"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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No such luck.  I woke up at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep until 3:30, then it was on and off until Karen texted me at 6.  “You up.”  Yup.  She had been up since 4… that’s gonna cost her later.  We were meeting downstairs for breakfast at 9, so at 7:45 I turned on the shower heater.  Not long ago, your showers were cold because heating water was not easy.  You’d get a basin of hot water if you were lucky, but a warm shower was simply unheard of.   Now, however, most place have large shower heads that contain a heating coil.  Let the coils heat up for 15 minutes, and when you open the valve, BAM!  Hot water.  I flipped the switch and watched the orange light on the toggle illuminate, then went back to bed.  The light was sneaking in between the curtains, and when Andrea got up at 8:15, that was the only light.  The fixtures weren’t working, and the orange light that signaled “warming water” was no longer illuminated.  Not good.  It’s a crushing blow to the psyche to have this happen, but you’ve gotta do what you gotta do.  The power would periodically flicker with absolutely no consistency.  We only knew it because our phones would vibrate to let us know that charging began.  For the next 30 minutes, the phones only vibrated twice.  Then, at 8:45, everything went back to normal.   I couldn’t look Andrea in the eye as I turned the water on and heard the telltale hiss coming from the shower head as the water heated.  I could help but smile as I closed the door.
Isaac met us downstairs with the entire family.  We were heading to his parents home in Kisii so they were coming along.  We had fried eggs (you could have driven a nail with the yoke), sausage, tomato and bread, and ordered some mandazis along with it.  A mandazi is the Kenyan equivalent of plain donut.  It’s lighter, though… much less dense.  We bought some powdered sugar during one of our shopping trips and that made these taste better than they already did!  I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but I was inclined to spread some jelly on the inside of mine – jelly donut!  Now I don’t particularly care for jelly donuts, but this was awesome!  I’ll be doing it again tomorrow.
We ran back to our rooms to grab our bags and the Christmas gifts for Isaac’s parents, then we loaded back into the van.  We stopped briefly at a coffee shop that was a favorite of Andrea’s.  Isaac’s always eager to please.  Once again, Karen got the two ladies behind the counter laughing simply because she’s Karen.  We then headed to a shuka store to buy some things to bring back home.  Shukas are an integral part of any Masai garments.  They are like a shawl that doubles as a blanket.  Always with
bright colors, they are quite beautiful and easily seen along the lush green or light brown landscapes.  Outside the store, Karen pointed out a sign for a barber shop... then pointed out that a photo-shopped picture of Kanye West was being used on the sign... hakuna matata (no worries),  he'll never know.
Once again, back in the car, but two more stops before we head out.  First was a liquor store where we got some red wine.  Father Sergio is going to say mass at Isaac’s parent’s house.  They’re all Catholic, although not all of them are currently practicing.  Isaac was excited to have a mass in his parent’s home – he was especially excited for his parents.  The wine was quick.  A street boy that came to the window before Isaac and I could open our doors was pestering us for money.  Isaac told him to wait in front of the car and keep an eye on it.  When we came out 5 minutes later, he was still leaning against the front; right where we left him.  I gave him 20 bob to which he immediately responded with, “Asante” (Ah-sahn-tay).  As I am remembering it now, I realize that as he said it, his tone and the look in his eyes showed an innocence and softness that I wish I noticed sooner.  No sooner did the coin hit his hand, he scurried down the dirt road and disappeared around a corner.
Back in the van, we began to head for the mall where Isaac’s sister Regina works security.  She greeted Andrea, Karen and I with wide smiles of recognition and laughter.  We ran into the store to get some supplies and we were off.
It was a beautiful day, and you could feel the temperature drop slightly as we moved away from Narok.  Isaac’s father was waiting out front when we pulled into his home.  Smiles, waves and hearty hugs were then exchanged.  He and his wife speak a handful of words in English, the rest is Kiswahili, Kikuyu and Ma’a (the language of the Masai).  I know enough Kiswahili to get by with him, and he always laughs and follows with a long, “Okay” that sounds more like “Oooooh” followed by a “kaaaaaay.”  He’s a sweet man who, despite his age and apparent frailty is a juggernaut.  He proves it every time he shows people around his shamba (farm).  We entered to greet Isaac’s mom who was seated and remained that way through the entire day.  She had recently fallen and suffered a compund fracture to her ankle and was clearly still recovering.  It did not prevent her from smiling and laughing as we told stories.  We exchanged greetings with Isaac translating as people spoke.  We then talked about the plan - there were certain things that we wanted to do, but we wanted some flow to the day.  Start with mass, then eat, then tour the farm.  As Sergio set up for mass, the food came out.  Change of plans.  Now we’ll eat, then tour, then say mass.  Good to go. 
