Sunday, October 30, 2011

Futile Preparations

“And how you were prepared,” Njenga said as we whizzed along on our return from Ilkiloret to Ngong.

I had just explained my ill-fated Wednesday morning. Njenga always has quite profound things to say.

And I had been prepared. Njenga was to pick me on the pikipiki and take me to the hardware store on Wednesday morning at 7:30a.m, where I was to meet a lorry (truck) filled with ballast for the construction project in Ilkiloret. I figured (wrongly obviously) that if the lorry arrived at 7:30 we could be in Ilkiloret at the latest by 10:30 (which is when I normally start teaching my class).

I sat on the step of Pax Hardware for 1 1/2 hours. I called Joseph the transporter who organizes the trucks and gets the stones that I need (for the best price) at 7:45. He informed me they were running behind schedule and please give them a half hour at 8:30 I was told he would be 10 more minutes. A few minutes after 9am my lorry came rolling up to Pax.

Loading the lorry at Pax Hardware, Ngong.

By this point the fundi (contractor), Samwell who had been coming and going while we waited for the lorry was gone. Joseph explained to me that the driver had been arrested because his license had expired. “Don’t you check these things,” I asked. “Knowing it was a dumb question – of course he didn’t check.” He just smiled and said it was okay now. I’m guessing - because I didn’t want to ask any more dumb questions – that he either paid a fine or bribed the policeman, because the same driver took us to Ilkiloret. As we loaded the last pieces of lumber the driver remarked that we were overloading the lorry.

I thought about commenting and then decided to keep my mouth shut, because he’s going to complain no matter what I say. We set out and Joseph and the driver decide to take another route because the one I take on the pikipiki, while shorter has more hills and is generally rougher. What I didn’t know until we are well into the trip is that they didn’t really know the route that well. About an hour into the trip the road (well it’s more like a path) divides and the driver decides to take the path to the left, we hear a big pop. We all pile out and low and behold we have a puncture. Joseph says, “Don’t worry, we carried a spare.” The driver rattles off something in Swahili and Joseph smiles and says, “The rims for the front and back tires are different, the spare we have is for a front tire.”

Puncture on the "path" to Saikeri that leads us back to the main "road" to Ilkiloret.

Puncture over which I'm told they will put a patch when they return to Ngong!

Now you might think at this point that I’d be getting a bit frazzled… but for some reason I can only chalk up to a significant amount of time spent in similar situations, it doesn’t phase me. We all climb back in the truck and continue driving. “We have double wheels on each side of the back of the truck,” Joseph says. “We will patch the tire when we get back to Ngong.” At this point were still about 45 minutes from Ilkiloret and had two fairly nasty hills in front of us. We finally pull into the classroom compound in Ilkiloret around 12:15 – just as my students are leaving.

Aside: Samwell, the fundi, is a walking caricature. Above is his smarmy pimp pose. Complete with tropical print shirt and a women’s style purple coat with fur collar. All he’s missing is a cigarette hanging off his lip and a fedora. He’s also got an ego that enters the room before he does. None of this matters if he can deliver a structurally sound building – although some of his calculations have been suspect. Appearances aren’t everything, right?

Samwell and his helpers got right to work. The next two photos are from Wednesday and Thursday.

Communication and Her Evil Twin Miss-Communication

Janet, my co-teacher, had texted me on Tuesday to tell me that she had moved into the newly remodeled manyatta in the classroom compound. A week before we had discussed that she would not move into the manyatta until after the construction was done because the fundis would need somewhere to sleep. Luckily the fundis don’t mind sleeping in the storeroom with the cement and the tools!

Janet's younger sister, doing dishes in Janet's new manyatta.

I had let the Pastor Johnson and the fundi deal with the labor. Unfortunately the fundi had brought an extra helper with him, and Pastor Johnson was a not around when we arrived at the building site. I told the fundi, “I’m paying 6 people for labor – no more, you figure it out with Pastor Johnson and let me know.” I don’t know too much about building, but I’m one tough cookie (I mean fore-woman) don’t cha think?

