"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, October 18, 2019

Thursday-Friday, October 17-18, 2019

Thrusday, October 17, 2019

Our plan was breakfast at 6:30am, depart at 7.  I was down at the dining area at 6:15.  We left at 7:45.  I watch in Kenya is a bangle.
Jack was driving again… his Toyota Probox waiting at the departure area.  This is normally a 2 hour drive.  He got us here in 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Crazy.  Let’s see if he can duplicate that success.
He couldn’t.  Still, one hour 35 minutes is very respectable.  We went directly to the meeting with Madam Wanjiko, the county education officer.  We met her at a restaurant, as she was having a meeting immediately following ours. 
She ordered something called “dawa.”  I’d never seen it before, and inquired.  It’s a mixture of ginger, water, honey and garlic.  You had me at, “ginger.”  I had to try it, so I ordered one myself.  It was absolutely delicious.  Even with the garlic.  If you’ve ever had a Stoney in Kenya, it’s like that, only hot.  The ginger can take your breath away if you’re not careful.  BTW, “dawa” means, “medicine.”
Madam Wanjiko was wonderful.  I relayed the conversations with Madam Tiampati and her needs vs wants for desks (which they actually call lockers) and beds and the dormitory.  Let’s cut to the chase.  She LOVED the idea for the “box” dorm to compete with the fancy shmancy dormitory that Entumot finished.  Oops.  She didn’t know that Entumto finished it.  “Why didn’t they come to me first, like you are doing?”  I couldn’t answer that, and neither could Isaac.  We just steamrolled ahead.  She said she’d take care of the desks and go visit the school to ensure everything is, “The way it should be.”  She is a very strong, very intelligent woman, who wants to see this school succeed.  I also explained that the school really needs to succeed because if they don’t, Entumoto may have to go elsewhere to build a clinic.  Then I hit her up for the primary school, too.  Karl had said that the school had fallen into disrepair after the orginal headmaster retired.   I explained to him exactly how I was going to present it to Madam Officer Manjiko.  “broken windows can be repaired easily, but if it’s an issue with he teachers or the head teacher, that is something that only you can decide.  It’s important, however, for the primary school to succeed because they are the feeder for the secondary school.  If both prove successful, they will bring about a clinic to care for the health and welfare of not only the students, but the entire community.”  It was the easiest sales pitch I ever made, and Isaac and I both believe it.  Now Madam Manjiko does to and I have confidence that she’ll be in both schools before the end of the month.
Good news, we learned that Vivian Mpeti (who was the health officer we dealt with for the maternity) has returned to the position after a brief departmental change.  Sadly, she wasn’t available.  When i say “she wasn’t available” I mean she wasn’t in the office.  Isaac can handle that one, though, so I’m not worried.  
We then went back to the Park Villa so I cold shower and change.  It had only been a few hours, but I was covered with dust from the drive on the mara road.  Dapash had them take me right to the room I was staying in - he remembered that I loved the shower. I still did.  When I came back downstairs, a decision was made to eat lunch there before heading to Nairobi to visit with the National Bank of Kenya.  While we sat eating goat and drinking a White Cap, we tried several phone calls.  None were fruitful.  NBK had set the deadline for September 30th, and there were no extensions.  They relayed stories of people have 500 of the 1,000ksh notes and they weren’t converted either.  I still have a trick up my sleeve, so my fingers are still crossed.  
Jacks won’t be taking us to Nairobi, neither will Samuel.  This time, it’s Isaac, whom I affectionately refer to as #2 (as in Isaac #2 for this playing at home).   He was great!  He was without a doubt the safest driver (besides Isaac) that I’ve ever had as our pilot.  We got through the Rift Valley and over the escarpment in record time.  Granted, he used both sides of the street, and occasionally both shoulders, but I never felt nervous at all!  IT really was great!  Before I forget, we stopped to do some shopping before leaving for Nairobi.  We went to several stores until I found exactly what I was looking for.  A couple of the shops were uncooperative, but the last one relented.  He was the one that got the money.  Similarly with the “special” shop where I found some beautiful carvings for Andrea.  Okay, now we can go to Nairobi.
We stopped in Karen at the Galleria Mall to have dinner before heading to the airport.  We went to the place we normally do although I suggested we go to Java instead.  I’ve been there before, and they have killer milkshakes… the prices are more reasonable, too.  Isaac said, “Let’s go to the regular one,” so we did.  It didn’t last.  Both Isaac’s opened the menu (which had gotten smaller) and I could see their eyes move across the items to see the price.  When they both looked up at each other, I knew we’d be leaving, and we did.  We headed over to Java where I got a strawberry milkshake and mushroom chicken.  Isaac got a veteran platter (I judged him harshly) and Isaac #2 got what looked like a turnover stuffed with ground meat.  We all loved the meals, and laughed telling stories as we ate.  We finished and headed to the car where I packed the purchased items into space in my suitcase.  Twende.
We parked the car in the garage and both Isaac’s took a bag and walked me to the gate.  We Facetimed Andrea so that she knew that Isaac got me here safely… it’s become something of a ritual.  I hung up the phone and turned toward my friend.  This would be the second time I heard Isaac’s voice crack.  “I’m going to miss you my brother,” he said softly, insisting that I call him as soon as I land in Rochester.  “I will, brother.  We will be together again in 4 months time.”  We gave each other a big, long hug.  “I miss you already, and I haven’t even left yet.”  He smiled, gave me a high five and watched me walk into the terminal.

