Main characters (trip team members): Peter Loibner, me. Craig Loibner, Dad, fearless leader of the trip and pastor of Fellowship North. Gary Lamb, hair surgeon at Lamb & Co. Rob Callaham, the only guy close to my age on our team. Judy Smith, part of the original families at Fellowship North. Dr. Marty Jackson, podiatrist. Chery Walthall, nurse who knew as much as a doctor. Carole Grant, Triage who made everyone call her grandmother or Nana all week. Dru Dotson, pastor of Lake Valley Church in Hot Springs, AR. Morgan Golden, another pastor of Lake Valley Church in Hot Springs, AR. Bill Nestle, pharmacist at Walgreen’s in Hot Springs, AR. Elaine Mays, nurse who knew as much as a doctor in Hot Springs, AR. Dr. Jon Robert, pediatrician in Hot Springs, AR. Paula Schartzman, friendliest woman in Hot Springs, AR.Dr. Phil Elledge, oral surgeon from Alabama. Sarina Howell, Phil's assistant from Alabama.
Thursday, February 15.
Our first day of travel. We rushed through Chicago International because our flight was late, so I'm thankful that I ended up eating a little in the Little Rock airport. Once in the air I'm reminded of the plethora of movies offered on international flights. I didn't sleep very much. I watched "Running with Scissors" (I do not recommend), "Babel" (I don't recommend especially as you enter a third world country), and "Illusionist" (okay). The plane was fairly empty so I had two seats on the side to myself. Rob had the two seats in front of me to himself. Dinner was good. I tried to sleep some, but did not get my normal 8 hours.
Lunch: Asiago cheese bagel with egg and cheese.
Dinner: Chicken something, salad, cranberry juice, red wine.
Friday, February 16.
45 minutes in security line from one terminal to the next terminal, 1 1/2 hours layover in the international terminal, 2 1/2 hours at the gate in the plane, and then off the ground on our last flight of our journey to Nairobi, Kenya. I played a lot of "Who is American & who is European?" While I have no way to check myself, especially back at the airport, I'm pretty sure I'm always right. The flight from London was completely full, which is slightly surprising. When we made it to Nairobi, we stood in the Visa line for 45 minutes. When collecting bags, we were missing a few, but it was hard to count and see exactly how many. Everyone's second bag was a random medicine bag, so nobody remembered exactly which one they had checked. We ended up missing Elaine's and Dad's personal bags plus 4 bags of medicine. Customs or security wasn't difficult, but quirky. We'd walked out the doors and started exchanging hugs and then the man in customs made us all back up. "Hey, this is customs!" So Dad was very cordial and sincerely apologized. Then the man said, "Welcome to Kenya," and let us go on. Alice, Dero, James, drivers, and friends greeted us. We loaded up and drove 30 minutes to the hotel. It took too long to check in as it was approaching 2:00am. I shared a room with Dad. As I crawled onto my rock hard mattress, I warned Dad that the mattresses were very firm. He said he liked a firm mattress, but then laughed as he crawled onto his twin bed... of stone. I don't think it bothered anybody too badly. As I lay there, I realized how hungry I was and that we had skipped dinner somehow. Breakfast: Yogurt, orange juice, muffin-flavored-muffin. Lunch: Beef pasta, salmon salad, fresh fruit, red wine. Dinner: time change made for a short day and no dinner.
Saturday, February 17.
Breakfast did not disappoint. Tilapia, home fries, french toast, fried eggs, bacon, cheese, nuts, pastries, coffee. We ate outside and the weather, like the entire week, was incredible. I ate at a small table with Rob, Gary & Bill. After we were all done, I walked over to the table where some of the ladies had found themselves. "Wasn't that the best breakfast?!" They were apparently nervous and didn't want fish for breakfast and hadn't enjoyed their experience as much as me. I shot a quick 100 shilling email to Whitney, loaded up in vans and headed on the journey to Migori. I ended up in the backseat in the middle because I'm just a little guy. We stopped at a little shop with as many helpers as you would ever need. My personal shopping assistant was Isaac. He wasn't happy when I didn't buy anything, but they didn't have any large salad tongs. We ate lunch at an outdoor cafe. Rob and I split fish and chips. It was pretty good. We saw a clan of wild baboons, the only time I saw a safari animal outside of the game reserves. Other than that, we saw lots of donkeys, cows, goats and sheep. We made one more stop in Kisii at a huge Wal-Mart-like store. I was surprised to see something like that at all. A few people bought ice-cream bars, but that was it. I was still dragging Whit's great snacks out as long as possible. We finally arrived at about 4:30pm. Then we were welcomed, and, oh, were we welcomed.
