"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.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I have to level with you all.  I was intending to write the blog when I was on the flight to Amsterdam. Instead, I’m typing it while in the Nairobi airport.  We took off on time at 11:59pm, but we landed at 1:30am.  No, you can’t fly to the Netherlands in 1.5 hours.  Shortly after we took off, as we were still climbing, I heard a horrible grinding noise.  Everyone had to hear it.  The plane shook, and although the sounded quieted, there ws still some residual humming. Soon thereafter, the captain came on to notify us that he had to shut down one of the engines.  “You may have noticed a loud grinding noise…” he began. He then said something that I don’t remember.  What I do remember is that he said, we’ll have to return to Nairobi but not for a little while.  We need to dump fuel.”  Interestingly enough, I wasn’t nervous at all, despite the plane shanking and rattling as we got rid of a full tank of gas.  When we landed, the guy behind me said that he happened to be staring out the window when it happened and he swears he saw a red light coming from the engine outside the window next to us.  Even that didn’t make me nervous, but you know what?  I’m nervous now.  I’ve been up for 24 hours and I’m getting the nods while I wait for my flight to Amsterdam. After several phone calls, I rebooked myself onto a flight at 8:05 this morning, and it wasn’t easy.  I just kept telling the person on the other end of the phone, “You’ve got to get me home tomorrow.”  If all goes according to plan, I’ll land in Rochester at 11pm tonight. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be sound asleep as soon as I sit down in the plane.    Let’s get back to the start of my day…
 I made it down to the lounge at 5:30am.  I left my camera on the desk, so I quickly pulled out the chip to load pictures from the previous day.  I loaded them while we ate (it was just the two of us), and managed to publish the prior day before departing for the elusive rhino.  The pancakes were real pancakes!  Well, actually they’re call “pan-drops.”  The Kenyan pancake is more like a crepe, but this pan-drop thing was definitely a USA pancake.  There was also a fried egg, accompanied by toast, bacon and passion fruit.  The passion fruit was entirely too tart, but I scooped the gooey stuff onto a spoon and into my mouth.  One was enough for me.  It had a weird consistency that reminded me of mucus.  If that’s not enough to prevent you from trying it, I don’t know what will.  Maybe you’ll like it?  Sure you will.
Isaac grabbed some thermoses of steamed milk and biscuits so we can have coffee on the mara, and placed them in the back of the land rover.  We were off!  Driving throught the conservancy is like having a game preserve all to yourself. Despite the drout, there was still some water left in the small lake, and the animals were coming from miles away. Antoni made a comment that the land is so dry, that when the wildebeest began their migration, they just walked across the mara river, because there was no water in it!  All we did was a driveby because we had to get to “the other side” if we had any chance of seeing a rhino.  In the same way the Luo have distances described as “just here” (“just hee-ya) and “Just there,” (“just they –ah), the masai have “just on the other side, and “just on this side.”  No matter how you slice, either one is a long way.
I’ve begun to have Isaac clarify any distances and times as Kenyan or American.  “It’s 15 minutes away.”
“Is that Kenyan time?”
“Yes…  30 minutes.”
We hadn’t seen the rhino yet, but we took a break to have some coffee. We once again found a tall tree with a large canopy.  You could see for miles from this vantage point.  Elan traveled in packs along the hillside. Zebra grazed in the valley below. Giraffes moved even more slowly at this distance, and they were tracking across the flats.  A pair of male impalas played, crashing their horns together. This place is amazing.
On the way to the rhino that we weren’t sure was there yet) we saw a family of lions; 3 lionesses and 9 cubs.  The sun was just rising over the horizon, and the and the rays were casting phenomenal shadows as the light highlighted the pale color of their fur. Fur… that reminds me.  Haret gave me a cow belt… made of cow.  Funny thing is, it doesn’t look like leather; it looks like cow. It’s pretty cool, actually.  
