one of our favorite sights

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Warm KARIBU for us!

Last Friday  we had the privilege of joining our friend Lori, who left on Monday to return home to Winnepeg, Canada, on a trip to Turbo, where AMPATH has one of its 50 outreach clinics for HIV/AIDS patients. Lori has been working for a year with her Kenyan counterparts, on an electronic record project through a grant that AMPATH received and the Turbo Clinic was one of the pilot clinics. Although the work is not complete and there have been some bumps along the way, she is going to continue working on it remotely, and hopefully they will be able to actually get some of their findings into the system before the first of the year.  As one of the folks who go out to Turbo on an almost weekly basis due to her work, Lori made quite good friends with a lot of the doctors, nurses, lab techs and data folks, working at the clinic. There is also a Kenyan Health Ministry clinic attached to it which benefits from AMPATHS’ presence.  Lori also got involved in supporting this little primary school that has been started by the parents of one of her colleagues.  This is the school that I mentioned our possibly helping to support in my last post.
The visit out to the school   was an unbelievable experience and not at all what we were expecting. We were going mostly just to see the school and hear more about the project, because, as I mentioned in my last blog, we are looking for ways to help, and maybe get some folks from home involved. Lori has taken it upon herself (with her husband Jim’s help) to do the fundraising for the school in Canada so that they can work on getting desks, uniforms, and more materials for the children. Also, they want to build a new building starting sometime next year, and they have put together a whole pro forma for this project.  So, a bunch of the clinic folks and Michael, Lori, and I crammed into the AMPATH vehicle and headed for the hills, where this little community is located.
The school was started by a retired teacher and her husband on their farm, in the region of Turbo. It is a lovely area, at the foothills of the Elgon Mountains in western Kenya. One of the reasons that the project appeals to Lori is that it is a community initiated and supported project and they are committed not only to the kids but to bettering the community in general.  Currently, there is a public elementary in the region, but it is an almost 8 km walk for most of the children and some of the classes have 70 kids in them (to one teacher!). So, these folks started the school in 2008 hoping to give more of the children the opportunity for an education. They are very motivated to get an education because they know that it will better their lives and the lives of their families. The school at this point is a series of mud buildings, very rudimentary materials (handmade desks that sit 4-5 students at once, a piece of chalkboard and that’s about it!), and very young but dedicated and much underpaid teachers (a teacher here gets paid about $150/month!).  They do not have water on the property nor proper toilets or electricity. So, there are many challenges, but based on the presentations we heard today, there is a lot of energy and support for the school, the community, and these young people. It was very inspiring to hear these folks, who are simple country folks, talk about how important it is for their children to get an education here at home and then hopefully one day get a chance to go to university.
The Welcome (Karibu) we received at the school was beyond my wildest expectations (I had none really except I knew Lori was expected to present). As we got out of our vehicles, we were sung to by the students, parents , and teachers and warmly welcomed with a handshake and a hug. After our initial greetings, we were invited to tour the school, where each class of students stood up and chanted  something like “welcome to our school” and clapped as we smiled and said “Asante Sana” to each group of children. The sight of these darling smiling faces in these barebones classrooms with little to nothing in them and these earnest young  teachers brought tears to my eyes.  After visiting each classroom (they even have little preschoolers!), a total of 7, we were then escorted to the makeshift tent at the top of the field and asked to be seated. The children followed and were all seated (135 kids) off to the side in anticipation of the program.  And what a program it was! We listened to everyone speak, from the headmistress to the village elders, to board members, to an aspiring MP, to parents, and then finally Lori who was the “Chief Guest”. We also heard poetry from the children, songs sung by students and teachers together (all with the theme of the importance of education ), a small drama put on by the teachers, and awards to the children for their most recent monthly tests ( you think we are into tests! They even test the preschoolers!).
After several hours, the speakers were finished.  The fellow who was translating must have been completely worn out (he had been translating from Nande to English and English to Nande, and also Swahili to English and back again because of the diverse crowd), and the kids had gone to eat their ugali in the meantime, then the village women all gathered round to sing to us and we were invited (gently pushed) into the circle to go around and greet each and every one of them with a handshake and a hug and a “Habari Gani” or “asante Sana!”  At first, I was confused as to whether I was supposed to clap and dance and sing with them or follow Michael, who was already in the  center of the circle. I ended up following his lead around and I was startled to find that all of the women were laughing as I approached them.  I figured it was me, but then I realized it was because Michael had touched them with his wild white man beard! It was very funny, their reaction. There are maybe no Kenyans with beards and at least in this area they appear to have little facial hair at all. So having a Mazungu rub your face with his big grey beard must have seemed too whacky! They were singing and clapping and hooting and hollering the whole time and then at the end, when all three of us had completed our rounds of this wide circle of women, we were given a gift. We were then asked to say something. Talk about a warm welcome! So, that is what we said. We each spoke and basically said  how grateful we were for the welcome and how lovely it was to see such commitment and how much we hoped to be able to help them move their project forward. We then were invited to plant a tree with them before we went to eat lunch in the headmistress’ home( a large spread, also unexpected!). Gotta love these grass roots efforts for improvement!
The highlight for me, besides the joy and laughter and dancing and singing of the adults and kids, was that there were actually some very progressive things said. For one, many of the “firsts and seconds” of the various classes, who were given a notebook or a pencil for their efforts, were girls. This did not go unnoticed, because in the first 4 classes it was consistent. So, there were several speakers who noted this and paid homage to the importance of educating women . Also, the aspiring MP who was there was a woman and she made note of it as well and also that in the new Kenyan Constitution it calls for some percentage of the leaders (MPs) to be women (this actually being debated currently if I'm understanding the paper correctly!). Pretty interesting.  And of course, the fact that we planted trees at the end warmed the cockles of our hearts because we are big fans of the Green Belt Movement and the work of Wangari Mathaai, who was a leader in the efforts to reforest Kenya (it has been badly deforested due to the need for burning wood). Any efforts at conservation are of course pleasing to us! Kwa Heri, Siku Jema!

