Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Universal Intertia

When I was sixteen I was in a car crash. More like I crashed the car but that’s not the point. I remember the moment when I realized the crash was inevitable, it wasn’t a terrible feeling it was just as if knowledge had been added. Rocks are hard, waters wet and I am about to total this car. I looked down and thought “oh good the airbags are deploying”.

It’s that sort of calm inevitably at high speeds I feel now.

I officially have no idea what’s next as school plans just changed completely,” change” here meaning disappeared, so I have no idea where I am headed. I just know I am headed forward. Or backwards. Maybe sideways? I just know the movement can’t stop.

I thought so many things before I arrived that I unthink now. I don’t disagree with them so much as think them backwards. Try to figure out where the ideas came from and why they are here.

I have lost myself completely. I feel like I’m floating alone with nothing solid. Maybe there is just nothingness. But it’s a special nothingness. It’s the nothingness of possibility. It’s not scary, it’s enticing, it’s comforting, it’s everything. An everything nothingness.

I guess it’s more like emptiness that I’m excited to fill.

I don’t know what the existentialists are bitching about. “Who am I?” and “why am I here?” aren’t depressing they’re electrifying.

Who the hell am I? I’m whoever the fuck I want to be. I’m here because I want to be. I’m doing this because I can.

Look at me, I’m alive. I can run and I can jump and I can scream and I can be whoever and whatever I want.

You surround yourself with your riches but my wealth is in my potential. It’s opposite-tangible because it has to be but I love it this way. The blankness is what allows me to open my arms and spin. I feel bad for those who are caught and choked by their reasons. To those who can’t move because they are too cramped by plans I am sorry. I encourage you to throw them out.

I don’t even know where this writing is going. It’s open ended. Never ended. Ever ended.

I’ve either completely lost my mind or reached enlightenment.

I have no idea what’s next but I’m not afraid. It’s like I’m falling to my back but instead of bracing I’m enjoying the view of the sky.

I love you all for reading my blog and considering my thoughts and paying attentions to my actions. If my blog has ever given you any advice or thoughts about your own life then know this now.

Do not be afraid of the landing.

It can be soft or hard or anything in between but we have no idea. Life becomes much more fun, more enticing, more enjoyable, when you cease to flail your arms and legs and brace for the inevitable. When you just let the free falling sensation wash over you, you are allowed to open your eyes in all directions. The world gets bigger and smaller- bigger in that you can finally see it and smaller in that you can see yourself as a continuation of it rather then a piece of it- and infinitely more beautiful.

If I have learned nothing else in Africa then this is the lesson I will hold dear for the rest of my life.

This acceptance is within everyone here, priests, children, volunteers, and comes in all forms. It is this that allows us to work through what seemed like it would kill us months ago.

I wrote about faith and how it here in places it has no business being because to the people here just being alive, even for minutes, is enough of a gift to celebrate and thank god for. I understood that on an intellectual level but now it has made it’s way into my core being.

I am, we are, so lucky to have the whole world before us.

I know what direction I’m moving. Front-wise. I am just going and going because how in the hell can a person stop when life exists in all it’s wonder?

I hope this manic ecstasy has shaken you up the way it has me. I hope it has made you too big for your own skin so that you have to get up and see what you can do with your new self.

Please don’t be afraid. (and please pay me for this advice. Through donations. Hahaha just kidding. Not really.)

I know this had little to do with Africa and completely lacked the story telling you are used to. Sorry. Had to get it out. If you are unsatisfied here is a quick anecdote-

I was locked in my room for 3 hours a few days ago as the door was broken. I am visiting a new mission and had no one’s phone number so I just had to sit and wait for a solution to present itself. Which it did in two small children I scared the hell out of after I leaned out of a window and yelled for them. One of the kids ran away the toher fought with the door for a few minutes until leaving to find someone else. Once the oor was finally opened I realized I couldn’t find my phone. Once the phone was found the lights wouldn’t turn on. This has caused me to come the the conclusion that problems, much like matter, are never created or destroyed. They simply change shape.

I love you and will be home in four months.
Aliya (or Aliambo if you are in Kisumu.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Living of Love

Hey guys!

