SO let’s write a blog.
So I have been here for a little over three months at this point but still tend to feel like I haven’t done much. I think it’s because most of what I have done has focused on the individual rather then things that are big picture. This is partly because big picture stuff is harder to get done and costs far more money so these projects, such as the water project and anything that has to do with the secondary school (which keeps me up at night), come to fruition much later. The water project probably won’t make any real steps forward until I leave. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done anything really good or helpful because few have felt the impact. I almost always feel like I’m doing nothing and wasting my time here. I also have seemed to have developed a nasty habit of collecting kids and bringing them to the mission.
For those of you who don’t know my family came to visit me here and we spent a few days in VERY interior Kenya so we could go to a traditional Maasai wedding (which was BEAUTIFUL and also very confusing). When we arrived on the mission there was a small boy named Peter. To give you a little back round on Peter, he is 13 years old and lived about 50 kilometers from the mission. His mother is supposedly a sweet woman but his father is MIA which may be better for the family by the sound of it. Peter wants to be a priest when he grows up and thus WALKS 50 km through jungle and mountains, if you want to check it out go look up Loita Plains on a map of Kenya, to get to the mission. He is painfully thin, the oldest of seven and wanted to have as he called it a very serious and private talk.
So on our second day in Loita Peter took me aside and told me that he wanted to go to school in Mulot. Now you think by now I’d be used to this request and wouldn’t be so upset by it but I am afraid this is not true. My blood immediately began to pound behind my eyes well months worth of math figures and accounts began to swim in front.
“it’s not that easy Peter” I tried to say gently but what came out what a painful gurgle because as well as developing a habit of collecting kids I seem to have acquired some sort of horrific allergy to disappointing them. Luckily Peter took pity on me and left. I spent the rest of the morning going over facts and assured myself it was impossible. Beyond impossible. And with that assurance I went on with my day which was spent happily staring at Maasai warriors well they stared back and tugged at my hair.
It was later that night I made the mistake of telling my father about Peter’s request. It started as me lamenting that we could not bring him back to Mulot. I should have known much better.
Before I knew what was happening my father was convincing me about how it was not only possible but probable to bring peter back to Mulot. After 15 minutes of arguing in the back of a pick-up truck we had accidently driven into Tanzania Dad asked if we should talk to Father Patrick.
“Why did we ever pretend we weren’t going to?” I sighed.
Apparently Father Patrick and my father use some sort of different magical math full of good will and fairy dust rather then my terrible angry oppressive math because Peter was packed into the car the next day and brought to Mulot. Really is anyone surprised?
Anyway a little back round on Loita is needed at this point. Loita is the place where the world ends. There is literally nothing there. And when I say nothing I mean nothing. There are no lights, no roads, no cars, no stores, no towns, not even a donkey. The only things there are mountains and Tik Tik which are basically deer in miniature.
This might by why when the car arrived in Narok, a place I always thought of as pretty in the bush, Peter had to stand up out of his car seat so he could press against a window. This was a child who had never seen a car before we arrived let alone the hundreds in Narok. We went into a Naiva’s (Think of it like an Aldys or a Wallgreen’s) and it looked as if Peter might pass out in fear and excitement. I wish I had asked him more about how he was feeling but I was nursing a head injury brought on by the road, or lack there of, and could barely remember the day of the week.
The next day I slept and wore sunglasses inside well Peter wandered the mission. The entire time he was followed around by Ian (another student someone who shall remain nameless brought out of a public school *ahem*) and for probably the first time in his life interacted with 60 kids his own age as well as the rest of the school. It was also probably the first time he wore shoes that covered his feet entirely.
Later that night I was well enough to have my ass handed to me in a game of flowers (It’s the Kenyan poker. I’ll teach it to you when I get back) and peter came to the rectory where he saw Jillian on her laptop.
Please keep in mind here Peter had never seen anything remotely like a computer before. At all. Ever.
I did not pay much attention to what he was doing as I was concentrating on keeping from Brother Moses from winning his 3rd game of Flowers in a row but I did here Peter whisper wow in awe as Jillian giggled and showed him something. About a half hour later peter walked over with my computer (which I had opened up for them as it had more battery) and was shown this note.
“most kind Aliya thank you for bringing me to school and it is great and I will work hard forever to do well in school and be good and be greatful”
First off this note is pretty amazing for a publicly schooled child in class 6.