AMPATH food distribution center


Kenyan Health Ministries clinic

Lori with clinical health workers

Lab at Kenyan clinic

welcome to school

welcoming us with a song to school

school buildings

Children watching program

welcome dance for "special guest"

women singing welcome song

planting trees

current "bathrooms"


lunch is cooking!

cutie pies waiting patiently

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Night and Day

Kenya is located on the other side of the world from Indiana, and is very near the equator, making both the climate and night and day very different. Basically, the days are divided evenly into two.  12 hours daylight and 12 hours night. I have to say that thus far, I find the climate very appealing although the weather is certainly not a focus for us, as it is at home. This may be because we are not gardening, but also because it is pretty much the same everyday so far (I’m told that it is much nicer now than it was during the rainy season! Visitors here tend to prefer dust to mud it seems!).
The seasons here have more to do with “rainy” or “dry” as opposed to the four seasons that we tend to experience in the Midwest. With the rainy season, which begins in April and goes through late July usually, the weather cools off and the Kenyans find it downright cold! To me it is perfect weather right now….cool mornings, blue skies, and around 75 F midday. Right now we are experiencing the “light rains” which means that it usually rains a bit every afternoon.  It’s actually a very appealing climate, but like everywhere worldwide, it is becoming less predictable. The “dry” or “hot” season is approaching in December, I’m told.  I’m expecting perfect weather and we are planting our garden very soon in preparation for it!
So, as I mentioned, night and day are literally quite different , “like night and day”, as we say. We are adapting but it definitely does not go unnoticed. For one thing, it just goes dark, “boom” (no, there is no noise…wouldn’t that be cool/weird?),  all at once at about 6:30 in the evening. No lingering  dusk or twilight to enjoy which is so different for us, especially as skywatchers from the country in southern IN! For two, we are advised not to go out at night, at least on foot, because it is not secure. I happened to be walking home a little late last evening  and was fairly nervous due to the traffic and what seemed like a lack of visibility on the part of  motorists of folks on the side of the road; so no, we won’t be walking around at night. Since we don’t have a vehicle , we won’t go out unless we’re taking a taxi recommended by the IU folks. Most people seem to hit the hay relatively quickly in the evening and there have not yet been a lot of evening goings on although I’m sure from time to time there are with the people from IU.
 Being a night owl, night falling so quickly and early  is a big adjustment for me, but since Michael is really a bear, he has no trouble going to bed early. He claims he is catching up on all the sleep he lost the last 5 years.   We tend to eat a little later and since we have electricity we have the advantage of being able to read, watch a movie, and study with the lights on. I imagine that folks living in villages or without electricity either have kerosene lamps or fires on for a bit , and then they must just  go to bed.
We are still in adaptation mode this week. I am feeling better about my adaptation skills than last week and am happy to report that Liam seems to have a large reserve of them as well. Aside from actual night and day, there are many other opportunities for adjustment as a visitor from the US to Kenya.
For one, having come from our sedate life in the country, we are having to adapt to the noise, interesting smells (not all pleasant), and hustle and bustle of the city. Although Eldoret is not  a huge city (several hundred thousand inhabitants it is estimated), it feels bigger, noisier,  and more crowded, I think, because people here are out on the street for a good part of the day. Many people are out walking around in the city starting early in the morning and going throughout the day (most people don’t own private vehicles).  People are on the street selling their wares or providing services, whether it be newspapers, various food items, corn roasting, fixing shoes, or other interesting and necessary small items that one might need, like a “top up” to a cellular phone service or a bag of sugar or “chai”. Also it feels like most people are spending their days just gathering the things they might need for that day. Since people in general live at a subsistence level, they may make a little cash then go spend it on what they need, whether it is food or charcoal, or kerosene, or medications, or what have you.
