28 February 2009

Picture Slide Shows!

Up Close and Personal with Baboons

 DSCF0011The major part of today was spent back in the Malava forest to hunt for more baboons.  We were in luck when we came upon one sitting at the side of the road having lunch.  He did not seem to have a problem with us we took pictures less than fifty feet away.  He ate along happily as we took a few pictures.  Up ahead a group of children were walking towards us.  The baboon leapt up and dashed around the children, then made a charge.  The kids ran but a few brave boys threw rocks at it.  The first rock was a strike and the baboon did not want any more of children.DSCF0013  We continued on our way and with machete in hand I chopped away in the lead.  Michael stood a bit back to prevent an accident with my back swing.  Camera ready to take pictures of the monkeys above.  We tracked some of the black and white colobus monkeys for awhile.  There were a lot of spider webs as I cut DSCF0019through the brush but thankfully none in sight.  And before anyone sends me a message or email about ticks, I was well protected before I went in and I took a thorough shower once I got home.  All the walking and chopping took a toll and I am now exhausted.

Thankfully, we are going to put to use our brand new grill.  We finally found a place to sell us some wire to make the grill top.  Yesterday, Michael caught some luck and a man said DSCF0002he could sell us some fencing wire.  At home, I fashioned the top using my leatherman.  Can someone get me a leatherman sponsorship?  I can attest to its use for sawing, cutting wire and bending wire for a grill, and cutting meat.  It is a great thing to have over here.  Back to the important part.  The grill is ready to go on our first batch of meat.  We have boiled it first and will grill it on the outside to give it a nice seal.  Cook up a bit of rice with onions and green peppers.  Maybe some cheese and we are ready to chow down.

In the morning, Michael and I went to have breakfast at the Honey Drop Hotel.  It is where we get our biscuits, chapatti, and mandazi.  For 30 KSH, that is less than 50 cents, I had two mandazi and two cups of chai.  As if the deal could not get any better, the place had a tv.  "What was on?" you ask.  Why it was a dubbed Kung-Fu movie.  So for breakfast we at well on the cheap and enjoyed Kung-Fu.  In addition, I got to read today's paper for free and was entertained by an infant who was terrified of the two of us.  His mother teased him about it and at one point, when he was begging for his milk, placed the milk on our table.  The boy cried and cried and would not come any closer to us.  I was kind enough to pass it to the table behind us, but that was still too close to the scary white men.  This went on for a few minutes.  He would peer out to see if the bottle had moved any closer to him and then ran away when one of us would look at him.  Most of the place was laughing at the boy as he declared his fear of us.  Finally, he got his bottle with his mother brought it over to him.



Funniest quote so far -

"That tree is enchanted and I would know because I have read Harry Potter!"

- Michael Durkin when I pointed out a strange looking tree that resembled a billowing smoke stack as the wind gently pushes it askew and tapers off with height.

The Process to Drink a Glass of Water


27 February 2009

Market Day!

Today I had the opportunity to go to the Sabbatia Eye Clinic with Sister Catherine, but I declined.  Sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed or anxious for no apparent reason.  Usually I take that to mean that I need to relax and be alone for a little while.  Since we did not have any other obligations and Sue gladly would take my spot, I felt it best to stay home.  This morning I was able to take care of chores such as getting water and a little cleaning.  Then I listened to music, read, and listened to the BBC.  I am glad with my decision because I feel much better now.  I know that I would have really enjoyed the clinic, but sometimes a little mental health check is necessary.

While I was listening to the radio, one of the neighbors walked past with her son following slowly.  Meowmar went out to take a look and the boy paused to look at the kitten.  He arrived at our doorway and I brought the cat over for him to have a closer look.  Fear and bewilderment stopped him from moving.  Eyes locked on the large white man and a tiny cat.  I am sure the size disparity alone was shock enough let alone the fact that there was a Mzungu squatting with his cat.  After a minute he went back on his way.  Jumping and crashing along the path.  Back into whatever game had been interrupted by the cat and I. 

I then cooked myself some coffee and had a breakfast feast of yogurt with cereal in it.  This is my standard skiing breakfast and it is the largest breakfast I have had in awhile.  Meals tend to be small due to time and materials.  Breakfast will be a hard boiled egg if prepared the night before or mandazi from the Honey Drop.  Lunch is a margarine sandwich with chai.  Dinner something with potatoes.  Rice rarely and eggs often.  We will take simplicity over size.  A favorite is onion and green pepper omelette on two pieces of toast.  The caloric intake is low.  Snacks are rare.  Sometimes fruit, a cracker, or a 5KSH Ice Pop (frozen juice watered down).  I had to cut a new notch in my belt this week to keep my pants up.  So I take that to be a sign that I have lost a little weight so far.  Along with doing more household chores and walking everywhere I need to go, the lifestyle here is not suited for putting on weight.  It takes a little more effort to put on the pounds.

I went to the market to see if there were any good DSCF0003clothes or food and I came home with a great harvest of shirts.  There are tons of hand-me-downs and the best are shirts that were for various blue collar jobs with name tags.  Today I found some good ones in the market.  After a bit of bargaining, I bought two short sleeve shirts.  I will proudly wear Dick and Mike's shirts, whoever they are, around town.  It is actually good to have some short sleeve collard shirts to wear on the weekends.  This way I can save the nicer ones for work days.  After I got my real prize.  I finally found a man selling a Chelsea jersey.  DSCF0006When he said I could have it for 150 I was sold.  Last week a lady wanted 400 for the same one and I was upset at the price.  She was not willing to come down and I declined thinking that I would never get one.  My fortunes were reversed one week later and I now have my very own jersey.  With all the Man U fans I am sure to get a lot of comments.  DSCF0007Particularly from Neto who continues to razz me about the blues.  I will plan a day to wear it to work just to give Neto a hard time.  I am still amazed that sports are such an easy conversation piece with anyone around here.  Bring up the English Premier League and you can talk for an hour to any male.  Michael went the route of finding shirts that were both ugly and interesting.  His prize, seen below, is of President Barack Obama with his now DSCF0002famous slogan; "Yes We Can!"  He also found a Dubai sailing shirt that is both tacky and stylish.  Market day is now even more fun when you go shirt hunting.  I planned on taking pictures of the work of tire sandal guy but he was not there today.  I have had numerous inquiries about his sandals and I promise to have a post dedicated to his craftsmanship and offerings.  Yesterday, I saw a par of tire slippers.  I plan on trying to get a pair for myself.  A pair of shoes to beat up and cost only a few dollars is right up my alley.

My last story of the day involves a little girl who I see all the time.  She is about 7 years old and I can tell that she had cleft lip surgery.  She always smiles and waves at me when I pass, but never says anything.  Since I see her all the time, I make sure to say hello and shake her hand.  Each time she beams at me and then runs away.  Today I saw her in the market, waved, greeted, shook hand, she smiled and went on my way.  I was looking at some baseball hats when I fell pulling on the hairs of my arm.  I wheeled around and there she was.  Examining my arms as if I was a science experiment.  She gave a good look at the hairs and with a gentle pull made sure that they were real.  I let her do it for a minute because I knew she was curious.  I told her goodbye and went on up through the market.  I was told that people would check me out, feel my skin and hair, but the first time sure was strange.

We also had our usual chicken at the petrol station, got a beer to enjoy tonight, and met William's younger brother.

Happy Friday!

