All night music and “Kenyan time”

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Linda’s Journal- 2014 Ellen and Linda’s Kenya trip November 11 to December 16

Journal 6
Saturday November 28, 2014 9:00AM

It has been difficult sleeping since the two deaths in the village. They stay up all night dancing and playing very loud music with a heavy beat. It is the custom to do this until the day of the funeral to raise funds. It is an ongoing harambee. For example: one person says I will give you 20 shillings to let me dance, and does. Another says “I will give you 50 shilling to have her stop dancing” and she stops. Someone says “I will give you 40 shillings to play a certain song” and they do. Another will say “ I will give you 60 shillings to play a different song” This goes on every night. Paul says the usually raise about 2000 Ksh/night- about $22. I don’t know how anyone gets any sleep. However it is a period of mourning so many are not usually doing much during the day. So far today I have taken a nice shower and had my breakfast. Ellen went back to bed to try to get some sleep as the music stops about 7 AM. During the night I put my earphones on and listened to Reiki chants to relax and I did manage to get some quality sleep for a few hours.

Now back to where I left off last time. Our Thanksgiving Day was different to say the least. It was also Paul’s 30th birthday and we had plans to do fun things all day. However Paul was too busy and too saddened to celebrate.
Elly, Ellen and I therefore took a Tuk Tuk to see the local museum that features artifacts telling the history of the Luo people. They also have a full size traditional Luo village with homes for the first and second wives and the man’s house, and granary. It was interesting. Outside they have live large turtles and a crocodile. Behind glass (thank you very much) they have a collection of the snakes common to the area. Most are highly venomous. I have never seen a snake wandering around in all the time I’ve been here even though I’m told they are there. We don’t walk in the “bush” so that is good.

After the museum we went “shopping” at a long row of kiosks on a street not far from the museum. There are many owners and of course they all vie for our business. It is a bartering system. We had Elly to help make sure we didn’t get totally ripped off. Ellen and I bought several things to bring home and I think I paid a fair price. Certainly much less than I would pay for similar items at home. It started to rain and Peter had come back with the Tuk Tuk to take us home.

Our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of scrambled eggs (related to Turkey- right ☺ ) with cheese and onion. Bread (like stuffing) and cookies with fruit cocktail for our “pie”. Paul and Elly joined us a little later and we sang Happy Birthday and shared some wine that we purchased at the Nukamatt for the occasion. We thanked God for all we had and enjoyed each other’s company. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving Day is really all about anyway? Sharing with family, friends? It was about 9:30 PM by the time we finished and I was planning to Skype with my family at 10:00 PM so Paul waited to meet them and also talk to Michele.

I was so lucky to have an excellent Skype connection that lasted the entire hour we talked in spite of heavy rain off and on. My sister Karen, my niece, Michele, and her two 16 year old high school exchange students had traveled to Baltimore to spend Thanksgiving with my sister Terri and her family. It was about 2 PM their time and they had everything cooking. It was good to connect with my family. They all sang happy birthday to Paul and I think it lifted his spirits if only for a short time. Of course I was wide-awake after we disconnected so I read for a while.

Friday we planned to leave at 9:30 AM to travel to a neighboring town called Vihiga to visit David and Enzina Ozere. They are the parents of Rachael, a woman I met my last day of work at Aspire before leaving. She is from that village but moved to Buffalo with her husband in March 2014. Her husband was being evaluated at our PT clinic for treatment for a stroke he had many years ago but he is now weaker. I could not believe that she was from an area so close to where we work. She gave me some items and money to bring to her family.

OK, remember I said we PLANNED to leave at 9:30AM. However due to the heavy rains yesterday the car got stuck in the mud. They tried for too long to just spin the wheels to try to get out and dug themselves deeper and deeper. Finally they jacked up the car and placed a large piece of wood under it and drove out of the mud.

