"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, June 28, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014 part 2

We made it to Dubai without falling asleep.  It's a relatively short flight, and we're trying to get back on an EST sleep pattern.  Yeah, good luck with that.  We've still got 3 hours to kill before we board for the long flight home - 14 hours, but we got bumped up to business class.  Huge bonus!  To pass the time, I'll tell some stories and make some observations from the past 9 days.

1.  Kevin and I are tired, but Kevin's in worse shape.
Kevin - "What country is Dubai in?"
Dad - "The UAE"
Kevin - "I know that.  What does it stand for?
Dad - "United Arab Emirates."
Kevin - "Holy crap!  Emirates has their own country?!"
Dad - "No.  The UAE has their own airline."
Kevin - "I think they put something in my coffee."

2.  Johnny Carson and Ed McMann...in Kenya
That's what you get when you have conversations with Job and our driver, John.  It dawned on me while we were flying.   It's no like Job makes a comment and John says, "Hey-oh!"  Rather, I'd ask Job a question, and the ensuing conversation is like this (I'm typing the words like they pronounce them - it gives it some added humor - don't forget to roll your r's):
Adam - "Job, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin control the country, right?
Job - "Yes Meestah Ahdahms, theyah ah two tribes acting as one."
John - "Yes, they ah two."
Job - "It used to be just the Kikuyu alone, now they have pahtnahd with the Kalenjin."
John - "Yes, they ah two."
Adam - "What do the residents of Kibera do if the government makes them angry?"
Job - "They peek up the railroad and throw it in the fourest"
John - "They just throw."
Adam - "There are 42 tribe in Kenya, right?
Job - "Yes"
John - "Yes. Fohtee two tribes."
Adam - "That's a lot."
Job - "Shoowah"  (Sure)
John - "Yes. Very many."
The more I thought about John as Job's "fly girl," the more I laughed.

3.  Yet another one from Kevin after we landed
Dad - "He Kev, we're only 9 meters above sea level right now."
Kevin - "Wow, that's like from here to there (pointing to the bathroom that was across the aisle and one row up)"
Dad - "No, it's more like 30 feet"
Kevin - "Wait. There's 3 meters in a foot..."
Dad - "Dude, a meter is just over a yard."
Kevin - "Seriously, I think they put something in my coffee."
Keep in mind that Kevin used to run track... where everything is measured in meters.  He's so tired, I think I'm starting to feel bad for him.

4.  Job should never be asked for directions
The poor guy.  He had all of us shaking our heads.  Much like someone else I know, he has difficulty distinguishing his left from his right.  Unlike this person I know, he still insists on providing directions.  From Maseno to Nairobi, John must have had to make 6 u-turns.  That doesn't include the times when he got to the middle of the intersection and Job corrected himself.

5.  Kenyans have no concept of personal space
Perhaps it's because they have to cram themselves into matatus, or live in close quarters, but they insist on being right up against you.  It's much like our dog sox - he likes to sit next to you, but he literally throws his body against you as he lays down.  I sat next to a Kenyan on the flight to Dubai, and his shoulder was in my seat most of the ride.  He was a nice guy, and wants to help with our projects the next time we're in Kenya.  I'm only going to drive with hime if he's got bucket seats.  I'm surprised (and grateful) they're not close talkers, too.

6. It's impossible to stay clean when driving through Kenya
Seriously.  Between the diesel exhaust and the dust that's kicked up, it's a mess.  It's not like you're always driving on dirt roads, but the pot holes are so bad you drive on the shoulder a lot of the time.  It's a little better when they put the marrum down because it makes the surface of the road very hard. When you give up the dust, you gain some of the bumpiest road imaginable.  When marrum gets driven over, it get's these really tight ridges, kind of like driving down the back of an alligator... that's 20 miles long.  Isaac often refers to it as a "Kenyan massage."