Too Funny to Not Share...

The guy played this song as I was walking past his shop. I think he put it on because of me. Anyways, I stopped dead in the middle of the street when I heard the chorus. I found out who sang the song and found it on YouTube to share with all of you.
They sure love Obama over here!

26 February 2009



As we were sitting in the courtyard, some of our neighbors decided to come over and say hello.  We had seen the duck clan other places, but never near our house.  Until today.  They came on into the yard and began to peck at the top of the bin.  There had been a little bit of rainwater left in the top and they were trying to drink what little water was there.  I decided  to toss in a bit of water and grab my camera.  My movements scared them away, but one daring duck went to see what I had done.  DSCF0003Upon seeing the water it dove in and chomped at the water.  The sound was enough for the rest of the flock to storm over and take turns at the water.  This basically provided the amusement for the afternoon.  I watched as I cut green bananas to make matoke for dinner.  Matoke is mashed plantains.  It tastes like creamy mashed potatoes.  Some onions, garlic and blue band have yielded a good meal.  What makes it best is the fact that the bananas were free.  Tom cut down the bananas from the tree in front of SJC this morning and staff members are able to take some home.  I waited until the end of the day to make sure that everyone that got a chance to take some before I snatched a bunch.  All in all, the dinner cost us less than $1.  Beat that McDonalds!

Work was average.  Sue ran into Kakamega to get her computer charger and I was left alone to do pretty much nothing.  I joined play therapy a bit, checked my databases, checked the money for the end of the month, and read today's newspaper.  I have found the best way to break things up is to take a short stroll outside of the center for a few minutes.  Like a non-cigarette cigarette break.  I can be away from the repetitive music and crying children.  When things are slow I do this.  It also gets me on my feet and off my butt.

William came by to say that his mother has agreed to tutor is in Swahili.  Michael has also secured a possible teacher from his school.  After looking for a tutor for a few weeks, we all of a sudden have two options.  Next week we will commence lessons with one of the two.  It looks like lessons will be twice a week for an hour.  I hope that this can help us learn some more conversational phrases.  It would be nice to leave the country at the end of the year with a moderate grasp of the language.

Good Stuff (this may become a rather regular fixture)

  • Saw a second man carrying a purse.  Again, probably for practical reasons, but it gives me a chuckle.
  • Chelsea won 1-0
  • The book titled It's Our Turn to Eat just came out.  It is about a whistle-blower in Kenya, written by a Brit.  It is not being sold in Kenya because shop owners fear libel suits.
  • An infant ran by the SJC this morning.  I thought nothing of it because young children running about alone is commonplace at this point.  However, I looked to the left and saw a woman running at full clip.  She caught the child before she made it to the main road.
  • There is a man in town who has clubbed feet and never had surgery.  He gets by in town by using a large staff like the oar of a boat as he gets around Malava.  He is the first person I have ever seen row on land.  Successfully never-the-less!
  • I chased two pigs out of the SJC this morning.  Next project is to become a farmer.  I think I have the whole livestock down pretty well.  Michael saw a cow inseminated today, so that gives us some cow knowledge.  A little more questioning and I will be starting my own farm when I get home.
  • The opposition leader in England, I believe he is a Conservative, suffered a great tragedy yesterday.  His young son passed away.  He had both CP and epilepsy.  I mention this because these are the two most common conditions that I see every day at the SJC.  They said on the BBC that both are common affecting under 100,000.  I do not know the statistics here in Kenya, but seeing the sample of Malava there is a significant problem.  This is not to lessen a tragedy, but to call attention to the fact that there is a rampant problem here.  In an area that has roughly 10,000 people, I saw 30 with epilepsy.  Those are the people who know there is help, can afford to come to the SJC, and are willing to go past stereotypes and myths about the condition.
  • In obituaries for the Daily Nation there are headings for each person.  Most will say the bleak 'Death Notice,' but some are great.  My two favorites: (the first will be on my obituary)
    • 'Promotion to Glory'
    • 'Celebration of a Life Well Lived'


25 February 2009



"I followed your journey from Vietnam all the way to America!"
-James to Michael "Rambo" Durken

What do you think?

DSCF0005 (3)

"Credit Language"


I would like to begin with the important reminder that Chelsea is playing tonight against Juventus and that Man U tied Inter Milan last night.  Neto went to the match and said I should have been there but it was both too late, 10pm, and too risky to make the walk alone in the dark.  After getting my match briefing from Neto, I proceeded to play with Robin.  He and his father were punctual and arrived at the same time as Neto and I.  Right away he dashed for the tricycle and began to pedal around the center before the padding was placed down.  Michael got some toys from the Sisters to give out at school, but he was not sure to do with a few of them.  The main problem was a set of Kung Fu Panda toys from Burger King.  He did not want to give them as prizes when he could not continue to give such large things away for the year.  I gave them a look and thought they would be a g     ood addition to play therapy.  My hypothesis was confirmed when I gave two of them to Robin.  I showed him how one would kick if you pressed a button on the back, and the other would punch down when either or both of two buttons are depressed.  Being a kid he did not need much instruction to have a ball.  He raced around from corner to corner with his two new toys having some sort of epic story unfold with each narration.  The other toys were used with success throughout the day. 

At the end, Robin was playing with one of the cars and his father said it was time to leave.  He announced to Neto that he was going to take the car home.  Neto said no, but Robin ran over stuffed the car in his backpack and started to walk off casually.  Neto said that he could have it next weekend.  Robin assured Neto that he would take very good care of the car and would bring it back next time he came.  Neto said no, but the five year old attempted to talk his way out of the situation.  Conducted in Swahili, Neto told me later what had transpired.  Finally Neto convinced him to leave it for next week and told me that he would hide it next time Robin came.

DSCF0001The angle saw when I just cut at a moderate pace.

Later I went to work on sawing a therapy table.  After two hours of sawing with a terrible saw and my leatherman (I found that I could start straight with the leatherman, saw faster with the bendy saw, correct with the leatherman and so on) my arm was tired and I made the walk home.  Each time I walk back from the compound I find myself in a very happy state.  The view and walking alone without any sort of distractions is reinvigorating.  Time spent alone gives me the most energy.  Also, a cold Coke can help with I get home.DSCF0002

The Saw (straight huh?)

Forgive the randomness, but there is way too much on my mind to not put down today.  Plus the drunk guy is a riot.

