"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I'm sitting in Dubai, waiting for my flight to JFK that departs in 2 1/2 hours @ 2:35am, so it's officially Sunday here.
I failed to post a lot of pictures on the blog, so I'll try to correct the things I missed now. 
I'll start with some random pictures of children that we passed as we traveled.  It's a common scene and I wish I could have done a better job capturing the range of uniform colors that the primary/secondary schools wear.

Scenery is always another low handing fruit in Kenya.  Two things where you're always guaranteed a good picture: kids and skylines.
It never fails that we see something that seems to defy all logic.  There's always random cows, goats and chickens wandering everywhere.  When we were checking out of the Peacock, this cow was checkin in.  Although it's out of focus, this motorcycle driver was carrying a passenger AND a couch.

If you have excess baggage, just heave it to the guy on the roof.

I wasn't kidding when I said that Isaac's father enjoyed life.  Here are just two of the pictures of us clowning around. 

 Here's a picture of the extended family, including grandchildren.

Although I talked about it, I don't know that I ever showed pictures of our lodging choices during this trip.  Here's a few just in case your imagination wasn't cooperating.
Peacock hallway outside
my room
Loding at the Royale Resort in Karen

Park Villa Double
Park Villa balcony... yes, I
had a balcony.
The current clinic at Sekenani where we'll be adding
a birthing center

 Here's Isaac trying to convince me that if you extend your thumbs, then touch them it will always equal 12 inches.  I wasn't buyin' it.

Here are a few more pictures from the Giraffe Center.  They've also got a warthogs, which are truly ugly.  I thought the wildebeests were worse, but i was wrong.  Definitely the Pumba.

When in Nairobi, I usually stay in Karen.  It's an incredibly affluential are as evidenced by the homes in the area.  This is where all the dignitaries and ambassadors reside.

Job's niece, Andrea

In case I didn't describe one, here's a matatu.
Now cram 25 people in this sucker.
Susan, Danton, Emmah, Esther and Emma's sister Ashley(?)

Driving at night can be scary.  

 While walking on their farm, Isaac picked a branch off of what looked like a juniper tree, then removed the bark.  He told me it's a "bush toothbrush."  You chew on the end of it until it softens and sure enough, it worked.  I was expecting it to taste like gin, but instead it was a mild minty taste.  Who knew?

  Isaac and his children.

In case you're interested, there are horse rides just outside
the Giraffe Center.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Friday - Saturday, July 1-2, 2016

The alarm went off at 6am and woke me out of a sound sleep.  That's good.  I felt pretty good when I woke up, aside from feeling bad that I couldn't get the blog done last night.  I took a quick shower and was downstairs by 7am.  My sunny side up egg came out 30 minutes later.
I used that time to update the blog and load some pictures.  I didn't get it finished and posted until closer to 1pm, but that's 6am your time so I think it worked out ok.  I'm going to try and get Friday's posted before the end of the night - which is the end of your afternoon.  We'll see how that goes.
We met with Vivian at the county office again, and it was another good meeting.  She provided me with the approval letter as well as a copy of the most recent birthing center they built.  It's all we needed to go see an architect for some drawings.  We contacted one and went into Narok while we waited for him to free up some time to see us.
As promised, the tour guides were striking.  We actually had to walk from the Park Villa to the city center because of the traffic jam.  I got yet another clarification.  So the road through Narok is the ONLY road that goes to Nairobi (that's where Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is located).  Cars and buses were blocking the road, and nobody was getting through.  Nobody.  It started at  8am, so by the time we got there at 10:00 it was in full swing.  Traffic trying to go through Narok to get to Nairobi was at a standstill.  Isaac estimated that the back up was 8 kilometers long at that point.  It would only get longer.  
As we got to the center of town, things got interesting.  Cars and trucks were trying to turn around in spaces that they could not fit causing more frustration on the growing masses.  "It must e great for the shop owners," I said as I watched as people got out of their cars and walked to the kiosks for a soda or a snack.  "Oh, yes," Isaac said, "there the only ones who are happy now."  The crowd became more dense as we passed the parked cars.  We rounded a truck and saw 2 guys in plain clothes with tear gas rifles.  Hm.  They were yelling with police in uniform, moving vehicles out of

