Saturday, August 10, 2013

First Attempt at a Care Package

Mail to Kenya is a bit of a slow endeavor. For that reason, the volunteers usually stay in close contact so the next volunteer traveling to Hekima can bring any items over.  For that reason, I'm already preparing our empty suitcase for next year with clearance clothing items I can find at Kohl's and Target.

I did decide to send a care package today though!  Inside I have a DVD for Kate with all the photos the girls took with my phone and camera.  I also bought four sets of Now 46 and Now 47.  One set for each house!  The girls LOVED my iPhone because of the music, so I thought they would enjoy the current music found on compilation CDs!  Each house has a CD player.  I hope they enjoy!

 PS It was only $25 to mail!  SCORE!  Now let's see how long it takes to get there!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Day 7 Updated

Woke up early this morning to get packed and clean the Karibu House!  After we finished up, Kate took us to Karen and we went to the Kazuri Beas and Pottery Factory.  The factory started in 1975 and employed Kenyan women to make beads, specifically focusing on employing single mothers.  The factory expanded to include pottery and incorporated male workers.  What an awesome place.  We did a little shopping and then had a cappuccino in the coffee garden.

We then went to the Karen Blixen Garden for lunch!  Best meal we had in Kenya.  It was delicious.

We returned to Hekima Place and hung out with the girls and then joined them for dinner.  After dinner, much like the birthday celebration, they held a farewell celebration for us!  A girl from each house came to wish us well.  Each one asked that we tell everyone at home about them!  Next came the mums.

Then baby Bridget wanted to come up and do her part!  She gave us each a hug.  As baby Bridget does so must baby Maya Angelou.  I was keeping it together until this point.  Then baby Blessing, the little sparkler I just fell for came up to hug us.  She refused to let go of me.  So she came and sat with me for a little while longer.  Next Kate spoke and her graciousness and pure wonderful mess was at its finest.  Finally, our wonderful Yvonne came up to the head table and one of the older girls spoke to her in Swahili to let her know that since she arrived when we were there, I decided to be her big sister - a pen pal - and Joe and I decided to sponsor her.  In true Yvonne fashion she smiled and hugged and huffed some more.  As she walked away she turned around and screamed "Thank You!"  I was officially a mess at this point.  Finally several of the little choir girls came and sang 1,2,3 little Kenyans.  They brought us each a gift.  An African music CD for Joe, he really did try so hard to sing and participate in Swahili, and a necklace for me.  It was such a beautiful and gut wrenching half hour.  I truly feel so blessed to know these girls, mums, uncles and Kate, and here they were making a fuss for coming to spend time and work with them and bring some supplies!  Our cab arrived and no shortage of 10 girls came to help with our luggage.  Leaving was INCREDIBLY hard.  Not because I felt bad for the girls, but because being with them makes you feel so special and part of something enormously important.  I was still crying by the time we sat at the coffee shop hours later. 

Joe and I are definitely coming back.  These girls are special young women and true survivors and I would not miss the opportunity to be a part of their development. Plus, I also love Kenya!  It is the most welcoming and friendly place I have EVER visited as a tourist.

All this mushiness aside, I do want to mention that I will not miss the following:

1. The bed: this bed is too small for Joe, let alone Lexie and Joe.
2. My nightly frustration with this little device - trying to text and upload the blog.

3. The death-wish that is driving on Kenyan roads!

I'm going to keep the blog up and running so I can keep you posted on how our plans develop as Hekima becomes the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh's International Project for 2013-2014.  Thank you all for embarking on this journey with me!  I truly believe it has just started and the best is yet to come!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 7

Today was a lovely day!  Can't wait to post and tell you all about it!  Joe and I are safely at Nairobi airport and checked in and through immigration.  Will post more later!  Still a little teary after leaving Hekima Place and I fear I will full on cry if I start writing now!  

Kenya in the news...

While we here, Kenya made the Daily Mail, my favorite salacious news source I would access whenever we had Internet!  Here they are:

Enjoy!!!!!  I preferred to read this stuff instead of the heightened security threat news!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Day 6

Today was the dreariest day yet!  If you told me it was cold enough to snow, I would have believed you!  The kids just threw on layer after layer to stay warm.  At 10:30 we congregated in the dining room which has been rearranged for Mass with Father Jim, a Jesuit priest from Wisconsin.  The girls and Kate were happy to see him since he has been away in Uganda building a boys high school.  The girls were active participants in Mass from the very beginning.  The older girls are getting very excited because next weekend they will be confirmed!  The girls who did not attend Mass, attended church down the road at a church called Deliverance.

After church and lunch it was time to have some fun outdoors, even though it was COLD!!!  The football (soccer) team stayed at Hekima Place for practice and the rest of us went for about a 1 km walk to the Rift Valley.  Yes, the same Rift Valley that developed ten million years ago and spans from the Middle East and ends in Mozambique and where humans are thought to have first appeared (google it if you don't believe me!).  It was beautiful!!!!

We hiked two parts of the rift and then it was time to return to Hekima Place where we watched the girls finish up playing soccer.  In the 2 hours we were out, the girls managed to drain the battery on both my iPhone and camera!  I'm sure they will be interesting to go through once we get home!  While Joe spent time with the girls in the Red House teaching them card tricks, I came back to Karibu House and hid under 2 blankets.