So we finished shooting the gospel video, thank God, and I am now back in Mulot. The problem is now I miss Kisumu.

The thing about getting to travel around and live this kind of life is you start to love all the people and places almost too much. Saying goodbye to the people in Kisumu was almost as hard as saying goodbye to the people back home.

I have another home now, the problem is I had to leave it. Just like I’ll have to leave this one. To go back to the one I miss desperately across the globe. For the rest of my life a I will miss somewhere else.

I think the reason I miss Kisumu so much, and know I will miss Mulot so much, is because both of these places are so full of love. People here are so willing to love an accept you; they want to love you. It is truly the communal family feeling my friends and I tried to create throughout high school.

You can see this love in every aspect of society. All the women are “Mamas” the men “Abbas” the younger crowd, so around my age, are all “brother” or “sister” and every child is called “son” or “daughter” by everyone. Everyone is considered an intimate member of the family.

You can find examples of this everywhere. In the community built orphanages, the fact that no food goes unshared, in just the way people interact with each other. Nobody ever starts a conversation without prefacing it by asking how you are or inquiring about your health.

Yesterday on the bus home Madame Grace and I sat in the front. About half way through a small child started coughing. Without thinking Madame Grace took one of the plastic bottles of water brought with and handed to the child’s mother. After she struggled with opening it for a few minutes a man behind her grabbed it, opened it and then proceded to hold it so the child could drink.

This doesn’t sound like a particularly love filled or community oriented story but think about it- when was the last time you did something like that? When was the last time you saw someone do something like that?

My friend Jay, who is poor as shit and probably can barely pay his rent, never goes hungry because someone in his apartment complex will give him dinner no question asked. The only expectation of Jay is that he would do the same thing for them. Which of course he would.

What inspires people who have so little to share it? Why don’t the hoard the little they have and refuse to see others in order to protect it? I mean if all I had to live of was an acre of maize I don’t know if I would be so willing to share it.

Are we as westerners so fundamentally different from Africans? Why are we less willing to help each other out? It’s tempting to tell yourself that people don’t need as much help in the USA so it’s easier not to share but let’s not entertain that kind of bullshit for a second. People need just as much help there as they do here but for some reason we fight like hell not to give it. Whether people are arguing against welfare or walking by the homeless without a passing glance or are bitching about the 50 hours of required community service from high school it’s like we are always fighting to not have to share.

Do you know where that gets us? At home alone with our shit.

I don’t want to offend anyone by saying that no one is the US shares but I don’t think anyone could argue that it isn’t a very different begrudging sharing. Like “I will lend you 5 dollars but I will not be happy about it and I expect you to give me that 5 dollars back soon” whereas in Africa it is more along the lines of “I will give you have my food because you are my neighbor and you are hungry and one day you will do the same for me because we are both human”

Yes we have more wealth in the US but where has that really gotten us?

Interesting related note, I can’t find the Swahili word for “please” I don’t think it exists but they do have “thank-you” and “welcome”

It can drive one a little crazy, everyone being connected like a family and nothing belonging to any one person, but only as crazy as your family back home drives you. It’s really amazing to live so communally.

Maybe the reason people have such huge families here is because they feel like they have too much infinite love for the small amount of people already alive so they have to make more.

My Infinite Love is back home with you

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I SINGLEHANDEDLY Sexualized Kenya's Gospel Scene and All I Got Was This Stupid Blog

There comes a time in one’s life, when one wonders

“How did I get here and what in the hell did I do to deserve this?”

This thought crossed my mind yesterday wearing a burlap traditional African outfit well dancing to gospel music. All with a smile on my face as I was being recorded.

On Thursday Madame Grace and I left the mission to go visit her home in Kisumu. I was excited thinking it might be a nice change from the mission. How wrong I was.

Throughout the journey I was forced to fight of vendors who were a delightful mixture of obscene, crude, aggressive and smelly.

Now when I say aggressive I don’t mean the guy who follows you around the club for a little while well you dance with your friends. I mean the kind of aggressive that caused a man to jump onto a moving bus and refuse to let go until I gave him my phone number. Don’t worry I gave him a fake number and when he jumped off the moving bus and tumbled to the ground he looked alright.

