October 14, 2019
If I get this finished, I’ll be caught up. Andrea was very concerned when I called her to check the language (and content) of the blog from Sunday. I got a thumbs up, and a “What are you doing up at 3am?!” Blogging, what else. I actually wasn’t able to fall asleep. Partly because I wasn’t as tired as you’d expect. The incredibly uncomfortable chair in my room was awfully uncomfortable. I was forced to sit in it because my laptop battery was completely depleted and the outlet was located well beyond the length of the cord. In the future, an extension cord might be a worthwhile travel aid.
This morning, I’m sitting downstairs having breakfast. The tv is always on. On my first night, everything was focused on Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon in Germany, today it’s the news. He won in world record time, by the way, in under 2 hours! Everyone is still talking about it 3 days ago. It’s very telling that I haven’t heard a word about Brigid Kosgei. She’s also Kenyan and set a world record in the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully, it’s Citizen News… they’re the only news that broadcasts in English. Like every tv in country, it’s too loud. You can hear the speakers strain to cary the volume, crackling a bit with every word. The current story is titled, “Potato Farmer Woes.” I didn’t know that their was a limit on the weight on a bag of potatoes. The farmers are upset because the 50kg limit is not being enforced. Potatoes are sold by the bag, and larger bags cost them money. Today is also, “Global Handwashing Day.” They’re currently demonstrating the proper way to wash your hands. I bet David Muir doesn’t know that it’s Global Handwashing Day!
I ordered my eggs scrambled, but if you want “American scrambled eggs,” you just say fried. My mistake. I’m not used to choosing how the eggs are cooked. Normally, they choose a style and everybody gets the same thing. I forgot that they don’t use milk in their scrambled eggs. They also add red onion. I ate the eggs quickly while the flies were doing their thing in the sugar cup. I’ve got to get back to typing, though, as Isaac is coming at 10:00. It’s 9:45, so I only have an hour to blog. Yes, that’s not a typo, that’s Kenya.
We had trouble finding a spot along the street to park, so we went directly to Tusky’s and parked there. This was on our list (Safaricom’s office was inside), so this is where we would end our “work.”
We exited the lot and walked down the street, passing Barclay’s along the way. The first stop was to find an advocate (attorney) who was a few doors down. Relax, it wasn’t for me. Two sisters (sister sisters, not nuns) from Avon came across our organization and asked for a meeting. they were looking for some assistance with a school in Narok. a couple years ago we went to the school after I received a request for aid. Based on what we saw, there was no aid needed. It turns out that these ladies were responsible for the majority of the funds used to build it. They were having some issues with the person that headed up the project. We met with an advocate who can help, so I will put them in touch him. The fact that this gentleman was Isaac’s cousins should come as no surprise. I think he’s no more than 2 people away from everyone in this country. Isaac assured me that this guy is very good at his job. Very good. Isaac’s recommendation was enough, but recounting his accomplishments in the region gave me even more assurance.
We then walked back to Barclay’s Bank. We met with the manager who was very helpful with one request, but his hands were tied on the other. Their internet was down, so nothing could be done about my request for a bank statement from Sienna Girls Primary School Classroom Construction. I gave him my card and he said he would email me the statement as soon as the, “internet is repaired.” He was incredibly sorry for that, and apologized profusely. Next, I told him about my surprise that the government decided to create new 1,000ksh notes, making the old ones worthless. When I told him I had 41 of them, he said, “Wow,” and almost looked scared. He called the Barclay’s in Nairobi in an attempt to help me out of this jam. No use. The tellers at the Barclay’s at the airport said the same thing that he did when he hung up the phone; “You will need to speak with someone at Central Bank of Kenya.” The apologies continued. I told him that he was not responsible for my situation, and that I have time to meet with CBK before I depart for the US. “My brother lives in Newark, and he has the same problem… but he only has 2.” I explained why I leave with money. When we arrive, I never know what we’re going to need. School fees/supplies are often needed immediately, and much like today, you can’t always rely on ATMs. He understood and thought that CBK would be understanding of my situation. I don’t usually return to the states with that much, but our last trip ended in such a way that I needed to pay everyone in cash, I didn’t want to keep running back to the ATM if I was short. Next time, I’ll make extra trips. CBK decided to destroy all the old 1,000ksh notes because people had obtained sacks of them. You heard me, sacks! They made the decision to destroy all the old ones 3 months after learning this. Then, 5 days after the deadline, the news read, “No extensions.” As I said before, I landed 10 days after those bills became worthless. We’ll see what happens on Thursday. My fingers are crossed. Isaac’s informed me that he’d never been there. “It’s huge.” Based on his gestures, it is.
