"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, February 14, 2010

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed these stories as much as I enjoyed being a part of them... and retelling them.

Don't worry, I did hold onto a couple of things that I'll talk to Andrea about, but the bulk of them are already written out. I had a friend send me a note on Facebook saying, "I can't wait to hear more about your trip." Honestly, I don't know that I left that much out. I could talk more about the night at the Maseno Club early in the trip, and I could talk more about dinner at Job's house. As I sit here thinking, I may just read through the blog to figure out what I failed to tell you. That way, when you see me, you can ask... and I'll have at least a story or two to still tell.

Now, I just want to be home.

See you in a few months.



Well, this time I'm sitting in JFK. Just that much closer to Ann and the kids!

Before I left, I told Jim that I had one more story for the blog. I haven't put it up yet because I was debating on what the reaction would be. I told him he was going to have to read it, but I eventually caved and filled him in. He laughed himself silly. If that is the general reaction to this blog, GREAT! If not, pretend you never read it. I'm going from the angle that this could be a learning experience for the visiting nurses. I, rather, my friend, knew better, but once we got hot water at the Guest House, Jim said it best. "We got fat and lazy."

So, I have this friend...

OK, it's really me. As pictured above, the shower stall has this spikit on the wall just below the hot and cold water valves. For the time being, let's not think about the condition of the faucet, and whether it is clean. Trust me, it's not.

When I stepped in the shower this morning, I was happy to be able to take yet another hot shower before sitting on various planes for 24 hours. I closed my eyes as I turned the hot and cold knobs, and breathed a heavy sigh thinking of my arrival home. Sadly, those thoughts were interupted by silence. I opened one eye in disbelief. As I gained the courage to look up at the shower head, I saw.... nothing. As my shoulders shrank, I turned the spickets off, thinking that this would somehow make the water magically appear. Nope. I am obviously not David Copperfield. The drought had caught up to us. It was then that I peered down at the blue basin that each room is supplied with. Traditionally, you would fill this with water in the event that no water was availaible. Sadly, we had become what Jim calls, "fat and lazy." We got used to a seemingly endless supply of water, and hot water to boot! After the 5th day, I stopped considering filling the basin with water, so the empty basin stared back at me as if to say, "Gotcha!"
I threw on some shorts and a t-shirt, actually thinking that I'd be able to find water. Where was I going to find a dividing rod? When I opened the door and turned left, I saw large 5 gallon buckets sitting outside of some of the other rooms. Nope. No buckets outside mine or Jim's.
After considering sneaking away with one, I go to see Daniel, the equivalent of a "front desk manager," who immediatley says, "We're having trouble with the water." No kidding. He brings a couple buckets of water for me. I get back to the shower and proceed to fill the still snickering basin. Now, do I keep my back to the wall that doesn't have any objects protruding from it? No, I squat in front of the basin with my back to the spikit. Now I am, very much aware of the "quality" of the water in this area. I don't shave when I'm there for fear of cutting myself and getting a really nasty infection. I've made several trips to Kenya without incident. Until now. And it had nothing to do with a razor.

After taking the equivalent of an inverted shower, I dump out the basin filled with soapy water, and fill it with the bacteria laden clean water to rinse myself off. Normally, you just begin to pour it over yourself until all the soap is gone. Piece of cake. Nope, agian. When I stand up, I forget that this nasty little spickit is behind me, and the spickit takes a 1/2" swath about 2" long out of my backside. Well, it was a little closer to the small of my back, and thankfully bellow my belt line. You get the picture.

Now, I am silently screaming bloody murder, because I can't yell out loud, despite my deepest desire to. Fortunately, I'm tall enough that I can look in the mirror at and angle great enough to be able to see the damage. Nice... blood is bright red, and flowing pretty nicely. The cut looks like ... well, if you had a wrapped Christmas present in front of you, and you took a fingernail and ran it across the paper, that's what it looked like. The skin was kind of wrinkled and gathered at the base of the cut. At this point, he had two thoughts.

1. How do I clean this out?
2. How do I put a band-aid on this thing?

Fortunately, there was a bottle of drinking water nearby, so I cleaned it out with that. Then came question two. Every time I wiped the blood away, it started almost immediately. At this point, I laughed to myself as I VERY briefly thought of a scenario where I knock on Jim's door and say, "Jim, I need some help." Oh my God, that made me laugh. It made Jim laugh, too, when I told him the story.

I spray the cut with Neosporin, but it may as well have been battery acid. OK there is where I inform all my loyal readers that I'm not a good patient. Andrea already knows. I managed to get a couple of Band-Aids on before the bleeding gets to bad, and have to make a couple of adjustments because they weren't on straight. I'm tall enough to see the cut, but I'm not the Armenian Rubber Boy. I can't bend myself like a pretzel so that I can stare straight at the cut.