Good Stuff

  • Emmanuel is a small boy with Downs Syndrome.  EVERY TIME he comes his mom sits him down, takes off his shoes, socks, and lets him sit.  Within one minute of leaving him sitting, Emmanuel will pee on himself.  This has happened each week without fail.  It was gross the first few times, but it is not a constant source of humor.  It is like a ticking bomb each time he comes and a cause for celebration when it happens.  Sort of like going to see Old Faithful, but urine rather than hot water.
  • Michael received his first package today.  It was sent on Feb 2 and made it to Malava today.  That is 24 days total.  He has others in the mail that were sent around the same time.  I estimate that packages will take between 3 and 6 weeks to come.  So anyone who wants to send me a birthday package should get on it soon!
  • Cost of customs for a package of books and pencils was about $3, but it cost about $40 to send.
  • Saw another person wearing tire sandals.  This confirms that non-white people do in face make purchases from tire sandal guy.
  • Can buy fresh french fries for 10 KSH
  • There is a place with refrigerated drinks that are in face cold.
  • Saw the following posted in a shop: Dear Customers, You are very important to my business but remember credit language is Businesses Poison Welcome (as written including italics and punctuation)


Written as it happened (Pictures are the lecture notes provided by our guest, James)

Drunk guy came by to greet us and tell us that he has seen me when I buy vegetables from his mother.  Her stand is right behind our house and she is one of the people we have worked on becoming friends with.  She gives me pretty good deals and is nothing less than nice every time I pass.  Her son was very drunk and we could not understand much of what he said.  He said to us that he calls me "Chuck Norris" because of my beard.  He has seen Walker Texas Ranger on TV and believes that I resemble him.  I do not see the resemblance, but I will take it.  His favorite musicians: R Kelly, Luther Vandross and Dolly Parton.  DSCF0008Gave us a language lesson with a bucket on his head to denote his being from another region.  "I normally call Americans 'The Obamas'."  Sits down on ground to talk more.  Inches back to lean against poll, leans and no poll, inches back further, no poll, more and finds the poll.  Now giving history lesson of Kenyans on one of Michael's composition books.  Diagram that makes no sense.  Birth of Kenyan tribes. Nine kids and something for 5 minutes.  He wavers in and out of coherence due to drunkenness.  Talking about politics.  Something about the President. Mount Kenya...Called me Chuck Norris again.  Last child is "Gift from God, like a discount."  Gave me a hard time for typing.  "I am sorry my handwriting is like a frog. A frog from a pond."  "Chuck Norris is very busy."  Kenyatta said no rulership should pass the Chania River and Kibaki is from above the river near Mt. Kenya (keeps repeating).  Mt Kenya Mafia. Attempts to tell us something in Kikuyu.  War result of broken prophesy.  Still talks about Kenyatta prophesy.  Kibaki finance DSCF0007minister for Kenyatta.  1982 Air Force coup attempt - General Kibwana and Ochukh.  Ochukh caught in Tanzania and beheaded.  "I know a woman who had, chopped off the mammary gland, chopped off (with a downward motion on his chest)."  Asks for help with money or job.  "I feel guilty, I feel bad."  Wants small job around our house in America.  Michael is Rambo.  Kept leaning back when sitting on stool and nearly fell over tDSCF0006ime and time again.  Told us that we might think he is drunk because he comes close to falling over.  Notorious is his favorite along with Akon.  Call him "GI" or "Rastaman."  Swahili language lesson.  Goodbye.  Says he will be back tomorrow to talk more. 

No commentary needed.


Happy Birthday Patty D!

24 February 2009


It has finally processed and is 'Live' on YouTube. I hope you enjoy.

Or go to YouTube to see it.

For my Dad and Brother

Cowboy Fans in Kenya...

YouTube is killing me!

I removed the video I posted yesterday because YouTube seems to be moving at a snails pace to "process" the video. I do not know what that means, but I do know that the video is not working as of now. I will repost when it is working.

Also, even more pictures have hit my picasa page and as you may have seen my guest writer has added a few pictures. So thanks to Kiirsten for posting all my pictures.

See the Pictures so far - http://picasaweb.google.com/E.Thomas.Murphy

More pictures are being sent this very minute!


I made the decision to bring the radio to work today.  Not only was it a great decision, but it made the more boring points pass.  It also gave Sue and I different things to talk about and a well needed distraction from hearing more of 'Asante Sana Jesu' in the background.  With spirits high and some good BBC programming to get by, today was a breeze.  Today was mostly small children and infants so the opportunity to do some play therapy was few and far between.  I did get the chance to kick around a ball with one of the children, but he was too scared of me to have a sustained pass.  Children under the age 2 are either terrified or love me.  The terrified ones will run away and hide behind their mother, peeking behind her dress to make sure that they really did see me and to watch if I get closer.  I will stay away at this point.  This means that the child will just stare at me for the reminder of the time he or she is in play therapy.  The ones who have no problem with me will play and laugh as I make some goofy face.  The older kids are usually shy, but have no problem with me working with them.  It is as if they are at the stage where they are too cool to care that a Mzungu is there.  They put on their best act of indifference and go about as if I am not there.  I will not complain about these kids, it is nice to see some kids who do not go crazy when they spot me.

Some of the young pre-k kids that have school behind the SJC saw me today and began to shout the all too common "Mzungu, Mzungu, Mzungu!"  I have found that a reply of "Watoto, Watoto, Watoto!" (Watoto meaning Children) can be fun to shout back and will both make them stop and laugh.  The way I figure is that its better to have them laugh a bit at me than shout Mzungu at the top of their lungs.  Almost two months in and it is still strange to be the center of attention.  I think I have gotten over the whole feeling of isolation due to being a foreigner with a different skin color.  I walk around town and do not feel completely out of place.  I will never be a normal part of Malava, but I can get around and not think about how much I stand out.  That is until a child starts yelling Mzungu.  The reality hits and I remember that I am in fact in Kenya.  That about illustrates the cycle of each day.  There are stretches where I do not really think about where I am and I feel as if everything is going normally.  Then, SLAP somebody or some thing gives me a harsh reminder that I am very far from home.  It is not homesickness, it is just the truth.  I will always be an American in Kenya.  As much as I want to try to fit in, it will only be to a certain extent.  There will always be a gap between myself and everyone here that I cannot jump or even attempt to build bridge (despite my carpentry skills) piece by piece.  Maybe all I can do is just stand at the side of some great river, look across at the people, check out the fish in the middle and on occasion toss out a line and catch a few things from the other side.

23 February 2009

Kiirsten Invades Tom's Blog

Hey! Since Tom has been having trouble downloading pictures he sent them to me and I was able to download them onto his picture page and put up some of my favorites here. Kiirsten

More Monday

Not a whole lot to report about today.  As I already mentioned, my camera is back to full function.  Now that I have figured out the best way to send pictures, expect more and more to appear on my Picasa page.  Of course the best of the best will be featured here.

Today I worked solo for the most part.  Sue came in for the morning but had to dash home to catch the electrician and make sure that no more chargers would be fried at her house.  Monday seems to be the most constant stream of clients, but they are mostly infants.  This leaves me with very little to do.  So I did my usual update of my databases, check through the registration and transport books, counted the money and tried to stay awake.  I should have gone to bed early last night but did not and I paid for it today.   So when I got home, I watched some Planet Earth and slouched in the couch with my legs up.  William made a visit to work and here as he makes his last preparations before returning to Uganda.

The rains seem to be creeping their way into the clouds.  Currently a few drops are landing overhead at what may be the first of the rainy season.  It has been unbearably dry the past few weeks and a change is necessary.  I think I talk about the weather a lot more that I used to.  I read that it is an important topic of conversation here, but I now see why.  I have become obsessed with when to do what based on the weather.  The mornings are always cool so that is the best time to be active.  Mid-day is just the sun and blue sky.  Not much to do then.  Evening the sun sets quickly and that is when it rains..if it does.  I have begun to find a rhythm here and each day has become more fun.  Even when I do nothing like today.  There are still aspects of the day that I find myself adjusting to.  The amount of free time can be hard to fill.  I constantly struggle with the feeling of inactivity because there is so much time to read.  However, I remind myself that I only feel this way because I am not filling empty time with my phone, internet and television.  Yes, I use the computer daily, but not for long.  I can no longer waste hours looking at various wikipedia articles or facebook pages.  It is hard to not have the diversions that I enjoyed at home, but it is also nice to spend more time reading and not sitting around the house.  If I am bored there is always housework to be done.

