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. 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.
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, but 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.
Once 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. The 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. 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). It 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.
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, pictured 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 laughter. 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. If 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. 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.
The 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.