The children were in two groups singing to us as we drove up. One group outside the gate, and the younger kids inside the gate. When we got out of vans, they put Mardi Gras wreaths around our necks and gave us big hugs. Then we were seated in chairs while they welcomed us. We met each adult by name: elders in the church, staff at the orphanage, teachers, friends, pastors, Fred's mom, etc. Then the groups of children sang songs of welcome. The littlest kids, recited an enthusiastic prose in unison about how hard life was before we provided these facilities. "All there was was work, sweat, and more work." I liked the bit about how we helped provide them a teacher and they loved their teacher as Jane, their teacher, stood proudly beside and listened as they recited this verse she had taught them. The highlight of the welcome, and possibly any service all week, was the church choir singing a capello a song about traveling to Jesus. It was quite beautiful. For all the groups, it is difficult for me to balance their beautiful hearts and voices and sincere words with the look on their faces. They have this bored, roaming look always on their faces no matter what they are doing. All except Dero, who is an honorary member of the choir on some occasions.
Somewhere in there, Beatrice was introduced, and Dad was so excited and greeted her and took her to his seat and lap. After a minute, he brought her to me and introduced us to each other as brother and sister. The image that made Josh Carr cry in church from the video. It was a very tender moment, to which Beatrice replied, "yes." She spent the rest of the welcome in my lap playing with my hands.
When it was over, Dad introduced all of us. Then we went to our dorm, which is very nice and the most technologically savvy home I'd ever seen if you could say that about a place with no hot water and periodically no electricity.
Beatrice followed until we got bags and started dividing up rooms. Ben, who drove the BJCF (Britney James Child Fund) van, and his brother Geoffrey, hung out with us the rest of the day. They look and talk like us, wanted to know what we thought of 24, the TV show, and so on. They go to school in Nairobi.
Dinner was great: fried fish, lamb with onions and tomatoes, rice, French fries, and some sort of coleslaw. Again, far exceeding my expectations. The two things I was most worried about were the food and the drive to Migori. Both were difficult, but not near as difficult as people had previously portrayed them to be. Electricity without solar energy was installed the week before we arrived, so they now have a small dorm refrigerator with cold cokes and water. They tried to explain how huge this was. Dero and James now enjoy a movie on the computer with cold drinks. I felt like I understood and didn't take it for granted. Some of the women may not have been able to make this claim.
Everyone started heading to bed after they had emailed or called loved ones, and then we all prayed together. I went and got my stuff settled keeping everything zipped up after James' warning of large spiders and such. Also, I shared a room with Dad and tried to lead by example.
It was 8:45, so I felt like I needed to stay up a little more. All the young folks hung out and talked. Dad joined us, but fell asleep in a recliner. At 10:15, I woke him up for us to go to bed, a little later than I intended. I was excited about the night ahead of me. I knew it would be hard to wake up because of jetlag. At 3am, I decided I didn't really understand jetlag. I was so tired. About that time, I heard Dad get up. I wasn't ready to give up. About 45 minutes later, he came back in to look for his medicine which he realized he hadn't taken yet. We were supposed to start the Malarone, malaria medicine, 3 days before the trip and everyday on the trip. I took the opportunity to let Dad help me down as I had no ladder on the bed.
Sunday, February 18.
Rob made a cameo, but after we told him what time it was, he silently left to go try again. I got very caught up on my journal and read some.
I received a card from Whitney on most days of my trip. I had opened two at this point at the earliest times possible. 2/17 was at 1am on the plane to London and now 2/18 at 3:30am. I must say that I genuinely enjoyed and even looked forward to the cards Whitney wrote me, but I hoped the sun would be up before I woke to read the next one.
There was also a wake next door that was reminiscent of Brad Pitt's character's mother's wake in Snatch. It did not let up before most people got up for the day. Most everyone slowly trickled in between 6 and 8am. Breakfast was great. Eggs, sausages, toast with honey, orange marmalade or peanut butter. Some of the women went to do the children's class. It sounded neat. There were 200 little kids and they shared a Bible story. Then Marty shared how she was a doctor and what she came here to do. I think they must have been impressed with her. Then she shared about how she had always wanted children, but had never had any. And two years ago, God blessed her with a child. Then she found Asnet, the child she sponsors, for the first time and met her in front of all the other children to conclude her story.
Rob and I did the Youth's time with Jane, one of the teachers who is very smiley! The previous teams have bonded easily with Jane. She seems like a great American elementary school teacher. Very involved, and genuine, and sweet. Rob shared a greeting and then our verse of the day, I Timothy 4:12. Then I shared about how it seemed bad to be young and shared verses from Proverbs about "folly is bound up in the heart of a child" and in I Corinthians when Paul said "when I was child I acted in childish ways, but when I was a man I left childish ways behind me." but when Jesus came he had a different perspective. Then I read from Matthew when Jesus brought the child in front of everyone and said unless you became like one of these, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And about a chapter later when Jesus rebuked the disciples from keeping children from him.
