Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Photos available!

I'm back in the States, lots to catch up on, but no time until next week. The family will follow, departing Kakamega on Friday 7/27 and Nairobi on Sunday 7/29, arriving St. Louis on Monday afternoon 7/30. I can't wait!!

I'm doing a fast edit on the photo album before I rush off to Illinois Yearly Meeting tomorrow or Thursday. There are some redundant photos and missing captions that may change right under your browser. Enjoy!

UPDATE: the Angalia Bwana "music video" is uploaded here.

AGLI Kenya 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Plans and other farces

If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans ...

After a great team building AVP, on Friday a week ago we had our first full work day. The foundation had been dug, but off square, so one order of business was to re-dig the bad portions, while the rest of the team moved either 800 or 1000 "bricks", more like blocks the size of four of our bricks, or of a loaf of bread -- we are guessing 7-8 lbs apiece. It took each person some time to determine how many they could carry for the long haul -- down a slope, across the road, up the slope, and several hundred feet down the lane. I started and settled on three, for both days, and was only a little sore on Saturday night. Ana, who is joining our project in the mornings from another NGO, started with five and eventually was down to two. It also took us a couple of hours to organize ourselves more efficiently -- at first every carry trip for every person was the whole length of the run, including those using wheelbarrows (and Robert, a local Kenyan, was using his bike to carry 9 or 10). Later, we walked the bricks down and up and left them there for the wheeled tools to carry them the rest of the level run. Late in the day we also organized our first bucket brigade, to dump pans each with a single shovelful of concrete into the foundation. Without a backhoe, ditch witch, or cement mixer, we only had the 20 pairs of hands and feet, yet I think the work went almost as quickly as it would with the machinery.

On Saturday we worked a half day and finished pouring most of the foundation, several inches of concrete over rough stone "ballast." It was by no means level. This would be taken care of later. Wilson, the local fundi (artisan or skilled mason), is an able site engineer. I can't wait to tell you the ingenious way he determines the level, for laying the brick rows.

On Saturday afternoon, I picked up the cough that had bothered Annie during AVP. On Sunday it worsened into a pretty painful chest cold. I will describe church service at Kakamega Friends Church later -- we went to a youth service. On Monday, we finished pouring foundation and also started filling mortar in between the bricks that the masons were laying. On Tuesday, the foundation rows were high enough to start shoveling dirt backfill against the walls. By then, my respiratory infection was so painful that I only worked in the morning.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had fever and chills. Wednesday at 3am I loaded myself up with every OTC medicine I had, and the respiratory infection finally backed off, leaving me only with a frequent and productive but not annoying cough -- but I was wiped out, and stayed home to rest. Getry had me haul myself into town at noon for a malaria test, which was positive. By then I was feeling so much better (except for the lethargy) that it didn't concern me -- there is treatment here, and the test and meds were under $20 all together. Check the CDC if you are worried -- I'll be fine. But the cough has persisted and I have been unable to work all week. Today (Friday the 13th) I came back in town to see if I might have pneumonia -- it was diagnosed as only bronchitis and I was given OTC-like syrup and a Cillin drug that may be an antibiotic (not really sure!).

This has been disappointing and frustrating, because I've only really given 3 days of the hard work, and I leave after one more workweek. While I've been laying around in bed, the rest of the team has moved another 800 or 1000 blocks in the above mentioned fashion, and another 1000 off a tractor trailer that delivered them to the site. Additionally, they have mortared several more rows of bricks, bringing the building to the ground level, and they have filled and leveled the "subfloor". Remarkably, they have also laid out several inches of rubble stone for the floor base. Concrete will be poured on top, though it is unclear whether that will be this month. But the movement of the rubble stone, many pieces of which are a couple of feet across, has been back-breaking for those who were able to participate. Today they finish laying that floor base, and perhaps will add another row or two of brick.

Having earned it, the team will take an excursion to Kakamega rain forest tomorrow, Saturday. I may participate even not having earned it, but it depends on whether I can get my air again.

At our host home on Wednesday, electricians were there all day with a generator, testing and running the lights in the house (which was wired some time ago, apparently). On Weds nite we had lights and charged the team cell phone! I meant to post the number here, but I don't have the slip with it written down and don't know how to retrieve it from the phone. Miranda and Annie have both received calls from the US, it seems to work fine. But I digress -- if my Dad is reading this, the electrical outlets are England standard with the three prongs, a vertical at the top and two sideways rectangles forming a triangle across the bottom. Given this, WHY is it okay to shove the point of a pair of scissors into the top one while plugging in the two-prong cell charger?? I couldn't bear to watch while this was being done by our house helper, Sammy, but he survived and the phone got charged.

