"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, January 24, 2015


I'm only just now realizing that my dates are off.  Today is the Saturday the 23rd and I'm posting info for Friday.  At least it's the Saturday for me; most of you are probably still sleeping.  I wrote late into the night so that I could simply add the pictures in the morning.  That seems to be the routine.
Nothing really happened today.  No, just kidding.  The temperate
As it turns out, we’re not the only ones without power.  The entire town is blacked out.  Rumor has it that a transformer blew.  The general consensus is that there’s a problem somewhere on the line, and only God know when it will get fixed.
The ride to Huma was a quick one.  We left later than originally expected because all of the right people weren’t at the school yet to be part of the ground breaking.  I have to admit, I was quite nervous about setting the first shovel in the ground.  This is certainly the first groundbreaking ceremony I’ve ever been asked to, let alone participate in.  I kept thinking, “What if I can’t get the shovel into the dirt, after all, it’s been pretty dry.”  My fears would soon be put to the side.  As we entered the gate, terror took over.
The first thing we saw was a large canopied area to the north of the offices.  “What’s going on?” I asked Job.  His only response was, “Uh oh.”  It was an understatement. 

Merab and I ... no idea
what I'm doing with my hands

We got out of the car and greeted Merab and Linette (the principal  and deputy).  They were to lead us over to the site.  As we turned the corner, I realized that I underestimated Merab.  
There were close to 500 students standing in their uniforms – it was pretty impressive.  Seated next to them was close to 30 VIPs.  They were high-ranking members of the local Anglican church as well as the bishop from the Israel church of Afrca (John Oguso) and our friend, Dan Otieno. Local government officials, engineers, the school staff and the area chief were also present.  It was a very imposing group, but they put me at ease with their hospitality and appreciation. 
I spoke with the Anglicans while the girls were singing.  There’s something about Kenyans singing that is just wonderful.  It’s like bagpipes… I’ve never heard a bagpipe I didn’t like.  You couple the sound of 500 voices with birdsong, the occasional cow, goats and chickens… the wind whipping through the trees… it’s just wonderful.  When they stopped, it was time for prayer that consisted of some free verse, then a reading from Peter.  The commentary that followed was appropriately about setting the cornerstone and ensuring a good foundation.  They were thanking 
me profusely and unknowingly making me uncomfortable.  They are a very appreciative bunch.  It finally came time to break ground.  I didn’t need a reason to sweat (it has been ridiculously hot here) but this certainly wasn’t helping.  Much to my surprise (and pleasure) one of the Anglican priests picked up the hoe and began digging.  “Oh no, I’m next,” I thought.  He made quick work making a large cross in the ground where the dormitory would be.  He was very adept with a hoe, as most Kenyans in this area are.  There was a shovel next to it, so I assumed that would be my weapon of choice.  When he finished he said a few more words of prayer and thanks then called me over.  “Here goes,” I said under my breath with a sigh.  500 people are going to watch this white man fall on his face.  No such luck!  He was just coming over to shake my hand and say “Thank you.”  Woohoo! I’m off the hook.
Not so fast.  After we sat down, he stood to speak again, then asked me to speak.  John had asked me to introduce him before I spoke.  It made me a bit uncomfortable because this wasn’t my party and I wasn’t the entertainment director.  I stood up, thanked the members for having me here and asked John to come up and say a few words.  If nothing else it would give me more time to prepare. 
John told everyone that he was the one that started this school!  Another mind blower.  I had no idea!  He went on to explain in detail explaining how he was the one that picked out the color of their brown uniforms and chose the headmaster.  Each story garnered nods from the older people in the crowd.  He then turned to me and paid me some very nice compliments.  Then came my cue.
This was the reaction when I
told them my last name was Okinyi
I rose, walked out to the middle of the courtyard and started, “My name is Adam Okinyi.”  Okinyi was the Luo name I was given about 5 years ago.  The girls all began to laugh, and the “dignitaries” smiled at one another.  I silenced the crown by speaking to them in Doluo and they responded in kind.  I told them a little bit about me, about may family and our organization.  As I was looking at them, I thought about what John Oguso had told me the day before, “The light of tomorrow is lit with the candles of today,” came to mind.  It wasn’t exactly what John said, but it worked for me.  I then informed them that they were the candles.  I talked about the burden that they have and how God won’t give them more than they can handle.  I then told them what I’ve been telling everyone else.  “Your praise and thanks are overwhelming and I am humbled by this ceremony and the kinds words that have been spoken.  The thanks belongs to God.  I am just His vehicle.”  Kenyans (at least these Kenyans) are a very spiritual bunch.  I don’t think there was a non-christian in the bunch.  I’m not terribly comfortable talking about such things regardless as to how true they are in my heart.  The words came out easily, though.  In closing, I said, “When I return in June with my family I hope to bring them here to meet you, but we will not be standing here when we do.”  I moved over to a tall tree next to another dormitory.  “We will be standing here, looking at your new dormitory.”  Everyone clapped as I returned to my seat. I know this because I saw them clapping, not because I heard the noise.  I didn’t hear anything but the words rattling around in my head.
Linette talking
to the girls