12 Hours later, as I sit in the airport, I'm afraid to see what it looks like. I'm in the cafeteria area, so I won't look now, but I'm sure it is now nicely bruised. It's uncomfortable depending on how I sit, and I don't usually sit gingerly. Well let me tell you, I do now.

Lesson learned.

When washing yourself in a basin, always keep your back facing the wall with no protruding objects.

This lesson costs you absolutely nothing. It only cost me a bit of my pride.

Now I'm kind of happy that I only have 9 followers...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

13/02/2010 6:30am What a way to go!

Well, I'll start of by apologizing for leaving you hanging last night. I'll start this morning by filling you in on a somewhat appropriate send off, even though I'm still at the Maseno Guest House.

I woke up at 5am, and lay in bed thinking of home and family. At 5:30 I got up and stepped in the shower. Most people have left, and I'm only aware of 1 other room being rented besides mine and Jim's. Hot water was waiting! I turned the spicket. Nothing. I turned the cold spickitt. Nothing. "Hope you had fun in Kenya. Enjoy your 24 hour flight home. Can't wait to see you again." was the only thing that came out.

This is where you learn how little water you really need to clean yourself up. At night, buckets are filled with water for just such an occassion. They're placed outside of the rooms, and wait patiently for the water to run out. Now is that time. The bucket hold about 5 gallons, and no, it's not warm. There's a large blue basin in everyone's shower... I don't recall if you can see it in any prior pictures. Anyway, you put a little water in the basin, and through trial and error, you find the most effective way to get the water onto your entire body. After all, the mountain didn't come to Mohammed! Some people squat outside the basin, some people stand in it... it's all about personal preference. Either way, it will get the job done. And yes, this morning it did. Add a hot shower to the list of things to do upon arrival at home.

Now, we return you to your regularly scheduled program, Huma Lady Lions vs Mbaka Oromo Secondary School (MOSS) Simbas. First I must remind you that Huma is an all girls school, and they were now about to compete against a mixed class of Form 2 (10th graders). There couldn't have been more that 7 girls on the MOSS team, and the boys looked rather imposing.

The field was marked out when we got there. String connected the bases, and cardboard squares were used as bases. If you looked at it from above, it looked more like a parallelagram than a diamond (this time, parents ask your kids... and here I never thought I'd need to know what a parallelagram was). The rules are somewhat adjusted, or completely forgotten, depending on your perspective. There are 11 people on the field, and 11 batters. Everyone bats. Perhaps we'll introduce the "3 outs" rule later. It will be the same time we introduce the "3 strikes and your out," rule. Some players use gloves, others bare hands, but we use the softer "training" softballs to play.

The crowd is absolutely enormous, consisting of Huma girls that aren't playing (they were finishing an athletic day when we arrived), and some surrounding primary school students. The colors are quite striking.

And after a long, hard fought battles, the Huma girls defeated the MOSS by a score of 28-30. If they were playing with more rules, especially 3-outs, it would have been a massacre. The girls were stupendous. They caught most if not all pop flies and line drives - mostly barehanded. They hit several home-runs, and in couple instances, I thing they were grand slams. The value of such a feat was lost in translation. All they cared about was that they made it all the way home.

Here's a picture of both teams... or should I say, ALL the teams...

The game ended at a little after 5, and we thought we’d be back early. Nope. Following the game there was the usual fanfare that accompanies visitors… especially visitors from the us. First, their equivalent of an Athletic director talked about the sporting events that took place during the day. He thanked us for introducing baseball to Huma, and for bringing Mbaka Oromo. He then introduced Jim, who spoke about the baseball game, the three girls he sponsors (through various friends & himself), and how strong the Headmaster, Mareb, is. Just as he sat down, Mareb said, “Perhaps Adams (for whatever reason, most Kenyans add an s to my name) would like to say something.” “Yes, yes, yes, of course,” said Jim. Cue the talking with the hands. As he saw me floundering, he threw me a line. “Why don’t you tell them about our board meeting the other day?” Bingo. I started to relate the story of our walk back from Huma towards Mbaka Oromo, and how we talked about their need for more classrooms, and, more importantly, electricity in a dormitory which houses 120 girls. I reaffirmed that they have no lights, so they are in the dark from 7pm to 7am. We saw the facility afterwards, and it’s downright dangerous. The electricity was lost during a fire many years ago, and I’d hate to think what would happen if another fire started in the middle of the night… anyway, first I told them that we had decided make sure that building got electricity asap. I glanced over at Mareb, who was grinning from ear to ear and shaking Jim’s hand. She was hearing for the first time, along with the students. There was thunderous applause and cheering. Once it died down, I further told them that we would build them a classroom as well, to help create some space in those that were already overcrowded. Again, more cheering. I asked that they work hard, so that we can work hard, and walked towards a seat next to Jim and Mareb. She gave me a firm hand shake and a tooth-filled smile. Now, the interesting thing was that the MOSS players were all seated together, and judging by their behavior, they don’t like losing. After I finished, I took a seat next to Jim.

