Friday, December 11, 2009

Jambo! (Hi)

Last week they started construction on the high school boys’ dorm. At the moment they do not have the funds to complete it. The boys are going to move out of the rooms they’re in now cuz those are going to be used for classes. This coming up year will be the first year that Rohi will have a Form 4, equivalent to 12th grade. So with the boost in numbers they will need the dorms. How are they expecting to get the money? They are trusting it will come. Simple as that. It’s kinda like a farmer. He sows his seed not knowing if the rain will come. Then he simply prays that God will provide. That is Rohi’s big project right now.
I was talking to Komotho yesterday about the dump. Complicated situation. There are definitely poor people there who need help. From what Daniel was telling me about some conversations he’s had with some people up near there, there are some people who definitely have enough money to not live there. The survey thing that we did last week, we were being directed by the leader of the people there. It seems as though she was having us going to some houses and not others. I did not notice this but Daniel did. It seems like there are so many factors regarding this situation. Kinda makes me want to go to them and tell them to “get a job!” But there are those who are definitely down and out. The structure they want to build for the nursery school will be a temporary one. Who will have legitimate reasons for bringing their child there will be sorted out in time, according to Komotho. So the process is slow going.
If you want to check out Rohi’s website, go to
I was able to witness Daniel Komotho laying it down on a street “boy” yesterday. This kid, between the age 18 and 22 (not sure) named Dedon (sp?) came into the town office. Dedon used to be at the rescue center several years ago but ran away. He seems like a sharp kid and doesn’t seem to get mixed up with some of the bad stuff most of them are doing. He went in asking Komotho for help. Daniel basically told him that he needs to take care of some stuff, and he did it in a very good, assertive way. The next week or so will prove if he got through to him. Daniel has known Dedon for the last several years and knows his situation very well and did not mess around when telling him about a thing or two about his life. It was very good to see.
I have recently discovered Snake and Sudoku on my cell phone. Needless to say I am exercising my brain by partaking in these games whenever I have time. I have done very well on them, thanks for asking.
Just found out that Dedon is Collins’, the boy who broke his tooth, older brother.
Went over to see the boys, oh wait, men who underwent the rites of passage. It’s been two weeks and some of them are fine and some of them seem to be walking a bit tenderly. Today was the first time I saw them, and my boy Evans, the kid I sponsor was among the 60 or so there. Rohi and another church are caring for them. I think about 15 of them go to Rohi, so many of them were interested in the white guy. After they ran out of questions, I whipped out my deck of cards I had in my backpack and showed them a few magic tricks. I’m glad my time spent on youtube was able to benefit others. I just hope they don’t get the wrong impression, tell their families, and try to have the devil cast out of me for the “magic” they saw. I could imagine… (this is where the picture goes into a wave and I look into nothing) As I’m sleeping at night, there is a pounding at the door and suddenly a burst of men with pitchforks and torches come in yelling, “Kill the witchdoctor!” (I’d rather be a witchdoctor than a witch. Witches have big noses and are green. Although I have a big nose, I am rarely green.) They cut the mosquito net around me and tie me up with it and drag me outside where they hang the net in the tree with me dangling from inside. Finally after much yelling, Papa comes out to vouch for me. He says that if I’m a witch the duck will weigh more than me (name the movie!) Except there are no ducks, so they use the sheep. They weigh me and I do indeed weigh exactly the same amount as the sheep. Because this has never happened before the elders deliberate and come up with a new plan. They decide I must prove myself in a race against the best Kenyan runner. Holy smokes! How am I supposed to beat the best runner in the world? So, I strap on my spikes, toe the starting line, and wait for the gun to go off. Bang! The Kenyan gets out in front and I decide to fall in behind him and draft off of him. We go around the first lap in an astounding time of 55 seconds. As the second lap starts I find myself focusing on the Kenyan’s legs. The muscles are long and lean and tighten with every impact. As the second lap draws to a close, he picks up the pace. I take a deep breath and notice that we have come through at 1:53 for a half a mile. I am amazingly relaxed as I listen to the beat of my heart and the rhythmic exhalations of my lungs. It becomes a soothing sensation as the lactic acid builds up in my legs and other muscles. I hear the sound of the Kenyans breathing and notice he is working hard. I continue to sit on his heels and wait. Coming off the curve into the straight, I realize that I have just over a lap to go and have to decide whether I should pass him now or wait. I decide to wait. We pass the third lap in 2:49 and hear the clanging of the bell signifying the final lap is now upon us. The Kenyan picks up the pace and I try to go with him but struggle as my legs feel like they have lead in them. I try to relax and take a deep breath. I remember what my coaches have taught me, and starting working my arms a little faster. The gap between us ceases to increase and is now at 5 meters. As we enter the final back straightaway I know that it is do or die. My breathing is heavy now and I struggle to get the air I need to feed my body. It’s as though a thousand pounds has been placed on my chest. The Kenyan is laboring just as hard. We start to make the final curve and simultaneously begin to stroke our arms faster. The speed picks up, and my body is screaming at my brain to stop. All I can think about is closing the gap as each breath is causing my eyesight to darken. Oxygen is no longer flowing to my head sufficiently and my mind seems strangely outside of itself. The Kenyan comes off the curve into the final home stretch first. I now focus on the finish line and will my sand-filled, cramping legs to move faster. Breathing, moving, living cease to have any meaning now. Only reaching the line first. The gap closes. 4 meters. 3 meters. 2 meters. The finish line is only 20 meters away. The gap is now 1 meter. 12 meters to go. The gap is no longer there as I come up shoulder to shoulder with the Kenyan. 3 meters left. I explode forward with every ounce of life left in me at the only thing that matters now in my life. It seems as though the last few inches now have become slow motion as we drive our chests at the finish line with such desperation as if life hinged on that moment in time. In fact, for me it does. I explode through the finish line crashing to the ground. Suddenly my pain and suffering have come upon me as my mind catches up to my body. The ground under my collapsed body seems to envelop me as I try to bury myself within its grasps. The world spins around me and everything is forgotten as I try to bring life back into my body with each desperate breath. My head pounds and the sounds of people around me are muffled and blurred. After what seems like a lifetime, the Kenyan comes over to me and helps me to my weakened feet. He tells me good job. I say, “you too.” I hear the announcer say, “3:42 for one full mile!” I lift my weary eyes to the scoreboard where I see through blurred vision my name first followed the Kenyan. I had won. The ground seemed to be drawing me down into its depths. As I lay back down, I realize that my life has been spared and I say a silent thank you. Moral of the story: don’t practice witchcraft, and eat your vegetables.