the way so they could get through on foot.  TV cameras were shooting as we meandered through the crowd.  They were filming the police until I came into view in the background.  My head and shoulders was well above the crowd, and I noticed that the cameras were following me instead of the police.  I looked at Isaac and he said, "Oh, Adam, we'll have to watch the news tonight."  "Yeah, even the mzungo has to walk," I replied.  We laughed as we turned up a dirt road toward more shops and where Isaac had parked the car earlier.  We ended up moving it to the Chumbai Resort where it would be safer.  We returned to walking in search of shukas (they're the bright colors shawl/blanket that the Masai wear.). Isaac knew of a store that sells them wholesale, and sure enough we found it.  I grabbed what I needed as he grabbed some other things.  I had a nice conversation with the Muslim woman that owned the shop.  She had recently come back from a trip to Columbus, OH and enjoyed talking about here sons who were chasing Masters Degrees in New York City.
The items were placed in a large bag and we returned to the car.  We drove the items back to the hotel where I packed my bags for probably the 5th time, then checked out of the hotel.  I'm already looking forward to coming back.  It's a wonderful place with a lot of character and, more importantly, great food and amenities.  We got back in the car and headed back into the traffic.  
Chumbai gate
Isaac took some back roads to get to the Chumbai again.  We've stayed here before, but with it's very close proximity to a Mosque, I was happy that Isaac chose an alternative for this trip.  They were, however, a very safe place to park with a nice little back road that helped us avoid the traffic.  This time we we killed time having Isaac get a shave and a haircut.  I was going to sit down on the stoop in front of the barber shop, but Isaac didn't want to hear anything I was saying.  He had the girl behind the cage hand him a small stool for me to sit on.  Then he changed his mind and rather than placing it just outside the shop, he had a stranger move so I could sit inside the shop.  He'a a little overprotective, but I know Andrea likes that.  I think Isaac knows that, too.  People peered it at the white guy sitting in the barber shop, and the girl behind the counter that surrendered the stool was trying to get my attention.  "Excuse me," she said very softly.  "Do you mind if I ask you a question?" "No, not at all."  She continued, "What is your favorite tribe in Kenya?"  Hm.  That's an odd question for a stranger, but I'll go with it.  I explained the work that we've been doing in Kenya.  "Although I have spent more time with the Luo people, I would have to say that they are tied with the Masai."  She then smiled a big smile and receded back into her seat behind the bars at the mPesa counter.
We returned to the car and headed back to the restaurant we ate in yesterday (I've already forgotten it's name).  The architect was going to meet us there.  I finished yesterday's blog while I sat there drinking my tea.  The restaurant was filling up with tourists that were stuck due to the blockade.  They were not too happy.  An american family was sitting over my right shoulder talking about the problem.  They're cynicism gave them away.  Actually it was the fact that they were speaking english, but they were cynical, too.  They were talking about how the driver was probably setting them up so they have to stay here and spend more money.  I had already heard that the blockade was moved and traffic was flowing freely.  Before I could get up to tell them what I knew, they were already on their way to their Land Rover and back on the road.
A little while after that, the architect walked in.  Isaac had already filled him in on the project and he was ready to hit the ground running.  I'm not kidding.  I showed him the paperwork from Vivian, and after he turned the cover page, he closed the document and put it on the table.  Come to find out that his company was the one that drew those plans.  How's that for a sign?  He said, "We ah fine," and I believed him.  For the next fifteen minutes we talked about scale and whether we enlarge or reduce.  We then discussed the location of the structures and other matters concerning the job site.  It went incredibly well!  The only way it could get better is if they told me the cost was $10.  Not a chance.  I'm guessing this will be between 3 and 3.5 million kenyan shillings (between $30,000 and $35,000 US).  We have to wait foursome revised drawings before sending it out to bid, then we send the bid we accept to the county government for approval.  All-the-while, Building Futures, Inc. will be fundraising in the states.
We finished our discussions and went our separate ways.  Our route led us back to Isaac's house where we could say goodbye to Leah and the children.  Although the original idea was to bring them with us, the possibility of the strike flaring back up was enough of a deturrent that Isaac opted for sweets instead.  We stopped at a small shop and picked up some chocolate and yogurt.  He's hoping that this will take their minds off the idea of joining us.
His idea worked.  We sat for a bit in his home while Leah removed a blender from the cabinet.  I had no idea what she was planning, so I kept a close eye one her.  She removed the canister and walked into the small kitchen.  When she emerged, there was clearly goat milk inside, along with