Doing volunteer work can be some of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have - and you don't have to go to Kenya.  Whether it's in the states or the third world, do something!  Take the risk to touch someone else's heart, and they will surely touch yours.  Kenya's not for everyone, but neither is a soup kitchen.  Think outside the box.  Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, find a church that travels to weather ravaged areas, or yes, work at a soup kitchen.  How about delivering meals to the elderly.  Each of these things includes some sort of risk, but that's the difference between living and existing.  I'd be happy to have any of you tag along on one of our trips.  I can guarantee that you will not be the same person when you return.  If you're intimidated by a soup kitchens, let me know -  I'm sure anyone in my family would accompany you.   But don't stop there.  Talk about your experience... get others to participate.  We love to talk about Kenya.  We have lifelong friends who are more like family now.  We bring people with us every year, and some of them have returned again the following year.  I've got 3 people that have sent me emails in the last few months asking to come along with us.  I think it's wonderful!  Touching people through a desire to serve can seem like a daunting idea.  Please listen to your heart.  We all have the ability to do great things, all we need to do is find the courage to do them... to say "yes" rather than remain silent..  to step forward instead of standing still.

Thank you for your curiosity in our work, and your attention to my ramblings.  I hope that you've enjoyed your time with Kevin and I; we certainly enjoyed having you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

I’m not sure where to begin.  I fell asleep for a little while after posting the last entry.  I probably got another 1 hour under my belt.  Breakfast was being served at 9, so we left our rooms and meandered over to the breakfast are.  I was happy to have something other than a fried egg – the breakfast of choice for anyone in a hotel in Maseno.  Instead, we had potatoes, mandazi (that’s the fried cake), a sausage with the main course (insert drum roll) a carrot and pasta dish.  It was pretty tasty.  The mandazi was made with some kind of spice that more than likely came for India… it just had that taste to it.  The potatoes were cooked perfectly.
We finished breakfast, checked out of the hotel and began our drive to the embassy to help Job get his Visa.  Isaac has already applied and been accepted so I was very disappointed that he was not here to help guide us through the process.  Instead, we were flying somewhat blind.  Isaac said that we wouldn’t need an appointment (mistake #1) and we just needed to ask to speak to whoever was working the visa desk at the time (mistake #2). Again, I’m not a big fan of Nairobi so I usually avoid it.  This was a special circumstance.  According to John, we were only 25km from the embassy and we’d be there in 30 minutes.  Wrong.   The traffic in Nairobi is absolutely insane.  Seriously.  I managed to see my first Kenyan traffic light, which had a timer next to the light so you knew exactly when the light was going to change.  Neat idea.  
There were many similarities between Maseno/Kisumu and Nairobi.  You can tell that the people to the west are on a completely different economic rung, and a much lower one at that.  While I’ve seen iron works and carpenters as well as shirts and pants being sold, Nairobi had an entirely different feel.  To the west, they’re more concerned function and price, so appearance and “curb appeal” might not be that important.  In Nairobi, it’s like giving all those things a shot of steroids… maybe several.  The furniture on the side of the road was downright gorgeous.  There were metal sculptures, places to buy flagstone, the nurseries contained flowers that were in full bloom (yes, plenty of orange flowers) and potted trees waiting to be sold.  Ornamental flower pots were everywhere.  There was a lot of construction, too.  I’ve got a picture of one building, and if you look closely, you can see that the scaffolding is wood.  It’s actually a blue gum tree with the branches cut off.  Seriously.  Those trees grow ridiculously high, and the leaves are predominantly found on the top 1/3 of the tree.  They cut 
