Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Color Has Nothing To Do With The Flavor

Hey guys.

So let’s talk about basic need- water.

In the USA we, or at least I, think about lack of water- not clean water but ANY water- very little. My theory is that we can all understand being hungry and are willing to give food because we’ve been there; nobody likes having the munchies with no money or food.

But my guess is no one reading this has ever really had to live without water.

Now I thought we had it hard here on the mission when it came to water. Our system is always breaking down so more often then not we have to drag tanks around and fill them bucket by bucket from a reservoir. When it is running it runs only in the kitchen and father’s house so in our rooms we still have to fill buckets on one side of the mission and bring them back to the rooms. I might have to cross the mission three or four times to get a bucket of water to heat so I can bathe. I may have mentioned this being a HUGE pain in the ass.

Yesterday I visited the public school. I will never complain again.

Before I go into that visit, let me give you some background.

I am determined to put a running water system in the school so the kids can shower and use actual plumbing instead of pit latrines. I am also trying to raise money to put in solar panels so we can heat the water and lower the cases of sickness within the school from bathing in the mornings or at night with the FREEZING stagnant water.

The total cost of this is about $24,000. When going over these estimates father Patrick told me about the water problems in the surrounding area.

Mulot is well known across the country for being the place to visit if you are really keen on a case of typhoid with about 20 cases a month reported at our dispensary alone. (Please keep in mind that these are only the people who come to the mission for healthcare, this does not include the surrounding hospitals or people to afraid to come for healthcare due to cost).

Why is this number so high?

People are getting their water directly out of the Amala River or other stagnant ponds in the surrounding area. The mission is the only place in Kirusu or Mulot that isn’t forced to get their water from the dirty river- only because we were lucky enough to have water underground- and is defiantly the only place where there is even a thought of pipes or pumps.

So how does this bring us to the public school? Well hold on and I will explain.

For an extra $13,261 the school could afford a 100,000 liter tank. This tank would hole enough water for the mission to provide water to the public school and sell it to the surrounding area. This tank would instantly eradicate Typhoid and other water borne pathogens that plague the town.

So Father Patrick thought I would like to take a little stroll to the public school and see where this water would go.

How do I describe this place? Think of every commercial you’ve ever seen with starving children. Add your worst nightmares. Now throw in a dash of filth and disease that make you want to gag. Remove any shoes or well taken care of clothing. Serve on a platter of unimaginable poverty.

You have the recipe for a Kenyan public school.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I exaggerate. Pictures will follow soon once I gather my courage around me.

So upon visiting the school I was taken to the kitchen to see the water they cook with and drink. It was brown. Positively brown.

But perhaps it was just the container?

No, I took a cup of the water out and it stayed brown.

Brown not the color you want to drink? Well luckily there was a basin of green water also.

But the school is thankful for this water. The land the school is on is completely dry and they have no piping to get the water onto the campus.

So how do they get the water you ask?

The children are sent off during school hour’s everyday to fetch water in small five gallon containers. They are instructed to bring back whatever water is found.

So not only are the kids getting sick, but they had to miss school and be sent off to find the diseases.

Please don’t blame the school because what else could be done? They have no plumbing, no pipes, nothing that could bring the water to them and they need to it feed the children and keep the place “clean”.

But here is the real kicker. I hope you’re sitting down because this piece of information almost knocked the wind out of me.

They are going to start PAYING for this diseased water.

And who are they going to pay?

Why the government!

The school is actually going to pay the government to bring in the dirty untreated water if we cannot get this extra tank.


The money the school should be using to fix the buildings that are literally falling apart to a point you can see through the walls, to buy desks instead of the three pieces of wood stapled together with 4 kids crammed in, and to pay more then 14 teachers for the 700 students will actually be going to be used to pay so that they can get ill.

It’s a cute trick, eh?

So as unequivocally important as it is to get warm running water here, it is just as important to get this tank for the public school and surrounding area.

Incase your curious as to what it’s like to catch one of these nasty water bugs let me tell you from my own first hand experience.

It begins with stomach cramps that make you want to die. It feels as if a claw has grabbed onto your intestines and squeezed hard enough to puncture your lower GI tract. The pain can be only just tolerated if you don’t move for six hours. Of course this is impossible because your system is emptying itself of all waste (which makes you feel like you were shitting a knife). The running back and forth and complete loss of fluids exhausted me to the point where I spent an hour trying to convince myself it would be perfectly acceptable for me to shit myself because moving sounded like the most difficult task in the world. The hot flashes make you want to dunk yourself in water unless you can hold out for the cold shivering flashes. As you can imagine it’s pretty hard to think straight throughout this episode so it’s damn near impossible to force yourself to due anything that would make you comfortable. Particularly as the cramps travel up through out your whole backed up system into a pain that develops into your ribs.

