17 January 2009

It's a Beautiful day in the Neighborhood...

I can certainly get used to this weather.  A dry 70's with a nice breeze.  Unfortunately this wonderful weather is the cause for many problems throughout Kenya.  Today, the president finally came up with a 37bn (I believe in KSH) plan to rescue the many people throughout Kenya who have little or no food.  This is the 'dry season' in the country, but it rain takes place just like it would in the US during the summer.  However, in many parts rain has not come at all for months.  This means dry fields, no water, and expensive food.  The Kenyan government has been slow to react to the oncoming problem and has just now taken action.  On a more personal level, this means that every day ends with a solid layer of dust covering my body and clothes.  I guess that I will adjust and come to ignore it, but it is not fun to have dust all over my once clean clothes.  That means that I will be washing my clothes tomorrow with the knowledge that they will not stay clean for long.

Today we all traveled with Sister Judi to the Kakamega markets.  What once was a twenty minute ride has now become a 45 minute version of "shake, rattle, 'n roll."  Sister Judi called it a choreographed dance of the cars as they use the entire road to avoid the enormous pot holes.  Basically, the road is yours to use as long as there is not another car attempting to pass you or one heading your way.  It is not a ride for the week stomached.  Once in Kakamega we went to the 'super market.'  Which is correct in terms of the regular market in Kenya.  It is indoors, has prices on the items (so you don't have to play the haggle game), dust does not cover the goods, and food is prepackaged.  It is also a place to get paper, letters, stationary, etc.  There, Michael and I bought some basic supplies (rice, flour, paper, sponges) for when we begin to cook for ourselves on Monday night. 

As we waited for Judi to finish up, a young boy approached us with his hand extended for money.  This was not the first time this had happened, but we had always been moving so it was easy to end the interaction.  This time we had nowhere to go because we were waiting.  He asked for money and said that he wanted to "buy lunch."  I politely said that I could not help but he was persistent and then said that all he wants is "a little bread."  I swear he said this as his eyes filled with tears.  It is possible that he was putting on an act to gain some more sympathy, but it was clear that he was in need of food.  His feet were bare and covered in dirt.  His shirt had a large hole around the waist and it hung low as if it was a size too big and had not been washed in weeks.  A belt held up pants that were far too big for a young boy as he extended a hand meekly for just some sort of help.  I had a very tough time turning the child down, but I had to.  Often, white people will give things, such as a small amount of change, out of kindness.  What this does is create the assumption that all white people will give you something if you just simply ask or even beg.  I wanted to help desperately, but I knew that my actions would cause more harm than good.  There is much that needs to be done, but handouts are not a solution to anything. 

I guess now I can mention what happened yesterday as well.  I was not sure if or how I would include it in yesterday's post, but now seems to fit.  As we waited for dinner with the girls in their house, a woman came to the door to say hello.  People have gone out of their way to greet us before, so we thought nothing of it.  She came in and shook all of our hands and then told us that she was in need of help.  She was a teacher from a local school and had a student who was in need of help.  The child, when she was younger, had experienced some problems with a sensitivity to light and then began to slowly lose her vision.  This degenerated into full blindness and then came small, what she seemed to describe as, seizures.  They have continued to worsen over time and problems with the child's muscles have also set in.  The girl is only ten, she tells us, but she does not know what to do.  After hearing this story, we tried to explain that we were not doctors.  Her English was ok, but it seemed as if she did not understand how we were not doctors.  The girls finally insisted on taking her to see of the nuns and she followed.  There she was informed about the St. Julie's center where she can bring the child to be evaluated.  It is one thing to be assumed to be rich because of your skin, but it is another to be thought of as the solution to your problems.  This lady genuinely thought that we would be able to help her solve the problems of the little girl.  I still do not know what to think about this incident.  I am sure that this will happen again, but I do not imagine that I will feel any more comfortable.

Returning back to the day: It was then the 45 min trip back to Malava plus all of our groceries (three people in the back seat + groceries + the road from Kakamega to Malava = utter discomfort).

Lunch was back at the house and we had a true feast: peanut butter and banana sandwiches toasted on the frying pan.  After consuming our tasty meals, we listened to the BBC news on Michael's radio and studied Swahili.  Sister Judi came back to show us a few things such as how to get the water from the well (let container fill at the bottom with water, pull it up, fill containers with water).  When she left, Michael and I went to fill up a few containers of water to begin the very long process of cleaning the water.  In fact, 5 hours later, we have only been able to filter some of the water before we can even boil it, let it cool, and then bottle it.  Tomorrow will be a day for water and I am sure that it will be rather boring.

We decided that we would walk to the SND house tonight rather than take a ride.  We wanted to make our way through town and familiarize ourselves with our surroundings.  Again, as with every time we go out, all eyes were on us.  Kids yelled their usual, "how are you!"  The older people (ages 20+) would stare at us as we passed.  It is still strange to have all the attention, but we did our best to ignore the people and act as if we were on a normal walk.  The area around us is spectacular.  We rest atop a mountain that is paralleled by numerous ranges and separated by steep valleys.  We ate very well at dinner and now are back to relax before bed and our last day before we begin work.