Sunday, February 14, 2010


I prefer to say back. Headed back to the states. Because really, home is where the heart is and my heart is with Judie. It's not that I don't love my family and friends in the states. It's just that I so miss the family I have here when I'm there. If I could divide myself in two... well, I can't.

Today is my last day in Nairobi. A quick sprinkle of rain came early this morning but now it's hot and sunny. I will run some errands and say goodbye to some friends today before heading to the airport with David around 7 p.m. My flight doesn't leave until 10:50 p.m. but the traffic is bad during the week... so it's better to be safe than sorry. I've had to run to catch the plane here before... it's no fun and with a bum ankle...

The ankle by the way is better, still multi-colored, but I can walk normally on it.

I'm not ready for the cold and the ice and the snow and the monotony of winter...

Leaving a bunch of stuff here makes me feel that I will be returning soon... one can hope. Now I know how Judie feels when I leave - there is a certain sense of melancholy that hangs in the air.

It's time to say goodbye again...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blue toes and paper stars...

I woke up to find that two of the toes on my right foot were blue. Now when I sprained my ankle I don't remember my toes being involved... but maybe they just felt left out because the rest of my foot is so colorful?

I wore the bandage this morning but took it off to get a pedicure, so my multicolored foot is exposed for all to see... my pants are really long so you actually can't see much and I put the bandage back on but I might mess up the pedicure... oh predicaments...

I arrived in Nairobi yesterday from Uganda. It was not a bad ride except for the 2 1/2 hour traffic jam in Nairobi. We come in to town on one side of the city called Westlands and the bus station is on the other side. I could have gotten off in Westlands, but I didn't have my A to Z road atlas of Nairobi with me and I didn't know I was actually pretty close to where I stay.

I carried 400+ paper stars with me from Uganda that were made by members of the Maari group for the GUW fundraiser in April. Mary said they were just three small bags... hmmm... when all was said in done there were six not so small bags. So I bought a carrying bag that zipped and insisted on carrying them on the bus.

I wrote Mary a request in my best Kenyan English to buy another suitcase so I could get them home unspoiled, but I think I've managed to pack them in the luggage I have. But I will have to leave a lot of my stuff here. I figure that's a good excuse to come back sooner rather than later!

I've spent most of the day at the mall... I know... not my natural habitat. But I had a ride here in the morning and I needed to change money and do email, and it would cost more to take a taxi home and then another taxi to Glenda's, so I became a mall rat for a good 4+ hours. YIKES! I hope I'm not damaged beyond repair!

Am now waiting for my friend Dennis to arrive and then we will got visit my friend Glenda (Buddha's auntie).
Tomorrow I'm going to church with Ken. We are going to a church where my friend Gerald is the pastor. His new wife Pelagie is from Rwanda. She is stunning and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. We will have lunch with them after church.

I like these kick back and have fun days... now if I could only get my toes to be their normal color!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Five minutes later...

Five minutes after I posted my last entry about Uganda, I walked out of the cyber into the dark street and stepped of the curb and sprained my ankle. It's not as bad a sprain as I had in Mobasa a few years ago... but it will definitely slow me down!

I failed to mention the state of the streets and sidewalks in Tororo or that fact that there are few street lights. The concrete (if there is infact concrete sidewalks) is often cracked and/or full of holes. The streets are not much better. In the dark it is treacherous to say the least. I was going to take out my flashlight but we were only walking across the street...

Dr. E gave me some stinky gel and wrapped my ankle and told me to stay off it as much as possible. Then Beckal, my translator and Lawi (with GUW) and I went to breakfast and then did two interviews in the slums and now I'm doing email. Will grab a snack and then go back to my room to put my foot up for a bit before going to see the Nyio Ber houses that I haven't seen since they were constructed.

Pray for me as I leave the cyber - you never know what can happen in 5 minutes!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ode to Uganda...

Well, I can't really call it an Ode to Uganda... because I'm not familiar with all of Uganda... however, Tororo, Uganda, I know well.