Mysteriously, the lights weren't run the following night. Maybe we need petrol -- unfortunately Sammy speaks only mother-tongue and Swahili, so only Mark can make us understood and only for brief exchanges. Of interest is that they also got a generator running the lights at the Peace Center, at least for the main room.

So, as in many areas of my life, my lesson is humility and dependency, dashing the idea that I have any real power or control over the localized portion of the Plan. Things happen here in a very different way -- instead of making and keeping plans like we do at home, the possibilities all coalesce around us for a day or two until suddenly we are Doing Something, right now!

More when I can!....Dawn

Thursday, July 5, 2007

No email out

Quick update -- all the email I'm composing from here is being rejected by the destination addresses (we look like spammers from here). We can read your emails -- Thanks! -- but not often send you any. Please tell Friends, friends, and family to stay tuned to this blog site for updates, and that we are enjoying your support.

Settling in

OK, so I didn't get to the point of the posting title "Teeming with angels" last time. The idea struck me during the bus ride from Nairobi to Kakamega, because there are so very many people to be seen every kilometer of the way -- nothing like when we leave a US city and soon find ourselves in countryside with no pedestrians for miles. The bus driver was pretty aggressive and we figured we were the fastest thing on the road, and nearly the largest, as this was a Greyhound type bus. With that speed, with avoiding pot holes, trucks, vans, cars, wagons, bicycles and pedestrians, disaster seemed imminent at every point along the way. And yet life goes on with comparatively few disasters. It seemed to me that the heavier the population of humans, the greater the requirement for angels to touch our shoulders and keep each of us from crashing into the next, physically or otherwise.

This idea persists as we are learning about daily life in the vicinity of Kakamega. There are passenger cars and trucks around, but a lot of the transportation is by matatu mini-bus and bicycle taxi, and it is constantly crowded. During our ride to the Peace Center yesterday, as our matatu driver was leaving the gas station that serves as depot, he collided with another matatu, breaking a lamp lens. The girls were frightened, but it soon became part of the ordinary chaos we are learning to accept each day.

Our AVP training was marvelous, primarily because it united us as a team with our local Kakamega area work campers. Half are young, around 19-25, but several are older, including Hungayu who is about Mark's age. Hungayu is a tall man, balding with a graying fringe, warm with kind eyes. In an AVP role play yesterday, he played the beseeching wife to myself, the traditional African husband who was irate at our "daughter" (played by Cheloti, a male in his 20s) who came to tell us "she" was pregnant out of wedlock. The scene was played and explored for ways to end the conflict nonviolently. Marlena and Delia loved the skits.

I feel like an ignorant child -- I lack the most basic skills that every child of walking age has learned. All my life I have turned on the tap and pure water has come out. This literally never happens here. Each day, rain is collected in a 1000 liter plastic tub from the gutters, or after a dry spell the cistern is filled pail by pail from a well that is down the hill about 20 yards, by hired help at Malesi's. We in turn fill buckets from the cistern -- I cannot yet lift a full bucket, though many Kenyans smaller than me can manage it fine. We bring the water into the bathroom, which to our fortune has a standard toilet, whose back we fill if we need to flush. (At the Peace Center where Miranda stayed the first 5 days, there is an outhouse with concrete squatting holes.) In the washroom, there is a smaller container that holds maybe 8 gallons of water. We dip from it using a plastic pitcher to wash our hands. Also to our great good fortune, there is a fired oven at Malesi's that constantly is heating or boiling two ~3 gallon aluminum pots of water. From these we can dip a pitcher or two, add equal or more parts of cold, and teach ourselves how to shower/wash with pitchers. It only took a couple of days to figure out that you invite a helper to pour if you are washing your hands, and I pour for the girls when they wash their hair -- otherwise, we can pour reasonably well for ourselves for a body wash and rinse. But the warm water is a real blessing, and I don't know yet if they've been providing it at the Peace Center, where the other 3 Americans are staying along with several of the Kenyans.

This seems so selfish and trivial compared to our mission here, but learning these skills is taking a bit of time! In the case of both the Peace Center and Malesi's home, the house helpers do most of the meal preparation and cleanup. Just in the past two days, Mark and I have been helping in the kitchen. Malesi's daughter Winnie has been our host and teacher this week -- we would have been completely lost without her. She leaves today to return to Nairobi, and Malesi arrived this morning. Winnie was also one of our AVP facilitators , so we have been able to process our days with her in the evening.

There is so much more to say about the training experience and our Kenyan team, but I've already been sitting here for a half hour. Stay tuned :).

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Teeming with angels

What an odyssey so far -- travel in 8-10 hour chunks -- Carbondale, St. Louis, DC, Rome, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, then ten hours by bouncy bus to Kakamega, with fifteen bags to manage along the way. But we have been cared for at every turn, and have landed at Malesi's home near Kakamega. Tomorrow we start 3 days of AVP with the whole Peace Center team. More soon!