Some other wazungu (foreigners) were in Ilkiloret with the MIDI project doing a demonstration on beekeeping and tree planting. I decided to check them out as class time was over by the time the lorry reached Ilkiloret. One of the men, Matt, is a Mennonite who lives even further down in the bush and speaks Maasai. They will be back next Wednesday and will do their demonstrations for some groups so I probably won’t have class again, but I might go anyway…just cause that’s kind of fun stuff to know.

Joanne Ball-Burgess, the wife of the beekeeper from Bermuda, who was doing a demonstration for MIDI. The Maasai women were fascinated with her hair. "She looks like a Moran," they said. Moran is another group of Maasai that paint their heads and bodies with red dye. I have to admit they have a point. I tried to explain hair dye but then gave up. Maybe someday I'll dye my hair when I'm there.

Just having a little fun with the camera!

Matt has inspired me to learn a little Maasai. So Thursday before class started I had Janet write down 10 Maasai words for me to learn. It’s actually kind of a fun language. Just not so easy to spell or pronounce!

Languages do not come easily to me, and Swahili generally makes my head hurt. But in order to be effective here, I must become fluent in Swahili and at least have passing understanding of Maasai. So any and all prayers or recommendations of how to go about this are welcome.

I am being tutored in Swahili at an adult education center in Mathare, a slum at the end of my road. The classes have generally not been very helpful. I actually learn more in Ilkiloret. I bring my notes from the tutoring session to Janet and she goes over them with me. I have to use any words and gestures I have already acquired to communicate with Rebeka, who appreciates my efforts and usually gets what I’m trying to say. It's good practice, but I'm not a patient person and I want to have a real conversation with Rebeka now!

I've gotten used to the smoke in the kitchen so I can spend more time cooking with Rebeka in the manyatta.

My dad is constantly reminding me that, "Patience is a virtue." Maybe now that I'm 40, I should try to take that piece of advice to heart. Someday soon, Rebeka, I promise we will talk until the wee hours of the night - until then I'm going to have to learn to say, "patience is a virtue," in Maasai!

Security, Technology and Postal Wonders…

For those of you who have been following the news about the grenade bombings in Nairobi, please know that I am very safe in Ngong. On Friday I did go to Nairobi and there is a lot of extra security around. You are scanned with those wands you see in the airport at the entrance of every public building you enter. Other than that it seems to be business as usual. I did hear on the news that they arrested some suspects in the grenade bombings. Kenya is a large country and the violence in the north and likewise with the famine has very little effect on this part of the country; except the cost of foodstuffs is skyrocketing. It doesn’t help that the dollar is so strong against the shilling now.

However, it doesn’t seem that there is a place on earth that isn’t experience difficulties with its economy these days.

Speaking of difficulties (on a much smaller scale), my Kindle has died. Or at least the screen no longer works. So I called Amazon and spoke to a very nice representative who has figured out how to replace it, since it is still under warranty. I just have to get my Kindle to the UPS office at the airport and ship it back to the states. And then they will have to ship my Kindle back to the UPS office at the airport because Kenya only has Post office boxes and UPS won’t ship to a P.O. Box. The airport is about an hour and a half from my house, if I take a taxi it will cost about $30. I’ve heard there is a bus from Nairobi that goes to the airport, which would be much cheaper, but the UPS office is at the freight terminal…not even sure where that is or how I would get there once I was at the main terminal and traveling that way would probably take two or three times as long. I’m not sure how worth it is to attempt this “fix,” which the nice representative at Amazon seemed to think would be a breeze! Isn’t technology great!

Speaking of mailing things. So far three boxes have been mailed to me.

The first one never arrived – I will have to go track it down. The second one is in transit and will hopefully arrive in a week or two. The third one was a book and was mailed last and got here in 10 days.

I’m hoping the postal system will someday be like that of the phone system and someday advance beyond the archaic…so we can make comments like, “what did we do before cell phones,” about mail.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 16-22: Week in Review

SUNDAY: Made tacos for dinner! Used chapati (Kenyan flat bread) as the shell. There are no taco seasonings here so I just added cilantro and salt to the minced beef. I made guacamole, and beans and shredded some mozzarella cheese. John, who was spending the night here instead of the farm, said they were sweet – his go to word for food he really enjoys. Ruth didn’t stop eating she just gave me a thumbs-up and Ndungu asked if we could eat this every night!