 Another big difference is safety measures. Now of course you know that we Americans are particularly over the top when it comes to safety measures, and some would say that this is mostly because of our litigious society, but there are certain things that occur that are striking. You’ve all see it in movies, the crowded streets in developing countries, with crazy traffic and all sorts of interesting vehicular arrangements weaving through traffic, at normal or high speeds. Motorbikes with three young men hanging on to each other, bicyclists carrying stacks of wood, women carrying loads on their head, crammed to the brim “matatas”, or small vans which serve as public transportation, large lorries spewing diesel fumes everywhere, bicyclists with a passenger on the handlebar and one in back , motorcycles with loads of metal sheeting, piping, 100lb.  bags of grain and even small farm animals tied on (well, not that small..hogs , sheep, and goats)  and now and then a nice passenger vehicle, a Toyota SUV  or a Benz, carrying a “wabenzi” or “big fish” travelling in the security and comfort of his luxury car. It’s a bit nerve wracking  for an overprotective and anxious mom who cringes and worries at the thought of her children not wearing helmets while cycling out on the roads of Bartholomew County!  It seems that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way and in fact, the “right of way” goes in the opposite direction than what we are used to. Cars and Trucks first, motorcycles second, bicycles third, and pedestrians last. I find myself wanting to call out to these motorists “hey, be careful” at every step down the road. However, I somehow doubt they’d listen to me!
As a flatlands girl, it has been adjustment living up high , as Eldoret is at an altitude of 7000 ft. being in the Great Rift Valley. It only took a week of small headaches to become accustomed to the altitude. I am however, searching for information on baking at high altitudes since I like to bake and have mostly  been at sea level in my kitchens. If you have any advice, let me know please! Baking is going to be a bit of a challenge anyway, because our oven is very small but since we are now in small family mode it’ll probably work out ok. The woman from whom we are getting our house, Lori, likes to cook as well, and has done some experimenting so she is advising me. The best thing about the altitude as far as I can tell, is the weather and the lack of mosquitoes. We have not had a chance to get our outdoor seating situated,  but  I look forward to purchasing a small table and chairs so we can do just that!
Finally, another large contrast to American culture is the formality of Kenyan society. They are very formal especially at work and school.  All the men, especially if they are going to work, wear suits and ties and dress shoes, and the women are all in some sort of finery and dress shoes. High heels, low heeled patent leather, or leather sandals with many straps are de rigueur. I’m not sure how they manage walking on these roads, but they seem to be adept at it. The formality of dress carries over to their daily lives and how they intend to operate in society. Needless to say, this takes some getting used to, as we are accustomed to pretty informal relations (work, school, civic events, etc)  at this point,  but it does make me appreciate their earnestness at creating an atmosphere of respect.
There you have my early insights contrasting our two societies are.  The nice thing to realize and those who have travelled a fair amount do know this, is that people are people wherever you go and these folks, despite their struggles and challenges are just that…folks making their way and doing their best to move forward on the path of life. They may do it quite differently than we do and certainly they have been affected by the experiences that their country has undergone historically and currently, but they are making their way.  Thanks a lot for reading my blog and love getting those comments! Look forward to more soon because I am feeling motivated to write. Love to you all. Take Care!  Kwa heri!