Then I told briefly the stories of Joshua, Mary & Joseph, David, and Timothy and how they were all relatively young when God asked something of each of them. And how we can be an example for our elders in the way we live and balancing the good characteristics of being young and still being responsible for our actions.
They were, of course, extremely receptive, and Jane, who translated everything, elaborated where she felt necessary. We were stuck in there until the adults were done, so we sang a few songs. Then the inevitable. Jane asked Rob and I to share a chorus. We graciously declined. Jane said, "you know that we like it when you sing." Where were you, Josh, when we needed you! Then we moved to big church. I said to Rob under my breath, "Impact youth of Africa: check. What else do you want to do today?" It's very hard to tell what they need or understand spiritually.
Church is the opposite of us in the US. They are, as a people, very reserved and quiet. But their church is very excited. Rose, the choir leader, will hardly look at you when you speak to here, but when she gets going, she was comparable to that woman who everybody listened to a few years ago from Australia. In US, we are a loud, even offensively loud at times, people, but go to church and become very reserved!
Dru spoke at church and did great. But they didn't ask him for a chorus when he was done. It was all hot and long, but still fascinating. The visitors were all asked to come up front and share their names and something. I think we could incorporate that into our services! Then Dad introduced all the
Dr. Phillip Elledge is apparently helping Pastor Allen build a sanctuary in the main part of town, so a few people went to church there. It sounded very incredible, too.
Our afternoon was filled with visiting different homes at different stages of our support for widows with little support in the church. We looked at one home where the children were barely dressed and the house was in shambles. A new house had begun construction, but until more money came to finish it, it was unusable. The second home was mostly done and the family was living inside, but it was still unfinished and didn’t even have doors and windows on it. The third was belonged to Beatrice and her mother Irene and all her siblings. It was finished. It felt weird to go in and among everyone’s homes and take pictures of the homes and children as if they were museum exhibits.
Then we also saw another orphanage that needed some assistance. It's neat to see Fred have relationships with other people and even orphanages that need help and want to share his “money source” with other people.
Breakfast: omelets, toast, bacon.
Lunch: fried chicken, kale, carrots, mashed potatoes.
Dinner: Fish, fried vegetable salad, oranges.
Monday, February 19.
I woke up early again, but not quite as bad. I was still able to do lots of reading and wrote a long email to Whitney and everyone before the more people woke up and a line formed behind me for the computer. Day one at the clinic, and I was able to get excited about the week. I didn’t know how much help I would be having no medical experience, but I really got to use the skills I learned at Starbucks. I still felt like my lack of medical knowledge was a hindrance at times. I got to really help get the whole thing moving and shift around to help bottlenecks in different places.
Carole and her translator, Robina, were in the front room doing triage, which is a medical term for taking temperature and blood pressure and hearing about headaches and bowels to decide if the patient is legitimate. Carole’s translator was a nurse, so I quickly set her up at her own table, and found Carole another translator. Then I took the forms and made the front man put the patients’ names and ages on the form, so they walked in having something filled out. From triage, the patients either went to wait outside a doctors’ room: Elaine, Chery, Marty and Jon; or were assigned medication and sent on to the pharmacy if Carole or Robina felt comfortable diagnosing the patient without a doctor. Alice ended up becoming a third triage table, so things really started moving. The doctors all had translators with medical background except Chery, whose translator was a teacher. Some phrases, like “blood in bowel movement,” were not in this guy’s standard English classes. Judy and Paula were fixtures in the pharmacy, while Rob, Gary, Morgan and I shifted people up and down the halls while periodically helping the pharmacy. In the afternoon, Rob and I took over the pharmacy so Judy and Paula could get some exposure to the people. There wasn’t quite the busyness or sense of urgency in the halls, so Judy soon came back and helped. Even though only Bill could approve the orders, we could still use a lot of people filling the orders. Rob and I wore scrubs to fit in, but people thought we were doctors. Someone actually handed their form to Rob while waiting in line to see a doctor. But everyone was staring at us all day with the expression that said, “why don’t you help me instead of all of us waiting in line?” I wore jeans and t-shirts the rest of the week.
We saw lots of worms and malaria. Almost every patient got medication for the worms and malaria, multi-vitamins, and ibuprofen or Tylenol. Also, we saw lots of HIV or AIDS symptoms including in children. They could only treat the symptoms and recommend the patient go to VCT, voluntary counseling and treatment, to get government subsidized help. One boy was 8 years old and had been normally healthy until two years ago when began to develop Rickets and his legs were bent inward. This is a completely diet related disease that results from vitamin deficiency. It was my understanding that he could not recover from this and would either stabilize in this condition, or get worse resulting in losing his legs.
