Saturday, February 4, 2012 Update
The team arrived in Nairobi at 8am Saturday morning. During their trip to Africa they changed planes in Amsterdam and were delayed by a snowstorm in Amsterdam. The number of cancelled flights and missed connections led to a relatively empty overnight flight to Nairobi. Each volunteer had three seats to use for sleeping! God provided for a nice rest.
The sign above the head of the volunteers says "I'll be there for you."
We journeyed from Nairobi to Kaugi Village today (Saturday 2/4/12). We left a very dusty and dry Nairobi for a very lush tropical mountain area. Tea and coffee grow in this mile high area. It was a very dry and comfortable 80 degrees in Nairobi and cooled somewhat as we entered the hills. We crossed the equator in the dark this evening. Benjamin's family hosted us for dinner in the house he had built for his parents. It is a result of the opportunities he found in America and his very hard work. There is no electricity yet. They hope it will be connected in the next few weeks. The kerosene lantern made for an intimate dinner.
Sunday, February 5, 2012 Update
We went church today with about 100 people attending. There were three cars in the "lot." Two government officials’ cars and our rental. The people in this area walk everywhere. In the immediate grouping of villages Ben estimated there were 1,500 people. There are two cars owned by villagers. We met a lot of people today and they are so appreciative that the congregation of FUMC has an interest in them and in their community project, a new clinic. Through an interpreter, I asked a young mother if her 5 month old child saw the doctor regularly. To my delight she said "yes, about once per month." I asked "Where do you go to see the doctor?" "In Meru," she replied. I continued, "how far is Meru from where you live?" She answered, "About twenty miles." Trying not to wear out my welcome I posed one more question, "How do you get there?" She answered, "I walk or sometimes ride on the back of a motorcycle."
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 Update
We have taken lots of pictures of the children in Kaugi Village. As you can see, they are adorable. The innocence is refreshing. It seems they have never seen a digital camera where they can see the picture on the screen on the back of the camera. After taking a picture they never asked to see what the picture looked like until we began to show them. They would squeal and laugh when they saw the picture of themselves or friends.
The children quickly understood the concept of a Conga Line and we had fun dancing around with them. We would practice their English with them as well. When we would say “Hello, how are you?” Everyone gathered would repeat loudly, in unison, “I am fine, thank you. How are you.” We asked them what does a dog say? They responded with a “woof-woof.” A cat? “Meow” A lion? “Roar.” When we asked about a duck, they responded with a deep grunting sort of sound. We responded “Quack-Quack.” Their little heads tilted to one side with a look of confusion in their eyes. A frog? The response was something closer to a “tweet-tweet.” When we said “rib-it, rib-it” we got the same look as before. But, there was no question when asked about a goat. They all responded, louder than any other animal we had asked about…I’m not sure how you would spell it, but it sounded like a goat!
There are 60 patients in the hospital and there are 28 beds. As we walked through the ward, we got a knot in our stomach as we witnessed many patients sharing beds. The beds are not as big as our standard hospital beds. The nursing supervisor noted that some patients sleep on the floor.
When you arrive at the hospital you may not be admitted the day you arrive. The admission office closes at 6pm and there are usually many more patients waiting to get in than they have room to accommodate. It is not uncommon for patients to sleep outside the admissions office overnight to have a chance to get in the next day.
Sometimes people are delivered sitting on bikes that others roll to the hospital. Or, as in the case of Benjamin’s mom, they had to put her in a wheelbarrow and take her down the several miles of dirt roads to get to a paved road where they could find a ride to the hospital.
There are days and weeks when the hospital attendant will ask you to bring you own latex gloves for the doctor. You will be required to have your own bandages or gauze to wrap your wound. You may even have to bring your own shots. The nursing officers initially swore that was not the case, because they were well stocked that day, but ultimately confessed that was the case on many days. Having a video camera made them believe we were from the media. They loosened up when we convinced them we were from an American church that wants to help.
Price lists for hospital services are posted all over the hospital. Surgeries are, for the most part, 3000 Kenya Schillings. After converting to dollars, that’s about $38.