So let's rephrase. An Ode to Tororo!
I bank with Novo. A nice Indian man who changes money out of his hardware store. It's like walking into a Bollywood movie. There is an aisle down the middle of the shop surrounded by a U-shape of desks. Busy workers pound on calculators and computers, barely registering your presence. Novo sits at the desk at the top of the U. He smiles when he sees me. "Where have you been? You've been gone too long." he says to me. The small talk commences. Then, "How much do you want to change?" I tell him how much money I want to change and he asks what demoninations I want it in. 50,000, 20,000; 10,000, 5,000, or 1,000... I leave Novo's shop a millionaire!

The money isn't the only thing that is different here. Food is called different things.
Ugali is posho
chai is milk tea
Food is starch (ugali, chapati, rice, potatos, matoke, etc.)
Soup is (meat, chicken, fish, etc.)

The people here are much friendlier than in Kenya. They will tell you that is because the English colonized Kenya and the English aren't very friendly either.

Tororo has grown leaps and bounds since I left. Novo and the rest of the Indian community have made money hand over fist ... and not completely legally from what I've gathered. But there are new hotels (not owned by Novo) and businesses and it feels less like a sleepy dusty village and more like a bustling town.

You do have to be extra careful as a pedestrian here. There are bike and motorcycle taxis everywhere and car taxis too. And then there are the matatus and private cars... and there are no stop lights in Tororo or stop signs for that matter... you really have to be vigilant. I have been driving in Tororo and it's not as bad as you might think sans traffic rules. I haven't hit anything yet. But Lawi has been doing most of the driving and tomorrow he is going to Kisumu. Will plan for tomorrow later! :)

My assignment here was to take photos of the Maari group. It is a group of disabled people who Give Us Wings is hoping to move out of the slum where they are living into new homes on their own land. GUW did this with the Nyio Ber Women's group a few years ago and it has been very successful. However, putting up a housing development, however modest it may be is still a huge financial undertaking!

I have been interviewing members of the group on video and photographing them. Many of them are disabled because they contracted polio as children. It is really frustrating to think that their disability is 100 percent avoidable and that vaccinations were not available to them, even though they were available in the west.

Most of them live in slums just outside Tororo. They make home brew in the slums and the air is thick with the smell of fermenting molasses. In many cases it is the only place they can afford to live. And rents even in the slums are increasing.

The progress and new businesses in Tororo has brought more people, putting demand for rental houses at a premium. This is forcing people to pay so much of the income for rent that they are unable to pay school fees for their children.

Tororo is hot. Beyond hot really. And when it rains, it's as if the sky opens and all the water rushes out at once. I've never seen rain like this.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the lorries (big trucks). There is a cement factory in Tororo (owned by Novo) and the trucks that haul cement are everywhere!

Did I mention it was hot...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ngong... frustrations and rain

Spent Wednesday in Ngong. Did laundry at Grace's, looked at her computer to see which programs she had as she wanted me to do a newsletter, a brochure and an email update for her (in three days!). She had publisher but we needed to be able to pdf the files I create so she can email them. This would be an easy thing in the states, you just download a pdf program. Grace doesn't have internet access at home so her son Sammy brought a prepay modem from Nairobi. Almost everything is pre-pay here! We had trouble installing the modem correctly. We get it installed and then try to add credit and then it says we have less credit than we've added. Then we I try to open Word, the computer throws up an error message and we can't get it to reboot. Yes, I killed the computer!

Back to the internet cafe to try to do the things she wants in Word so that the whole world can open them without pdf. That was my original plan, but I got excited by the possibilities that didn't in the end yield any results! Was only in the cyber for about an hour before we had to leave to go sleep at the farm. On the way there I realized I'd left my flash drive (which contained all the photos I'd taken so far) in the cyber cafe! Yikes -  we made a mad dash back to the cyber as it was closing in 5 minutes and there was my flash drive safe and sound! Amen and Amen!