The flights to Amsterdam and Detroit are behind me, and now I’m just waiting for my flight to Rochester.  I slept 5 hours of the 8 hour flight to Shiphol, and watched movies all the way to Detroit.  I highly recommend the following:  Alita: Battle Angel, Longshot (I laughed out loud A LOT at that one), Avengers: End Game.  The first two were new ones, not the last one.  We should be boarding the plane to Rochester, soon, so I’ll be signing off.  I know I need to add pictures.  That, however, will have to wait.  When I do get them posted, I hope they make the stories come to life.  Now I just want to be home.  When I get there, all will be well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October 16, 2019
I told the staff that I’d have my coffee in the main tent.  Normally, they’d bring it up to your tent along with some breakfast biscuits, but I knew I’d be awake so rather than have them hick it up the hill, I came to them.  
I hopped in the shower, and after a couple seconds, hot water came pouring out.  It’s a “rainshower” type head, but I may have been standing under a waterfall!  It was phenomenal!  I got dressed in plenty of time, and made my way down the path.  The sun had already begun coming up, so the conservancy was lit up, but no direct sunlight had made it’s way in just yet.  
The coffee here won’t put hair on your chest, it’ll put it on your eyeballs.  A 50/50 mix with hot milk makes it tolerable, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar almost makes it enjoyable.  I should have remembered that and ordered tea.  That is as constant as the day is long.  Isaac and I were sitting having our breakfast when Jen and Jody came down.  Jody spoke.  It’s gonna be a good day.  I spent the day with them and our guide Abraham.  Jody really is quite sweet, and she definitely holds her cards close to the vest.  She’s actually just quiet and a definite introvert - if her behavior didn’t tell me that, her mother did.  I got both!  The best way to describe both of them would be this:  Jody is predominantly thought bubbles.  If she was a cartoon, there’d be the cloud like image above her head to reveal her thoughts.   I get the feeling that Jen, on the other hand, has never been anywhere near a thought bubble. If a thought crosses her mind, it crosses her lips.  Together, they are balanced.
We really did have a fun day; a remarkable day, in fact.  We started with a leopard.  No, not really.  As we drove through the conservancy on our way to the game park, we passed the following:  zebra, water buck Thompson gazelle, impala, heartbeasts, topi, cape buffalo, some ducks… not to mention countless birds.  Then we saw the leopard.  She had her eye on female impala and her fawn.  He sat absolutely still, eyeing them before darting out of the grass in chase.  Good news, they both got away.  
Abraham, like Isaac (who trained him) was wonderful at positioning the Land Cruiser where the animals were going to be, not where they were.  So while the other 6 or 7 vehicles jockeyed for position, we just waited for them to come to us.  Yes, they did.  the leopard walked right past our vehicle, then BAM!  He gave chase again, and so did we.  We drove immediately behind him like an impending ambulance chaser.  The patient was dead on arrival.  As we circled around him, we saw that the fawn’s neck was in her mouth.  (cue the music -Circle of Life playing softly in the background) She then passed in front of our vehicle again to catch her breath in the shade.  We took a bunch of photos as the fawn twitched in front of her; eventually falling still.  We moved on.
En route to lunch, the list of animals grew:  elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, marabou storks, lilac crested rollers, hammer cops, and wildebeast.  And yes, more zebra and impala and heartbeats and gazelles.  Everywhere you turn, you see something.
We stopped for lunch under a the shade of a tree.  I can’t remember if we had already seen the hippo pool or not, so I’ll go on the assumption we hadn’t so you have to wait until we’ve eaten to hear about that.  Four chairs came from underneath the landcruiser, as did a folding table.  Jody hopped in to the back seat and started pulling cold beverages out - 3 cokes and a sprite.  I popped the caps off on the fender of the vehicle and helped Abraham remove a cooler from the backseats.  He began bringing out 4 place settings and various items to choose from- it’s like listing the animals - vegetable pizza, fried chicken legs, bananas, passion fruit, tomato/cucumber/onion salad, biscuits (that looked like muffins)… and other things that I can’t remember.  We ate slowly, talking in-between bites.  Clouds came and went providing additional shade.  After everyone was full, we helped clean up and hopped back in.
Now we went to the hippo pool.  Jen and Jody didn’t know it, but I did as soon as I saw it.  There aren’t many areas on the mara that have a round-about.  Well, that’s what it looks like.  We hopped out and there they were.  The water can sometimes be pretty gross and poo infested (I don’t mean the bear).  This time, the slime on the surface closer to the water’s edge.  The smell, however, was everywhere.  I was standing next to Jen and rattled a bush at the top of the embankment and all the elephants rose out of the water making noises and exhaling heavily.  I tried it again when she got her camera ready, but no luck; the hippos were onto us.  We wandered along the edge, looking down into the river at the various pods before getting back into the vehicle.  It felt great to walk and stretch our legs.  Three giraffe wandered around us before we got to far.  We watched them eat the acacia leaves and stare at us completely uninterested.  A little further down the bank, we spotted a large crocodile, but it was a bit anticlimactic.  He was motionless and the sun had already dried his back so he looked just like the stones he laid near.  Meh.
We went back looking for animals, seeing all the aforementioned again.  We then went back to look at the leopard who was now, nose deep into the belly of the fawn (increase volume on music playing softly in the background).  Wow, she was really gettin in there.  More photos ensued, and more vehicles came.  When guides see a vehicle off the path, it’s like ringing the dinner bell (no pun intended).  We were directly in front of the leopard and her kill, so we thought it best to let everyone else get a looks.  Twende (go).
The afternoon turned out to be a day for the cats.  We stumbled upon a couple different prides.  It was late in the afternoon, so they were in various stages of sleep.  Jody commented that they looked just like house cats; laying on their backs expecting to get their bellies rubbed.  No thank you.  The engine turning over was the only thing that got them moving, but it was just to roll over before returning to their REM.
We spotted some elephants as we drove and got closer so Jen could take some pictures.  She asked to get closer ones as she seems to have a good number of elephant backsides, but nothing from a more photogenic angle.  Well, she does now!  She was also interested in takin g pictured of a decaying animal skull.  I had that in the back of my mind and was looking for a good one throughout this game drive.  I finally said, “Simama,” (Stop) to Abraham ho stoped the vehicle and turned to me.  “Jen, you were interested in an animal skull.  Do you want the carcass, too?”  We had driven by a good one, and she became very animated when I pointed it out.  Abraham returned to the scene of the crime.  Jen was worried that the flesh would still be on it’s bones, but it was more ribs and vertebrae.  She took a lot of pictures, and the fun continued.  Cheetahs.
5 of them, actually, staring at a group of zebras upwind.  They slowly approached them, fanning out as they got closer.  I was very exited!  The zebras would move a bit, and the cats would close the distance.  While we were able to get some great pictures, it was to late in the day to wait for what could be hours to seem them down a zebra.  We headed back home admiring the landscape and animals.
It was time for a sundowner, but I had developed a migraine that the coke I had earlier was not helping with.  I went back to my room, took a pill and laid down after calling Ann.  Dinner was at 7:30, so I had some time to close my eyes.  I welcomed the opportunity.  When I came down, Jen and Jody were the only ones there.  I sat at the same table across from Jady and chatted until the sweet pea soup came out.  Like everything else I’ve ever eaten here, it was delicious.
Slowly, more people streamed in.  Sidebar - Although Jen and Jody were from Texas, they had no accents at all.  The only brief siting of their roots was when Jady said, “Ya’ll” during lunch.  While I’m on this sidebar, I’ll tell you that Kelly from New Zealand is really from New Zealand.  But her name is Anne.  You’d think I’d remember that one, but I don’t remember her saying it, and I mistakenly remember seeing “Kelly” on the birthday cake.  Oops.
She was back from a good day, too, and was leaving tomorrow.  She going to catch a  rugby match with her hometown All-Blacks in South Africa.  I couldn’t let an opportunity to pass by, so I told her about Katie and her high school/college experience playing rugby.  “Good for her!” she exclaimed in her best Steve Irwin impression.  I can’t help but see him every time she speaks.
Isaac brother Anthony arrived and came to give me a big hug.  I introduced him to the group as 2 new groups came in and sat at separate tables.  Karl, who was seated at the opposite end of the table said he wanted to move down next to me so I grabbed his chair and brought it to our head of the table.  Another lively conversation ensued.
He asked me about the stop at Siana Girls Secondary School, and I answered him quite plainly.  He’s familiar with the school and has done a few projects there.  Guests that come to Entumoto tend to want to “give back.”  Entumoto gives them an opportunity to visit a girls secondary school, a mixed primary school and a rescue center.  Entumoto customers have sponsored literally dozens of students over the years.  Interestingly enough, it’s a different partner that governs over their work in the community.  Karl’s passion is laser focused on conservation, not just for the animals, but for the tress and grasses… and not just for those, either.  He has marvelous plans for the symbiotic relationship between the Maasai and their spectacular environment, and has gone so far as to show them the importance of planting grass seed to replenish the food supply for these nomadic herders, who aren’t as nomadic as they once were.  Education was the driving force effecting that change.  You can’t be wandering all over the region and have your children attend school.  The math doesn’t add up.  Okay, I’m realizing that I’m way off script here.  Where was I…? Oh! Yeah!  Siana Girls Secondary.  So, when I met with the head teacher (principal), we talked about her needs versus her wishes for her school, as well as where the dividing line was.  As I was relating the story to Karl, he was surprised at the questions I asked as well as the answers I was given.  Because this isn’t his passion, but because he’s a partner in this endeavor, I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear from their “Community Projects” manager.  I got the impression that she doesn’t drill down the way that we do, and it might not be an idea to start.  He, too, feels a responsibility to their donors, and doesn’t want money to be squandered - it has to be sustainable! 
The dormitory that the government started, then abandoned before completion was something we investigated last year.  The bones of the place were in good shape, but the idea of a 2 story dormitory on this particular locale is a recipe for disaster.  Besides, we were told we couldn’t touch it - it was the governments to fix, and we would most likely be fixed by them… eventually.  Karl’s organization didn’t want to wait, and I can understand - the need is now, not in the future.  That dormitory is almost complete.  Currently, they have 160 girls sleeping in a huge teaching kitchen that Entumoto built.  We built a couple classrooms and are about to embark on another dormitory similar to their original dormitory that is now a classroom.  So, here’s what I discussed with the head teacher, and subsequently told Karl.  I asked her how many desks she needed and, additionally, how many beds.  The numbers she gave me were significantly closer to what she wants, not what she needs.  Based on the current enrollment and growth projections, she needs 90 desks, not 120.  Beds fell prey to the same logic.  She wants 160, but she only needs 80.  The desks should be a government supplied item.  When I asked why there were no desks in the classrooms we just finished, she said, “I though you would buy them.”  Nope.  That’s part of our understanding that everyone is a stakeholder in these projects.  If we spend $20,000 to build classrooms, the government (and/or community) should be able to come up with the $5,400 for 90 desks.  Next came the questionable decision on moving children around.  Try to follow this.  They moved the girls from the original dormitory to the kitchen.  The old dormitory is now a classroom, and one of the new classrooms is empty.  The other one was turned into a staff room.  That will not stand.  I told her that we’d be meeting with the County Officer for Education (although I did not know who she was, or her phone number, or if she was even available - it’s tough to get “next day” appointments).  She said she would call her to ask her for desks, “and we will have them.”  “Wakati?”  She resonded, “January,” but that’s not soon enough.  Additionally, when we committed to building a dormitory, it was going to be a duplicate of the one they had.  As a reminder, it’s the one they’re using as a classroom now.  The dormitory she wants has running water and indoor toilets.  That will cost close to $100,000usd.  That’s not going to happen.  Earlier in the discussion, she said the reason their were only 5 girls currently in their senior year, she said it was because of a lack of competition.  Culturally, that’s true, so I gave her something to ponder.  If we build her an 80 bed “box” dormitory like the one they originally had, she could move the highest performing girls into the one that Entumoto just finished-complete with running water and indoor toilets.  She didn’t like that idea much.  I was hoping she’d endorse it, but no matter.  I’ll run it up the flagpole with her boss in the county office to see if can’t get more traction.  As we left the compound, Isaac said, “Oh, Ahdahm.  You were very tough on her.”  He was smiling and shaking his head as he said it.  “Really?” I asked.  I thought I was holding back.  I had to ask a few more questions before I learned what “being tough” meant.  Apparently Maasai (and probably all Kenyans do like pregnant pauses.  “Now that you know we’re not supplying them, where are YOU going to get 90 desks?”  Start the clock.  I’m good at this silent staring game; I do it with the dog all the time.  She didn’t bark, though, instead she just lowered her gaze.  Not a great sign, but I think she got the picture.  I did start playing a little game to lighten things up.  I would be speaking with Isaac about the number of desks they NEED or the size of the dormitory they NEED, and without turning my head away from Isaac, I’d ask, “She’s staring at me right now, isn’t she?  Does she look like she just ate a lemon?”  With that, I’d turn my head to find her smiling.  Isaac, on the other hand, was belly laughing.  It was a good meeting.  If we’re able to meet with the county officer, it will be a better one.  
Here’s my problem, and yes, this is a hard right turn.  I’m writing a blog from Wednesday, which is a recounting of discussions on Tuesday, AFTER (spoiler alert)  we spoke with the county officer on Thursday.  Yes, we managed to have a meeting, but seriously, I can’t tell if I told you this stuff already or if I’m confusing my days… I’m sitting in the Detroit airport trying to get caught up, eating all kinds of food that I shouldn’t be eating after a trip like this.  I started with Popeye’s chicken (yes, it’s better than the KFC all day long; don’t even), now i’ve moved on wot pringles and swedish fish.  I make myself feel better by having a water instead of a Coke.  I’m pathetic.   For those of you saying, “At least it’s not another goat penis?” I hate you.  
I don’t hate you.  It’s funny stuff, and I’m sure I/we/you will be laughing at it for quite some time.  When in Rome, right?  Yeah, the Romans probably never ate goat penis.
I’m going to close out the day with that story.  We have to head back to Narok for a meeting with the county education officer at 10am, followed, hopefully, by a meeting with the county health officer.  You already know about the former, so keep your fingers crossed for the latter.  Spoiler alert.  She wasn’t there.