them down and use them for everything.  Another instance of OSHA staring in disbelief.  And  there’s the KFC.  There’s the true sign of a metropolitan city.  Kevin and I always wondered how it would taste.  Would it be tender like the colonel’s usually is?  Would they use all herbs and spices they were supposed to?  It doesn’t matter.  One, I’m a Popeye’s Chicken fan, and two, never try fried fast food in a third world country before embarking on 20 hours of flying.  I won’t bungey jump, and I won’t eat KFC before heading home.  The former may be safer, but both can end in absolute disaster.
Then we got closer to the city.  The congestion was horrible.  Needless to say, it took us over 2 hours to reach the embassy.  It’s this kind of ride that ensures that I will NEVER drive in this country.  The steering wheel on the left side is one thing, but dodging every manner of transportation along with pedestrians and salesmen is crazy.  When the light turns red or the officer directing traffic tells you to stop, you stop.  Then, almost immediately, men come from all sides selling you things from bananas to papers to skooters.  Yes, I said skooter.  Then you’ve got motorcycles wizzing in between the cars, stopping only to ask you to pull in the rear view mirror so they can pass.  Matatu drivers don’t help.  They like to change lanes for no reason and without regard for anyone else on the road, including the street vendors, who are literally in the street.  I was happy when we finally reached what I will call “Embassy Row” and were out of the heavy traffic.
First we passed the homes where the ambassadors lived, then we came upon the embassies themselves.  Most had high walls and a plaque outside denoting the country occupying that soil.  Then there was the American Embassy.  Lots of police, lots of metal detectors, then more police.  The embassy itself was significantly larger than most if not all of its counterparts.  We had to pass through two levels of security before we could speak through bullet proof glass to the person in charge.  She turned out to be the one in charge of all the police, and informed us that the office was closed unless their was an emergency with a US citizen AND we needed an appointment.  Two hours we’ll never get back.
They don’t let you park anywhere near the outside of the embassy, so John drove around until we called him to come get us.  When we got in, he said, “Now, only 30 minutes to airport.”  Not a chance.  More congestion, more insanity.
We did get to one spot where he said, “OK, now 15 more minutes.”  That was and a half after he said 30 minutes.  It would be another 45 minutes before we arrived at the airport. 
We said goodbye to John and Job, both of whom insisted on hugging us, and we made our way to the international terminal entry point.  We made it through without any problems, we still had 3 hours before our flight.  We checked in, asked for an upgrade, and were quickly denied.  The flight was oversold and there were no seats in business or first class.  Yikes.  We got to immigration and Kevin said, “We never got exit row seats.”  Thank God he said something.  It’s only a 5 hour flight, but the leg room is invaluable.  We went back to the desk and got our assignments changed.  The manager on duty was very kind and accommodating.
We wandered around the terminal peaking into the shops before sitting down for a snack and a bottle of water.  The temperature here in the terminal is probably 15 degrees higher than outside, but it normally is.  I still wasn’t ready for it.  We finished eating and drinking and found a seat near the gate.  I got up and walked around some more while Kevin returned to reading A Game of Thrones.  When I got back, the gate was open so we went through yet another screening before being corralled in another seating area.  I tried calling Ann right away because I thought it would be easier to talk in here.  No such luck.  The world cup is on everywhere, and a large influx of passengers didn’t help.  We ended our phone call shorter than we would have liked, and are now waiting patiently to board.  There’s a man who has been coughing incessantly since he came in.  It sounds horrible. I’m afraid that a lung is going to pop out of his mouth!  I pray to God he’s not sitting near us.  Please feel free to make the same prayer.
The next post will probably be from Dubai but it will be short.  Not much excitement on a plane ride.  It will be just long enough for me to say, “We’re in Dubai.”

