Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm tired, but not in a bad way

I’m sitting here in my room. It’s 7pm and things to do are very limited. I do my best to be productive to my benefit. This stuff depends on where I am. For example, it may be going for a run or just sitting outside on the soccer field looking and thinking. Everything has a time and place. Right now it is writing this. I guess I could be figuring out the solution to America’s economic downturn but this will do for now. If you want to read just about Africa and Kenya then stop reading. I find that writing about whatever and posting it is keeping me entertained and helping me think. Reading your comments is very encouraging and I look forward to them. So if you are doing that the Thanks! If not, I still like you anyway, well, probably. I thought I’d tell you some of my top favorite movies. In no particular order: Cast Away, Monsters Inc, Iron Giant, Driving Ms. Daisy, It’s a Wonderful Life. There are others but these are the ones I can think of right now. If you haven’t seen these movies I recommend you take some time and watch. In light of this Christmas season I recommend It’s a wonderful Life. I’ve realized over the last couple years when compiling my favorite movies that many of them leave you with that “aawwww” feeling. They also have an incomplete ending where there is so much more in the character’s life left to live, like a sequel could be made. But it would ruin that feeling you are left with if that sequel was made. Don’t think I have ever made my thoughts be heard and shared as much as I have in the last few weeks from writing all this stuff. As I said before you don’t have to read.

I have always, since I was little, admired people in real life and movie characters who set out on adventures without fully knowing what the next step will be. To be honest I haven’t met too many people in real life. I met a guy on Mt. Kenya who is from NY but is currently “homeless.” He is in Africa right now and is not really sure what exactly he will be doing and going next. Also, when Kirstin and I were in New Zealand, we met a few of these people. The main character in the movie “Big Fish” leaves his hometown not knowing exactly where he is going. Benjamin in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” also goes on this long journey. I think people, in particular Americans, admire these types of people. Otherwise movies wouldn’t be made about them. And many wish they could do what they do. Everybody has his or her own reason for not doing it. Some are good reasons like responsibility of having a family. Some reasons are bad like they’re scared, or they make up some lame excuse. I thin some people would classify me in this group, although I think I’m not even close. Yes I am in Africa right now without too much of a plan, but there are people here kinda watching over me. I have traveled to a couple other places in the world, but this has only happened in the last couple years. Before this I was the person who made up excuses. And for the most part they were somewhat legitimate like school, sport, and I will even throw in family responsibilities. But I wonder if me not taking those risks might have hindered me into becoming a better person. Yes staying back and taking care of business is important, but maybe I should have done those other adventurous-type things. This does not always include traveling to another country, in fact, rarely does. Coming here to Nakuru, Kenya was a step in faith, not as big as these movie characters but a step just the same. I am trying to not be so planned out lately and just let the wind take me wherever. This may mean going to other countries, or talking to somebody I do not know. If you know me you know that the latter is way more risky for me. There was a point to this whole thing. Maybe a few points. Let’s see. First is to take risks. Take a step out of the boat onto the water. Peter trusted Jesus and did this, and he experienced something amazing. Second is that people may see me as being this adventurous person. I may come home and a Christian might say, “Wow! You’re really holy cuz you went on a mission, blah blah blah. I could never do that.” A concerned non-Christian will say something like, “That’s really cool of you help those people like that. I could never do that.” An unconcerned non-Christian will say, “That’s awesome that you went to Africa. Hope you didn’t get AIDS. Did you see a lion? I could never do that.” I guess what I’m getting at is that I am not very special for coming here. I don’t feel that I am doing anything that anybody else can’t really do. Sort of. All you have to do is make yourself available to the God of adventures and he will take care of it. Sometimes, actually almost always, the first step is into a very dark place where you can’t see where you’re stepping (this is not literal-please do not go into a very dark place, especially if they are religious affiliated-weird things can happen I suspect). Isn’t that first step part of the adventure? I don’t think I wrote anything I meant to say. Pole (sorry).

Rohi got a school bus, more like a charter bus, a few days ago. It looks really cool. Some of the staff and I took a ride in it. Needless to say, it was awesome! They were acting like kids going on a field trip. Anthony gave it a try and stalled it out, but quickly recovered. It seats 51. Tomorrow Daniel Komotho, Njenga, Henry, and I are going to western Kenya and will be back three days later. Apparently it’s a long drive. We are going to do the guardian visits for a few boys. This is when a member of staff and a few others go to a student’s home and gives the guardian a report on how the student is doing. We also find out what they are in need of, like a goat, help getting a shop started, seeds, roofing, a fence, etc. We then give what is needed to get this done for them. It’s a really cool thing. I will update on how the trip goes.

