Supplying Shoes and Sugarcane

27 Commentsby   |  07.21.11  |  Kenya

As you can imagine, I’ve deduced that living in Africa highly varies from living in America. Last Wednesday, one of the boys here, Mark, was bit by a snake. Other than shaken up, he’s fine, but I’ve noticed that I watch where I walk a lot more these days. In addition to snakes, Bonnie and I have also been subjected to sharing our room with two mice, whom we’ve dubbed Scampy and Junior (Junior is literally junior…he’s not much bigger than a jelly bean!) We’ve noticed as of late that they are becoming much more daring, moving from the closet and the corners to under our beds and in the walkways. Another African experience I’ve had the opportunity of undergoing last week was milking a cow! Two of the older children at Sam’s Place, Violet and Kilion, came with us and taught us the basics. I was a natural and was only briefly startled when the cow decided to urinate while I was milking. Afterward, we even got to try the milk we had extracted! Although I’ve had triumphs (obviously milking the cow), we’ve also had trials, as we’re currently experiencing a lack of water. In Kenya, with July comes a void of rain, thus the depletion of our water supplies. Every day we must trek down to the nearest river and bring bucket by bucket back to Sam’s Place to use for cooking, bathing, and the sort.

Thursday was a bit out of the ordinary. Savannah, Bonnie, and I decided that before we left Sam’s Place, we wanted to give the children something that would be useful now, as well as in the future. After weeks and weeks of contemplation, we agreed that shoes would be the perfect departing gift, for many of their current shoes have holes in the heels and some are literally holding on by a thread. So last Thursday we grabbed a mutatu to Kisii for market day and set out in the search for shoes. After hours upon hours of sifting through shoes for appropriate sizes, we finally had 30 closed-toe shoes in our possession. However, as we stood there in the scorching, African sun, we decided that, although closed-toe shoes will be great for school and sports, sandals are a necessity for everyday wear. So we set out again, this time with sandals on our mind, and by the end of the day, we had 60 shoes ready to bring back and distribute to our kids. And I’ve NEVER seen more excitement in my whole life! They lined up by height as we brought each child in, letting them try on their shoes to make sure they fit, and then sent them on their way while they thanked us over and over again. By the end of that day, I was exhausted, yet exhilarated.

Another simple pleasure that we often take for granted in America is watching television (in addition to running water and shoes). Although I have to say I don’t miss it one bit, the children go absolutely crazy when we bring it out for them to watch old movies. The funny thing is that with being deaf they don’t understand half of it, but they still love it all the same.

Savannah, Bonnie, and I have become accustomed to delicious meals by Naomi and wanted to return the favor by making her family an American meal. The problem is that the ingredients available here are quite different than ones offered in America, so after ruling out basically all Mexican (which ironically I find very America) and many other typical meals, we decided that breakfast food was our best bet. So this past Saturday, after helping the children wash their clothes, we traveled to Rongo to pick up our supplies (even finding vanilla extract which we were sure we would have to do without) and then hastily hurried back to start our cooking extravaganza. It proved to be a little more difficult than initially planned, due to the lack of nonstick pans, but we worked through it and came out with a nice meal of breakfast potatoes, scrambled eggs, and pancakes (an original recipe from Bonnie’s grandmother). Everyone seemed to love it and asked for all the recipes!

On Sunday, Simeone took us to his childhood congregation for church. He introduced us, like every Sunday, but aware of my special trilling talent, asked me to trill for the ENTIRE congregation…which I did most obligingly to their shock and amazement. On our way home, we stopped and bought the children sugar cane. When we pulled it out of the trunk, they all started jumping up and down, smiling broadly, signing “thank you” over and over. They are so precious! Savannah and I have been eager to try it the entire summer and so joined in with the children. Bonnie, however, had a traumatic experience with sugar cane at a young age and thus refused to even look at it. It wasn’t as sweet as I was expecting, or as grainy, and reminded me a lot of watermelon. On the topic of food, I have become very fond of two vegetables; roasted corn, which they sell on every street corner, and cabbage, Naomi’s specialty. When I first arrived in Africa, I undoubtedly craved certain foods not available in Kenya, such as ice cream and enchiladas, however, I have now come to crave African food, i.e. roasted corn, cabbage, groundnuts, and peas.

In the same way last week was completely ordinary, this week has been the opposite, a week full of testing in preparation for exam day (today). We only diverged from this testing schedule yesterday (Wednesday), when we accompanied Simeone and Naomi to a funeral. Normally an entire day’s event, we only stayed for 4 hours, having to get back to Sam’s Place. For those 4 hours, men and women, friends and relatives, stood and spoke, prayed, and sang for the deceased man. It was very unlike any funeral I’ve ever attended, with speakers telling jokes and attenders offering money. The family was so honored to have wazungus present that they asked us to speak and sing for the audience.

Even when I spend all my time with children, teaching, eating, and resting, nothing compares to the feeling of actually playing with them. I feel 8 years old again, pretending to be cats and running around frantically tickling and attempting to escape ticklees. Other than the children themselves, it’s these time I’ll miss the most when we leave next week. I have never known time to fly by so fast, with hours turning into days and days into weeks. It feels as if I only arrived last week and yet, my final week’s approaching. The children have recently developed the habit of continuously asking how much longer until we have to leave and when we will be back. It breaks my heart not being able to tell them next month, but I know that this summer has been just as much an encouragement to them as it has been for me.


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