Thursday, July 5, 2007

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 :).

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