As we made a loop around them, we saw an animal I’ve never seen before. I hammerkop.  When you see it, you understand the name.  Its head is shaped like a hammer.  I didn’t go looking for any frogs, but we did cross paths with everyone from dinner.  They were in another Land Rover with their guide Abraham.   We told them about the lions we saw, and then about the hammerkop. We’ll be long gone by the time they return to camp, so unfortunately, we may never know if they saw it… or it’s prey.  We then found the Rhino, and it was spectacular!  These animals are quite hard to find.  They come down to the plane to graze at night, and later in the morning, they return to the hills.  Once there, you’ll never find them.  This one was solitary, and thankfully, not too shy.  The sun was rising behind him, so the lighting was perfect, too.  I could have watched him for hours, but we didn’t have that kind of time.  I said, “goodbye,” as Isaac raised his hand looking for a high-five.  He got one.
We stopped to see a cheetah on our way back to camp.  This one had a damaged eye, but was still beautiful. These guys are built for speed, and you can see why.  They are lean alert; constantly looking around, checking the air for scents. This one quickly darted to the other side of the bush to lay down in the shade.  We then headed back to Entumoto to grab breakfast before leaving.
It was the best breakfast I think I've ever had in this country.  It started with fruit and the main course was eggs, pancakes (the US kind, not a Kenyan crepe) called "pan-drops,"  bacon, (which was more like a slice of pork) and a tomato (again, thank you Great Britain).
We stopped at the Sekenani gate to see the warden, but he was not there. Instead, we contacted his second in command.  She was happy to meet with us at Sarova Camp where she was preparing for a presentation to the government.  We drove there immediately and sat down to chat.  Despite here stoick demeanor, she was quite interested in our desire to continue to help the community by expanding the man gate to accommodate vehicles. She asked us if we had any pictures of the maternity and the gate in question.  We supplied her with plenty.  She then informed us that she wanted to include them in her presentation to the government.  The topic was centered on ways for the game preserve to help the masai communities living in and around masai mara.  Timing is everything.  We said our goodbyes and continued on our journey.  As we left Masai Mara, we stopped in a small village to see Haret. He was in his shop working when we arrived.  He immediately stopped to come out and stay “hello.”  He was also kind enough to give us each a cold Fanta.  As we sat and waited for him to come back out, I felt a tap on my shoulder through the window.  I turned to see a smiling Chief Tira (the village elder).  He smiled wide as he said “hello” and “goodbye” mixed with a bunch of “thank yous.”  The last think he said was “Safari njema!”  Safe travels.  
Haret emerged once again and he too gave us big smiles before we left. He’s a good man, and a great builder. I couldn’t be happier with the maternity construction.  The process was seamless, deadlines were met, and the communication was great.  There wasn’t a hiccup anywhere in the process. What more could you ask for?
We then went to see one of the other builders that supplied us with an estimate for the classrooms.  His shop was a bit further out, and looked a bit more like a flea market, but he has a good reputation as a builder.  Based on the signage, things lying in front of the shop, he also changes tires and serves food.  Things that make you go hmmmm.
Now we’re off on our 2 hour drive to Narok. The first part is dusty, then it’s paved, then it’s dusty again.  While on that route, we pulled over in front of some kind of drilling station. I wasn’t sure why until another car joined us.  It was coming from the other direction, and once the dust in the wind settled, Isaac’s brothers emerged!  I hadn’t realized it, but they were communicating with Isaac to arrange this impromptu meeting.  It was a wonderful surprise, and an even more wonderful send off.  We soon returned to the car and continued our drive.  We finally returned to tarmac and our speed increased.  
When we arrived in Narok, Isaac dropped me at Naiva’s (market) with Veronica, Sharon, Nasinkoi and their mothers.  We had arranged the meeting to make sure that they got the funds for eye exams, and we wanted to make sure that they had the necessary supplies for the upcoming semester.  Before that, though, they had some presents for me.   A beautiful beaded masai belt, candleholders for Andrea, necklaces and bracelets for Anrdea and Karen, and even a bracelet for me.  This one was thicker and more pliable than I’m used to. It had my name spelled out on one side, but I could turn it inside out to hide it if I want.  Neat!  I gave Veronica the necessary funds to get eams and glasses for the two girls. Isaac and Veronica will take them to Nairobi for testing in the next two weeks.  Once done, we ventured into Naivas for supplies.  There was the usual things… toilet tissue, soap, toothpaste. Then there were some curveball like “pants.”  Girls this age don’t wear “pants,” they wear dresses, so “pants,”  yup, you guessed it.  Underwear.  The more interesting one was, “boob-holders.”  No explanation necessary.