The tire however had developed a hole. Paul and Elly put on the little doughnut spare and we drove to the closest station. It only cost about $2.75 for them to patch the tire and put it back on the car. By now it was almost 1 PM!!

We arrived at our destination in about an hour and Enzina had prepared a nice lunch of rice, beef in sauce, and cooked cabbage. For dessert she had fresh oranges. Of course there was Kenyan tea. We visited a while and took photos and headed home. We were planning to visit one of our wells but it was too late. We stopped at the Nakumatt to get some food for the FIOH-K board meeting that is scheduled for Saturday. (I’ll believe it when it happens).

We also splurged and bought some ice cream. That is what Ellen and I had for supper – Ice cream!!. It tasted very good. We made it “healthy” by adding almonds and Ellen added a banana.

We both read and did some things on the computer and went to bed and tried to sleep with all the noisy music.

Monday 12/01/14 4:15 PM

I haven’t written since Friday night when we went to bed.
Saturday we did NOT have our Board meeting. Many members were unable to attend so we rescheduled it for Tuesday (tomorrow). We’ll see.

Saturday morning Paul, Ellen and I completed the final follow-up report on the canteen project the FIOH-USA funded in 2012 at Kanyamedha mixed secondary school. They sell basic school supplies to the students at a price less than they would have to pay “in town”. The upper level students run the canteen so it also teaches them math and entrepreneurial skills. They use the profits to purchase uniforms and shoes for some of the students that can’t afford them and also purchase some pens and writing books. The rest of the profit goes into refilling the shelves. It continues to be a very successful project – a very good use of $750.

After completing the report, Paul had to go into town to the police station regarding the accident that killed his cousin and best friend Michael Odhiambo. It turns out there were some witnesses to the accident. Michael’s motorcycle was not hit by a car as I wrote in a previous journal. It was a matatu (14+ passenger van). They now know the van and I believe the driver. Paul had to arrange an autopsy for Michael – required by the police- to confirm the cause of death was actually from the accident. He also came with the police to the scene and they took photos and a witness recorded a report. Hopefully eventually there will be some compensation to Michael’s widow and young son. However I’m told it takes years – if at all. Please pray that Michael’s case is an exception.

While Paul went off to do the above duties- Ellen and I were waiting for Elly to come back from his Aunt’s house (where he lives most of the time) to accompany us to see two of our funded wells. He went there to do his wash. We waited about 2 hours while we did things around the house and then I called him. He sounded like he didn’t know anything about taking us. Communication is very “cloudy” here at best. He finally arrived around 4:30PM but it was too late to go anywhere. I did arrange for Isabella, the cow, to be brought outside so I could take some photos that were not in the confines of her little stall. That was nice. Overall however, Ellen and I were very frustrated, due to just hanging around the house most of the afternoon. We did read and relax and catch up on some sleep that we are missing due to all the noise at night. (It is nice and quiet during the day here).

I also skyped with my sister Terri unexpectedly. I saw here online so I called her. She was in her van with all my relatives going to the Visionary museum in Baltimore. I came through on her iPhone. We could not believe we were talking to each other from her van. (Her husband was driving- not Terri – don’t worry ☺ ) I talked to my sister Karen, my niece, Michele and her two students again. The two girls said they LOVED their first ever USA thanksgiving dinner and were properly “stuffed”. While I was skyping, Milka, Paul’s girlfriend, came over to say they were ready to teach us to make ugali. I quickly hung up with Terri.

We went in the “kitchen” – a separate mud/wood structure. The water for the ugali was boiling in a pot balanced on three stones, heated with a wood fire. Jane guided me in pouring in the mixture of mainly corn flour with some millet and cassava. I stirred very hard and quickly and it thickened fast. Ellen took over and then at the end Jane stepped in to show us “the real way” to stir the very thick mixture. While that finished cooking – I was guided to make a mixture of tomatoes, onion and scrambled egg over another fire called a jiko. It uses charcoal – and that saves on wood. Our food tasted very good – even better knowing we had our “hands” in it.