Some earth that needs to be moved so a retaining wall can be built would probably take 4 hours for a backhoe. The local workers estimated it would take 15 men one week (6 days) to complete. Estimated cost, $375. Many people walk 20 miles each way to work at a job that pays about $2 per day.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Update
Today we saw the beautiful fresh grains and fruits at the market. We saw a church constructed with plastic bags. The local “Walmart” is a very well stocked variety store with everything from groceries to furniture. We also saw a local village style convenience store that sells common goods in small quantities.
On Sunday, the District Commissioner (DC) attended church and the memorial service for Ben’s mom. He spoke at both events as well and each time he spoke in support of the clinic. He told the community that he knows the village needs this clinic and if the community supports it the government will support it. Between events we had a private meeting with the DC and the Chief of the Kaugi tribe. When we asked about meeting with the building commissioner, the DC responded “He works for me, that will be no problem.” When we asked about meeting with the Commissioner of Health, we got the same answer. The DC personally called Ben today to follow up on how the meetings went to make sure we were getting the answers we needed.
We met with the Deputy Principal of a public high school, a boarding school, to see about renting their bus when we return. The Deputy Principal said they would do whatever they could to help us with transportation. She said they usually charge $40 per day for the bus if it stays around the Meru area. That would include our daily trip from our motel to the worksite. The trip from Nairobi Airport to Meru she estimated would be about $900 and the same when we depart. The bus holds 51 people and has a rack on top as well. The 4-hour trip to and from the airport would be less than $50 per volunteer each way. The airport part of the trip will need to be confirmed with the Principal and the accountant.
The school is a public boarding school but there is tuition of $1,000/yr. The daytime high school costs $35/qtr. Until 2002, even primary schools had tuition. They have been free since that year. I did not research it but I was told 8 million Kenyan children enrolled that year.
Yesterday, the clothes that had been collected by the FUMC preschool, friends and neighbors, were distributed. The meeting time was 5pm at the church. While the distribution generated much excitement, there were still people arriving at 7pm. We had been given some money to buy candy for the children and the leaders asked if they could wait to distribute the candy on Sunday at Sunday School. They thought it would be overwhelming to do so with the clothes and it would likely increase Sunday School attendance on Sunday if the children knew treats would be shared!
Meeting of a Lifetime
On the way to the girl’s school I saw an old woman with a cane working on the side of the road. As we passed I asked Ben if I could stop to take her picture on the way back. He said yes that she was a lifetime family friend and the oldest person in the village. Everyone believed she was more than 100 years old. Ben’s dad backed up the comment as he was riding with us to our meetings.
When we stopped to greet her on our return trip we asked if she would mind if I took some photos. She was willing but initially shy. Ben shared that this woman became a Christian and joined his Methodist church long ago. He said she felt her job was to get up early and go to the local primary schools and say a blessing, or prayer, for the children in the school. In many cases she would go from room to room, touch each child, and pray for them. She did this for many many years until her health prevented her from making the daily journey.
When I was finished with my photographic pursuits I asked Ben if I could give her a little money. I held out a modest amount for Ben to see and he gave me the OK. When she received it her face lit up and she said something that translated meant: “May the heavens open up and rain down all the blessings upon you and your family. God Bless You. God Bless You.” Not only did my eyes water up at the time they are filling up again as I recall the experience.
Friday, February 10, 2012 Update
This is how they made the pyramids. The technology has not changed in several thousand years, in this part of Africa. The blocks they are making are the primary building material in the Central Kenya area. We use the common concrete blocks to build our houses. This is their concrete block equivalent. They are all handmade, loaded to trucks by hand. A truck load of stone blocks costs $150, delivery included.
There is a hum in the city, a pace that seems everybody has something to do, or is looking for something to do. The people have been friendly everywhere we have gone. They recognize us as Americans and think of Americans as generous and, of course, rich. I read a recent paper that reported 58% of Kenyans live on $2 or less, per day. We witnessed it. It appears to be true.
We arrived in the forest at 7am to look for elephants in the nearby forest our last morning. Though we saw plenty of evidence, if you know what I mean, we did not see the animals. Two farmers we saw working in the fields dropped what they were doing to scout for the animals for us, for about two hours. They were so helpful, without any expectations. The main Game Preserve is about 2 hours away and we did not get to see that park on this trip.
We are on our way home and are grateful for this amazing experience. We are changed people and hope many more can have this experience, too.
Were on our way home.