Immediately, Mareb moved over to be close to the two of us. The athletic director then gave out awards for the day’s events. Not for the baseball, but rather for the other events occurring when we arrived: volleyball and track. These weren’t the usual awards, though. Given the time to consider the situation, this is what you would expect to be given out in a poor country. The girls received laundry soap, or oleo. Sometimes they were accompanied by a pen. The winning teacher for the day was awarded a gallon of juice. Let that settle in for a bit. Jim and I, along with William and Mareb handed out the awards to the students as their names were called. We were each met with a smile and a handshake. A curtsy preceded each girls acceptance before they returned to sit with their friends. It was very humbling. There were times that tears began to well up in my eyes as I watched the exchanges. It’s actually having the same effect on me as I write this.

Next came the handing out of certificates from an athletic event sometime in the past. Apparently, the certificates weren’t ready then, but luckily they were now. It probably amounted to another 50 names, handshakes and curtsies. It was getting late, but wait there’s more. William was then asked to speak. He’s long winded, but got the girls, and even some of the boys, laughing and clapping. It was actually nice to hear him tell his students that if they worked hard, they can be successful like the girls at Huma. He then turned around and said that if he had brought the Mbaka Oromo Primary School students to play, “You would have seen fire!” I wonder how that went over with the secondary students.

Mareb then spoke, thanking us much more than we deserved to be thanked. We are only the faces of hundreds of people that help us accomplish our goals here in Kenya. It makes me uncomfortable when they thank us so much. That’s just something I have to work on. Mareb had a girl lead the entire group in what I would characterize as a rally cheer. They wanted us to have chipati and kuku. They don’t have the real thing, so they gave it to us in spirit. It was really cool, and I hope this video captures that. The sun was beginning to dip very low on the horizon as Mareb finished.

Then came the Deputy – Mareb’s assistant. She is a short stocky woman who just joined Huma this past year. She has narrow eyes, but a very wide smile. She often tries to hide it, but a smile that big can’t stay hidden for long. She’ll raise her hands over her face, or sometime lower her eyes, but the smile still comes through. She, too, said how grateful she was, but there was more. Not only was she thankful for the lights in the dorm, and the extra classroom, and the Fairport Softball t-shirt we gave her, but at her previous job, they had American visitors. She unfortunately never got the opportunity to meet them and shake their hands. We were the first wazungo she ever met! That made everyone laugh, and assured a hug goodbye from both Jim and me. She closed with a prayer as the sun began to set. It took another 20 minutes before we found our way back onto the bus.

It was a short ride to Layla station where Jim, William, Noel and I got off. We said our “goodbyes” and went to catch a matatu back to Maseno. The bus continued on toward Mbaka Oromo to drop off the students.

This would be our last Matatu ride… or at least I hope. If they’re feeling adventurous, perhaps I’ll bring some of our guests in May onto one. Those little vans, crammed with sweaty Kenyans is an experience that can’t be described… or duplicated… and if possible, not repeated.

Jim and I returned to the Guest House where we had 2 cold Tuskers waiting for us in the fridge. We picked up some ground nuts, and just sat and talked. We were both pretty tired, though, so the beer didn’t last long.

I sat under the mosquito net, and typed as much as I could. This is not the final chapter to this trip, however, because it will be continuing. Hopefully by now, Jim will have entered some stories on his blog (http://jiminkenya.blogspot.com). Andrea is his only follower at this point, and she thinks it’s pretty pathetic that she the only follower of a blank blog. Jim assured me that he’d get right on it. Hakuna matata.

I’ll right one more entry while I sit in the airport in Dubai, then you probably won’t hear from me again until May.

Talk to you in a bit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

12/2/2010 9:55am

The day started at 7am, and ended at 7:15pm. It actually started at 4am when I Skyped Andrea, Kevin & Karen. We had a great conversation, as usual. The only thing missing was the video! That made me a little sad, because I love seeing them. Kevin was up to his usual antics, so that got me laughing. When I told him about Bjorn and his man purse, he said, "It's a satchel, and it's very fashionable." - a quote from the Hangover. Super. Normally it's always from Anchorman.

We took a matatu to Chuolembo, and arrived at about 7:10. We then began our usual walk to Mbaka Oromo. We wanted to be sure to get there for opening ceremonies. This morning was cool, and a very welcome change. We continued to talk as we walked, although this time, I'll only give you one quote. It happened to be the opening line from Jim. "Tell me if you've ever experienced this." (insert dramatic pause, look into camera, insert dramatic music... fade to black). Yeah, enough said. We laughed most of the way their, and I'm not even sure I heard the entire story. I assume that Kenya is no different than any other country... it's loaded with beautiful, inquisitive children. These two were no exception. Their mother, however, was very camera shy. By this time, the sun had risen to about 30 degrees above the horizon, and it was as if someone turned on a gas fireplace. It seemed to almost immediately become 85 degrees.

