"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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

30.07.2011 On Our Way Home

Kevin's been having some trouble for the last couple of days.  I'm pretty sure that he got some water in his mouth while showering one morning.  I say, "pretty sure," because I heard him spitting it out repeatedly one morning.  6 hours later, it was official.  We've been trying to fix the problem ever since.  I'm happy to say that after several doses of Immodium and Azithromycin, this morning, Kevin emerged from the bathroom victoriously.  His hands were triumphantly raised over head.  He said, "I can finally pass gas."  Yes, I'm paraphrasing... what teenage boy says "pass gas"?  It's been smooth sailing ever since. No punn intended.  While I've been fortunate to have never fallen prey to the Kenyan version of "Montezuma's Revenge," sometimes it happens.  I doubt Kevin will make the same mistake twice.

We've made it all the way to Dubai, where it's currently midnight.  We had exit rows from Nairobi to here, but no such luck for the 13 hour flight to JFK.  Nuts.
We landed at 10:30pm, and I thought we'd be fine.  Our plane doesn't leave until 2:15am, and they don't release the exit row seats until 3 hours before the flight.  Not such luck.  We landed, then the pilot proceeded to drive the plane to the other side of the airport, where we disembarked and got on a bus to take us to the other side of the airport.  45 minutes later, we got to the gate.  Not good.  I think she said the flights overbooked.  Either way, we won't be stretching our legs any time soon.
The good news is that they've updated the "new movie" list.  We're saving Kung Fu Panda II and Hannah until we get home.  Kevin promised Karen that he'd watch it with her, and she and I never got to finish Hannah, so I'll wait until I get home for that one.
We watched Thor until dinner came.  That was when we reallized that Kevins tray table was broken.  He literally pulled out of the armrest.  We could have handed it to the flight attendant who find it quite humorous.  We managed.  Thor was great!  Much better than Green Lantern.

Anywho, Kevin's excited about the movie selection for the next 13 hours.  Source Code, Paul, Pirates of the Caribbean (whatever the new one is/was), Limitless, and I think there's another one.  Hopefully, those will keep us occupied.  I plan on sleeping for at least 7 hours.  At least that's my goal.  Kevin's going to try and watch movies the entire time.  I find it unlikely, as he's falling asleep in the lounge chair next to me as I type.  We'll let you know how it goes.

Can't wait to see Ann and Karen when we arrive back in Rochester.  It's been a wonderful experience being here with Kevin.  It was a similar experience with Kate last year.  He's just been great.  I never thougth it would be anything other than that, but he's just been great to travel with, work with, and certainly laugh with.  I can't wait to see him telling these stories to Andrea, Karen and Katie.  It will be just as enjoyable as being there when it happened.

See you all soon.

Me & Kev

Friday, July 29, 2011

29.07.2011 Happiness is not having to dig a placenta pit

Wow, what a fabulous day! And not just because we didn’t have to dig a placenta pit.  There are too many other things that need to be done before we can start digging.  Maybe when we come in February as a family we can dig it together!  I'd like to see that on a Hallmark card.  We'll be the only grandparents in the neighborhood that are playing with our grandchildren saying, "Did I ever tell you the story about how we dug a placenta pit in Kenya?"  The next phrase will be, "Grandpa, please stop telling us stories."

We started walking early while it was still cool. The sun was barely up when we crossed the street and began walking through the Maseno University campus on the way to Mbaka Oromo. We hadn’t gotten far before Lucas called out to us. He’s a friend of ours that drives a motorcycle and carries passengers from point one place to another for money. He’s also trying to get a spot on the Kenyan national marathon team. He’s just a nice fellow who has always showed us great kindness. Kevin and I have been looking for him (because he’s always stationed across the street) but were unlucky up until today. We talked for a short time, he wished us well, and wanted to say hi to our family (he met them last February). We walked about 300 yards before Kevin said, “I’m worried that we’re going to see Benson again. Do we have to walk him to school?” We were too far into our walk to make that kind of detour. As it turned out, we saw him about 2 miles into our walk. He was coming up the hill grinning, “I am so very late.” It was just a quick handshake and we both continued on. He said that his dad had a problem that he wanted my advice on, but we never saw him. His father is Jactun… a painter that does all the artwork on the buildings once they’re finished. He draws logos free hand, and they’re quite good.