MONDAY: Today was my third Swahili class. I go to an adult education center at the edge of Mathare slum, which is the end of my street – about ½ a mile away. I’m not impressed with the teachers. They expect me to tell them what I want to learn and then sometimes they can’t explain what I want to learn. I’m planning to stick with it a while longer but will look for somewhere else.

I went to the cyber to work on the assignments for my ESL students until mid-day, and then I had planned to meet Crocodile to go running. When we met, he asked how I felt.

“Fine,” I said.
“Good enough for 10K?” he said.
“More like 6K,” I said.

No more was said about distance…but we head off on a new route…we go through a gate and start climbing a hill – a long slow climb, every time I thought we’d reached the top, I notice that the treetops seems to keep climbing instead of leveling off and descending. I start to curse Crocodile under my breath, which is barely escaping my aching lungs. However during the climb Crocodile got too far ahead of me for me to ask him how far we had run. He keeps going and because I have absolutely no idea where I am, I have to keep going. It is the first time we’ve run in the forest. The path keeps coming to a T and Crocodile is so far ahead of me I have to stop and look both ways to see which way he’s gone. We emerge from the forest and cross the flats and run up the back of Boston Hill (one that closely resembles a hill on the Boston Marathon course) – I know this hill, so I know we are getting close to home. As I crest the hill and jog slowly to where he is standing waiting for me, he reaches out his hand for mine and says, "Well done that was 15K. We’ll walk the last two home."

"Did you see the buffalo?” he adds.
“No I said, but I heard something making lots of noise in the bushes,” I said.
“We were lucky they didn’t charge,” he said.


When did 10 become 15? Who said I was ready or even interested in running 15K? And I didn’t sign up to have to outrun buffalo! Okay, so I didn’t say any of those things out loud – but my brain was screaming them!

But then I looked up and took in the view from the top of Boston Hill and it was, as it always is, magnificent. I had to admit, I was pretty damn proud of myself for covering 15K – make that 17K - by the time we got home - in one outing; to say nothing of blindly running past a herd of buffalo.

TUESDAY: I went to my Swahili lesson at 9a.m. at Dominion Adult and Youth Education Center. Nobody showed up to teach me so at 9:15 I headed off to the cyber to do some work. At 11:30 I raced home from the cyber to quickly change clothes and head to town (Nairobi) to meet my friend Danis for lunch.

After lunch, I wanted to buy some supplies and books for my adult learners before meeting Elijah who was coming from Kisumu to do a small research project for Wezesha on water use in Kimuga. Elijah and Danis both worked for Give Us Wings and had not seen one another in almost two years. So it was a fun, albeit short reunion.

Elijah and I boarded a mat back to Ngong. The road to the compound is continuously covered in mud this time of year and very slick! As we walked down the hill toward the shops in front of the compound, Gracious, Grace’s great niece, yelled my name and came running into my arms. Elijah was much impressed – not knowing this was a family member.

He was also impressed because as he put it, “You have fit so well into the culture.” That from a man who has known me in this culture for 10 years and gave me my Luo name, Akinyi, which means born in the morning.

I gathered what I needed to go to Ilkiloret the next day and called Frances the preacher/taxi man (that’s a story for another day) to take us to Kimuga. Elijah had been to Kimuga farm and met Grace and John 5 years ago with Give Us Wings.

They discussed how he would go about doing the research and Grace called a Maasai piki piki driver who lives near by to take Elijah around the next day.

Elijah and Raymond, the 18-year-old orphan who lives with Grace and John, talked late into the night about their lives as they are both orphans. Raymond needs to hear that he can be successful despite the hand he has been dealt and Elijah loves to spread encouragement and hope (not to mention that he just plain loves to talk) whenever he can.

