|This time they gave us a sheep.....
When we travel around to various communities to install wells or to give
seminars, we often receive gifts. African culture dictates that a visitor
or guest must receive something to drink and to eat, varying from
hard boiled eggs and ground nuts to an elaborate meal of stewed beef
Whatever we are offered bears little relevance to the time of day. In
addition we are often showered with the produce of the local community:
eggs, nuts, huge stems of bananas, carrots and live chickens. At the
moment we have a pile of small, sweet bananas (banana bread in the
future again) and a large stem of dozens of plantains sitting in our
apartment. I have learned to make matoke from the latter and am
experimenting with various spice flavours. We give the chickens and
most of the produce away and use what we can.
This past Saturday we handed over a well in a small village about an hour
away. Their water supply was down a steep slope to a polluted source. The
women and the children in the local school spent a great deal of time
fetching water. We were able to put in a well (financed by a US Rotary
Club who installed a well last year with us) with three piped
outlets: for the
community, for the Health Unit and for the school. There was much
rejoicing when we drove out this past weekend and gave the whole
installation to the community. It's always a happy occasion with
prayers, songs and the ceremonial turning on of the water. It is
hard for us in the west to understand the impact of a reliable,
relatively easy source of water on a community. Health improves,
hygiene is better, women have more time to tend their
vegetables etc and communities can irrigate.
We were not surprised when they told us to wait for a gift just as we
were about to leave. But this time their gift to us was not produce,
but a male sheep! "A small something to roast," they said. Gulp!
Of course we accepted with many thanks, the poor creature had his legs
tied and he traveled back with us to Kakamega in our Trooper. We
live in a compound that has cows, goats, chickens and turkeys and
our landlord was willing to accept one more animal. We're not sure
how long it will live with us, but at the moment he's happy
wandering around and nibbling the grass.
We have three more wells to hand over in the next month, bringing our
total to seven for this tour.
There is never a dull moment. I was reading the newspaper the other day
and was struck by three news items on the first pages. One was of
course the reports on the wrangling of the politicians as they gear up for
an election at the end of the year. Another was the story of
two widows of one husband, now dead. One is Catholic and was
married in church. The other is Muslim, married under Sharia law.
Both were vying for the right to administer the estate.
It's not uncommon for the deceased to remain in cold storage for
a year or more while each of his wives tries to gain control of the
property. The third item was the report of the closure of a
secondary boarding school because the (male) students were being
harassed by ghosts in their dormitory!
Again on the topic of schools & cultural traditions there was a great deal
of controversy this past week when a principal sent home 25 boys who had
just started Form 1 (first year of High School) because they had not been
circumcized, with instructions not to return until they were 'men'.. Some
call it a violation of human rights, some a respect for tradition, others
a way of protecting the boys from being 'forcibly circumcized' by their
peers (that doesn't bear thinking about) Others claim the head master was
incapable of controlling his school. There are a couple of communities who
do not circumcize boys, but most do. However, it takes about a month to
heal and the rite is often carried out in April during school break. So
these 25 boys would be effectively out of school for a year. The head
master is back in school after being summoned to see the District
Education Officer. No word on where the boys are.
We leave Kenya the third week of March, so this may be my last newsletter
from Africa. Looking back over the last few months, we have seen progress.
The students we have sponsored in school are all settled in, vowing to
work hard. Our poultry project is on track with the hens expected to
begin laying anytime now. I shall go to another community next
week to lay the groundwork for another group of women for
micro-finance. The seminars on Positive Discipline (Virtues) have
reached about two hundred people (mainly teachers)
and are continuing to spread. Our Kenyan team will hold workshops with 50
young people this coming week. The HIV curriculum was well accepted and I
plan to do more work on that when we return in a few months.
The computer school is full to bursting and we are trying gradually to
replace our old, donated computers with P3s. We can buy them for about
$200 and have nearly replaced them all. Our students are largely
young people who have left secondary school, although we get
the occasional older person, a teacher or someone sent by their
company. Our main problem now is training enough new instructors to
meet the demand. We insist that they have an A
in our exam, that they redo the course as an observer, that they
work as assistants
for a full session and then practice teach every lesson before they are
allowed to face a class. This is likely why our school has such a good
reputation in the town and we have a waiting list for registration..
We have strong and faithful people who run the school while we are away.
It would not survive without them.
Please pray for us as we close up shop in the next few weeks and travel
home to renew ourselves with friends and family