop was cut in half.  She had pretty slim pickings, so we continued on.  As you walk, there is the constant calling from other shop owners, "Come heeya my bru-thah!" and "Step een-side, it is free to look."  I do my best to ignore it and wander down one side and back up the other.  There is a good mixture of wooden and soapstone carvings.  Most of the wooden ones are predominately rosewood and the soapstone carvings are gorgeous, but heavy.  Job followed me into a shop where I picked out 7 rosewood animals.  Despite their small size, they were very well done in detail.  Most were were close to 4" high, except for the tembo and twiga (elephant and giraffe) because I was trying to keep them all in scale.  I said, "Okay, bruthah, pay-sing-ah-pee?" (how much).  He took out a pad and wrote down 5,500ksh. I let out a high pitch "Aye!" to note my displeasure.  Job looked at me and said, "Offah him five."  Job's nuts.  I took the pad and wrote changed all his prices and handed it back.  Job took out his computer and started doing the math.  When the shop owner handed me the pad he wrote down the prices based on size, "4x500ksh, 1x750ksh and so on.  Job finished with the shipowners new total and left it displayed on the computer.  I think he came down to 4,800ksh.  I reached over to the computer and typed 3-0-0-0.  Job looked at me like I was nuts!  The shop owner began pleading (it's what they do), "Please brutha," and raised the number back up.  Before he started typing I moved outside his shop.  He said, "Wayah ah yoo going?"  I said, "I want to be ready to run away."  He let out a hearty laughed and said, "Sawa, 3,000."    3,000ksh is a little more than $35usd.  It was a good deal.  We continued into a few more shops repeating the exercise.  Job asked me how I knew how much to pay. I really don't.  I think of what I would pay in the US for the same piece, cut the number in 1/2 and take a percentage off of that.  Then bid a little lower.  It drives Andrea nuts, but that's how it works.  By the end, Job was carrying 4 bags filled with various items.  We placed them in the car and went to fill our bellies.

We travelled the lake for samaki (fish).  Lake Victoria is filled with tilapia, a local favorite among the Luo. Along the lake is a series of restaurants, although they're all called hotels.  They're all connected like row homes, but the construction appears a bit suspect.  We stopped one we've been at before.  They have an upstairs that looks over the lake and sits above the boat launch.  We order one big fish (sumac kubwa) rather than ordering 3 small.  While we waited we joked about the journey thus far and how we were to spend our remaining days.  Our driver George joined us for the meal.  He doesn't talk much, but he makes up for it with nods and smiles.  Although we started at a resin table in the middle of the second floor, we soon moved into a room at the end that contained to worn couches and a couple of coffee tables.  We could see directly down into the boat launch where the boat captains were playing a lively board game. Even though it rained last night, it wasn't enough to wash away the gamey lake smell that wafted through the room attached to the constant breeze.  Eventually you got to it.  I'm lying; just don't breathe through your nose.  I took a seat across from Job and George.  There was plenty of space between them so I was able to watch as people bathed in the lake, or washed their cars.  Yup, you heard me.  I counted 2 cars and at least 10 matatus (vans) getting washed before the fish came.  They'd back the vehicles into the water until the rear wheel well was submerged.  They splash buckets of the lake water onto the vehicles, take out a sponge or cloth and get to work.  Did I mention that the fish we eat comes out of this lake.  It's fine, though.  I'm sure it's fine... well, I think it's fine... at least I don't think I've ever been sick from eating here.  That should be their slogan.
The fish came while George was gone picking up the modem.  I happened to be on my phone when it arrived and Job took a quick picture and said, "Poot yoo-ah phone down.  Mom says "no phones at the dee-nah table."  Once during a trip to Masai Mara with Job, Andrea introduced him to that family rule.  I wish his memory wasn't so good.  What he didn't tell me was that he sent it to her!  Narc.
The fish is scored then pan fried and cover with skumawiki which is a mixture of kale, onions and tomatoes.  It's the Kenyan version of "greens and beans."  We waited as long as we could, but George had not yet returned when we dug in.  You peel away the skuma and pick the fish right off the bone.  It was delicious.  We'd finished one side of the fish when George arrived.  The Luo's don't waste anything, especially when it comes to fish.  They eat it all.  Before George arrived, Job had already plucked out an eye and dug around the fishes head.  When in Rome... eat pasta, not fish eyes. I took a pass.
George polished off the remainder of the fish and we set off back to the Peacock.  We contacted Dr. Piyo and informed him that we bought a present.  He was elated!  He said he would come to pick it up at the hotel.  We arrived and removed the fridge from the back seat.  Job and I went back to the room to drop of the goodies from the Masai market.  He stepped out then returned soon thereafter, "They ah heeya."  Before I got to the kitchen (it's just down the hall) Dan Otieno was standing there with a huge smile.  He is the patron from Mbaka Oromo, and a clinic committee member.  He grabbed me almost as tight as his younger brother Samuel does (minus the back slapping) and kept repeating "thank you, thank you!"  We walked outside and loaded it back into George's car.  He volunteered to bring it bak to the clinic.  I explained to them that they couldn't plug it in until tomorrow because by the refridgerator was now lying on it's side.  Job went with them to take some pictures and I stayed behind... there was only room for me in the trunk.
Job returned with some pictures and stories of the excitement in the doctors faces.  Now let's go make some great first impressions.
It was early and I was excited to get some much needed rest.  The temperature in Kisumu is always higher than Maseno because of the change in elevation.  Maseno is at 5,000 feet above sea level... Kisumu rests on the sun. I started to pack my bags then call everyone back home.  Next thing I knew it was 10:00.  Still, we weren't starting at Huma until 10 so sleep was still on the agenda.  I woke up at 4 and made phone calls again.  I tested FaceTime with Karen before calling Andrea.  The signal was bad again so I was relegated to a normal phone call.  I would have loved to have seen her, though.  Even that signal broke up several times.  I also caught Katie and Kevin so I got them all.  Andrea suggested I do some typing and try FaceTime again after I go outside where the signal is better.  By the time I did, however, it was 10:30pm back home and everyone was fast asleep.  I was surprised at the depth of my disappointment in missing the chance to see her.  I know I'll get another chance this afternoon, but it would have been nice to talk to her with no distractions.
As I typed this blog, there was a knock at the door.  It's 7:30am, what gives?  I assumed it wasn't my door and waited for another knock, and it came.  When I opened the door, one of the employees was standing there with my breakfast.  Job told them that I would be having it at 7:30.  I have to remember to short-sheet his bed before I leaannve ( I'm pretty sure he has sheets).  I told him to take it out to a table and I'd be right there.  I shut off the water heater that I had turned on 15 minutes before and went out.  Scrambled eggs this time, and a red juice that was delicious, but I have no idea what it could be.  It's got a familiar last, but I can't put my finger on it.  It's not as thick as the mango juice is, so I'm hoping it wasn't cut with water.  I'll know in exactly one hour if it was. Job arrived at 8 wearing a checkered collared shirt and a skinny black tie.  "Today is official," he said, referring to the groudnd breaking at Huma.  He is sitting inside while I finish here.  I'll run back into the room, turn the heater back on and hope for the best before I jump in the shower.
No matter... the power just went out.  "I'd like a cold shower please."  Asante sana.

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