WEDNESDAY: Elijah, the piki piki driver from Ngong, came to take me to Ilkiloret on Wednesday morning. On the way there he reminded me that Thursday day was a holiday - Mashujaa Day in Kenya. When I arrived in class I asked Janet if we would have class tomorrow and she said no, so Rebecca and I walked to the network tree and I circled the tree trying to get a few bars of connection. It took three tries but I finally got Njenga on the phone. He agreed to come at 1 pm to take me back to Ngong.

Class went well. My students are great! When they figure out directions they help their fellow students who arrive after them. I have a few students that still are trying to make letters and then there is Rebecca who I have to come up with extra work for because she is so bright and races through all the worksheets I bring. I’m still trying to get across the idea that the line is to be written on, that the letters must “stand” on the line. I stand up and make my body into an X – “the feet of the X need to be on the floor, see?”

The weather all morning is overcast. It hasn’t rained in almost two weeks in Ilkiloret. They are praying for rain, I’m praying to get away before the rain comes. Their prayers are answered. Njenga arrives a half hour late and soaking wet. He has come from dropping some one in Waso and it was raining hard there. We get rained on a bit on the way to the farm, where I stop to grab the things I used for staying overnight, but by the time we get to Ngong it is dry – it hasn’t rained at all there!

I get home and change and go to the cyber. Grace is at Gladys’ so I go back to the compound and show her the brochure I am working on for Wezesha.

THURSDAY: Mashujaa day is rainy and fairly uneventful. I finish the brochure and a couple of other things. Elijah arrives in the afternoon and decides to take a night bus back to Kisumu so I walk him back up our muddy road to where he can catch a bus back to Nairobi.

Grace arrives in the evening to spend the night. Ruth and I watch a movie as it is a holiday and we want to do something fun to mark the occasion. I made meat for dinner for the second night in a row, the next morning I stop to see Ndungu in his shop.

“How was dinner,” I ask.
“Fantastic,” he said.
I have come to realize if you make meat and ugali for a Kenyan man, he will follow you to the ends of the earth; or at the very least, have fantasies of making you his wife! Being a good neighbor could be dangerous!

FRIDAY: Rose came to do laundry at 8 am. I am so glad I finally admitted to myself that doing laundry by hand was one thing I could pay someone else to do. Leaning over doing laundry for two or three hours gives me a backache like no other! It is also my way of insuring that Rose has food for her children without giving her a handout.

I go to Swahili class, which has not gotten much better, but at least the teacher today is able to explain the question I had last Monday.

I spend some time in the cyber and then attempt to print the brochure and invitation I have made. I go to the best printer in Ngong, but the margins on his printer are not centered and he doesn’t know how to change it, so we try a few other solutions but I end up only being frustrated and leave without getting anything accomplished.

Grace informs me that we can restart the building project in Ilkiloret on Monday so I call the stone transporter and the fundi and make sure we are all set for Monday. I meet Grace and John for lunch and then let Crocodile know I will be ready to run in 45 min. – hoping that is enough time to digest the beans and chapo I have just eaten.

“How do you feel?” he asks when we meet.
“Okay,” I say, a little weary of my response this time.
“We do hills today?”

I explain that I’d rather not do hills, but no more is said. We take off running and before I know it we’ve passed Vet, the small town next to Ngong and then we are almost in Bulbul, the town after Vet. We are still running in the field but close enough to the road so that I can see these towns.

Crocodile says, “We’re running to Nairobi.”
“Okay,” I say, because I know he is lying.

We turn just before Bulbul and head back into the field. I’m doing okay until I ask how far we’ve gone.

“Six and half kilometers,” Crocodile say. “Four more to go.”


I should not ask how far we’ve gone because as soon as I ask I get tired and slow down. It’s funny though because as soon as I can see the part of the field where we stretch at the end of a run, I get this surge of energy and can keep pace again until we finish.

I am completely exhausted by the time we get back to the compound, before I go inside, I walk over to Ndungu’s shop and grab a sport’s drink out of the refrigerator and drink it down.

“I don’t have money,” I tell Ndungu.
“That’s okay,” he says.
It better be okay, I think. I cook him dinner nearly every night of the week!

