"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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Monday/Tuesday, July 3-4, 2017

Today is an easier day.  We’re heading to Nairobi after doing some “last day” plans.  We started with going back to Masikonde Primary School and the special needs class.  Veronica was happy to see us pull in, as was the entire student body.  They just don’t get a lot of white visitors this far off the beaten track.  Karen immediately joined Veronica in the classroom while I walked out into the courtyard to lure the children away from the class.  They have a tendency to get very loud when there are this many of them vying for attention.  They held my hand and stroked the hair on my arm.  They’d touch my palm and look at their finger to see if the pigment would come off on them.  No such luck.  I picked up a couple of the children to give them more of a birds-eye view of the crowd and as soon as I put one down, everyone wanted to be next.  Had I not told them to make some space (“Suduru, suduru”) and stop grabbing my pants, (simama!) I was afraid they (my pants, not the children) were going to hit the ground.
Afterwards I returned to the classroom window to watch Karen in her element.  She’s picking up Kiswahili and now I know why she was asking Isaac about the Kiswahili names of the animals as we drove through Masai Mara.  She put it all to work today.  She’d call out a name, make the sound it was known for and give one of the students a long stick that they would then take to point to the appropriate picture on the wall.  When they got it right, everyone cheered.  Karen would make an elephant sound for a cow and they would all scream , “NO!” with laughter.  Andrea and I just love to watch her work.
In the afternoon, we snapped some more pictures of the group before heading to our next site.  Father Symon Ntaiyia’s Jubilee Mixed Primary School was just outside of town on the way to Masai Mara.  Fr Symon is a Catholic priest (captain obvious, again) just outside of Rochester, but he’s also Masai.  I had lunch with him before we left and I told him we’d be checking in on his school since we were so close.  Sister Mary met us inside the gate.  I called her earlier to let her know when to expect us as well as letting her know that this needed to be a quick visit.  I really didn’t want another night of driving in the dark.  It’s pretty unnerving.  Just ask Andrea who always seems to be situated behind Isaac so she can see all of the madness unfolding in front of us.
Sister Mary gave us a quick tour before arriving to her office.  We presented her with school supplies, soccer balls, jump rope and yes, a Kenyan flag (insert applause).  Behind her hung a picture of Fr Symon from his younger days as a priest.  He still returns here to check in on things, so I’m sure he knows it’s there.  Sister Mary said he’ll be back in November, so I want to make sure we meet with him before then.  We said our goodbyes mixed with apologies for the brevity of the stop.  She was fine with it and on we went.
Next up was Barclay’s Bank so that I could withdraw some money to pay Isaac for the accomodations on the mara and for the use of OD’s car.  Once that was done we moved on to a store for sukas (pronounced shoo-kahs).  These are the bright colored wraps that the masai are famous for.  You can find them anywhere for upwards of 4,000 ($40), but we can get the same ones here for less than 500 (yep, that’s $5).  We picked out several as gifts and got back in the car.
Next on the list were some items for Kevin and Nick (Karen’s boyfriend).  I won’t tell you what they are because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it was a somewhat similar scenario.  Isaac pulled the car over and hopped out.  This time we waited in the car.  No more than 5 minutes later he returned with 2 beautiful, well-made ________________.  I think they’ll be very happy with them. 
We refueled the car and headed for the rift valley.  It’s a picturesque and fun ride.  You never know what you might see.  Hopefully I’ll have pasted some examples here.  It’s a steep climb in a single lane.  When you get stuck behind a lorry (truck) you have to peak around the vehicle to time a safe passing.  The road is constantly winding so it’s not easy.  It is very necessary, though, because the lorries travel at about 5 miles an hour because of the hill they’re straining to climb.  Conversely, the trucks coming from the other direction try to maintain control.  You can see why it makes passing a bit risky.  Again, Ann was understandably nervous in the back seat.  I’m just glad is was during the day.  I can’t imagine what it’s like at night.   One sat in the road while another crossed.  Many more sat on the shoulder staring at traffic going by.  We stopped next to a big male who was staring at Karen.  After a selfie, Karen stuck her head out the window and made a monkey sound.  The animal

At one point on the climb there was a pack of baboons along the road.
made a quick movement towards her and it scared her back into the vehicle.  I thought Isaac was going to wet his pants he was laughing so hard.  It was a stark reminder that these are wild animals despite their mixing with the locals.  Regardless, we continued to laugh for the next 30 minutes.