We passed many people of various ages and sizes. It’s always the little children that are the most curious. You can hear them running to us from their homes, “Wzungo! How ah you?” It usually surprises them when we answer in kiswahili or luo, and invariably, they return to their homes giggling and waving.

When we got to the school, the first stop was Samuel’s. Our packs were completely full with things for him and Job. I brought Sam some of the pants that I wear here, and he was very excited. We also gave him some colorful shirts for him and his son Alex. Now that he’s working with Building Futures, Andrea thought it would be a good idea to bring him an embroidered shirt. I reached into the bag as he held it, and just exposed the logo. I thought he was going to cry he was so happy. Instead he grabbed me and gave me one of his patented bear hugs. Every vertebra cracked, and he let go just as my toes began to turn backwards. He was very happy and that left a smile on our faces as we headed to the school to see Job.

Job was waiting for us in the library. We talked about the library and what it needs, as well as what it doesn’t need. He doesn’t want us wasting money with donations that are squandered or not utilized. That is one of the many reasons we asked him to help us. We wanted to get away from eavesdropping, so we walked up to the dispensary with Kevin. We hadn’t talked for 10 minutes before Peter Onyango emerged from behind a corn field. Job wisely changed the subject and acted as though we were talking about the dispensary when we were actually talking about the upcoming Clinic Committee Meeting and the roles that he and Samuel were going to play in future construction. It took awhile, but Peter must have been convinced that were weren’t talking about anything significant so he left. He was wrong, however, because once out of sight, I began telling Job exactly what I was going to say to the committee at our 10:00 meeting.

True to form, our 10am meeting started at noon. Karibu Kenya. That was fine. It gave Kevin and I an opportunity to play with the children and take some pictures. Emma wasn’t there, but Susan was. I went to her and picked her up… she immediately smiled and buried her head on my shoulder. Her shyness continues. She’s beginning to speak a little English now, so Andrea and Karen will be very happy when they arrive. By then she should be speaking English and Kiswahili pretty well.

The meeting finally started with the Chairman speaking first. John O’gongu spoke for a few minutes before it was William’s turn. John and I had previously asked William to keep it short. He said, “I will be brief.” It’s all relative. 25 minutes later… yes, I said “25” everyone was tired. He, for some reason, saw fit to talk about how the school began and how we got to where we are now. Not surprisingly, he broke his arm numerous times as he patted himself on the back. Then it was my turn. I have to say, I was rather proud of the way I handled this meeting. Their facial expressions while I talked spoke volumes, and the comments I got afterward said “mission accomplished.” Minus the aircraft carrier.

"Job will be in charge of all communications between the US and Kenya, and between the school, this committee and me/Steve." “Furthermore, we have hired Samuel to be in charge of all construction. He will be responsible for all materials. He will receive quotations from at least 2 contractors, and the committee will evaluate each one, choosing the best. Job will then contact me with his (and samuel’s) recommendations and construction will begin.” Kevin, as if he was a defendant passing a note to his attorney, slid a piece of paper to me while I spoke. Perfect timing. There were a couple more points I wanted to make Daniel spoke, “This committee needs to be registered so that we can be audited.”  He continued, “Once that is done, that the money for construction should pass through the committee account rather than Mbaka Oromo?” I said, “That is the ONLY way it will be done, but not until the committee is registered with the government.”  There were some additional questions and answers, but my job was done. Job was very thankful, and conversation was light as we ate lunch. Thinking about it, I probably should have had a food tester, but it all worked out. I even got a picture with Kevin with our lunch before the meeting. I am pictured with the committee members. Daniel made the last comment in the meeting. “Thank you for giving my brother a job.” It was a touching comment, as their relationship had been strained as of late.

After lunch, a bit more play with the children.


Kevin, Job and I then went to Samuel to tell him about the meeting. He was very pleased. More importantly, I told him what his brother said. Tears welled up in his eyes and he gave me another bear hug. He turned and did the same to Kevin, then took Kevin’s hand, “Come, I will see you off.” He walked us out to the road on the other side of his cornfield.