something green sticking above the liquid like an iceberg.  I hope that doesn't mean there's trouble ahead.  I asked her what was inside, and she said, "Goat milk, bananas, and avocados."  That was not what I expected, but now I can't wait to try it.  I was getting an banana/avocado smoothie!  It's important to tell you that the avocados here are nothing like the ones that the grocery stores get from Mexico.  They're at least 2x larger, and those are the small ones.  The other difference is that they are so sweet and delicious that avocados back home can't hold a candle to these.  As expected, the smoothie was absolutely delicious.  Also as expected, I got the largest glass.  If that wasn't enough, I also got refills.  I knew I wouldn't be interested in lunch after the first one, but now, dinner was in jeopardy, too.  We said our "Goodbyes" and got on the road.
One more stop at Tusky's.  We saw Isaac's sister who's a security guard there and stepped into Tusky's.  Isaac wanted to buy one more thing for Andrea, although it's more for him or Job when they return to visit.  I won't ruin the surprise, but it made both of us laugh when I realized what he was looking for.  They will make Andrea smile, too.  Even though we don't need to be reminded, it will be a constant reminder of these dear friends.  We also picked up a friend of Isaac's who was also headed to Nairobi.  Peter worked for the WWF(World Wildlife Fund although there was some disagreement as to the full title).  At this point, if he and I ever walked into a room and Isaac didn't know anyone, I'd be nervous.  It might be three degrees to Kevin Bacon, but I guarantee it's one degree to Isaac Kasura.
We drove out of Narok at a little after 3pm and encountered no issues whatsoever.  We were both thankful.  We drove quickly with Isaac giving and getting hand signals from the oncoming traffic.

"The route eez klee-ah," he said with a smile.  It was a breeze for the first 90 minutes when it all came to a screeching halt.  Apparently, the frustrating idea that the highway department continues with construction during rush hour is not foreign to Kenyans.  I don't know how long it took us to get through, but I do know that the 2 liters of water I drank before I got in the car were anxious get out.  Isaac offered me some of his water and it gave me goosebumps - not the good kind.
We rose up into the hills through the Rift Valley and thankfully he stopped at a curio shop to stretch our legs and take a picture or two.  It was a breathtaking view that is even more impressive under a bright sun.  The weather was overcast, but that kept it cool.  I'm happy to report that I purchased nothing from the shop.  I should have left them 200ksh for use of the bathroom, though.  I'll have to remember for next time.  The curio shop itself sits right next to the road, teetering on the cliff that falls into the valley.  The thick trees trick your eyes as you look down, but make no mistake, if you fell you're done for.
Back in the car for what was estimated to be an hour.  Two hours later, we were in another jam.  This time it was an accident.  A piki piki hit a car, and oddly enough the car lost.  Fortunately, everyone was ok.  What should have been a 2 hour drive has doubled, but we were in no hurry, and the company was engaging.  We laughed quite a bit.  Whether it was the children in the school bus yelling to me and waving, or the matatu passengers trying to help lift the matatu back onto the road, there were plenty of stories.  Isaac has friend that lives in Nairobi named Ilya.  She's from Iowa (i think), but she adopted two Kenyan orphans and (again I think) needs to stay in Kenya for 2 years before returning with them to the states.  I googled her name because I was trying to figure out if she was Russian or Polish.  Turns out she's polish, but I said, "Isaac, she has a youtube video."  Isaac, without skipping a beat said, "Isaac is only on YouTube if a lion is scratching his back."  That one really made us laugh.
We finally got to the Royale at close to 7:30.  We were all happy to be here.  Peter got out bout 5 kilometers ago, so the trio was down to two again.  We checked in, and headed for our rooms.  Isaac said he would order dinner for 8pm so we didn't have to wait for it when we got there.  I give him an "A" for effort.  His customer service is second to none.  The meal delivery, however, was not up to him.  He ordered it for 8, and we ate promptly at 8:45.  Again, we didn't care.  We were joined by Leah's older brother who joined us for dinner.  He is a ridiculously happy individual.  I thought he was overselling it at first, but the guy just loves to laugh, and he gets his entire body into it.  It makes a "belly laugh" look weak.  He's quick to clap his hands then bend over in loud laughter before coming up for air and returning again to being bent in half.  He's a trailer driver that makes runs from Mombasa to Kisumu (east coast to west) all week long.  He picks up containers in Mombasa and their emptied somewhere in the west before he brings back the empty container to Mombasa again.  I don't know how those guys do it.  I certainly couldn't.
We had Tusker's (Kenya's official beer) and barbecued goat.  The goat was delicious.  I was keenly aware that the fat falls OFF the meat when barbecued, as opposed to being boiled in soup.  It was fabulous and everyone was full when we went to bed.  I tried typing for a bit, but fell asleep 30 minutes into the exercise.  I called Andrea to say "goodnight" and out went the lights.  I woke up a couple times during the night because of mosquitos.  They were difficult to spot in the darkness, but the light on my phone eventually did the trick.  I snatched them both with my hand (about 2 hours apart), and sadly, when I opened my hand there was blood in my palm next to the dead insect.  I truly don't think that it's mine.  They're very fond of feet here in Kenya, and mine were covered.  The only thing they could have bitten was my face and I know that didn't happen.  I haven't thought about it since then.  The alarm woke me up at 8am.  Finally... a good night's sleep.  I showered at got to breakfast at 9.  Isaac and his brother-in-law arrived just as I was finishing my omelette.  We talked about the morning's events and the ride to the airport.  My flight was at 4:30, so I wanted to be at the airport by 1pm.  After breakfast, we decided that we'd meet Ilya and her kids at the Giraffe Center before returning to the Royale for lunch then to the airport.