We stopped halfway up the incline to take a quick picture of the valley, then back in the car and on the way to Nairobi.  It was once again dark as we entered the city and headed toward Karen.  We arrived at the Royale Karen Hotel around 7:30.  We talked about dinner en route and Isaac called ahead.  We brought our bags in and met in the restaurant.  Soon after, the food arrived.  We ate quickly and Andrea and Karen went to bed first.  I stayed behind with Isaac and talked about the week, and life.  We had an enjoyable day ahead of us, and there wouldn’t be an early start time.  9am was agreed upon and we both headed for our rooms.
Andrea and Karen were in one room, and I was next door.  There wasn’t enough room for all of us AND our luggage in one room.  It also gave me the opportunity to pack most of the items we bought.  It’s easier if I do it because I’m used to it.  When I finally finished it was 12:30am and I climbed into bed with the intent of blogging.  No such luck.  I left my computer in Isaac’s car.  I was typing as we drove and put in inside it’s black case on the floor.  The perfect camouflage.  I texted Isaac saying, “Let me know when you wake up.  I left my computer in your van.”  5 minutes later I got a phone.  “Adam, I have your laptop.  I am coming.”  Seriously, I don’t think he sleeps.  At the very least, he’s super-human.  I managed to write for a bit, but more importantly, I downloaded the pictures needed first, while I wrote in another program.  Thank you “cut and paste.”  I fell asleep with the laptop on my legs.
We were all up around 7:30 and ready for breakfast at 9.  I finally remembered to take a picture of a meal.  It doesn’t do the others justice, but at least you get an idea.  First stop was the Giraffe Center.  The pictures say it all.  It’s simply marvelous.  In case you’re wondering, there is a sink with plenty of germ killing soap right next to the giraffes.  We used a lot of it.  

We walked through the small gift shop they had and purchased a couple of unique soapstone bowls with giraffes carved in them.  We then stopped at a curio shop that I had never been in before.  The place was big and packed to the gills.  I could have spent all day in there looking at things.  We grabbed a bag and starting dropping items inside.  Before long it was filled and we placed it on a table and waited for the owner to let me know what he wanted to charge me.  We didn’t get past the first item before I said, “Ah, Ah.  Tosha.  I am done.”  He pleaded with me to wait until he was finished with all of the items.  We continued to add things as he did his math.  He may as well have been picking numbers as if he were playing lotto.  There was no rhyme or reason  for them, and the only thing they had in common was that they were ridiculously high.   When all was said and done, I threw out the two most expensive items, and he still wanted a crazy amount.  By the time we were done I got everything for ¼ of what he wanted (including the two items I discarded at the beginning).  They asked if I could raise the price a little and I laughed, patted the store manager on the belly and said, “Nobody here is missing a meal, we need to settle on the price.”  All the employees laughed and tried to pull in their bellies.  Too late.  I made my point.  We put everything in the back of the van and moved on.
We then stopped at the Hub for lunch.  It’s a local mall with some wonderful shops and restaurants.  It’s what you’d expect in one of the most affluent cities near Nairobi.  We ate at a place called Zuccini’s.  It reminded us of whole foods.  It was full of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We sat and ate sandwiches as we talked about the giraffe center… and the baboon from the day before.
It had grown late so we headed back to the hotel for a nap and to freshen up before heading to dinner and our flight home.  Andrea managed to sleep for a short while.  I repacked everything to accommodate the new items.  While we were out we purchased another suitcase to help spread things out.  We had more than enough when we started, but we left one of them at the rescue center and another with Isaac. Oh! Before I forget, the young lady at the Mbaka Oromo Clinic gave birth to a boy at 8:45pm.
We all showered and headed out for dinner.  On the way, we stopped at a crocodile park where we held a small croc and a big turtle... then a not so big turtle.  It was actually pretty interesting. We then continued on to the ArtCafe for dinner.  The meals were good, but the company and conversation was better.  Isaac kept saying how grateful he was to be able to spend so much time with us.  The feeling is mutual.  We ran into the adjacent Nakumat and found a baggage scale.  It will come in handy when we get to Boston.  We’ll change airlines and balance out the weight in the bags to avoid paying additional fees.