urban farming method demonstration


roadside in Eldoret

 village elders and leaders in Turbo

Friday, September 21, 2012

What's A "Type A" Mzungu to Do?

One of the most interesting aspects of  being here, as “the partner” which is a fairly common phenomenon among the IU community, is figuring out what to do with my time. I remember stating to various friends over the years, when I was SO BUSY at home that I would love to just have time to “read and write”,  two of my  favorite activities! However, now that I have the time, I am feeling a little strange. It’s probably good for me to delve into this topic because it is sort of deep and makes one do a little soul searching and face issues of self perception, self worth, etc.  If I were young I might not find it so interesting and just get out there and do some stuff, but alas, I am not young, and with the wisdom of age comes the knowledge of how important BALANCE is.  I am trying to find it.
I liked the idea  of  of coming to Kenya in order to  have the opportunity to learn a new language. I have learned several languages since I was young, and I really enjoy it. I also taught English for a long time to international students and came to love and appreciate languages with all of their nuances, idioms and idiosyncrasies.  It was such a thrill for me to spend some time in France on our way here,  and use my language skills which happens very infrequently (not a lot of French spoken in southern Indiana). There’s something really powerful about being able to actually communicate in another language and it allows for so much more in depth understanding. I think spending time in France was good for Liam as well, because he got to really feel and see what it is like to be able to communicate in another language.
 So, for starters, I am going to focus a bit on learning Swahili. It is called KiSwahili in Swahili. “Ki” means “language” and it is the common language of the Kenyan people. All Kenyans also have a mother tongue, and there are around 40 of them, but Swahili is spoken by most everyone (except maybe small children) and is taught in the schools in elementary. In fact, although English is also an official language, not everyone speaks it well. It is really the language of the educated class and since public school does not exist beyond secondary, and there are fees for public elementary, not everyone is learning English either. Therefore, it is important that we learn Swahili. Liam and I are taking it from a tutor at the IU House, which is where the doctors and med students stay when they come to Eldoret. Michael will pick it up as he tends to pick languages up easily (being the least self conscious person in the western hemisphere). It is fun to share my new knowledge with local folks on the street and I hope to be able to practice with the young women at the center where I am volunteering.
Volunteering is the second area in which I plan to focus some time, as there is a great need for help in all corners here. Health care is not my area of expertise, clearly , and it definitely puts me out of my comfort zone to a degree, but it is what is being done for the most part in this area of Kenya, but Americans anyway. There’s an endless amount of health related issues here.  Since I not a trained healthcare person, I think that I can provide a little TLC and some Caring Hands if nothing else.
The Sally Test Center, which is located in the public hospital here and was started by people associated with AMPATH, is a center for abandoned and sick children and babies. I have started going there on a regular basis and I have to say it takes all my courage to walk in there thus far as you never know what you’ll find. The 4 times I’ve been there there have been severely malnourished, severely abused and several  disabled little ones (I mean little, like from 3 months to 7 yrs old). They are being well treated and loved up in the center, which they come to for the day. Needless to say, it is heartbreaking to know that most of these kids, will end up growing up in a children’s home somewhere. I don’t know the ropes enough yet to ask as many questions as I have but soon I will. There are a lot of young and older women there caring for the kids and they are happy to have an extra set of hands willing to hold a crying baby, or change a diaper or feed a little one.
 One day last week I went  and there were 11 kids, 6 of whom were infants, and the next time there were 13, with 6 infants again. I was immediately taken by two of the kids both of whom are abandoned, and one of whom just clung to me the whole time.  I had to resist taking her home, believe me. I also had to resist crying when I changed her diaper and saw the scars on her little body. They told me she had been so sad and folded up into herself when she first came last month but now she’s slightly pudgy, she smiles and points and her eyes are bright. It’s a wonder and a testimony to the human spirit, I’ll tell you!
In fact, now that I’ve been there a few times it’s really amazing to see the difference in these kids who have been malnourished and neglected, if not outright abused. I have seen, with my very own eyes, in just two weeks, children who were so thin and blank looking become smiley, crawling little bugs, with a look of delight and desire in their eyes; the way babies should look!
Other opportunities will soon present themselves. There are a lot folks here doing research through the various universities associated with AMPATH. Last night I had a chat with a young woman who is here doing research (through Brown University) with HIV patients about the affects of drinking alcohol on people taking ARV’s (very toxic) and she is doing an intervention which has an educational piece and a tracking piece. So interesting! I am also connecting with a woman who has been here for 5 years and is on the board of the Tumaini Center which cares for street kids. They have a potential project which I am going to possibly participate in soon.
Tomorrow we are going out to Turbo, a village nearby, where AMATH has a clinic and our friend Lori is helping support a new school.  We will visit both the clinic and the new school. We are probably going to get involved in that project as they are going to try to get a new building built within the year and I’m sure would welcome our expertise. Lori is in charge of fundraising for the school and I am going to help with that. The educational needs here are great because, as I mentioned, a lot of kids don’t have parents and are left to fend for themselves. They will never get anywhere without a little education and the possibilities for advancement do certainly grow, the more education they get.  So a lot of small schools are started for the youngest and most vulnerable kids and they need help funding these schools. It only takes about $140.00 a year to finance a student for a school year, but they also need equipment and then the capital costs will increase as they grow.  We will be reporting on this visit soon .
I am excited and a little nervous about all the possibilities but definitely see my time here as having a lot of potential for growth  and learning  and also, hopefully making a difference!