When we finally reached the mission after 3 matatus and a motorcycle ride I assumed I had reached salvation. Little did I know I was just heading for the next ring of hell.

It turns out the reason we are spending a week here in kisumu rather then the weekend I thought we were spending is because we are shooting a gospel music video. Which I am in. dancing. Dead center.

Just kill me.

I tried to get out of it by throwing up in the church during rosary but to no avail. It is too late. There is video evidence of this event. Which is too bad because it means I will have to kill these people, burn down the mission and destroy all the evidence.

Even if I didn't have a solo dance part because someone saw me pop my butt I would have to kill these people. but as it is I swiveled my hips and now they have me dancing in a way that makes it look like the music should be called "Jesus- Gettin' down wit some bitchez". The girls have also starting imitating the dances. I can feel myself being pulled underground and into hell.

but all of this dancing, all of this gospel, all of this future blackmail begs the questionwhy are we doing this? Why is one always hearing a hymn and seeing people dance spontaneously? In essence…

what is faith?

I have been pondering this in question and today during rosary watching people actively enjoy what has been portrayed as boring obligation to many back home I think I got some answers.

Faith is believing that the lights are going to come back on even though they have been off for hours and the storm is raging. Faith is believing the water is clean.

Faith is the songs your mother sang you to sleep with. Faith is the place where you and all your loved ones live and gather. Faith is where you played as a child, where your food was gotten, where your friends all met. Faith is home.

But because these answers I came up with didn’t seem enough I decided to ask.

I asked Mercy. I asked her because she is missing her right leg, her left foot, many of her fingers and has a burn up her arm that hurts to look at. And she goes to church everyday. I asked Mercy how she can retain her faith after such terrible things happened to her. Her answer?

“Because I survived”

And it is as simple as that. Life itself s considered gift enough to praise god. The mere fact that you live and breathe and have been allowed even minutes on this earth is enough to force you to your knees and thank God until you are hoarse.

It is a profound appreciation I hope I can one day adopt.

I guess when you have nothing, you have everything to gain.

I would have written more but it is time to go dance again.

I Love You and Miss You and Am Not Giving You a Copy of These Tapes


Monday, June 14, 2010

La Douleur Exquise

Hey guys. I know it’s been awhile. I’ll be sorry when I have that kind of energy to spare.

I meant to write something about the school or the kids. But today it’s about me. And it’s not cheerful so consider yourself warned.

I am at a place beyond overwhelmed. I am beyond stress. I live within a constant hum of numbers and figures of what’s needed. I live within a constant blur of faces of those who are hurt and helpless and are reaching out for hope. I live within a constant scream.

Yesterday I went to visit a friend in Narok thinking I could have a day away from the mission with a friend. Just chill. Forget for a few hours about the great and terrible need. That was stupid of me. Poverty is always lying in wait to pounce.

My friend’s landlord stopped me and told me the newest version of the same story. Dead parents, three young kids living with him, no money for school not to even mention food or clothing.

All I could do was nod my head and say “I’ll see what I can do”, because I am out of promises. What I wanted to do was shake him and scream DO YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE ADDED $10,000 TO WHAT I NEED? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH MONEY I NEED?

Instead I shook his hand and watched as his wife cried tears of hope.

I sat in my friend’s apartment with my head in my hands and when asked if I was crying I said no I’m doing math. As I ran through the calculations of school fees, debt relief numbers and expense reports that are my continuous companions he stopped me to tell me I could try just getting fees for one.

I had to stop myself from slapping him. I almost screamed “What do you mean just one? You can’t just take one. That’s worse then taking none” and he understood. Because there really is no way to pick and choose. They are all just as orphaned. Just as in need. Just as beautiful and deserving.

One of the aforementioned orphans came into his apartment and crawled into my lap and I wanted to cry and cry and cry and tell the child how beautiful and wonderful it was and how much I hated it and wished I had never met it. How I would never stop until I found a school for him but how a terrible and dark part of me hoped something would happen to take his burden off my hands.

As I looked into the child’s eyes all I could see reflected back at me were his added costs.