Breakfast: boiled eggs, mandazi (beignet), toast.
Lunch: braised beef, rice.
Dinner: fried chicken, chapatti rice, carrots, onions.
Tuesday, February 20.
I made it to 5am. I was beginning to enjoy the alone time to start my day, but I’m confused why others are not affected like this except Dad who has sleeping issues back home, too.
Day 2 at the clinic. I helped up front to get things started again. Then I helped in triage to move that room along faster. I took blood pressure and temperature of patients before they talked with one of the nurses. I could not communicate except with makeshift sign language. Some patients thought it was time to explain their ailments despite the blank look on my face. And some patients, particularly children, thought that I might hurt them badly with these tools I silently prodded them with. I thought I would enjoy being in there among the people, but I didn’t. I went back to the pharmacy and talked Paula into going into triage. I think she really liked it.
Cheri got a better translator. Geoffrey who had been staying with us in the Brittany James House, and hosting us with his brother Ben, got suckered into translating. It was fun to hear his side of the story at the end of the day. He ended up having to ask pretty personal questions to people who had essentially grown up around.
Issues I saw in day 2 were four cases of measles, a girl with completely deformed hands and feet, a man who had covered his own infectious leg with cow manure to keep the maggots off (which would actually help the infection), and then asked me for some gloves so he wouldn’t get the medicine on his hands.
One woman asked Beatrice in the pharmacy to tell me to get her into see the dental surgeon faster. It was taking too long. I just shrugged and gave her my classic blank look I frequently used. I think she thought the walkie-talkie attached to my hip denoted more power than it did. It really only gave false hope. They gave it to me at the beginning of the day, but nobody answered if I hysterically called for help on it, and the battery died before lunch.
After we got back to the house, Morgan drug a few of us out to play soccer. The guys had a pretty good game going so we didn’t disturb it. We just cheered them on. After they went to eat, Geoffrey and I took on Morgan and Rob. I was soaking wet by the end of the game. I had been debating a shower, but it was no longer negotiable. I took my first shower in Migori. My last one had been Friday night at the hotel, and it was now Tuesday. Not too bad. I didn’t need one on the first day, then we ran out of water, and hot water was sketchy all week. So I took my cold shower, which burned slightly because of all the chemicals James had put in the water that was dirtier than our standard well water. It was painful, but felt very nice afterwards. Then we stayed up late: 11pm. More exciting was that I slept in until 7am the next morning.
Breakfast: omelets, toast.
Lunch: fish, egg plant, salad rice.
Dinner: chicken casserole, rice, fresh pineapple.
Wednesday, February 21.
On Wednesday, the pastors’ conference began and we lost Dad, Morgan, Dru and Paula in the afternoons. So the clinic runs the same, but with fewer laymen to help. Dad had done our town running with Ben whenever we needed something, so I was put in charge of that now. We were depleting the drugs we had brought with us and frequenting pharmacies in town to supplement our huge volume of patients. I rode back over to the house with James on the 4-wheeler to meet Ben who was simultaneously headed to the clinic. So we waited at the house. James had said that if a car was at the house we could just go without Ben, our translator, cultural ambassador, and licensed driver. I was relieved to find no car at the house forcing us to wait on Ben.
Christy Smith, a journalist from the North Little Rock Times came to visit for two nights and one day. She was roaming around all day Wednesday at the clinic and the conference taking pictures and interviewing us. Her goal is to raise awareness of the issues in Kenya and Africa. She was humble and amazed at all the people on our team who told her they had been following her articles.
Ben finally arrived at the house, and 3 people loaded out while James and I got in the van. Then we went to pick up someone Ben recognized. Then we stopped to drop off that guy plus one of the guards from the clinic who had come along for something. Then we pulled off the main highway onto a dirt side road that was out of an Indiana Jones movie. It was busy with hustle and bustle of people, goats, fires of trash right along with all the cars and store fronts. We pull up beside a fire. “Ben, did you just park on a fire?” Ben shakes his head as he opens his doors and hops over a small fire. We go into the “chemists,” or pharmacy and make our order. The pharmacist gives us a total after writing all of our prices down from memory. After the price was announced, I pulled out my money. James flipped. Apparently I should only pull out the money after the order is filled, counted, recounted, math on the receipt is checked and rechecked, and all the negotiations are over. Then we ask what we get for free. Then we pull out slightly less than the agreed upon price and hand it to them and walk away. Phew!