We talked about plans for the future as the three of us walked. Kevin contributed very insightful comments along the way. Job wanted to take us to Ungugo Primary School just down the road (about a mile and a half). It looked much like Mbaka Oromo did. It wasn’t good. Despite the semester ending at noon, the head teacher/headmaster waited for us to arrive at 4. When we entered the compound she was sitting at a small desk outside the 5th grade classroom. Kevin and I signed the visitor’s book and we proceeded on a tour of the facility. The buildings were in bad shape. Two classrooms had been blown away in a storm, and the tin sheets were recovered to fashion make-shift classrooms that looked more like animal pens. The remaining classrooms made from mud and dung were showing serious signs of age and constant repair. This is a school that we can help. Add it to the list of future projects.

We then continued on to Job’s house. He’s quite the entrepenuer actually. Kevin looked in amazement as we walked by 2 milking cows, three fish ponds where he raises tilapia for personal consumption as well as sale, a healthy banana crop, corn field, mango trees, a tree nursery, a loaded garden (tomatoes, kale, peppers, carrots, potatoes) and sunflowers. It is a huge piece of land that he and his brother David own. There, they take care of their 4 sisters, although there are only two living with them now. Dave is a teacher at Kuoyo Secondary School, too. Kevin continued his amazement and commented about it as Job walked us to the matatu stand on Busia Road.

We asked him to join us for dinner when we got back. He agreed, and we ate our fill of kuku, chips, rice and sukumawiki. He was very grateful. We went back to the guest house (through the rain), and we gave Job some additional gifts. I thanked him for his help, and we saw him off.

Kevin and I packed most of our things yesterday, so there wasn’t much to do tonight. I sat on the bed and turned on the computer to check mail. As I place it on the bed for Kevin to use, I noticed a facebook message. “I’m home if you want to call.” It was from Ann.

It was great to talk to her after having difficulty with the connection last night. We learned that the reception is better when the call is made from a Kenyan cell phone than if it’s made from the US. Who’d a thought? Anyway, it was a great conversation filled with stories and laughter about things going on in both countries. It makes me even more excited to see her Sunday… I can’t wait. Karen hopped on the phone, and we joked about the yellow cars, and talked about when we’d be home. Ditto. Can’t wait.

I called my Katie and my mom to say hi. Katie was working and didn’t answer, but I got a comment from her via email because she was working. My mom was happy to hear my voice. Now I’m sitting in bed typing, and just like every other day, Kevin is sound asleep. He must be dreaming, because he’s talking a bit but it’s not making any sense. It’s the first gibberish to come out of his mouth during this entire trip. It’s 10:15, so it’s time for sleep. I’m getting sleepy and that usually means that typos begin, then I start repeating myself. Next thing you know, typoes will begn and I wil start repeeting myself. Just kidding.

We will be home in two days! 22 hours in the air, another 7 hours in waiting between flights… it can’t go by fast enough.

Lala salama rafiki yangu (sleep peacefully my friends)

Honey, I'll see you soon.

Here's a critter that's common in every room in the guest house.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

28.07.2011 The Health Officer and the Headmistress

Today was a good day.  It was a fun one.

It started out with a meeting with Hilda Ayieko.  She's the District Public Health Officer that oversees the area where the clinic is.  Her office is just beyond Rock City.  That's a national park that shows off some of the larger stones that seem to be "planted" in this area.  I've never been to the park because you can see the stones all over this area.
Hilda hasn't seen the clinic since it's been finished, so fortunately I had plans with me.  She and Jim made some changes that weren't reflected in the plans but she was very happy that the project is continuing.  We talked about placement of the living quarters (BTW, we need two, not one), latrines, a septic tank, cisterns, gutters, and an incinerator.  It sounds like a lot, and it is, but the only complicated structure is the house.  Everything else is quite simple.  The only thing I haven't mentioned... "You will need a placenta pit."  I should have known better than to ask, "I know what a placenta is, but what is a placenta pit?"  In my defense, I thought she orginally said, "pitch" not "pit."  Kevin was kind enough to correct me, and later said, "I had no idea there would be so many placentas."  Again, he's a funny kid.  They need a 15' deep hole.  I don't need to tell you the rest.  A friendly reminder that we're in a very rural part of a 3rd world country.

We talked about some needed items inside each of the clinic rooms, and they requested a cement sink in the maternity ward for cleaning instraments and things.  We'll have to add that.  She then said there should also be a small laundry and kitchen for the maternity ward.  We'll have to add that, too.