The first 15 minutes of the ride was like driving through a ghost town.  I think I only saw 5 cars.  Then we turned off onto th main road heading to the airport and it was bumper to bumper.  5 lanes wide.  Motorcycles rode along the dashed lines between the vehicles.  Lorries and buses changed lanes with little warning. I don’t know how we didn’t get hit.  Isaac pointed out all the dents in the buses from that very scenario.  I’m happy to say we arrived unscathed.   One last hug from Isaac and we disappeared into the airport.  Now begins our journey home.  We’re missing Katie and Kevin and look forward to having everyone together again.  See you soon.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

We didn’t leave as early as we had hoped.  Kisumu was a 4 hour dirve and although we hoped to be there by noon, it was much closer to 2.  We drove through the tea fields of Kericho and no matter how many times I see them, their beauty still takes my breath away.  It was Sunday, so there was little activity in the bright green fields.  Usually you’d see the miles of green spotted with specks of brown and red that were the workers picking the leaves.  Today it’s simply the leaves waving at us as they yield to the wind.  Leia, Caleb and Tati joined us for the ride.  They’ve never traveled to Kisumu and, therefore, have never seen Lake Victoria.  Their first view was a drive by as we climbed Busia road to Maseno.  The city is always crowded and incredibly hot.  It felt like an easy 10 degree difference from Narok.  Even after the climb to 5,000 ft above sea level into the hills didn’t cool it down at all.  The humidity hung in the air.  Our first stop would be at the Chuolembo junction.  We’ll turn onto the dirt road to head toward Mbaka Oromo but first we’ll stop at a cyber kiosk to see Job.
Ah, yes.  Job.  Job had worked for us for many years before I relationship became so strained that we had to cut ties.  He’d become increasingly unreliable halfway through last year.  When I left him in 2016, I gave him enough money to get two projects started.  They were simple – 50 desks, a teacher’s desk, and gutters and a tank for Agulu Primary School.  I also left him with money to pay for some paintings that I commissioned from Edward Orato, an artist at Masai Market.  He let me know that things had begun and 25 desks were delivered, albeit much later than they should have been… months later.  Things slid rapidly after that.  It’s important to note that we brought him to the US for 6 weeks.  We treated him like family, but 6 weeks of him seeing our country was too much for him.  I believe that he found a strong sense of entitlement.  He would eventually say, “You have no idea what I am going through.”  In the absence of information we can only try to connect the dots. 
Communication with him broke off.  Unanswered emails, phone calls and text messages pushed me to my limits.  Ultimately, he lied and although I’d like to think he didn’t steal from us, we would soon learn that he did.  Remember the paintings I commissioned, we were stopping to pick them up.  I gave him the money for them so I assumed they would be in the cardboard tube I’d left behind.  The plan was to have them brought back with a mutual friend when she returned to the states.  That never happened.  Nobody was looking forward to the “reunion.”  We don’t wish him any ill will, but I’m much more comfortable with him at a distance.  To make matters worse, I had heard that he was slandering me an our organization.  Fortunately we have enough friends and a strong enough reputation that it fell on deaf ears, but it still angered me.  I stopped into his shop and said hello then took the tube from him.  I turned and went back to the car.  Standing two doors down was one of the teachers from Agulu who came over and gave me a big hug and said hello to everyone else in the car.  While I talked to him, Job said hello to the van’s occupants and slithered back into his shop.  That verb was not a mistake, and I didn’t need a thesaurus to find it.  We turned around and headed to the clinic.
The polar opposite of Job is Dan Otieno who was waiting inside the clinic as we arrived.  With a huge smile he gave us all big hugs.  Our reason for being here was three-fold.  The most important one was to visit Helen Angugo.  A couple years ago, our dear friend Sam died – Sam was Dan’s brother, and I had returned to Kenya for his funeral.  Another dear friend, John Angugo, passed away last September.  He was a pillar of this community and the church in addition to being a dear friend to my entire family.  In the end, cancer took him from us, but at the same time we remain with wonderful memories contained in a small piece of him that resides in our hearts.  I was unable to attend the funeral because of the atrial ablasion I had performed in the same month.
