"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, February 24, 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

We got to sleep in a bit this morning and didn’t get started until 9am.  We’re heading to the Masai Development Project.  I’m not sure why it’s called that, because everyone refers to it as the Masai Rescue Center.  We’ve been visiting these girls for years.  Although I’ve never been given his title, James runs the place. At the very least, he’s a General Manager.  Whatever you call him, he’s the father figure to 60 girls at any given time, and he fulfills that role with joy.  He’s also the one that does all the “rescuing.”
Although marriage is illegal under the age of 18, it happens; especially in rural areas where the police are scarce.  Here, they’re non-existent.  Similarly, female circumcision is also illegal, but the same caveat applies. It’s a horrible practice that can be even worse than it sounds.  There are partial circumcisions and complete circumcisions.  Both are referred to as “FGM” (female genital mutilation) and as you can imagine, the stories are horrifying.  These girls are traded to pay a debt or perhaps through an arranged marriage.  James finds out about these girls by word of mouth, and often from a family member. He is a Masai, so he understands the problem with the culture.  Although he often tries to talk to the “perpetrator,” he always speaks with the victim, and if they want to leave and go to a safe place, he brings them to the Rescue Center.  Once there, they are clothed, fed, educated… and unconditionally loved.  It’s also important to note that their “husbands” cannot get to them in any attempt to recover their property.  Yes, I said, “property.”  The compound is surrounded by a secure fence – only one way in and one way out and that gate is manned 24/7. 
While they’re in the facility, they also learn many trade skills like cooking, sewing and baking. When they turn 18 and/or graduate high school, they decide whether to stay and seek a sponsor for college or return to their villages.  Either way, they’re able to make well-informed decisions about their own destinies.  The oldest man to every marry one of these girls is 72.  The youngest girl rescued to date is 6.  You do the math.  This place is necessity, and James is a saint here on earth.

When we arrived, James greeted us and led us to a large meeting room with 10 chairs around a long table.  Sue and Ryan introduced themselves and James gave us a few stories of the recent girls he’s aided.  One was a six – this “transaction” was to pay off a debt, and the families were not happy. He said the girl was terrified, and all he had to do was say, “Do you want to come somewhere safe?”  A family member had already “briefed” her on James and the facility prior to his arrival.  Once at the facility, the parents and the husband-to-be wanted James to settle the debt – all from outside the gate.  He wasn’t having any of it, and sent them on their way.  It was one of hundreds of story of these poor souls who now share a common bond and are members of the same family.

While we always bring them gifts (always something fun and something needed), we’ve never brought this much.  Of the 6 additional bags we brought on the plane, 2 ½ of them are coming here. Prior to our departure, we made re-useable sanitary pads.  Andrea led the charge, and she made a lot of them!  When we arrived at Sarova, she and Sue took an evening and put them all into kits, then placed them in a small “backpake-like” bag with the Zontas logo and one side, and Building Futures on the other.  We’ll get back to that shortly.
James introduced me, and I introduced everyone else.  We started with the fun stuff – board games, kickballs and soccer balls.  I had them gather round and explained Kerplunk and Trouble.  It brought back memories.  We played a round of Kerplunk so that they could see how it works.  There was a lot of smiles and giggling.  Trouble was easier to explain so we left that up to them to see the game in action.  We also gave them some Spirographs to play with.  Then there were pencils, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners and books.  We got so many pencils donated that I think whoever supplies them in this country is going to have a dip in sales this month… maybe for the quarter!

We then separated the older girls from the younger girls.  I’m not sure the terminology that James used, but it was perfect.  We brought them 100 of “The Shoe That Grows.” These things are amazing. They are well built rubber sandal with pegs and Velcro that allows the shoe to grow up to 4 sizes.  They come in two sizes – adult and youth.  For obvious reasons, I’m happy to say we used more of the former than the latter. Once they moved to their “size assigned” side of the room, we went to work.  Ryan and I worked with the adults.  Andrea, Karen and Sue worked with younger girls.  Karen actually ended up working both sides from the back of the crowd and we all met in the middle.  The girls sat at tables on wooden benches.  We sat on the concrete floor.  We sized every shoe to fit and showed each of them how to extend them as needed, and enjoyed every minute of it.  The girls laughed with us and chatted, and before you knew it, we were done with shoes.  Every girl got a new pair!  

For the most part, they were already separated, but James called out some knew instructions and those that stood went outside with me and Ryan.. and the balls.  Those that remained seated got more instruction from Sue. We can now return to those Zonta/Building Future bags.  Sue’s nursing degree came in mighty handy.  I wasn’t present for the discussion, but Andrea and Karen (and Sue) were very happy with how it went.  The girls were attentive and asked a lot of questions.  They were able to dispel a lot of bad information.  The fear washed away from a girl who was told that because she has her period every 2 weeks, it does NOT mean that she’s going to have twins.  And there were responses of shock and awe when they were informed that YES, you CAN get pregnant while you’re on your period.  In addition to the pad kits, they were also able to supply them with underwear.  It may come as a surprise to you, but underwear is often a luxury, not a need. 