See you tomorrow… literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October 15, 2019
I’ll pick up where I left off, which will save me a little bit of time.  First, a couple comments about the prior post.  1.  The blood/fat/meat/herb mixture is munono, not “menono." 
Another friend of Isaac’s was driving us to Masai Mara.  Jax (i’m not sure about the spelling) drives a Toyota Sky Box and from what Isaac says, it’s ideal for this drive.  I’ve never heard of a Toyota Sky Box, but now that I’ve seen one, it’s pretty ugly vehicle.  That being said, it got the job done.  One hour and fifteen minutes after we left, we entered the Sekenani gate at Masai Mara.  We stopped once along the way for Jax to water the bushes.  I should have taken advantage of that opportunity but I didn’t.  The mara road is closer to being complete.  There is only 25 kilometers of dirt road, but keep in mind, it’s pretty bad dirt road.  The skybox went through all of it.  We entered through the checkpoint and continued on to the maternity.
We were expecting to see Chief Kasoy, but the only person there was the doctor.  No matter we greeted him and checked on the facility.  I inquired abou the births and he brought out the register.  Based on the numbers he rattled off, we’re averaging 15 births per month.  That’s marvelous!  … and not one death.  Even more marvelous! 
We knew Chief Kasoy was en route, so we went outside to look at the existing staff quarters.  Once continues to fall prey to the rain water that runs into the foundation.  Thankfully, it was condemned.  While safer for the doctros/nurses, it means that they now have to find lodging elsewhere.  The government has not held up their end of the bargain, so we’re going to meet with them in Narok on Thursday.  The reality is that these building should not have been placed in this spot on the hospital’s plot of land.  It should be on the other side which is higher and away from the water runoff.  I’ll make that suggestion to the new Health Officer on Thursday.
Chief Kasoy arrived soon after.  I heard his motorcycle before I saw him.  We gave each other big hugs and I extended a greeting from Andrea and Karen.  “I wish Nalatuesha was coming.  Every time she comes, it rains.  We need Nalatuesha!” I assured him that she and Namanyak will be coming in February, but I hope they get some rain before that.  They’ll just have to make due.  During our discussion with him about the staff quarters, we learned that Vivian Mpeti has returned to her old position as Health Officer.  Great news!  She was the one that made the deal with us!  Well, I hope it’s great news.  Again, we’ll find out Thursday.  We said our goodbyes and headed outside the gate toward Siana Girls Secondary School.
While the skybox got us there in one piece, it was a very bumpy ride.  We went from going 40km/hr to 5km/hr as we traveled down into ravines and back up the other side.  The wheels spun on several occasions, but Jax did a great job navigating every one.  It seemed to be a longer drive than I expected.  I still need to find a bathroom, and I’m about to walk into an all girls secondary school.  Brilliant.
We entered through the front gate and parked the car in the shade of a tree (as instructed).  I forgot to tell you that we stopped and picked up Haret before entering the Sekenani gate - his shop is in a small town just before the gate.  He immediately asked how Karen and Ann were, and I sent along their greetings to him, letting him know that we’ll be back in February.  I only add that because Haret was with us at Siana Girls Secondary when we were talking with the head teacher.  I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version, because I really shouldn’t give you my take on the conversation.  Suffice to say that we’re trying to supply her with what she needs, but she is adamant on what she wants.  At the end of the day, I think everything will be okay, but we’re adding a stop at the Education Officer’s office in Narok, immediately following our meeting with Vivian Mpeti.  We’ll call Madam Wanjiko tomorrow and try to get a face to face.
It was already 6pm, and it was too late to go see the adjacent Rescue Center.  I spoke with Isaac to see if we can stop there on our way out Thursday morning, but that’s going to depend on when we can schedule meetings.  Regardless, we’ll build them a dormitory, and the government will need to supply the beds.
We took the long drive to the other side of the hill where Entumoto sits.  We got out and as soon as my foot hit the grass, I was wishing Andrea was here.  The staff came running up to me to say hello and asked where she was.  I feel like a broken record, but I told them we’d all be back in February.  They were actually quite excited at that prospect!  I was handed a cold washcloth that smelled of eucalyptus and mint, and rubbed it on my face and hands.  The smell was intoxicating.  My next stop was up at the main tent… where the bathrooms were.  At the top of the steps I was handed a glass of freshly squeezed mango juice.  I downed it and three gulps and headed for the bathroom.  
I feel like a new person.  I sat for a few minutes before I decided to have them take me to my tent.  We left the main tent and made a right.  What?  I didn’t know there were tents back here!  That’s because they were put in last year.  It was steeper hill that the more familiar tents, but it was a shorter walk.  I don’t even remember the name of the tent, but it was just as spectacular as the ones we’re used to.  It was a bit smaller, and the bathroom had a different layout, but I can’t wait to see the view in the morning.  Although it’s behind the dining/common areas, it’s nestled quite high on the mountain.  I opened my bag and removed a couple things before heading back down the hill.  I could hear animals fighting outside my tent, so I waiting until they were finished before I unzipped the “door” and departed.  A maasai stood outside my tent at the bottom of the steps with a flashlight shining on the stairs to aid in my descent.  At night, you never walk alone here.  Ever.  He took me right to where we began and disappeared back into the darkness.
I sat talking with Isaac until it was time for dinner.  He said the the owner, Karl von Heland, was going to be here and he was excited to meet me.  I know he’s told Karl a lot about me, because he’s told me a lot about Karl.  We were informed that dinner was ready so we made our way over to the neighboring tent.  Karl was the first person I saw.  He was sitting on the far side of the table with three women to his right.  Kelly (from New Zealand) was celebrating her 60th birthday.  Next to her were a mother/daughter combo from Texas; Jen/Jody.  A Maasai guide I know, Abraham sat at the head of the table, with a Swede, Katie, sitting to my left, then Isaac, then another member of the staff, Sam, then one of the administrative staff from Nairobi (his name starts with an L, but I can’t recall how to pronounce it.  “Oh!” exclaimed Karl as he stood up.  “You’re younger than I thought.  I was expecting someone much older.”  I gave him a hearty handshake and said, “It’s truly a pleasure to meet you.  Isaac talks about you all the time.  I’m only sorry that my wife isn’t with me so you could meet her, too.  I think she loves this place more than I do!”  “There’s plenty of time for that,” he said with a smile.  His Swedish accent was soft and his words floated in the air.  He’s a man (i would guess) in his 70’s who’s very comfortable in his own skin.  We sat directly across from one another.
The Birthday Girl was very chatty and said “shit” a lot.  I don’t know if that’s a New Zealand thing or not, but she was a hoot and a half.  We talked about everything from sitting naked in a spa (yes, it was the Swedes) then jumping into an ice pool to watching rugby to special needs children to lung cancer.  I was a bit surprised to hear that Isaac did the whole spa thing (Yes, he was in Sweden at the time).  This was a very eclectic group.  Although Jen was pretty animated, I don’t think her daughter said two words; I hope she's just quiet and there's nothing wrong.   Literally, I don’t think she said anything the entire meal; which by the way was delicious.  Beef stroganoff with rice, green beans and tomato soup.  They finished things off with a chocolate moose, followed by a Happy Birthday song by the staff and a beautiful cake.
When the meal was over, I grabbed a cup of coffee and moved to the community tent.  There are chairs placed strategically to facilitate conversation among the guests, along with some single chairs facing the valley below.  They installed a beautiful stone fireplace that gave off a lot of heat.  I sat on a couch next to the fire while Karl talked with Isaac and someone else (I couldn’t hear them well enough to tell who it was) about his day in a Narok courthouse.
I typed today’s blog (which I’m finishing from my bed).  Things fell quiet behind me, and Karl plopped himself down on the couch opposite me.  I immediately closed my laptop.  Earlier, he seemed glad to hear that I was staying two nights so that he could chat with me tomorrow.  It looked like we were going to chat now! He asked a lot of questions about me, and followed it up with questions about our organization and the things we do.  He was already familiar with our work at Siana Secondary because they’ve done some work there, too.  Similarly with the Rescue Center.  We laughed and told stories until 12:30 when we both realized that the other was ready for bed.  He’s in one of the tents below mine, so I’m sure I’ll see him tomorrow morning, and when we chat tomorrow night, I intend on asking him lots of questions about his history and how he got here.

