Saturday, September 12, 2009

To the Indian Ocean and back to the city!

We have been out of computer contact for several days. During that time we have covered a lot of ground!
We completed our visit to a family Maasai manyatta of our friend Jacinta LePaiton. She no longer lives the life of a traditional Maasai woman, but her brother and sisters continue to live in mud huts, away from town. The Manyatta consists of several family groups living in a circular arranged community of mud houses. Many Maasai practice polygamy, so there were many children of similar ages assembled. Jacinta introduced me to a baby named Patricia, (after me) but I have a feeling she was only Patricia for the day! We watched as a young woman began preparing a goat skin for market, men building a structure for cows, and children playing in the surround. We were invited into a hut to share a cup of boiled Maasai tea- milk and tea-quite tasty, and hopefully safe to drink. We'll find out!

On our way back to Rombo from the manyatta, we stopped to visit the local health center as it was now open for the day. Years ago my daughter, Katy, and I worked on the construction of this health center. We talked with the nurse on duty and found that much of her work centers around water-borne diseases. She spends many hours educating and leading seminars for women on the importance of safe water and hand-washing. The clinic provides medicine and immunizations and provides service to over 700 people monthly. (mind you, there is only one nurse and a pharmacy tech available)

We had lunch with my dear friend, Monica, who I met when volunteering in MaliTatu. She now is the proud mama of 3 beautiful children. We had a fabulous lunch and visit. The rest of our afternoon was spent with a women's group of Maasai women who discussed plans for community development with us. It was very interesting.

On Tuesday morning, we left by 7:30 for the coast. Our destination was the town of Malindi and Hemingway's Resort for a day of rest and relaxation! It was a long and dusty drive which has become the norm in this drought laden territory. We could see that crops were dried in the fields, and people are suffering. After 6 hours of driving we arrived at a beautiful resort on a beach at the Indian Ocean. We had a lazy afternoon enjoying the scenery and the pool. (What Patty failed to mention is that for us to get anywhere, we spend hours in a hot, dusty car while riding over roads that on their best day are considered impassable by US standards. We were beyond ready for the ocean!)

On Wednesday, we took advantage of our location on the Malindi National Marine Park and planned a "goggling" adventure. (the term used for snorkeling) First, we needed to teach our guide and friend, Christopher, how to snorkel.
It was his first experience! We practiced in the pool, and after a short time he was comfortable with the equipment. He did find it a little more difficult once we entered the ocean. We took a boat out to the reef and spent several hours exploring the coral and seeing the beautiful fish.

Later in the afternoon, we were on to another adventure. We met Madi Mohamed, the head of an eco camp in the town of Malindi. We could tell, that we were in for an interesting few days. He loaded the car with food, packages, and himself- and with enthusiasm and the cue- "We move, we move"- we were off! (we heard that phrase often!)

Madi and others in his community manage an eco island called One Love Island. Their profits are used to help the community of Ngomeni. They help with schools and help to replant and conserve the mangroves in the area. We stored our luggage at Madi's home in Ngomeni and headed for our island transportation. The 10-15 minute transport was provided by a dugout canoe, made from the trunk of a mango tree. It felt very tippy, but they assured us we wouldn't tip. Once again, the look on Christopher's face was hilarious. He told us that it was a "terrifying moment!"
The eco camp is very rustic- no running water, or electricity, but has a beautiful palapa shelter and a tree house for sleeping. It was comfortable and relaxing. We met Chris McKeown, a Peace Corp worker, from Pennsylvania. We discussed the need for water and sanitation at his school, and learned that he was working to help the village develop the marketing and improvement for One Love Island. We enjoyed meeting and talking to him. (his parents should be proud!)

The food on One Love Island was fantastic. Madi's mom is the cook, and her coconut calamari was delicious!
On Thursday, we spent the day hunting for sea shells, and again spending time with our new friend Chris. Around 4pm Madi raced onto the island with his mantra "we move, we move", and we were off on a visit to the Mangroves. We sailed part of the way in a traditional dhow, and then transferred to a dugout canoe to weave in and out through the mangroves.
Madi is passionate about the mangroves, and he and others are working hard to restore the area that has been affected by the salt plant that is located nearby.

Early Friday morning we headed to Mariakani and the Kayafungu area to visit community development headed by Student Movement for Real Change. Their name has recently been changed to "Think Impact". They are exploring ways to get water to the many schools in this sun-parched area. We all agreed that this was the hardest hit area, in terms of water, that we have visited. We met young children that were walking many miles to gather water. We visited a large dam project that was absolutely bone dry. The schools are receiving food from relief agencies, and for many children this provides their only meal of the day. It is truly an area that is in desperate need of water. We hope that H2O for Life will be able to assist with schools as projects are identified.

Today, we are back in Nairobi, preparing to meet with several Prime Ministers, Rotary Club members and others that will further educate us about the needs of local schools and how we may be of help.

Kwa Heri ya kuonana! (Good-bye until next time)

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