Just got back from the guardian visit road trip. Whoa, seemed so long. We left Tuesday morning around 7am and got back Thursday night, tonight. All in all we covered about 1200 km, or about 800 miles. And Henry drove the whole time. Crazy! I’m gonna have Komotho write down all the major places we went so I could map it out. First place Njenga, Henry, Komotho, a student named Emmanuel Noel, and I went was Benard’s home. That was about 7 hours away. We did stop a couple times though for tea and whatever. Kenyans need their tea. I’m starting to need it too. Benard’s mom was used to have a decent business but that all went away when the post-election clashes happened in December 2007. She now lives in a very modest, as in a very small mud house with metal roofing. She gave us tea and some sliced bread. We then went to Charles’ grandma’s house. Her house was decent sized. She had in her home her grandchildren and a couple daughters. I think two of her daughters died, so she is raising the grandchildren. We were served tea and given mandazi (like a fried bread). It was at this house that I was strongly encouraged to take a wife. I even had a choice of one of two women. Whether the cucu- pronounced “showshow” (grandmother) was joking, I am not sure. She was very insistent about it at a few different times. Komotho and Njenga got in on it as well and carried it through the rest of the trip. I think they and my mom would get along very well. They chopped a piece of sugar cane from their yard and gave it to us. This was my first experience of sugar cane. Good stuff. We arrived at our hotel in Kitale after more than a 12-hour day and five cups of tea.
We got up early and had a good breakfast that had, of course, tea. We then drove to Philip’s guardian’s place. His guardian is a man from his church who took him in. He was working in his little store when we came by, so the visit was short. This place was right on the border of Uganda and Kenya. I of course had to walk into Uganda. It was remarkably easy. Nobody checked anything. I, with Njenga, Emmanuel, and Henry, just walked across the bridge over the river where there was a decent amount of foot and truck traffic. It was pretty hot there and very busy. From there we went to Emmanuel’s home. His parents passed away when he was less than 13 years old, so he is staying with his aunt and uncle. He left home when he was 13 years old and was a street boy. He is 19 now and went home once before this trip. I want you to keep in mind that there are no maps involved, no street/road/trail names, and very few signs on this whole trip. There are also no addresses. We basically get to the homes using landmarks told to us from over the phone and memory. It is actually quite remarkable that we get to all five kids’ homes. Anyway, We get to the town/village near Emmanuel’s. We get there from him telling us from memory where to go. And we are pretty much in the bush- basically middle of nowhere. Komotho kept saying we were at the edge of the world. The small road/trail, we were told was not capable of driving, so we get out and walk. I’m thinking it is maybe a five-minute walk up this hill/mountain. We are going and we are approaching the top of the mountain where the houses are getting farther and farther apart. The houses are made of mud, are circular and have grass thatched roofs. We get to the top and Komotho asks Emmanuel where it is, and he says, “right over here,” and points his hand indicating right around the corner. We continue to walk for a bit more and start going down the side of the mountain, passing banana trees and small plots of land. There are some people out in their “yards” and the kids come running excitedly. Emmanuel is asked several more times by Komotho and Njenga with patience a little less each time, and he indicates the same thing. I see a house on the opposite mountain and jokingly say that we are going to end up there. And guess what, it was right next to there. So after about 1 hour and 10 minutes of hiking up, down, and up again we arrive at a nice big shading tree in the middle of five thatched roof houses. It was so cool up there. Beautiful, amazing view. So simple and peaceful. One of those things I am not going to try to explain. Only his cousin was there though because her parents were at, I think, a funeral. We sit there for about 30 minutes and decide to leave because of time. As we are going back his aunt and uncle are hurrying across a different trail to meet us. We did end up doing what we needed to do, which is neat. Henry was called from the van down in the town to drive up to get us. He was able to go about 70% of the way. You needed an ATV to get the rest of the way. That whole thing was really a cool experience. From there we went to Bakari’s home. We were served soda and peanuts that they had just harvested. His family situation is interesting. Bakari is a cool kid, as well as the other kids. Then we went to Kakamega where we stayed the night in a hotel.
The following morning we get up and go outside and find some people standing around our van looking at something. A guy ran into the back of our van. It wasn’t bad, just slightly dented and scraped. We followed him over to where he knew some guys who would fix it. I guess the place was an auto shop, but it was just in a dirt lot. If this was in the US, it might be called “shady.” So after that was fixed we headed for Kisimu, home of our president’s family. It is located on Lake Victoria. We got some netting for a fish pond Rohi recently built and then we were on our way home. The drive was not quite smooth sailing. The road was not the best in stretches. In fact we drove on the side of the road in the dirt rather than the “paved” barabara (road). Kenya is making progress in their roads though, and we passed several stretches where they were working on it. We stopped off at Njenga’s family’s home where we had tea and muqimo (like mashed potatoes with corn and other stuff in it- good). We got back to Nakuru at about 7pm, but had to get the van washed. So we didn’t get home until 8:30. What a trip! It was good.

Today is my mom’s and Glenn’s birthday! Happy birthday! Woke up at like 4:30 this morning. Not really sure why. I was really tired yesterday. Went for a run. The staff had a retreat today and went to Lake Bugoria and Lake ---, forgot the name. Lake Bugoria we played some games, boiled eggs at a hot geyser (so Kenyan), and had lunch. It was hot. Then got in the new Rohi bus and went to the other lake where some of us put on junky life vests and saw some hippos and crocodiles. That was cool. Then we wrapped up and came back to Nakuru. Another long day. It was fun, and I definitely don’t deserve it. The staff at Rohi, from the teachers to the cooks and sustainability team and guards are great people. I’ve said this before but Rohi Children’s Organization is a special place.
I came home tonight and Mama and Papa’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Eric, were here from the US. Good to have more people around. They have two young kids, so having kids crying, laughing, running around, and watching Dora the Explorer is nice and refreshing. Good, long, exhausting week.

I can finally cross off my bucket list: 3.5-hour church/livestock and produce auction. The cow sold for 750,000 shillings ($1,000).
I must say that I miss all the Christmas stuff. I miss the chill in the air. I miss the decorations, songs, excitement of those around me, being with family, sitting by the fire. There’s not too much of that here. My family sent me a tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree. That makes me happy. You know what makes me even happier? My brother will be here in three days!
Where do I draw the line when giving and not giving money? I might be struggling with this right now.


Linda Mahoney said...

Ben, I love reading all about your experiences. Sooo awesome and I am sooo jealous. I can puicture in my mind all that you are doing. thanks for being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Alicia said...

I don't know what to say, other than thanks for posting so much and I'm thinking of you.