While this was going on, we played soccer with the girls as another group played perpendicularly with the kick-balls.  Lots of laughter and giggles, and cheers at each goal.  Eventually, as the girls got tired, we all re-entered the main room where the older girls were finishing up.  Some of the underwear was too small for their older “sisters”, so the younger girls got some, too.  
Now finished, we said our goodbye’s and left them with additional shoes for the girls that will surely arrive in the future.  James walked us out and led us to the room we started in so that we could have the boxed lunch prepared by Sarova. Each box contained a piece of chicken, a bottle of water, juice (pronounced joo-ees-eh), a banana, crackers, and a couple pastry items – one filled with chopped chicken, one filled with chopped vegetables. The chicken was better.  Even Andrea said so, and that’s a serious endorsement!
I don’t think anyone was able to finish the contents of their box, so we put the extra items in a single box and discarded the trash.  Then we were back in the jeep headed for the secondary school.
Siana Girls Secondary School shares a border with the Rescue Center.  Many of the residents of the Center attend the boarding school. That’s what led us to start our newest construction project with them.  It’s a young school that is well attended and well past their capacity. We’re starting with two classrooms and, God-willing, we’ll build them a second dormitory (along with the help of Zonta Club of Skaneateles).  We entered through the gate and were greeted by the head teacher (the principal was in Narok) who led us to the administration room to chat.  Teachers, members of the school board and parents of students joined us for the meeting.  We all introduced ourselves and one-by-one, people began to speak.  The head teacher started, followed by the chairman of the school board, followed by a couple of the teachers.  Not everyone spoke, and I think we were all grateful for that.  Despite beginning these meetings with, “Let’s be brief,” it rarely works out that way. These gentlemen, however, delivered on their promise.  We, on the other hand, delivered school supplies and a Kenyan flag.  Again with the pencils and colored pencils, soccer balls, some games, pencil sharpeners and books.  They were very appreciative for the support.  We exited that room and took a look at the grounds.
Haret arrived shortly after we started the meeting, and I’m glad he was there for this part.  I asked a lot of questions.  The abandoned dormitory left behind when the government ran out of money still sits where they left it, but the inside was cleaned out. I’m happy to say that the government is finally said they’re coming back to finish it.  That’s the equivalent of “the checks in the mail,” but it’s better than no communication at all.  During my last visit I asked if we could finish it, and the answer was, “No.”  You can’t touch somebody else’s building until it’s yours, and it’s not theirs until it’s finished.  Currently, the girls all board in a massive dining hall paid for by Entumoto Camp (under the guidance of Isaac), and the dorm they used to use is now a classroom.  Eventually, we’ll have two good dormitories (provided the check arrives) and the buildings can all go back to the use they were intended for.
Haret had already begun depositing supplies (there was a large pile of hewn rectangular rocks in a pile), and the fundis were there marking off the foundation so that digging can begin.  We stood there talking and watching them work when Andrea made a keen observation that made us all laugh.  Despite them working in the open air with nothing overhead, the fundis wore hard hats, and although you would have expected boots, they all wore flip-flops! Seriously!  Flip-flops!  Not even sandals!  The things that make you go hmmm.
We stood in a group ready to say olaseri (goodby in ma’a) (Oh-lah-say-ree) when Ryan had an idea. “Let’s have them try pop-rocks!” The next thing you knew, the majority of those in attendance had pop-rocks in their mouths.  What surprised me was that the only person to have a negative reaction was the chairman.  He had all he could to do to not spit them out.  The more traditional Masai passed on the opportunity.  Okay, time to go.  Once again, we loaded ourselves back into the jeep and went on our way.  
On the way back we spotted a leopard, which along with the black rhino, is very difficult to find. He was deep in the grass but unmistakable.  Isaac informed us that it was a female that wanders between this point and the Sarova. The ride continued back to Sarova where we had 30 minutes to clean up before dinner at 7:30pm.  Yes, I said that, too.  It’s not unusual to eat dinner at 9pm, so 7:30pm works out well. It’s also when dinner starts so we don’t have much of a choice.  
Dinner was good, and although Isaac couldn’t join us this time, his brother Anthony stopped by to say, “Jambo!”
He’s a lively character and like Isaac, just a good man.  He stayed and told some stories; each of which ended in laughter.  He asked me, “Hahve you ay-vah hahd the Bah-fah-lo stoh-ree?” (don’t forget to roll your “r”s)
“No” I replied, “Isaac said it’s a good one!”