For now, it’s time to sleep.  I spoke with Ann and Karen while I unpacked and prepared for tomorrow.  Now it’s 1:40am and I have a game drive at 6;30am.  It won’t take long to sleep.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019

October 14, 2019
If I get this finished, I’ll be caught up.  Andrea was very concerned when I called her to check the language (and content) of the blog from Sunday. I got a thumbs up, and a “What are you doing up at 3am?!”  Blogging, what else.  I actually wasn’t able to fall asleep.  Partly because I wasn’t as tired as you’d expect.  The incredibly uncomfortable chair in my room was awfully uncomfortable.  I was forced to sit in it because my laptop battery was completely depleted and the outlet was located well beyond the length of the cord.  In the future, an extension cord might be a worthwhile travel aid.
This morning, I’m sitting downstairs having breakfast.  The tv is always on.  On my first night, everything was focused on Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon in Germany, today it’s the news.  He won in world record time, by the way, in under 2 hours! Everyone is still talking about it 3 days ago.  It’s very telling that I haven’t heard a word about Brigid Kosgei.  She’s also Kenyan and set a world record in the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully, it’s Citizen News… they’re the only news that broadcasts in English.  Like every tv in country, it’s too loud.  You can hear the speakers strain to cary the volume, crackling a bit with every word.  The current story is titled, “Potato Farmer Woes.”  I didn’t know that their was a limit on the weight on a bag of potatoes.  The farmers are upset because the 50kg limit is not being enforced.  Potatoes are sold by the bag,  and larger bags cost them money.  Today is also, “Global Handwashing Day.” They’re currently demonstrating the proper way to wash your hands.    I bet David Muir doesn’t know that it’s Global Handwashing Day!
I ordered my eggs scrambled, but if you want “American scrambled eggs,” you just say fried.  My mistake.  I’m not used to choosing how the eggs are cooked.  Normally, they choose a style and everybody gets the same thing.  I forgot that they don’t use milk in their scrambled eggs.  They also add red onion.  I ate the eggs quickly while the flies were doing their thing in the sugar cup.  I’ve got to get back to typing, though, as Isaac is coming at 10:00.  It’s 9:45, so I only have an hour to blog.  Yes, that’s not a typo, that’s Kenya.
We had trouble finding a spot along the street to park, so we went directly to Tusky’s and parked there. This was on our list (Safaricom’s office was inside), so this is where we would end our “work.” 
We exited the lot and walked down the street, passing Barclay’s along the way.  The first stop was to find an advocate (attorney) who was a few doors down.  Relax, it wasn’t for me.  Two sisters (sister sisters, not nuns) from Avon came across our organization and asked for a meeting.  they were looking for some assistance with a school in Narok.  a couple years ago we went to the school after I received a request for aid.  Based on what we saw, there was no aid needed.  It turns out that these ladies were responsible for the majority of the funds used to build it.  They were having some issues with the person that headed up the project.  We met with an advocate who can help, so I will put them in touch him.  The fact that this gentleman was Isaac’s cousins should come as no surprise.   I think he’s no more than 2 people away from everyone in this country.  Isaac assured me that this guy is very good at his job.  Very good.  Isaac’s recommendation was enough, but recounting his accomplishments in the region gave me even more assurance.
We then walked back to Barclay’s Bank.  We met with the manager who was very helpful with one request, but his hands were tied on the other.  Their internet was down, so nothing could be done about my request for a bank statement from Sienna Girls Primary School Classroom Construction.  I gave him my card and he said he would email me the statement as soon as the, “internet is repaired.”  He was incredibly sorry for that, and apologized profusely.  Next, I told him about my surprise that the government decided to create new 1,000ksh notes, making the old ones worthless.  When I told him I had 41 of them, he said, “Wow,” and almost looked scared.  He called the Barclay’s in Nairobi in an attempt to help me out of this jam.  No use.  The tellers at the Barclay’s at the airport said the same thing that he did when he hung up the phone; “You will need to speak with someone at Central Bank of Kenya.”  The apologies continued.  I told him that he was not responsible for my situation, and that I have time to meet with CBK before I depart for the US.  “My brother lives in Newark, and he has the same problem… but he only has 2.”  I explained why I leave with money.  When we arrive, I never know what we’re going to need.  School fees/supplies are often needed immediately, and much like today, you can’t always rely on ATMs.  He understood and thought that CBK would be understanding of my situation.  I don’t usually return to the states with that much, but our last trip ended in such a way that I needed to pay everyone in cash, I didn’t want to keep running back to the ATM if I was short.  Next time, I’ll make extra trips.  CBK decided to destroy all the old 1,000ksh notes because people had obtained sacks of them.  You heard me, sacks!  They made the decision to destroy all the old ones 3 months after learning this.  Then, 5 days after the deadline, the news read, “No extensions.”  As I said before, I landed 10 days after those bills became worthless.  We’ll see what happens on Thursday.  My fingers are crossed.  Isaac’s informed me that he’d never been there.  “It’s huge.” Based on his gestures, it is.
We then headed up the hill toward Tusky’s.  There was a man sitting on the side of the sidewalk with a badly deformed leg. He was shaking a plastic cup that had some coins in it.  I felt Andrea walking next to me and reached into my pocket to retrieve all the coins I accumulated so far.  I dropped them in the cup as I passed.  “Andrea would have done that,” I said to Isaac.  “Surely,” he replied.  He was the first and only panhandler I’ve seen.
We went into the mall and entered Safaricom.  Tusky’s is the anchor (although it’s located in the middle of the complex), with several shops and services available on either side.  When we entered, Isaac said, “You can go,” pointing toward the lines.  “I have to sign in first,” was my reply.  “Oh,” he said.  “I’ll sit over here.”  It’s a similar process to Verizon.  You head towards a customer service rep standing next to a computer screen.  You tell him what you wish to do and he directs you to the right place.  Gabriel took me over to a small desk next to all the tellers.  I explained my situation and he called over an older gentlemen who was definitely his superior.  He introduced himself but I can’t remember his name.  He left for only a moment and returned with good news. “You don’t need a new sim card, this one is still active but it’s empty.”  Then let’s fill it up!  I purchased a data bundle and some scratch of minutes that are still in use (despite the shop at the airport telling me otherwise).  I was relieved to get this taken care of… I have a lot of pictures to load, and this is the only way I’d be able to accomplish it.
Although it wasn’t on the schedule, we upstairs into Tusky’s.  It’s more supermarket than anything else, although they also have a good variety of other items.  It’s not the size of a Nakumat which is more like Walmart.  Tusky’s would be more like Wegmans.  We grabbed various snacks for the ride tomorrow. I grabbed some tangawizi tea bags to bring home and a box of spiced chai for Ann.  I asked Isaac to call Leah to see if they needed anything, and a bag of rice found it’s way into the cart.  The last purchase was a nylon carry bag.  The government outlawed plastic bags last year.  They even tell you when you land at Jomo Kenyatta, “If you have a plastic bag, leave it on the plane.”  We placed everything in the bag and headed for a spot to have a small snack before picking up Caleb and Tatiana at school.  I was a bit taken back when I saw that it was already 3;30pm.  That’s what happens when you don’t start until 11am.
This time we found a parking spot quickly and headed for a second floor restaurant overlooking a busy Narok street.  We can’t walk anywhere without people waving and yelling, “Eh, Kasura!”  This was no different.  We ran into someone who attended the funeral.  She came over to say, “Jambo.”  She also wanted to remind Isaac to send her the text I read.  “It was beautiful,” she said.  Isaac added, “Yes, many people asked for that.”  Mission accomplished.
We went upstairs and grabbed a high top table along the windows.  Isaac ordered for us and I headed for the bathroom.  It was outside behind the bar.  I followed the signs until I saw the “Men” sign.  I entered and laughed out loud.  Four urinals were to my left.  Not one fly, or hole in one emblazened on any of them.  “These guys know how to pee,” I said softly, and laughed again.
I returned to the table and  two cold Whitecap appeared.  I hadn’t had a beer since I’ve been here, but I can’t say that anymore.  It was delicious!  Next came a plate with some ngombe choma (barbecued meat), cachumbare (a delicious combination of onions, tomatoes and herbs) along with some ugali.  Samuel also stopped by - he saw us entering and decided come up.  He also wanted to be paid for picking me up at the airport.  again, mission accomplished.  
We told stories and laughed.  Another whitecap appeared.  I said, “What’s this?”  Isaac said “This one is for today,” pointing to the empty bottle, “and this one is for yesterday,” pointing to to the new one.  Yesterday’s beer was just as good as today’s.  The goat was tough.  The meat refused to leave the bones. That means that I’ll be picking goat out of my teeth for the next couple hours.  It explains why toothpicks are everywhere in this country.
We left the place around 5 and headed for the kid’s school.  We passed wandering cows who were “unsupervised.” Isaac said that there are loose cows with nobody tending them all over the city.  “They come in, they wander looking for something to eat, and they go home.”  Hm.
I didn’t take long to conclude that white people don’t often come to this school.  Children kept walking by, going back and forth trying to get a closer look.  Now I know what an animal at the zoo feels like.  Some of them decided that I don’t bite and came closer.  “Cuja hapa,” I said, and extended my fist as they neared.  “Go tah,” I said.  They extended their fist and tapped mine.  This is a Kenyan fist bump, that’s only done by children… and a 54 year old white man.  It’s a good ice breaker, and several go tahs followed.  Tatiana soon emerged and hopped in back.  Caleb followed behind.  Isaac said hello when they got in and asked Caleb if he wanted a haircut.  Apparently, they both needed one.  Isaac looked at me, “Okay, let’s go get your haircut,” I said.  We did.
We parked in a narrow street just beyond the barber shop.  The place had an interesting layout that looked like it was a piece of a maze.  The first room had 4 chairs and another doorway to the right in back.  The next room had 4 chairs in a different configuration with an obstructed doorway in back, and the last room had 8 chairs and a doorway to the left.  Isaac found a barber for both of them and Caleb was led to the front room while Isaac sat in the middle.  Tatiana sat two seats away from her dad.  That’s further away than I expected.  To say Tati is a dady’s girl is an understatement.
I wanted to call Ann, so I walked outside and crossed the street to an empty lot.  The streets were crowded and this was a spot that provided a little bit of personal space.  I hoped that the background noise wouldn’t disturb the phone call, but I was wrong.  It’s always a boost when I speak to her, and this was no different.  We talked for a bit and I switched on FaceTime so she could see where I was.  She was tired, so the call was short, but I got the boost I needed.  I’ll see her in 4 days.  The countdown continues.
I went back into the barbershop and conversed with the barbers.  One of them really wanted to take a crack at cutting my hair.  Not a chance.  “The same lady has been cutting my hair for 20 years!”  “I can do it,” he said.  No, he can’t.  
I started Snapchat and started playing with the filters taking pictures of the kids.  The giggled like children do.  Finally, Isaac’s cut was finished, he added a shave before we left for home.  Leah was preparing dinner.  It was a little after 6, so I was looking forward to being back in my room at 9.  Ahh but to dream.
I took my shoes off before entering their home.  They usually insist that i leave them on, but I know I have mud on them.  I gave Leah a big hug and grabbed a seat on their couch.  The tv on the fridge was on, not as loud as I was expecting.  That’s good, that means we can talk without my straining to hear.  Leah disappeared into their small kitchen and emerged with tangawizi tea.  She knows I it’s my favorite, and I’m pretty sure it’s hers, too.  I think I drank a gallon of it before the food came out.  I gave my phone to Caleb and Tatiana to play with the Snapchat filters.  That was a mistake, but I didn’t know it was until I got back to my room.  They got into everything, but I was able to retrieve things that they accidentally deleted.  Isaac sat next to me and we talked about the last few days with smiles on our faces.  Leah sat with us and joined in the conversation, periodically walking back into the kitchen and returning again.  We weren’t having goat this evening, we were having chicken.  Andrea and Karen are going to be jealous.  They love Leah’s cooking, and Karen always asks what she made when I go back home.  They’ll both be able to try it again in February.
We finished the meal by 8 and that 9 o’clock dream was becoming more of a reality.  We sat watching the news (which was in kiswahili) so Leah and isaac translated.  This time, Isaac was the one yawning, but he was unphased.  We didn’t leave until 10.  The roads around Isaacs home are a mess.  Not trash covered, but treacherous.  Rain water was responsible for a 3’ deep crevice at a major intersection.  Everything off the main road is dirt, and water always wins the battle.  When I got back to my room, I immediately plugged in my laptop, got changed, called Andrea and sat down to blog.
We have come full circle.  Isaac arrived this morning at 10:30, then I was please to see Anthony enter to have a chai with us.  We will see him again tomorrow because he’s helping guide other guests of Isaac.
We should be heading to Maasai Mara soon.  I’ll add as many pictures as I can en route.  Be sure to double back and check them out.