All the salt in my body has come through my pours and it sitting in a thick layer on my skin. To say that I am exhausted is an understatement. I drag myself home and shower and then drag myself back to the market to buy some vegetables for dinner. A dinner that I don’t cook because by the time I get home I’m too tired. Ruth and Ndungu will have to fend for themselves – 25.5K in one week has worn me out.

I wake up about midnight and check my phone. There is a message from Crocodile.

“Pliz.tomorrow, we can train by 11am or any time, you chose.Thanks. Cro.”

SATURDAY: It’s rainy and overcast and my body feels like a pretzel. Crocodile was supposed to run a 35K this morning with his club. I’m hoping he won’t mind if we don’t run and I do yoga instead!

Please God – let him say it’s okay if we don’t train today!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ilkiloret: Full Moon

Ngong is a muddy mess, so I was a bit concerned that the ride to Ilkiloret would be a bit of an adventure. But as soon as we got to the edge of the Rift Valley basin there was no sign of rain - a sigh of relief, followed by the commencing of the now familiar gulping of dust.

But the ride was uneventful, not to many goat jams - one or two is to be expected. We did however decide that there were four hills, not three as we had previously counted. One hill doesn’t actually seem like a hill as it isn’t as steep as the others but it is more precarious than the others and definitely qualifies as a hill. So we revised our earlier logistical information. Our topographical plan now indicates two hills before Sakeri and two hills after Sakeri. Sakeri, pronounced Sageri is the center of commerce for this part of the Rift Valley. It actually looks more like a village than Ilkiloret does. There are shops and hotels (restaurants), and a big market on Thursdays. It reminds me a bit of my hometown in that if you blinked while going through it you might miss it all together, that and on a day when there is no market, it looks like a ghost town.

In the morning when I had first arrived at Rebecca’s, before heading to school, a HUGE beetle came around the corner of the house rolling a ball of dirt at least 3 times it’s size. It was so comical! I took a video. I will upload it to You Tube and give you the link here…but from, as I am not at the cyber that will have to wait. So check back!

Joel, who works with the MIDI project, came by for tea and told me that inside that ball are the beetles eggs and mama beetle is looking for a place to hide her eggs.

“So that means…there are going to be lots of baby beetles around some time soon?”

Joel just smiled.

I looked at Rebecca and mimed that I didn’t want beetles in my kitanda (bed), she said, “of course not.”

I am however, now fearing a beetle infestation when I return to Ilkiloret next week!

Class went well, however I woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday night and could not go back to sleep, so I was really tired. Janet said she could tell, hopefully that was because of the bags under my eyes (no make-up to cover them up) and not my energy level, which I can usually crank up when necessary. We went home for lunch and then back to Janet’s for our afternoon chat.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy hanging out in Janet’s manyatta in the afternoon. This week was especially fun. Mama Semarian, Rebecca’s sister and the mother of Hannah Semarian a deaf girl who is in Wezesha’s program, came over to tell me about a meeting she attended at Hannah’s school. She has recently started learning sign language and I asked her if it improved her ability to communicate with Hannah. Her face lit up, of course, she said, it’s so fun to be able to talk to her and understand what she wants.

Mama Semarian sitting in Janet's room in her manyatta showing me the signs she knows. Isn't that ceiling amazing?!?!

I actually curl up next to Janet for a while and take a nap. It’s overcast and there aren’t so many flies in Janet’s manyatta so I dose off quickly. I wake up to Janet asking me if I know what ghee is. Yes, I say, it’s homemade cooking fat. But sometimes it’s used like Vaseline too. Nasty smelling stuff, made from milk and I don’t know what else. Mama Semarian is busy cooking ghee when I wake up. Rebecca is seated in the doorway of the manyatta beading. She motions for me to site down on the cowhide that is spread of the floor and starts to show me how to bead. This takes a bit of effort for me, as my hands are always a bit shaky. But I finish one section of a collar and am quite pleased with my handiwork!

Rebecca sitting in the doorway of Janet's manyatta beading.