“Eet eez! Eet eez!”
He said it would wait until tomorrow at the grand opening of the clinic.  He’s hoping to come with Sarova’s GM.
Once again it was time for a quick review of the next day’s events before bed time.  I seem to be getting more and more exhausted as the days continue; mostly because the days run so long.  It’s not easy getting used to eating dinner at 8:30/9:00.  By the time we all get back to our tents it’s already past 10.  I’m struggling keeping my chin of my chest as I type.  The head nods settle in faster than ever now – it explains why they’re so late.  Sorry for not being more timely.  I’m fairly confident that I’ll be home by the time I post the last couple days. 
Tomorrow’s going to be a test.  It’s starts out as quite a mixed bag.  Sue and Ryan are going on a balloon safari (which is wonderful, by the way), so Andrea, Karen and I will go on a short safari prior to meeting them somewhere out on the mara and head over to the maternity grand opening.  They’ve been trying to get one scheduled since arriving at Sarova and were met with various obstacles.  Isaac, once informed of the situation, said he’d take care of it and he did.  He asked her who she talked to and then asked her how much they were charging.  After she answered, he said, “Wood you like to pay $50 less pah pas-sun?”  He signed her up with the hot air balloon company he uses.  This one won’t cancel last minute and keep your money, either. They’re getting picked up at 5:30am. Oh boy.  Andrea, Karen and I went the last time we were here together, and it’s fabulous.  Highly recommended.  We get to sleep in until 7am.  When we’re at home, Andrea and I get up at 4:30am… now we struggle to get up at 7.  Long days… and they’re worth every minute.
‘Til tomorrow.  It’s going to be a big day.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The night was a bit of a mixed bag.  I was exhausted, so I decided not to blog for the night.  Now, I’m 2 days behind and hoping to catch up.  Here goes.
These showerheads are horrible, and I’m sick of getting shocked.  The water that comes out of these unites is probably ½ the diameter of a pin.  Couple that with the fact that it comes out of the showerhead in 10 different directions. Ultimately, there’s no way to get wet. Andrea was really looking forward to hot shower, but I’m not sure today’s the day.  She wasn’t tall enough to reach the thermostat, so I had to stay close by.  I told her that I had an idea, but my record on ideas is not a stellar one.  She did finally emerge, though.  When I got in, I tested my idea and it worked for me although it did take time to manage. I cut the top of a large water bottle off and added the scalding water coming from the showerhead.  Because of the streams, it took awhile before I had a couple inches in the bottle.  It was hot enough that my fingertips were burning where they held the bottle. Because the shower/toilet/sink are all in one space, I took two steps toward the sink and added cold water until it was tolerable, then dumped it over my head.  It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.  When I got out, the ladies were finished packed and we (when I say “we” I mean “I”) were rushing to get downstairs in time to have breakfast before Isaac arrived and we started our drive to Masai Mara.
Don’t ask me why, but Karen, Ryan and Sue got a hard boiled egg and toast.  Andrea and I got a scrambled egg.  That was two days ago, so I’m not positive on the mix.  All I know, was that I was looking forward to a hard-boiled egg but was denied.  The conversation as we came down the stairs toward the restaurant area was illuminating. Although they had water last night, Ryan and Sue had none this morning.  Again, their tolerance and awareness of the locale was greatly appreciated.  Sometimes this happens, and it’s not always receieved well.  
Dabash came by as we were eating and asked “How was yoo-ah night?” I said it was fine, “but Sue and Ryan had no water this morning.”  He said, “Oh,” and followed it with, “but you had wah-tah?” pointing at me. I responded, “Yes,” and he said, “Okay, that’s good,” and walked away.  It made us all laugh out loud, and we continued to do so as we traveled.
We hopped in the jeep and headed for Masekonde Special Needs at about 9:30.  We picked up Sharon and Nasinkoi on the way and were greeted by Veronica and some of the other children when we arrived.  Brian was there, and Karen spotted him immediately.  Brian is a young Luo boy that Karen really connected with during her first trip to this school.  Their bond has only
grown stronger with each visit.  She was the last to emerge from the truck.  I blocked Brian’s view so that she could sneak around the jeep and surprise him.  He seemed puzzled that he didn’t see her once the car was empty, then she popped around the front of the car with a big smile and out-stretched arms.  He ran to her and gave her a long hug.  It was a sweet moment.  We entered the office and distributed the gifts to Veronica.  The puzzles with colors and letters were a big hit. Karen immediately started playing with Brian and Mwangi (who sat on a chair behind them).  She would point ask him to point out the letters as she sounded them out.  Ryan pumped up some balls (a soccer ball and a kick ball – no, they have no idea what kickball is) and played with some of the kids outside.  Sharon was in the mix, but Nasinkoi uncharacteristically stayed at a distance.  Mwangi’s

little sister came with him, so they were playing and laughing as they chased the ball that Ryan kicked.  He’s wonderful with the kids, and is quick to get them involved.  We finished handing out the supplies in the office – they should have enough standard pencils for the entire year!  They got enough colored pencils to last two!  They also got some other tools to help with their education. Then Andrea, Karen and I went outside to join in the laughter that we heard through the open door.