Hilda then introduced us to her boss Monica who was a very charismatic lady.  She took us over to their maternity ward (their offices are in a hospital), to show us what we should have in ours.  As we entered the ward, I turned to Kevin, "You ok?"  He said, "Yeah, as long as nobody's naked!"  Thanksfully, nobody was.  Here's a picture of Hilda with Kevin... I didn't realize that her eyes were closed, and I've been trying not to take so many pictures.  This was one of those times when I should have taken two.
We returned to our car and headed for Huma Girls Secondary School.  I called Merab (the Headmistress) to make sure it was ok.  "You are welcome!" was the response, and 20 minutes later we were greeted with smiles and hand shakes.  Unlike Hilda, Merab greeted us more traditionally.  You shake hands and tap temples.  That's the easiest way to describe it.  While you are holding hands, you first touch each other's temples on their left side, then their right.  Her deputy was with her, so it was much the same with her.  I can't remember her name as I type, but hopefully it will come to me.  She is not as vibrant as Mareb, and is often shy when she smiles, and she smiles a lot. 

We talked about building a dormitory for the girls.  The quotation she handed me was high, but before she turned it over, she said, "This is too high.  We can make changes to get it to 3 million ksh."  That's about $35,000 for a dormitory.  Not a bad deal.  The best part is, all I really need to do is wire the money.  She is VERY sharp, and her PTA is very active and supportive of the school.  The get girls all the way from Mombasa (opposite side of the country on the ocean)!  We talked about the dormitory and the girls, and she asked Kevin a lot of questions.  THey have a beautiful flat field that they share with Huma Primary School, and it's perfect for baseball.  Merab's team rocks!  I don't think they've ever lost a game.  Merab asked Kevin if he will come back  to play, "Oh, no.  I don't play baseball."  Merab immediately said, "Only Karen plays?" She then said, "Please tell her and the rest of you're family that they are always welcome here."  Here are some pics of Mareb (she's on the left), Kevin, and the deputy. 

We then went on a tour of the school.  Merab explained what each of the buildings was used for, and Kevin listened intently and asked questions as we walked.  We showed them the dormitory that we supplied with a solar panel for electricity.  150 girls, triple bunked in a 36'x60' space.  They were packed in like sardines.  This additional dormitory will give them much needed space.  It is needed for the safety, as well as providing these young women with room to move. Here's the space that the dormitory will occupy.

We returned to Merab's office, and continued to talk and tell stories.  We each had a soda while we chatted, and suddenly it was getting late.  The girl that brought in the sodas was wearing a blue Rochester Lady Lions t-shirt.  It made me smile.  We said our goodbyes, and were on our way.

We stopped into Kisumu for lunch and some last minute supplies - batteries for the small fans that we brought to keep our room cool, and a comb.  I was more interested in the comb, actually.  I don't shave when I'm here for fear I'll cut myself, and the water is not clean.  At all.  You don't even want to sing in the shower for risk of getting some in your mouth.  Anyway, my beard's getting to the piont where the hairs start to stab me, so I use a comb to teach them who's the boss.  We actually had pizza for lunch, and I have to say it was quite good.  Another stop at the masai market for some last minute items and we were done.  I probably didn't explain the masai market yet.  Picture a dirt road with little "kiosks" on either side of the road.  They are one after another, and they each have similar items... rosewood carvings, soapstone carvings, native masks, necklaces, earings, artwork... it's really pretty neat to see.  The one catch, however, is that inside each of these little huts are 1 or 2 people that do everything in their power to get you to come into their shop.  As soon as you touch something, the haggling begins.  And haggle you must!  We went right to Beatrice who has the second "shop" on the left hand side.  She's a fast talker, and looks to be in her 50s.  She sits in this shop all day long.  She was very fair with her prices before, and today turned out to be the same.  We picked out a bunch of small soapstone carvings and she charged us the equivalent of $1 for each of them.  You can buy the same ones in the Nairobi airport for $6.  We parted the shop and headed for the car when some additional things caught my eye in another shop.  Kevin got in the car (vincent was waiting for us), I dropped off my backpack and went back to the shop on the end.  I picked up another 4 items.  Yes, I haggled.  Quite well, if I do say so myself.

Now we're sitting in our room under out mosquito nets talking about how the day went.  We've packed (for the most part) so that we won't have to do much tomorrow night.  We start walking at 6:30 to beat the heat.  We'll meet with the Mbaka Oromo committee, play baseball (int he 95 degree sun) and then wakl the 5 miles back to Maseno.  Kevin's hoping to do what he did last time - hit the ball over the classrooms so that all he has to do is walk around the bases.  I'll let you know how that turns out tomorrow.

