Friday, July 27, 2012

Christopher - Bofu Celebration Day

This journal entry is from Christopher, one of our youth expeditioners.  The youth expedition was an entirely new concept this year, with the youth living in mud huts, in a village, away from the comparative luxury of the KCC (Koins Community Center).  They used latrines, which will be used by the Vikolani primary school once the expedition is done.  They slept in hammocks in their huts, took bucket baths in bath huts made of palm leaves, and essentially, lived about as authentically as a group of Americans can in rural Kenya.  It is interesting to observe their perspective on their experience.

Wednesday July 11, 2012
Written by Christopher Osborn

What a day!! We woke up at 5:45 and found that we were already late... We made the trek to the KCC, where we prepared for the race to Bofu. This race is a pretty big deal.  People come from all of the villages to get a chance to run a 7.2 mile race, across the arid Kenyan hills, for a monetary prize of great value. When we arrived at the KCC around 7:00, there were already over 50 Kenyans waiting. And the race starts at 8. 

We ate breakfast at the luxurious KCC, which is a 5-star hotel compared to our dirt floor huts. Most of the youth ate scones, while several of us, the ones who were going to run, stuffed them in our packs for after the race. We tied our shoes, filled our bottles, and pinned our numbers on. Since Kenyans run at leopard speed, all white people were allowed to start the run with the women, who began the race 20 minutes before the men. We took a photo with all of the runners and lined up. I heard someone yell something and we started running. 

The road to Bofu
I found myself left far behind by the women, who sprinted from the start...and didn't stop! I ran down the road, which is just a wider dirt path. I ran up and down hills, looking out over the valley as I went. This place is simply beautiful! It is dry and dusty, but the streams are lined by massive palm trees. This view is what kept me going when I wanted to give up and walk. Looking out at this amazing 360 degree view, and stepping back a bit and thinking, "I am in Kenya, in Kenya, running the longest run I've ever ran, against Kenyans, who are not only twice as fast as me, but are barefoot! I can keep going."

Christopher running to Bofu

As with every day, every twenty or so steps someone would yell "Jambo!" and I would reply with "Jambo!". I especially love it when the children yell jambo. Some of the adults would go on to say something in Swahili or Duruma and I would just smile back, because I can't understand one word they say. Every so often, I would pass one of the checkpoints where the others were waiting to hand out water. Unfortunately, the water isn't safe for us to drink, so I would run past just saying hello and receiving some encouragement.

Water station along the race route

I knew that the men were fast, but it surprised me when the men would pass me at double my speet, and that's not all, while we were going up a hill.

When we reached Bofu, a small group of children started running with me after greeting me with "Jambo!". They ran with me until just before the finish line, which was a row of yelling Kenyans. I nearly collapsed when I stopped running and Jami was there asking if I needed any water. I realized that I had completely forgotten about the liter water bottle I was carrying!

I found Chase, who had somehow finished 3rd, (of the women...) and we sat down, ate our scones, and took a break. All of the runners were given a T-shirt, a wristband, and a packet of swedish fish! Boy oh boy! I have never enjoyed swedish fish so much before! And then another photo was taken, this time with all of the runners in their T-shirts.

All the runners in their race t-shirts

A small parade arrived. It was made up of several women dancing and a few men in cultural clothing with leather straps on their legs that had cans with rocks in them. They would stomp and dance, creating a strong beat. We paraded/danced over to the new two-room classroom. The building was dedicated and many more pictures were taken, the entire time the dancers outside still dancing. We walked over to a row of holes and every visitor got to plant and water a sapling. There was a large ceremony and it seemed that all of Bofu was there. The Skonnard family and the Guest family were thanked in an elaborate ceremony and given Doruma names. There were several activities and dances and songs for entertainment and at the end several people spoke. We walked over to the vans and had the opportunity to ride back to Vikolani.

Dancers at Bofu celebration

We had cabbage and ugali for lunch and most of the guys fell asleep in their hammocks. Benny, Caleb and I sat down in the hut and wrote in our journals for a while, trying to catch up because we have been so busy there hasn't been much time to write. We took turns in the showers because we didn't exactly smell like fresh linen after the race. There wasn't any warm water at the time, so my shower consisted of a cold bucket of water and an extra shirt for a towel. But did that feel great! I fixed our door handle because Ted was asleep. It is normally Ted's job because he designed the rope with  knots tied on the ends fed through a hole. Normally, when it breaks, someone yells, "TED!! You're door broke again!" and he comes and fixes it.