Happy Birthday Dan R!

22 February 2009

Pictures Uploaded

With a little help States side, I was able to put up another photo album.  Some pictures have already been seen, but others have not.  You can click to see my pictures on the right hand side or look at the album right.....

Tumaini Miles of Smiles

I did not mention the name of the orphanage where Michael and Jean work. Well I did a long time ago, but since we hung out with orphans today I thought I would give it its due. I encourage everyone to check out the website here. It was started by Lori and is now kept by Michael.  They have an option to sponsor a child.  The work that the orphanage does is special and the woman who is the founder, Rose, is one inspirational lady.
At the very least browse the site and learn more about where Jean and Michael teach and the kids that we made luch for today.

Tired = Fun

With the afternoon set, this morning was very busy.  We had to cut, boil and fry the meat.  Pick up chapattis, get the juice, cut the potatoes and head over to the orphanage.  Constant work from 8 to 11 ensued before we went out to catch the matatu.  We filled our backpacks and shared the duty of carrying a bag of cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, green peppers and garlic that must have weighed at least 20 pounds. boys It could not have been accomplished before some of the boys came by to say hello after church.  Since Michael had his camera he snapped a photo of me with the boys.  Since we have so many visitors we figure that we should start to document them on occasion just to prove that kids will just walk on into our courtyard to see the two mzungu's hanging out.  I made a quick change of clothes and we were on our way to the orphanage.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the children with a song and a poem.  They did a song and poem the first time I met them and I am still impressed that they can recall from memory different songs.  IMG_2685

At this point I should get my major frustration of the day out of the way.  Just now I relized that my external hard drive has stopped working and I am unable to get the photos off of my camera.  I forgot the cord from the camera to the computer but was able to use the hard drive because it had a card reader.  I say this all now because I took about 4 minutes of video of the children singing (as seen below) and a bunch of photos that I want to share.  Michael did a fine job and fortunately I can bring you some photos from today.  I hope to have this issue resolved soon, Kids Sing 2but I imagine that it may require a small package from home that may take up to a month.

Ok, after the song we hung out with the kids as the cooking began.  We had our first experience with true Kenyan cooking.  First of all it was indoors.  You light a fire in-between three large rocks that act as stability for the pot.  We filled the pot with the vegetables and potatoes and did our cooking in what became a 8' X 8' oven.  The smoke was like standing in a room full of onions.  I had to wear my sunglasses just to keep some from burning out my eyes.

Spoon BaseballOnce everything was in order, we chatted with Hezbon and then played with the kids.  Michael had his tennis ball and we had an extra wooden spoon.  The baseball fan that I am led to the introduction of modified-Kenyan baseball sort of.  We showed them what to do (pitch and hit) and left them to play their own version.  It would have been far too complicated to explain rules and all that, but a few took to it immediately.  IMG_2681The form is nothing to brag about, but they could give the ball a ride with a spoon that was at its widest point still more narrow than a baseball bat.  Shortly after Hezbon came out with the balloons.baloon master  They made necklaces for the children and I tried my hand at balloon animals.  Without any formal training and no artistic ability, I crafted away the most phallic hat ever, an awkward bracelet and a sword.  At the very least I think that the kids enjoyed some sort of attempt in making something other than a ring to wear around your neck.  As the got their balloons the kids went over to hang out rock cropping in the front yard.  This is where they sang a bunch of different songs that are recorded on my camera (will be made into a full video the second I can do it).  Kids SingIt was rewarding to have a fun day with a group of able-bodied children.  It can get depressing at times to be working at the SJC when all the children that come in are in such terrible shape.  These kids, despite being orphans, were in great spirit and full of unrelenting energy.  I now sit tired as I write, but it was well worth the effort.Dora

Lunch was served.  A few were not a fan of mashed potatoes, but a couple were a constant stream of spoon to food to mouth to food to mouth until there was nothing left.  The little ones particularly liked the meal.  Or at least had no problem eating their entire bowl-full.  As a treat we announced that we had brought my computer over to watch a movie.  Being the Disney fan that I am, I brought over The Jungle Book.  The kids went wild.  I am in no way exaggerating their reaction.  They rolled wildly as the parade of elephants marched and sang along.  Little Dora, 02-22-09-150253pictured above and with my sunglasses on below was the narrator of the film.  She told everyone what she thought the characters were saying because she knows no English.  When songs came on she dances around and even tried to sing along with King Louie.  It is remarkable that Disney really does transcend cultures and silly humor (Mwogli holding onto a tree as Bagera pulls him by his underwear) will make any group of kids howl with 02-22-09-150419laughter.  I did not get to hear much of the film but sat content in the back with Michael knowing that the children were having fun.  Towards the end Dora, who is shy and usually cries at everything especially mzungus, came to sit by us and tried on my sunglasses.  Michael took two quick pictures on his cell phone because there were no cameras ready.  Check out the pose on the left.  With a better camera I say Michael and Dora are ready for a Vogue cover, but Ann Wintour is the editor not me.

After the movie we said our goodbyes and began to walk home.  However, we came up with the idea that we should scramble up a group of rocks to check out the view of the valley.  I led the way as we maneuvered amongst prickers and rocks.  My shirt by no means is thankful for the excursion, but it was fun and worth the attempt.  We took a bunch of pictures of the landscape and a few of each other.  Michael told me to do something fun.  Therefore I came up with the most fun picture tribute.  I did my best Dan Ricotta pose.  Dan R PoseIf you have ever seen pictures of him, he is always standing over some great landscape with his arms outspread as if he is both celebrating and about to do a Blaine levitation.  Mine is more like arms outspread like Macbeth swearing to the Gods or maybe trying to ask for a little rain on a dry and hot day.  The rains will be soon, very soon, and I will likely hate them, but all I want is for it to rain one day this week.  Just one day.

Being that we stick out like sore thumbs at ground level, two tall white guys on the top of some rocks is sure to draw attention.Kids followed 1  So what did the kids do?  Follow us of course.  As took in the full view and Malava in the distance, some kids climbed up after us.  I do not want to make it seem as if I am some sort of master climber or that I accompished a great feat, but the inclines were not easy and the vegetation was harsh.  The kids made it up to us with less clothes and no shoes.  They are smaller, but it had to hurt to walk on prickers and up the rocks barefoot.  We found our way down after seemingly trapping ourselves on the top of a rock and walked the trail back to catch a matatu home.

follow up the rocksThe last thing I want to note is the fact that I had my first stalk of sugar cane.  As I may have already mentioned, children steal the cane from trucks and straight off the stalks.  They chew the inside of the cane and spit out the rest.  I have wanted to try for awhile and got the chance when we saw some kids with huge stalks.  Michael asked if they would give us a piece and they gladly broke off a section.  The stalk looks like bamboo and is hard.  The inside is soft and stringy.  I took a bite into the middle and my teeth melted into the pure sugar.  The stringy wood-like center almost entirely melted as raw sugar filled my mouth.  It was sweet and refreshing.  I understand why children steal the canes.  I imagine that it is terrible for your teeth, but I enjoyed it for the entire walk.

Back to work tomorrow.


All photos courtesy of Michael Durkin.