We head home on Saturday.  Looking forward to seeing Andrea and Karen.  I miss 'em tons.

 lala salama


Just hung up with karen.  She and Ann went to see harry potter.  She makes me smile.  They both do.

This is the field where they play baseball.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

27.07.2011 All day at MBO

Although the plan was to get up at 6:30 and be on the path to Mbaka Oromo by 7:30, my lack of sleep thought otherwise.  I don't think I closed my eyes until after 2, so 41/2 hours of sleep just wasn't enough.  No matter, it was still in the low 70s at 8 when we left.

We got maybe 300 yards into the Maseno University campus before we saw Benson - a former student at MBO, now attending tailoring classes in Sereba - the town across the street.  He asked us to walk him to class, so we did.  He refers to it as "college" and I'm not sure if that's what he was told when he enrolled, and/or they refer to any specialty schooling as "college."  No matter, he was glad for the company and asked about our family as we walked.  He beamed with pride as we entered the non-descript tailor shop with his two wzungo friends from America.  3 women sat in front and one man in back.  We greeted them all... even Kevin has gotten comfortable enough to say "Habari."  We stayed for only a few minutes to talk to his mwalimu (teacher), encouraged him to work hard, and returned to the path.  Benson has several disabilities working against him, but he always has managed to persevere.  His hope is that one day he will become a tailor.  I told him I'd like him to make me a shirt when he's ready.  He smiled as we disappeared from sight.

Back on the path again, we encountered Mr. Washington, owner of the local hardware store.  We've known him for 6 years, and he's always been fair in dealing with us.  He was happy to see me, and glad to meet Kevin.  We stepped into his shop and I introduced Kevin to Katherine... one of Mr. Washington's 4 wives.  We talked for a bit, then back to the path.  Again.

The remainder of the trip was uninterupted.  Much like my walks with Jim, Kevin and I talked the entire way.  Most of it was about the events since we arrived in Kenya.  We takled about Kiswahili, the children from the orphanage in Nakuru, and Vincent, our driver.  We talked about how we were spending our remaining days in Kenya, and we talked about the weather.  It was close to 10:30 now, and the sun was rising quickly. 

We arrived at MBO soon after, and stopped to see Momma Helen.  We came with sweets for her - cadbury chocolates.  She was delighted.  She showed me the corn that she had grown with the 500ksh Andrea gave her in February.  She wanted us to, "Thank her for me, and tell her I did not waste the money, look!"  The corn covered a 10sq ft area, and was piled 2 feet high.  Not bad for a woman in her late 60's.

We coninued on to the school.  Exams were last week, so the courtyard was empty.  There was nobody in sight, except for Samuel, busy working in his "office."  He was cutting down the cornstalks after having harvested all the corn.  He worked in long pants and a short sleeved shirt.  No shoes.  He swung his panga (machete) at the stalks as he walked through the field.  He cleared a 100sq ft area in no time.  Did I mention it was already 90 degrees? 

We went to the steps of the administration block, and gather our thoughts.  Kevin and I inspected each of the classrooms noting any damage or badly worn spots in need of repair.  There was a lot to write.  We took notes on each room, and photographed them as well.  One of the students came by and was watching us from a distance.  We called him over... Kevin recognized him as one of the boys that climbed the hill with them in February.  He remembered Keving too.  His little sister joined him later, and Kevin gave each of them some hard candy.  Their smiles spoke volumes.  They each opened one piece and immediately began enjoying it.

We moved up to the clinic again and took some notes on the rain-eroded areas, and plotted a solution.  Kevin like the idea of sisterns and was ready with thoughts on where they could be placed so that they wouldn't detract from the beauty of the clinic itself.  We headed back down to the school, and sat in the shade eating our peanut butter sandwiches (I had jelly on mine). 

We returned to Samuel who stopped working as we approached.  When I left him in February, I asked him to keep an eye on things.  He always was part of any construction being done at the school, and never asked to be paid, so I know he would be able to tell me if something wasn't right.

We talked for over an hour, and the conversation was very enlightening.  He told me some things that I suspected, but there were some surprizes.  I was greatful for the trust I had put in him.  He walked us out, and returned to his cornfield as we began our walk back.