Sunday, October 13, 2019. Reuben Kasura's funeral

October 13, 2019
This is what I read before my comments yesterday.  It was more apropos than I could have imagined.

Death is nothing at all.  It does not count.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  Nothing has happened.  Everything remains exactly as it was.  I am I and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.  Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.  Call me by the old familiar name.  Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.  Put no difference into your tone.  Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.  Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.  Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.  Life means all that it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was.  There is absolute and unbroken continuity.  What is this death but a negligible accident?  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.  All is well. - Henry Scott Holland.

The day started like any other.  I was up entirely too late; woke up at 5am and fell back to sleep, finally waking at 9:30.  I’m not close to being caught up on sleep, and I’ve given up trying.  I sleep when I sleep and I wake when I wake.
I failed to mention a couple important notes about last night.  After the meeting, we had dinner.  Yup, 10:30pm.  Cabbage salad, goat stew and chipati… a lot of chipati!  While it is customary to eat family style, I think the number of people being fed made it difficult, so we've been served individual portions with each meal.  I haven't felt like a “visitor” for years, and they don’t treat me as such, however, I have eaten more food on this trip than ever before.  My plate is always overflowing, and when i return the empty plate to the table, it looks like it’s been licked clean.  There's no way that I'm losing any weight on this trip.
I got home at 11:15pm, and blogged until about 3:00am.   I really don’t want to get behind because so much is happening. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be more relaxed as we have some meetings scheduled in addition to fixing my modem problems and addressing the change in currency.  My blog for Monday might be, “I woke up. I drove around.  I went to sleep,”  but don’t count on it.
Isaac came in to pick me up as I was finishing breakfast at 10.  The kids and Leah were waiting in the car as I opened the door.  “Asabuhi!” I said as I folded myself into the vehicle.  I turned to see 3 smiling faces.
It’s still cool so it was a comfortable drive back to Kisisriri.  The conversation was light while we talked about the funeral.  Life goes on, all is well.  The plan was to construct a fence around Reuben’s grave to make sure that the cows that cross by don't disturb it.  That was all I knew about the day, but that was not all that we did.
As we pulled into the compound, we turned right and parked the car in front of a goat tied to a stake. Isaac put the car in park but before he shut the engine off, he pointed smiling and said,  “You’re gonna die soon,” with an innocent chuckle following the statement. My first thought was, “Wow he doesn’t look that old,” but I was glad I didn’t vocalize it. This guy was going to be a lunch, or dinner, or both. 
As warranted, we first went to see Isaac‘s mom. I greeted her with a smile and took her hand as we entered her home. She was seated in the first chair closest to the door. The bright sun shining on her face. I chose a chair along the back wall opposite the door and sat quietly, watching her. Children and grandchildren played outside and constantly passed by the door running and giggling. Grace sat perfectly still just staring through the doorway and outside;  her crutches leaning up against the frame of the door.  This was her window, and she loved what she saw. Everything outside said, “All is well,” inside though, I felt a bit of heaviness. It may have just been me… staring at the empty seat across for me that Ruben always occupied.
Isaac soon reappeared in the doorway obscuring the sun that was fighting to get into the room. “OK, time to go,” he said with a smile, looking into his mother’s eyes and smiling before we departed. I touched her shoulder on the way out the door. Life goes on. The men were all standing around Reuben’s grave, at least a dozen cedar posts had already been planted in the ground and they were hammering the dirt against the base to ensure that the post didn’t move as they fastened barbed wire to them. Pressure treated wood is unknown and Kenya, and when you don’t have pressure treated wood, you use cedar. They tamped the soil at the base of each post packing it in with long iron prybar similar to the ones you’d find in the states.   It looked like a 5 foot iron nail, and the end with the flat head was perfect for the job. No cement; it wasn’t necessary. If you don’t need it, you don’t buy it. A shiny spool of brand new barbed wire lay off to the side. I watched as one of the grandsons tried to begin unraveling it. No gloves. I think I know what I’m bringing the brothers in February. Heavy-duty wire cutters might be a good addition to that potential gift list. And the list continues to grow: pliers, Leatherman multi-tools, and perhaps a couple of hammers. The hammers that they use to nail the barbed wire is just a pipe welded to the head.  I can hear OSHA screaming in the background.They stretch the wire tightly to further support the cedar posts and prevent them from moving. I grabbed the top of one of the posts trying to move it as they nailed the wire to the posts.  It was only tamped dirt, but you would’ve thought that cement had already set underneath the soil.  Andrew then came down from the house walking down the hill with a knife and each hand. “Adam,” he said, "I have a job for you.” He handed me one of the knives and said, “Follow me.” 
As we made our way through the compound, I saw what my next job was going to be. We stood on the northern edge of a huge carrot field. Most of the crop had been harvested, yet many remnants remained. They will be eaten by the cows later in the day and throughout the week. I looked down at the ground where a bed of large leaves had been placed.  Bed, indeed.  I can’t remember who is holding the rope, following behind him was the aforementioned goat. What came next would certainly be ridiculed by the west, but this is a centuries old tradition. Blood from the goat is precious and is integral to Maasai culture. This goat helped provide. His blood was collected in a small stainless steel basin. Thinking about it now, It probably wasn’t that small at all.  It was about a foot in diameter and 6 inches deep. I say “small” because significantly larger ones were scattered around the area where many were now gathered to watch the ceremony. Grandchildren (boys and girls alike) had gathered as well. They varied in age from 5 to 15, and this was how they learn. Once the blood was collected, the goat was killed and the work began.  I hadn’t realized that we were shielded by tall trees, providing some privacy, and even peacefulness to this ceremony.   The work was done by males only.  There were women/girls watching, but the men/boys did all the work.  Even though I still had a knife in my hand, I was not participating in what came next.  I was definitely not qualified.  Two but no more than three men went to work immediately.
First the goat was skinned.  This was the longest part of the process.  Superficial cuts were made around it’s legs about 4” above it’s hooves, and another around it’s neck.  The last cut ran along his belly.  Again, just deep enough to pierce the hide.  The two doing the cutting were like surgeons.  I don’t think they said a word to each other the entire time.  They did, however, answer every single one of my questions; and I had a lot.  The hide will be sold at market, but it won’t fetch much; probably 200ksh at most ($2).  It was a lot of work, but they weren’t doing it for the hide, they were doing it to eat, to pray, to survive.  The sounds were unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.  It was akin to tearing a bath towel with your bare hands.  It looked like they could have done this blind folded.  When they finished with one side, the goat was lifted in the air and turned so that the process continued on the leaves.  The short woolen hide was then tossed to the side.
I won’t give you the nitty gritty, of what came next.  But here are the highlights.  There was a purpose for every organ that was removed.  Every single one.  I continued to pepper them with questions.  Every once in a while, the question would elicit some gigging for the “not new to goat gutting” spectators.  Unlike everyone else, this was my first rodeo.  The viscera was removed and separated.  Andrew called me again. “Do you still have your knife?”  “I’m holding it as instructed, Andrew.”  He laughed.  “Cuja hapa.”  “Come here.”  As I came around the other end of the goat, one of the two surgeons was removing the membrane from around the kidneys.  He took his knife and cut a small piece off the kidney.  Without saying a word, he held it out in front of me.  I think I had an out of body experience, because I didn’t hesitate.  Instead, I watched myself take a slice and pop it in my mouth like it was an M&M.  It wasn’t an M&M.  It was still quite warm and was as tender as a medium filet; it was also incredibly sweet.  The unmistakable hint of goat was present.  It was delicious.  Seriously.  Go ahead and judge me now.  Please.  Seriously, please judge me now because I don’t want to judge me later… and you’re going to want to.
The same exercise was repeated with the liver.  Not as sweet with a slightly different texture, but it was again, delicious!  There ended the “raw” portion of the day.  Next, I got up close and personal with “matumbo.”  That’s Kenyan tripe, sans FDA oversight.  Fortunately, it won’t be ready for a few days.  I did get to watch them clean out the stomachs and parts that I could not identify.  At one point, one of the surgeons removed a long tubelike section, stretched it out and blew into one end like it was the spit valve on a trumpet.  That just made me laugh; it made him laugh, too.  Truth be told, I’ve never had matumbo, but if I was going to try it, it would be with this family.  They’re all marvelous cooks.  While the men do all the barbecuing, the women do everything else… and that statements not relegated to the kitchen.
Everything was removed from the inside of this animal, and placed in particular bowls.  Almost all of the fat was in one of the large stainless steel basins, and it was overflowing.  No doubt about it, there’s a lot of fat on a goat.  I got the call again.  “Adam, cuja.”  I watched as a young boy reached into the bowl and pulled out a large piece of fat that had pieces of meat attached to it.  One of the more experienced boys sat in a chair with a knife similar to mine.  The boy would hold the fat, and while the other one cut it into small pieces.  The boy would move it around in his hand trying to get a section that wouldn’t slide out of his fingers while still providing ample space to cut.  The chunks that were removed were placed into yet another bowl.  I watched for about 15 minutes.  Although I didn’t ask for one, a chair was brought for me, and I was assigned a boy (probably 7 years old) to hold this stuff.  “Have you ever done this before?” I asked.  “Yes,” was his answer.  “Good, at least one of us has.”  He smiled.  I thought for sure I was going to slice off a finger before this was over.  I just wasn’t sure if it was going to me his or mine.  There’s something not right about stretching out goat fat.  It’s sometimes an exercise in futility.  The only thing that makes it remotely possible to cut is an incredibly sharp knife.  The reality is that this is how the boys learn.  Eventually, this young man will be the one holding the knife, and he will continue to learn until he reaches the rank of “surgeon.”  That’s my word, not theirs.
Again, more questions. These “cubes” of fat/meat (90%/10%) will be cooked with the blood and herbs.  The ribs that I heard cracking in the background will be barbecued.  The meatiest portions will be used for stew.  I prefer to have the meatier parts barbecued, but that wasn’t on the menu.  Too many mouths to feed, and besides, stew goes a long way.  Two of us continued to cut until everything was reduced in size.  That bowl was then whisked away.  When I stood up, I realized that they had already begun to barbecue the ribs.  A stick was run through each set of ribs like a hairpin.  One end was stuck in the ground while the other was angled onto a nearby ranch.  This perched the cage directly over the charcoal fire.  It was constantly turned by Andrew.  He knows what he’s doing.  He also squirreled away some pieces of goat and was roasting those on smaller sticks along the side of the metal tin holding the burning coals.  About 6 of us got the smaller pieces of goat that were identified as “the staff” and “the skin.”  This is why I shouldn’t ask questions.  That was bit too general, so I asked for more details.  I don’t care to divulge those at this time. The staff was first.  One of the men bit off a piece and handed it to me.  I took a bite.  It was quite tasty, and before I could even swallow, a piece of “the skin” was handed to me.  That one was definitely more fatty, but it had the consistency of the skin from a roasted chicken, and was just as tasty.  I now have to tell you that this is the part where I’m asking you not to judge.  I said to the few men who were also partaking, “If my wife knew what I was eating, she’d never kiss me agina.”  The laughter is probably still rolling through the hillside!  For the record, I told Andrea, Kevin and Karen during a phone conversation.  Karen laughed, between fake “I’m vomitting” noises.  Kevin probably hasn’t spoken since.  Andrea, well, it’s going to take some time, but I think she will kiss me again.  Eventually.
If I were trying to find the positive in all of it, I would say something like, “At least I didn’t eat his testicles.”  Just to remove any doubt, I didn’t eat his testicles.  At least not without my knowledge.  The last time I saw them the were still resting on the leaves… whole.   They actually looked like a couple under-filled water balloons.  Yes, I’m stalling.  Okay, enough already.  What they call “the staff” and “the skin” translates to “the penis” and “the scrotum.”  Hey!  I said don’t judge me, and I even warned you earlier.  In the spirit of “measure twice, cut once,” I re-re-verified both terms with Isaac.  It hadn’t changed from the night before.  For those of you that remember the show Fear Factor… fear is not a factor for me.  I refuse to listen to any of the jokes/puns that will be lobbed at me upon my return to the states.  I will not dignify them with a response.  
Who am I kidding, it’s funny stuff, and I’m sure I’ll be laughing with you.