21 February 2009

Super Saturday

What was originally planed as an action packed day has been reduced to a day of cleaning, BBC and Chelsea.  Last night we relaxed outside under the canopy of night with a fire of trash and whatever wood we could find.  It was refreshing to have a night of complete relaxation that did not require a movie or book.  We made a late night exploration to find out what building is always playing music so loudly at night.  Near the SJC a home that is dimly lit plays music well past midnight.  We thought that it was going to be a bar, but there was little sign of life coming from the home save the music.  Disappointed, we made the longer walk back along the dirt road with the light of my headlamp and the stars.  No moon, must have been a new moon because there was not a single cloud.

I arose at my traditional 7am, even on a weekend, and did the routine of boiling water, filling shower bag and playing with cat.  It becomes more and more fun to do these same activities each morning.  I can turn everything off for an hour each morning and not think.  Too often I am stuck with just my own thoughts and I need a rest that involves my eyes being open.  I had my coffee, paper and BBC to catch up on the news of the week.  Swahili studies resumed for a bit.  I fixed our rain tank device so that it will no longer leak, did some minor cleaning while Michael washed the floors, and began preparing for tomorrow's meal.  I peeled and cut what I can only estimate to be at least 10 pounds of carrots and potatoes.  In terms of time, it took me between 2 and 3 hours and I still have more potatoes left.  Michael chopped peppers and onions.  Tomorrow morning will be a full on catering service.  We are cooking for 25 and boiling takes forever at this altitude.

Sadly, Neto called me and said that the Chelsea game would not be televised due to a problem with the tv service.  I was left to listening to a discussion on Darwin and finally the second half of the match.  Chelsea won 1-0 to move back into 3rd place, but catching Man U seems to be nearly impossible.  It has been a slow day but a nice one.  The sun was out in full force to make it much easier to stay about the house.  Tonight I will probably toss on a movie and make sure to get to bed a little early.


The above video is the presentation from NDMVA Hartford for this year. I served with the Hartford team last year and taught at St. Martin de Porres Academy. I have not seen the video due to the terrible internet here, but I am sure that it is a good video. At the very least you can see SMPA.
Note - The video is silent, so do not be fooled by moments where you may think that there is an audio problem.

20 February 2009

Home is where the rug is...

Our work to make this place more like our very own home has yielded another successful trip to Kakamega.  We got the essentials for living (yeast, spices, house and clothes cleaners, silverware, etc) and the essentials for comfort (a 7' x 11' rug).  The best purchase, the rug, covers the majority of our living room.  This means that a strict no shoe rule has been put in effect.  It also means that we can hang out in the living room and not worry about ending up with orange feet by the time we go to bed. 

The second most important thing we did was sign up for M-Pesa.  M-Pesa is SafariCom's sort of banking service.  You sign up for free and deposit money.  This allows us to withdraw money from an M-Pesa dealer or ATM in Malava.  Before now, we had to go to Kakamega and take out a large sum of money to last until the next trip.  With M-Pesa we do not have to go to Kakamega as often.  In addition, we can top-up our phones and internet with M-Pesa money.  I do not have to search around for 250 KSH cards and save them up.  It is free to top-up.  Then, you can also make money transfers to other phones with M-Pesa.  Essentially, you just send a text message and money moves from your account to the recipients.  I continue to be amazed at the way that technology has adapted throughout the country.  The service is now beginning to build up businesses where you can buy your goods through a M-Pesa transfer.  I still cannot have a shower tonight because I did not fill up my bag, nor can I fill up a glass of tap water, or wash my hands at the sink.  However, I can post this blog, call the United States, text Sue, and send money to Michael over my phone.  In addition, I can go to a phone dealer and buy, at a very expensive price, an unlocked iphone that can work on any service provider.  If that costs too much, I can get a blackberry, Nokia, LG and so on.  The phone system is genius, but roads, electricity, and water are terrible.

Number three was chicken and chips.  Usually this would top a Friday, but the chicken was sub-par and the rug is that good.  It has been nice to have our group Friday lunches and Sunday brunches (nice rhyme).  Number four, we found hamburger two packs!  Tonight will be a fried cheeseburger with onions and green peppers....and some rum and cokes to wash them down.  Number five, the last, in anticipation of St.Patty's day, we got Bailey's.  Guinness is readily available, but no Jamison to be had.  If anyone wants to be nice and send me a letter with Boondock Saints I would be eternally grateful.

Since travel seems to be my favorite topic.  I must mention that the matatu rides are becoming less and less terrible.  They were made better today by two things.  My ipod and the scenery.  The ipod allows me to just zone out and not think about the fact that my calf is in pain and my knees are a few inches from melding with the metal rod that digs further and further in with each pot hole.  Songs my religion, so there is serenity found even in the most uncomfortable situation if it is accompanied by good tunes.  The scenery some how finds more beauty with each passing.  It may be noticing a different farm or mountain, but just watching out the window as the unpolluted landscape rides by gives me energy.  On the ride home, we left and traveled during the best hour of the day.  It is the time when the sun is no less than 5 rotations from the horizon and the light stretches along with the growing shadows not long before the sun will set.  The figures of trees grow in the same way that the moon makes them ominous, only comforting.  It is usually in the summer that one can notice this phenomenon.  In the fall, winter and spring the cold breeches the day.  The summer's heat is given relief for a brief period at the start and end of the day.  It is when you can enjoy the sun's light, but not endure heat.

Happy Friday!

Tomorrow - Hiking, Football, Cleaning

19 February 2009

A note about letters

I want to first of all thank the three people who have already sent me letters: Julie, Kiirsten and Sr. Barbara-Jean.  It has been a nice surprise to get mail.

I also want to let possible letter writers that the letters have come as quickly as ten days and as slow as a month.  So be aware that mail really is slow here.  Michael and Sue have packages on the way.  It seems that things do get here in one piece, but I will let them be the guinea pigs before I give people the go when it comes to packages.

Thanks for the constant support and for reading.

Another week down

The working week has come to its official end for me.  Since the sisters have their quarterly meeting in Nairobi there are no events or meetings scheduled for tomorrow.  That means another four day work week.  I think I can get used to these four day weeks.  I will bring back the 4 day revolution to the United States.  In addition to a 8 to 1 work day.

Today was both short and busy.  In other words a perfect day.  At the SJC, Sue and I had to distribute all the meds to the clients after they had been picked up in Mumias yesterday by Judi.  The clients who are new or need to see a doctor went in the car with her.  Those who needed medication gave their health passports to us on Friday and Judi got their meds yesterday.  We had a steady flow of clients entering to collect medications.  In between, we reviewed the price of the medications against what the clients had already paid.  Some still owe bit, a few are fully paid, and two we owe money back.  We checked the receipts against Judi's record and against mine.  I was thrilled when I showed up this morning because mama Moses was waiting with Moses in her arms to have the therapists see him.  Last week, when Joy and Sue went out, many of the clients who they saw did not show up after being seen.  I am proud to say that the clients that we saw have all been here this week.  Violet came later to get her epilepsy meds and Moses was there bright and early so that his mother could get back to work quickly.  All in all it has been a very positive week. 

I also learned that the soccer matches were going to be shown at the 'IMAX Cinema' in Malava on Saturday.  At 3:45pm will be my Chelsea Blues.  Neto said that he was going to be there to watch all three matches (his Man U will be on at 8:30pm).  It only costs 20 shillings to go and watch, so I think that Michael and I might head over and at least see the first match.  Neto expects it to be crowded because there were no matches last weekend.  If all goes well, I might try to go watch the UEFA match between Man U and Inter Milan on Tuesday.  Obviously I will cheer against Man U, but they have the most supporters in this area.

