Kenya is Awesome!

Kenya is Awesome!

Jan 28

Our plane touched down on the tarmac of the Dar Es Salaam airport right at noon, after the impossibly hard good-byes with our new family at Creative Solutions in Tanzania.  We took a car from the airport to the beautiful beach town of Bagamoyo, home to fisherman, artists, and the ruins of 13th century mosques.  We celebrated the holidays walking the small alleyways and markets that make up the town, the heat beating down on us, the smell of the ocean everywhere, and an overwhelming sense of sound:  cars, chickens, vendors, and the music blasting from all the shops.   I met an artist in Bagamoyo who did wood sculpting.  He gave me some lessons.  It was really cool.

After the holidays, and a cancelled flight that kept us at the airport for a full day, we made our way to Nairobi.  While there, we visited a boarding school for kids with HIV/Aids.  It’s run by Sister Mary who is a very cool woman.   After our tour, she sent us to a clinic in the Kibera slums.   There, the nurses invited us to go with them to check on some of the kids they help in the slums.

We agreed to go, not knowing how much of a shock we were in for.  The brick and tin huts were barely big enough for a family of 2, but somehow they make room for 7 or more to sleep at night.  The children, some who have malnutrition and are sick, run around through streams of sewage with barely any clothes on, the smell from the communal bathrooms not seeming to bother them.  The sun turns the tin roofed huts into ovens, and when it rains, water leaks in through holes in the metal sheets.

The slums are absolutely devastating and make up a large part of Nairobi.  The sight is sensory overload by itself, which only increases when you look up and see that it goes on for miles and miles.  Leaving Kibera in our rear-view mirror, we drove to Kisii in western Kenya with Don Howard of Rotary International and the founder of SCOPE (School Communities Offering Project that Empower)_.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a movie and sleep, after a day of checking out projects a SCOPE school had created.  The next day, we attended the first day of a three-day seminar run by my dad, for students from different schools around the area.  The seminar was to prepare these schools for a national theater arts competition.

The students arrived, quite withdrawn, and seemingly unable to look at anything besides the floor.  They were wearing sweaters that had holes in more places than not, and old shoes that were the wrong size.  Later we were told that some of the students had to borrow the oversized clothes for the honor of spending a couple of days at the seminar and to stay at the tiny hotel that SCOPE supplied for them.

Their shyness was slowly remedied by my dad’s crazy, loud acting games, and by writing and performing new plays and poems for the rest of the day.  The laughter was a welcome sound after them being so shy and quiet to begin with.  Everyone enjoyed the material they came up with over the three-day workshop.  They loved the performances at the end of the last day.  The kids had so much fun and you could see in their faces, and hear in their voices, how much braver they had become, compared to the first day.

The next week we spent visiting some of the schools the kids had come from. We met with the teachers and got a tour of their schools.

At each of the schools, the staff and students greeted us with songs and dances.  The visits usually started with a gathering in front of the school where the groups from Kisii performed their plays for the other students.  The performers stood out from the rest of the crowd because they weren’t afraid to be bold anymore.  After the applause quieted down, Don gave each school 5 soccer balls to replace the bottles and strings the students normally play with.  While the kids played with their new soccer balls, we joined Don as he met with the teachers and staff to make plans for the school; getting new books, planting gardens, new water harvesting systems, and new bathrooms.  When the meetings were over, we ran around with the kids in the sun, with everybody laughing and just having fun.

At one Masai school, the elders gave my dad, brother and I Masai robes called Shukas and presented us with our new Masai names.  Mine is “Olandoo” meaning tall.  Then more painful good-byes…

We spent three days on a safari with our friend Bo and Ed, who came to visit us from Charlotte. We went on a wild game drive. It was amazing.   We stayed in cool tents and drove through the Masai Mara seeing all kinds of animals:  Lions, hippos, gazelles, giraffes, jackals,

hyenas, wildebeests, elephants… etc.

Currently we are in South Africa and soon we will head to Australia to work with The Royal Flying Doctors.   They are a company that brings medical supplies and medical attention to people in the far reaches of Australia.

We were going to visit orphanages for children with HIV here in Cape Town but, both my dad and brother have horrible colds, so I think we are going to use our few days in Cape Town as down time.  We visited The Cape of Good Hope and saw tons of baboons. 

More to come…  Jackson