Saturday was spent on the road, heading to an orphanage called Tumaini. It was a 2.5 hour drive each way (that was really 3 hours), to a beautiful but poor orphanage. (I wanted to say ‘terribly poor’, but the children’s home is so nice and sweet, that is the wrong adjective, despite the poverty level). The children greeted us singing, mostly older kids with only 1 child under 5. There is a simple dormitory with 10 beds for the 13 girls and a different room with 10 beds for the 18 boys. A separate building holds the cookhouse, and a partially completed building holding a performance area and work rooms. We listed to the children sing and dance, the first exposure the team had to the melodious sounds. There was an ingenious drum set that was put together by one of the older boys and expertly played by a young boy, complete with foot pedal and cymbal/paint can. There were a few speeches, short by Kenyan standards, including a portion where each child introduced themselves, stated their class and school. They were very confident and spoke good English. It was the Canadians turn to speak and we never really know what to do, in the past having done the chicken dance, other times just saying hello or sitting down, but this year I was prepared. I had diet coke and mentos, a polaroid camera, and a spherical robot controlled by my phone. The typical speeches that we give are about how education is important, their singing is beautiful, and they give us hope, but instead of saying that, our team introduced ourselves, then I had the children play. They first passed the robot around and called out the colors it was turning (to warm them up to me). Then I handed a girl my iphone, put the robot on the dirt floor, and put her finger on the phone to control the robot. The kids all started giggling and even the Canadians stood up to see what it was. Then the kids went outside for a chemistry experiment (the diet coke and mentos). It was a bit anticlimactic but it got us out of the meeting and interacting. We brought a new (old fashioned) polaroid camera and took pictures of the kids that we could leave behind, rather than just taking the pictures with us. They loved it. We blew up balloons, gave them our cameras for them to learn how to take pictures, hugged the sweet 3 year old, and laughed with the older children. We left many of Cavendish Beach polos, cows shirts, beautifully hand-made dresses and quilts, and school supplies. The director of Tumaini Children’s Home said she was just informed last week that the children needed to bring paper, and they weren’t sure how they were going to manage. Such a simple need, but so easily met by our wonderful donations provided from Islanders. There were a few tears when they started singing ‘We are so blessed’ as it seems incomprehensible that orphans can be so happy in the middle of a very dry no-where, with very little supplies, sharing twin beds, but surrounded by love. Of all of the orphanages we have gone to over the years, this one sticks with me. They have great need but also great love. ‘Tumaini’ means ‘hope’, so they have a similar mission to our organization, focusing on hope. It was a nice day and nice that the whole MHCDO staff accompanied us as well. We are working as a team, and when it came time to leave I pulled the team away swiftly, like a Band-Aid, as we had a long drive home and it was hard to leave their smiles. Plus there was more fun to come on Saturday night…
We had our traditional visit to Makuti, a bar and the location of the first hotel we stayed in for our camps. We called a day ahead so they could turn their fridge on to cool some beer before we arrived, as the common practice is to refrigerate drinks for 5 minutes only. Most of the Kenyans request the warm beer, so our ‘Tusker bairidi’ request is now expected, but still smirked at. All of our friends were in the bar: Shabana, Petronella, Chief Jacob, Martin, Lloyd, Francis, Nelly, David, Wilson, Carol and her Chalice team, and even Paul and Chef Ken came along. I remembered I had Jenga in my bag to bring to the kids in Thuuri, and what better game could there be for a bar? So we brought Jenga, much to the pessimism of the group. It turned out of be a blast and we played it all night. The simplicity of the game, competitive nature, and yet aspects teamwork to reach 30 rows high had people popping in and taking turns playing all night. Chief Jacob vowed to bring the Ajuaa board the next night so we could learn a Kenyan game. It was a fun night, with a few drinks and juices, but mostly sharing with friends and laughing. The highlight of the night were the trips to the bathroom, where apparently in the boys room, a stall is for multiple people (much to Brady’s dismay), and the goats were trying to get into the girls’ room, making it difficult for Janelle and Angie to concentrate on the task at hand…. We all shared a few plates of Noma Choma (goat – a celebration meal in Kenya), and we headed home around midnight, all travelling as a group.
Sunday was a day for church and hiking. Keilah arranged to go to church with Nelly, (look for a future blog on this…). Meanwhile the rest of us went to Nthangathi Catholic Church, a 30 minute drive near Kunati and Giithu. Mass was supposed to start at 9, so I was thinking we would be late when we didn’t leave until 8:50 as we were waiting for our host to come with us (Francis). However, I always forget about Kenyan time. We arrived, went in and sat as a group on the left with the women (as men tend to sit on the right), and the singing started about 20 minutes later. Once 10:30 rolled around and the priest was no where to be seen, I consulted Francis and asked to leave for our hike in the surrounding hills. We left Mary behind, with a baby in her arms and a great big smile on her face. When we went back after our hike… the priest had still not arrived but after 3 hours, people finally decided he wasn’t coming and left. These small churches typically have a priest only once every month or two. Mary looked just as happy when we came back around 1pm as when we left. We also got the chance to meet Francis’ mom and dad, a great blessing.
Okay, now the hike. It turns out I’m out of shape. I had a bit of a shock in the mirror the other day when I realized my hair is the same length as it was 5 years ago on my first trip, and I’m the same size as I was then as well. It’s like life goes in cycles and mine lasts 5 years. That was my first trip to Kenya, this is my first time leading the group. I still had some delusions of having muscles, even though this trip has been spent in a chair or a combi, rather than walking up and down the clinics, but those delusions shattered on today’s hike. Last year we went up ‘monkey rock’ by Kinwe. This year we went up to the top of a sacred praying rock near Nthangathi, and I was slow. It’s like I hadn’t eaten in days, but of course with Chef Ken, I ate well just that morning. I was embarrassed to see the group up ahead taking many more breaks just for me to catch up, but at the same time I enjoyed ruminating on the cyclical nature of the trips and triumphantly standing at the top. We took landscape pictures until I remembered the tradition of yoga pictures as the top, and we all (Francis included) took a few tree pose pictures among all the trees. Very fun, but in parts, the trails was steep and the air was thin, being so high up. Also on the way down, we pretty much surfed down on our feet, sliding and skidding, trying to keep on our feet. Peter gave in and sat down to take the steep route like a slide, working pretty well, I must say. As we were heading back, I was praying that the three people who we had left were where I expected them to be: Angie halfway down, enjoying the cave where people go to fast and pray for weeks at a time, Mary in the church in Nthangathi, and Keilah in a church in Mikinduri with Nelly. Luckily, they all were. We came back to the combi after taking pictures of locals and giggling with moms as well as kids when they saw their pictures, we went back to the hotel and dozed the afternoon away. A well deserved break after a long week.
In the evening, Chief Jacob brought two ajuaa boards over and the engineers eagerly surrounded the new challenge. He was a great teacher and he, Martin, Gerimano (the owner of our hotel), and the students played for hours teaching and learning the intricacies of the game. I was missing Cheri in these moments and we told stories of past tournaments. Apparently the mozai (wise old man) who was banished from the game because a young woman (Cheri) beat him, was allowed to return to the game as long as the muzungu wasn’t there. Cheri – you should be relieved to know he hasn’t given up the pastime entirely.
We are excited for our adventures this week, starting the next two morning in schools before setting off on our respective tasks.