Friday, June 15, 2012

It's rained...A LOT!

There’s no fanfare anymore. Oh a few people who happen to be around show up to say hi and welcome me home. But that’s it. I love being no big deal.

Rebecca rearranged the house while I was gone and said as I was admiring it; “and here curtains. You room. You bring curtains.”

My bed and box sans curtains.

I can do that. ‘Curtains,’ by the way are sheets that you hang up to make rooms.

The rainy season has been more than plentiful this year. The whole Rift Valley is lush and green. I have never seen it like this. Janet says she can’t ever remember it being this green. The MIDI demonstration garden is gorgeous! No thanks to the caretaker who took off a few weeks ago. He was pretty worthless, I’m glad he’s gone.

Before the rains.

After the rains.

Rebecca and James built a new manyatta!

The MIDI demonstration farm is thriving. They even planted mango trees and watermelon!

The new gate was supposed to keep the goats out, but holes in the fence around the compound need to be mended for it to be useful!

Shout out to all Wingers. The tree planted in February to honor Mary Steiner and Shawn Whelan, co-founders of Give Us Wings is still standing and thriving the goat defense system is holding!

I don’t know if it’s global warming or weather cycles or what, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the vegetation, even the hills behind the school were green.

Janet, Rebecca and I had an “executive” meeting to discuss class attendance and the possibility of constructing a greenhouse as a community income-generating project.

Attendance has been spotty and we needed to look for a way to encourage more regular attendance. We decided to ask the families of the core group of students to invest in their education for six months. By this we mean that they are relieved of their duties to the family during class time. We will ask the families that we know would be most inclined to participate and let their example reach others. That’s the plan anyway.

We will work through the seven women’s groups in Ilkiloret to recruit people to be trained to run and work in the greenhouse. If in fact that is still what the community wants to do. It’s been over a month since we last discussed how utilize the other 3 acres of land Wezesha and the Ilkiloret groups have been allocated.

It was a good meeting and a step in the right direction. I’m excited to get started. I’ve decided that if it wasn’t for the flies I could live in Ilkiloret.

But oh how I hate flies…and unfortunately the beautiful green scenery has done nothing to rid the landscape of flies. Some things never change.

First Week

On Friday, my first day back in Kenya, I met with Grace and John in the afternoon at the farm and in the morning I put away and organized my 150 pounds of stuff from the states.

I’m not sure I have the words to express how good it feels to sleep with my sheets and comforter from my bed at home. You may be saying to yourself, why waste precious pounds on bedding? I have only one word in reply, quality! If you like scratchy ill-fitting sheets, over-priced synthetic blankets and comforters…Kenya is the place you should come to by your bedding. My rock hard mattress is bad enough at the very least I wanted to snuggle into comfortable, soft bedding. I am very pleased with my decision!

I gave my new day-glow orange helmet a test run on the way to my afternoon meeting with Grace and John. We had a good meeting about budgets and next steps. When Njenga arrived to take me home, Grace announced it was time for tea, so we had tea and talked about Grace’s newest addition to the farm – banana trees. It takes nine months for banana trees to produce fruit for the first time, so time will tell if we are able to produce bananas at Kimuga Farm.

Thanks to Nyquil I was able to wake up rested and decided to go for a run on Saturday morning. Not a particularly bright idea as my lungs had yet to adjust to the altitude. I did a quick loop up Zambia hill (which goes up for about a half a mile and then ran around the top of the hill, racing some little boys at the top…I won – okay, so I had a head start…but I still consider it a victory! Then came home and took a shower and headed to Bomas past Karen to buy a new phone and buy some groceries for my daughter who I was going to visit at boarding school the next day.

Bought an Android phone with Bluetooth to use as a modem so I can surf the web at home. I can’t make the Bluetooth work of course. But will take the phone and the computer to the Mac store and have the geeks do it for me.

Came home and ate a salad and watched “The Sleep Cell” with my fave actor Michael Ealy for the umpteenth time! If you’ve never seen this mini-series check it out!

I awoke rested again on Sunday thanks to the Saturday night Nyquil coma. I had made plans to meet my friend Jacqui in Karen and go to Karen Vineyard Church, but she had car trouble and couldn’t make it so I took the matatu. The service was nice and I met some great people. I’ll go back to PCEA Enchorro Emuny next week, but couldn’t make myself get up at 7:30 to attend that service.

After church as I was waiting for the matatu to go back to Karen town, a young man introduced himself to me. He said he’d seen me in Ngong “a lot”. He sells T-shirts in front of Barclay’s Bank – which I pass often as it is in the center of town.