Once thing I forgot to mention was that the government had built a 4-classroom block next to the existing Special Needs Classroom.  Veronica explained that this was going to be a vocational school for them.  That’s awesome!  We were very excited to hear the news.  The fact that the government has recognized the need is great… the fact that they have acted upon it is miraculous!  They will now have the opportunity to learn how to sew and do beadwork as well as becoming more self-sufficient.  
The laughter outside was mixed between Sharon, Mwangi, his sister and Ryan.  Sue sat on the concrete slap porch outside the building and watched the fun.  As you’d expect, Karen and Mwangi joined right in.  Both balls went back and forth between all the participants until fatigue set in.  Mwangi was the first to head for the same pad Sue sat on.  Nasinkoi stayed quiet and she told us that she wasn’t feeling well. Actually, she told Veronica, who told us.  Isaac had made a quick trip to the bank to transfer some funds (probably for entumoto), and we informed him of Nasinkoi’s condition.  Sue was confident that she had a fever.  If I haven’t already told you, traveling in a third world country with a nurse is pretty handy.  She never complained once, but a tear would consistently roll down her cheek and she would quickly wipe it away.  Our hearts broke for her, so we cut the visit short so we could get her back to her mother. All the excitement and animation we had she exhibited over the last two days were gone.  We got to her home quickly and walked her to the door.  Her mom wasn’t in, so we called and waited for her to arrive.  Isaac didn’t tell her why we were back early for fear of scaring her.  I juggled some large stones while we waited, and a weak smile came across her face.  It was fleeting, and she nestled her head into Isaac’s chest where they sat.  Her mom arrived after a few minutes, and Isaa relayed our concerns to her.  We handed her 3,000ksh (about $30) so that she could go to the hospital and get medicine if needed.  It also covered transportation to get them both there and back.  She said she would keep us updated on her condition.
Back in the jeep and on to drop Sharon off.  She gave us big hugs as she got out, and disappeared toward her home.  Now we were headed for Leah who was working in her shop selling clothing.  
We never made it.
Everyone was snapping pictures of our surroundings.  The butcheries seem to be very popular.  Raw meat hanging in a window, unrefrigerated... this is after it's delivered on a motorcycle.  Always worth a pic.  We saw a Barrack Obama blanket hanging in front of a small shop and Isaac stopped so we could get a picture.  The shops are lined up along the meandering dirt road with alleyways dispersed from time to time.  The road is barely wide enough for two vehicles and people walking.  Just as Andrea snapped the picture, a woman walked by and thought was accidentally included in the shot.  As luck would have it, this was someone that did not want their picture taken.  Sometime it’s a legitimate concern, sometimes it’s an opportunity for a shakedown.  We weren’t sure which it was, we just knew that she was really not happy.  She glared at us as Karen yelled “Go, Isaac, go!”  There was some laughter as we slowly moved in traffic.  It ended when Andrea said, “Oh.  She has a machete now!”  She was walking parallel to us with her eyes fixed on the jeep.  It was like something out of a movie.  She walked behind the shops to our left and would disappear behind a shop before being spotted in between the adjacent one; her eyes still fixed on us.  Isaac quickly navigated down the street to create some space and stopped after a good distance.  He decided to have Leah come meet us rather than travel back up toward the woman with the machete.  Good decision.  She arrived quickly, and we learned that we’d be seeing her in a couple days as she would be joining us at the maternity grand opening.  The kids will come, too.
We stopped at a bank so I could get some funds and stopped at a coffee shop that we frequent en route. I’m not sure it happened in that order. Karen and I got vanilla milk-shakes and the others got lattes.  How they heat water to such extremes is beyond me.  I just couldn’t stomach the idea of holding a scalding hot cup in this heat, let alone drinking it.  The shake, on the other hand, was fabulous!  Isaac introduced me to another friend of his that came over to greet him. His name is George, and he’s a print journalist for a local news outlet.  We chatted for a bit, and he’s going to try and be at the maternity, too. We got back on the road, and I think is when we went to the bank because when I got back in the car, I didn’t have my laptop.  
Isaac didn’t want to leave it in the car (despite being parked in front of the large glass storefront) so he brought it inside the shop as we ordered our drinks.  When we left, it remained on a table in the window. When I noticed it was gone and asked if anyone happened to grab it, there were a lot of blank stares.  Isaac called the shop and it was still sitting where we left it.  George (the journalist) ran out of the shop towards the car with it in his hands.  He happily handed it to me smiling and saying “Safari njema” (safe journey).