There’s a show here on TV called “City Talk.” This very outgoing Kenyan guy interviews people of all sorts of on a park bench. The people range from actors, politicians, activists, athletes and so on. Last night he had Dr. Frene Ginwala on. She is the former Speaker of the House (?) for South Africa under Nelson Mandela. Well she was talking about Africa and the state that it is in. She with some others have recently started this think tank called CODA (forgot what it stands for. Don’t know if those are the letters either). They are trying to get not just academia but people from all walks of life, like students and women, to contribute to this thing. It seems really great. It seems like Africa and the Africans, for the most part, are not just standing by and letting stuff happen. They all know the situation they are in, I see it on the news, talk to people here at the school and the guys on the street market, and many are trying to do something about it. I was talking to Kirstin a few weeks ago about how to get Kenya/ Africa out of the third world status they have and all the issues they have going on. There are so many things that are happening here that you cannot boil it down to one thing. In a ranking of 1 being the least corrupt, New Zealand ranked number 1 in a survey of 180 countries about. Kenya ranked number 146! That’s horrible. Talking to Daniel and others about it, personal stories, has astonished me. The government is corrupt from top to bottom. So, this think tank, talking about problems of corruption, human trafficking, global warming, the economy, etc, is the start of something very good, but will not be the end of all the problems. Many times we as Americans view Africa as this deprived, suffering continent, and that is all it is. Food being delivered here by other countries for the starving, disease running rampant, etc, but there are a lot of people here who are not in that “poor me” state of mind and doing what they can to help themselves and others.

Today was the guardians meeting. I would say about 200 guardians were there. These are the people who take care of the kids at Rohi, parents, grandparents, etc. It was supposed to start at 9 am. Naturally it didn’t start until about 10:40. And it went for over three hours. Basically the staff from Rohi gave speeches. And it was all in Kiswahili. I could have fallen asleep a few times. I was trying to understand, and was able to catch words here and there. Papa gave a speech because he is on the board of directors. Everybody has been getting a laugh the last week or so, cuz he refers to me as his last son. Anthony, his real son who is Director at Rohi, gets a real good laugh out of us. After the meeting we, Papa, Anthony, Mamba, Juma, Troy (missionary white guy) had lunch. It was a lot of fun just talking and listening to the jokes people were making. Quite enjoyable.