A helicopter with a Minister of Parliament and his deputy crashed in Ngong forest, about 3 kilometers from Ngong town on Sunday morning. I heard about the crash on a matatu on the way to church, but didn't know who it was until I got home and turned on the TV. MP Saitoti is the representative from the area where I live. A surprising number of Kenyan politicians have died in air transport accidents.

I got home and ate lunch and went to Ngong to buy some fried chicken to take the Wezesha kids who attend school at Joram GM Academy in Matasia. I spend about an hour and a half with the kids. As I was asking permission from the teacher on duty to see the kids… I saw Judie come running from the girl’s dorm to greet me. I know this sounds really lame, but I absolutely love it when my kids come flying into my arms…it makes all the adolescent angst I put up with so worth those few minutes of bliss when I hold my beaming children in my arms.

Omondi who didn’t know I was coming, surprisingly also was all smiles and hugs…he usually sulks off somewhere to make sure he gets plenty of attention when he does decide to make his presence known.

The rest of the kids, Njoki, Soni, Moses and Sitelu (Alice is at home with typhoid and malaria), were excited to see auntie and hear about “over there” (the US) and of course eat fried chicken. Chicken is a real treat for boarding school students who rarely get beef and never get chicken as part of their school menu. The kids had a long list of needs which Judie recorded.

I tried to get through Sunday night without Nyquil but unfortunately I didn’t sleep a wink. So at 6 a.m. when I finally got tired, I set my alarm for 8am so that I could call Grace and see if our meeting was still on for 10 am. Luckily for me she was called to a meeting and suggested we meet in the afternoon so I slept until noon! Then I went to Ngong and did some email while I waited for Grace. We had tea and made plans for the week ahead. Then I ran into my friend Hassan and asked him if he’d like to go shopping for the Joram kids with me. He agreed and we spent the next few hours buying toothpaste, socks, underwear, shoes, etc. in various stores all over town.

I kept the items at my friend Stella’s shop. She had sent me with money to buy compression stockings from the US. You’d have thought I’d brought her a diamond ring…she was so excited!

I ran into a whole slew of people I know in Ngong today. I probably talked to 25 people or more who I know here. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone when you live in a culture so different from your own, but on days like today when people are waving and saying hi and welcoming me home…the loneliness fades away and I’m filled with a sense of belonging. The nomadic chameleon is home.

Musings from the Mother in MN

This will also be in my newsletter...but as I did not blog while I was home...SORRY, I thought I'd give you, by way of mom, an update on my fundraising trip back to Minnesota for the month of May. “We do what we can with the resources we have. At the end of the day it’s all about impact.” - Terri Lee Freeman, President, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region As I sat down to write this, I noticed the above quote in an email I had just received. It seems to fit perfectly with my sentiments as I think about the short and sweet, [albeit somewhat hectic], month I have just spent with my daughter who was home from Kenya to do her annual fundraising. As a mother and as a relatively optimistic individual, I wanted nothing more than for Jessica to have an amazingly successful [well, I really wanted BEYOND successful] mission of raising funds to support her work and the children who are sponsored. I prayed for manna from heaven; for a sugar daddy; for Ellen or Oprah or Angelina Jolie or Mark Zuckerman; for an over-the-top outpouring of generosity from ANYBODY! Jess arrived home on May 4th and returned to Kenya on June 6th. While in MN she spoke every Sunday in a different church; held another Harambee; met with individuals and mission committees; wrote proposals and traveled to remote sights for speaking engagements. She was tireless and full of hopefulness and mission…similar to the Kenyans she describes who live at the margins but are never without hope. I suppose mothers are also supposed to let go and trust that whatever transpired in those early years took root in some way. And so, trusting in God, in Jessica, and in the Kenyans with whom she lives and to whom she is devoted, I let her go again. There was no windfall, Oprah did not show up camera’s blazing, but resources came from many people – hearts were touched. I’ve come to understand that the amount was what God intended it to be, this is His work and, “at the end of the day, it’s all about the impact” and this mother has no doubt that the impact will be deep and wide and long-lasting. I thank each of you for continued support of Jessica on this journey and in this work. And Thank You Mom! For those of you who don't know. Mom just retired from Bethel University. She is now home at the farm "planning" the next chapter of her life with humor and dignity just as she has lived the previous chapters. Can't wait to see what she'll do next. I do hope the plan involves Kenya. Hint! Hint!