The Giraffe Center is marvelous!  If you're ever in Nairobi it really is a must.  I tried to bring John here back in April, but we ran out of time.  The best way to describe it is a "Giraffe Refuge."  They're my favorite animal ("twiga" in Kiswahili - twee-gah) and they have a bunch of 'em.  I've been here with Kevin and we loved it.  Although some of the giraffes are a bit aggressive, most are incredibly friendly.  The workers will hand you a fistful of pellets and the animals will put their noses in your pockets to get to them.  It is ALWAYS a wonderful opportunity for a picture.  When Kevin and I were here it was much less crowded and we used leaves.  Today it was the pellets but the reaction's the same.  They have an elevated deck so the animals don't have to bend down so far, but it's under cover and not as well lit for pictures.  At the bottom of the stairs is a 3' rock wall that works better.  These majestic animals slowly lower their heads and are perfectly comfortable resting their heads on your shoulders.  It's just marvelous.  I cannot wait to bring Andrea, Karen and Katie here.
Unfortunately, Ilya was not able to join us so we simply went back to the Royale.  We "pre-ordered" wet goat this time.  Last night, Isaac was sucking the marrow out of the bones so quickly, that it popped as it exited the bone.  I wanted to get video of his skills and he was happy to oblige.  The trick, apparently, is to cover the opposite end of the bone with your finger while you suck until you think enough pressure has built up.  Then you move your finger and "pop!"  No more marrow. 
Isaac sucking the marrow out of
a goat bone... mmmm
This round was a little more difficult, so he had to use a car key to loosen one end of the bone.  I'm not sure if that takes away points or adds them, but 5 seconds later, "pop!" He was holding a completely immaculate bone.  And I don't mean just the inside.  When Kenyans eat, there's nothing left.  If you scraped your plates onto the floor after dinner, the ants would starve to death.  I saw it when Job was in Rochester eating chicken wings.  It's incredible to see.  I got the video, and a picture of the devoured bone.  I'm not sure if it's too big for this website, so I may have to put it on Facebook.  I gave it a try and stopped when the veins in my head started popping instead of the marrow.  I blame it on the goat.  The other two had a good laugh, though.
Now it was time to get back in the car and head to the airport.    One last picture before we leave.  
We arrived at the airport, and passengers have to disembark and go through a metal detector while the car goes to a different spot to be inspected.  The passengers then wait on the other side for their vehicle to come pick them up.  It's a good safety precaution that continues to be improved and provides better safety at the airport.  They still need to work on the "passenger" portion, though.  The metal detector goes off for just about everyone, but they just let you walk through.  
It was an unusually quiet ride for the next 10 minutes.  I knew Isaac was sad to see me go. It was spoken through the hugs he gave me as we got the bags from the trunk.  We'll miss each other, and I'm already looking forward to returning and I know that I'll do it when members of my family can join me.  
I'm sitting in the Nairobi airport imagining arriving in Rochester and seeing my family.  I can't wait.  32 hours to go... thanks for coming with me.