The more I grow into a hero here the smaller I feel. The more confident I am of my failure. I often feel that I am causing more harm than good. That I am wreaking havoc because in the end I will disappoint all and they will be worse off then they wore because they tasted hope.
I try to tell myself that if I can raise half the money, help half the people, reach a checkpoint I will be happy with myself. But that is a line of bullshit that makes me gag. I know I will never be able to look at myself again if I fail at this. I know that if I fall short at this then for the rest of my life I will look in the mirror and see Duncan or Daisy or Mary or Terrance looking back at me. Asking me why. Why didn’t I have the strength or the courage or the ability to help them.

If I fail at this I will never be without guilt.

Do you think I’m too involved in this? Do you think I’m too invested? Well I challenge you to do something remotely like this and not end up like me.

If I did not end up in this sort of exquisite agony then I would not be a person I could be proud of.

Maybe I’ll forgive myself if I fail, but I will never forgive myself if I do not exhaust every option I have.

So I’m calling in all debts. Did I lend you $5 in the seventh grade for lunch? Hand it over. Did I ever treat you to a movie? It’s payback time. That gas money I never asked for? I want it now. Pay me for any meal you ever ate at my house, for any joking bet we ever made, for anytime I bought the party favors. I don’t care why you pay me just hand the money over. If you don’t think you owe me any money then lend some to me now. Donate and keep tabs. I will pay you back. With interest. I will go into debt myself. What do you need? What can I do? Begging? Done. Pleading? Already happening. Want me to crawl on my hands and knees? Tell me when and where.

This is Africa. We all live in 7x5 quarters. There is no room for dignity.

I wonder if this is how Al Gore feels when he tries to get an environmental passed.

I love you. Please take part in my agony.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Speaking for Themselves

So instead of listening to me in this post, I want you to listen to some of the kids here that need the most help. These are essas from the poorest cildren at the school written to me asking for help to pay their school fees. Hopefully this moves you to donate.

Kennedy Lemayian- class 8
To Madame Aliya
My name is Kennedy Lemayian. I live in Narok in a place called Protian. It’s a forest.
My mom can not be able to cater for all the things I need. I have a brother staying in Nairobi. His name is Keith and he’s now in form 3 in a school called Upper Hill.
Their schools fees is so high that my mom can’t be able to pay all our debts. My dad died before I was born because of a certain disease.
I please ask you to help my family to pay my debts so as to reduce the costs of living to my mom.
Please help us. Thank you.

Mordecai Kiprotich- Class 5
My name is Mordecai Kiprotich and I am ten years old my home is in rift valley province and my school is also in rift valley.
I want to explain what a family is. A family is a group of people who are related together. The head of the family is father and when father is not there the head of the family shall not be here.
My family’s name is called Kirui Family and I and my family we are 6 in number. I have 5 sisters and one brother in total we add up to six.
I love my family so much and I also thank God because of helping my parent and my family to stay alive. My mother is a widow. A widow is a woman who doesn’t have a husband. So I thank God for helping my mother to pay for me school fees and bringing me to school.
I have my older sister and older brother. My older brother is still in secondary form 4 and my older sister has got married. I also have last born a girl who is in standard three who is following me and I am second last born.
My school is Bishop Colin Davis Academy in mulot division. Where I use to learn and enjoy myself by playing and reading storybooks. In this school where I am I also have a sister called Doreen Chepkirui.
My mother usually being help by my other relatives like uncle, aunt, and even the brother to my father who lives in Bomet where my father was working in.
I and my family usually go to church known as SD a where many people love because there are people who are having faithful and they believe that God is there. So I pray for my family to do good.

Doreen Chepkini-Class 8
My name is Doreen Chepkini Kinui. I am 13 years old of age. I am in class 8 in /bishop Colin Davis Academy School. My mother’s name is Emily while my late father’s name is Richard Kinui.
We are 6 children in my family. My elder sister is married followed by other 4 girls in school including me. I have 2 brothers one in secondary and the other one is in primary school. In total children in secondary are 3 while the ones in primary are 3 including me.
My mother’s career is business woman and other small jobs. My father was also in the same business before he passed away about nine years back. Ever since that day we have not been living a quite without our father. My mum have been struggling hard so as to pay our school fees despite the fact of many challenges. But anyway God has been on our side, also throughout our lives. Through determination and hardwork we have been able to make our devoted mother happy of us.