Can we move on now?  Seriously, it’s like you’re a bunch of children!  Anyhow…

Everyone in attendance got a single rib.  I’m convinced that Kenyans have a teeth/jaw combination only rivaled by a Rottweiler.  They cleaned the bones until they sparkled.  Me, not so much, despite David telling me I did well.  While we ate, I got a small course in Kiswahili from Alfred’s eldest daughter.  Now I can say, “Hi caroti ni tamo”  “Hee kah-row-tee nee tah-moh”  This carrot is delicious.  I’ve been practicing that line ever since… inserting various items in place of “caroti.”
When everything was finished and removed from the area, I was led back up to the house for chai.  Lawrence had been waiting patiently, and his patience had run out.  As I caught up to him, I said, “I have goat fat all over my hands.”  “It’s okay, we’re going to give you a cup.”  Lawrence is incredibly quick witted and I’ve enjoyed joking with him during the day.  He has a dry sense of humor, and I love it.  I drank my chai, and the next two refills before being summoned yet again.  The mixture of blood and fat/meat called “menono” was being cooked on the other side of a fence.  I turned the corner to find one of the five trenches filled with charcoal and burning hot.  Why buy a barbecue when you can dig one in the dirt.  These were all roughly the same size - about 3’ long and 1.5’ wide.  The remnants from previous fires were sitting at the bottom.  Whether they used charcoal or timber for those fires, the only thing left behind was a small amount of ash.  Lawrence was stirring the menono with a large wood spoon.  The pot was barely big enough for it’s contents and if something fell out, they cleaned it off and ate it.  They asked me if I’d like to try it, so I jumped in.  It was just constant folding to make sure everything touched the metal pot.  I am happy to say that i didn’t lose a single morsel.  I’m not so happy to say that the children watching were amazed that I knew how to stir.  They made sounds like they were watching fireworks.  I think that’s a little embarrassing.  I’m a good stirrer.  
Not a single thing on that goat went to waste (don’t say it).  After the brain and eyes are removed, even the head will be boiled to make soup.  I’ll be missing that one, too.  I’m guessing that will be served with the matumbo.
After everything was done cooking, we moved back to the other side of the house and sat on makeshift benches and talked, although we probably laughed more than talked.  
The ladies were cooking behind the scenes the entire day.  We were brought plates of cabbage, spinach and ugali along with the pot of menono.  I’m pretty sure that it’s the first time I ate anything whose main ingredient was goat blood, but that too was fabulous.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that the testicles weren’t in it, but one thing’s for sure; I’m not asking.
We stayed outside and continued to laugh and tell stories.  Nothing has changed.  All is well.  This is a remarkable family.
The sun was beginning to go down and the breeze was picking up.  Although I was perfectly comfortable in my shortsleeve shirt, the coats that everyone else wore wasn’t enough to keep them from shivering.  It was then that I brought out pictures of Andrea wading through knee high snow in our back yard.  “Aye!” was the common response - but it sounds like “I” at an octave higher than your speaking voice.  The were still shaking there heads as we went inside.
It was 8:00 before the door was closed; not to keep out the cold, but to keep out anyone else.  For the last hour, I watched people squeeze into chairs and sit on arms of those very same chairs until Alfred was sure that everyone that needed to be there was there.  You see, as the first born, Alfred was now in charge of all things Kasura.  It was a good mix of men and women.  Without a cue, things suddenly fell silent.  Alfred first spoke to me.  He apologized for speaking Kiswahili and Kikuyu, but his mother spoke no english and the conversation would go much faster if they used their native tongue.  He still wanted me to stay, however, because this was going to be a family discussion.  It was a kind gesture and I thanked him.
He spoke for quite awhile before asking each of his brothers to speak one at a time.  Then the sisters, then some of their children and finally their mom.  It took two hours to iron out everything they needed to.  I’m glad they didn’t rush because of my presence.  I’m also glad they were not offended that I started to nod off a few times.  Once that door closed, all those bodies in that room generated a lot heat.  I went from being comfortable to downright warm.  Couple that with a dimly lit room and a conversation I cannot follow and you have a perfect recipe for sleep.
Alfred finally said, “Okay, now Adam, we are finished, but I have some words for you.”  He went on to say that his family and my family are one and we will always be intertwined.  He chose his words wisely as each one came from his heart.  “Our door is always open to you.  You will never be a stranger hear.  We love you and your family and it is important that we all come together the next time you come.  It’s important that we come together every time you come.  This home is your home and you and your family are most welcome.”  He continued in the same vein before asking if his brother wanted to say something.  Andrew parroted the same sentiment.  He is the only other brother that has met all our children, and he made mention of that.  “It has been too long since I have seen them.  I pray that we will all come together.”  Next was Anthony (in case I haven’t said it before, they pronounce it “Ahn-toe-nee”) who was proud to call me brother and Andrea sister.  “Your children are our children.”  Next, David.  He pause for quite a while before smiling and saying, “You know, I have been thinking.  We lost a bother when we were younger, and he would be your age right now.  I think he just went away, and now he is back.”  Their brother’s name was Emanuel.  My eyes pooled on that one.  Another long silence followed, and everyone’s heads were shaking in agreement.  Alfred broke the silence.  “Lawrence would you like to say something to Adams?”  Lawrence who was sitting so low on the chair beside Leah that he looked like he was in bed responded quickly.  “Ah, no.”  Isaac burst out laughing, and everyone followed suit.  The corner of Lawrences mouth turned up. I was laughing, too.  Alfred then called on Isaac who reaffirmed everything that was said. “Our family and your family… we are the same.” It was incredibly touching and very much unexpected.  It didn’t stop there.  Everyone in the room said something, referencing something that I said to them over the last two days, or something that I did.  My coming over to represent the family was so greatly appreciated and spoke to the love that we have for Isaac, Grace and the entire family… even those we didn’t know!  The feeling is definitely mutual.
The evening ended (or at least this portion of it) with prayers from Alfred’s eldest daughter.  When she finished, Isaac stood up and said, “Before we depart, the ladies would like to make you something small.”  Out came plates of chapati, stew, rice and cabbage salad.  It was 10:15pm.  Dinner is served!  I ate it all.
A few minutes later as individual conversations popped up, Leah, who was still seated next to me looked at her husband and said, “Isaac, twende,” holding out her arms with her palms up.  I love that lady!  “Isaac, let’s go!”
We all said our goodbyes which was more hugs than handshakes as we headed through the darkness towards Isaac’s car.  Alfred joined us.  Isaac was going to take him to his home.  Yep, that meant that Alfred, Leah, Caleb and Tatiana were all in the back seat.  When Alfred got in he said, “Why is you seat so far back?”  I started to move it forward and he shouted, “I’m joking, i’m joking!”  A sense of humor is in the Kasura’s genetics.
We got back to the Park Villa at 11pm.  Isaac said, “Let’s start at 10 tomorrow,” and I said, “asante,” “thank you.”  I got to my room and got situated to call Andrea before I started blogging.  Sure enough, there were some more “staff and skin” jokes before they hung up.  A sense of humor is in our genetics, too.

