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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

House visit

One of the activities that the Buists take part in during each of their trips to Kenya are house visits. This gives us foreigners a personal and realistic view of an average Kenyan family. Most of the houses that they visit are those of the parents or relatives of the kids at the safe house. Several of the children still have family, they are just not capable of fully supporting them any longer. The CRCA likes to maintain contact with these families, and the children sometimes are able to return for visits. We arranged a house visit on one of our final days with the family of a boy, Karanja, that is currently attending university. The Buists and I set out with two Kenyan women to accompany us on the trip. As we drove to the house, we turned down deserted dirt roads, lined with tall weeds and fences. Everything looked the same to me, but somehow the women found the correct plot of land. The small house was located in the middle of a field, with gardens behind. Two women lived in the house. Karanja's grandmother and great grandmother. When they opened the door they immediately welcomed us in with smiles. Neither spoke any English, but the two Kenyan women were able to translate for us. The great grandmother greeted us all individually with a song and dance. It roughly translated to: "I thank god because I will no longer be hungry or thirsty". Our Kenyan friend explained that she was always happy to see us because she knew that the food we brought along would keep her from being hungry for a few days. She also translated that the great grandmothers age was 96. I couldn't believe how lively, happy, and mobile she was. We all sat in the living room and listened to her Swahili words. She spoke about how grateful she was to be alive and well everyday, thanks to God. She then asked if she could say a prayer for all of us. A few more Swahili words were passed around before we were told to cover our heads. Luckily we all had hoods on our sweatshirts. She then insisted that we all kneel on the floor for the prayer. At 96 years old, she got down on her knees to pray for all of us.


A gift

At the end of every day at the CRCA, we had devotions and songs (all in Swahili). It was always a good end to a full day. After that, everyone made their rounds of goodnight hugs before heading off to bed. As I was enjoying the bedtime ritual one night, I lost myself in all the hugs. I was completely unaware what was happening when one of the kids placed something in my hand. I instinctively accepted the scratchy feeling, gum ball sized, object. I raised my hand up to see what I was holding to find a huge beetle. All I could do was let out a choked scream and throw it out of my hand before I went running! The mischievous boys just about fell to the floor with laughter. Apparently it was funny enough to torture the white girls with beetles, that they continued to do so for the rest of the night. And all the nights following that.

The road

The Buists decided that while in Kenya, I needed to go on a safari. So we loaded our stuff into a van and, along with a Kenyan driver/guide, set out. Our expected journey  was 5 hours. It took us nearly 8. Unfortunately a rain storm started after we were a few hours in. After you get away from the city, there are only dirt roads. A mixture of the pre-existing potholes and the mud from the rain caused us many troubles. Our driver took the puddles and holes slow, but several times we got stuck. Our tires dug into the soft mud and spun vigorously with no avail. In the pouring rain the men were all out of the car and pushing in the mud. As the line of cars waiting behind us grew, so did the amount of helping hands. As Anna and I stood out in the rain and watched, I counted 8 men pushing, plus a driver that was not even our own. After we managed to get out and onto some safer terrain, our driver made sure we waited until all of the other cars were safely through. We continued our drive tentatively, but I was reassured knowing that if it were to happen again, we would have plenty of help. Later in the car our driver informed us that he had had to pay some of the local men who had helped. It surprised me a bit, but I realized they'll charge you for a photo, they'll charge you for something you don't want to buy, and they'll even charge you for their help. I guess I can't complain though!



School

Anna had been to Kenya 6 times before this trip, but she has never visited while the kids are in school. On Monday, we decided that we would take the opportunity to visit one of the schools that some of the children from our orphanage, CRCA, attend. It was a primary school for kids pre-school to 4th grade. The teachers told Anna and I that we could split up and go into different classrooms to observe while lessons were being taught, then switch. I found it interesting that there were only four kids in the classroom I was in, despite the mass of kids that were playing in the school yard outside. I guess the younger children were given much more free time than the older. As I observed the class, I found there were a lot of differences from US schools. Questions were asked to the class as a whole, and children would give their answers freely. The buildings were smaller, with sometimes large number of kids cramped in. For their age, it was also evident that the curriculum was focuses less around creative activities, and more around memorization. The culture  made the school different in other ways as well. I found it funny that when a question was asked about animals, they named lion and zebra as examples, whereas American kids might give bear and deer. During their break, Anna and I went outside to sit with the kids. They were timid at first, but soon enough all of their kids had their hands on me. They wanted to stroke my hair, touch my skin, and hold my hands. They were entertained when I made sad attempts to imitate their Swahili words, calling me "mzungu" (meaning white person) and laughing. Although I was tired and worn out when we left, it was an experience like no other, and one of my favorite in Kenya.



A photo a person

I decided to bring my Polaroid camera along with me this trip. I thought all of the kids would love to have their photo taken, and then immediately take it home. I was definitely right about that, but wrong about the photos that they wanted. I expected the kids to group together with their friends or family for photos. But when I pulled out the camera today, they all asked for individual portraits. All of them wanted photos alone! And they were very specific about them too. One of the photos of a girl turned out a little bit dark, and she insisted that it was taken again. It may not be the Polaroids that I planned, but I'm glad they were still happy to have them.



The run

Anna and I both run cross country in the fall, so we are suppose to be keeping up with regular runs throughout the summer. I can't say I'm as committed as I should be, but Anna is determined to stay somewhat in shape, and so, I have been guilted into doing do so as well. As we prepared for our first run here, she told me that we would round up some of the kids as well. I expected a few of the older ones to join us. About 7 kids, ages 4-9 were waiting for us, as well as one 17 year old. You wouldn't expect this to intimidate me, but Kenyans are known for being great runners. That was one of the first things the kids told me when I arrived! Even Anna expected them to drop out within a few minutes, but as we ran, they showed no sign of tiring. Some were clad in flip flops and dresses, and yet they stomped along with us. Granted, we were not setting a fast pace (a 6000+ ft. altitude will slow you down a bit), but I was shocked! Although the kids all took many shortcuts along the way, as we approached home, they were still in league with me. I was beaten by a 4 year old on that run. But honestly, who can even be mad when this guy is a few steps ahead of you?


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Preparation

I leave for Kenya today. I’m not sure what I should be expecting, but from everything I’ve heard from friends and family, Africa sounds amazing. The past few weeks have flown by, as I’ve been busy with school and a visitor from the US. In all the chaos I guess I haven’t really processed that I’m going.

I hope that I am able to learn from these kids, and that this trip will be a positive experience. I've been anticipating it for several years now, and I'm sure some of my expectations aren't even realistic. Needless to say, I am giddy with excitement and nerves.

I will be trying to keep regular updates posted to this blog, but I can't make any promises. We will not have constant access to internet.

Please keep me, and all of the kids I will be visiting, in your prayers.
Thank you!