Shelia Chebet- class 8

I am called Shelia Chebet. I am a girl from B.C.D.A in standard eight. My parent’s names are Magret Kenduiywo and my late father David Kendaiywo. In my family we are five. It consists of three girls including me with two boys.
My mother is a teacher and my father was a police officer who died four years ago of throat cancer. In our family, we are very happy of my hardworking mother who has devoted herself really for the payment of our fees and as a result actually I can say she is capable.

Gilbert Towett Form 1
Dear sir/madam
I am a boy of 15 years old. I was born in the family of seven children in Kenya Narock district at Kilisu village. In our family we went to school at very late age because of poverty and having nothing hands our living standard. We had nothing to eat at some time we spend night without eating anything or sometime a very difficult job to get something to pay food.
I went to school when I was seven years old for lack of school fees. This all happen because my mother was chased away by my father, who was very drinker. My mother was also health problems and she spent all she got to pay hospital pills and for school.
I joined school because of one of a good hearted man who was living neighbor to us. I thank God for that. The man was paying my school fees primary before the government free the pupil school so that no one will be paying pupil school. I was at class one by then. I was very old at all class pupils and knowing nothing at all. I promise myself that I will do my best to come up with my fellow pupils. Therefore I worked very hard and come up with my fellow when I was at class three I became a position one. I kept on working very hard in other classes although I was facing many problems at my background.
I done the final examination in the year 2008 where I succedded by exam. I lacked the school fees to join form one. There was nobody to pay for me. This all could not give me to lose hope for anything. Instead I keep on believing in god that one day he will provide me.
I used to believe in God that I will become a doctor and there will be no longer any problem. I will live to hands my life and to help my siblings and other people in need.
I decided to repeat some class in the year 2009 at the same pupil school. Although I had several problems. After that year I passed again the examination but the problem was still the same.
In good will one of the priests of our church decided to help me to join one of their secondary schools form one this year.
Further more I would like to ask for help to pay my school fees for I to continue with my studies. My wish is to study up to higher learning and education. For I to help the needy and my world.
I promise that I will work hard all the time to succed in my studies. I will become a disciplined boy I will seek good convention in my life.
I hope to hear from you. May god bless you forever.
Yours faithfully
Gilbert Towett.

Mary Nchoe Form 1
I am a girl of age 14 years old. I have four brothers and five sisters who are older than I. both of the are the parents now. I am the only one at home who is in school.
My parent is a single family. My mother is alive and she has become very old that is not able to do any business. In 2000 I dropped out of school because of a lack of school fees and my parents were not able to look even after us because my mother was involved in drinking the wine and abuse the drugs.
We hardly had enough to eat and even to put on. One of my sister was looking after me and helped with some food, clothing and even paying school fees. Although it was for a short time.
My mother sometimes went for about four months and she didn’t left us something to eat.
So I decide to go for help and some people who belong to the church came home and brought for us the food and clothes.
When I was standard eight my sister was paying for me school fees and promised me that she will pay for me up to university but that was for a short period.
Our family was given many uncounted names and later god gave them strength.
Last year when I was in class eight we go for help there was an organization which was coming to help the orphans and disable people and our names were written down but it has fail to help. When I complete my primary education and KCPE I stayed at home almost five months at home but one thing I had was faith and prayed every day until god opened the way. I went to the Mennonite church and inform the people to help me to continue with my education.
Some of them help and other changed their mind. Surely they have helped me a lot. The Mennonite church Christian had buy for me those items but thank god those people helped me.
I came to school very late because of lack of school fees and the money that were needed to buy personal items. My sister and brothers have wealth but they fail to pay for school fees.
We are living in a house which we usually pay house rent and we don’t have some money even some times the owner chased us way during th night and there was no one to help. This year I joined the secondary school because of God’s favor. I came to school when I don’t have some personal item like a towel but later my mother brought to me. I was very happy to join bishop colin davies school I was about to loose hope and many people have gone to school I was the only one left at home. My life has changed since I joined this school. I will do my best if I only get any assistance that will be able to continue my education. I really appreciate because I am being sent home to go find bring school fees and personal items. If I get assistance I will be glad and will promise to help others in the future .
Thank you
Mary Nchoe