Then we drove to Masai Mara.
Isaac said it was a 1½ and only 30km was dirt road.  The government contracted with a Chinese company to pave the entire road and that was all that was remaining.  I have to admit that I wasn’t buying it.  Not the Chinese involvement, but the time and distance references.  In my experience, Kenyans have no concept of either.  I kept those thoughts to myself, and instead we laughed and joked the entire way.  Seriously. It was a lot of fun talking about our adventures in Nakuru and Narok.  We are really having a wonderful time, and there have been really special moments every day.  
The trip began on that “30km” stretch of dirt road.  We weaved back and forth across the road trying to make lemonade out of lemons.  If we managed to make lemonade, it wasn’t very good.  We passed huge mounds of marrum waiting to be spread on the road, but I never saw any heavy machinery… I never saw machinery of any size!  Yet we drove on.  We passed young Masai children herding cows and still younger ones running to the road’s edge asking for money or candy.  After 30 minutes, we were on paved road.  It didn’t last  after another 30 minutes, we were back on dirt.  Not cool
At the 79 minute mark, things took a dark turn, but it’s not what you think.  The first 30 minutes were on dirt road, but we had been driving on pavement for almost 50 minutes.  I was in the front seat and  Isaac was obviously driving.  Sue was behind me with Andrea behind Isaac.  Karen and Ryan were in the 3 row of seats.  Sue said, “Issac, I think you have a problem with your windshield.” She was right.  The windshield had begun to fall into the car.  The top had come out of it’s rubber housing and was beginning to lean into the vehicle. Nobody was nervous or scared.  In fact, we laughed about it as he pulled over.  He got out of the car and immediately pulled out a key to try and pry the window’s edge back into it’s hiding place.  I pulled out my Leatherman hoping to make the job easier. I think it did… until the window cracked.  The fisher was in the upper corner of the window directly in front of me.  Before long, it was in the lower right corer, then another appeared, then another.  Another guide stopped by to assess the situation.  We decided to try and push the top half of the window to the outside and hope for the best.  The entire incident took 30 minutes.  We continued on.  Isaac stayed behind the wheel, shifting with his left hand.  Did I mention that it was also his left hand that was holding the windshield in place?  Yup, same one.  At one point, his phone rang and I said, “I can’t wait to how you’re going to manage this one, Issac.”  He laughed, and answered the phone. 
We switched back and forth; Isaac would hold the windshield, then me.  My side was the weakest point, and the cracks started to splinter off in different directions.  It didn’t look good at all, but it held up until we arrived at Sarova.  En route, Isaac called someone to have it fixed. It sounded like it was going to be done this evening. We were all just happy to get out of the car.  Because of some miscommunications, we were actually arriving a day early.  Sarova Mara was full and the only room left was a family tent that we had stayed in before when traveling with the family.  Sue and Ryan were on one side, and Andrea, Karen and I were on the other. The two rooms were separated by a common area.  The resort has several animals wandering around the grounds – dik dik, banded mongoose, bush babies and bush bucks (no relation) are usually seen throughout the day.  I stepped out of our tent for a moment and found a dik dik just off the walking path.
We reconvened for dinner and discussed the plans for the next couple days.  We were pretty confident that we would be doing this each day. This is not an easy country to solidify plans in.  Something always seems to make you have to adjust on the fly.  You know, like your windshield getting blown into the car. Just another day in paradise. 
Sarova Mara serves dinner buffet style, and they have something to cater to everyone.  Every night you’ll see Indian dishes, pasta, chicken, beef, fish, vegetables, salads etc.  It’s difficult not to find something you like.  I was thrilled to have a cold White Cap.  Although Tusker is the “official” beer of Kenya, White Cap is not as strong so it’s bit more refreshing.  It hit the spot.  So did the bed.  I’m two days behind on the blog, so this will have to be the best I can do.  If I think of anything I missed, you’ll be the first to know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

Good news!  Sharon’s feeling much better this morning!  That’s a relief to everyone.  We could hear both of them giggling as they prepared for the day. Our rooms were diagonally situated across the hall, but the windows along the ceiling facing the hall meant that you could hear everything.  Every room had them, and they were all open.  There must not have been many people on the floor, though, because Sharon and Nasinkoi were the only two we could hear.  Again, they were laughing and talking and despite not knowing exactly what they were saying to each other, it was clear that these girls were close friends.