The sun was still beating down on us as we walked.  Despite the later hour, it was still 95 degrees.  I asked Kevin to look at the thermometer attached to my pack, and a heavy sigh said it all.  We walked briskly, and most of the way was uphill... it took us closer to two hours to walk the 5 miles, and we were exhausted when we arrived back at the guest house.

A quick nap, then we went to the Green Park Restaruant in Sereba across the street.  the food is always good, and ridiculously inexpensive.  The owner knows us and again, we've never been cheated there.  Two plates of fried kuku (chicken) rice and skumawiki (kale) along with two sodas cost 420ksh... the equivalent of $5.

We walked back to the guest again under very cloudy skies.  It began sprinkling lightly while we were eating, and we could see lightening in the distance as the clouds built up against the hills.

Nakuru has all the makings of a great place to work next, and the Bail's have a wonderful organization in place that we could help.  It's closer to Nairobi and Masai Mara, and the nurses would certainly enjoy working with the children.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  We'll see.  Let's see how far we get with the clinic.  One meeting at a time, and the first will be with Hilda tomorrow morning.

Wish me luck.  Tutaoanana

26.07.2011 Nakuru... a must see

Our day didn't start as early as I would have liked, but that's what happens when you plan things last minute... you know, like a trip to the other side of the world. Joseph’s wife Molly, (they’re the owners of Springs of Hope Orphanage in Nakuru) was kind enough to make some time to see us this afternoon. The Mbaka Oromo Choir was also performing there, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to see them both. Well, it would have been. But I'm way ahead of myself.
We left Maseno at 8:30am. It’s a 4 hour drive to Nakuru, and the plan was to meet Molly after lunch. The road to Nakuru was definitely memorable. When people found out we were going there, their first reaction was, “Oh. The diversion.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, a “diversion” is simply a detour, but this is Kenya. Here’s the road we started on, the other picture was of the “diversion.” 12 Kilomters of bad road.

I think I may have ground the crowns off my teeth. The scenery was beautiful, and repeatedly tried to keep my mind off the rattling of everything in the vehicle. I kept expecting pieces of the car to fall off, and imagined that this what it must feel like in the space shuttle as you enter earths atmosphere. We stopped for gas, and the girl that was filling the fuel asked me, “How is your underbonnet?” Being the linguistic magician that I am, I had her repeat it 3 times thinking that I would be able to figure out what she was saying. Oh, thinking it would help, I got closer to her each time I asked. It didn’t help. It was then that I realized she wasn’t even talking to me, and a “bonnet” was a hood… “under,” “bonnet”… yeah, engine. Duh.

We got back on the road and proceeded through several towns. It was interesting that each one seemed to have their own produce to sell. The first town we came through was potatoes. They were stacked in bright white buckets, but they looked like prayer stones you’d see in the Bahamas. The rose over a foot out of the bucket, with one vertical potato perched on top of the rest. The next town was carrots. It was the brightest orange color I’d ever seen. They looked like they fell out of Bugs Bunny’s hands. Every time the car would reduce speed to go over a speed bump someone would run up to the car asking us to buy some. They were packed in fours and wrapped in plastic… they looked fabulous, but I didn’t want to add the act of chewing to grinding of my teeth. The next town was Kerecho. It was beautiful… then I learned why-this is where all the Kenyan tea comes from. The plantations were beautiful. Houses dotted the skyline with the bright green plants everywhere. It was harvesting time, so acres upon acres were scattered with little dots that were the cultivators picking leaves.

We then approached Nakuru. Wow. It was a stark contrast from Kissumu. The roofs of the houses weren’t the standard grey steel. These were white or blue or green or red… it was striking to see them against all the green vegetation. The city itself seems quite spread out and is very clean – it’s all relative, though. As we drove in, Kevin sat up in the back and said, “Woah, where are we.” I said, “We’re in Nakuru.” He responded with, “The last think I remember was tea leaves.” A two hour nap through rough roads… and he’s sleeping now as I type this.