AMPATH Turbo Clinic

Map of Kenya with AMPATH clinics

view of neighboring school from clinic

monkeys in Kakamega Forest

more monkeys

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Days of School in Eldoret

Liam went to school on Tuesday, all dressed up in his new uniform and sporting his new backpack. I can't say he was very excited about either but he's never been one to be overly excited about school. He had a mean case of the jitters, too... I accompanied him on the long walk along the muddy path and although still somewhat treacherous, it was at least not as busy as it became later in the day. We left the house at 7:15 and it took us exactly 1/2 hour walking at a clip. I had wanted to depart early in order to arrive a bit early, but alas, that did not happen.  No doubt, our good friends and family  are shocked by that!

Liam is attending a small private school called Potters Academy. We pay a  small fee, and for that fee we get some individual attention. We went directly to the administration office and met the receptionist and then soon after Mr. Wambua, the Director,  and his Vice, whose name I can't remember. Mr. Wambua and I had been in email communication since January and Michael of course had met him a couple of times. He was very sweet, giving both of us a hug. He then invited us into his office and after checking about our fee payment, he told us about how the school is structured, the schedule, the after class activities (this is from 4-5 which is why the day is so long) and promised that Liam would have a "strong student" as a buddy for the first week to show him the ropes. I had several questions but am learning quickly about how to behave in a heirarchical society so I sat quietly until he was finished and asked if we had any questions. He was very welcoming and after asking a few more questions, about lunchtime and breaks, etc, I felt like I'd better go and let Liam make his way. So I thanked him for the warm welcome and departed, turning immediately the wrong way out of the school BUT after a few paces figured it out and turned around to make the trek home. The roads all sort of looked the same to me at that point but now , after 4 days, I am able to make my way more easily.