The rooms were spacious and comfortable, although we really could have used a fan (like the one that Karen had in her room).  She had a large floor stand model that she had trouble getting started, but eventually figured it out.  We spent most of the night on top of the covers trying to stay cool.  6am arrived quickly, and it didn’t help that I was up blogging late the night before.  I’ve got nobody to blame but myself.  Andrea, Karen and I got downstairs where Isaac and Richard were waiting with Sue and Ryan.  Each of them had coffee or tea in front of them with the sugar bowl always within Isaac’s reach.  Kenyan’s like sugar.  Isaac consumes sugar like a Kenyan taunting diabetes.  The girls had not come down yet, so I went up and knocked on their door. In Kenya, most places have the equivalent of a skeleton key, and once you enter your room, you turn around and use the same key to lock it from the inside.  I leave my key in the door after I lock it.  Sharon and Nasinkoi did not.  It took Nasinkoi awhile, but eventually she got the right angle with the right depth to release the bolt.  She emerged with a  smile and handed me the key.  Sharon followed us down the stairs to the are where the rest of our party was seated. They sat and had tea while I stood and drank my coffee.  Isaac stood next to me as we talked about the plan for the day. He suggested that he stay behind to ensure that everyone was comfortable.  We hadn’t originally planned to be accompanied by these two young women, so space was tight (this was with us shipping bags ahead of us in another car).  I notified the rest of the group of the change and as expected, everyone was fine with it.  We hopped in the Land Rover and headed for Lake Nakuru.
It wasn’t more than 15 minutes away!  It was an abnormal treat to have the destination so close to the starting point. We stopped to get our park passes and entered through the gate.  Lake Nakuru National Park is also run by the government (obviously) but it’s quite small compared to Masai Mara – this means that animals are in a smaller area, thus a better chance of being spotted.  The vegetation was vastly different from Masai Mara.  The lake means a constant water source, so droughts are rare.  The forest surrounding the lake was incredibly dense in spots, and as the sun was climbing higher into the sky, it made for a some spooky pictures with the lake as a backdrop.
The cool temperatures were made worse when Richard opened up the top of the car so that we could stand while taking pictures.  It was freezing.  Granted, 53ยบ is not freezing, but it was to us, which meant it was REALLY cold to Sharon and Nasinkoi.  They got the blankets.  That left the adults in the vehicle trying to curl into fetal positions while trying to look through the windows for animals.  We passed by the old standbys while Karen quizzed the girls on what we saw. Zebra= punda malia, giraffe= twiga, warthog=pumba, and on and on and on.  They giggled and laughed and pointed with excited, wide eyes.  The rest of us shivered and reveled in watching their enjoyment.
There are birds everywhere here – all shapes and sizes.  Multiple species of ibis, pelicans, cranes, starling, teals, herons and vultures. Although they are known for the flamingos, we literally came across 2 white rhino.  TWO!  We stopped and took pictures as Richard explained the difference between the white rhino of Nakuru and black rhino of Masai Mara.  The white is clearly more docile.  These two were pretty close and never even gave us a glance.  Their mouths are wider, too, and almost looked cartoonish, extending from one side of their head to the other.  Once finished snapping photos, we continued driving. If someone wasn’t satisfied by 2 rhinos, what about 5?  We weren’t driving for 5 minutes before we came upon them grazing next to a small pond. Again, they paid us no mind and just went about their business of filling their bellies.  They were magnificent!  
We sat their longer than we did with the first two, but eventually went back to driving.  Time was passing rapidly, so I had to ask how far we were from the hotel.  Their check out time was 10am, and it was already close to 9:15.  It was enough to cause him to change course.  Rather than driving all the way around the lake, we turned around and took a slightly different route back.  It took us closer to the water and closer to the section of the lake where the flamingoes congregate.  The air smelled like a mild low-tide.  What else would you expect from a salt water lake that had receded? We were able to get out of the vehicle to walk closer to the water’s edge.  The earth we walked on was cracked and in various stages of dehydration.  As we got closer to the water, our shoes sank deeper giving us the indication that we were close enough.  The flamingoes were still pretty far away, but there were some smaller groups that were 100 yards away - their pink feathers unmistakably recognizable against the black water.   They were beautiful.  We walked around in the soft soil for a bit, snapping pictures of the birds and each other before getting back into the 4x4.  
We spotted more giraffe, hyenas, gazelle, cape buffalo, spring bucks and antelope as we exited the park, stopping periodically to take it all in.  It was still cool as we drove, but not as cold as it was when we started.  That only meant the goose bumps were not as noticeable as they once were.  We made it back a little after 10 and had to work around the staff to grab our bags and exit the hotel.  It didn’t take long before all the bags were downstairs and everyone was accounted for… time to get into the car for another long ride.  This time, we’re en route to Isaac’s parents house.  It’s always wonderful to see them.  They are like family, and they feel the same about us.
We arrived much dirtier than we were when we left.