Then we went to a wholesaler for water tablets. I went with Ben to the Britney James Child Fund office where Sharon works and got more patient forms, something we foolishly ran out of every single day. We made it through the rest of the day at the clinic okay. We were busy beyond belief. I just chugged away in the pharmacy trying to keep up. I feel like I learned a lot about medicine, but I really just learned that we can give this to substitute for this and so on, but I don’t really know what any of it is actually for. I’ll forget it all anyway, and I couldn’t wait to forget those freaky Malarone dreams, too.
Breakfast: fried eggs, sausages, bread.
Lunch: meat balls, fried cabbage and carrots, fried potatoes.
Dinner: fried fish, roasted leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, bananas.
Thursday, February 22.
Early in the morning, only Dad, Judy and I were awake and we all went to the staff devotional to give away personal stoves to all the staff, a gift that was apparently a year in the making. It was a single-burner stove attached to a propane tank. Dad was asked to give the devotional, then Fred gave a speech, then there was the speech where they were presented. Then Dad who had stuffed my pockets full, asked me to go around giving each person a 1000 shilling bonus, about $15, half of a month’s salary for many of the staff. It was well received. I did not enjoy being the “sugar-daddy.” I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. I don’t have enough money to be a great benefactor, but if I did, I’d be more of a silent benefactor.
The most impacting thing that set apart Thursday was the entrance into the clinic. There was a gate that a man used to keep people off the grounds. Once inside, there was a series of tents and lines that led inside the building. The first day, they kept people outside the gates until they knew how many would be able to be seen. As we have seen more and more each day, they let more people in so the crowd inside the gate was huge and not many were left outside the gate. Thursday, there was a huge crowd inside the gate and still an enormous crowd outside the gate. They stood somberly back as armed guards stood by while the gate was opened and we drove through in the second van. I was struck with all the people that we would not be able to get to that day. I teared up a little bit, and found I was in good company with the first van. The guards were not there yet when they drove through. The people pressed themselves up against the van in order to get into the grounds. The men who were opening the gates to let us in, used the chains that held the gates shut to hit the people and drive them back. About 20 people still got in and dissolved themselves quickly into the crowds. The people on our team in the van were very nervous about people getting pushed down or under the vans. And no one thought it was a good idea to use chains for anything. It was very upsetting. We prayed as a group with our team and all of our translators and Kenyan staff. It was helpful. We really moved. I compared it to my job at Starbucks during our busiest hour. It was stressful to never be caught up in the pharmacy until the end of the day when the doctors finally quit. We saw 770 people and still had to turn away people who had made it into the gate, but the day offered many insecure times at the gate.
Interesting cases included a girl with 7 toes and fingers on each foot and hand and many extra teeth. Both are operable, but she probably would never be able to have the surgery. Also, a 2-year-old little girl, only slightly older than my son, Campbell, had fallen into a latrine and been lost there for 24 hours. Among other minor health problems, her eyes had become so infected that she was now permanently blind.
That night, our chef, Anyango, pulled out a bunch of wooden key chains and pictures put on pieces of wood to hang on your wall. Dad appropriately compared it to Booger Hollow, may it rest in peace. A lot of folks bought some. I didn’t get anything, but I sure did enjoy his cooking!
Breakfast: corn cake, fried eggs.
Lunch: fried fish, vegetable salad, mashed potatoes.
Dinner: roasted chicken, pepper steak of lamb, salad rice, oranges.
Friday, February 23.
463 Patients for a total of 2,690 Patients seen all week and over 200 dental surgeries.
The final day of the clinic was supposed to be a pretty short day. Dominic, who ran the pharmacy at the orphanage, and was in charge of the clinic, said he would let 250 people onto the grounds, shut the gate, see the people, and call it a day. So we printed 300 forms, got enough drugs for all the people and some leftover to supply the orphanage pharmacy. Dad and I were both very clear to not let people inside, allow them to wait, and then turn them away. Somewhere we had a miss. The doctors were fine. They cranked people through as fast as possible, invited more in, but I don’t understand where they got more than 250 people if everyone else was outside the gate. So we ran out of forms for the fifth day in a row, but then we started to run out of paper. Doctors were using notebook paper, then tearing the paper in halves and quarters to make it go further. Then they started using paper towels and index cards. Counting the patients using the forms must have been very difficult. Reading the “charts” and deciphering the doctors smaller and smaller scribbles of medication prescribed became more of a chore, too. Dr. Robert grabbed another translator in the hall so he could see two patients at a time. Later I tried to talk to him about getting to be in the room with the patients, but he didn’t really understand what I was saying. “Yes, yes.” I can’t imagine how he translated. Everyone was convicted to really maximize because we wouldn’t be back the next day. It was great, we just wish we had been more prepared in the pharmacy. The pharmacy never slowed down. We got 463 patients, more than day 1, through the clinic from 9am to 1:15pm, half the time of the other days. The pharmacy was filling orders for almost an hour after the doctors were finally done. We ran out of multi-vitamins around the last 75-100 people, Mebadezanole (worm medicine) the last 30 people, and had just enough Fansidar (malaria medicine). My one glimpse of reality that day was out the window of the pharmacy. I looked out and saw a family who had just made it through the entire clinic process. The mother was feeding her small baby a bottle of oral rehydration salts. It’s fun to think of the good we have done that we will never fully know about. Someone needed just this exact medicine for some future or present health issue that we may or may not have realized.