Tomorrow we should get the modem squared away - I really miss being able to see Andrea when I'm speaking with her.  The Safaricom modem solve that problem.  I won’t be able to add pictures until the modem is up and running, so look for an update in these postings that will have the pictures added.  I’ll probably end up doing it on the way to Maasai Mara.  I’d rather get caught up on the writing, first.  All is well.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

October 12, 2019
Let’s start off by saying that I may have agreed to getting up at 4am to be on the road by 5, but nobody said it was a good idea.  No matter.  Two hours after I finally closed my eyes, the alarm went off, I got up, and the day began.
It was an incredibly cool night.  Rain intermittently tapped on the tin sheet roof throughout the night.  I started the shower heater and climbed back into bed.  10 minutes later I was still awake so decided to stay that way.  The warm shower felt wonderful, but scrubbing of 24 hours of airplane cabin was even better.  It had stopped raining by the time I was ready to leave my room, so I took advantage of the situation. I grabbed the large roller and my backpack and hauled it out to the front parking lot where Samuel’s car was located.  I tucked them both under a small, thatched awning that signaled the bar/restaurant entrance.  There was nobody in sight, and the guard at the gate was probably sleeping so I left them to retrieve my smaller hardcore roller and my suit.  I finally saw someone on this time.  It was the night watchmen who gave me a quick “asabuhi” and went on his way.  It was only 10 minutes to five, so I decided to just wait there with my luggage.  It had begin to raining, so I stood in the open doorway ( under the thatched roof) and waited until 5.  Then I waited until 5:10.  Karibu Kenya.  At 5:20,  Samuel appeared.  We loaded the car and headed out into the morning that looked more like night.
There was a thick fog, although Kenyans call it mist.  The inside of the windshield was fogging up, too.  That was fun.  Samuel was very cautious, though, and very patient.  Eventually, we got balance between the temperature inside and outside the car to stop the window fog.  Samuel said, “This has never happened before,” and I believe him.  Maybe I breathe to deeply and give off extra CO2 or maybe I give off to much heat.  The next time he has a weirdo in his car, he’ll know what to do.
I waited until the sun came up before even thinking about sleeping.  Although the clouds were obscuring it’s view, light eventually appeared revealing the landscape.  Early in the morning is definitely the time to travel along the escarpment in the Rift Valley.  I’ve never passed that section so quickly!  We only dipped below 40km/hr once, and that’s because we had a vehicle coming towards us in our lane.  40km/hr doesn’t sound like much, but when you compare it to the more typical 5-10km/hr, it’s speeding.  Once we came down the other side of the mountain, things straightened out (and flattened out) and our speed increased significantly.  The clouds were much higher in the sky, there was no evidence left behind by the fog.  I was surprised to realize that I actually wasn’t tired at all.  I waited for the head bobs to start before I even tried. We drove for 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I slept for the last hour.  That brings the grand total to 3.  I’m going to pay for that, I just don’t know when.  This is not the day to be fighting off sleep.
It took a bit of coaxing to even wake up.  I remember hearing Samuel’s voice way off in the distance; it sounded like someone was talking to me through a pillow. It slowly increased in clarity until I realized that he was sitting next to me, driving on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the street,  “Oh, yeah, I’m in Kenya,” I thought as I sat up.  “Does this look familiar?” Samuel said.  “It certainly does,” I replied.  
We soon arrived at the Park Villa Hotel.  You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and this one you can’t judge by it’s name.  It’s one of the best and most consistent spots I’ve ever stayed in this country, but it’s all relative.  The day manager, Dapash, came to greet me and took my to my room.  “I just want a good shower, that’s it,” I said.  They showed me to a new room.  Because I’ve been traveling with Andrea and Karen, this time they put me in a single rather than a double.  I wish there was cause to be in a double - I miss them all, Katie and Kevin included.  I miss them terribly.  We got to room #130. The key tag read 129, and it was on the third floor.  Of course it does… makes perfect sense.  These are the things that make me smile.  There’s another oddity in this hotel and it takes a couple days to get used to it.  Stairs.  It’s not an issue of climbing them, it’s more… I don’t know… navigating?  There’s no rhyme or reason to the rise!  Every step is a different height, but their depths are close to identical.  Going up is not as bad as going down.  You know that feeling you get when you’re at the bottom of the stairs but you think there’s another step?  You get that with every other step when your descending at the Park Villa.  It keeps you on your toes… no pun intended.
I showered quickly, threw on my suit and went back downstairs to meet Samuel.  Isaac would be here soon and I still had time for breakfast.  Needless to say, this was the first time any of these people have seen me in a suit and tie.  “Wow,” was the most common response.  It was only about 9am, so it was still cool.  The skies were overcast and rain was expected so I stuffed an umbrella in my backpack before coming down.  I sat at a table with 6 chairs.  Isaac was coming with the entire family.  I ordered a chai and eggs.  a few minutes later they arrived and I devoured them.  Even the toast and sausage.  I had no idea how long it was going to be before we ate, so I thought I’d throw in a mandazi.  Samuel was agreeable, so i got two.  It was one of the best mandazis I’ve ever had.  It’s pretty much fried dough like you’d get at the fair, only these were much less oily.  They’re also shaped like a small stromboli… and a pretty good size.  I’ll sure I’ll have another one, so I’ll take a picture before it disappears.
We continued get refills on our tea until Isaac, Leah, Caleb and Tatiana arrived.    Isaac came in from behind and put his hand on my shoulders saying, “I know this guy.”  I rose to give him a big hug.  “Pole sana, my brother.” (Poh-lay sah-nah; “I’m sorry for your loss”).  the kids were close behind but Leah got the next hug, then hugs for the kids.  I got another “Wow,” from Isaac, and Leah was a bit more verbose.  “You look nice,” she said with a smile.  I said the same to both of them, too.
They sat and ordered some food for the kids and chais for themselves.  By the time everyone was finished, we had discussed the flight from the US to Nairobi and the drive from Karen to Narok.  We didn’t discuss anything about the days events, but that was okay; I wasn’t expecting a play by play.   I was there to help in whatever way I could, and that did not require an itinerary.
We drove through Narok town and turned off the main road where there were a dozen vehicles with people gather around the entrance.  It was the mortuary.  I would soon learn that their mortuary is our funeral home… calling hours, however, are outside.
I saw David and Anthony and gave them both big hugs.  I then met the other brothers that I was seeing for the first time.  Alfred (the eldest brother) and Lawrence (he’s one year older than Isaac) got similar greetings.  “I’m very please to meet you, and I’m terribly sorry for the circumstances.”  They agreed, and, none the less, smiled.
Isaac’s mom, Rose, came over to me. Her injured foot was improving, but she was still walking with crutches.  She looked beautiful in her black dress and beige sweater.  She also wore a simple hat with white silk that circled the base.   I sat and watched as the family members were slowly overcome with emotion.  The men would all turn away from the crowd so as not to be seen crying.  Isaac and David were outwardly having the hardest time.  They all were, some of them just hid it better.
I was standing with David while the rest of siblings were talking with a man from the mortuary and a pastor… Pastor Dave.  Each of them, as well many women in the crowd had a large white round sticker on the chest.  David said this denoted that they were members of the family.  As we watched the discussion, a younger man emerged from the group and came towards me.  He said nothing as he placed the same large white sticker on my lapel.  David just smiled and gave me a hug.  “You are one of us,” he said softly.
The casket soon emerged from behind the walls of the mortuary and was placed in the center of what we would consider a parking lot (although there was only one vehicle - the space was occupied by a couple hundred people) on tope of a metal stand.  The Pastor then spoke about Reuben, read a verse from the bible and began to pray.  I’d give you more details, but it was all in Kiswahili, and although I could catch many words that I recognized, I just couldn’t keep up.  It takes much longer for it all to come back to me.  What I will tell you is that as soon as he began to speak the sun broke through the clouds and remained out through this service.  When he finished, the top third of the casket was opened to reveal Mr. Kasura resting peacefully.  A sheet of plexiglass ran the full length of the casket just under the lid.  A line quickly formed and the viewing began.  This was understandably one of the more difficult parts of the day.  The sons shed tears as they walked by first with their mom, retreating to the corner.  I was honored to be part of this procession, and I was pleased to see the same face that was smiling at us last February.  They don’t do any “work” like they do in the states, and it may very well have been my mind choosing to remember as I saw him last, but I was glad to see him one last time.