See you soon.

Here are some pictures of the Royal Resort where we spent the night.  I highly recommend it!

Below are jut some additional pictures we took while driving into Nairobi... some things I never expected to see... like a smart car?  Really?

Thursday, June 26 part 2

I was exhausted when we got back last night, but fighting dogs kept me awake until close to 11.  I was looking forward to 8 hours of sleep, but, lucky for you, it's 5am and I'm wide awake.  I'm trying to make better use of the is time so here we go...
We sat in the local restaurant having a cold Tusker and watching Portugal v Ghana.  It's still within the grounds of the hotel, so we didn't have to go far.  The bar was fitted with a big screen tv in one corner opposite the bar and a smaller one behind the bartenders head above the liquor bottles.  It's an interesting setup, and as I watched the bartender, it didn't look like he was watching the patrons as much as he was watching the game.  There were 4 people at the bar and another 6 or 7 people seated at tables.  This crowd (albeit small) likes soccer.  If you're from the US and not a soccer fan, it must be interesting to travel internationally during the World Cup.   Passion for the sport is high here, and everyone has a favorite team... rarely is it Kenya-they're just not good enough.  Instead, at least with my experience on this trip, they'll support any team from Africa.  If/when Cameroon loses, I wonder if they'll move to any team in the southern hemisphere.  They're not big fans of Brazil, that is certain. In fact, most people support Germany.  On the flight over here, Kevin was asked by a flight attendant if he supports the US.  Kevin said, "I don't follow soccer."  I disagree.  Sitting next to him watching a couple games during the week, he's pretty knowledgable.  Granted, he shakes his head in disgust during most of the game, mostly due to the duration of the game or the acting that's done during collisions.  "Look at this guy holding his knee in agony!  He's going to be standing just fine in 30 seconds."
We ordered before the 1st half ended, and the food didn't arrive until the game was over.  It was after 9pm when the choma (beef) arrived.  I have to say that when you're from the US visiting Kenya, your jaw gets a workout.  With the exception of Kiboku Bay and Momba's (great kuku), your front teeth need to be sharp and you better plan on chewing.  The food is quite tasty, but it's tough. We had something slightly different when we were here the last time because I remember that it was incredibly tender and I think we were picking it off the bone (which makes sense).  Louis Prima was right, "Closer to the bone, sweeter is the meat."
We talked soccer through most of the night.  Job's team is Germany.  I told him I couldn't root for them, because they've been pretty hard on my ancestors.  He laughed, as did John.
When the game ended, the place emptied so by the time we finished the meal (the chips were outstanding) there was a bartender, 2 waiters and the manager sitting together staring at us, willing us to leave.  We obliged.
Job, Kevin and I came back to my room and we Skyped Andrea and Karen.  We would have used FaceTime, but the internet speeds here seem to be more cooperative for Skype.  Unlike the day we did it at Mbaka Oromo, there was little delay and the video was smooth.  We talked for quite some time, with Job always wise-cracking every time Sox (our cock-a-poo) was on screen.  He's been harassing Karen for years.  "He looks like he would be very sweet to eat.  I will hunt him in your back yard when I come to America.  I must have him for dinner."  Job's humor is wonderful, and his accent makes it even better.  When speaking english, it's very British.  The sentence sounds like, "He lukes like he would be very (shrill the "r") sweet tu eat.  I will hunt him in yoo-ah back yahd when I come to Amereekah.  I must have heem foe deen-ah."  As a general rule, he makes us laugh a lot.  He's also the only Kenyan I've ever heard utter a swear word.  During the week, he was eating an orange and spitting out the seed.  I said, "Do you spit them out because you don't want to grow a tree in your stomach?"  He said, "No. If I eat them I would sheet out a forrest (again, shrill the r).
His metaphors are great, too.  Our tiny friend Danton came to greet us late one morning, and his clothes were filthy.  We were sitting on the grass, and he approached with a grin on his face.  Job said, "Aye, Danton. Way-ah have you bean?  Have you been cleaning a train, or what?"  One, it's a funny metaphor.  Two, it's even funnier because they have no trains in Kenya... only tracks.  Danton's never seen one!
It's been an eventful week of completing projects, improving those that are self-sustaining, and planning for ones in the future.  My only disappointment was that we were to spend the entire week with Isaac and we only saw him for one night.  He called last night to say that he was stuck at Masai Mara and was unable to see us before we returned.  That was a let down on a few levels.  We're going to the US embassy today to try and get Job a visa.  While they'll let just about anyone into the country, they're very picky about letting anyone out.  Kenyans had/have a tendency to go visit America and never come back.  Isaac was able to come because they're was something here that would ensure his return - his wife and children.  Job was a bachelor the last time he applied, and they quickly said, "Denied."  They did say, however, that it would be helpful if I came with him next time. As his sponsor and "employer."  We'll be leaving here at 10am to see what we can accomplish.  I'm excited to visit the embassy... it's not something you do every day.
I'll try to get another posting done before we fly out... you'll all be sound asleep by then, or at least you should be.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 20

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone that has sent me a note to say that they look forward to reading this blog.  I actually enjoy writing, although yes, it's at the expense of sleep.  I know that my family back home enjoys it, and I'm glad that you do, too.

Now, back to business...

Our plan was to set out by 6:45am to surprise Wendy at home before she left for school.  Last night Dedan (Job kept telling me that his name was Duncan, but it's not) insisted that he make me breakfast this morning, so I told him I would be out front at 6:15.  I got up at 5:45 and it wasn't easy.  It took a ridiculously long time to upload pictures last night, so I didn't finish the blog until after 1am.  I knew he was waiting and I didn't want to disappoint him.  Sure enough, the table was set up with mango juice and chai... for 4!  I was the only one that ate, as the other part of the plan was to stop for something in Kericho... but that didn't happen either.  We loaded our bags into the car at 6:45 and headed for Wendy's.  She quite a distance from Mbaka Oromo, and we could only drive within about 3/4 of a mile.  We walked the rest of the way zig-zaggin between corn fields and banana trees.  When we finally arrived at Wendy's (it was about 7), the surprise was on us.  She left 5 minutes ago.  Her mom went running for her and suggested we meet closer to where we parked the car.
W got back to where John was parked, but no sign of Wendy.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity.  No sign of Wendy.  Then, you could see stalks and tall grass moving when there wasn't any breeze.  She must have sprinted the entire way, because she was huffing and puffing like she just ran a marathon.  There was no way we were going to leave without delivering her presents from Amie and saying "oritii" (goodbye in Luo).  I handed Kevin my camera so that I could take a knee next to her and show her the gifts.  She's got the greatest smile!  This girl is a sweetheart.  She went through the bag, and then I gave her a hug for Amie and one from us.  She dashed back to her home and we got back into the SUV.