I was texting with Molly as we drove into town and the plans changed slightly. She was now going to join us for lunch. She said “we” in the text, so I didn’t know what to expect. We parked the car and headed for the CafĂ© Guava. I was going to her text that said, “I should have worn a carnation so you can pick me out of the crowd.” Rather than being funny, however, it was almost necessary. We walked in, and already seated at different tables were 6 white people (2 men, 4 women). As it turns out, the restaurant is owned by an Australian, and everyone comes there because they cook western food. Kevin was happy to be able to order a pizza. It took 30 minutes to prepare (as stated on the menu), so we ordered before Molly arrived. In she came smiling with 2 people in tow… Daniel, the Kenyan man that manages the orphanage, and Kate a girl from London that happened to have crossed paths with Molly the day before. It didn’t take long to see that Molly and Daniel were regulars. Molly said, “I’ll have the usual,” and although I couldn’t hear what Daniel ordered, Molly statement said it all, “You always get that!” The exchange between each of them was constant through our visit. It’s obvious that she likes the people she works with very much. Our food came intermittently, and the conversation was non-stop. Having lunch with Molly is like eating outside with the mayor. People kept coming in to say hello, and she gave time and attention to everyone that did. We talked about the orphanage and about Building Futures and about Jim. Kate was very engaging despite not really being affiliated with anyone. She just came over to Kenya to visit a friend and all these little chance encounters began. It wasn’t until she went outside for a smoke that Molly told me she was only 19! I’m definitely not saying that in a derogatory way. Jim and I used to talk about people like her. Her confidence in the way she carried herself and the way she spoke put her well into her twenties. It wasn’t until then that I’d also realized that Kevin could only eat 4 of the 8 slices of pizza. He said it was delicious, and blamed it on the milkshake he started with. “I’m still embarrassed,” he said.

We left the restaurant to see the sewing shop that Springs of Hope owns. When we got to the car, there was a clamp on the front tire. They have these guys in yellow coats that wander the street and are the equivalent of a traveling parking meter. You pay them and they give you a ticket to put on your dashboard. There wasn’t anyone around when we arrived, so we didn’t think there was a charge. We were wrong. I gave Vincent the money to pay the fine, but it was taking too long to have the boot removed, so we decided to go with Molly to the shop and come back for Vincent before we go to the orphanage. The shop was a nice sized open space in town. There was a mural on the left wall, bags displayed on the right, and two handmade shelves displayed additional bags and material. They have their own name, and they use this shop to teach women to sew. They then sell the merchandise through hotels at Masai Mara (and anybody else interested. Their hope is that this shop will be a stop for tourists that come through. They make bags and clothing, and their quite pretty. She told me that they had fitted Jim for a shirt and they still had the material. After a few minutes I said, “I’d really like to have one.” Then she started to read my mind. Before I could finish the sentence, she pulled out the material that Jim had picked out. “I think that would be really nice,” she added. I agreed. They’re going to mail it to me, and I can’t wait to get it.

Kevin has been much more talkative today. He’s seems to be much more comfortable. At one point during lunch, Vincent said, “Thank you.” Kevin, without hesitating said, “You know, they say ‘asante’ not “Thank you.” They both laughed. He continued, “Stick with me, I’ll have you speaking Kiswahili in no time.” Even in Kenya, he’s funny.

We headed back for Vincent who had successfully had the boot removed. Off we went. We travelled outside of the town itself, then up into the hills. This place stuck out. Springs of Hope really personifies everything about the property. They care for 36 children ranging in age from 2 to 12. These are boys and girls that are complete orphans or were abandoned. At least one is HIV positive. Many have suffered from physical and sexual abuse. This place, however, gives them security and an unconditional love that they’ve never known. The building itself is built into a hill and is quite striking. Two masai greeted us as we pulled into the guarded gate. We parked the vehicle and proceeded to be introduced to everyone. Anyone that knows me realizes how dangerous that can be. I am horrible with names. Thankfully, they were repeated a lot, so I was able to muddle through… I took some notes, too. We walked up 6 steep steps that led to the main house. Young girls were sitting talking as we approached the front door. We were met with smiles and handshakes. We walked past a veranda with two round wooden tables with 4 chairs at each one. I’d say they were wicker, but the branches were too thick. It was a beautiful place to sit and do anything. The main room was large with two large tables in one section, and large comfortable furniture in the other. The kitchen lies behind the main room with a large windowless opening that allows them to make plates for all the children and hand them through to each one. That “great” room separates the girls section from the boys. They are identical except for the decorations - several bedrooms with a large bathroom at the end of each hall. The children were just waking up from a nap, so they were all still in their rooms. In back of the building are four tiered levels that continue up the hill. The first is home to 2 very large tortoises that roam freely. The next holds a fountain. The next is a grassy space with plantings, but the top level is the best. A gazebo with chairs sits next to a swing set! With a slide! Kevin, Molly and I leaned against the fence and talked about children and their plans. The view was breath-taking. You could see Nakuru and the lake unobstructed. They own four additional acres across from the school, and they’re trying to decide how best to use it. She also explained why they hired 2 Masai as guards. They are more reliable, “and nobody screws with the Masai.” The children’s security is incredibly important.