The doctor was at the clinic and contacted Violet (the head nurse) to come over.  She was in the residence next door resting – there was a mother in the clinic waiting to deliver a baby.  Despite the nurses across the country being on strike, Violet was working.  Like she said, “To some, this is a profession, to others it is a calling.  What am I to do? I have been called.”  During my last trip she asked for a space heater for the labor ward.  The heater was delivered and she was very grateful. 
Dan brought us into the clinic where we signed the guest book and had a soda and some cookies.  We went back outside and waited for Esther to appear with her children, Susan, Emmah and Danton.  Susan and Emmah hold a special place in the hearts of Andrea and Karen.  They first met during Jim’s funeral many years ago, and this would be the first time they’ve seen them in several years.  Susan was now a tall slender teenager, and her siblings weren’t frozen in time, either.  Karen greeted them first giving Susan a big hug just outside the gate to the clinic.  I heard her say, “Guess who else is here?”  As her eyes turned towards us she gasped out loud and ran to Andrea.  It was beautiful.  They embraced for a long while as Ann showered her with praise over the young woman she had become.  She was a typical, shy
little girl when she was younger, but those days are long behind her now.  She is engaging and talkative; still with that brilliant smile.  Andrea was amazed that she’d grown so much!
Andrea and Karen tried to re-enact the picture we have of them when they met.  She picked up Susan and Karen picked up Emmah.  It wasn’t easy to hold them at this age.  You see, in Kenyan culture it’s not customary to pick up your child when they’re young.  Once you’re walking on your own, your feet remain on the ground.  The consequence of that is that when you are picked up, it doesn’t occur to you to open your legs to bend them around the person holding you.  Instead, there’s an awkward rigidness to it.  It didn’t stop Andrea or Karen from doing it.  Andrea asked Susan if she’d like to try picking her up, and without answering, she bent down and scooped her up as if she were a bag of feathers.  Everyone laughed as they continued to exchange greetings and updates.
Soon, Dan said, “We should may our way to John’s home.”  His house was just beyond the clinic.  We walked up the short hill behind the building, then down the dirt road, sneaking through a tree line to his compound.  I’m most familiar with his son George.  I know he hs many children, but George is most like his father – funny, smart, and charismatic.  George lost his leg below the knee after a car accident, but it hasn’t changed him in the least.  He approached me on his crutches (his prosthetic has been giving him problems) and we gave each other a big hug.  I apologized for not being here for his funeral.  His response – “Are you okay?”   They all knew the reason why I was not there, and it was humbling and warming to hear them asking about my health while they are still grieving.  The other brothers emerged from the house along with John’s wife Helen.  We walked quietly up the hill a short distance to where John was buried.  Karen told George to go ahead of her.  George responded with, “You go.  You only have two legs.  I have three.” 
There was a large concrete slab slightly raised above the ground with red earth surrounding it.  Beneath the stone lay our friend.  I couldn’t help to think how much I miss him.  If he were here, he’d be quoting scripture to me; and true to his roots as an educator, he’d begin a verse and expect me to finish it.  He was the first headmaster of Mbaka Oromo Primary School.  You can take the teacher out of the school, but you can’t take the school out of the teacher.  I’m not sure that makes any sense, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  We said, “Goodbye,” and proceeded back down the small hill to his home.  There, we sat with her family and we broke bread.  Chicken, beef stew, ugali and skumawiki along with bottles of water.  Helen sat on my left, George on my right.  I went back and forth joking with each of them about what John would be doing if he were there. “Most likely talking to his cats,” I said.  That I did what I thought was a good impression.  He loved the cats that roamed his home.  No Kenyan worth his weight in salt would have a dog as a pet – they were meant to protect the home, not sleep in it.  All dogs are watchdogs.  All of ‘em.  Cats, on the other hand, get a pass.  John had varying numbers over the years, and he talked to all of them as if there were his children still living at home.  It was much more endearing despite sounding potentially sad.  I hadn’t likened his behavior to speaking with his sons until just now.  Still, I didn’t see it that way.  Those cats were sources of joy for John, as was all life.  That was the source of his charisma.  He never had a harsh word to say about anyone, and those around him knew it.  It rubbed off on everyone.  When speaking with Dan after we left John’s house, I asked him about the school.  He said things were going very well and the student’s marks were improving rapidly, then he asked me if I’d seen the laboratory that the government built.  Ahhhhh.  He was speaking about the secondary school.  That was not my question.  I said, “Dan, what about the primary school.  How are they performing?”  He tried to hide a smile as he looked over my shoulder at the school and said, “They are still there.”  He won’t say anything derogatory about their leadership despite the obvious state of affairs, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.  When lunch was over we thanked the family for their hospitality.  George stepped out for a moment and returned with a program from John’s funeral.  It contained pictures from his childhood along with the order of the celebration.  It also contained his eulogy.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it just yet.  Perhaps after I have been home for a bit.  I asked George about the bright blue rosary that Andrea presented John several years ago.  He said, “It is here, in the house.  It was very special to him and he had it always.  It is in a place of honor here in the home.  Did you know he wore it often?”  “Yes,” I replied, “Yes I did.”  I knew that when related this exchange to Ann, it would make her smile.  The Israel Church of Africa (where John was a pastor) did not hold Mary in such high regard, but that didn’t prevent her from talking to John about her.  He loved talking about religion and was happy to talk with her about Mary; his curiosity leading to questions with answers.  I was right.  When I told Andrea, she did indeed smile.