Cheruto Langat Daisy Form 1

I am a girl of age fourteen. I have two sisters and a brother and they are younger than me. They are both going to school.
My brother and sisters and I was born in a village called Sugutek, Keringet Location, Molo District.
My siblings and I went to Mwane primary school. When I was in class six in the year 2006 my mother got sick and unfortunately she died.
My siblings and I got taken by my mother’s sister called mary. From there we were taken by her children.
In the year 2008 I did my K.C.P.E by then my sisters mother got sick and unfortunately she dies. I never got a chance of joining form one because there was no one to pay my school fees.
I had to repeat so I repeated at Sogoo Township and did my K.C.P.E in the year 2009.
Again there was no money for my school fees but God came through a Mulot parish priest called Patrick Nkaai who offered to pay for me school fees.
My teachers and neighbors bought for me shopping to take to school.
I was welcomed though I did not have everything required for school.
The problem which I do normally encounter in school is that I sometimes back shopping to use.
I also enjoy school because I get adequate education and also because it is a place where holy place that is church is found hence giving me a holy life to live.
The importance of me being in school is to get education in order to achieve my career so as to earn myself a living in the future.
I would like to request is there is someone a good Samaritan who can help me in side of school fees, shopping and also uniform I think and hope that my dreams will come through.
I promise to work hard, achieve my goal so as to help my sibilings and other needy in the society as I am being helped.
I will be glad to hear good respond. Thank you.
Yours sincerely,
Cheruto Langat Daisy

Duncan Bosire form 1

Hi, I’m a boy of age 15 years old. I have two brothers and three sisters who are younger than me. Both of them are no longer in school because of lack of school fees. Im the only one at home whi is in school.
My parent died a few years ago –(1st April 2004)- they were involved in a road accident while going to visit my grandmother who was at that time very sick. They were admitted to a national hospital but unfortunately they passed away.
They left us alone, I as the eldest son, my siblings were now at my hands. I dropped out of school in order to take care of my siblings. Some villagers helped us with some food, clothing and even paying house rent. Although this was for a short period.
We lived a hard life, we hardly had enough to eat and even to put on. I started working in a tea plantation in order to get something to eat with my brothers and sisters.
My brother, also died three months after the death of my parents. This was agter he had only suffered for three works.
Our grandmother took us to her home. We lived there for only a few years then our aunt decided to help us because grandmother was unable to look after us proper due to her old age.
One day, I met a certain teacher and told me to go back to school because I am still young. I agreed because I knew there is no way I will succeed and bring up my siblings without education. But the problem was, “who will pay for me school fees and provide other facilities which I needed in school?”
I talked to my aunt but she refused. I left that day her house and went to grandma’s house. I told her that I wanted to go to school. She agreed and even took me to school.
I worked hard and did well on all my examination. The teachers liked me because of my discipline.
I did my Kenya National Exam in the year 2008. I was supposed to join a secondary school but I did not get school fees.
I talked to out priest who really offered to help me continue with my education. I repeated grade eight and did my national exam in the year 2009. I did very well. This year, 2010, I join a secondary school and I’m so thankful for his help.
I have seen many changes in my life since I joined this secondary school. My life has completely change and I would like to continue with this education. If I would get any assistance to enable me continue with school, I would really appreciate because sometimes you find I’m being sent to go bring school fees while others are in school, sometimes being sent to go and bring personal items books, school shoes and other things but I rarely get.
Please, if I get any assistance I will be very happy and I promise to work hard so that I may also help other in future.
Thank you
Duncan Bosire

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Laundry Room

Hey guys. Sorry it’s been so long since my last update- I’ve been busy travelling. I’ve seen like 6 tourist sites for free in the past two days. Awesome but exhausting.

But anyway I figured that now that you are all clean from your bucket shower- I should teach you how to wash your clothes.

First gather all your dirty clothes, aka all your clothes, and put on your least dirty thing. Put them in a bucket for safe keeping.

Now that you’ve gathered your clothing go get some water. Get three more buckets- no you can’t use the one your clothes are in- and fill them with “clean” water, clean here being least amount of bugs floating in it and the closest to clear.