We went to Job's house so that we could drop off some things - it would prevent him from carrying them to Nairobi and back.  They call it a "house" or their "home" but it can be anything from a free standing house to an apartment.  Job's was an apartment, and even more like a bachelor pad.  Actually, he's not really a bachelor anymore, I think he may just be messy.  In his defense, there's a lot to put into a small room.

As we left, Kevin saw a motorcycle drive by.  Here was the exchange:
Kevin - "OK, I got this.  That's a tuc tuc."
Me - "Nope, that's a piki piki."
Kevin - "Oh, ok, then a bicycle is a lorrie."
Me and Job - "No, a lorrie is a truck.  A bicycle is a bota bota."
Kevin - "I give up.  I don't need to know Kiswahili, I'm an English speaking Masai.  I hunt lions!"
John - "That's right Kevin... but you still have to kill one."
Kevin - "Oh. I've got this."

For those of you playing at home, a tuc tuc is a covered 3 wheeled vehicle that looks like the things they drive around in India.

We were on the road to Nairobi at 7:30am.  Based on projections, we should arrive there by 1:30pm.

The road was pretty good.  While there were some detours (here they say "diversion" or "bypass") we were asphalt most of the way.  We moved quickly, passing slower tankers and trucks, and climbing hills like a pro.  It was nice to be able to see the changing landscape as it passed by.  When we left Nyanza Province and Maseno, the corn was over 6' high in most places and people were in the streets of Kisumu selling bananas.
We eventually came upon Kericho where the brilliant green tea fields went on forever.  The workers were out picking in plants that looked like they were up to their shoulders.
Although I can't remember the town, it was clearly known for potatoes.  They literally lined the streets.
Next was carrots.  It was easy to spot the bags filled with the bright orange vegetable.  The contrasting colors are really a sight to see.  Vibrant orange or green against a pale earth tone makes the items look almost fake... like there in
front of a green screen.  Next came Narok - beautifully large sweeping wheat fields as far as the eye could see, and corn, too, although this corn was already being harvested.
Here's the way it works.  When you come into towns, there is always a series of speed bumps.  Because I think it's illegal to have a good suspension in this country, every vehicle has to come close to a complete stop before climbing over the 6" high hump that stretches across the entire road.  There's usually a series of 3 or 4 in each spot.  The ladies line their wares along the road next to these speed bumps and as soon as you slow down, they are next to the car with the items they are selling in their hands, shouting out prices.  They do it all day long, and as we drove east the climate changed significantly.  It was actually getting cool.  That explains why the corn in Maseno was still growing while the corn in Narok was being harvested.  I was thankful for the cooler breezes, too.  It made the trip much easier.
We made a 20 minute stop in Narok where Job was getting a document for a lawyer that will help with his visa application.  We're heading to the embassy tomorrow morning so that I can tell them that we'll be his sponsor in the US.  I also had the opportunity to meet John's wife and sister, although only briefly.

We were still two hours away, so I broke out the PB&J sandwiches that I made while I was at breakfast.  Andrea got it for us before we left, and because she's a choosy mother, she chose Jiff, reduced fat Jiff.  I wonder if anyone even remembers those commercials... Kevin and Job weren't hungry so it was down to John and I.  The bread I bought when we first arrived was already too hard, and I noticed that the bread they served at breakfast was always soft.  You can't make a PB&J without soft bread.  Dedan gave me 8 pieces so that I could make them.  They tasted so good I had to fight every urge in me to consume another one.  John smiled and said, "Very tasty."  Peanuts (called "ground nuts" here) are everywhere, but you don't see a lot of peanut butter.  In Kenya, jelly is a luxury, and grape jelly is unthinkable.  Damn that was a good sandwich.  I'm staring at the other one that is only 2 feet away.  I'll finish the blog first, then I'll eat it.