The president of the student body then spoke briefly and led a traditional “thank you” that is pretty neat to watch and hear.  They choose a number then clap that number of times; they then subtract one and clap that number of times.  It’s done rapidly but completely in unison until they reach one.  After the last single clap, the all take there hands and wave them through the air towards me while making a sound like air brakes on a tractor trailer.  The clapping is their gratitude and the “CHshhhhhh” is their sending it to me.  Cool.  Next came the deputy teacher Linette.  She grabbed part of my speech and ran with it.  “You are the candles that will light tomorrow,  say it!”  They did.  “I am the candle that lights tomorrow, say it.” They did.  Look to your neighbor and tell them, ‘You are the candle,’ say it.”  It almost brought me to tears.  “We are the candles that will light tomorrow! Say it.”  And they did, and they are, and they will.
After one more song, the ceremony ended and we moved over to the tent we originally saw for some lunch that consisted of muffins, ground nuts (peanuts), samosas (lentils and stuff in fried dough), orange juice, water, and of course, piping hot tea.  One thing I forgot to mention is that they don’t usually make their tea with water.  Instead they use hot milk… REALLY hot milk.  Kenyans also LOVE sugar.  If they ask you if you’d like some, keep an eye on them because they’ll keep scooping until you say stop; and they’ll ignore you until after the 5th teaspoon.  The conversation was lively and bounced between English, Kiswahili and Doluo.  I picked up on most of it.  Yes, especially the English parts.  
We finished up, said our goodbyes and were on our way to Mbaka Oromo.  I needed to drop of the lollipops at the clinic, speak with Tom at the Secondary School regarding the pad project, and see the Susan, Emmah and Danton one more time.  As it turns out, although we got to see some students,  all three tasks were unsuccessful.
1.  I forgot to give the lollipops to the doctors.
2.  The sewing machines were covered with a layer of dust from lack of use and their explanation as to why they’ve been dormant was insufficient.
3.   The girls and Danton were in class.
Now here’s the good news.
1.  Job is going to take the lollipops to the clinic on Monday when the doctors return after the weekend.
2.  Our friend Noelle in Kakamega has already spoken to us about how she would utilize the sewing machines for the pad project and guarantee sustainability while still providing pads to Mbaka Oromo.  She’s writing up a proposal as I type this.  She’s worked on the project with us since its inception and is working on her Masters Degree in Community Development.  It’s a perfect fit.
3.  The girls and Danton were coming with their mom to the Peacock tonight at 5.
We returned to the car and headed back to Kisumu to try and fix my inability to send texts (although I can receive them) and find out why my modem’s not working.
Both of them ended in failure – this time there was no happy ending.  Hakuna matata (yes, it really means “No worries”).  While in Kisumu we stopped at a bookstore and bought the necessary textbooks for Manasse.  He’s the boy we sponsor at Mbaka Oromo Secondary School – did I mention that he’s at the top of his class?
Jedidah, Debra, baby Fidel,
Milecent, Ruth, Job, Judy,
baby Andrea
We were finally on our way home.  The traffic was moving slowly and took us twice as long to get back to Maseno.  It felt like the earth had been moving closer to the sun all day.  En route, Job remembered that we needed to stop by so his sisters.  We drove right past the Peacock.  Job's got many sisters, and he helps care for them and their daughters.  This is what Kenyans do if the parents pass away.  They live in a humble setting as you'd expect, and were incredibly hospitable, which you'd also expect.  We came and sat as Judy brought out sliced mangos and ndizi (bananas).  These were the first bananas I've had since I got here - somewhat shocking considering we walked passed hundreds of them every day.  Andrea's beautiful!  She's following her namesake.  Job said, "Oh, she doesn't like me," and I said, "Let me see that baby!"  Judy said, "If ah mahn en-tahs my home, she screams.  She's nawt afraid of you.  Aye!" (again, that sounds like a quick, high pitched "I").  I sat and bounced her on my knee, sat her in my lap, played hide and seek... all the same things I do with Andrea at home. Kidding.  She didn't make a sound.  Instead, she grabbed my finger tightly and watched everyone in the room with curiosity.  Before we got up to leave, Job made her cry.  I snapped a picture of all of them before we left.  NOW, we're heading to the Peacock.
We had a meeting with the owner regarding this visit and future visits.  It went very well.  He was very agreeable and eager to please, and he appreciated our feedback.  I know the girls are going to like it here.  Susan, Emmah and Danton (along with their mom) arrived as we finished with the owner so Job and I retreated to the back of the hotel where we found them sitting around a table.
I gave them the last few gifts that I failed to give them earlier as well as some sweets and soda money for the walk back.  With a brilliant white smile, Susan informed me that she had moved on to 5th grade.  She was beaming with pride.  I gave her a hug and told her how wonderful that was.  Then I taught them about selfies and we took one together.  It will probably be the last one I take before I return I return home.  I wish the Andrea, Katie, Kevin and Karen were here.  They just love these girls and I know the feeling is mutual.
We placed an order for chicken before then we sat down with the girls.  The discussion with the owner must have struck a chord because the food was ready in less than 40 minutes ( he assured us that when we returned it would never take more than 30) and it was wonderful.  Job and I recapped the day as we ate, then sat and talked some more while we finished our sodas.  I sent Job on his way before it started to get dark and I returned to my room.  The generator was on so I was able to get a good charge on my computer and charge my phone.  That’s why I’m able to type today’s blog.  I probably won’t be able to add pictures until I’m outside tomorrow, but at least the really long part’s over.  I’ve been typing for several hours… it’s 11:30pm.  Andrea called somewhere in the middle and that gave me the energy to get this finished.  Now it’s time for bed.  My journey back home begins 
Oh, I almost forgot.  Every day we walked to Mbaka Oromo we passed by a butcher shop in Chulembo.  It's been 90degrees fro the last three days.  The clinic has a fridge, this guy doesn't.  Anybody want me to bring them home a steak?  Please write a nice letter to the USDA.