Mama was not here tonight. She went to help with a wedding or something. So Papa made dinner, and I following his lead. Let’s just say Papa is not a cook. It’s traditional around here for women to make the meals and men to stay out of the kitchen, although this is changing to some degree. Papa basically took some leftovers that were sitting out from last night (I was a bit leery about this. It was a stew kinda thing, and looked like a swamp. Seriously.) We poured that into a pan with some frozen beans, fresh tomatoes, left over rice from the night before, an egg, and some other stuff. It filled the entire pan and was boiling out the top. He then tried to put a cover on top of it, but the cover was too small. Oh well, it was good enough. I wonder how many cock roaches got in it. I’m laughing and crying right now. All in all it tasted good. We boiled some corn and had mangoes as well. Such a mixture of emotions for me. Hopefully my stomach won’t feel the same way.

I was just watching “e Africa news,” which is stationed in South Africa, one of the more up to date African countries. Of course there was stuff about the upcoming World Cup. I guess USA is playing England in the first round. There also was stuff about an assassination attempt on one of the country’s presidents. Also a suicide bomber in Somalia, I believe, who killed 19. Horrible stuff. Then there was the entertainment news. There is a movie coming out this month called “Invictus.” It is based on the book called “Playing the Enemy,” which I read a few months ago. Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Madela, Matt Damon plays a South African rugby player, and is directed by Clint Eastwood. Anyways, it’s about S. African apartheid and how Nelson Mandela used rugby to unite the country. It is very cool and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I recommend you see it. If you feel so inclined to wait and see it with me when I get back, I would be most obliged. This is for anybody, and then you could pay for me : )

Went to church with Emma. I was there for 3.5 hours. I think we got there before it started, but there was prayer going on for anybody who wanted. I guess it went longer than usual too. Every aspect of the service was a message given by somebody different. By the time the pastor got up to speak it was 1pm and he promised he would speak for no more than 15 minutes, which surprised me. Not only that, but he kept his word. There were about 300 to 400 people. When Kenyans do weddings, at least Christian Kenyans, they get everybody involved to help out. And it starts with the church. They announced that somebody was getting married and listed all the things that are needed. Then we started to go through each item from the 10 chickens and 50 kg of maize flour to the tomatoes and transportation cost. It was kinda like an auction. He said the item and how much it would cost and asked who wanted to donate it. We got through two items, and finally on the third and fourth items nobody said anything, so he said that if there was something you can contribute to talk to so and so. I was relieved. That would have taken an extra hour. After that, we came home and had lunch. Doesn’t look like the food from last night had any ill affects. Then we went to street church. There weren’t as many people there as last week, but still around 100. There wasn’t much pushing and shoving until the end. That was better than usual.