This was the only traffic we hit...although we did encounter some baboons shortly after these cows crossed the road.

We made it into Karen close to our schedule... 2:30.  They've done a lot of upgrades since we were here last.  It's a really nice resort in a beautiful town.  Karen is the most affluent Kenyan neighborhood I've ever been in.  On our way to our rooms we passed the swimming pool, the fitness center (with updated equipment) and the children's playground.  We weren't in the main building this time, rather, we were taken to the back of the compound where a series of motel-like rooms were located.  Inside, again, really nice, and yup, hot water.
Kevin and Job went to use the gym while I went into town to an ATM with John.  When I got back, I took some photos of the duo.  Job challenged Kevin again, and as you can see by the picture, he lost again.  This one wasn't fair, though.  They continue to be great friends. I have to remember to send this picture to my friend Steve who works for Victory Brewing (makers of Thunderhead). Tomorrow is legs and arms at 6:30am.  I'm hoping to get the first good night of sleep all week, so I won't be joining them.

We're waiting for Isaac to join us before we have dinner.  Hopefully he'll be arriving soon.  It's almost 7pm and I'm sure everyone's hungry.
If I don't post another piece tonight, I'll post one before you wake up.  We should be out of the embassy by noon, and that's 4am on the east coast.
See ya!

 Katie, I saw your cat through an open door!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014... part B

These are the pictures from the other camera that I couldn't post yesterday.

Here are some pix of Kevin and I with Hilda Aiyeko, Public Health Officer.

These are the pictures from the time we spent with Madam Linnet and the school board members at Huma Girls Secondary.  Check out those dormitories!