After we finally broke away, we gave our parting gifts and goodbyes to the Kenyan staff at the pharmacy that wouldn’t be back at the orphanage. Rob and I gave baseball caps to all the guys. We gave some kitchen towels and hot pads to Beatrice and Anna who were in the pharmacy with us all week. Judy had also brought two beautiful, silk scarves that her mother had left behind when she died. She gave them to Anna and Beatrice who loved them and wrapped them around their heads immediately. Judy was very pleased and said she was sure her mother was pleased, too.
After lunch, we went to hear Dad’s last talk and see the giving of 40 bicycles to pastors and orphanage staff that were not around a year and a half ago when Gary had raised funds to give away 60 bicycles. After Dad spoke, there was a series of goodbyes from a representative of every possible group. Carole got up and said goodbye on our behalf, Then Fred spoke for a moment on AIDS. Dad and Dru were both going to have blood drawn in front of all to demonstrate against the stigma associated with getting tested for HIV/AIDS. After Chery had drawn Dad’s blood, with no gloves, bandage, or gauze, Carol was to take Dru’s. But first, Dad asked if a Kenyan pastor who had never been tested would be willing to get tested. There were many volunteers. Carol rolled with it and drew the man’s blood, which as an answer to our prayers turned up negative. But most of the medical team was flipping out in their seats for the lack of gloves and precautions. Carole later commented to them, I’ve learned to just go with it especially when I follow Craig. I truly believe God has honored her for her faith and I had no doubts that she would be truly safe in drawing the man’s blood. Dad commented that if she had been uncomfortable, that he would have just done it. “I mean, it can’t be that hard.” I followed the blood out the door to help Chery and Carole find a place to put it and to get up out of my seat. I truly could not hold my eyes open anymore. We’d already sat through an hour of goodbyes plus Dad’s talk, and the AIDS saga. We put the needle in a water bottle, and I took it with Ben, Geoffrey, James and Rob to get tested along with exchanging everyone’s US dollars into Kenyan shillings. We changed $1,540 into 106,260 Kenyan shillings. More than 3 or 4 years of a normal Kenyan salary. And Ben and Geoffrey are students in this culture. It was a rather nerve-racking experience for all five of us. Someone had put 10 ones in the pile. We were supposed to only have 20s and 100s that were crisp and dated post 2002. And someone had 10 nasty, old, crinkly one dollar bills. At first glance, the moneychanger turned the whole lot away, but we pulled out the ones and convinced him the rest was fine. I missed the bike giveaway, but heard it was very neat. I think Rob was relieved to have one more person present for the money exchange. Rob went in the hospital with Ben to see what it looked like when they got the blood tested. 5 minutes and $15 later, we got the negative result. Ben said it was usually only 3 or 4 dollars, but since Rob, a mzunga, was with him, they overcharged them.
We shared again that night about what was the best thing of the day or week or whatever we were thankful for. Someone shared how no one had really been sick and got a few nods and Amen’s. My tummy began to rumble. I went back and forth between constipation and diarrhea from then until we left. Others began doing the same thing, too. No one got truly sick until the day we left.
At one point when I was exploding in the bathroom, Phil, the dental surgeon from Alabama finished his shower only to realize he was stuck. We proceeded to have lots of company. He told them he could get out, but there would not be a door left. He also warned those trying to get the door open, “I hope you’re all ready to see a fat, naked guy!” Finally Ben and Dero pried open the door with a tool from the van. I went to bed early which was sad because it was our final night in Migori. James kept me up for a little while proposing a larger water tower and new well to Dad.
Breakfast: fried eggs, toast, sausages.
Lunch: roasted leg of lamb, French fries.
Dinner: fish, chicken, fried cabbage and carrots, pineapples.
Saturday, February 24.