The silence of this procession  was broken by women who began sobbing and wailing.  They were quickly tended to and consoled by others in attendance.  Once the last person went by, the lid was closed and Pastor Dave spoke again.  The casket was then moved into a van that serve as a hearse.  It was time to take him to his home - his final resting place.  A light rain fell as everyone got into their cars.  We were several miles form his home when the skies opened up again and the sun shined brightly.  We had to pull over once, but that was just to make sure that everyone was together.  There was no police escort, and the only thing signify that this was a funeral procession were the red ribbons tied to the car antennas and the flashing hazard lights.  It mattered little to others cars on the roads that passed cars in the procession then snuck in between others to avoid oncoming traffic.  Still, everyone managed to make to the Kasura home in Kisiriri (kee-see-ree-ree, don’t forget to roll your r’s).
We parked the car and got our.  Isaac’s family home is on a tiered hill that slope down into an expansive farm.  Three large tents were staked at the top with as many resin chars as could fit under them.  The clouds had returned and no blue sky was visible in any direction.  They were prepared for rain that never came.  Part of that preparation was keeping the “program short,”  so they cut out some sections.  Lunch was not one of the things they cut.  When the steady flow of people slowed, lunch was served.  A line formed to the left of the entrance to their land, and curved to right passing by a makeshift stand where everyone was served cooked potatoes, spinach, cabbage salad and beef.  It was a traditional Kenyan meal.  I was ushered away with other family members and at with David in his home.  The conversation was light and included many questions about life in America.  It began with someone saying how far behind Kenya is.  While I agreed that America is ahead of them in some ways, in others, Kenya is way ahead.  Kenyan family, communities and tribes are like America in the 1940s.  
Everyone looks out for each other - if you break down in your car, every car will stop to see if they can help.  I can tell you from experience that it even happens at night.  
You didn’t have one mother as a child, you had dozens.  
Nobody is afraid of hard work, and trust me, they work hard.
Personal responsibility is only equaled by the lack of entitlement.
Respect for your elders is a cornerstone of their society.  
Through stories and concise statements, I told them that the grass they were standing on looked awfully green to me.
We finished our meals and returned to where the tents were.  The program was about to begin.  Although one of Reubin’s grandsons had a camera and was actively taking pictures, David asked me if I brought my camera.  When I said, “Yes,” he smiled wide and said, “You take very good pictures.”  I was off to the races.  I took my camera and stood off to the side taking shots of the crowd.  The hearse arrived and the casket was placed in the middle of the field in front of the tents.  It was then I grasped the number of people here.  The were shoulder to shoulder all the way to the street above us.  The were seated in the grass in the next two tiers below us.  Opposite the tent, they were lined up agains the bushes.  There had to be over 500 people there.  Easy.  And remember, every one of them was fed.
In anticipation of the rain, a canopy was placed over the casket.  In front of it, between the tents and the casket was a large photo of Reubin, wide-eyed and smiling.  There was the equivalent of an MC who introduced everyone before they spoke.  Pastor Dave was first.  Again, more Kiswahili, as was the same with everyone that followed.  Some may have been speaking Ma’a or Kikuyu, but I couldn’t tell.  I moved around taking pictures until the MC to the mic again and called for pictures.  As I saw them setting up, I moved over to the tent and knelt on the damp grass until everything was in place.
A resin chair was moved from the tents to the casket.  It was positioned just to the right of the photograph.  Grace rose from her chair and moved to the one next to the casket, then lowered herself onto it.  I didn’t know what to expect, and shouldn’t have been surprised.  
Kenyans love to take pictures of everything.  They love documenting their experiences, and this was no exception.  The MC then called for groups to join her and have their picture taken.  This would be the longest portion of the program.  I was able to identify many of the groups because I knew them, but again, Kiswahili is not an easy language.  I think this was the order:
  1. Reubin’s Sons
  2. Reubin’s Sons & Daughters
  3. Reubin’s Sons & Daughters in Law
  4. Reubin’s brothers
  5. Reubin’s brothers & sister
  6. Reubin’s brothers & Sisters in Law
  7. Reubin’s grandsons
  8. Reubin’s granddaughters
  9. Reubins’ great grandsons and great granddaughters
and the list went on and on.  Because I took the pictures, I know that there were 27.  I was called somewhere in the middle.  Although Rose speaks only a few words of english, and Kikuyu or Ma’a were her preferred languages, I knew a thrifty woman when I saw one.  I knelt beside her for our photo, and when it was finished, I said, “Maji” (mah-jee) “Water.”  She smiled and nodded.  I passed the info onto David who brought her a bottle.  She drank most of it before the photos continued and were eventually concluded.  It had to be exhausting.
She returned to her seat, and the speeches began.  I almost forgot to tell you that the skies opened once again, and stayed that way for the remainder of the day.  I’ve got a sunburned nose to prove it.  They were so confident that they removed the tarp that provided cover for the casket.  Their confidence in their weather forecast meant that everything that was on the cutting room floor was returned to the program.  Anyway, back to the speeches.
Friends, relatives, church groups etc all came up and spoke.  I continued to take pictures and walk around to get different perspectives on the crowd.  I was standing next to 2 large speakers when I got a text from Isaac.  “You must be tired, please come sit down.”  Isaac was under the 3 adjacent tents in chairs with the rest of the immediate family.  I said, “I’m fine, Isaac.  I prefer to stand.”  He was adamant, and got Leah involved.  “Leah wants you to come sit next to her.”  Leah makes me tangawizi chai (ginger tea), roasted potatoes and stew.  If she wants me to sit next to her, I’m going to sit next to her.  She smiled as I tried to find space for my legs.  No luck.  Then, as Pastor Dave was speaking, I finally heard something I definitely recognized.  “… America…”  uh-oh.  That was followed up with another familiar name, “Mister Adams.” (Mees-tah ah-dahms).  Don’t ask me why they call me Adams.  It’s always been that way.  I had no prepared words - that’s dangerous.  I get very chatty when I’m nervous, and this scenario definitely fit the bill.  As luck would have it, while cleaning out my photos on my iPhone while flying from Amsterdam to Kenya, I came across a sort of poem that I heard at a funeral.  It was beautiful, and now I had to find it again.  Finally, somebody’s going to speak English!  That someone was me.  The MC translated as I read.  Andrea would have been proud of me.  I made to the last 2 lines before I had to stop.  In true Kenyan fashion, I turned away from the crowd when my voice cracked.  The MC whispered, “Be strong.”  Two things immediately popped into my head.  1.  This guy doesn’t know what he’s dealing with.  And 2., I bet he’s never seen “P.S., I Love You.”  You wanna see tears mister… sorry, got a little carried away there.  I finished with some off the cuff remarks before returning to my kneeling position in the grass.
A small group was then introduced and they sung for a bit.  Then Pastor Dave was on again.  Someone out of sight was reading the bible and he was making exclamations after each verse and spoke briefly at the end of each reading.   When he concluded, it was time to take Reubin to the sight where is to be inturred.
The lot, dug by hand was on the 2nd their below.  A large pile of dirt resided next to the hole.  Straps were fastened to poles waiting for the casket which was carried down by Reubin’s sons.  Pastor Dave spoke briefly, and the casket was gently lowered.  The straps and poles were removed while Pastor Dave spoke.  Reubin’s brothers then tossed a fistful of dirt onto the casket, followed by his sons.  Again, additional groups were called up to do the same.  I remained just above the dirt pile as I uncomfortably took photographs.  I kept telling myself that this is what they needed my to do.  So I did.
After the last group was called, Pastor Dave spoke again.  When he stopped, some people moved in closer.  The were holding shovels and hoes.  In a matter of minutes, they moved all the dirt into the hole and filled it 18” above the opening.  During that entire time, 2 man sung songs.  There was a constant exchange of shovels.  When one person began to slow down, he hand it off to the next guy.  It was  community effort.  Pastor Dave then called on the Reubin’s siblings and sons to bring beautiful red and white rose wreaths and place them atop the mound.  With that, the ceremony ended.  It would take another hour before everyone left.
It began to get dark and the temperature was dropping so we moved inside.  The committee of men that organized the ceremony met inside with the sons and me.  Again, all kiswahili in a dimly lit room.  I counted 3 head bobs before I started squirming in my seat.  They didn’t finish until 10:30, but it felt like 2am.    Isaac finally rounded up the kids and Leah and brought me back to the hotel.  Where I plopped in my bed and fell fast asleep.  Prior to his departure, Isaac planned on calling at 8 and sending a car to pick me up at 11.  We’ll see what time he calls.

Oh, PS.  I won’t be able to post any pictures until I get my Safaricom modem fixed.  Sorry about that.  I’ll be taking care of that tomorrow after the shops open.  Ta ta for now.