This is Nelson at his metal shop

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Holy mackerel!  What a day!  It was action packed with many funny stories and a lot of emotions.  Unfortunately, our official, unofficial camera man (Job) left with the camera tonight so I don’t have any of his pictures.  You’ll have to settle for just mine for now… that means that they’ll be some entries that will have to wait for photos until tomorrow.  Pole sana (very sorry)
We left breakfast and headed immediately  to the ATM to get some Kenyan shillings.  I’m pretty sure I have enough, but I like to play it safe… plus, you never know when the machine might eat your card, so it’s always to aim a little high.
We started at the hospital in Kumbewa.  This is where Hilda Aiyeko is stationed.  She is the local Public Health Officer that Jim and I consulted with when this project began, and continued until its completion.  It’s close to 45 minutes, and we were a bit early, but she received us anyway.  Kevin and I have visited her here before, and she recognized him right away.  She asked about our family and filled us in on hers.  She is extremely busy; as indicated by the multiple stacks of paperwork on her desks.  Being as busy as she was, it’s a big deal for her to accept us early.  We talked much longer than I was expecting – reminiscing on how we started and how we managed to get to where we are now.  She was very engaging and quite happy to be part of the project.  Frankly, it could not have been completed without her.  She pushed the government when they needed to be pushed and was very helpful every time we called.  We continued to be ahead of schedule when we left.  Huma Girls Secondary School was next.
They were dropping marrum in piles on the dirt road to Huma, but thankfully we had enough space to get through.  When we arrived, Linet Odur (Deputy/Head Teacher/Asst Principal) greeted us (if you recall, the Headmistress, Merab, was called away to Mombasa with the other secondary school principals).  She was a bit of a surprise to me, because the last person in her position was shorter and rounder.  She was tall, and confident.  We sat and talked for quite awhile while we waited for a few of the school board meetings to arrive.  They trickled in one by one.  They only totaled 3, so it wasn’t that long a wait.  We passed most of the time with the first member who arrived – Mister Maker (pronounced Mist ah Bay kah).  A jolly Kenyan with a big belly, Mr. Baker also happened to be Job’s Godfather!  We talked about everything from Job’s background to how he sees his future, to teaching me more Luo (I learned that just like English, Luo have words that mean multiple things – ie. Kendo means, “Say that again” and “fireplace” and “married.”  It all depends on where you put the accent).  The conversation was very lively and everyone participated.  Even as the other board members arrived, they began interjecting their thoughts.  Finally, it was time to get down to business.  Jim and I had promised to build them a dormitory after a fire drew attention to the need.  It was an electrical fire, and the girls were lucky to get out with their lives.  We provided them a solar array so that they had light, but we needed to wait until the clinic was finished before we could commit the finances to build them another dormitory.  That time has finally arrived.  I took some pictures of the existing dorms.  One of them is the picture of the structure that had the fire… and that wasn’t the worst one.  They don’t have sardines in Kenya.  Instead the have omena (which is ostensibly a minnow) that is dried and used in a variety of dishes.  They sell it in the market based on the can size.  They scoop up a small tomato paste can, or a somewhat larger soup can, or the largest stewed tomato can.  Before I get too far away from the story, I’ll say that they pack these girls into dormitories like omena in a can!  Sorry, long way to go for a corny remark, but they thought it was funny.  Seriously, they have 60 triple bunks (yes, I said triple) in a 110’x22’ room.  Every governmental agency in the US would have a field day in this place.  Even by Kenyan standards, it’s not a good environment for educating.  That’s why we’re here.  Now that the clinic is done, they’re next.  Huma also happens to have a very active group of parents.  After discussing the costs involved in building a single story dormitory, they asked if they could accept the funds from us, then have the parents pay for the balance of a two-story dorm.  I smiled because prior to Mr. Baker raising the idea, I had already written that question down on my pad.  They’re currently building a two story science building, so we went over to take a look.  It’s very rough, and construction had been halted due to some faulty work.  We first walked to the second floor that was just a concrete slab with rebar and conduit’s emerging from below.  We went back down the concrete, switchback staircase (OSHA would have had a heart attack over the rise of the stairs, or should I say, “varying rise of the stairs”).  We walked underneath the area where we were moments ago, and I have to admit that I was a bit uncomfortable.  It was all concrete construction, and rebar was used to support the ceiling/floor.   There were spots where the concrete was crumbling, and others where the rebar was exposed.  This was why construction was halted.  They’re waiting for the fundis to come back and correct the errors.  At one point, I looked at Kevin who was looking at me wide eyed.  “This is terrifying,” was all he said and immediately moved toward an exit.  We walked back to the office talking some more, closed up our conversation and took a quick picture.  Kenyans document everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.
We made our way to the metal works shop owned by the same man that owns the Peacock – Nelson.  There was short cut from Huma to Layla (where his shop is) so we took it.  It wasn’t bad.  The shop was a beehive of activity.  Most places like this are in kind of strip mall design.  It’s just shop after shop, just much more rudimentary than anything you’d ever find in America.  In the first room, they were working on the bench for Jim’s memorial, in the second, they were working on the gate, and in the third, they were using a planer.  The bench looks great and the door, although much taller than I was expecting, will do just fine.  Nelson searched for some pictures of the work that he does but he was unable to locate them.  Again, one more picture and we were off to Mbaka Oromo.
We had a meeting scheduled with the clinic committee and the doctors at 1:30.  We got there at 1:35, and John was the only one there.  It didn’t appear as though anyone would be there for a while, so we headed over to the memorial and secondary school to check on progress. 
When we got to the secondary school, they were just finishing cementing the base for the tank.  It will take several days to dry before they will install the gutters.  When we stopped in the sewing room, the ladies were happy to show us how many kits they had made.  When we turned around to return to the clinic, a stood in awe until Kevin asked me what was wrong.  All I did was point.  There, in the middle of their courtyard, was  a beautiful orange flower in full bloom.  We laughed as we realized that all we had to do was come to the secondary school instead of running all over Kisumu.  Then, as we walked up the hill to the clinic, right next to the teachers latrine were 2 more… full bloom.  Kevin was starting to harass Job at this point, and his only response was, “I knew that I saw these things somewhere.”  If it’s any consolation, they are exactly the same plants that we purchased.  Like I said yesterday, though, they come in 3 colors and you don’t know which one you have until it opens.  We’ve got our fingers crossed.

They were arranging chairs in the clinic to accommodate a small group.  The entire committee was not going to be present, which also meant that the meeting should be brief.  The meeting started with 6 of us crammed into a small room.  Amos arrived, and it forced us to move back outside where normally meet.