We continued walking, and made it to the school in time. The opening ceremony is quite a production. It begins with the raising of the Kenyan flag. In this case, it was a new one... significantly larger than it's predecessor (which by the way, looked like it had been through a war). A young student would raise the flag after a series of salutes and marching steps. A brief song is sung, then a verse from the bible, then a prayer. Yes, the ACLU would have been going nuts. It was quite beautiful, actually. All the while, birds were chirping, cows mooing etc. It's a beautiful setting that I'm not able to capture on film.

The headmaster then addresses the assembly. He speaks about the work we have done, and the work that the students have done, and how the two go hand-in-hand. Next, Jim speaks, then, me. No, not my finest hour. Jim tells me that I talk with my hands a lot. I don't think it was my finest hour, and although I should be used to it by now, I still find it a bit unnerving. It's not as easy speaking to Kenyan children as you might thing. Next time, I'll try a pratfall to lighten them up.

Once completed, the children are instructed to go to their classrooms. Always obedient, they immediately oblige. The only stragglers are the kindergartners... they wander a bit until their teacher corals them. I snapped a couple of photos, then dropped my pack in the headmasters office. Everything seems heavier in this heat. Maybe Jim put a bunch of stuff in my pack when I wasn't looking... in any event, a GOOD backpack is a must in this country if you're going to be doing any walking.

Jim and I then headed over to the Secondary School to see about the positioning of the kitchen. We told the fundis (workers) where we wanted it, and watched as it was staked out. It was toward the front of the property, where the brush was very tall. Enter the Kenyan ginsu. A panga (machete) is used for just about everything. It's a lawnmower, it's a hedge trimmer, it's a saw, heck it may even be a razor! Why the tallest guy is bent over, ostensibly cutting the grass with a machete is beyond me, but that's just what he did. In no time, the area was cleared, and the foundation was beginning to be cut out. I commented to Jim that these four guys didn't need two supervisors, so I went back to the Primary School in the hopes of escaping the sun. No such luck. At the end of the Primary School, the kindergardners were playing jump rope... well, at least it was "jump=something." Note to self: bring jump ropes in May. They were trying unsuccessfully, but enjoying every minute of it. It was then that I walked down to join them. I shook the teachers hand, and she immediately asked when we were going to be in Huma next. When I told her, "Today," her eyes lit up. She has a daughter in form 2 (10th grade), and wanted me t take her a letter. But wait, that's not all! Her daughter also needs a uniform, and a sweater, and some spending money. I told her I'd help (all those things amounted to close to $30. She said she'd bring me the letter, and I headed back to the small children. Little did I know that I wouldn't be able to shake them. I started juggling which always draws a crowd. When I'd grown tired of that, I scooped one of them up, and swung him around like he was an airplane. She was scared at first, but she soon started laughing, and loved it. The next hour was filled with ,"Me too!" By the time I was done, I was exhausted. So much so, that I had to seek solice in a tree. It was a huge shade tree that I didn't expect them to be abe to climb. I could barely get into it! They, didn't have a problem at all. If one was too small to reach the first limb, another one would push them up into the air until they reached.

I sat in the tree for about 15 minutes. It was actully a pretty comfortable spot, until the teacher returned, and asked me to come into her class. 5 Minutes later, she was telling me how her walls need posters, and her students needed books, and she needed spending money. I said, "It's either your daughter or you? What's it going to be?" She said nothing, so I assumed that the deal with her daughter prevailed.

I stepped outside, and headed to the library. It was quiet, but that didn't last long. A loud bell ran in the couryard, and children came running. I mean literally, running. The library is a popular spot, and the kids are eager to get in to take a seat and open new worlds.

It was early afternoon, and Jim and I decided to take a nap in the library. He laid down on two benches that he put side by side. I just put my head on the table, and bam! Lights out! Sadly, 15minutes later, Christine (one of the teachers) woke us up to tell us lunch was ready. Kuku, sakumawiki, and rice. I think I've been here so often, that I haven't been telling you about another Kenyan tradition that is a must. Before eating, someone will normally bring in a basin and hot water. The basin is placed in front of you, you place your hands over the basin, and hot water is poured over your hands. You rub them briskly, and splash the excess water on the ground. Now you can begin eating. Regardless of the cleanliness of the water, they now consider your hands clean. The food was good, and now it was time to walk toward the spot where the Huma bus was going to pick us up.