Forty dollars later, each mother had peace of mind that the daughters had what they needed.  When told them to pick out some chocolate, they even got one for me!  We left the market and were talking when Nasinkoi cam up next to me.  She is sometimes more expressive than Sharon, but not usually.  This time, however, she was.  She quietly cam up on my right side and took my hand.  Like our children would when they were young.  Partly to let you know they were there, and partly for the security.  I looked own at her and stroked the top of her head.  She nuzzled her head into my chest, smiling.  It was a sweet memory that I will cherish from this trip. Palpable caring.  These sweet girls are special in many ways.
We went outside for a bit while waiting for Isaac to return.  He pulled in and said he couldn’t find me. There must have been another 6’6” white guy on the other side of the lot… Left and right don’t mean as much when you’re not pointing at the same time the instruction is given.  One more set of “goodbyes” and we hopped in his car and drove off.
Now the biggest hurdle for us was the climb along the Rift Valley. It turned out to be an even bigger hurdle than expected.  One lane in each direction, and it’s the only road that heads south… loaded with lorries of all shapes and sizes.  Matatus, personal vehicles, commercial ones… it’s a mess.  The sun was dropping before we finished our ascent.  Eventually, though we did manage to make it over the crest. Going downhill was not that much faster. Instead of crawling up the hill with the engines straining, we were traveling down the hill with the brakes screaming.  It was dark by the time we got to Royale.  There was no time for a stop at Love Birds Curio where I was hoping to find something specific for some co-workers.  We had stopped at a couple before leaving Narok, but no luck.  I hopped in the shower to scrub off the dust while Isaac went to order dinner.  When I finally unpacked and repacked, I met him in the restaurant where we waited for another 30 minutes before the food arrived.  I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous.  We still laughed as we ate.  I was sure to pay Isaac for his time and automobile use, as well as giving him enough additional money to purchase 2 sewing machines for the Rescue Center.  Andrea has been wanting to do that for over a year, and I’m excited to let her know that they should be there within a week or two. Oh boy, it was almost 9:40pm when we left.  The plane leaves at 11:59pm and I wanted to be there by 9… I’ll have to settle for 10pm. We didn’t’ get there until closer to 10:15. Isaac walked me to the gate before we FaceTimed Andrea to let her know I arrived safely.  That’s the normal routine – I’m under Isaac’s care from the time I leave the airport until I return.  He’s done his part, the rest is up to me… and the pilot.
As I said before, we had an engine issue and returned to Nairobi.  No worries.  My midnight flight became an 8am flight, so I just stayed at the airport. I’ve been up for 26 hours at this point and everything was moving, whether it was stationary or not.  I was having trouble keeping my head upright. Literally.  I started typing while drinking coffee.  Not working.  Second cup, still not working.  I was only able to type a sentence before I could feel my eyes trailing off the screen and my head begin to fall forward.  I tried a smoothie this time, and although they brought me the wrong one, it did the trick.  I didn’t help me type anything more, but it did get me to my plane and in my seat.  I fell asleep quickly, and although it was fleeting (probably 2 hours), it was enough.  
From their on, things were thankfully uneventful.  I flew through JFK instead of Detroit, so I wasn’t able to check on the status of my missing iPad, so I’ll have to call them later to check in.  The immigration line was ridiculously long, but I got through in plenty of time to grab my bags, place them on the domestic belt for loading and head to my gate. Delta gave me a bump to first class, and I will be able to sleep like a baby.  Now I’m wishing I was in Detroit so I had an extra 30 minutes to sleep.
I’m home now, and it’s freezing.  There isn’t anyplace I’d rather be.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  Let’s do it again in February.

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