Got back yesterday from Mt. Kenya. I’ll do my best to describe the last 3 days. Some things though cannot be described in words, especially my words, so I will not even try. Monday morning we were supposed to meet at 5:45 am. In typical Kenyan style only four of us were there at that time. It’s ok cuz we were on the road at 6:15 with everybody in the van. On the way there we saw some pretty incredible views. We drove by the president’s land, miles and miles of open land. There were zebras, gazelle, and other animals there. On the other side of his land was a newly created village of IDP (internally displaced people). I am not sure from what. After about 6 hours of driving on some flat and some not so flat roads, we arrive at the Mt. Kenya check-in area. Nakuru, the place I am staying, is at 1800m in altitude. The starting point for the hike is at 2650m. It’s pretty windy and decently chilly as we start off at a brisk pace. I was thinking to myself that this pace will not last too long. And sure enough, it doesn’t. The road/trail begins to incline and does not show any sign of leveling out. It gets pretty steep in some areas. We rest frequently to give some of the guys some rest. Mamba sees that somebody is struggling (I won’t say who) goes ahead, drops his bag off, and comes back for the struggling. I, along with a couple others do this also. I thought that their manhood egos might be a little hurt for carrying their bag for them, but I was very much wrong. They were more than happy and extremely thankful for lightening their load. The first day we covered about 8 km, or about 5 miles, in over 3 hours and an increase in elevation from 2650m to 3300m. That’s an increase of 650 m for those who aren’t so good at math. I started out the day with a slight headache but nothing that would hinder me. That night I slept in a tent at Old Moses Camp with Anthony Nderitu in the tent that I carried, the biggest of the four we brought. Everybody else slept three to a tent. The next morning everybody was saying how hot they were during the night. Anthony and I couldn’t have had a complete opposite night. That was the worse sleep I’ve had in a long time. I was freezing, uncomfortable, and my nose starting to get stuffy and runny. I probably only slept a few hours that night. You can use your imagination on how bad it was. I don’t want to relive it. I got up at about 5am with a headache that grew during the night and a runny right nostril. We got going at about 6:45 am and I was waiting for my legs to get under me. Sometimes it takes time for your legs and body to wake up. Unfortunately it never happened. I hung in the back with some of the slower people for the first bit, but after about an hour, I don’t think I would have been able to stay in the front if I wanted to. You have to understand something. I am always able to do physical things fairly well. So this whole thing was new territory for me. I had to suck up my pride on this one. Perhaps God was talking to me on this one… Anyways, I was able to truck along until we had to go down one valley and up the other side. Holy smokes! Going up was brutal. Again, my pride was left at the bottom, at least most of it. We start going up and I’m having trouble. James Mosumbuko (awesome name) beasted it up the hill. He carried his bag and another person’s, a combination of about 40-50 pounds. Another guy Eston, who doesn’t seem like much of an athletic person, grabs a person’s bag and starts going. To give him a rest I take the bag for a bit, but I’m struggling. Everything was feeling like junk. I don’t last long and he finishes carrying the bag to the top. I get to the top and am dunzo (another word for done, but with emphasis). There are two American girls we met at the first camp. One is in the Peace Corps stationed in Uganda and the other is her friend. They came up that hill, definitely tired, but not ready to pass out like me. It’s at this point that I’m flabbergasted. What is going on? My head is hurting, my nose is running, and my body is tired. Not the most enjoyable of situations. Anyways, I get to where everybody is resting and look out at the view. Wow! It’s like you can see all of Kenya from up there to the west. To the east is the rest of the mountain. We were on the crest with valleys to both sides of us, the one we just climbed and the one we were going to go down and up toward the mountain. Walking up through that valley toward the peak was absolutely beautiful. There are no trees because of the elevation, but there is a small river from snow melt going through the bottom with plants and other vegetation around. And on the side we were on, sheer cliffs with great looking rock formations loomed high above us. This is the time when I’m not going to try to describe it. Meanwhile, I’m still feeling like junk, and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. After several hours of hiking we reach the final stretch. One of the guys is having stomach issues and is lagging far behind. I take his pack and carry it on my shoulders for a bit. Then Mr. Njenga grabs it and carries it a bit. My head is hurting pretty good now. He starts a steep uphill for a little more than half. I finish the rest of the hill with the bag and am completely exhausted. He takes the bag and walks the rest of the way to Shafton Camp. I am thoroughly impressed by this. My stomach has now had enough at this point and I find a nice big rock to do my business behind. I then go the final stretch of uphill to the camp feeling like I’m about to fall over. I get to the top and drop my stuff and lay down. I made it! The view is spectacular. There is still a lot of mountain left, but this is where many people call it a journey. The elevation is 4200m. The peak is at 5100m. This last bit is done with a daypack. However the last few hundred meters has to be done with special equipment like oxygen and that sort of stuff. Njenga, Mosumbuko, Richard, Peter, Zechaiah, and Eston after resting for a bit go as high as possible after some rest. Njenga ended up going the highest, reaching maybe 4800m. This is the first time they have seen snow, and for a few of them touch it. Very cool for them. I, on the other hand, am lying there next to all the packs. In the next 45 minutes I make three runs for the bathroom. There are toilets up there, but they are the squatting type. Do you have any idea how horrible this is when you have no strength left to hold a squat position and you’re feeling light headed? I’ll leave it at that. As I’m sitting there shaking in the cold, and feeling like junk about 20 Australian thirteen year-olds come down from going up to the snow. I kinda laugh to myself at this. After sitting there for a couple hours, taking an aspirin and a cup of tea and some juice I begin to feel better. We decide to camp the night a little ways down so we can get a good start in the morning. I’m feeling a ton better now and sit with some Kenyan guides next to their fire with Mamba and Kariuki. They give us some food and we have a good conversation about God and some other stuff. Sleeping that night was still not good, but better than the night before. During the day I would blow snot rockets a ton. But at night, I couldn’t and didn’t have anything to use. So I ended up using my socks that I had been wearing during those two days. It was gross. They were damp and dirty. That’s enough of that. The next morning we started at 6:15am and I’m feeling a ton better. Lingering pressure on my head and ears, and my nose is still running, but much better. We make it back to the van in about 5.5 hours. Going down is much easier, but more painful. My knees and feet were hurting. All in all we cover about 44 km. That’s about 28 miles round trip in three days.
We left the mountain and started for home. We stopped and got lunch then with couple hours to go the car starts to overheat from the rolling hills. We stop at the top of the hill with steam coming out behind the front passenger’s seat (the engine is under the passenger). We sit there for about an hour. We are still pretty high in altitude, so it’s not very warm outside with the sun starting to set. But the view on the drive home was amazing. We get some water from a little shack of a house near where we pulled off to cool the van. We finally give it a go and Anthony starts to drive it up toward the road. We were standing around watching and the van’s wheels begin to lose traction in the wet, muddy ground. It ceases to go anywhere and begins shooting mud out behind it. Henry, good, reliable, quiet Henry, is standing about 25 feet behind the van and begins to get covered with spraying mud and starts to run away. Mamba and I are about 50 feet behind the van and are laughing at this. The mud is about 20 feet short of us and I think I’m a safe distance away. Then Anthony floors it and the mud is getting closer to me but to the side. It then starts going right toward me, but I’m laughing at Henry. Next thing I know Mamba is running and I join him as we are pelted with mud. The whole thing was really funny and made the drive home even better. We get back on the road and stop at a gas station. Of course they have no water. They also have not gas. Well, after all this we end up getting home at 9:15pm. It was a good trip. Now I’m sitting here with a running nose, a sun burnt face (bummer Tyrone), chapped lips, and feeling a bit under the weather, and feeling happy. God is good.