Friday, January 23, 2015


We had a meeting with the Clinic Committee scheduled for 8am.  As expected, the meeting started promptly at 9:15... and 2 members showed up at 9:45.  While we waited I wandered over to the far corner of the compound to try and get a better signal.  The issues with computer signals has been plaguing me since the second day and I haven't been able to shake them.  You would think that the signal would be better up in the hills.  Apparently not.  I sat, rather stood for 8 minutes just waiting for the Google homepage to load.  I placed the computer on the top of the cement septic tank and waited.  Dr Piyo came up behind to say good morning.  We were by ourselves so I had a perfect opportunity to I've him the bracelet and more importantly, tell him the story about last night.  He stood smiling as I went through each part and then ended it by showing him the picture of the bracelet with the shadow of the praying hands.  He was in awe.  "Wow," he said as he held the bracelet in his left hand and gently touching it with his right.  After a long pause he said, "I must do something special with this," and proceeded to tell me he wanted to fashion it into a bracelet using the same elastic bands that the tiles originally came on.  He just stood there quietly, staring at it before raising his head to me and saying, "Thahnks, thahnks a lawt.  Thees theeng ees very spesee-al."  I then explained what a selfie was before taking one with him.  "Please, kahn you send thaht peek-cha to my phone?"  I sent him to him right away.
John Aguso appeared over Piyo's shoulder and cam down the hill to join us.  We spoke briefly and then he told me that he would see me later because he had meeting in Kisumu that he must attend.  A said, "Too-tah-oh-ah-nah-nah" (Tutaoanana) (Talk to you later) and watched him walk up the hill.
 John stayed behind and we talked about the rain from last night and the beautiful sun that was rising in a brilliant blue sky dotted with soft clouds.  "The light of tomorrow is lit by the candle we burn today," he said.  He always has little pearls of wisdom that he gives me.  We talked about the meeting that would be taking place and somehow, as always, he began to pull out some bible quotes to link to the subject matter.  We were talking about the work that we have been doing and how God works through all of us.  Kenyans in general, and John specifically, have a beautiful way of looking at things.  "Christ weel wahn day geev us ahn een-tah-vew.  'I was thahsty, did you geev me dreenk?  I was hungry, deed you geek me food?  I was naked, deed you clothe me?"  He paused for a minute glancing to the valley behind us and said, "You don't have to go to university to know what those ahnsahs ah..."  No, you wouldn't think so.
Our friend Tamara who donated pencils to the primary school, also asked me to fulfill a promise she made to John.  An envelope, presumably containing a not from her, attached to a package of pens.  He was very pleased.  This resulted in my 3rd Kenyan selfie.  I think I've taken more selfies here than I have in the states.  The subject changed to my family.  John is always asking about them.  During this discussion he held the rosary that Andrea gave him on her last trip.  He passed the sparkling blue beads through his fingers as he asked about each one of them.  I inquired about his family, too, and they're all well.  His elder son lost his leg just below the knee and the prosthetic that he was given was piercing the skin and caused more damage.  It has been a almost a year since then and the leg has healed better and his physical therapy completed.  His "new" prosthetic leg is much better, and John told me that he's going to have it plastered so that it looks more real.
The next person to join us was Job who said that most of the members had arrived and we should get started.