We carried all the chairs outside and started again.  While John spoke, 2 more members arrived.  Thankfully, one of them was Andrea’s friend Joyce.  I was told she was around, but hadn’t seen her yet.  She gave a wide smile to Kevin and I as she sat at the other and of the chairs.   When John finished talking, Sammy (the lead doctor) took over and talked about what a wonderful facility it is, then followed it up with how to further meet the needs of the community (and still more on how to make their jobs easier).  Ultimately, they need 2 laptops and a modem, as well as a refrigerator to store specific vaccinations.  The other big “ask” was for a store.  Not the kind of store you and I would normally think of, but a storage facility.  They’re currently stacking all the medicines and non-medical supplies in the laboratory, and they’re almost out of room.  Requests have been sent to the government, but those wheels turn very slowly. I released Sammy and John (the other doctor) so that I could talk to the clinic committee alone.   Our contractor passed away and his son took over the business.  This was toward the end of the project, but there are still items that are unfinished.  We paid to have gutter on the facility, but it was only half done.  There was a problem with the tiles in one room, and that need to be repaired.  I spent the next 10 minutes talking totem about getting those jobs completed.  It was their turn to release me - they asked me to leave so that they could talk among themselves.We headed back over to the secondary school where the modem works the best - it was time to Skype with Andrea and Karen!  Woohoo!  Before I snuck away, I had a quick conversation with Joyce, a dear friend who worked side by side with Andrea last year as they planted trees.  The seemed like kindred spirits then, and they apparently still are.  "Please tell mama Kevin that I say, 'Hello' and please come back to Kenya.  I miss her."  I miss her, too.
The last time we skyped them, we had Susan, Emma and Danton with us.  Job was there too.  It was a lot of fun, so we thought we’d try it again.  The signal was great.  Andrea had been awake for several hours but Karen, had just woken up… “Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of people there,” was the first thing I heard from her as she tried to check her hair.  I don’t think the girls or Danton cared.  As soon as their faces were up on the screen, the smiles kept coming.  They talked back and forth for quite some time, although most of the responses on this side were relegated to “yes” and giggles.  By now a larger crowd had formed behind us.  They were in between classes in a free period, so most of the students were looking for something to do.  Many of them found their way to us.  When they finished, Kevin talked to Karen and his mom, then I had some time with them before finally signing off. 

Andrea probably doesn’t want me to talk about it, but she wrote a letter to John Agugo that she asked me to read to him.  It’s enough to say that it was a very moving letter (“Please tell her that she has touched my heart”) and he asked for a copy… the power of the rosary.
Kevin had walked back to the car while I finished packing things up rom the skype session.  By the time I got there, John (our driver, pictured below left) had informed me that he was now an “honorable masai.”  Apparently he and John were talking and all he has to do is kill a lion.  When I mention that Isaac was 13 when he was curcumsized, he said it was a technicality.   Yes, I said 13… he also was not allowed to flinch or make a sound.  Kids, don’t try that at home.  Dear Lord, nobody should try that anywhere!
We laughed as we left the compound to go eat dinner.  We had not had any lunch yet, so everyone was ready for food.  We went back into Kisumu to Nakumat rather than waiting for 2 hours to have something made here at the Peacock (the owner and the manager have assured me that they will work on that).  We went to Mon Ami in the same plaza as the Nakumat.  Kevin and I ordered pizzas, Job got fish and John had stew.  After placing our orders, Job and I ran into Nakumat to get some more minutes for our phone as well as a micro sim card.  It was still another  20 minutes before our food arrived, but we sat talking to pass the time.
It was dusk when we left the restaurant.  Driving during the day can be pretty daunting, but driving at night is absolutely horrifying.  Many cars don’t have headlights, and the bicycles certainly don’t.  The people still run across the street in front of you, tuc-tucs and piki-pikis are weaving in and out of traffic.  People are passing whenever possible, and sometimes when it’s not.  I actually closed my eyes a couple of times, partly because I didn’t want to see and partly because the dirt was killing me.

We made it back alive and Dedan (Peacock manager) quickly got us our keys.  Kevin hit facebook and I finished packing.  I got a lot done early this morning so it didn’t take long.  Then I immediately went to writing.    Dedan then brought the bill so that I could pay it now rather than early in the morning.  Of course, we had to get a picture.  

Now it’s 11:30 and I’m still waiting for pictures to upload.  Hopefully I’ll be able to close my eyes at midnight.  Please cross your fingers.
We’re driving to Nairobi tomorrow to meet up with Isaac in Karen – I very affluent suburb.  Don’t worry, we won’t be near the city.  It’s a 5-6 hour drive, so hopefully it’s all paved.

Sweet dreams.

Here are some additional pictures from today

Kevin and John Agugo