We then headed up the hill toward Tusky’s. There was a man sitting on the side of the sidewalk with a badly deformed leg. He was shaking a plastic cup that had some coins in it. I felt Andrea walking next to me and reached into my pocket to retrieve all the coins I accumulated so far. I dropped them in the cup as I passed. “Andrea would have done that,” I said to Isaac. “Surely,” he replied. He was the first and only panhandler I’ve seen.
We went into the mall and entered Safaricom. Tusky’s is the anchor (although it’s located in the middle of the complex), with several shops and services available on either side. When we entered, Isaac said, “You can go,” pointing toward the lines. “I have to sign in first,” was my reply. “Oh,” he said. “I’ll sit over here.” It’s a similar process to Verizon. You head towards a customer service rep standing next to a computer screen. You tell him what you wish to do and he directs you to the right place. Gabriel took me over to a small desk next to all the tellers. I explained my situation and he called over an older gentlemen who was definitely his superior. He introduced himself but I can’t remember his name. He left for only a moment and returned with good news. “You don’t need a new sim card, this one is still active but it’s empty.” Then let’s fill it up! I purchased a data bundle and some scratch of minutes that are still in use (despite the shop at the airport telling me otherwise). I was relieved to get this taken care of… I have a lot of pictures to load, and this is the only way I’d be able to accomplish it.
Although it wasn’t on the schedule, we upstairs into Tusky’s. It’s more supermarket than anything else, although they also have a good variety of other items. It’s not the size of a Nakumat which is more like Walmart. Tusky’s would be more like Wegmans. We grabbed various snacks for the ride tomorrow. I grabbed some tangawizi tea bags to bring home and a box of spiced chai for Ann. I asked Isaac to call Leah to see if they needed anything, and a bag of rice found it’s way into the cart. The last purchase was a nylon carry bag. The government outlawed plastic bags last year. They even tell you when you land at Jomo Kenyatta, “If you have a plastic bag, leave it on the plane.” We placed everything in the bag and headed for a spot to have a small snack before picking up Caleb and Tatiana at school. I was a bit taken back when I saw that it was already 3;30pm. That’s what happens when you don’t start until 11am.
This time we found a parking spot quickly and headed for a second floor restaurant overlooking a busy Narok street. We can’t walk anywhere without people waving and yelling, “Eh, Kasura!” This was no different. We ran into someone who attended the funeral. She came over to say, “Jambo.” She also wanted to remind Isaac to send her the text I read. “It was beautiful,” she said. Isaac added, “Yes, many people asked for that.” Mission accomplished.
We went upstairs and grabbed a high top table along the windows. Isaac ordered for us and I headed for the bathroom. It was outside behind the bar. I followed the signs until I saw the “Men” sign. I entered and laughed out loud. Four urinals were to my left. Not one fly, or hole in one emblazened on any of them. “These guys know how to pee,” I said softly, and laughed again.
I returned to the table and two cold Whitecap appeared. I hadn’t had a beer since I’ve been here, but I can’t say that anymore. It was delicious! Next came a plate with some ngombe choma (barbecued meat), cachumbare (a delicious combination of onions, tomatoes and herbs) along with some ugali. Samuel also stopped by - he saw us entering and decided come up. He also wanted to be paid for picking me up at the airport. again, mission accomplished.
We told stories and laughed. Another whitecap appeared. I said, “What’s this?” Isaac said “This one is for today,” pointing to the empty bottle, “and this one is for yesterday,” pointing to to the new one. Yesterday’s beer was just as good as today’s. The goat was tough. The meat refused to leave the bones. That means that I’ll be picking goat out of my teeth for the next couple hours. It explains why toothpicks are everywhere in this country.