I think I’ve said this before, but I sometimes wonder if my money would have been better spent by just giving the organization the money instead of spending it on me coming here. However, I’m confident this is not the case. I don’t think God would put it on my heart to be here if that were true. I also wonder what my purpose for being here is. I came with the intention of hanging out with the kids on the streets. So far this has not really happened. There is a saying that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I had this noble thing in mind coming here and it has not come even close to fruition. I think God is so complex that I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what his elaborate perfect plan is. My part may be very small or may be huge. Either way it is important. These are some thoughts about what my purpose for being here is: I am here to do exactly what I intended to do, be with the street kids. It could be to give the students and staff at Rohi some music, help with their work, give them chocolate, or to just keep them company. Maybe it’s to say hi to a kid on the road as I go for my run. Maybe it’s to get my brother out here so he can use his talents to make a difference. Perhaps for just me to know God better, and I do not contribute anything to Rohi or Kenya. Or to get away from my family so they can learn whatever. Maybe it’s because Mikey G. needed to use my car and me coming here is the only way for that to happen. Maybe it’s for this silly blog, that everybody reading it, or just one person, may be changed. Maybe it’s a combination of a couple or all. I have no idea. I think it’s so easy to get caught up and worry about all the things I am not accomplishing, and there are a lot. But you know what’s so cool? I am not worried, not one little bit about it. I am taking it as it comes and will listen to the Wind (Holy Spirit) on what I should do. If I come home on January 31 and did not accomplish what I set out to do, I think I’ll be very ok. I know if I do what is right and good and true, everything will take care of itself. And so far, I think I am doing that.

Follow-up on the kid Dedon: He said he took the KCP and that he was going to do all of this stuff. Did he do it? Nope. He straight up lied to Komotho. Komotho doesn’t seem surprised at all. You can’t trust the kids on what they say. It makes working with these kids very difficult.

Weighed myself today. According to this scale I weighed 67kg. That’s about 147.7 pounds. According to my scale at home before I left I weighed 157 pounds. That means I lost 10 pounds. What the heck! How much of that was on the mountain, who knows.

It’s Kenya’s independence day today. I woke up at 3:30 this morning coughing and heard Mama get up at about 4:15 to work on some cooking stuff. I was able to fall asleep around 5. There is a bunch of family coming over today. Not sure if it’s for the Independence Day or something else in particular. Some women came over this early this morning to help with cooking. It’s what they do here. If there is a celebration of some sort all the women pitch in to help. Kinda cool.
Kenya has a lot of tribes, Kikuyu, Lua, Masai, Calajin, and a bunch more. This is very much a part of who they are and is a big part of the clashes that occurred a couple years ago. Keep that information in mind as you read on. Last night was the first night in a while of watching TV. It frequently cuts out. Survivor was on and Papa asked me what was going on. I told him there are two tribes who have to compete and at the end of the episode they have to vote somebody off until there is one winner. Papa then asked me what the names of the tribes are. I told that they are made up and given to them, that they are not real tribes. They are Americans. I think he understood at that point. I though that was funny.


Anonymous said...

if i had a dollar for every inch that i smiled reading your blog i'd be rich... even 50 cents.. id still be rich... i like you, glad youre my brother! keep it up champ! : D

Philip Vose said...

aww man...kirst said it best. geeeez, i'm very excited to be with you and your new friends and extended family. your stories are too great and i hope there will be more to tell and go through when i arrive. if you lost weight then that can't be good for me. i'll make sure to bring plenty of food ALL TO MYSELF ahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

Ben! I'm so glad you're writing this. I miss you tons, and I'm glad to hear youre enjoying yourself. I was having a rough night and reading this definitely put a smile on my face. You are such an inspiration! keep pushing :)
Love, Lyla