Anyway carry your buckets of water to an outside grassy area. It doesn’t necessarily have to be grassy- I just enjoy the feeling of the sun and grass while I clean- but it does have to be outside because water gets everywhere and water on your concrete floor is very unpleasant.

So line all your buckets together in a line to maximize efficiency and dump your clothes out at one end of the line. Take your now empty bucket and put it on the end of the line opposite your clothes.

Now before you start washing make sure you get distracted by some kids needing a quick talk or you say hello to at least five other women washing. I’m not sure if this part is crucial but I’ve never washed without having it happen.

Now walk back across your compound because you forgot your bar of soap in your room. Again. Chat with a few more teachers during this part.

So now that you have walked back to your clothing and water the washing can begin. Take a few articles of clothing, I usually start with three, and put them in the first bucket of water and start scrubbing. Rub the bar of soap into the clothing. After you have gotten soap all over the article of clothing fold it in half and rub it against itself. This makes sure the soap really gets in there. Keep the bar of soap in the water. It will make it extra sudsy which helps clean.

Now what I choose to do is soap up as much clothing as I can before moving on to step two but if you want to do this one piece of clothing at a time go ahead. Whatever floats your boat. You probably don’t have that much clothing anyway.

So after you have gotten the soap in there deep- and I mean you put soap into the pockets deep- wring the clothes out and put it into the next bucket. This is the first rinse. After you have moved all the clothing from bucket A to bucket B repeat this step only move the clothes to bucket C. I know it’s tempting to skip bucket C but if you do the soap won’t come completely off and your clothes will get scummy.

So after the second rinse put all your clothes into the original and now empty bucket. Make sure you wring the clothes out before moving on to this step though or else it will be too heavy to carry.

Now walk across the compound to hang your clothes up to dry. Just get over your embarrassment of having your bra and panties hanging out to dry next to the boys dorm. They don’t really care. Except for the two of them who you are pretty sure are trying to spot you changing and that’s why they are always near your window. Don’t be alarmed by those boys though- they are 15 you can take them.

Now you will have discovered your legs are COVERED in mud so walk back to the clean water to wash of your legs.

FUN TIP- shave your legs right now. It will make you feel cleaner and it will make showering in the freezing night much quicker and more pleasant. Why should you bother shaving your legs you ask? Because you’re an American and eventually you will at one point look down and feel disgusted with your legs if you don’t.

Anyway leave your clothes out to dry and pray it doesn’t rain. It’s pretty much impossible to predict weather out here so all you can hope is that it won’t storm. If you start to notice a drizzle run to get your clothes IMMEDIATELY because you have 10 minutes AT MOST before it is going to pour.

Congratulations! You have now washed your clothing! Now go wash the floor.

But before you rush off to wash your clothes the good ‘ole African way let me update you on the goings on around here.

I mentioned that I’d been traveling the past two days, I thought I could tell you guys the highlights of the trip.

On day one we left the compound at 4 am and went to Nairobi, a five hour drive, starting with the airport. The kids were ecstatic to see the planes- most of them had never seen one and were practically salivating when they went inside. During this part I stayed behind at an outdoor airport café where I smoked a pack of cigarettes and sucked down two lattes.

Interestingly enough I was joined by a man named Peter who works for the EU and is travelling around Africa to hand out money to worthy causes. So I might have done a little bit of networking there. He also bought me a latte. Yesssssss

Then we had another hours drive out to the Nairobi Museum/ snake park where I argued with Father Patrick about evolution. Then we had another hours drive to an animal orphanage where I touched a cheetah and then we drove another half hour to- and this was the best part- A SUPERMAKRET. I literally bought 3 tubs of peanut butter. I would have bought more but I thought that would make me look a little insane. I also bought some chocolate and shampoo etc. it was actually kind of hard to shop though, even though I’ve only been here a month the city made me feel suffocated and the supermarket was beyond overwhelming. When I realized how many choices I had in the potato chip aisle I felt a little bit like crying.

Anyway then we drove 6 hours home and arrived on the compound around midnight. Luckily I was able to have a very nice three hour nap before we were off again.

