Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beating the Rains

Yesterday John and I started and nearly finished our last project. His neighbor is a woman who lives alone in a house that is nearly falling down. All the walls were made of rotten wood, most likely unable to make it through this coming rainy season, and her roof was sheets of metal that weren't very well put together, causing problems during the previous rains. So, we (well, we hired a couple guys) to pull down the entire ceiling. We then used the metal sheets from the ceiling to cover 3 walls, two of which get it the worst during the rains. It doesn't necessarily look more attractive, but it will make a huge difference during the stormy weather. When we were taking down the wood walls, it was sad how easy it was to do. You shouldn't be able to tear down a wall with just your hands...

Tearing down the walls to put the old metal sheets up. Notice the taunting rain cloud...
We really had to rush during this whole project. As usual this time of year especially this year, the morning was bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky, and all of a sudden, just in time, when all protection from water is removed from someone's home... the dark storm clouds roll in. So, we then began to put the new metal sheets on the ceiling. This time lining them up perfectly to avoid any gaps. When I was invited on to the roof, I had to swallow my fear of heights. This was the EXACT and only type of "heights" that I fear, being on an unstable surface, just close enough to the ground for the impact to not put you unconscious (well you can't feel the pain of the fall if you're knocked out...) but far enough to make you regret ever going up there. I gave my fear a whole lot of thought while I was scooting around the edge of the house, looking everywhere but down to avoid becoming dizzy, holding on tight, whispering "what am I doing, what am I doing."

Anyway, we got the entire roof up completely avoiding the rain. While the men were doing the finishing work, I started smoothing out the floor inside the house so that John and I can put in a new, better soil for flooring. Unfortunately we can't do cement floors, but he says this soil will harden and be good enough. We will put on the higher quality soil on Friday.

I was really surprised with how much was finished in one day. All we have left is the new soil on the floors. Hopefully this house will last many more years.

Before and After
And today, another relaxing, African rains kind of day...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Matatu Hoppin to Thika

 John and my trip to Thika this weekend was a good one. We had to take three different matatus to get there, one from Kijabe to Nairobi, Nairobi to Thika, and Thika to the outskirts where John's family lives. His family is structured the way that a typical Kikuyu's family is. The parents have a house on the property (John lost his father in October so now it's just his mother), then the sons of the family build houses on the land which are there for when they begin families of their own.
John walking on his land, every house pictured belongs to his family, along with the shambas.

The kitchen area
Of course, nowadays life isn't as traditional so John and a couple of his brothers have moved to other areas (obviously he lives in Kijabe, another brother of his lives in Kijabe, then the last born son lives in Nairobi). He has 2 brothers that live on the land in Thika. But, John still has a house built on the land for himself. John is one of nine, they used to be ten but they lost a sister exactly a year before they lost their father. Due to his sister's loss, his mother was left with 6 children. She takes care of them like they are her own, and they know they are in good hands.
John and his family. His sister and brother are at his sides, his mother to the far right, and his sister's children in front

John's family and I. His sister to my right is the first born, and the sister next to his mother is the last born (17yrs)           

While we were in Thika, John took me to see all the fruit plantations. We first went to a huge pineapple farm. I've never seen the way that pineapples grow, and it was pretty interesting to see. We had to ride around the farm searching for the guard to ask for permission to take photos, to avoid being chased away in case they thought we were planning on stealing. Apparently the punishment for stealing fruit is brutal beating.

Just about ready to harvest
Riding around the pineapple farm, to the left are newly planted pineapples

So that's just about it for the pineapples, now on to mangoes! We visited local families who just had mango trees in their yard, and I'm tellin ya, they had a LOT of mangoes. And different kinds also, there was one tree that grew 3 different kinds of mangoes. There were apple mangoes (which are purple, and very sweet) then "popo" mangoes, which is a papaya/mango hybrid (I don't like papayas, so THANKFULLY the mango part of the mixture made the papaya flavor balance out), and then I don't know what the other mango was called... it was just your typical one. So we got to snack on the delicious juicy fruits all day while we were picking mangoes to bring home. And it really amazed me how different each kind tasted.
The Hybrid Tree

We got a little carried away collecting the mangoes
So this morning we went back out to the mango trees and collected more for our homes here in Kijabe...

"Hey John, ya think we have enough?"

Carrying the loot
After we finished collecting our mangoes, it was time to head home (after a meal of freshly slaughtered chicken of course). So we got back on our first matatu. Which didn't go as smoothly as the previous day. As we were driving along a pretty busy road, from John's home to the main city of Thika, everyone was happily chatting on the matatu enjoying the Sunday afternoon when all of a sudden there was a loud thump and we came to a screetching halt. I looked out the window and there was a guy about my age flying to the side of the road. I was terrified at first, along with everyone else on board, and the guy's mother who was wailing on the other side of the street. We sat in silence for the longest 10 seconds of my life, wondering if the guy was even alive. There are so many deaths due to people being hit by matatu's and with the new highway that was recently put up (we weren't on the highway yet, but I think it was on our minds) the deaths have increased and I have seen stories about this topic on the news almost every time I watch. Finally, somehow, the guy stood up and announced that he was alright, shaking his head a bit and rubbing his leg. I don't know how he was alright, I thought we were going pretty fast, and the impact completely took off the side mirror of the matatu. The people around didn't want the guy to walk in case he was just in shock but really hurt, so they carried him and loaded him into the matatu. I've always kind of wondered how the drivers deal with these accidents so as disturbing as this COULD have been, it was interesting to witness. So, we were then all asked to get out of the matatu. Of course they were all speaking Swahili or Kikuyu so I had to ask John what was going on. Apparently the matatu driver is to take the boy to the hospital himself, so that he can pay for the hospital bills and whatnot. So they drove away, and we were all so thankful he didn't seem to be seriously hurt, but all still so amazed that he was okay. We waited around for another matatu and finally an empty one came so we all hopped on. About 5 minutes later our matatu broke down completely. I was with the same group of people as the previous matatu during the accident, so we all looked at eachother, and I think the relief of the boy's being okay and the hilarity of the fact that the one matatu we all got on is now broken, made each one of us laugh for about 5 minutes straight. So, time to get off the bus once more. At this point since we were so close to town many people just decided to walk, but since we had so many dang MANGOES there was no way we could lug those, even if just for 10 minutes. So we waited, waited, and waited some more and finally we were on our way home, officially.