Then the dinner bells rang and it was off to dinner and then Bible Study.  We had a tough exercise that requires us to make a list of 5 things (10 for adults) that were important to us, and then had to cross off each one and see what we were left with.  The Bible Studies are run by the "uncles" or men who work here at Hekima Place.  Kate started this in an effort to ensure that the girls had some experience with interacting with males, given their female dominated world.  Afterwards, it was time for a typical Sunday evening.  The girls were putting out their uniforms and freshly polished shoes in order to get ready for school on Monday.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 5

IIt's pretty hard to stare at a blank screen and try and write something half as exciting as yesterday - especially when yesterday involved a safari!  That said, today was a relatively low-key day.  We woke up to more gray weather!  Since we arrived we have been plagued with cool weather.  Lows in the mid 40s and highs in the mid 60s.  It's especially chilly with the wind up here on the hill at the Hekima Place compound.

Because of the chill, the girls spent the morning inside and completing their chores.  I used that time to write all my postcards to my wonderful supporters from the "go fund me" campaign.  I got a little sad writing cards, because I wouldn't be sending one to Gaggy.  She would love all my stories and pictures from this trip.  I started to get a little teary-eyed and then realized she wouldn't want me to be upset, but she would want me to send her's to her favorite correspondence buddy, my cousin Olivia.  So that's what I did!

We spent the afternoon playing outside: soccer, cards and the playground.  

I did score points by bringing nail polish for pedicures!  Doesn't matter where in the world you are, girls love painted toes!  Some did alternating colors, some layered color with sparkles, some did a combination of both!  It was a fun way to spend some time together!  While the girls painted and listened to an R-Kelly CD or Nairobi's KISS radio station, I "took the corn off" of what seemed like a million ears of corn (it was probably 15).  

The most special part of the day came when it was time for dinner.  Every Saturday, that week's birthdays are celebrated.  This week we had Faith's birthday.  

After we ate a delicious and dinner of cabbage, mashed potatoes and chicken (remember those coops I mentioned in an earlier posts?  They are definitely a few chickens lighter), it was time to celebrate.  One of the older girls served as MC and invited a representative from each house to recite a birthday wish for Faith.  All the girls spoke of how much they wished for a wonderful year and life, how much they loved her and how much they prayed for her.  Next her Mum (from the blue house) her a happy birthday and spoke of all the improvements and progress she had made and her love for Faith.  The Head Mom then followed with praise about what a hard and good worker Faith was, and her beauty inside and out.  Then baby Bridget got up to say happy birthday, which was just adorable from a three year old.  After each person went to the front of the room to give their wish, they hugged the birthday girl.  As the visitors, we were asked to give our wishes too.  The choral group came and led in the singing of several songs and finally "Mum Kate" spoke about the blessing that Faith is, and her love for her.  The cake came out next, candles were blown out, and a small present was opened!

It was a special thing to be part of.  Not only was it interesting to see a birthday celebrated in another country, but it was inspiring to see how a birthday was celebrated at Hekima Place.  Every room you enter at Hekima is filled with love, you can just feel it.  What was different with the birthday celebration, was that you couldn't just feel the love, you could hear each person express it: from baby Bridget to founder "Mum Kate."  What a wonderful way to build a confident young woman.  Given the circumstances these young women come from, building them up seems like an impossible task, but I know that there is hope when there are people so eager and willing to share their love and pride for these girls so openly and directly.  I know that tonight, Faith will go to bed knowing she is loved,  important to, and celebrated by many people.  

On a less insightful note, the cake was delicious: like a pound cake with frosting and a side of ice cream!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 4 - SAFARI 🐗🐒🐘

Safari day is here!  We left Karibu House at 5:30 this morning.  We were dragging, so on the way we stopped for coffee.  The shop wasn't open until 7am, but somehow charmer-Joe appeared with ice lattes!  We arrived at Nairobi State Park right after it opened, and there was still a line for admittance.  Once inside, we knew it was worth the wait (and the insanely early wake-up time).  The first animals we saw were baboons - it was obviously going to be an amazing day!

We saw ostriches, antelopes, lions, giraffes, black rhinos, wart hogs, zebras and more (I would have to look through all my photos to remember them all).

After our safari, we headed to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where twenty-six baby orphan elephants are being raised to be returned to the wild!  They were amazing!  The smallest was four months old and was wearing a blanket to keep warm!  These elephants have been orphaned mostly due to poaching for ivory and conflict with humans.  It's really worth learning about:

We had a lovely lunch date at Talisman in front of their beautiful organic garden.

Next stop, the Giraffe Center where you can hand feed a giraffe!  Daisy was the giraffe on deck eating pellets from young and old patrons alike.  Usually, the giraffes will eat a pellet right out of your mouth, but apparently Daisy is a biter and everyone was discouraged from trying to "kiss the giraffe."

Finally, after our full day of animal adventures, Joe and I dragged ourselves to a local market where original Masaii arts and crafts are sold.  We bought tons of souvenirs and then dragged our tires selves home for the evening.  We wanted to make sure our weekend was wide open to spend time with the girls here at Hekima, so we made sure we packed our schedule today!  

P.S. Obviously I have a bazillion more pictures to share but I will have to wait to get back to the US where I'm not uploading on a 2G network, high up in the hills.