kids in assembly Fri. a.m.
Unfortunately, Liam has not felt well the last two days so he did not go to school. He had a tummy issue and since the bathrooms at the school are not in good shape ( pit toilets which freak him out a bit, and no soap and water) he really was uncomfortable going. I had also had tummy issues last week and we are not sure if it is a bug or the antimalarial medicine we've been taking (and advised not to take now). ANYWAY he will go back tomorrow and hopefully continue to nurture relationships with his new classmates as that is the main goal of this. He says the schoolwork is below his level and he is actually starting in the third term of this year. Mr. Wambua said he had to do well and work hard so that he can contiue on . He won't be allowed to if not. He seems to feel confident that it won't be a problem and while at home has been reading all of the texts. He will struggle in KiSwahili, clearly, and maybe in Kenyan history but otherwise he should be fine if he focuses. He came home (we walked home together) not feeling great but was cheered by the fact that the other kids were nice and there is NO HOMEWORK. The length of the school day bothers him but as we say, "it is what it is." Mr. Wambua has called us both days that Liam has been absent so I am very appreciative of his caring attitude. I am sure he's aware that this is a BIG adjustment for Liam. We have to purchase a Student visa for Liam so I am working on getting that with the help of IU. We are hopeful that the relationships that he makes there will be enough to sustain him here and hopefully he will have long term friendships come out of this experience. Liam has never been into school like a lot of kids are. He does the work and is a good student but he'd rather be working on a project and /or be outdoors. So, this will be a challenging and growing experience for him no doubt!
kids arriving on campus

view from front door of school
Liam went to his second full day of school yesterday and came home feeling better about it all. It is an extremely long day (he got home at 6) and he was discouraged to learn that he had to go on Saturday 1/2 day as well. He told me this morning, as he prepared to leave that  he had "sworn he'd never go to school on Saturday!" LOL! Oh well, never say never is the name of the game when you are living in another culture! My impression from what he is saying is that he is going to make some good friends and he will be able to deal with the work. The term that just started is extremely short, just 9 weeks and then they have a two month break so we are working on figuring out what to do during that time. The school is very traditional in its style of teaching (rote) and there are some issues with the facilities and teachers which come with the territory. I think one thing he may be learning is that our school system, despite its failings, is not so terrible after all. So, we will see how it goes. As I mentioned, the main goal here is for him to make some friends his age as there not any teenagers among the AMPATH or IU Kenya families! More than likely we will get him enrolled in IU's HS program sooner than later so he can get his required classes underway as well. I'm sure he'll let you know how he's doing. I will keep you posted on various other aspects of our lives soon. Take care and enjoy those lovely September days!
Admin building at school

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fist Bumping on the Streets of Eldoret

We arrived in Eldoret, Kenya on Sunday Sept. 9. Michael picked us up at the airport with a driver from IU. Liam and I were feeling both excited and exhausted, having gotten up the past two mornings very early to catch our flights. It was awesome to finally be back together and our excitement increased as we drove towards our new home. We have taken a nice  house from a Canadian woman, Lori, and her family, who are on their way home ,  so it is already all set up and ready to go. It is in a nice neighborhood about a 20 minute walk from downtown Eldoret. It's a little fancier and bigger than I was expecting but Michael chose it over the others he had seen partly because it is already furnished which makes life a lot easier considering we don't have a vehicle. Also, downtown Eldoret, it turns out, is quite noisy and coming from our country life we don't mind a little quiet! It'll be fine and since Lori is staying with us for a few weeks as her contract ends, we have the added benefit of her knowledge, generosity, and expertise with all the new things we would normally have to figure out on our own: utilities, good drivers, places to buy bread and cheese, market women who are good to shop from, using Mpesa, the cell phone banking system, etc. There are a lot of things to figure out and having her around and experienced is a big help to me!

Soon after we unloaded the six suitcases that Liam and I had brought along, we decided to take  a walk downtown in order to get a little oriented. Since we will be without a vehicle we need to know our way around...We walked by Liam's future school, which is about 25 minutes from our house on a fairly treacherous road. It is very muddy on the roadside and the shoulders are not good nor are there good sidewalks, so for a newby it feels a little like you're taking your life in your hands. Michael was a good leader on the path and cautioned us many times when to move out of the way, step down, or go quickly by a large puddle( it has been raining every day recently even though it is not officially rainy season)! It made me more than a little nervous due to my anxieties about falling or tripping, as there are also a lot of stones on the path. A bit like hiking in the hills of Brown County but surrounded by crazy traffic. Traffic includes many motorcyclists, some carrying big loads, bikes, matatus (overpacked vans) which are their public transportation and bicyclists. There are also your random cows and many pedestrians carrying whatever you can possibly imagine!