Then at 11 I walked over to the compound to finish entering the data on QuickBooks.  Now accustomed to the system, I shot through in a little over an hour and completed the finances for January. 

Before leaving I attempted to help Judi reattach the hose for the water pump.  The hose had been leaking and needed to be pushed in further.  Naturally, I offered up my super human strength to assist Judi.  With the hose fixed she started up the motor.  It chugged a bit, water began to move and then a different hose flew off.  We fixed that hose, started it again and the first hose came off again.  After a bit of cursing and frustration, we put the hose back on, turned the motor on, and nothing happened.  It appears as if there is something else that is contributing to the problem.  Just because I am close to being a master carpenter it does not seem to translate to plumbing. 

I made the walk back home.  I was initially frustrated by having to walk back and forth the compound a few times a week, but I now see it as a good chance to get extra exercise.  Also, the walk offers a view of the emerging mountains on the horizon that is punctuated by clouds that dot the sky as an emphatic finish to an exclamation on the afternoon.  The sun is terrible at this point of the day.  There are only a few clouds and I can feel it as it burns on my skin and actually its effects on the red clay that is getting closer and closer to matching my skin tone.

At home it was the usual washing of dishes, playing with the cat, and relaxing with Michael who had a "SJC Day" as he like to call it (aka getting home before 2pm).

Weekend Outlook

Friday - Malava market, chicken and chips and shopping in Kakamega

Saturday - Morning Malava Forest hike, soccer match

Sunday - Cook lunch for the orphans at Tumiani where Michael and Jean work and possibly watch a movie (Jungle Book?)

18 February 2009

Reactions to Meowmar...

"your pics of meowmar have prompted me to spend the past thirty minutes on the new haven animal shelter website - that is one ridiculously adorable cat." - Mo Guiney

"omg i have a crush on meowmar!" - Kiirsten Finn

More of the same... (a typical day)

and a lot of nothing.

A typical work day for today.  I guess it might be easiest to come up with my daily timeline so you can see what it is that I actually do every day.

7:00am - wake up

7:10am - open up house, feed cat, check internet

7:30am - chat with Michael, fill shower bag, boil drinking water, eat breakfast, buy news paper from delivery man

8:00am - Get dressed, play with the cat

8:20am - Lock up the house and walk to work

8:30am - Arrive at SJC (probably earlier but I do not time the very short walk)

8:30-9:30am - Put my bag in the office, sit with staff, read paper, discuss various topics, stand in the shade, stare at children playing

9:30 -noon - Registration transactions, transport assistance, join play therapy when possible, stare out the window, talk to Sue (a lot), stare at the wall, come up with some great philosophical ideas, have internal discussions, copy information from books to computer, walk around the center to look as if I am doing more than just sitting around all day

****Do not let the above section deceive you.  Most of the time is spent doing mostly nothing.  We see maybe two clients per hour in the office for a total of 5 minutes out of the hour.  Play therapy is generally too slow to provide any real help.  Sometimes we are lucky and there is a busy burst where there is a bunch of office work and play therapy to do.  Generally that is not the case****

noon to 12:30 or 1pm - take bread and tea with staff (sometimes we will have it earlier when it is a particularly slow day and tea is the only way to make it seem less slow)

1:00-4:00 - shop for necessary food or supplies, read book, check internet, listen to the BBC, wash the dishes, clean up anything around the house, fetch water, start cooking dinner if it is more involved, and play with the cat

4:00-7:00 - Sit outside with Michael and discuss the days events, make and eat dinner, sit outside more and chat more, read a little bit, survive visit from girls, write my daily blog and check email

7:00-9:30 - watch next movie on the countdown or read and then go to bed at any time after nine.

This is not the case for every day, but it is the norm for most days of the week.  Sometimes a few extra tasks are heaped upon us, but not often.

Meowmar part 2

IMG_2454 IMG_2498 IMG_2566 IMG_2576 IMG_2580

Meowmar part 1

17 February 2009

Thanks to Dr. Kiirsten Finn

The reason people tend to get yellow eyes is because their body has a build up of bilirubin, aka hyperbilirubinemia.  Bilirubin is what makes your urine yellow.  When there is a back up of bilirubin it is usually a sign that there is damage to a persons liver.  I'm sure malnutrition plays a part in this at well.  You often see alcoholics with yellow eyes (called jaundice) because of their liver damage.  Obviously alcohol is not the only reason though.

Field Day

I accompanied Sr. Joy, Grace and Jairus on their day of visiting clients in East Kabras.  We had to wind our way though dirt roads as wide as the truck along roads that I would not even want to be walking on.  Deep cuts ran in the middle with a few dips that seemed to be aimed at only affecting one side of the truck.  The addition of dust made it impossible to travel at a speed much higher than 20 kph (12 mph).  Ironically, the roads which were nearly impassible by car were shadowed by a myriad of power lines that looked exactly like the ones that you may see in a less crowded part of the United States.

We made four visits.  The first was to see a girl who had requested aid with getting epilepsy medication.  In order to determine need, a visit has to be made at the home of a client.  The meetings were conducted in Luhya and Swahili.  On the car ride between stops I was given the details of the previous meeting.  At the first home I noticed that everyone, children included, had yellow bloodshot eyes.  I can assume that dust plays a large part of this, but nutrition must also affect the coloration.  It was like looking at one of those old pictures of Ben Johnson (I think that is the name of the Olympic sprinter who broke the 100m record and his eyes were yellow due to HGH) in real life. 

The second stop was impromptu when Joy noticed a home of a client where the child was laying unattended under a banana tree.  Children are often left to their own devices in the area, but there were two infants who were both sick laying and crying.  Grace said that the first had been so sick last week due to malnourishment that she nearly died.  The second was a child of no more than a year who had flies literally in his mouth and suffered from severe epilepsy.  Upset, Joy and Grace determined to track down the mother who was at work.  The infants were being watched by their siblings who were no older than 8.  The older ones were just as poorly off.  Two were shirtless and one wore a dress that did little more than hang out of politeness.  We found the mother and she told us that she was unable to take her son to the center because she could not get off work (housekeeping).  Joy demanded to see her boss, who was not there.  So we went to see his father.  A quick meeting ensued where Joy and Grace explained the need for the mother to have a day per week to go to the clinic.  He agreed, we said good bye, and went back on our way.

I have noticed that conversations always seem to drag on, but when it comes time for the end there are no lingering discussions.  It is like that on the phone too.  I will call someone, and once whatever I have asked has been answered the conversation ends.  No good bye.

The next two stops were for patients whom I see at the center fairly often.  Luka is another infant with epilepsy (do you seem to see a pattern here with children and epilepsy?).  Upon arrival we found him eating outside.  Having what his mother said was 'breakfast.'  Joy told me that meant that it was going to be the days only meal if they were having breakfast so late in the day (noon).  The children were sharing a plate of arrow root.  Which is like potatoes, but does not taste good and lacks any real nutrients.  I was struck by the fact that the home only had one bed.  I assumed that that meant the children would sleep on the floor of the home.  My suspicion was proved wrong when Joy told me that the kids slept outside.  I had noticed that there was a large area of rags and clothes spread over the ground in front of the house, but assumed that they were clothing to be washed or possibly sold.  No, that was the bed for the kids.  Sleep with the stars, the moon, mosquitos, cows, flies and chickens.  Not so romantic.