The farm is at Kimuka, which is 11 kilometers down into the Rift Valley from Ngong. The ride there is dusty or muddy depending on the time of year, but the views are majestic and humbling all at once. Going down at dusk is my favorite time to go because the Ngong Hills look as if they have been painted by an artist. I don't know where Kimuka begins and ends because there is really nothing there. They have cemented the floors since I was last there which is nice. But the flies could practically pick you up and carry you away. I can feel every board under the two inch think mattress and the wind howls at night like you are in the middle of a hurricane, but it is by far one of the most peaceful places on earth. The children who Grace and John have taken in who live there fill the house with laughter.

After a dinner of ugali and native greens (there is some bush plant that is edible - it's a bit bitter but good), I gave the children the cards that the children at First Presbyterian had made for them. And then they were able to make cards to send back to them. They had a great time and loved seeing the picture of all they kids they were making cards for. We had a great time!

The next morning at breakfast they were treated to juice and bread and butter that I had bought for them in town. They don't often get bread and rarely get juice or butter so this was BIG! They also drank tea, which they drink every morning. They come home for lunch because their school doesn't have food available right now.

In the morning, John and Grace and I went to see the 30 foot square by 10 feet deep water hole they had dug to harvest rain water. They are not able to use it yet because the don't have money to buy the pump or pipes to get the water to their field or garden yet. Then we walked out to the 10 acres they own and where they want to cultivate hay to sell to Maasi herdsman. Because of the short rains in the area, herdsman often have to buy hay during the dry season.

It was VERY hot. By the time we got back we needed to sit under a tree and drink some of the leftover juice and relax a bit. It was close to lunchtime so we ate lunch with the children and then called a taxi driver to take us back to Ngong. He showed up an hour after we called him and just as it started to rain. By the time we got back to Ngong the streets were muddy. They dropped me at the cyber so I could continue doing work for Grace, by then it was about 4 p.m.

Grace came and picked me at the cyber later and we took a matatu home. It's a very short ride but well worth the 10 shillings when you are tired!

Am still trying to get a bus to Uganda. It leaves at 8 a.m. tomorrow. David will hopefully come get me some time tonight and bring me to Wawira's so I can repack for Uganda. I guess I will have to buy a ticket when I get there tomorrow... I hate not booking in advance - I can't do 9 hours in the back of a bus!

Judie to School

I took Judie to Ruiga Girls Secondary School on Tuesday morning Feb. 2.

Justin, our cab driver was a 1/2 hour late. Which actually turned out to be good because the school hadn't set up for admission when we arrived. It was 45 minutes after they said you could start arriving!

We checked in, she got her uniform, things were going smoothly until they asked for the receipt from the bank - oops! I had forgotten that in Nairobi. It took me many minutes to convince them that they could call the bank and confirm the money was there and also that I would send the receipt when I got back to Nairobi!

Then we said hello to the headmistress who was arriving at school as we had finished the admissions process. We proceeded to sit in the taxi and eat some clandestine food. (Bananas and simsim and something that is like peanut brittle.) Outside food is not allowed at school. But I didn't know when they would feed my baby that day and I was going to make sure I didn't leave her hungry!

Justin took a few pictures of us and then we said goodbye again. I feel like we say goodbye a lot! Immediately after leaving her I felt the energy drain from my body. I still feel weaker without her by my side. Who knew I could become so attached to this other person, that I don't feel like myself without her. God really knows what he's doing! I love my girl so much! I really miss her!

The rest of the day was spent on a mad dash to Nairobi. The shuttle ride was fine - got to Nairobi around 4:14p.m. Julius met me at the stage and then we sat in a Nairobi jam trying to get to Upper Hill to Amina's office. I picked what I needed from Amina and then we went to David's house to pick the bag of stuff I needed to bring to Grace's and then back to Wawira's to quick repack for 3 days in Ngong. Julius decided I needed to meet his workmates also... was very tired and don't know that I made the greatest impression. Arrived in Ngong after 7 p.m. Grace and John had also just arrived home so we made tea and then dinner, so it was after 9 p.m. when we finally ate dinner.

Sweet sleep!