After eating we finished off the evening talking and reading- with a promise from Elly that we would go together tomorrow, to see 2 wells and the other cows we funded, after church. Paul was going to be busy all day at a harambee that he was in charge of at Kibuye church to raise funds for a generator to use when the electricity goes out (all too frequently).

Sunday we went to St. Joseph’s church for the 9:00AM mass. It started right on time and ended about 10:40AM. Not too bad for Kenya. Paul arranged for a tuk tuk to come to church and take us where we needed to go- progress!!

First we went to see a well we funded in 2012 in Ontoglo village. I saw it in 2012 but it was not finished. When we arrived there was an iron gate and a fence around the property that was not there when I visited in 2012. However no one was there and there was no pump on the well ☹ Elly called the caretaker and found out he was at the harambee at the church- go figure. The caretaker also told Elly that the pump had been stolen before they installed the fence and the gate around the area. Now the area is secure but no pump.

We left Ontoglo quite dejected and travelled to a different section of Usoma to see the other two cows that FIOH-USA has funded for the women’s group. They are both healthy and have each given birth to a male calf. The two calves were there- one 6 months and the other nine months. They looked healthy. One “mom” was 2 months “heavy” with a female. The other one had also been “heavy” with a female but she had a miscarriage. They are both giving good milk for the families to drink and sell. The second cow that miscarried will be impregnated with another female as soon as it is appropriate for her health. It costs an extra $70 to assure a female. Unfortunately the first female calf born to Isabella, died after about 4 months due to worms and the second as I just mentioned miscarried. I wonder if the females are more fragile or if it’s just bad luck? The three males born have done very well so far but it’s the females that are needed.

After leaving the cows we went to see the second well we funded in Usoma village. It is doing very well, working properly and being used by the villagers. I felt better that we were able to accomplish some of our goals and that many projects are working well. For the rest of the afternoon Ellen and I relaxed and read a book we both purchased called “The River and the Source” – a story of the Luo people based on the factual history of one woman Aroko and the next three generations of her family. It was interesting and helped explain some of the local customs that persist today. We cooked chili for ourselves and it was good to eat “normal” food for a change even though I am enjoying the local food more and more. Ellen went to bed early and I watched a DVD of the Terminal with Tom Hanks. I had seen it before but it was enjoyable to watch it again. I had earphones on – so it blocked out the loud music.

I slept fairly well and this morning Paul, Ellen and I met to plan tomorrows special awarding of the Rom Wandera Memorial Scholarship award. We invited the 5 finalists and their families. Rom’s wife Connie and any of her 3 children able to come were also invited. Connie will present the award. Of course, we will serve sodas and cookies to all the guests. We also planned the menu for the FIOHK Board meeting that is scheduled for 1:00PM tomorrow.

We still have to plan the actual program/agenda’s for both events.
We went into town and purchased the food and we bought a total of 9 lanterns for the students. We will give one to each finalist and have some extra to give to other students who have to study by a small kerosene light the size of one you would use under a carafe. We had another flat tire so while we shopped the mechanic repaired the tire. This time it only cost about $1.60. Gas is very expensive though- even worse than home. We also had to replace the cars battery early on; I don’t think I mentioned that.

Paul brought us back ‘home” to empty out the car and then he had to go back to town for more details about the funeral and Michael’s death. Ellen and I got brave and took a walk through the village and ended up at the Lake. We met many village children that were very excited to see mzungu (white people) They all wanted to touch our skin. We actually found our way back home (we both have a poor sense of direction). It was nice to walk on the dirt roads and see the local living.

We both took showers and cleaned up for dinner. Milka prepared ugali and beef in sauce and skumaweeki (kale). We ate with Paul and Elly here at the house. Now it is about 10:00PM Monday night and we have a busy day ahead tomorrow. I hope I can sleep with the music playing.

End of journal 6

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