I can tell you one thing, there's never a moment of being here that I forget I'm in Kenya. Aside from the friendly people, the smells (both good and bad), and the temperature, there is always some event that just makes me think, "Yep, I'm still in Africa..."
And I'm not complaining at all...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Relaxing Week

This week has been pretty slow. Not in any way a bad thing, it was very relaxing. I didn't end up starting my next project with John because he has been dealing with some personal things, but I did get the chance to visit a Children's Home down in Maai Mahui. Two missionaries from Kijabe starting this Children's Home about a year and a half ago, naming it "Naomi's Village".

Half of the Children's Home
The Girl's Dorm

 There is almost always a couple woman from the U.S. living on the compound and working there with the kids and the staff. One of them just left last week and the next woman doesn't get there for a couple weeks so I only met one of them. Her name was Heidi, and she showed me all around the Home and tried to convince me to take her spot when she leaves. It's a seriously nice place, I haven't stood inside a building as put together and, well, modern for about a month and a half.

Other than that visit, hanging out with some of the babies in the Nursery and visiting with a family nearby to the orphanage, I've just had the chance to relax and catch up on my reading. Its been really nice, during the day its usually sunny and warm until about two, then the intense rains begin and last through the night. It has been taking out power out but I don't mind that too much. I've been loving the rain! On the 22nd it was Joyce's (Mama Chiku, but I actually learned that Mama Chiku is Joyce's grandma, so I can no longer feel okay with calling her Mama Chiku) birthday, so I took time on a rainy day to bake her a couple loafs of banana bread. It was fun to finally be able to cook for HER instead of the other way around. It was a fun little celebration in the evening, some family came to the house and we just enjoyed our "banana cake" and the company of everyone.

Today I went with Kim to a neighbors house and we harvested Macadamia nuts for him. Macadamia nuts are incredibly good right off the tree, they taste completely different than they do in the stores. They are basically a miniature coconut.
Tomorrow I'll be going with John to Thika, which is his hometown. We're just taking the Matatu so that it'll be a really cheap trip, and we will visit his mother who lives there still. We are coming back to Kijabe on Sunday, it could be a day trip if we had a vehicle but I didn't want to pay for another vehicle so we'll be taking public transportation. I'm excited to travel to ANOTHER new place in Kenya! I'm really happy that I get to see all sorts of places this time around, and apparently all the mangoes and pineapples we get here come straight from Thika, so I'll be surrounded by delicious fresh fruits. Monday we will hopefully start our next (and most likely final) project which is the house construction. I can't believe how fast time is going, I only have about 2 more weeks in Kijabe then I head to Nairobi! I'm not sure I'm ready to leave... Kijabe has always been one of my favorite places on earth. But it will be fun to start the last part of my trip, and have whole different handful of experiences.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Final Goodbyes, and Birthday Celebrations!

This blog will mostly be pictures, the things I did this weekend are better shared in photos rather than trying to write about it... Returning to Siyiapei once again was a wonderful weekend. I was beyond happy to see the children and Evelyn again, but saying goodbye is never easy... and it's even harder when you don't know whether or not you'll ever see these people again. I remember the first time I met these children in 2010, when I said goodbye I had this same feeling in my stomach, almost a sickening longing to be with them as soon as possible. Back then, I thought for sure I'd never see these kids again, but sure enough a year and a half later I was able to be with them, so who knows right? Maybe this wasn't the last time.

On Sunday, the birthday celebration for a friend named Steve took place. Steve works at the church across the highway from the Children's Home, and the whole party is put together by the youth, who I figured were these kids but apparently their youth start at age 17 and up, so I ended up meeting a lot of different people I'd never met since usually I was just with the kids from the Children's Home. So the celebrations weren't actually just for Steve alone, I think they do the party every month and they celebrate everyone's birthday that is that month. So it was Steve, a girl Celetto that I had met previously, then two more guys (can't remember the names). The party took place in the bush (aka the middle of nowhere). There was a waterfall and a very brown "swimming hole". They use the water to pour all over the lucky people who's birthday it is. There was cake, soda, cookies, oh and two goats that they slaughtered on the spot and roasted. It was a really fun time, they set up speakers, played music, and had some performers (unfortunately someone had my camera during the performances and none of the pictures turned out) actually the majority of the photos were taken by friends. I think that's all I have to write about, so here are the photos!
Setting Up

Watering the Birthday Guys & Girls

The cakes, that later ended up on the ground due to the table made of sticks

Enjoying the goat (really, it was good)

Declining the offer of the foot

Gnawing on the head

They wanted me to take part in the cake cutting/feeding

Happy Birthday Steve!

Cooling the Sodas


The parts I will never eat

This will be made into soup (yu-uuuu-um)

The site, speakers, and friends

The Falls

A good crowd
The photos posted out of order, but hopefully you've got an idea!

I will also add that today I worked with John for a little while, we did his monthly delivering of food to the widows in Old Kijabe Town and Maai Mahui. I re-visited with Veronica. For those of you who know her personally, she seems healthier than a few weeks ago, her new medications have been helping.
Packing Food

Ready to deliver

Veronica, me, and her donkeys