Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bret Returns to Kenya, October 2012

Bret has returned to Kenya for his 4th trip this year. Classrooms and a cistern are being built in the village of Peku, sponsored by Veracity Insurance.

Construction of classrooms and a cistern in Peku

Lost luggage is a simple fact of life when travelling to Kenya. It's never pleasant and always disappointing, but never surprising or an issue over which to lose much sleep. After 26 hours in the air and in connecting airports, we discovered that the bags we were to pick up on Nairobi and switch to the domestic flight were, indeed, missing in action. We usually don't lose our bags, the airlines misplace them, so we simply boarded our final flight to Mombasa knowing that we would be living out of our carry-ons for at least a day. Strangely enough, we discovered that our bags were actually delayed in Los Angeles, after the shortest of our flights from Salt Lake.

 "Heat" comes to Mombasa for basic training. After completing the grueling boot camp that it must endure, it earns its stripes and is promoted to "Hot," and that's where we have arrived. Sweltering, scorching, muggy heat. As I looked at Tim's face only seconds after deplaning onto the tarmac, beads of pour-opening sweat have gathered on his now glistening face. And with the wisdom of the ages he looked at me and said, "wow, you weren't kidding." Just two days prior I had advised him that wearing jeans in the village was not a good idea because it was going to be extremely hot. He shrugged the notion at first, but heeded my advice and packed lighter clothing. Now he knows why.

 Last week a Toyota Wish arrived at the Mombasa Port with Koins' name on it. We have spent the past decade riding motorbikes, hitching rides, and hiring cars that it finally came time to purchase our own reliable mode of transportation that would increase safety, comfort, and the changes in weather. The Wish came nicely equipped from Japan, but no accessory outweighs the air conditioning system that works gloriously. Japan send tens of thousands of their used vehicles to Kenya every year. New cars are driven by the Japanese for a couple of years, usually putting low miles on their vehicles, then traded in for another new one. With the auto industry being so strong there, used cars have little value, so they send them to countries like Kenya where a better price is fetched. And since few Kenyans can afford the price of a new car, plus the hefty taxes for imported vehicles, this provides a good option for everyone. Our vehicle is 5 years old with only 20,000 miles, and hopefully will provide us with years of comfort, safety, and air conditioning.

 Tim and I arose early. I suggested a quick walk around the village so he could see the morning unfold for our people. We walked the dirt paths towards the Koins farm, being greeted by everyone who passed with a friendly smile and a hearty "good morning" in English or Swahili. Tim's head was spinning with questions and curiosities as a first-timer here in the village, attempting to digest what was being revealed with every step we took.

 Children were everywhere walking in the same general direction, some carrying sticks and others had only small containers of dirty water. I explained certain classes were assigned the firewood for today's meal while other classes from within the nearby primary school had to bring water for boiling the corn and beans. It's simple, effective, and the only way they can provide meals for the kids every day since open fires are the only methods available for cooking. Mud huts are intermittent between stone houses with tin roofs. Signs of increased prosperity within some of the families here. To have a tin roof is like having a brand new SUV parked in your driveway.

 As we entered the farm we encountered our watchman who had been surveying a new arrival in the goat pen. He didn't recognize me at first since he had never seen me with facial hair. There has been a quick response to my current look, and the overwhelming majority are nixing my chin growth.

 Tim was able to walk the gardens and see the work that goes into our agricultural projects. Our forest of fruit trees rivals any small grove in California. The vegetables are reacting to the recent "short rains" of October and November, and our families were just beginning to show up as Tim and I continued our tour. As rugged as this area is, the lush and fruitful Koins farm is an emerald island in the middle of a desperate area.

 An unscheduled trip to Mombasa to retrieve our bags is bitter-sweet. We get our bags, but we have to travel to the city I despise most. We take advantage and run some errands that were scheduled for a few days from now.

 As we returned to the village area we passed by Peku (Pay-Coo) where our classroom and water cistern are being constructed. Where children of Peku are currently sitting under a tree for classroom instruction, within three short weeks they will be in a fantastic classroom, seated on comfortable desks, learning in an environment that truly encourages performance.

 From there we jumped over to Bofu where we dropped baby blankets to the dispensary, then met with school officials for some Koins business. The dispensary is small and humble, not dissimilar to what we have in our central village. They heard about our blankets for babies program and wanted us to extend the same to them. Instead of women having babies at home, as they have for centuries, we encourage them to come to the dispensaries so any mishaps to mother or child can be averted. At first it was difficult to convince them to come to us, but as soon as the baby blankets were introduced for delivering mothers, our percentages skyrocketed. A mother was just departing as we arrived, so we provided the first blanket to her. She had given birth just a few hours ago and was now walking back home with her baby daughter so she could continue her obligations at home. These women are absolute machines, and Tim is quickly coming to that realization, too.

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