We got there a bit ahead of schedule. We were told we'd be picked up at 3, and it was 2:55. At 3:30, we decided to walk a little more. Finally, after several ineffective phone calls, we found the bus, or rather, the bus found us. We all climbed in, and started toward Huma.

At this point, I'm just gong to introduce you to the new "Huma Lady Lions." It was a great game, but I'm just too tired to write. My apologies. It was a wonderful game, that I'll tell you about tomorrow.

This little sucker was about an inch high, and 2 inches long. Nice. I bet he's crunchy. He's more than likely the last of the critters.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

11/02/2010 9:35pm

I hope you have some free time, and possibly a cup of coffee. There's a lot to pack into this day!

Sadly, it started with a cold shower. Hakuna matata (no worries). I just need to wake up sooner. It was going to be another hot day, but I wanted to start with a good breakfast. I knew we'd be in the sun most of the day, so applied my sunblock and went to have a vegetable omelet with Jim. It was pretty good, actually. More onions and tomatoes than egg, but pretty good... and NO corn oil. They served a mandazi, but it was like a 5 day old fried cake. Neither of us ate them.

As always, we walked through Maseno University on our way to Mbaka Oromo. Now, I know I haven't mentioned it in prior blogs, but when you walk 5-6 miles, you get a lot of talking done. Jim and I talk about everything... food, family, politics, relationships... nothing out of bounds really. When you are without the common distractions we all have in our daily lives, you're given a marvelous opportunity for reflection - as much introspective as retrospective. This blog has turned out to be quite cathartic for me, so I thank you for your interest. But I digress. Our conversation today was as lively as ever. I won't bore you with the actual topics. I will, however, give you some of my favorite quotes from the day. Some things I may have said, some things Jim may have said... some may have been said by strangers. Here they are in no particular order:

1. "I don't need to be married." (for safety reasons, I'll tell you that this quote isn't mine)
2. "I tried talking to him. He does not impress me."
3. "There's a lot of potential energy getting stored in this story."
4. "Yeah, I've got your 'sawa'... right in the nose."
5. "Fortunately, she was feeling ill."

We stopped at Samuel's house, and this morning he was preparing to go to work. He was clearing his side "office." I took a couple of nice pics of the school compound, and happened to catch a couple of young girls that seemed to be admiring the school, too.

We continued getting closer, and we were drawn to the library. There was a pile of different pairs of shoes in front of the door. For some reason, they remove their shoes before entering the library. Job was busy with a group of younger students. Even with their meager selection, it was a sight to behold. these books, no matter how mundane they may appear to us, act as windows to the rest of the world for these students. We have very high hopes that soon this library will be overflowing with books for all ages, representing all subjects: be they fact or fiction. There are people working diligently in the states to make this dream a reality.

I was a bit off yesterday when I said Kenyan time can be +/- 30 minutes. Our 10:00 meeting started at 11:30.... but what a great meeting it was. The school board was very attentive, and Jim did a great job presenting the concerns regarding the health dispensary, and the necessary involvement of the Hilda, the Public Health Minister. John Ogongo stood up and affirmed everything that we said. Other members of the board also voiced their support of the project, and assuring us that it would be set up properly. Basically, the issue was who would comprise the Dispensary Committee... the group responsible for choosing the site, approving the initial plans, program approval etc. It appeared that William wanted to be in charge of the dispensary. That could not happen. Hilda told us that there must be a baraza (gathering).... and a big one at that. The local chief must be there, as well. At this meeting, with probably 200+ in attendance, each clan will select one person to be on the committee. By having one representative from each clan, it ensures that everyone's voice is heard, and there is no favoritism. Oh, by the way, a clan is defined by a common father, so two brother could not be on the committee. This was the first step that was necessary before building could begin. They hope to have the baraza next week. After that, things get rollling. The site and plans are approved by the committee. The plans are then approved by the Public Health Minister. Building begins. The community owns the dispensary; not us, not the school. Provided all these things are followed, Hilda will return, and officially give the Committee the equivalent of a CofO. That registration number is sent to Nairobi for further approval. Once completed, THE KENYAN GOVERNMENT supplies a person to man the dispensary 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! The community does not have to worry about staffing the community! The dispensary will not only serve the Mbaka Oromo community, but what may very well be a 15 mile radius! It's a wonderful opportunity for this area. The well-being of every man, woman and child should dramatically improve over the coming years. Here's a photo of all those in attendance at the meeting.

After mandazis anc chai, we went to inspect the secondary classrooms. These mandazis were outstanding! I have to remember to bring powdered sugar & cinnamon with me next time... But I digress, again. The floors of the most recently built classrooms had some cracks that gave us great concern. We were assured that they would be repaired, and proceeded with the review. The board wasn't aware that lockers (desks) had already arrived for the secondary students, so they were very pleased to see them all looking like high school students.