We sat in front of the maternity wing as we talked.  This was one of the more informal meetings we had.  John spoke briefly after an opening prayer.  The prayer is always present; John speaking briefly is not.  He reviewed all that we have accomplished together over these last nine years culminating with the clinic.  As he talked, mothers streamed in with
their children of all ages.  They came for immunizations which arrived by motorcycle shortly after the first few patients arrived.  Despite having electricity, the clinic lacks any type of refrigeration.  The government has said they would supply it, but these things take time.  Often years.  The night before, Dr. Piyo told his that the lack of a fridge requires them to send for certain immunizations and drugs every day.  The Chuolembo Hospital where they pick them opens their refrigerator sparingly, and if they are not taken at the right time, they are refused and have to return the next day.  That, in turn, means that anyone that comes for immunizations must be turned away - a practice that saddens and frustrates him.
John soon gave me the floor and I spoke about the need for the community to take more responsibility for the welfare of the clinic.  "The benefactors of this clinic need to participate and contribute to its success.  If there will be days, weeks, months, while we wait for something from the government, the community should gather together to fill that void."  They understood what I was saying.  They are a very diplomatic people who do not speak as plainly as we do in the US.  They are very reluctant to speak ill of anyone to me, regardless of how valid it may be.  They talked about their struggles in raising funds. The very government they are trying to aid is preventing them from doing so.  The Kenyan government suspended all harambes (fundraisers).  Perfect.  This wasn't the first time that I heard about this recent "proclamation" and it doesn't surprise me.  As I talked, the inoculations began.  The first baby got his shot and let everyone know it.  The screams were piercing through the quiet of the valley.  They may have made the trees stop bending to the breeze.  I told them those screams were wonderful - they meant life!  Everyone agreed.  I told them how this clinic needs to ensure that nobody is ever turned away - especially young mothers coming to immunize their children.  "If that words spreads, they will walk past here to go to Chuolembo," despite the distance.  "You only get one chance to make a first impression," I said.  Too much time will pass before a fridge arrives... how many first impressions will we make before that time?  The committee reluctantly informed me that the school committee was challenging them for "ownership" of the clinic.  Son of a nutcracker.  This is where are started to speak more plainly to them.  "This clinic is owned by the community, not a committee.  Who do I need to speak to so that I can fix their thinking?"  Everyone's heads bowed and their silence was deafened by the fundi in front of the clinic cutting the grass with a machete.  I knew who was responsible and would love to have words with him (and his cohorts).  Their attempts to take over this committee has been blocked by much of the community, but there are still many who do not know the truth; they only know what the trouble makers tell them.  The reality is that anything that I said to them would be meaningless.  Although I feel as though I'm a part of this community, I am not. This is something they'll have to deal with on their own, and they will.
The meeting ended with a prayer from the secretary, Ezekiah.  Every time I think of his name I try to count the biblical figures present at the meetings.  This time we had a good crowd:  John, Ezekiah, Job, Amos, Ruth, Elizabeth, Daniel, and yes, Adam. I brought some shirts over from one of our 5ks and handed them out.  I then opened my bag and pulled out every lollipop I had and took them to the patients.  They smiled as they accepted them.  Tomorrow,  I'll bring the bag from my room and give it to Dr. Piyo... that should give them something of a draw.  I'm thinking of another way to bring them in, too.
We finished up, took some pictures and headed to Esivalu Primary School.  We would have to head back to the main road first, so we gave Amos a ride and dropped him in Lela.  We finished rebuilding Esivalu back in 2008.  We had some disagreements with the headmaster at the time and hadn't been back to check in on them in quite some time. The school looked much like we left it with one exception, the CDF built them a classroom that was now being used as an office.
The headmistress was a former teacher here at the school when we were building.  She then transferred to Mbaka Oromo for awhile before being charged with being the principal here.  We sat with her and her deputy, Martha.  Martha barely said a word and when she did, she spent most of the time looking at the ground.  We wandered around the grounds and took some pictures.  The school is built into the side of a steep hill and the terrain is incredibly rocky.  I remember coming here with Jim teaching the students how to play baseball.  It was quite an undertaking when the area your playing is
loaded with granite stones that are upwards of 6' wide.  We always managed to make it fun.  Itdidn't take long for her to ask for some help in construction an administration block, a library, and installing gutters. Shoot for the moon, I suppose.  Pole pole.
We then headed into Kisumu to check on the Orange (carrier) modem we left to be repaired.  On the way down Job and I talked about bringing a surprise back to the clinic.  First impressions being what they are, we decided to buy a small fridge to stem the tide until the government came through.  We went to Nakumat (Kenyan Walmart) and bought what amounts to a large college refridgerator with a freezer compartment.  It barely fit in the car we had, but we made it work.
Next on the agenda was the Masai Market.  Karen made a request for some masks, and I always like to see what they have. It's a series of lean-to's where they sell items

"made by Masai" or at least they're items that can be found at Masai Mara.  It's a haggler's paradise.  Job and I walked down the alleyway with shops on both sides and immediatley came to Beatrice.  She's owned the first shop on the corner for as long as I can remember.  They're widening the road, however, so her shop was cut in half.  She had pretty slim pickings, so we continued on.  As you walk, there is the constant calling from other shop owners, "Come heeya my bru-thah!" and "Step een-side, it is free to look."  I do my best to ignore it and wander down one side and back up the other.  There is a good mixture of wooden and soapstone carvings.  Most of the wooden ones are predominately rosewood and the soapstone carvings are gorgeous, but heavy.  Job followed me into a shop where I picked out 7 rosewood animals.  Despite their small size, they were very well done in detail.  Most were were close to 4" high, except for the tembo and twiga (elephant and giraffe) because I was trying to keep them all in scale.  I said, "Okay, bruthah, pay-sing-ah-pee?" (how much).  He took out a pad and wrote down 5,500ksh. I let out a high pitch "Aye!" to note my displeasure.  Job looked at me and said, "Offah him five."  Job's nuts.  I took the pad and wrote changed all his prices and handed it back.  Job took out his computer and started doing the math.  When the shop owner handed me the pad he wrote down the prices based on size, "4x500ksh, 1x750ksh and so on.  Job finished with the shipowners new total and left it displayed on the computer.  I think he came down to 4,800ksh.  I reached over to the computer and typed 3-0-0-0.  Job looked at me like I was nuts!  The shop owner began pleading (it's what they do), "Please brutha," and raised the number back up.  Before he started typing I moved outside his shop.  He said, "Wayah ah yoo going?"  I said, "I want to be ready to run away."  He let out a hearty laughed and said, "Sawa, 3,000."    3,000ksh is a little more than $35usd.  It was a good deal.  We continued into a few more shops repeating the exercise.  Job asked me how I knew how much to pay. I really don't.  I think of what I would pay in the US for the same piece, cut the number in 1/2 and take a percentage off of that.  Then bid a little lower.  It drives Andrea nuts, but that's how it works.  By the end, Job was carrying 4 bags filled with various items.  We placed them in the car and went to fill our bellies.