By the way, this entire time you are running across the fields to get to latrines so you can shit in a whole. This is the cherry on top because you get to hang out with thousands, and I mean literally thousands, of flies in what passes for a hygienic bathroom here.

Of course this was just me having a small bug. Not typhoid.

Just to drive the point home I want to remind you these are small children dealing with this pain and disease.

So yes I am asking for donations. If we can raise enough to pay for these water systems we can literally save people’s lives.

I can’t even continue this blog anymore, it is really painful to remember that water and picture the kids drinking it.

Go have a hearty glass of water. Appreciate the hell out of it. Then donate so someone else can have that same experience without fear of sickness or even death for the first time in their entire life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crossing Alone

Mambo readers?

(you say poa)

So I am finally back in Mulot after fighting for almost a week to get back. The thing about Kenyans is they love having visitors. They don’t care if they are busy; they want you to stay as long as possible and in an effort to be helpful will often impede you when you try to leave.

For example

I wanted to leave Laiktoktok last Friday. The seminarians convinced me I should stay until at least Sunday to celebrate the fourth (which consisted of them asking me how long we’ve been independent and then being told we should move the fourth of july so it wouldn’t be on a Sunday). On Sunday I was asked to stay until Monday so I could find a matatu (mini-bus) easier. Monday morning one of the priests suggests I stay until Tuesday to get a ride from his friend driving to Nairobi. So what happens next? You guessed it Tuesday rolls around and his friend is still in Tanzania forcing me to wait until Wednesday where at breakfast I had to put my foot down and announce I was leaving if I had to walk back to Mulot (which almost became the case).

As obnoxious as this sounds when I read it back to myself I do have to say I wasn’t really complaining. I really enjoyed my time there and it is nice to feel so wanted.

It was also nice to see Christy- an American ex-peace corps member)- and talk to someone who lives mere hours away from Chicago. Everyday I tried to leave she laughed with me while I made another futile plan. She says she always has the same experience.

The issue is around here you get so close to people so fast that it becomes hard to leave, even when you want to and you know you should. I feel just as close to the people in laiktoktok as I do to many of the people here and I feel closer to some of the people here then I do with people back home I’ve known for years.

So I was sad to leave.

Of course I had to forget about that sadness as I boarded my Matatu home because getting across Kenya by myself became quite the adventure.

It began at 8 am when I got onto my matatu. I sat in the front seat with the driver and another passenger who happened to be in traditional Masai clothing.

To paint a clearer picture for you I need to explain that there was really only enough room for two people in the front of the matatu but they always cram three so we were elbow to elbow with both the driver and I being poked and prodded by the masai man’s jewelry.

The driver only spoke Swahili, the man kimasai and I only English. Usually this would lead to a silent trip but not in Kenya- a language barrier is no reason not to make friends!

So we pantomimed conversation all of us exhausting what little we knew of each other’s languages well the masai man tried to sell me his jewelry.

Eventually we arrived in Nairobi in a completely unfamiliar part. The driver was nice enough to walk me across the city with my bags to the Narok stage (where the buses to Narok wait) but I had to think quick when he asked for my phone number- gotta love the I have no credit excuse.

Eventually I get on the bus and am on my way to Narok where I assume Father Patrick will be waiting to pick me up as the plan was explained to me. But it became clear to me father Patrick would not be picking me up when I sent him a text telling him I was on the way and he answered “safe journey” which is Kenyan for “your on your own kid”.

Alright no problem I’ll just find a bus to Mulot from Narok; I’ve done that before even though never alone but how hard can it be?

Well it suddenly became much harder when the bus broke down halfway to Narok. After sitting on the side of the highway for about a half hour all the passengers got behind the bus and pushed until it started. This is when I noticed that there was only about an hour left until the matatus stopped running.

So because I was under a time crunch I of course got lost in Narok. The bus dropped us off in an unfamiliar area due to the breakdown and left us to walk to wherever we needed to go. luckily I was only lost for 15 minutes and was able to hop on the last matatu in the park. Unluckily I had to sit with a small child in my lap the whole ride.

Now you can imagine after all this plus an hour of a small child kicking and screaming in my lap I was rather frustrated. So I was really not in the mood for the matatu driver’s vulgarity when I reached Mulot.

This is probably why when one of the drivers called out mzungu and made an obscene gesture with his tongue I exploded and proceeded to loudly explain to the driver where he could go, what he could do there, and what kind of animal he was (in case you are wondering the animal I called him was vernacular for Feline. Don’t get it? Just think about it for a bit. It will come to you)

But in the end alls well as I am back on the mission safe and happy except for the fact I accidently grew thin in laiktoktok and now must double my food intake. Which really means the animals here are going to double their food intake as I tend to hide the food outside and pretend I ate it.

Anyway I love and miss you all back home. sorry this one wasn’t too deep but I thought you all might enjoy the story.