As we exited one of the secondary classrooms, Bjorn (that guy from Sweden that we met yesterday), was walking toward us. I tried not to judge him based on the "danger" feeling we had yesterday, but his appearance did not make it easy. (see photo below)

Seriously, who wears corduroy in this heat. And a man-purse to boot. He proceeded to follow us as we inspected the remainder of the classrooms. He took pictures and asked the school committee questions. At one point, when we were talking about the cracks in the floors, he interjected, "It lewks like de cracking is from eet drying too fahzt. In Shveden ve vater ze cement so zat eet dozent crack. Zee Kenyan sun drize is too fazt." Jim and I, almost in unison, said, "No, that's not it." The slab isn't poured until the walls and roof are put on. We know "zee Kenyan sun ezz hot." This way, it cures in the shade, and water is constantly thrown on it. This guy went from being creepy, to being quite troublesome. As we walked back to the primary school, Peter (another committe member ) asked if he was with our organization. When we said no, he gave us quote #2 above. That was very affirming, and made Jim and I laugh the rest of the way up the hill.

While Jim and I sat in William's office, Bjorn sat in the courtyard watching the children playing, taking photographs. This is when we learned Bjorn's story. William told us that after we had left yesterday he remained in William's office for 3 hours. He didn't say a word the entire time. William just continued to work, until after that time elapsed, he asked why he was still there. Bjorn gave an elaborate story. Here's the Reader's Digest version. Bjorn is married to a Kenyan woman (yes, in the 6 months that he's been here), and his visa expires in May. He wanted William to write a letter to Kenyan government that stated he was a teacher at the school, and should be allowed to stay longer. When William said, "No," he pressed on, asking for a job. Despite his self proclaimed prowess in chemistry, physics and computers, William was not impressed either. "Are you a teacher?" "No," he replied. At this point, Jim's blood was boiling. Was he going to use the pictures to show he was a part of our organization, or employed at the school. All of us were getting uncomfortable, and Jim had heard enough. (see picture below)

Again, Reader's Digest Version... "Put your shirt back on your head, and get the heck out of here." Ok, I may be gilding the lily a bit, but you get the point. This guy actually had the nerve to say, "Only zee headmazter kun tell me zat. Let eem tell me heemself." Jim said, "Ok, I'll be right back with him." At this point John Ogongo was leaving. William stopped John and told him that if he was a guest of John's, that he should stay with him, and not let him back on the school grounds. John obliged. Bjorn picked up his things and left. Jim said, "If you're not a parent, or a guardian, or a faculty member, you have no reason to be here." He was right. We watched him as he walked back toward his home in Chuolembo.

We then departed for... Chuolembo. That's where we pick up the matatu to bring us back to Maseno for another nap before dinner in... Chuolembo.

The heat was just unbearable, so the best I could do was just lie there. We were smart enough to put some water bottles in the Guest House's fridge. The cold water was refreshing, but it was fleeting. We sweat all day long, and I don't know how anyone can be expected to drink that much water! If nothing else it gives me a better understanding of what Karen must feel. She suffers from neuro-cardiogenic syncope. She needs to constantly be hydrating. I shouldn't say she "suffers," from it though. She, more often than not, handles it better than we do. She's a remarkable young lady. But I digress, again.

We're now ready to head back to Chuolembo, but we decide to bring a "house warming" gift that consists of 4 Tuskers and 2 White Caps... yep, it's a cold six pack. We wrap the 16oz bottles in towels to keep them cold, and place them in our backpacks. 3 bottles each... remember this, it will be important later.

We take the 7 minute ride to Chuolembo, and exit the matatu where piki piki and bota botas are (motorcyles and bikes). These guys will drive you places for various prices. Jim says, "Do you want to take a piki piki or walk?" "How far away is it?" Jim replies, "About 10 minutes." "If it's only 10 minutes, let's walk." Now, even though it's 5:30, it's still 88-90 degrees outside. After 15 minutes, Jim calls Sam (who's staying with Job). No answer. "It's just up here." Tutambea, tutambea... (walking, walking). Now we're sweating, AGAIN! Still no answer on the phone. More walking. Remember those bottles in our packs? At this point, they may as well have been anvils. We finally get a phone call from Sam. When Jim tells him our location, he says, "You've got a 1/2 mile to go... not even. More like a 1/4 mile." One mile later, we finally arrive; 6:15pm. I was happy to take the back pack off, and happier to have a still relatively cold beer. We laughed and told stories with Job, his older brother David, and Sam. Job wanted to take me on a tour of their property, so he and David brought me outside, while Jim and Sam stayed behind to talk more. These two brothers have taken care of themselves and their 5 sisters since their parents deaths in 1995. They're currently trying to raise funds for their youngest sister's high school education... somewhere around $400/year. These guys are smart! And, they are well diversified. They have a tree farm (although the trees won't be big enough to sell for another 10 years), they have catfish and tilapia ponds (as well as a 3rd that they are constructing). They graft fruit trees, and grow mangos, avocados, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes... this list goes on and on. Despite not being able to see any bananas on the way home form Mbaka Oromo, they've got 'em here!