We travelled the lake for samaki (fish).  Lake Victoria is filled with tilapia, a local favorite among the Luo. Along the lake is a series of restaurants, although they're all called hotels.  They're all connected like row homes, but the construction appears a bit suspect.  We stopped one we've been at before.  They have an upstairs that looks over the lake and sits above the boat launch.  We order one big fish (sumac kubwa) rather than ordering 3 small.  While we waited we joked about the journey thus far and how we were to spend our remaining days.  Our driver George joined us for the meal.  He doesn't talk much, but he makes up for it with nods and smiles.  Although we started at a resin table in the middle of the second floor, we soon moved into a room at the end that contained to worn couches and a couple of coffee tables.  We could see directly down into the boat launch where the boat captains were playing a lively board game. Even though it rained last night, it wasn't enough to wash away the gamey lake smell that wafted through the room attached to the constant breeze.  Eventually you got to it.  I'm lying; just don't breathe through your nose.  I took a seat across from Job and George.  There was plenty of space between them so I was able to watch as people bathed in the lake, or washed their cars.  Yup, you heard me.  I counted 2 cars and at least 10 matatus (vans) getting washed before the fish came.  They'd back the vehicles into the water until the rear wheel well was submerged.  They splash buckets of the lake water onto the vehicles, take out a sponge or cloth and get to work.  Did I mention that the fish we eat comes out of this lake.  It's fine, though.  I'm sure it's fine... well, I think it's fine... at least I don't think I've ever been sick from eating here.  That should be their slogan.
The fish came while George was gone picking up the modem.  I happened to be on my phone when it arrived and Job took a quick picture and said, "Poot yoo-ah phone down.  Mom says "no phones at the dee-nah table."  Once during a trip to Masai Mara with Job, Andrea introduced him to that family rule.  I wish his memory wasn't so good.  What he didn't tell me was that he sent it to her!  Narc.
The fish is scored then pan fried and cover with skumawiki which is a mixture of kale, onions and tomatoes.  It's the Kenyan version of "greens and beans."  We waited as long as we could, but George had not yet returned when we dug in.  You peel away the skuma and pick the fish right off the bone.  It was delicious.  We'd finished one side of the fish when George arrived.  The Luo's don't waste anything, especially when it comes to fish.  They eat it all.  Before George arrived, Job had already plucked out an eye and dug around the fishes head.  When in Rome... eat pasta, not fish eyes. I took a pass.
George polished off the remainder of the fish and we set off back to the Peacock.  We contacted Dr. Piyo and informed him that we bought a present.  He was elated!  He said he would come to pick it up at the hotel.  We arrived and removed the fridge from the back seat.  Job and I went back to the room to drop of the goodies from the Masai market.  He stepped out then returned soon thereafter, "They ah heeya."  Before I got to the kitchen (it's just down the hall) Dan Otieno was standing there with a huge smile.  He is the patron from Mbaka Oromo, and a clinic committee member.  He grabbed me almost as tight as his younger brother Samuel does (minus the back slapping) and kept repeating "thank you, thank you!"  We walked outside and loaded it back into George's car.  He volunteered to bring it bak to the clinic.  I explained to them that they couldn't plug it in until tomorrow because by the refridgerator was now lying on it's side.  Job went with them to take some pictures and I stayed behind... there was only room for me in the trunk.
Job returned with some pictures and stories of the excitement in the doctors faces.  Now let's go make some great first impressions.
It was early and I was excited to get some much needed rest.  The temperature in Kisumu is always higher than Maseno because of the change in elevation.  Maseno is at 5,000 feet above sea level... Kisumu rests on the sun. I started to pack my bags then call everyone back home.  Next thing I knew it was 10:00.  Still, we weren't starting at Huma until 10 so sleep was still on the agenda.  I woke up at 4 and made phone calls again.  I tested FaceTime with Karen before calling Andrea.  The signal was bad again so I was relegated to a normal phone call.  I would have loved to have seen her, though.  Even that signal broke up several times.  I also caught Katie and Kevin so I got them all.  Andrea suggested I do some typing and try FaceTime again after I go outside where the signal is better.  By the time I did, however, it was 10:30pm back home and everyone was fast asleep.  I was surprised at the depth of my disappointment in missing the chance to see her.  I know I'll get another chance this afternoon, but it would have been nice to talk to her with no distractions.
As I typed this blog, there was a knock at the door.  It's 7:30am, what gives?  I assumed it wasn't my door and waited for another knock, and it came.  When I opened the door, one of the employees was standing there with my breakfast.  Job told them that I would be having it at 7:30.  I have to remember to short-sheet his bed before I leaannve ( I'm pretty sure he has sheets).  I told him to take it out to a table and I'd be right there.  I shut off the water heater that I had turned on 15 minutes before and went out.  Scrambled eggs this time, and a red juice that was delicious, but I have no idea what it could be.  It's got a familiar last, but I can't put my finger on it.  It's not as thick as the mango juice is, so I'm hoping it wasn't cut with water.  I'll know in exactly one hour if it was. Job arrived at 8 wearing a checkered collared shirt and a skinny black tie.  "Today is official," he said, referring to the groudnd breaking at Huma.  He is sitting inside while I finish here.  I'll run back into the room, turn the heater back on and hope for the best before I jump in the shower.
No matter... the power just went out.  "I'd like a cold shower please."  Asante sana.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

22/01/2015 Part 1

We got a lot of rain last night.  The farms and water tanks needed it badly.  When I came out for breakfast everything smelled fresh and the red dusty earth had turned to a dark brown soil.  The difference was remarkable and it will make traveling that much more pleasurable.