This time we drove 7 hours to this national park Bolgoria. There we got to see flamingos and springs so hot that we could boil eggs in them. Which we did and then promptly ate for breakfast/lunch. This is where it was discovered I won’t eat the yolk of a boiled egg causing people to fight over who got to sit next to me and eat my yolks.

From there we went to Lake Nakuru, another 4 hour drive, which was awesome. Nakuru is an animal preserve you can drive around and take pictures. I was particularly delighted by the giraffe (pictures on the way).

After that another supermarket and then we could finally go home. This time we were in bed around two.

Anyway I am still tired and thus am going back to sleep. I love and miss you all.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beyond The Deficit

So today I discovered that the school is over 150,000 shillings in debt. That is just the debt from unpaid tuition fees.

I was introduced to the 11 most financially desperate cases in the school and their combined debt to the academy is 157,180 shillings.

This is the lowest the school could get the debt.

I watched the head teacher Mr. Barraza cut down a student’s tuition from the 10,000 shillings per term down to 8,000 by pretty much trimming more then the fat. He was legitimately just cutting down the number to the bare minimum and then below that.

I had no idea how in the red the school is. The USA could learn something about deficit spending from Father Patrick here.

The school does what it can to have these students pay as little as possible. People literally give timber or chickens or whatever they have to spare, which is practically nothing. It’s like living in the 1920s.

My mind is literally blown. I cannot imagine how the school is moving forward in this much debt. How are we feeding the students? How has father Patrick extended electricity to the teachers? How are we affording to do anything?

But here is the real question. What could be done without this debt? What would the school look like?

Here is an example of what some money could do here…

There are probably half a dozen cases of Malaria right now, and that is just the reported cases I would guess that at least 10 more people have malaria but don’t want to go to the dispensary due to cost. Also everyone here constantly has a cough or cold, is just getting over something potentially devastating illness or is just beginning one. Even I have a pretty severe cough and cold here.

This poses the question, why are we so sick?

My answer- our “showers”.

You might remember my blog about taking a bucket shower, well as terrible as it sounds for the students it is even worse as they cannot heat their water. So the students are constantly bathing with cold unclean water. On top of this the students have to either shower in the early morning, when I refuse to go out in less then my knitted drug rug and two pairs of pants, or at night, where I refuse to leave my room due to the freezing temperatures.

Imagine if you will dunking yourself in ice water, naked, standing outside in Chicago lets say in mid November.

So my guess is that’s why we are all sick. Not to mention we all clean our clothes, wash out utensils, brush our teeth etc. with the unclean water.

So what can we do? Well

500,000 Kenyan shillings would give us clean running water.

That would mean the kids could take hot showers. So instead of having to endure, and believe me it is a painful experience-I need a word better then endure, these bucket showers or just have to be obscenely grossly disturbingly dirty these kids could be healthy warm and clean.

This would bring the costs of the school’s dispensary costs down as well as improve the general hygiene of the school.

Not to mention that we could clean our things- clothes, plates, drinking glasses, with hot water instead of stagnant cold water.

That idea excites me more then the thought of a chicken nugget.

By the way the same goes for the teachers here. They clean in the same dirty water, take the same cold bucket showers and get just as sick.

We all live like this.

To be completely honest I think grades would improve with clean water. Self-esteem and feelings of self-worth would improve greatly.

Don’t believe me? Take bucket showers for a week and then see how you feel.

Can you imagine never having had the feeling of stepping out of a nice hot shower? Of being totally clean?

So perhaps if we can get this debt paid…

I salivate at the thought of what money could do here.

And too think that the school is spending itself into the deepest red rather then collecting these debts.

I’m actually kind of scared of the school closing. If this school closes a lot of these kids have no where to go, and I mean they are orphans with no homes. Not to mention that if they are forced to go to public schools they may as well drop out. Public school here is less then a joke.

Junior, the eight year old we pulled out of public school to put here, he couldn’t even read SWAHILI at a first grade level. I can read as much Swahili as him.

Please keep donating guys. Please ask everyone you know to donate. Please ask your family, your friends, your parents, your churches, your temples, your schools, your teachers, your cousins, your grandparents, your anyone to donate.

All my pendo (love) is back home.
I ache to see you all back at home.