Esther and Dan in the foreground
Nurse Violet in the background
We went back to the clinic and talked more with Dan, the doctor and nurse.  The labor pains continued with their patient, but they weren’t close yet.  He estimated the birth to be around 7pm; unfortunately after we had to leave.  As we walked back to the clinic, Dan asked me about Job, and I told him.  He said that although he had attended John’s funeral, that was the only time he had seen him since I left last year.  That just means that his betrayal did not end with me and my family – it extended to this community that also treated him like family.  I found no solace in that.  Not all misery loves company. 
As I said earlier we talked about the primary school.  Things had changed dramatically after the previous headmaster died.  Charles was the deputy under William Kabis and took his position after he passed.  Things did not change for the better.  Charles was also the choir director under William.  I would often say that William ran a school that had an award winning choir.  Charles has an award winning choir that attends the school where he is headmaster.  The last time I spoke with Charles, I expressed concern over the student’s marks as well as the condition of the classrooms.  One in particular was very dangerous while another was being used to store unused timber and broken wheelbarrows left over from the construction.  His response when I pointed out my concern.  “I wish you would build me a veranda so that I can watch the children while I’m working.”  Super.  It never dawned on him that he’d be watching his enrollment fall along with their grades.  Jim is watching… and he’s disappointed.  So am I.  To add insult to injury, the site where Jim’s remains lay is between the primary school and the clinic.  During a trip a couple years ago we cleaned up the site and fenced it in adding a bench for reflective times.  The children were using it as a playground and the stone had broken which is why we had a bronze relief made.  I would have hoped that they would be telling stories about Jim and what we accomplished in this area.  Instead, Charles cut down the trees surrounding the plot and took the money form another NGO that also worked in building this school, and put a fence around the compound… and around the plot.  Now, nobody can sit with Jim... not even me and my family.  We tried to pay our respects, and we did; we just did it from the wrong side of the fence.  I’d shake him by his lapels if I thought it would do any good.  We find peace knowing that John and Jim are back together again, laughing and smiling regardless of what happens on this earthly plane.
We said our goodbyes and got back in the car to head home.  We wanted to stop at the Masai market to see Edward Orato and pick up our other painting.  As we drove down Sereba Road, Isaac asked if   It looks like we’ll have to change plans again.  The one thing you have to learn about Kenya is that when you’re here, schedules need to be fluid.  Our intent was to spend the night at Isaacs home.  We wouldn’t get back before 10pm, and packing everything to head over to his house just didn’t make sense.  Isaac agreed so we headed for the lake.  The lake is lined with restaurants that sell tilapia taken from the lake.  As you pull in, they have women hawking at each storefront trying to get you into their place.  The truth is that some of them are better than others.  I’ll never forget the first time I came here with Jim.  We got out of the matatu and a woman wearing a Nebraska shirt was pleading with us to come in.  As he approached he said, “Hey, you must be a big cornhusker fan!”  No response.  Kenyans do not understand sarcasm.  It’s completely lost on them, which is sad because that is one of my strengths. 