So, as promised,  last night I found a needle and thread and connected the broken pieces of the St. Padre Pio bracelet together.  I had to use my iPhone for light because the bulb above my bed provided a hazy glow that enabled me to navigate my room but certainly not enough for me to read or sew!  It took me 15 minutes to position it so it would provide the most light while not falling down.  It was still sitting there when I went to take a picture of it to show Andrea.  It came out pretty well but I need some ideas on what to do next because it's really not a bracelet just yet.  After two snaps off the shutter I stood up and said, "Holy cow," (that's not really what I said, but I'm trying to keep this "G" rated)  although nobody was there to hear it.  The light from the iPhone cast a shadow that looked exactly like hands joined in prayer.  I stood there in awe looking at it.  I love the little signs that the Lord shows me as affirmation that we're doing okay.  Andrea commented last night about how marvelous it that we are different people from different cultures in different parts of the world, but we can all be brought together through faith.  How right she is.  Five hours later He would give me another reminder.

This is what the shaving
setup looks like.
I woke up at a little after 4am; happy that I'd gotten 5 hours of sleep.  I called Andrea, Katie, Kevin and Karen (although I wasn't able to speak with Katie) over the next hour and a half.  I finished the calls and realized that I needed to turn on the heater for a hot shower.  Yesterday I apparently didn't leave it on long enough before turning on the water = cold shower.  It didn't kill me, but I wanted to get it right today.  After 30 minutes I stepped in.  No way!  Not possible!  I know I left the heater on long enough?  Want went wrong?  I got very frustrated and immediately began to think about changing rooms AGAIN and returning to my leaky sink.  Better that than cold showers every morning.  The frustration got even worse as the water flowed down from my head.  There's not a lot of pressure, so it's not like the ice bucket challenge... it's more like the ice bucket dribble.  It's torture. Truly.  I finished up and dried off sputtering to myself the entire time.
Because the sink is just outside the shower I would usually take the wand that is attached to the shower head and drape it into the sink so that I could shave with hot water.  "Not today," I thought to myself.  I finished getting dressed and the hair on my neck was especially itchy as if to say; it may as well have been giving me a raspberry (anyone under 40, please ask your elders what a "raspberry" is).  Now that I was fully dressed I realized that I left the heater on so I went over to shut it off.  The wand was hanging precariously from a pole extending from the wall.  I though let's give it one more try.
When the heater is operating properly it let's you know by making a sound that sounds like a scrubbing brush on wet cement.  It's a wonderful sounds that can sometimes even be angelic after days of cold/no water and lots of dirt.  Well, as I turned the rusty handle I heard the angels.  Although they were singing loudly, I heard a voice in the background.  "You are not the one in the driver's seat," and there was hint of laughter and a gentle smile in the tone.
When I first began making this trek, I was lucky to have water and electricity.  Things have improved dramatically over the years and I've gotten a little spoiled.  Jim used to refer to it as "getting fat and lazy."  I was reminded that I'm not here for the hot showers. After proclaiming all day yesterday that He was the reason I'm here, I shouldn't have had to be reminded.  But that faint laughter and gentle smile let me know that He understood.  So do I, and thank you for the reminders.
We're leaving for a meeting with the Clinic Committee before heading to Esivalu Primary School.  I'll fill you in on those exploits later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I woke up at 6am and tried to make some calls but alas, I wasn't able to talk to Andrea... hopefully she was sleeping soundly.  I didn't wait long enough for the heater to warm up, so I ended up taking a cold shower, too.  Perhaps that is why I feel so wide awake now.  The internet is still giving me grief so I came outside to post yesterday's blog and finishing uploading pictures.  Everything was still closed up... the rising sun hasn't rousted anyone out of bed yet.  It was quite peaceful on the veranda.  There wasn't much traffic and when I closed my eyes I would have guessed that I was in an aviary.  The birds were busy having conversation and carrying on.  I sat for about 30 minutes before I saw my first signs of life.  At 7:05am, the workers came out and began sweeping the pathways.  A young lady emerged from a room to begin mopping the veranda.  It's a daily routine that's impressive to watch... she doesn't use a mop.  Instead, she uses a bath towel.  The women here do much of the physical labor here, and the way in which they bend continues to amaze me.  Whether they are working the maize fields or mopping floors there posture is astounding.  They bend at the waist as if their torso barely hanging on to the lower have of their body.  They literally fold in half with their legs completely straight, and move there heads right dow to the floor.  Amazing.  She cleaned the opposite half of the veranda first and as she moved to where I was I got up to move so she could finish her work.