We broke out the guitars and ukelele and started playing and singing when a boy named Edwin came to our camp to teach us how to make slingshots. He started by showing us how to make marbles from the dirt. He made a pile of dirt and poured some water into the center and mixed it into a clay. After he would roll small balls and set them out to dry. We made our slingshots with his help and tried to shoot them. Benny and Gary can both hit a pole at over 10 yards!

The youth practicing with their new slingshots

We headed back inside and continued writing in our journals. All of the sudden Garey runs into the room and yells, "Chris!! I have some stuff for you!" We share our handwritten dictionaries. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Benny in Kenya, July 7, 2012

We have returned from another successful and very busy expedition trip to Kenya.  This year, we had a youth group, as well as a regular expedition group.  The two groups overlapped, but since the youth built mud huts in the village of Vikolani where they lived for the duration of their stay in Kenya, we had enough room for all.

The next few posts will be from the youth group.  Jami, who dreamed up the Youth Leadership Expedition, planned and carried out all the details of it, had several of the kids type up a journal entry on her iPad, which will be what I post.

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Written by Benjamin Cardullo

After going to bed at 2 in the morning arriving from the flight, we woke up to the smell of chapatis in the morning  (chapatis being pretty much tortillas).  After breakfast we had heard of one of the turkeys being injured during mating, so they decided to kill it.  We got to see them chop off its head.  Post-mortem, the turkey continued to writhe and flap its wings. 

When we were ready to go to the village we will be living in, Vikolani, a bunch of kids from the local school greeted us and sang and danced for us.  They then continued to lead us to the village never letting up with their song or dance.  They had about three songs, repeatedly sung, which were highly entertaining.  When we got to Vikolani, they put on an official little show for us, which included a group of boys on the drums and some kids with an organized song and dance.  It was a wonderful representation of the Kenyan culture and it was nice to get to know the villagers better.  We were also introduced to the school leaders who were all working on building our mud huts, which truly showed how happy they were to have us there.  

Benny helping mud the huts
Jacob tossing the mud

After the show and introductions we helped finish the construction of our mud huts, which to be honest were better than most homes in Mombasa.  I got to go get water with the women, and we put wrapped scarves on our heads to keep from having hard plastic on their heads.  They could walk at a regular pace over treacherous irregular terrain with these buckets on their heads without even using their hands!  These weren't little buckets either, they were home depot sized, and the children were laughing at me as I approached the mud huts, my kanga cloth and shirt soaked through with water.  (by the way, this isn't Benny any more, in case if you are wondering why i am wearing a kanga cloth and carrying water on my head like a woman).  Mud huts, as you may have guessed, have mud walls with an inside of sticks.  We throw mud at the wall to close up holes.  Apparently, I am horrible at throwing mud at walls.  I didn't even know that is something you could be bad at.  

Carrying water back from the water hole

Back to Benny.  When we were done working for the day some of us headed straight back to the KCC camp at Myenzeni but some others, including myself, took the scenic route back.  We saw how Kenya functions agriculturally and we got to see the Koins farming lands and how they help the local community.  

Kenyan farm

Youth at the baobab tree at Windridge school

When we got back we had lunch and soon headed for a hike up to the Windridge school in Chikomani.  We got to see a bit more of the Kenyan culture and life style.  Upon return we all got to take long needed showers and the Brown group helped prepare our dinner of the previously deceased turkey, and some pilau, which is a rice dish.  After dinner we had our peaches and pits meeting, which is pretty much the high and low lights of our day.  The bottom line is that Kenya is amazing, and this was a wonderful first day of our trip.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Live from Kenya

We have an expedition in Kenya.  Actually, we have two, as we have the Youth Leadership group in Vikolani, and we have the regular expedition at the KCC.  Altogether, it is a large group of Americans immersed in Kenya.  

We have had a very busy couple of weeks.  I will be adding more entries outlining our activities, and lots of photos.  

The top photo is the new Hidden Springs school at Bofu.  The opening ceremony was held last week.  There was another race hosted by Monica, the Race to Bofu, which brought out about 20 Kenyan women this year, compared to the 2 that ran last year.  

We planted trees behind the new school building, part of the opening ceremony.

We had several dances performed for us at the opening ceremony, all part of the cultural experience of an expedition.

Much of the group leaves for Mombasa tomorrow.  The remainder leave Saturday.  We have almost finished our work here.  There will be many blog posts to come outlining our experiences.

Asante sana,