We were on a dirt road for most of the drive.  I’d say it was dusty, but that’s not right.  It was more like powder… whole wheat flour.  It was everywhere, and I mean everywhere!  As we drove, cars would approach from the opposite direction and we would frantically close the windows to avoid eating the dirty powder that blew in the wake of the opposing vehicle’s tires.  If we slowed down to quickly, our own “wake” would catch up to our own windows and catch us by surprise.  It was awful, yet we laughed at it.  We did our best to mask the dirt flavor by chewing gum, tootsie rolls and starburst.  Don’t judge. Regardless, it worked.  It also helped that Ryan and Karen were making us laugh through the entire ride.  They are funny; no doubt about it.  Andrea and Sue were also adding to the humor of it all.  They’re jokes complimented they’re children’s.  It all made the ride go faster.
We arrived shortly after 1pm, and Isaac’s father was the first to appear.  I stepped out of the car and started patting my shirt and pants, watching the dust fly off me as if I was slapping my hand into a pile of flour. I emerged from behind the auto to see a Isaac’s father smiling wide holding his hands out to me.  He welcomed us over and over again and invited us inside to sit down.  Isaac’s mom stepped out, but only just beyond the door.  She’s still walking with crutches following her broken ankle.  She and Andrea were quick to exchange stories when she noticed the cast on her arm.
After introducing Sue and Ryan, we exchanged greetings and updates on those family members that weren’t able to join us on the trip.  We didn’t need to introduce Sharon and Nasinkoi, because they had already been here. Nasinkoi had something to say, and she said it.  “Chai, hapa,” she said pointing to the ground.  “Tea, here.”  When Isaac brought the girls to Nakuru for their first semester at school, he stopped here and spent some time with Isaac’s parents.  Both girls were all smiles as Isaac’s parents carried on a conversation with them.  Isaac translated and we just watched with grins on our faces as they went back and forth - the exchange like watching a tennis match.  The “grand slam” would come later.
Lunch was soon served – mashed potatoes mixed with corn, goat stew, skumawiki and chipati.  Karen served everyone and the dialogue continued as we ate.  I was surprised that they let her do it – it’s very rare for a guest to serve the host… just another indication that we are among family.  While we sat there, a couple chickens periodically tried to enter the house and were quickly shooed away by Mister Kasura wielding his walking stick.  At one point, a donkey came into view through the doorway.  Sue was sitting next to me, and she clearly had a different view than I did.  She said, “Hm.  A donkey… she looks pregnant.”  I responded with, “What? Do you mean the one with the testicles?”  She bent over in laughter.  That is how this trip is gone.  Someone consistently makes a comment that makes people howl with laughter. It’s actually nice that it’s not always Karen and Ryan.   
When lunch finished, we gave them a wind chime as a gift and hung it just outside their front door. There was enough breeze that it worked like a charm.  Mr. Kasura said, “This is the only house in Kisiriri with a bell like this!”  He was elated!  (Kisiriri is the town he lives in).
It was then that Isaac and his father began an excited exchange with lots of pointing and smiling. Isaac finally caught us up. Apparently, Isaac’s uncle (Mr. Kasura’s brother) used to date Nasinkoi’s mother.  Yup, you heard me.  The plot thickens.  Well, they dated for quite a long time before deciding to get married.  They actually lived with Isaac’s father while they planned. Unfortunately, Nasinkoi’s mother was told she had to marry someone else.  The family came and took her and beat her until she gave in.  Isaac’s uncle could do nothing to stop it.  She would eventually marry Nasinkoi’s father – and he eventually abandoned them.  When Isaac finished telling the story, his father began speaking again. When he stopped, Isaac said, “Wow,” than filled us in.  His father didn’t realize the connection until long after the girls left.  He said that it’s a wonderful thing that we are helping her and Sharon because this is just another connection that we share. “God continues to bless us with family.” There was a short silence before everyone simply agreed in amazement at the story they had just heard.  We had a brief exchange about how blessed we were to now have a part in that story.  
We didn’t have time for a tour of their land this time.  It had grown late and we needed to get to Narok and check into the hotel.  We went outside where Ryan and Sue broke out the sweets and small toys.  A crowd of kids had massed outside before they started handing things out.  We watched the smiles flow through the crowd like a wave.  The children were patient and appreciative.  A great combination.  Time kept moving, however, so it was soon time to get going.  He was the first one to greet us and the last to say, “Olaseri.” (Goodbye in Ma’a)
Richard had to do a K turn to get us facing the entrance/exit.  He would have failed his driver’s test in the US.  Even when he finally got it, the tires were slipping in the grass.  He finally stopped and put the car into 4-wheel drive and climbed the hill and got back on the main road… yup, another dirt road.