A young man came in and waved to me. I responded with "Oh-yah-oh-ray" (don't forget to roll the "r") with is "Good morning" in Doluo. I stopped him in his tracks.  As the smile grew he decided to test me.  "Ee-dee-nah-dee" (how are your?) "Ah-dee-mah-bear-ah-enya," I replied.  "I am very well." He came up and we talked some more, most of which entailed my explaining how I knew the Luo language.  He shook my hand and went on his way.
The table I moved to was very wobbly.  Here they would say it was "dancing."  No matter, I'm typing in my lap.  Job has arrived and informed me that our driver for the day (George) had raised his daily rate from 4,000ksh to 6,000ksh.  George found out I was a mzungu (white man).  Although there were several phone calls between he and Job, George wasn't budging.  Even though 4,000 Kenyan shillings is equivalent to just $50, I wasn't going to be cheated.  I told Job to call him back and tell him to forget it... "The mzungu is calling a friend that can do it for 4,000."  He called buck to say that he was able to get the price down to 4,500.  I still said no.  We found other transport.  We're heading to Huma to see if there's been any progress with the dormitory we're building, then we're off to meet with Noelle Shanali in Sereba. 

These are plants that I've never seen
before... passion fruit!
Merab Nyapola and Madam Linette are the principal and deputy at Huma Girls Secondary School.  They run tight ship and it shows.  The girls are very well behaved and their marks are very high.  The drive to the school is flat which was a welcome change even though we weren't walking.  It's further off the main road than Mbaka Oromo is, and it's also much busier.  The lack of rain has made the roads exceptionally dry and the traffic causes tremendous dust.  There's a thick coating of fine red dirt on everything within 10' of the road.  I would prefer it dry than wet, though, as when this stuff gets wet, it gets sticky.  It only takes a few paces before your shoes are caked with it... adding up to 5 pounds to each foot, and it's a bear to clean off.

As we entered the compound through a narrow manned gate the first thing we saw were stacks of neatly piled blocks, sand for concrete and stones - all supplies for the new dormitory.  The ladies met us in Merab's office and had breakfast ready.  Breakfast #2.  Boiled eggs  this time so I didn't mind.  While we ate with them we discussed the reason construction hadn't started.  They're building a new laboratory and have been having issues with the construction.  That has slowed things down because the current lab takes up some of the space being dedicated to the dorm.  We can't build the dormitory until the old lab is demolished, and we can't demolish the old lab until the new one is finished.  Dominoes.  There's an engineer coming from the government today to see if we can begin construction even though the space will be tighter.  I'm supposed to break ground on this project on Friday.  They were joking that I'll be digging a hole that's 6' deep.  It makes me prefer a ribbon cutting ceremony.

We walked around the campus talking as the girls moved from class to class.  This is a beautiful, sprawling campus that the teachers, students and parents take great pride in.  When we returned to the office the driver was waiting to take us to the Green Park Hotel (although it's a restaurant) where we were meeting Noelle.  The Green Park has good chicken... and it's ready in less than 30 minutes!
Nuts!  The Green Park is no longer in business.  Job talked to a man outside who said that they left, and then he suggested the Maseno Club.  
It's on the north end of Maseno University's campus, closer to the equator.  They have a hotel and a restaurant; the latter of which I've experienced.  Service was always slow, and 3 years ago they were doing upgrades to the hotel.  The upgrades were completed, so we took a tour of the place.  Either nobody was there or everyone was out for the day.  It might be a bad sign but I think there were no tenants.  We looked in each of the room options; single, double, double with two beds and the "palace" which contained a king bed and a single.  Each had it's own bathroom with hot showers.  It could probably use a container of clorox wipes, but it was definitely an option.  At the very least we can use it to help get a more reasonable rate out of the Peacock.  A double at the Peacock is 2,500ksh and here at the Maseno Club it's only 1,700ksh.  We ordered drinks while we waited for Noelle to arrive.  I've known her for many years, and she's been very helpful.  She's always eager to assist inane project we've had from scholarship recommendations to the Sanity Pad project, she's always been eager to help and I can't recall her ever saying "no." 
She arrived on a motor bike, a cloud of dust catching up to her as she stopped.
She sat between Job and I and after getting updates on all sides we started talking business.  They had told us that the food would take 45 minutes; it's difficult not to be cynical here.  We ordered and kept talking.  Noelle is a Community Development Professional and always has wonderful insight into the projects that we work on as well as additional ones that we might not consider.  She called me one day to tell me about Mercelynne, a young girl with a poor mother, a runaway father, no money, but a brilliant mind.  Her mother was active in their church and wanted a better life than she had.  She was admittedly an uneducated woman but worked tirelessly for the betterment of her children, usually hocking items in the street.  She told me her story how she tried to have her daughter enrolled in secondary school, but was chased away by the faculty when she could not meet the payments.  Noelle then called me.  True to form, everything happens for a reason.  I truly believe that Mercelynne was the reason that God put Noelle on my path in Kenya.  Now, 4 years later, Mercelynne awaits notification from college regarding an academic scholarship.  I've always tried looking for her mother, Mama Rembo, but have never been able to find her.  Noelle agreed to take us to her home after lunch.  She's not answering her phone, but maybe we'll get lucky.
Almost 2 hours later, our food arrived.  I can't imagine what a fast food restaurant would look like here.  I ordered dry fried chicken and they brought me wet.  That just means that they pour soup over the top of it.  I'd have sent it back if I wasn't hungry, and if I had another 2 hours to burn.  The conversation continued as we ate and shared stories about Jim.  We laughed so much that the people at the surrounding tables kept turning to look to see what all the commotion was about.  Once finished we moved on to Sereba in search of Mama Rembo.
We pulled into Sereba, the small town across the street from the Maseno Guest house.  It might have been safer for the car if we got out and walked, but our driver George navigated the dips and rocks pretty well as we left the asphalt and entered the dusty dirt road.  We drove a few hundred yard before turning down a small alley and stopping.  We got out and headed into what I can only call a Kenyan apartment building.  Three floors of single room apartments and from what I could see, not one of them had a single occupant.  The most I saw inside one room was 5.  We navigated under  clothes lines where every imaginable article was hanging there drying.  We walked up two flights of stairs that OSHA never would have approved and turned down a narrow hallway.  
Noelle entered first to shouts of joy.  She has been a friend of the family for many years and they are eternally grateful for bringing Building Futures to Mercelynne's aid.  Job went next, and though he was a stranger, the cheers continued.  I was a bit uneasy as if my presence would have silenced Rembo.  I soon realized that I was the only mungo she knew, and was more than likely the only mungo to step foot in her home.  To my surprise, the first face I saw as I rounded the door was Mercelynne.  We didn't know she was there and her reaction made me smile immediately.  She quickly put her hands to a gaping mouth and shouted a muted "Oh!"  Then I came