Isaac asked if he could stop at the lake so his family could get a closer look.
On this day, we weren’t having dinner, just looking at the lake.  We walked past the hawkers with fish sitting on tables behind them (you get to pick your dinner as if they were lobsters sitting in a tank).  We took pictures and shooed away people trying to sell us boat rides.  All part of the ambiance.  Now, back in the car and off to the market.
I love the Masai Market in Kisumu.  Love it!  I know most of the shop owners that line each side of the 100 yard market, and most of them know me.  Andrea, Karen and I got out of the car and made our way down the right hand side stopping only to look inside, NOT go inside each shop.  You see, it’s a 100 yards of 6 foot wide, lean-to shops selling wood and soapstone carvings, belts, jewelry, sukas, spears, knives etc.  Each person asking you to go in just wants you to take one step “inside,” breaking the plane of the opening.  Each shop has only three sides, so you can’t call it a door.  They items inside are the bait, and the shop “owners” who all say, “Costs nothing to look” or “It is free to look” box you in once you break that imaginary line in the sand.  They stand there placing things in your hands telling you what they are and how they’re made and how they’ll give you a good price.  You really have to push your way out most of the time.  We moved quickly down one side and those on the other called to us.  We only stopped to say hello to the friendly faces we recognized and look at something that the girls were interested in.  A couple stone pieces caught their eye so we entered a couple shops to make some purchases.  That’s the best way to do it.  Most of the shops have the same items, so you scan quickly and if something jumps out at you, than, and only then, do you step “inside.”  We turned before reaching the end because the further away from the road you get, the more soapstone you see – and the carvings get bigger, too.  Karen and Andrea saw a stone hippo that Kevin would have loved, but it had to weight over 100lbs.  Edward Orato’s shop is on the opposite side and he stepped toward me as soon as I got to his storefront.  We smiled, shook hands, and he immediately got out the painting of Mary that Job never paid him for.  We paid for it a second time and Edward appreciated it.  He then showed us some other pieces that we also bought.  He really is a marvelous painter.  We continued on stopping to say hi to more familiar faces before getting back in the car and beginning another 4 hour ride back to Narok.  

I was right.  We didn’t get back until 10:30 and just to make sure we had something in our bellies, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before going to bed.  Sleep came easily for all of us.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The day started out like any other, with the exception that everyone slept through the night.  The drive back from the Mara took it’s toll and we were obviously exhausted.  It also caused us to change our plans around.  We had originally planned a drive to Maseno to visit the clinic and meet with friends, but our minds were not ready for another 4 hours in the car so we decided to visit Isaac’s parents instead.  It was a good decision.  We left shortly after breakfast on the 45 minute drive to Kisiriri.  Unlike the lowlands of Masai Mara, the highlands of Kisiriri are plush with green produce and wheat fields.  Looking out the window you wouldn’t know that you were in Kenya… it’s could have been landscape from any farming community in the US.  The occasional donkey or roadside fruit stand reminded us otherwise; that, along with the children playing along the road. 
We arrived at the house and were immediately greeted by Isaac’s father.  He gave us a wide smile as we entered the compound and I hopped out and gave him a big hug. “Sopa!” I exclaimed (“Hello” in Ma’a).  I smiled and hugged me back.  His 80 year od frame was so thin that I could have wrapped my arms around him twice.  His long gray hair was just as full as I remember and he had begun to show rounding shoulders.  The others hopped out and greeted him with Isaac translating.  I would pick up words here and there, but he (much like grandparents in the us) would speak in three different languages at once.  Ma’a, Kiswahili and Kikuyu were running off his tongue so fast that even Isaac had trouble deciphering.