I woke up at 6am and heard heavy breathing in the bed below. Knowing Dad got up at 4 or 4:30 every morning, I assumed Rob had crawled in his bed after an early morning potty stop. He had done this the first day because he had a top bunk in his room and his room did not have a ceiling, so he could hear people in the main room. Not having had small sleeping children for a long time, Dad isn’t exactly quiet in the mornings. But it was in fact Dad still asleep, finally adjusting to the time days before we fly to our own time zone.
We all got up, I shot one last email from Dero’s computer to Whitney, ate breakfast and had a short closing ceremony with Fred, Allen, Alice and all of our hosts. We thanked them, prayed for them. They thanked us, prayed for us, and then we all said our sad goodbyes. We could already hear the children singing goodbye outside in the yard. We began to carry all of out bags out front and Fred asked, “Which bags are going straight to Nairobi?” Ben had driven the orphanage van to Nairobi to greet us and provide a third van just for luggage because we had so much medicine, a luxury that we did not think would be provided on the way home. This was the first we realized that we should have packed one small bag of what we needed for the next two days. We all repacked and rearranged on the front lawn, all the while being serenaded by all of the children.
We got out about 8:20am whereas the plan was 7:30am. Our van thought we had done great. Apparently Dad had thought we might actually make 7:30. In my van all the way to Migori from Nairobi and all the way back was Nicolas, our driver; Gary in shotgun; Dru and Morgan in the next seats, the only seats with legroom; Sarina in the next seat; Elaine on the back bench on the left; and finally Bill, Paula & I alternated through the back bench right, center, and the seat by itself beside Sarina. The back bench center was the least desired seat in the van, my seat all the way to Migori. All the seats were captain’s chairs, except the back bench had no arms.
When we drove through Nairobi, Kisii, Migori, or any other city, the roads were in better condition, so we would go so fast despite the huge amounts of bikes and pedestrians. I say pedestrians. Really it was like during the day, everyone’s home had burned down and no one knew where to go, so they went to town. About half the people out in the cities were just standing, sitting or even laying down on a rock beside the road, but no one feared being within inches of where cars and tour vans would whiz by.
Also, usually near cities, but sometimes randomly on the road, were police stops. We never stopped. Tour vans, especially if holding Mzungas, were always waved through. But to prevent unsolicited drive-bys, there were always one or two guards with rifles and boards with stakes laying on both sides of the road forcing you to slow down and maneuver through them. The roads were very hit and miss. During bad patches, the drivers swerved to miss potholes like Mario Kart swerving to miss bananas and turtle shells. It resulted in lots of heads banging against the windows. The roads were curvy and hilly offering some pretty spectacular views. It reminded me of Northwest Arkansas a lot. The terrain was green, but not too lush; but you could see farther than most views in NWA. We rarely if ever went 200 yards without seeing a person walking, biking or standing by the road. For so little transportation resources, everyone seemed so spread out and separated from any real civilizations. When we finally arrived at the reserve, we drove through the gates and the cows, goats and sheep turned into zebras, baboons and impalas. If left to natural development, it seems all the wild animals would be completely driven out of Southern Kenya (oddly referred to as Eastern Kenya). With that said, the tourism makes the animal preservation plenty of money, so don’t send your money to the animals while the people are in need of basic food and medical attention. In fact, being in the safari was hard, because it meant we are associating with the masses of people who visit Kenya refusing to open their eyes to all the poverty while they look at all the neat animals. We pulled up to the Flamingo Hill Camp where we would be spending the night. We ate a buffet lunch where I enjoyed my first cheese and desserts of the week (unless you count oranges and pineapples).
We dropped our stuff in our rooms which were actually tents! The frame was a large open tent open on one end. Underneath that was a more traditional, large, canvas tent that you unzipped to let yourself in the main room. The small A-frame shaped room had twin beds with a poster frame holding the mosquito net up. On the far side was another zipper that led to a bathroom which had real walls, but no ceiling. There was black netting similar to hat hangs over the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese that you could see through to the inside of the outermost A-frame tent. The bathroom had a sink in front of you and an open toilet and shower on either side. The only lights were in the bathroom and wall sconces in the sleeping tent on the “wall” that was shared between the bedroom and bathroom. It was very cute, but it didn’t lock. Whitney would not have liked it much despite all the guards that roamed the property. The guards wore all black and came out of nowhere greeting you from the dark. We would politely reply to their “Jambo” with short squeals and shrieks of terror until we got used to it.
At the safari we drove around this trail that led by a lake and through woods. We saw huge packs of zebras, impalas, and water buffalo. Then we saw Rhinos, but usually only one at a time. And, of course, this reserve was famous for its pink flamingos. We also saw exotic birds and a big tortoise, and lots of baboons. We climbed this hill where you overlooked the entire reserve. It was beautiful to see the lake with the pink pockets in areas by the edge. Then Paula spotted two giraffes in a field. The baboons allowed you to walk in and among them.
