Monday, August 24, 2009

Bir Mat Ko Loo

Jambo Friends! (This is Chris)

It has been an absolutely amazing day, where do I start? Today we had the opportunity to meet the staff of Tenwek Hospital's Community Outreach and Development and travel with them to schools in the Bomet area . Their motto is "Put out the fire while it is still far away" (Bir mat ko loo in the local dialect) and it describes their efforts perfectly. With Johnathan and Richard as our guides, we set out to visit a few schools with completed projects and also a new one.

We traveled an hour before reaching our first stop and were warmly greeted by students, staff, and parents of of St. Basil's Kiminanaga Primary School. We toured the school and took lots of pictures (what group other than the H2O team would be interested in taking pictures of latrines) and enjoyed the songs, poems, and speeches presented by the students. Following the ceremony we had tea and bread with the staff of St. Basil's (I'm really enjoying having a lot of good Kenyan tea, but a few of us are getting "tea-ed out" as we have some at every meeting). It amazes me that many of these students have never seen a white person before and love touching our skin and hair. Before heading to the next school we were given gifts of bananas and a 6 foot sugar cane plant (not sure what we'll do with that yet).

Our second stop was at Atebwa Primary School and once again there was a wonderful ceremony for us. The students here gave outstanding speeches. Wesley, a boy in grade 8, spoke about how the new water tank and latrines had raised their standards and they in turn were helping their parents and the community to raise their standards as well. Upon our arrival the staff moved chairs for us to the shade, but the students, staff, and family members stayed in the hot sun. I couldn't believe how patient the students sat and listened for the 40 plus minutes, and wondered how my 9th graders would have held up. During a couple of the speeches from the adults I entertained a few students in the front by making weird faces at them, and they in turn mimicked them back to me. More tea and bread and off we went!

H20 team members have started to each develop their niche upon arrival at the schools... Val and Patty tend to be our speakers, Mark and Lisa entertain the students, and Steve and I take pictures. A few of us have been hesitant about speaking, but Steve had the most valid reason... "You know how every one hates hearing their voice on a recording? Thats how I sound in real time so I can't speak".

The highlight of the day for me was seeing the school that Centennial High School will be sponsoring this year, Reberwet Primary School. Once again there was an incredible welcome by community members. As this was a new project, there was no water tank or new latrines. Instead, we saw the old latrines( 2 of which were full, the other 2 served 264 students plus staff) and heard of the distance they walked to get clean water. I can't wait to start fund raising and teach my students about this wonderful school. Oh yeah, more tea and bread (this time with every one watching us eat; thankfully Val got up and had them doing cheers about water)!

Our final stop, Kiptage Primary school was to be our lunch stop but we have quickly learned that Kenya is an "ish" country, meaning that if you say "we'll meet around 12", it really means "we'll meet around 12ish." Lunch happened to be at 4:30pm today, good thing we have had a lot of bread and tea! Our lunch consisted of millet and a beef stew, not necessarily that unusual except that you used your hands to grab the millet (think of a doughy consistency, except dry) and dip it into the stew. It was rather tasty and quite an eating experience (I don't think anyone had the fresh goat milk that was served with our lunch). As it started raining while we were here there was only a brief presentation because we were running late, and there was a concern that our van might get stuck in the muddy roads.

What a day! A chance to see new geography, make new friends, eat new food, and have lots of tea, can it get any better?

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