While seated there tea is brought, which also brings the flies. In one mouthful of tea I nearly swallow a fly that miscalculated and landed in my tea. It’s actually the second time that day that I nearly ate a fly, as one also miscalculated its landing and ended up in my lunch!

A child appears in the doorway and then another, one in particular captures my attention … some people are naturally photogenic and photos of this child are magical.

Mtoto 1

Mtoto 2

Mtoto 3

Mtoto 4

Mtoto 5

Mtoto 6

The chief arrives!

The chief arrives home and we go outside to greet him. A few minutes later it’s time to leave. Janet escorts Mama Semarian, Rebecca and I back to the school, which is half way between her compound and Rebecca’s home. There are women gathering water with donkeys at the MIDI water tank by the school. I ask Janet where they are from.

Women loading water on donkeys. One is very pregnant!

The women are heading over the hills farthest to the right of this photo!

“You see those hills, the ones way over there. That’s where they come from,” she says.

“It’s after 3 p.m. in the afternoon, how long will it take them to get home,” I ask.

“They will probably reach after 8 p.m.,” Janet says. “It’s far!”

When we arrive home, I do my laundry and try to not be overly bothered by the flies. That evening sitting outside waiting for dinner to finish cooking, Joel asks Eleza about me and she answers, “Jessica is ours.” She had thrown a tantrum earlier, and he tells her, “Jessica doesn’t like children who cry,” and she said. “Then I will never cry again.”

Ezekiel, her 5-year-old brother, warmed up to me pretty fast, by week two he had become my shadow. Now in week five they vie for my lap when the dinner hour approaches (8 p.m.) and they are tired. This week, after her tantrum, Eleza snuggled in for nap on my lap as I sat on a plastic chair in front of the cow enclosure and admired the full moon.

I should have taken a picture of the moon…but besides the fact it is difficult to capture moonlight; I did not want to break the spell of tranquility that having that small body nestled against me sprinkled into my soul.

Later that evening as I got ready for bed, I remembered I had not photographed the shuka I was given by James the night before. So I got my camera and motioned Eleza who was already in bed to come sit next too me on the floor so I could photograph the shuka. I think when Eleza sees the camera she thinks it’s because a picture of her is to be taken. The flash goes off and she eagerly cranes her neck to see her photo. She starts laughing at herself in the picture and I quickly snap another frame. Pure joy is not easy to capture, you have to think ahead to catch the exact moment.

The sacred red shuka and the ever so cute Eleza.


Yes, Eleza, I am yours. And you, my sweet, funny little girl, are mine.

Lala Salama! (Sweet Dreams!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Snake in the kitchen!

I need to explain my FB post about the snake in the kitchen:

It was Thursday evening, I was back from Ilkiloret and exhausted and sore and tired. I cooked some vegetables for dinner, which required me to stand at the sink chopping for a good while. Ruth and I ate dinner and I went back in the kitchen to put my plate in the sink and I saw something black on the floor all coiled up and thought it was a piece of yarn or something. I thought about picking it up and throwing it away, or at the least kicking it to see what it was, but then thought that Ruth is going to sweep in a few minutes anyway, so I just went back in the living room to watch a bit more television.

Ruth was sweeping a few minutes later when she stopped. She was standing in the doorway from the kitchen to the living room, looking around in a strange manner.

”What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Snake!” she said.

“No, really, where?” I asked.

“On the kitchen floor,” she said.

I went and looked and there was that same thing I had seen on the floor just minutes ago.

“That’s not a snake,” I said, not wanting to believe what I was beginning to think was true.

“Yes, it is,” she said. “We have to kill it.”

There was no escaping to go for help because the snake was between us and the kitchen door that was bolted from the inside. Ruth, unable to find a suitable weapon, threw one slipper and then another at it. Then she remember the shovel behind the frig and shrieking as she swung - bludgeoned our baby snake to death!

I came to find out later that our snake was a black mambo, a very poisonous snake and as small as it was it probably had parents near by. The advice we were given - burn something rubber in the kitchen, they don’t like the smell it will keep them away! Yeah right, I don't like the smell either and I have to go in the kitchen!