The last stop was to see Jairus.  He is about 10 years old and has CP.  He also is a very close second to the best smile in the world.  He does not talk much at all, but man does he light up when you play with him.  He was in the center yesterday and I was teasing him as he was working on his fine motor control with his left hand.  The father, mother, second wife, and most of the families fifteen children were around.  Jairus smiled coyly as Joy and Grace asked about how everything was going.  The father told us he was upset because the mother was lazy and is not helping the boy.  He spoke very well, but the mother later told Joy in private that the father was a liar.  Jairus is supposed to be in school, but the father said he was unable to go because of a lack of uniform.  The mother said that Jairus had never been taken to a school.  The father was lying.  In addition, she said that he was cheating on his two wives and favored the second wife over her. He put on a show that he had a lot of concern for the child.  As it turns out, it really was just a show.  I could even notice something was slightly off about his demeanor.  That was confirmed in the car ride home when the others said that he was lying through his teeth.

The day was certainly important because it gave me a better idea of how far the clients have to travel to come to the SJC.  It also allowed me to see the conditions that we are fighting against whenever the child comes in to do therapy.  There are many to have not improved at an acceptable rate and home life has everything to do with it.  It is terrible to see children treated as second class by their very own family.  Young siblings do not seem to care, but older ones are aloof.  It makes sense that some families have problems with older siblings beating their handicapped brother or sister.  The parents indifference trickles down to the children.  The last father even made it seem as if his son was ours.  Jairus had remind the father that his son was in fact his son and not owned by the SJC.  Seeing stuff like this is not easy.  It makes me feel like I can not really do to much, and whatever I am doing is entirely undone the minute the child leaves.


16 February 2009

"Asante Sana Jesu, Asante Sana Jesu"

That is the song that is stuck in my head (thank you Jesus).  It has been playing over and over and over all day long.  Hearing the same tapes has forced songs such as this into my head.  The tune is quite catchy and one of my favorites of the few songs played daily, but I need to get it out of my head.

After worrying all night long, Meowmar came back.  We let her out for the day while we were at church.  We saw her in the middle of mass as she cried out looking for us and then she disappeared for the remainder of the night.  By the time it came for bed, I came to terms with the fact that we had managed to lose our cat in less than a week.  I was elated when Phyllis came by with her in her arms.  We are keeping a close watch on the cat, but will have to work on making sure she knows to come to our house, not father's.

Work was an average paced day.  Had to do some checking of the petty cash and make a spreadsheet based on Friday's clinic.  William came by to tell us that his departure had been delayed for a few weeks due to a passport issue.  He stayed to have tea with myself, David, Angela, and Neto.  A solid hour of laughter ensued as I was given an Idiots Guide to running as a Kenyan politician.  Angela said that she would run and announce her candidacy as the four volunteers stood behind her.  At the end of her speech, she would tell everyone that we were there to provide financial support.  I told her that I would help out by making a poster of Obama with his arm around her.  I continue to love tea time and particularly my lessons about Kenya.  It is also fun because there are always some good quotations.  These two were the best of today:

  1. "Behavior betrays ambition" - William talking about mp's
  2. "You are not a man if you are not responsible" - the sage David

I was meant to meet with Judi this morning, but an emergency involving one of the clients prevented me from going over the the compound.  In the afternoon I washed the dishes and cut my hair.  Judi called for me to come by to learn QuickBooks and I hurried over to do some work for two hours.  Then back home by about 6 and leftovers for dinner.

Tomorrow I am off to the field with Joy. 

Two facts I learned today:

  1. When arriving at the boarder of Uganda, there will be men trying to change currency.  Go to a bodaboda man and ask to be taken to a exchange shop.  If you get a counterfeit bill you can know where to solve the problem.
  2. Do not buy things and take change at night in Malava.  People will pass you fake bills amongst your change.  There is a problem with fake money and it is easy to spot one in the light, but nearly impossible at night

Happy Monday!

15 February 2009

No Title For This

On Thursday night, Michael and I sat down to watch the next movie on our countdown; Platoon.  After enjoying a disturbing and serious film it came time to clean up before bed.  This means for me that I do a quick email check, turn off my computer, cover it, lock up the house and go to bed.  As I was locking up I noticed that a loud noise was coming from outside.  Usually, when we go to bed the bar behind our house plays loud music until very late.  It has become part of the nightly white noise.  Along with the high-pitched hum of the mosquitos and the banging of the kamikaze beetles who crash about the room making a loud racket just as you begin to feel the weight of sleep pressing your eyes further down.  Also, last Friday we heard a strange noise and it turned out to be an outdoor showing of the Passion of the Christ, which sounded like a riot in the town center. 

I hesitated as sound persisted and as I began to realize that it was not music.  Feeling inquisitive I went outside to have a listen without the door acting as a sound barrier.  The mob-like sound became more distinct as I walked out the back of the compound.  I did my best ear-against-the-door-with-a-glass impression while standing.  You know what I mean when I say that.  You cup your ear and lean out over your side as if a few inches and a hand will amplify sound.  As it got louder and louder, I realized that it was a person screaming.  Not in agony or in need of help, but a wail of grief.  Other voices became noticeable as a chorus of cries were being sent into the cloudless night. 

We had been told that when a person dies who is Luhya (Kenya's second largest tribe that all basically live right here in Western Kenya) the family mourns by wailing at the top of their lungs.  You know a person has passed on because of the cries.  For the funeral, the body is carried through the hometown of the individual's family on to their resting place.  This was something that was expressed to us when we were learning about Luhya culture.  I did not think much about it because I did not think that I would have to encounter this.  Not to say that I would not be confronted by death at some point, but that it would not manifest itself in an immediate way.  In short, I did not expect to see a person die or immediately after death.

Realizing that these cries may in fact be due to the death of a person, I ran in to get Michael out of bed.  I hesitated for a moment at his doorway thinking that I may have been mistaken and foolish for bothering him shortly after retiring to bed.  Hesitation gave me a second chance to listen to the noise and gave me enough reason to knock.  He said to enter and I asked if he heard anything strange.  To my dismay he said that he had not heard a sound.  I conveyed my thoughts and convinced him to toss on some shoes and go outside to listen.  Outside we listened for a few minutes and thought that it may have been people crying but were still unsure.  We determined the best idea was to gather a flashlight, arm ourselves, and brave the night to find out what was happening.  It is silly not to think that I had my leatherman in one hand and the flashlight in the other, but I knew that it could have been a dumb idea to head into town at 10pm.

We walked out the property with the flashlight until we reached the road.   100 feet shy of the road Michael said to turn off the light so as to not draw attention to ourselves.  Over to our right we could see a few lights that looked like candles moving towards us with people crying.  As we met the road I realized that they were not candles but brake lights on a truck.  A group of young men came upon us as we stood fixed on the dim lights like a fly to our outdoor light.  We asked if they knew what was going on.  The told us to follow to see.  Naturally, we joined the invitation.  As we strode over to the truck the men told us that it looked as if someone had been hit by a car.