We perservered and made it to town which was bustling but according to Michael "nothing compared to during the week". Well, that it is where the culture shock really began! Not sure how to best describe Eldoret except that it is very poor and packed with people trying to make a living out of little. Having been to developing countries before, I was not so shocked, but I could see and feel Liam's shock in his face and body language. It's rough. We wandered around and were stared at a fair amount and followed by several young men wanting either money or work. Michael is a magnet for young men it seems and of course he is gentle and friendly with all of them...We mostly followed, a few paces behind, because it was taking all of my energy anyway, just to navigate and not twist an ankle. The mass of humanity on the streets,  and the number of young kids wandering without shoes and covered in dirt, some of whom were clearly on something, was making a big impression. Liam was pretty sad by the end of the first visit to town. Poverty of this degree is just something he has never seen in real life and learning how to deal with/process it is hard for anyone with a heart.

We had to go back to town the next day to get Liam's school supplies and uniform. We were told that he should not come until he had his uniform, so that was our priority. Getting him to appreciate the need for a uniform was challenging but in the end we did get it (after two visits to town, on foot,  to get his trousers fit correctly) and he looks darling, of course! Michael, once again, was immediately followed by several young terribly destitute looking kids. Liam and I were behind him because you can't really walk abreast as the path is too narrow, as are the sidewalks, and too many obstacles in the way, like people selling wares, trash, etc. So Michael who had the day before told us that we can't possibly give money to everyone who approaches us, hands kid #1 100 Shillings, which is a lot for them, and very little to us. Then kid #2 comes up and Michael hands him 100 Shillings and admonishes him to go to Taimani House which is a center for street kids that he is supporting. We made it a few paces up the street towards the school supply store and kid # 3 comes up and holding on to Michael's arm, walks along with him, like his new best friend, pleading for more money. Michael explains that he had just given out 200 shillings, we had quickly determined maybe wasn't the best tact in a little huddle right after kid #2 had flown off. So, Michael Greven, being Michael Greven, he pats the kid on the back and starts walking him to the nearest grocery store because what the kids really need (besides a bath and a change of clothes!) is food, not money, which they may end up spending on glue for sniffing. Yes, it's true and it has become a new passion for Michael to chastise merchants who sell it to them!

 Meanwhile, back to the story...Michael very sweetly, guides this boy, whose name is Kennedy and is now certainly Michael's new best friend, to the grocery store, and lets him pick out food for the day and for his friends too. Liam and I are waiting amid many stares (we had already received many knowing looks as this little guy accompanied us along the street) and after about 10 minutes Michael and Kennedy come out. Kennedy is gleaming holding a bag of roasted chicken and hot potatoes and something to drink. He approaches us with a big smile and fist bumps us all as he swings his way back out onto the street holding onto his bag of goodies smiling like he'd won the lottery, which clearly, he had!

Well, that was an eye opening day for all of us. One cannot be but overwhelmed by the poverty here and at the same time the friendly smiles and greetings of most everyone on the streets is touching. As we told Liam, our goal is  to be as kind as we can possibly be and to treat everyone well. In fact, if were up to me, we would take a group of kids out for food every time we come to town. Once word gets around that the big white guy with the grey beard and pink shirt comes to town frequently, that may be what happens! He certainly cannot travel incognito very well...There are a lot of kids here, as most of you are aware, who are homeless and/or orphaned, so I will be spending my free time helping them in any way I can. I am working on finding my way in this new yet very familiar world.

First Time Ever

Habari Gani! This is my first time writing a blog so I hope that you will be patient if it is not what you had hoped for right away. I am feeling very motivated to write the stories of our adventure here but am not quite sure what the theme should be and am maybe overthinking it. Anyway, I plan to write and publish once a week but if something stunningly interesting happens or I just can't wait, it may come more that than. Thanks for reading and would love to hear from any and all of you!