We made our way back down the stairs, past 4 smaller connected rooms. One’s an office, one previously held the sewing project, one’s store room… and I can’t remember what the fourth was. We went back into the main house where all the children were playing or watching TV. Kevin and I hadn’t passed the doorway before every single one of these children came to embrace us. Literally. The smallest ones grabbed our legs and the bigger ones grabbed us around the waist. They hugged us we had been looking for us for days and they suddenly found us. Kevin said, “For mom, this would have been ‘game over.’” There’s no question that Ann, Katie and Karen could have stayed here for days. They giggled as I said “cuja, cuja” (come, come) and “nakupenda san” (I love you very much). Kevin took a knee so the smaller ones could get the same attention. When he stood up, he had one of them in his arms. Every time he knelt to return them to the ground, he came up with another one. His smile went from ear to ear. “Who’s next?” he repeated.

Dave and Terry Paddock gave us boxes and boxes of donated items from friends of theirs. The orphanage was the beneficiary of dozens of boxes of crayons, lots of pencils and pens, flash cards, and coloring books. Molly was very appreciative. We also brought some of the 5k t-shirts. Like everyone else, she smiled when she saw Jim’s image in the heart on the logo. We sat and had chai with Molly, Kate, Daniel and Dennis (another Masai that works there). Dennis knows our friend Isaac very well, and he was in the Masai village when I was there with my family in February. Kevin was actually the first to say, “He was there when we were there.” Oddly enough, I knew what he meant and agreed. We joked and told stories about an hour. Then Kevin noticed it was 5:15 and the choir was to perform at 5. “Kenyan time is different,” I said. Daniel and Dennis laughed out loud and slapped me on the back. “Five could mean 5:30 or even 6pm.” When I finished saying that, the look on Kevin’s face was clear. “I think it’s more important that we stay here. We’ve seen the choir before, and although it would be nice to see them perform, I thing this is where we should be.” “I think so, too,” he replied. He and Kate were hitting it off quite well. They both appreciated each other’s humor, and seemed to carry on conversations effortlessly. I was glad someone was there closer to his age. I think it made it that much more enjoyable.

I can’t say enough about the children and how they are treated… how they are loved. You can’t see the scars that these children wear, because you can’t get past their smiles. Their innocence seems remarkable intact despite their circumstances. I would encourage you to look into their organization. http://www.springsofhopekenya.com Like Jim and I, they’re not the best at asking for donations, but I’m happy to ask for them. It’s a very worthwhile cause, and I guarantee that someday we’ll be working on something together. Also like Jim and I, the website is in need of a little updating, but everything you need to know about them is there. Molly had to go home but invited us to stay for dinner before returning to Maseno. We obliged, and were treated to rice, cabbage, skumawiki, and meatballs. At this point I must tell you that Kate cut the cabbage, and it wouldn’t have been as good if she hadn’t.
We ate with the children, then had to push off. Kate walked us out to the car and I said, “I have to get a picture of you before we go.” She complained that there’s never been a good picture of her. I said, “Go stand over there by the wall.” Until I looked at the pictures before posting them on the blog, I hadn’t realized that I had her stand in front of the sign for the men’s bathroom. Brilliant.

The skyline during the ride home doesn’t look as ominous as these pics. It was a beautiful sunset.
Now I’m exhausted. It’s 2am and we have to get up at 6 to be on the path to Mbaka Oromo by 7. I spoke with Karen on the phone an hour ago, and it got me jazzed up so I thought I’d write until I got tired. Well, I got tired.

See you all tomorrow.

Nakupenda sana.

I'm not sure OSHA would approve

Yellow car!  That's 2-0, Karen

This is our Masai friend Dennis
This is our new friend Kate