The realization of what lay before us gave me cause to stop.  All of a sudden the cries became real and directed no longer at the sky but us.  It was a cry of agony.  A declaration of pain more real that the moon's light, as stars poked through ether to give an appearance of black.  I was overwhelmed by grief that was bellowed by a middle-aged man.  Baying in tongues and walking in circles around a pebble in the ground.  The unfettered emotion he unleashed wrapped itself around me and terrified my being.  Next to the man was a long mound of blanket, blood soaked and motionless.  I was an unnoticed observer of the most private.  I could not go any closer.  Sickness flowed downwards from stomach to knees and gave cause to double over.  I fought the demand crumble. 

The man was either walking or riding on the side of the road when he was hit by a truck.  I can only guess that he met death the instant he and the truck collided.

I have seen my share of death, but this was more vivid.  It was as if you could see his very soul escaping from his body as the last of his blood spilled along the street.  A tragic and sudden end to life that could have been avoided.

I did not know the man and still do not know who it was, but it is an event that I still am unable to comprehend.  I put off writing this blog with the hope that time would reveal some sort of greater meaning or at least give some sort of peace to the event.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to shake that night.  The thought of it overwhelms me to the point that I can physically feel myself grow ill as the remembrance grows.  I can only express what it was like at the moment of seeing what had happened.  I have never been so deeply affected by a person who I never even met.

Just Another Day of the Week

As has become par for the course, Sunday began with church and then brunch.  In between we had a little sit down and catch up with Sister Phyllis.  All seems to be well from the four parties and then it was time for William to make one of his last visits.  We invited him to join us for brunch and to also teach how to make chapatti.  As it turns out, making chapatti is very easy.  Just some flour, water, salt, baking powder, blue band (margarine), and love.  Sadly, William will be leaving us this week to return to Uganda.  However, we have an open invitation to Kampala and Michael and I plan on taking William up on his offer.  It will be a good reason to go over to Uganda and will give us a friendly face when we visit the country.  The cooking took up most of the afternoon and we did not finish eating until about 4pm, having started cooking at 1pm.

Each day I am enjoying taking time to make a meal and enjoy the company of visitors.  This should be a good week.  Tomorrow I will learn to use QuickBooks for the SJC and Tuesday will be a venture into the field with Joy to do some house visits.  Going into the field will help me better understand the clients and have the chance to see how people live outside of Malava.  It is rural here, but we are in the town center.  It becomes even more rural as you move away from the tarmac road.

Everyone have a great Sunday!

14 February 2009

Cool Fact

According to my stat counter, I now have had a visitor to my site from each of the 6 habitable continents.  Australia broke in just yesterday to complete the six.  Brazil represented South America last week.  So far, I have had viewers from DR Congo, Indonesia, Japan, Austria, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Italy, and students from the University of Cincinnati (thanks to Sue's father). 

I am global!

Thank you all for reading, especially my daily customers.

A Silly Holiday...

It is everyone's favorite day of the year.  Do not worry, it is celebrated in Kenya.  Some girls stopped by to wish me a happy v day just a few moments ago.  The newspaper even has a special section for today and there are op-ed pieces about all the flowers that are sold in Nairobi today.

The weekend has arrived and what a pleasant arrival.  Today has been nothing but full relaxation.  This morning I woke up at about 7am to use the bathroom and then Meowmar joined me in bed for a bit (slept on my neck as I lay on my back in a amused-uncomfortable state).  I got up about 30 min later, washed the dishes, got bathroom water, sort of cleaned the toilet, filled the shower, retrieved water from the well and then sat down to enjoy the BBC, coffee and a mendazi from Sue.  The list seems busy, but I have found the house work to be cathartic.  It is time when I can do work around the house and alone enjoy the morning and my thoughts.  The newspaper man came by because I am his best customer. 

Around noon, Michael and I traveled around Malava in search of a grill.  We want to get some fencing to make our own charcoal grill.  Sadly, despite an abundance of fencing all over town, nobody could sell us any.  However, our trip was not entirely unsuccessful.  We bought some chapaiti, made friends with the guy who wears a NJ Devils cap, and learned of a supermarket with cold drinks.  Some places will tell you that they have a cold soda.  When you get the soda it is just below room temperature.  For the remainder of the afternoon, I have been reading, playing the harmonica and enjoying the weather as Michael has been sleeping.  I feel very at home here in the house.  I have made a few friends around town, particularly with the shop owners, and developed a solid daily routine.

Tonight we will continue to watch our movies during dinner that as of now will involve potatoes.  Last night we watched Spartacus and had a Kenyan beer tasting.  Based on what we got, my ranking is as follows:

  1. Allsops - Light, enjoyable, some flavor, easy to drink
  2. Pilsner - A lager, not as the name suggests, but just a nose behind Allsops
  3. Guiness - watered down real Guiness that is produced in Kenya by the Kenyan Brewing Company.
  4. Tusker - A good version of Bud Light
  5. Presidente - Tastes like beerish-champagne

We had White Cap last week and I would rank that at about number 4 ahead of Tusker.  The Guiness was a disappointment, but I knew going in that it was not the real deal.

Bugs just keep getting worse.  It becomes less and less fun to sit outside as night approaches.  Even now at 5pm with the sun shining and now clouds, the bugs have become more and more irritating.  Bites line my legs and I am getting used to the constant itchy feeling, but I do not imagine completely getting past it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

13 February 2009

Michael's Class


Class 4 posing for Michael at Tumaini...

23 students

17 boys

6 girls

Long Day of Work

Today was the epilepsy clinic at the SJC.  Clinic is not an accurate name, it is more like an assessment of clients who want to have the center help get medication or a trip to the real clinic next week.  I was with Joy for the day to do registration.  In short, a client would arrive, be weighed by Sue, meet with Angela for a quick evaluation/check-up, and then come and register with Joy and I.  Most of the registration was conducted in Swahili, but I was happy to listen along as Joy would talk to the adults who had a child with epilepsy or had it themselves.  By the end I was able to gather the general gist of the conversations.  I would record the amount paid, write receipts, help check any owed money, and try to learn as much as I could about the clients from Joy in between.

Working with Joy is always good for a few laughs.  On a side story, I caught her dancing to the music that was playing in the center before the clients came in.  When she noticed that I had seen her she gasped in horror and ran away embarrassed.  It is really common to see Kenyan's dancing.  Neto dances about the center all day long to whatever song is being played for the tenth time that day.  I did not mention that tapes here are, at most, six songs long.  That means that in the course of a 5 hour day at the center, we are treated to the same songs.  Sometimes Nancy or Neto will catch the problem and change the tape, but that is not often.  Ok, back to Joy.  It was not all that shocking to see her dancing, but it was funny that she ran away like one of the little infants when I wave in passing.

After working straight until almost two, it was time for the customary mendazi, chai, and English Premier League debate with Neto.  I am really lucky to have such a light-hearted group of co-workers.  They have been more than welcoming and it has made working every day fun.  I wake up in the morning excited for the day and what I will be doing.  That is something I have never felt before.

Friday is fried chicken and chipati day, then got a few tuskers, made western omelets, and will watch Spartacus.

Blogs to expect this weekend because I have two major topics:

1) More about our cat with lots of pictures.  I love our cat and it is the cutest thing alive.

2) Last night, a man was hit and killed by a car on the street out in front of the house.  In short Michael and I went outside because we heard a commotion.  I am still processing the events of what happened last night, so it may take a few days to have a full reflection.



Happy Friday!