We returned to the place where they eat, and were treated to some wonderful food. First, they were the best chipatis I've ever had. We also had "green grams," aka dengu, aka lentils. Not really my thing, but they were good. The real treat was in a large porcelain pot, covered by a matching lid. You see, Sam had been staying with Job for a while now, and has been in Kenya for several months. His affinity for mexican food led him to the following conclusion. "You have avocados, tomatoes, onions and salt here. All you need is lime, and we can make guacamole." He then walked to Darenjambile to buy a lime. Thank the Lord that he did. The result was the best guacamole in the world. Normally I'm not a big fan of the avocado. In fact, I only eat them when I'm in Kenya. Andrea, on the other hand, loves it. I don't think you could get it any fresher than this. Jim joked earlier that if he put me on his motorcycle and something happened to me, Andrea would kill him. Well, if I had lost an arm while riding, and Andrea were about to kill him, all he'd have to do was give her some of this stuff, and she'd have said, "Don't worry, it'll grow back." Yes, it was that good! It was so good, I took a picture of it, along with the chipate i love so much.

By the time we finished our meals, it was pitch black outside. We were well beyond any electric lines, and it was going to be a dark walk back. I had brought 2 flashlights to Kenya, and gave them both to Job and his brother (don't worry, I have my own in my pack). They were very appreciative. They, along with Sam, walked us all the way back to Chuolembo and waited until we got a ride. We talked the entire way, and only needed the torches (flashlights) periodically.

We waited for a matatu for quite some time. By 8:30, we were resigned to the fact that we needed other means of transportation. Job saw a car pull in across the street, and went to inquire about getting us a ride. The driver came over and wanted 600 shillings. Now a matatue would cost us 40, and although 600 shillings isn't even $10, it's the principle of the thing. While Jim was telling him he was crazy, another vehicle pulled in, and let off a group of women from the Church of Israel. He'd give us a ride for $150 shillings, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous, and hopped in. The Holy Spirit is always looking out for me. This happened to be an air conditioned ambulance. I wish he would have driven slower, but the pleasant conversation only lasted 10 minutes, and we were back at the Guest House.

Which then brings me to sitting here in my bed under my mosquito net, listening to them buzz around my head like kamikazes at Pearl Harbor. I got my first mosquito bites yesterday. It was either a few skeeters on a strafing run, or a very hungry mosquito that left 5 nice welts on the back of my arm. I was reminded that a mosquito net is not an impenetrable barrier. If your skin's up agains it, that's all they need. I won't make that mistake again tonight.

It's now 11:30, and I'll be skyping my family at 4:30 due to practice schedules back home. That's ok, though... it assures that I'll get a hot shower. Then I'll just stay up and pack. We need to leave early for Mbaka Oromo to see their opening ceremonies.

Hope this one wasn't boring... I know it was a lot...

And I almost forgot again! The critter for the day has got some really nice camoflauge (sp). Unfortunately, he's dumb as a box of rocks, because he doesn't blend in very well on white drapes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10/2/2010 8:00pm

Another 90 degree day. I now understand why they refer to it as an "oppressive heat." Once again I find myself underneath a mosquito net... the exertion of typing is making me sweat! I'd appreciate an ice cube right about now.

We started with 7:30 breakfast. We both are quite tired of the eggs fried in corn oil, so we passed on those and went with tea and ndizi (bananas). That was enough, actually, to carry all the way until dinner, but we'll get to that in a minute.

We got to Mbaka Oromo at 10am, despite the school committee meeting being changed. We sat with the headmaster, William Kabis, for the next hour talking about the changes that need to be made to accommodate the requests of the Public Health Minister. It took some convincing, but he finally relented. William want to be in charge of everything. In this case, that's not a bad thing. He's a very competent headmaster... it's part of the reason that we've stayed with this school for as long as we have. We then were reviewing the cost of the kitchen because it seemed way too high. We hadn't compared it to prior construction costs yet (Jim's probably doing it now), but I did notice that they had put 42 tin sheets on the requisition form. That's a lot of tin! These tin sheets are used for the roof, and 42 could probably cover a building that's 100' long. We told him to suspend the building until we got some more info... he will continue to bring in more bricks.

After that conversation, he offered us tea, and I kindly excused myself. I can't drink HOT tea at home, and drinking it here is becoming difficult due to the temperature. I stepped out to take pictures of the students who were outside for recess. While the older children carried rocks from behind the primary school to the secondary school site (as pictured), I fooled around with the younger ones... juggling, joking, and butchering my kiswahili... on purpose, of course. These kids are adorable.