We continued to talk about the connection with Nasinkoi as we brought the girls to their mothers. Sharon was first.  Her mom met us outside a gas station where she was selling roasted corn.  She, like her daughter, has always been the more reserved of the two families.  She gave here a hug, thanked us for the ride and we said our goodbyes to Sharon.  Continuing the same as we pulled away.
Unlike Sharon, Nasinkoi’s excitement was oozing out her pores.  Before we even made it to her home, she was out of her seat and heading for a door.  When the car finally stopped, she jumped out and lept into her mother’s waiting arms. She, too, was excited to have her daughter home.  We all exchanged greetings, and she asked us to see her home.  Saying it was “modest” would be an understatement.  The home was made of mud and dung that was pasted to slats of timber.  Just inside the door sat a bunk bed with two double sized mattresses on each level. The bed took up all the space in that area.  To the right was a small area the size of a standard closet – this was the kitchen. A similar sized room was to the right of the bed; probably a storage area of some kind.  That was it. How about if I tell you that Nasinkoi is the eldest of 8.  
We came back out to the car so we could all say our “goodbyes.”  Nasinkoi and her mother still held a tight embrace as we pulled away in the direction of Isaac’s home.  We stopped at Veronica’s home (she’s the Special Needs teacher at Masekonde Primary School).  She was rather insistent about us stopping, and Isaac seemed uncomfortable with the visit. We soon learned why.  As it turns out, she just wanted us to meet the parent of another one of her students, and began to talk about what a good candidate he would be for the Nakuru Special School.  We weren’t there for more than 15 minutes before we started to say goodbye. I would later find out that she had this woman and her child come from a long way just to make this “connection” and sales pitch.  We’re heading to Masekonde tomorrow, so I’ll be sure to have a conversation with her then.
Two minutes later we arrived at Isaac’s front door.  We walked in with a bag holding gifts for Leah and the kids and sat on the chairs in their main room.  Isaac’s plot of land continues to show ongoing work.  He’s finished a fourth apartment and is about to start a fifth. He’s socking money away to pay for his children’s college education.  It’s brilliant!  He’s proud of what he’s done with good reason.  He’s a good man.
We went back inside to join everyone.  Karen opened each of the bags one by one starting with Tatiana, then Caleb and finally Leah.  Karen got each of the kids smiling as she clowned with the items she pulled from the bags.  Tatiana’s dresses got the most smiles from her.  Caleb smiled with each item, and hid his face when she pulled out the boxer briefs and asked him to try them on… immediately!  Leah was grateful for the gifts, too.  She also smiled the entire time.  We joked a bit more before we divided up into two groups.  Half of us went with Richard, while the other half climbed into Isaac’s Land Rover.  He was holding onto 6 of our bags while we traveled to Nakuru.  Now those bags were in his car.
We made it to the Park Villa Hotel at about 7 (I think).  Dabash (the hotel “manager” we always see) was waiting in the doorway as we pulled in.  He gave us all a big smile and “welcome back,” then called for some young men to help us with our bags.  I was grateful, because he put us on the third floor… and those bags are 60lbs apiece.
We dropped our bags and went back downstairs to head across the street for dinner.
This restaurant is a favorite of ours.  They have the best roasted potatoes we’ve ever had.  It’s something simple, but they’re phenomenal, and (with the exception of Leah’s), we have never found their equal.  We place a drink order, then Isaac ran me back to the hotel so that I could retrieve a couple items from the bags we left in our room.  When we got back, we laughed and shared stories like we always.  When we get together, that’s what happens.  I handed the items over to Leah, stating plainly that they were hers (and not Tatiana’s).  The first was a box of these egg-shaped chocolate covered something-or-other that we know the kids love.  The second was a gift that Andrea got for her.  She knows that Leah loves ginger, so she brought a box of frosted ginger cookies. After the chicken, and the potatoes, and the kachumbare (a salad made of red onion and tomatoes), and the stewed spinach, we all had a cookie.  It was a great closer.  We all headed back to the Park Villa.  Isaac and I stated behind with Richard while everyone else retired to their rooms.  We had to “settle up” with Richard for the use of his vehicle/time.  Suffice to say that we won’t be using him again.  The price he charged was ridiculous, and it would have put Isaac in a very bad position.  He knew it, too, and was saddened and embarrassed by it.  This wasn’t his fault, and I made sure that he knew it. I didn’t want either of us to lose any more sleep than we already had, so I gave Isaac a hug and went to bed. Or so I thought.
Karen was about to hop in the shower so I helped her with the water heater – which worked too well. It heated the water to an absolutely intolerable temperature, so she was forced to regulate the temperature by turning it on and off.  Ugh! That means that we would be doing the same then next morning.  Now, however, it really is time for bed... it's 2:30am.

Here are some more pics that I couldn't fit in the body of the blog.  Enjoy!