We left the place around 5 and headed for the kid’s school. We passed wandering cows who were “unsupervised.” Isaac said that there are loose cows with nobody tending them all over the city. “They come in, they wander looking for something to eat, and they go home.” Hm.
I didn’t take long to conclude that white people don’t often come to this school. Children kept walking by, going back and forth trying to get a closer look. Now I know what an animal at the zoo feels like. Some of them decided that I don’t bite and came closer. “Cuja hapa,” I said, and extended my fist as they neared. “Go tah,” I said. They extended their fist and tapped mine. This is a Kenyan fist bump, that’s only done by children… and a 54 year old white man. It’s a good ice breaker, and several go tahs followed. Tatiana soon emerged and hopped in back. Caleb followed behind. Isaac said hello when they got in and asked Caleb if he wanted a haircut. Apparently, they both needed one. Isaac looked at me, “Okay, let’s go get your haircut,” I said. We did.
We parked in a narrow street just beyond the barber shop. The place had an interesting layout that looked like it was a piece of a maze. The first room had 4 chairs and another doorway to the right in back. The next room had 4 chairs in a different configuration with an obstructed doorway in back, and the last room had 8 chairs and a doorway to the left. Isaac found a barber for both of them and Caleb was led to the front room while Isaac sat in the middle. Tatiana sat two seats away from her dad. That’s further away than I expected. To say Tati is a dady’s girl is an understatement.
I wanted to call Ann, so I walked outside and crossed the street to an empty lot. The streets were crowded and this was a spot that provided a little bit of personal space. I hoped that the background noise wouldn’t disturb the phone call, but I was wrong. It’s always a boost when I speak to her, and this was no different. We talked for a bit and I switched on FaceTime so she could see where I was. She was tired, so the call was short, but I got the boost I needed. I’ll see her in 4 days. The countdown continues.
I went back into the barbershop and conversed with the barbers. One of them really wanted to take a crack at cutting my hair. Not a chance. “The same lady has been cutting my hair for 20 years!” “I can do it,” he said. No, he can’t.
I started Snapchat and started playing with the filters taking pictures of the kids. The giggled like children do. Finally, Isaac’s cut was finished, he added a shave before we left for home. Leah was preparing dinner. It was a little after 6, so I was looking forward to being back in my room at 9. Ahh but to dream.
I took my shoes off before entering their home. They usually insist that i leave them on, but I know I have mud on them. I gave Leah a big hug and grabbed a seat on their couch. The tv on the fridge was on, not as loud as I was expecting. That’s good, that means we can talk without my straining to hear. Leah disappeared into their small kitchen and emerged with tangawizi tea. She knows I it’s my favorite, and I’m pretty sure it’s hers, too. I think I drank a gallon of it before the food came out. I gave my phone to Caleb and Tatiana to play with the Snapchat filters. That was a mistake, but I didn’t know it was until I got back to my room. They got into everything, but I was able to retrieve things that they accidentally deleted. Isaac sat next to me and we talked about the last few days with smiles on our faces. Leah sat with us and joined in the conversation, periodically walking back into the kitchen and returning again. We weren’t having goat this evening, we were having chicken. Andrea and Karen are going to be jealous. They love Leah’s cooking, and Karen always asks what she made when I go back home. They’ll both be able to try it again in February.
We finished the meal by 8 and that 9 o’clock dream was becoming more of a reality. We sat watching the news (which was in kiswahili) so Leah and isaac translated. This time, Isaac was the one yawning, but he was unphased. We didn’t leave until 10. The roads around Isaacs home are a mess. Not trash covered, but treacherous. Rain water was responsible for a 3’ deep crevice at a major intersection. Everything off the main road is dirt, and water always wins the battle. When I got back to my room, I immediately plugged in my laptop, got changed, called Andrea and sat down to blog.
We have come full circle. Isaac arrived this morning at 10:30, then I was please to see Anthony enter to have a chai with us. We will see him again tomorrow because he’s helping guide other guests of Isaac.
We should be heading to Maasai Mara soon. I’ll add as many pictures as I can en route. Be sure to double back and check them out.