After about 30 minutes, I headed back to the main office. I knew we had to leave soon, as we were meeting a car at Chuolembo at noon. When I got to the office, John Ogongo had joined Jim, WIlliam and Lawrence, and he had brought a friend whose name we were never given. He was an older, portly gentlemen from Finland. He was incredibly unkempt. He looked like a hairier Lou Albano (again, kids, ask your parents... or google him). Scraggly beard, long scraggly hair... he looked like he just came from Woodstock. He said very little, which made me a bit uncomfortable. The best I could make out was that he's been in Kenya for 6 months, and was living in Chuolembo with his wife. He was seated next to Jim, and his size was preventing him from making a graceful exit. We finally said, "Sorry, we have to go." They walked us to the end of the property (termed "seeing you off"), and away we went. Samuel was hard at work in is "front office" pictured below.

The sun was high, and by the time we got to Chuolembo (12:20pm), our car was gone... Kenyan time runs +/- 30 minutes or less, so we were surprised that he was not there. It gave us the chance to run across the street for a cold soda. I found myself pressing as much of my body as possible against the concrete columns of the building in the hopes of keeping cool. The cement felt great! We located our driver, Joshua, who promptly picked us up and took us into Maseno.

They're continuing to "repair" the roads, so we new we wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. Sitting in a car in this heat is not fun. We first ran to the Bank of Boroda to inquire about opening up an account. It seems somewhat easy, although i think it will help if we first had an account in the states. At some point, we'll have to go to NYC and set up an account. A corresponding account in Kenya is necessary for transfers, so we'll complete those tasks asap. It would make things easier, and more cost efficient. More importantly, the bank was air conditioned, and I didn't want to leave! We left anyway.

We then went back to Maseno to grab the Lady Lions t-shirts for the Huma girls. Jim was in the front seat, and I was spread across the back The sun was on Jim's lap for the 45 minute ride back to the Guest House. We were happy when the car began to move faster because the air finally started to feel a bit cooler. We got back to our rooms at 2:30, and decided to hold off on going to Huma until 4 - that was when Mareb said we should come. We were both exhausted from the heat, so we fell asleep for a short spell. I think that was the shortest nap I've ever taken. It lasted only 15 minutes, but it felt surprisingly good. Before we napped, we filled some small water bottles and put them in the refrigerator in the kitchen. When we woke up, they were absolutely delicious! I savored every sip of the maji baridi (cold water). We then hopped in the car, and made the 15 minute trek to Huma. Of course, Mareb wasn't there. She had gone to Kisumu. Jim had brought gifts from the sponsors of 3 of the girls, and this was our third attempt at seeing them. Fortunately, the new asst director sent someone to bring the girls to us. Nora came first, as Janet and Edith were taking exams. We sat with her for 30 minutes until the other girls arrived. Jim gave them both big hugs, and distributed there gifts. We talked about the baseball game on Friday (although I'm pretty sure it's going to be a softball game), and headed back home.

We decided to try the Trinity Restaurant out for dinner. We hadn't eaten yet today, and we both were happy to be hungry. Prior to this point, food didn't seem like much of a priority. Jim had dengu (lentils) and chipati, and I had beeg, sakumawiki and chipati. It was all washed down with cold Fantas. We slowly walked home as the sun was getting ready to set. We stopped at the equator for some pictures with Karen's elephant. Whenever I travel, no matter what the duration, Karen gives me a stuffed animal to bring with me. It's become common for me to take a picture with the him/her wherever I am. On my last trip to Kenya, I was accompanied by a horse. This time, it was an elephant. The students walking by were laughing as we posed.

We continued on, but stopped at the Maseno marketplace for some tomatoes, onions and peppers with the idea of making omelettes instead of fried eggs in the morning. The only thing we couldn't find was the pepper. We'll survive.

I called Andrea as soon as I got in, then Skyped Katie. She had a snow day, and as Andrea guessed, she used it to sleep in. She had just woken up and signed on. We had a nice talk, and signed off. I went straight to writing this entry so that I can try to get to sleep early. It's 9pm now, so there's a good chance I'll get a decent night's sleep. The heat is definitely tough, though. My heart's been pretty good, but the last couple irregular beats I've had hit me hard because of the heat (I think). I haven't had to take a pill to correct it... they seem to go away as soon as I rest. I've told the story of my heart surgery a couple of times, and it's always met with a Kenyan, "Oh, I am so sorry." They ask me about the procedure and stare at me in wonder as I talk about it... constantly dispersing an "I'm sorry," between my pauses.

There's only a couple more days before my journey home begins. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE MY FAMILY! It's ONLY 84 in Nairobi, so I'm glad I brought a jacket.

Oh, here's the latest critters.