We had chipati, stewed goat, sakumawiki and mashed potatoes.  Sorry, forgot to take a picture of this one.  Karen loves her mashed potatoes, so she gave herself a nice portion of those.  She actually served everyone, which is quite unheard of in this culture.  Visitors are treated like royalty here, and they would normally be quite insistent that they should be waiting on us.  We’re here, however, and we’re family.  It makes me smile as I type.  We cleaned up and started gather our cameras for the tour outside.  Nope, now it’s time for mass.  Traveling with a priest makes dispensation much easier.  When you’re in this country, it’s incredibly valuable to be flexible when it comes to planning. Fortunately, we are.  Mass was lovely and Isaac’s cousin joined us.  When we were here last, we interrupted a prayer group to say hello, so she was very happy to see a priest on site!  Mass was wonderful and special.  The moments of silence were cut with by the sound of birds outside, along with the occasional "moooo" that echoed across the valley.  The chickens also took part, and although they tried to enter several times, they were always met with a foot that shooed them out the door (See what I did there... shoo, foot...).  I got the impression that they wanted to come in and say "Thank you" for choosing goat for lunch, and they weren't the only ones who were happy.  His parents were especially grateful for the special intention for their children who had passed away.    Lots of “Mungu akubariki” followed. “God bless you”
Now it’s time for the tour.  Sergio was very excited as we stepped outside the house.  Once again, the countryside reminded him of his home.  The agricultural similarities were wonderful and really made him feel a part of the walk.  “You call this ‘X’ we have it in my country, but we call it, ‘Y’”  It was really neat to watch the exchanges.  The weather has been very dry, so we were able to venture much deeper into his land than previous visits.  The drought had also caused the cattle and goats to be much more prevelant along the path.  The occasional donkey would walk by with packs on it’s back, guided by someone making noises to keep him moving along.  We got a special treat during this visit.
Isaac was ahead of Andrea, Karen, me and Sam, who were busy playing with some of the many grandchildren that were tagging along.  When you have 12 children, you have a lot of grandchildren.  Anyway, as we came upon the group in front, they urged us to be very quiet.  As we got closer, Isaac pointed out a group of monkeys that are very rare.  There are the only species with no thumbs!  I never knew.  They actually looked like enormous skunks with longer tails.  When they stood still and looked at you, though, they looked more like a white bearded
Russian wearing a black, furry winter hat.  Katie and Kevin would have loved it. 
It seemed as though we were walking for miles before we finally turned around.  The terrain changed dramatically, as did the elevation.  We stopped periodically to catch our breath.  I should say that Isaac’s father stopped periodically to let us catch our breath.   Only on some of the steeper hills did Andrea offer some assistance.  She took his arm as they walked down the dusty slopes... keep in mind, we were wearing hiking shoes while he was wearing black dress shoes.  The guy is simply amazing.  On the way back the clouds started to get dark, but no rain came.  It's sorely needed, and that fact that we're here with Nalatwesha (Bringer of the rain - Andrea) means we're all hoping that she'll bring it again on this trip.  As we walked along the meandering path, we passed through some thick billows of smoke where charcoal was being made.  We didn't double back over our original steps.  Instead we moved parallel to our original path which kept our starting point hidden behind thick trees.  It seemed to take longer to get back but the views were breathtaking.  They're plot of land is incredibly deep with farming done closer to the house and "specialty" trees further toward the back.  One of them had a fibrous interior that when stripped away leaves a thin strong strand that's used to tie off umbilicle cords after birth. Hopefully you've got the string before the labor starts.  Another tree had leaves that can be used as deoderant - I'm not sure if you have to hold the leaves under your arms or you just rub them there.  Isaac stuck the entire branch in his shirt, and I didn't have the courage to ask.  Cows, donkeys and goats continued to share our path; sometimes walking with us, sometimes against.  At one point everyone was resting on an incline when a herd of goats came through.  We played chicken and won.
We got back to the house completely exhausted.  Between the time change and the flying and the not sleeping, we were all out of gas.  There was another series of hugs and “goodbyes” and “God bless yous” before we all got back in the van to head home.  The sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon as we pulled in.  The next plan was to be ready for dinner at 6:30.  At 6:30, it was changed to 6:50.  At 6:50, we left.
Dinner was at one of my favorite restaurants here in Narok.  One of my favorite restaurants whose name I can’t remember.  They have the best potatoes.  Seriously.  They’re simply peeled, roasted potatoes, but the taste like fried, mashed potatoes.  Salt is all that’s necessary.  They did not disappoint.We substituted chicken for this meal to break up the goat monotony.  The girls were very happy about that.  They, too, like the potatoes.  Leah’s brother Stephen (pictured left with Leah) was in town, so he joined us for dinner.  Sam started the evening off right with a brief karaoke of Toto's "Africa."  Words simply can't describe it. Her encore was the them song from the Lion King, complete with... I guess I would call it "interpretive dance," even though she never left her seat.   I can neither confirm nor deny that video of both songs exists... we'll be happy to provide it to anyone who'd like to see it.   We continued to joke and joked about the day, but when we finished dinner, that “out-of-gas” feeling quickly returned, so we paid the bill and left.  It was no more than 3 minutes back to the hotel, and probably another 15 before most were asleep.  I tried to do some blogging, but never made it out of Amsterdam.  I woke up in the middle of the night and went back to it.  Now it’s 6am and I’m almost caught up.  I still have photos to upload for each day.  I’ll load them intermittently so as not to overwhelm.  I hope you’re enjoying the experience with us… it just keeps getting better and better.  Tutaoanana kecho.  Talk to you tomorrow.  Here are some additional photos from the day.

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