In 10 years, this is my first close encounter with a snake! I am praying it will be my last – or at the very least the last in my house! Thank God for Ruth and her snake killing skills! Don’t know if I would have been as brave!

Ilkiloret: Not the New Kid on the Block Anymore

This was my fourth week in Ilkiloret. Wednesdays’ class was good. Not many students but they seemed to understand the assignment. I’ve decided worksheets are the way to go. Because then they can work at their own pace whenever they arrive at class.

I finally have gotten some Bible-based ESL materials sent from the US. I have yet to be able to contact the Bible Society of Kenya to get Bibles. None of the phone contacts on their brochure go through so I emailed them last Tuesday but have not heard from them.

I have a new student his name is Stephen. He came to class the first day with a toothbrush in his mouth. There is a certain tree here that’s branches people use to clean their teeth. For most of the class, his toothbrush (tree branch) hung out the side of his mouth…much like a toothpick would. At the end of class, he got razed by the other students for using his toothbrush in class! He is a diligent student. I think he could probably be an artist, he writes with that flare that artists have. He can write the alphabet very well, but when I asked him to write his name on his paper – he couldn’t remember how to spell it! On Wednesday he asked Janet to keep his worksheets for him. (I still don’t have folders for everyone.) On Thursday, after a lot of chatter on my part about the need for practice…he took his worksheets home. Progress?

Stephen, my newest student, with toothbrush and cell phone, working hard.

After class on Wednesday I returned home to a lunch of ugali and cabbage. Not my favorite meal, but Rebecca is an amazing cook…pretty much anything she makes tastes good and now I know why. Cooking fat! She’s adds two heaping spoonfuls to nearly everything she cooks…I’m glad I don’t spend too much time in Ilkiloret, I might come home a few sizes larger!

Rebecca and I went to Janet’s in the afternoon with the groceries I brought for her and then stayed for what has become our customary afternoon chat - Rebecca on a low stool by the door, Janet and I on her bed. It’s not really a conversation because Janet has to do a lot of translating. But we manage to laugh a lot and get a lot of organizational things accomplished. Per usual over the last two weeks, thunder begins in the late afternoon and that is usually our queue to head for home.

In Janet's compound, one "mother" was smearing her house, while others were making jewelry.

Back at home, I play with the kids and hang out in the kitchen while Rebecca cooks. Silas, her nephew, who is 18 and an orphan lives with them and is around in the afternoon to translate a bit for me. On Wednesday he was busy planting seedlings of sukuma in the demonstration garden.

Silas, watering the sukuma (kale) in the demonstration garden.

We ate sukuma and rice (that I had brought from Ngong) for dinner in the kitchen because of the rain, Rebecca has some dry wood now, so it is not quite so smoky in the manyatta that is their kitchen.

After dinner I was arranging my bed, when Silas told me that James wanted to talk to me. I’m always a little apprehensive when people ask to talk to me, I immediately think I’ve done something culturally offensive and am about to be told how to behave properly - but that was not the case, quite the opposite occurred in fact.

James started off by saying that he never imagined that anyone from outside could come and stay with them and be so comfortable and at ease. He said he appreciated that I would sacrifice to come and teach them and live the way they live. "People ask me why you stay here," he said. "I tell them you are Rebecca’s friend and you are now part of our family." He said that this (his and Rebecca’s home) was also my home. “Anytime you come, you stay here," he said. "You belong to this house. I have a shuka (Maasai blanket) for you. To keep you warm, but also to represent that you are a part of this family.” (See my heart melting to pieces here.)

Then it was my turn to make a speech. Kenyans are all about speeches; there is no such thing as just saying thank you and keeping silent. So I told them I was honored to come and teach in Ilkiloret and live in their home and be part of their family. That it was because they were respected members of their community and showed me kindness and hospitality, that other people in Ilkiloret accepted me. With all that said James prayed and we all went to bed.

I slept like a baby, warm inside (with the knowledge of my newly acquired family status) and outside (covered in my red plaid shuka).