  into Mama Rembo's field of vision.  She began clapping and praising God.  "Welcome, welcome, you ah most welcome!" She shouted.  She repeated that phrase until I sat down, at which time the mantra changed to, "Asante, asante, may God bless you!"  I wasn't sure which one of us was going to begin crying first.  It took some patience, but she finally relaxed onto a couch next to Mercelynne.

The room was very small, even for just the two of them.  I'm guessing it was 8' wide and 12' deep with a sheet hanging on a string separating the back 4' from the remainder of the home.  Rumba's sister was visiting and came from behind the sheet to say hello before leaving the room - probably more due to spacial constraints than imposition.
The meek little girl that I met 4 years ago had grown into a confident young woman.  She was conversational and helped translate for her mother who often struggled with English.  Remo ten retold the story of how she was hocking items trying to raise money for her daughters education.  How she only had 500ksh so she spent 250 on the round trip to Busia to spend the remaining funds on small plastic bowls that she hoped to sell for 100% profit.  She told us how the bowls had to be placed on the back of the matte due to lack of space, and how they had fallen off the matatu on the way to Maseno.  She was heartbroken, but prayed that God would provide.  There were 3 more similar stories of hope and despair before she crossed paths with Noelle who begged her to let her help.  Noelle called me, and the rest was beautiful history.  She insisted on buying us sodas that I'm certain she could not afford. She kept saying what a miracle it was that I found her.  I kept declining the credit, not just because it made me uncomfortable, but it wasn't mine to accept.  I didn't choose to begin walking on this path I find myself on any more than Andrea and our children did.  This, however, is where we find ourselves because I truly believe this is where God wants us now.   I graciously declined dinner and stood up indicating it was time to go (we were already late for an 
Mercelynne and Noelle
appointment with a Reach the Children representative).  Not so fast!  We couldn't leave without Mama Rembo saying a prayer for us and our journey.  It was in Kiswahili so I'm not entirely sure what she said, but she said a lot and meant every word of it.
Mercelynne walked us out and had her picture taken with Noelle and Job then stood waving as we pulled away.

The ride to Kisumu was hot!  The sun was still high in the sky and it was focusing all  of its attention on the car we were in.  Rolling the windows down gave no relief because the air was just as hot.  We arrived at the Royal Hotel and waited for Justus Suchi.  He is the local contact for Reach the Children - another Fairport based NGO that we have formed a partnership with.  I was so glad we got together!  He arrived shortly after we did looking light and happy.  We immediately started telling each other about ourselves.  He had known of my from the visits over the past 9 years and was also grateful for the opportunity to put a name to the face.  He's extremely knowledgeable and very friendly.  I know that Job can learn a lot from Suchi and Suchi is happy to expose him to areas of service we aren't involved in.  They got along very well, too.  Another blessing.  Lunch was so late that Job and I weren't very hungry (the sodas from Mama Rembo didn't help) so we just sat and talked sipping juice and water.  Finally it was time to head back to Maseno - the sun was starting to drop and I wanted to be home before it disappeared.  I snapped a picture of a common scene while seated in the passenger seat.  Have a look at this, then imagine it in the dark.  Although we're probably only traveling at 40mph, it's not for the faint of heart.  I was beginning to get too tired to care.  
Now I'm way ahead of schedule on the blog.  I'd be done now but halfway through writing my computer battery ran out of gas.  I've returned to my room to finish while it's charging, then it's back outside to upload pictures.  I know that many of you have been unable to post comments.  I will try to see if I can't remedy that situation, so please don't give up.  If you keep reading, I'll keep writing
One last story then it's off to bed.Andrea and I were blessed to participate in a pilgrimage to Italy with our friend Immaaculee Ilibigiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor and author.  During the trip we visited San Giovani Rotondo, the home of Saint Padre Pio.  We made many friends during our time together, but Padre Pio's church was especially moving.  One of our new friends gave Andrea a Padre 

Pio bracelet that she cherished.  I hope I'm not telling stories out of school when I say that they came into this pilgrimage somewhat broken and their newfound friendship seemed to help mend them both.  Sadly, the bracelet had broken while there so I collected the pieces and dropped them into the bottom of my computer bag.  I found them this morning and will make an attempt at stringing them back together so that I can give them to Dr. Pio before I leave.  Saint Pio mended hearts while in Italy and Dr. Pio mends bodies in Kenya.  Yup, another blessing.
See you tomorrow.