We stepped inside their very humble home and we surprised them with umbrellas.  The last time we were there it was raining as we toured the grounds, and I noticed that their umbrellas could stand to be refreshed.  They smiled and laughed with glee as they opened them… again, Isaac translated.  Although I know they have superstitions here, opening an umbrella inside is not among the list.  They then treated us to mashed potatoes, goat and chipati, all of which were wonderful.  The ladies have come accustomed to “no thank you” portions of goat and are comfortable enough to decline completely if so inclined.   Afterward, it was time for a tour.  Isaac’s father takes great pride in his accomplishments, as well he should.  This land was all forest before he arrived and he cleared it all by hand in the 50’s.  Now he grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables and pointed out some of the more unique aspects of the farm.  What looked like weeds were actually used to make insect repellent and smelled like a more robust lemon grass.  The next “weed” we saw was used to treat stomachaches.  The tree next to us is cut and it’s fibers are used to tie off umbilical chords after child birth.  Certain trees were used for timber, while others were used to make whips (Tatiana and Caleb smiled as Isaac gave a demonstration).  It’s like an outdoor Wal-mart!  Isaac’s father had no problem navigating through the fields, up and down some pretty steep terrain.  He never slowed and never seemed short of breath as he lead the group; picking up various nieces and nephews (and even a stray neighbor) along the way.  
Isaac, me and David
Several of his sons still have homes here and I was happy to see Isaac’s older brother David as we made our way back.  We had stopped at his home to use their long drop and ended up staying for tea.  It was served outside the main home where most of the female cousins had gathered to discuss their faith – sort of  a Kenyan Bible study.  I stepped inside briefly to say, “jambo,” and true to form they all grinned when I spoke a little Kiswahili.   Usually, people are surprised that I speak the language at all.  They do, however, seem glad to know that I’ve took the time to learn it.  Anywho, Andrea and I sat with Isaac in his sister-in-laws kitchen.  It was a mud and wood structure with a dirt floor, one window and one door.  The room was filled with smoke from the wood fire burning under the window – that’s the only reason Karen didn’t come inside… the smoke was pretty thick, and although she opened the door, it did little to help the smoke dissipate.  Above the fire sat a grate and atop the grate was a large pot of milk.  It’s customary to be offered something in every home you visit, and this one was no exception.  Chai is usually preferred because there’s always hot milk available in a Kenyan home, and it’s usually the shortest visit.  If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t accomplish anything – we’d be too busy drinking tea.
Karen with Tatiana & Caleb
David came home while we were there, and smiled wide as he came to say hello.   We brought a utility multi-use tool for each of Isaac’s brothers, but David has been the only one to receive it in person – the others have been working while we were around.  The one I gave his father the year before was well received and Isaac told me his brothers were very interested in it.
Caleb, Baba, Isaac, Andrea, Karen,
Tatiana, Me, Mama and Leia
We said our goodbyes through our translator Isaac and took some photographs of the group.  The timer on my camera has come in very handy for moments like this.  The ride back home was full of laughter and joking and the sunset was beautiful as we drove past the wheat fields.  Our plan was for Karen to spend the night with Tatiana at Isaac’s house, but when we got home she realized that she had homework to do.  Ann, on the other hand, was still very tired and the thought of eating at 9:30pm was not helping.  We had arrived home much later than we had planned and restaurant food prep time here is less than favorable.  We often call an hour ahead of our arrival and still manage to wait up to 45 minutes.  The restaurants in malls are usually much faster and closer to what we’re used to back home.  Tipping here is also unusual; it’s more common around visitors but the locals just think it’s odd.
I had to call Isaac to let him know that they wouldn’t be joining us for dinner.  He understood and came to pick me up.  The restaurant was right down the road – probably 200 yards away.  It was set back off the road and I wouldn’t have known it was there except for a small sign that said, “Members Club.”  It’s a restaurant owned by the government.  It was rather non-descript on the outside, broken up into 5 areas consisting of 3 private dining areas that accommodated about 8 people, a bar room (including pool table) and a larger dining area with many tables.  We left the car and headed to one of the smaller rooms where Leia sat with Caleb and Tatiana.  Tati was clearly tired and looked like she was more asleep than awake.  Caleb was good, but he was starting to fade.  The food came another 45 minutes later.  I made the mistake of ordering a Tusker when we sat down.  Thankfully the food arrived just as the Tusker was taking effect.  Chicken, roasted potatoes and skumawiki (stewed kale).  The roasted potatoes were my absolute favorite meal.  We got some barbecued goat for the ride out to his parents that would have beat it in a contest, but the potatoes were wonderful.  They were the equivalent of small white potatoes that were pan fried.  You’d break them open to cool off.  The outside were crispy and they were pretty much really fat French fries.  I must have eaten 6 of them.  Once again, I slept like a baby.