Although I had trouble falling asleep because it rained off and on through out the night and I had left my jeans and fleece (motorcycle riding clothes) drying on the fence. I told Rebecca I needed to go get them. She said they would be dry before I left the following afternoon. But still I worried. As it turned out, I worried for no reason, even with all the rain; my clothes were nearly dry by 8 am! The wind in the Rift Valley knows no equal!

I rolled up my sleeping mat and then took tea in the kitchen with James, Rebecca and Silas.
Rebecca heated water for me to bathe…I usually bathe in the afternoon with cold water, but it was already rainy and cold on Wednesday afternoon so I used wet wipes to clean my feet and hands before I went to bed. My one luxury while I’m in Ilkiloret is the cleanser I bring to clean my face with…sometimes at the end of a day there I can actually feel the dirt on my face!

The choo in Ilkiloret.

As it was still early, around 9 a.m., I told Rebecca I would wash my own clothes and bedding. She put up a mild protest…but as I am now a member of the family she has to let me do my part.

Ezekiel, 5, before he headed off on foot for school.

Later Pastor Johnson came by and asked for the phone number of the piki piki that was coming to get me. He wanted to go to town and then catch a lift back with the piki piki that was coming to bring me back to Ngong in the afternoon. I should have known that this was not a good idea, as Kenyans do not keep time. But with my new found status as family member and thus a member of the community I needed to comply with this request.

Day two of class I had 10 students who arrived between 10 and 11 a.m. and who were learning at 4 different levels. I have one student, Elizabeth, who is not able to even make letters properly yet. So I wrote the alphabet in red pen on the back of her worksheet and told her to trace the letters. She completed that in about 15 minutes and showed me her work – she was beaming from ear to ear. I gave her a high-five and told her to go home and practice. Janet translated everything I said and she nodded and smiled.

Janet helps James with his assignment.

I think the key to this whole teaching thing is making the students feel like they’ve accomplished something every time they come to class – even if it’s just tracing the alphabet! You have to start somewhere, right?

By the time I reached home Rebecca was dishing up lunch – sukuma and ugali.

And all that was left to do was change clothes and wait for the piki piki. And wait I did.

Elijah was supposed to return at 2p.m. at 2:45 he and Pastor Johnson finally returned. It turns out Pastor Johnson was late for their appointed meeting time in town and did not call Elijah to tell him if he was still coming. Elijah didn’t have Pastor Johnson's number so he waited 10 minutes and left. When he had reached Kimuga (15 minutes into the journey to Ilkiloret), Pastor Johnson called him and pleaded with Elijah to come back to town and pick him.

All’s well that ends well I guess. I stopped at the cyber on the way home and printed and bound the Bible-based ESL material that had been emailed to me and then called Njenga and asked him to take me home.

Tired, dirty and sore, I had no idea of the surprise that awaited me in my kitchen!

Goat Jam Two

For every driver in every traffic jam there is a different manner of evasion, some take short cuts, others listen to music or audio books to distract his/her bored mind, some shout insults at the other drivers; even in a goat jam…it’s no different. Njenga whistles and hollers. Elijah beeps his horn, which sounds much like a foghorn, and says sssszzzz.

I didn’t get the giggles…Elijah is not quite as comical as Njenga. There were also not as many livestock road hazards, although this time we did have to avoid a few monkeys that decided to cross the road just in front of us!

I had packed in a hurry before leaving and had forgotten to put toilet paper in with the groceries and school materials that were already secured to the back of Elijah’s motorcycle. I don’t have pockets in my fleece so Elijah put a roll of TP, which was concealed in a black plastic bag; in his pocket and off we headed to Ilkiloret.

We arrived, greeted Rebecca and Eliza, and off loaded the grocery bag. I paid Elijah and he drove away. Not until I was changing from my traveling jeans into my teaching skirt did I realize that Elijah had left with my TP.

A few minutes later we heard the sound of a motorcycle and like the cavalry, Elijah returned and handed me my carefully concealed TP. I can't say for sure whether he looked in the plastic bag to see if it was worth returning or not, but something tells me from the sheepish grin on his face that he had.