Secondly this note made me think that maybe the individual projects are just as important. Who is to say that the next president of Kenya didn’t just write that note? Who is to say what children are worth more or less and who deserves an education? Why shouldn’t I be just as over the moon about Peter being in school as I will be if I ever find the money to get water into this place? I mean there are of course some things that make the water project more important ( like the fact it would save lives and wipe out disease in the community as well as provide jobs and according to the water commissioner turn Mulot into a booming town of industry) but isn’t peter just as important?
No matter what I think now or have thought or will think in the moment I read that note Peter was just as important.
My only regret is that I wasted water by crying after I read the note.
So here is the count
Orphans at the school originally: 11
That debt: 157,000 Kenyan Shilling
Orphans Added: 2
Kids pulled from public school due to being first in class: 2
Amount of debt added by them: 1600 US dollars
Total amount of debt annually added by taking on scholar shipping all of these kids: at least 6,000 US per year for the next three years baring more orphans. (Which we shouldn’t)
Number of nights spent without sleep: Hundreds.
Numbers of lives affected: uncountable.
I feel like this would be a good place to end the blog but I am so full of fear and frustration and hope and emotions I don’t understand that I am going to keep writing partly to sort myself out. I could not post this stuff but I promised myself that this blog would be honest all the time and really let people into my life here so I’m going to keep writing. So go get something to eat and a glass of water, maybe turn off your computer for a bit and come back. That way it can feel like two blogs and not one obscenely long post. Sawa Sawa? (Okay?)
As happy as some of these numbers make me, and as happy as the money that has been raised thus far makes me it also terrifies me. My worst fear is that I will get these kids in school for a year, maybe two, and then the money will stop. $6,000 per year is a lot of money to raise and I don’t know if I’m strong enough or smart enough to raise it. A part of me wants to leave and run away and abandon the kids now because I am so sure of my failure but I know I can’t.
I have also just become so jaded and sure that people won’t help me. I have gone to so many people, so many club and sent out countless e-mails to ask for help. I sent our at least 50 e-mails to catholic churches and convents in the USA to ask for help scholar shipping the students and got no answer. Not one. And the only answer I ever received from a rotary club (clubs meant to bring clean water to places around the world) was a woman offering to charge us only half her usual fee to consult on the project to find money. I mean really?
If everyone at Stevenson high school (my old high school for those of you who aren’t alumnus) gave $12 the entire water project would be paid for. If everyone gave just $6 then we could pay for enough to get the water to the public school and surrounding town. I don’t think half the kids at Stevenson will give half that.
I have started to lose faith in the people back home. I feel like unless I fight on daily basis and argue and beg no one wants to help. I can’t understand how so many don’t want to help and how they make excuses and how they seem to just not care.
Don’t get me wrong some people are amazing. Some people are beyond helpful. Some people are beautiful and wonderful and I love them with all my heart for how much they have given ( That means you Angie and David and Donna and Marti) but so many other give me such paper thin excuses and let me down.
I guess some naïve part of me believed that people want to help and will given the opportunity. I thought that because I am here and all the money goes to the kids and because the need was so obvious and because the kids here are just as thirsty and in need (and end up just as dead) as the kids in Haiti or Pakistan people would be willing to give just a few dollars. It seems that I was wrong. The back of my mind has become jaded and bitter.
On the plus side this jaded sense of being has steeled me to fight harder for this then I have ever fought in my life. Nothing is more important to me then getting this water project done and I will stop at nothing to get this money. And believe you me I will lay down in the street before I let any of these kids be sent home because of tuition fees. I don’t know what will be asked of me in the future to get the money for these kids- who I will have to beg, flatter, fight and the paper work I will have to fill out on a mind numbing basis- but I do know with a clarity of which I know few things that I will do it.
I am also reflecting on the fact that I have to go home in about 2.5 months and that scares me for many reasons. Partly it’s because once I go back to the USA I have to start sorting out college and what I want to do with my life, I am so scared I have forgotten how to learn and be in an academic environment, but also because I’m scared I won’t be able to get things done here from the states.
Also as much as I love the people back home and can’t wait to see you all again I feel more often then not that Kenya is my home and I am just going back to the USA for an extended visit.
I really have a home and a family and a life here that I do not want to leave. From what I’ve read and who I have talked to that is a common reaction to Africa. It’s like once that red dirt gets into your system you can’t get it out. No matter what.
Some times I imagine staying here in a permanent manner. I wonder if maybe I could go to the University of Nairobi and stay here in Kenya. Other times that sounds insane but still. I don’t want to leave.
It’s what I tell my friend Wilson whenever he asks me what I am doing or why I’m disappearing all the time.
I really have no idea what I’m doing.
Anyway I think I should stop here as this has gotten obscenely long and you probably have things to do. I promise to update more often guys.
Love and miss you!