Sue & Richard update Sunday 15th November
Sorry it’s been a few days since we wrote – lots happening and the internet has been even more temperamental than usual!
Last weekend (7th & 8th November) we had a trip to Millicent’s home village, which is about a 2 hour drive away. We understood that we would be staying with Millicent’s brother, Elisha, who lives in that area, and had thought we were going straight there. However, we learned the Kenyan meaning of ‘just passing by’ during this trip, as in “We will be passing by my sister’s house”. As we neared our destination (so we thought), Millicent said “My brother-in-law will be at the end of the track to meet us” – and we realised that we wouldn’t just be ‘passing by’ but calling in! And calling in, Kenyan style, involves first of all, all the relations greeting us by singing a hymn, Eric praying for the household, and then sitting down for a meal! So, a couple of hours later, having had a lovely time with the family, we moved on to Millicent’s brother’s house. The roads in this area are very good indeed, and there is hardly any traffic. One wonders why so much money was spent in this area when, back in Ahero, the roads are full of traffic, narrow and dangerous. Probably something to do with which politician lives nearby…
Again, we had a fine Kenyan welcome, enjoying not just the company but also wonderful views of Lake Victoria. Then we learned that we would actually be staying in Millicent’s nephew’s house just down the road! We had a good evening with various relatives and friends from the area, who appear on such occasions! Millicent’s relatives are all quite well-off Kenyans (she and Eric live very simply) – each house we visited on this weekend had a progressively larger lounge and an increased number of settees!
After a comfortable night (it made a change to have a bed with a mattress that is not worn out!) we had a walk down to the lake, watching fishermen hauling in their nets to the shore in an almost Biblical scene. Church was at 9am for one hour, so it started about 9.30 and finished somewhere around 11.30. Much of the service was in Luo, but we enjoyed the English bits we understood and were able to contribute a bit. Another trip to the lake was followed by the journey home (complete with live chicken in the boot – a traditional parting gift for Millicent, apparently), via some amazing rocks – but again “we are passing by Adeline’s (Millicent and Eric’s adopted daughter’s) school” on the way. She is at a boarding school, one of Kenya’s Form Schools (14 -18). I could write at length about this…but if you think of the school described in Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby you would not be far wrong, with a day starting at 3.45 am and ending at 10 pm, with academic lessons (nothing creative at all) right through, 7 days a week, except Saturdays when they have some time in the morning to do their washing and on Sundays when they go to Church in the morning. The contrast between the tired, sad faces we saw there and the faces of the children at Mier Pamoja school a few days before on their games day was stark. I think our horrified reaction to the school has made Eric and Millicent seriously think about moving Adeline.
Monday was our day for cleaning the classroom ready for decoration, a task made easier by willing helpers! We then taught the Standard 8 class a lesson about the English seasons, climate, and why it’s different from Kenya. We were able to use some photos from our laptop, so that made it a bit more interesting! For example, August in the Lake District: one day sunny, next day cloudy and wet! The Kenyan weather then took over – another tropical downpour that turned the school compound into a swimming pool in 15 minutes!
From Tuesday through to Thursday we were able to take Millicent and Eric for a well-earned break to the Rondo Christian Retreat Centre in the Kakamega Rain Forest. As we travelled along the unmade main road, then the muddy dirt track that led to it we thought ‘It had better be worth it’…and it was! It is a truly beautiful place, and the staff were unfailingly helpful. It is a real haven of peace surrounded by massive trees, which provide a wonderful habitat for wildlife. We went on a wildlife walk with a local expert on Wednesday morning, who was excellent at finding and identifying many species. The journey back came all too soon – into the noise and mess that is Kisumu for shopping.
We went into school on Friday morning: no children as the Standard 8 pupils finished their exams the previous day, and everyone else was on holiday for the week. Our painter had done a good job in the classroom, and the teacher whose room it is came in to see and was very pleased. We also met a very efficient man (the only Kenyan we have met to be early for an appointment!) to discuss solar power for the school: we await the quote, and then it could become a fundraising item for the future. On another practical note, the cooking stoves that were demonstrated to us have been approved by UK Trustees and now been ordered, so soon the cooks at the school and the care centres here in Ahero and in Nairobi will be able to work more efficiently and out of a smoky atmosphere.
Saturday was outing day for the Care Centre children. There are limited options in the Kisumu area: we checked out the museum a couple of days ago and assessed it as scruffy and boring for the kids – so the only other place is ‘Impala’, which is a kind of park and animal orphanage. If anyone would like to develop tourist facilities in this part of Kenya, there is plenty of scope! The park is a pleasant open space with a few animals, but it’s not very well maintained. and non-residents are charged ten times as much as the locals! Because we arrived at the same time as a couple of other groups it also took 45 minutes to get in – a model of inefficiency! Anyway, the kids had fun playing games and looking around, so for them the day was a great success.
And today, Sunday, we have been at Eric and Millicent’s Church this morning: this is where the children from the Care Centre attend. Like the previous Sunday, we didn’t understand everything that was going on, but were able to teach them a couple of new songs. It was particularly encouraging to see the children from the centre singing in front of the rest of the church, and to hear one of the older girls explaining a passage from the Bible to everyone. After lunch, Sue & Millicent visited a very needy local family, and we went back to the Care Centre for a final session of singing with the children. They remembered all the songs we had taught them previously, and then launched into an amazing medley of their own, which went from one song to another for several minutes, accompanied by excellent drumming on old plastic jerry cans. The children also enjoyed having a go on the keyboard one by one: most of them learned to play the opening phrase of one of the songs we had taught them. If only they could have the opportunities that our children in UK have…
Our time in Ahero is nearly at an end. We said our farewells to the Care Centre children this afternoon and will go into school tomorrow to finish a few jobs and bid the people there farewell too. On Tuesday, we plan to spend time around Eric and Millicent (treating them to typhoid injections amongst other things!) and pack ready for the trip back to Nairobi on Wednesday.
Please continue for our safety in travelling: yesterday, as we were about to turn right into the Care Centre, returning from the outing with children in the car, we were overtaken at speed despite the fact that I was signalling right and had my right arm out of the window. Had I actually turned, we would have been hit hard.
Once back in Nairobi, I hope to be able to post some pictures – and fewer words!
Thank you for all your interest and prayers during our time here, and for your patience in reading as far as this!