Hopefully I won't have the same problem with my watch that I did last night. Just so you're aware, my watch shows me two independent times - it normally enables me to keep track of what time it is back home. This morning I was obviously confused. I'd like to have a good night's sleep, and I'm fairly confident that a rooster is not in my future. I'll explain in a bit.
Today we were meeting with the community. I was ready at 7:00am, bags packed - Isaack was pretty confident that we'd have to spend the night at Masai Mara because we wouldn't be finishing until later. As it turned out he was right. The morning was quite chilly - 62ºF is not what you think of when somebody says Kenya, yet here we are and there it is. Apparently it's a characteristic of the lowlands here.
We first went downstairs to have breakfast. Just so I don't get confused myself, here in Kenya all "hotels" are restaurants and a "Guest House" is a hotel. Now that we've got that sorted out, this is a great Guest House. The breakfast was phenomenal, and the accommodations were head & shoulders above the Peacock. If that weren't enough, the Peacock is 2,500ksh per night (approx $25). Here at the Park Villa, it's 1,900ksh per night! Yes, that's only $19 AND it includes a wonderful breakfast made to order. You can't beat that with a stick.
We sat and talked about the day's proceedings while I drank my tea. Isaac insisted on taking a picture of me to show that my nose doesn't get burnt. Kenyans will only fill a mungo's (white man's) cup halfway because their noses are so big - "they're not flat like ours and we don't want you to burn your nose on our chai." I heard that story 8 years ago and proved them wrong then, but it's a characteristic that people here just want to hold onto.
It's a 2 hour drive from narrow to the Sekenani Gate at Masai Mara, even though it's only 105 kilometers away. The catch is that the first 40 kilometers are nice hard tarmac that we're accustomed to. The subsequent 65 is absolutely treacherous. It's horribly eroded from the traffic (not the rain) and the government's been promising to fix it for at least the 6 years that I've been coming here. It's not uncommon to see somebody broken down on the trek. This morning we passed two. Most of the time, you're actually trying to get off the road so you can drive on the paths next to the road; at least there are fewer rock's sticking out over there.
We finally made it to the Sekenani Gate at 10:30, and the meeting was supposed to start at 10. Hapuna matata; we were the first ones at the hospital which is right around the corner to the gate. It gave us time to walk around the compound to check out sizes of the exiting clinic and complimentary buildings. The clinic is located in the northwest section of the property, and the staff quarters are located nearby. They are pale gray brick building that look more like small barracks than someone's home. There's a pit latrine near the end of the clinic, but it's boarded up and the back of it is sinking into the earth. Whoever built it failed to reinforce it enough. I'm not sure why it's even still here.
There's plenty of room for additional buildings. Our plan is to relive the congestion in the clinics "maternity ward" by construction their own Birthing Center. The clinic is probably 75' x 30' so i would think that a 50' building of similar depth would be sufficient. This will not only provide a safer environment for mothers, but it will free up two room in the clinic.
The members of the clinic board began to show up slowly. First, the chairman, then some community members. Then another board member followed by more community members. Eventually the group got be around 15 so we got started. There's nothing like talking to a bunch of Kenyans about a birthing center. I'll remind you of the Job's comment about his future child. Fortunately, the chairman stopped the meeting so that women could be present. That made me quite relieved.Ina very short time, the crowd almost doubled. It was like standing at a freshman dance; boys on the left, girls on the right. There were brief introductions, and someone translated into Masai and somebody else translated into English. I told a couple funny stories and it would appear that they didn't all translate well. At one point I was really bombing. I made a comeback, however when I spoke about how honored I was to work with such a strong tribe. I got some unexpected applause, but that didn't give me enough reason to try to make them laugh again so I just moved on.
I finished my part and asked if there were any questions. The ladies asked most of them. They wanted to know about my family and where I've been in Kenya. Of course, all this was after thanking Building Futures for showing an interest in the Masai. I told them that I had been at the deliveries and cut the umbilical chord at each of my children's births. I thought the women would laugh, but instead they made a face like they just bit into a rotten piece of fruit. This is a tough crowd.
The village elder then got up and talked a lot. He gave assurances about the communities involvement and gratitude. The same sentiments were said by the local chief and the chairman of the clinic committee. We talked, exchanging ideas, for quite some time. They asked how they could help, and my first response was to over-communicate. Everyone needs to know what's going on here because each one of them is a stakeholder. More applause. Next, I said it would be helpful if they kept an eye on the project to make sure that everything is going well - Isaac and I are not always going to be here to keep an eye on things, so it was up to them to make sure things aren't done inappropriately. Lots of head nodding. After a couple more hours, I said, "Oh! There's one thing you can do... I want a picture at everyone here so that when this project is complete we can hang the
The five of us, sat talking about next steps and the roles that each would play. They are all incredibly articulate and their English is very good. It's certainly better than my Kiswahili! There was a lot of back and forth, and I only had to push back on the idea of using the maternity for overlook inpatient care. Although that may be something they choose to do in the future, I wanted to make sure that they understood that we're not simply coming in here to build whatever they want, it's more about what they need. This building will be roughly 30% smaller than the existing building. It will have 1/2 the rooms, too, but that's because some of the rooms need to be bigger to accommodate equipment (much of which they already have). We ended up having a good discussion about communication and clear messaging. Then our focus turned toward letters that needed to be written. One from the doctor, who also happens to be the secretary of the committee, and one from me. I wrote it as we sat there together and had each of them approve my wording and, in some cases, my spelling. Their letter was hand-written and didn't copy well so I offered to type it on my computer and print both letters at the same time. They were amazed at the speed with which I typed, and the fact that I didn't have to look at the keys. Good Lord, if I still had to hunt and peck these blog posts would be significantly shorter. When I told them that I took a class in typing for secondary school, they said, "Oh, computer class." "No, computers weren't really popular just yet. I'm older than I look." Good, bad or indifferent, I'm pretty sure I was the oldest one at the table. The chairman and the chief don't look like they're even 40 yet! By the way, Andrea's faster... and more accurate.
We finished with the letters which everyone approved and had the front desk print them up. Isaac had to run all three of them home, because that's where the stamp is. Stamps make everything official here; it's somewhat like a notary in the US. Without the stamp, nothing gets approved because it's considered suspect. The stamp is proof that whatever's on the paper is accurate. That will be important for tomorrow.
I'll wait here at Sarova until Isaac returns, then we'll grab some dinner. I've been to this camp before with the entire family. It's absolutely fabulous. Isaac's older brother Anthony works here as a guide and it's always nice to see another familiar face. What I didn't realize is that the chief and the chairman don't live anywhere near the clinic which is only 10 minutes away. Andrea and the kids are now realizing that when we come back here to check in on the birthing center, it only makes sense to stay here. Isaac didn't return until closer to 7:30pm, when our plan was to eat at 6:30. It was okay, because I had a lovely conversation with a woman from Houston who was there with a large group on a mission trip north of Nairobi. We talked about children and work, then a lot about the work that both of us do. She kindly accepted one of my business cards.
We may have started dinner late, but we still enjoyed a Tusker and stories. He told me that the chief lives close to Sakenani which is really far away, and when he arrived people were already talking about the birthing center. "Thank you so much for what you are doing!" News travels fast, so fast that we don't have any approvals yet. That's what we have all day tomorrow. We'll see the executive in charge of public works and construction, then the county governor, then representatives from the CDF (Community Development Fund).
Wish us luck!