Then we drove down to where Paula had seen the giraffes. Then I fell asleep. We arrived at the hotel again where I took a shower before our late dinner. The water was hot and plentiful, but no water pressure. Dinner was a great soup, lamb that I didn’t eat, and lots of roasted vegetables that I polished. Sadly dessert is not worth mentioning.
We hung out by a fire in an outdoor living room for a little while and then went to bed. I slept very well.
Sunday, February 25
In the morning, we got up and packed. There were 3 rhinos within view of our front porch. We went to breakfast and ate very well-omelets with something besides eggs in them, pastries, bacon, and juice! We left and drove back through the park to try to see a leopard, but failed. We stopped at a shopping place where Hezekiah was my personal shopper. Negotiations did not go well. I got some beautiful ebony (I didn’t know they were ebony at first) salad tongs, and some other wooden and stone things. No one could get a price on any individual item. They would say, “Here’s a basket. When you are done I will give you a very good price for everything.” My final pile was priced at 75,000 Kenyan shillings, about $1,100. I came back at 1,500 shillings, about $22. I ended up with nothing. Shock. Sorry Whitney. I bought a few things next door with my $1,250 shillings. We loaded up in cars and went to the Thompson Falls. It was a huge waterfall where one van was instructed not to shop. I was not in that van. We looked at the falls. Men dressed as Massai Warriors with full war paint walked around saying, “You take my picture.” There was also a man with some iguanas. Judy took both photos before they told us it cost 200 shillings to take a picture. Most of us saw it coming. Judy paid. Marty fell for it, too, but she stiffed the man with the iguanas. Then Peggy, my personal shopper, took me to her shop. Dad came in rushing me which helped negotiations. Then we loaded up, saw the equator and the water demonstration that came with it.
We finally made it to Treetop. We had a great lunch with wonderful desserts that made up for the night before. Then we got on a different bus and took a 30 minute ride to the actual hotel where we would be staying. It was a large tree house looking structure that looked ready to go up in flames with a single match.
Our team took an entire wing on the top floor. I set up where I could see everything from the open balcony beside our wing, got my cup of coffee, and caught up on my journal. Some of the team were taking a nap, and some rode on a safari drive that I easily refused. I tried to take a nap, but could not go to sleep. I was still having bathroom issues. At dinner, I learned that most of the team was having the same issues. The safari saw a few elephants, but one rolled to our watering hole right before they got back. We walked back and forth slowly moving herds of water buffalo away from his spot. Sometimes it took a while, but in the end, the elephant always stood alone. He finally left right before I went to bed at 10:30.
Dinner was great. All 16 sat at one table with a “trolley” down the middle of the table that was used to cart food and drink up and down the length of the table. We had another great soup, some boiled eggs, fish, vegetables, and a custard dessert.
Monday, February 26
We woke up, showered, had coffee, and watched the sunrise. It must have been a cute scene to see most of our team all bundled up in chairs side by side with our cups watching the sun come peeking over the mountains. The whole thing was picturesque with the exception of the large mud pit in front of us used to attract wild animals. We then packed up to go down to the base hotel to enjoy breakfast. Francis and Nicolas were ready for us as soon as breakfast was over. We loaded up and set off on the most terrible road yet. For about 10km, we drove up and down dirt roads through rough yet beautiful terrain. We arrived at a small village where Joseph met us and pointed up the hill. We pulled up to a processing plant. Elaine was sick and after she used the bathroom a few times, the other doctors hooked her up to an I.V. of Fenergan. The rest of us began the tour of quite an elaborate journey of the coffee bean. Joseph was the plant manager. He invited me into his office to sign his visitors book. I flipped back a few pages to see if there were many other Starbucks people in there. To my surprise I saw the names “Jim Donald” and “Dubb Hay,” the president of North America Starbucks and the head of the coffee division. They had come last November to dedicate the completion of a second water well which doubled their water capacity. Starbucks and African Wildlife Foundation partnered together to create the Starbucks Coffee Project. Benefits of this project for Joseph include:
-personal manager and computer education and training.
-repairs to receiving patios and pavilion where farmers first bring coffee.
-a new water well doubling their water storage they use for processing.
-protective fences around small farms to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
-training local farmers to grow coffee sustainably and to meet Starbuck’s high quality standards.
Joseph showed me everything the coffee goes through in just his processing plant after it is grown with care and before it is shipped off to be roasted. The process insures only the highest quality at multiple stages at this one location will go on to be roasted for Starbucks.
Starbucks’ help in this area guarantees a sustainable, quality product for us; but it also helps provide a higher quality of living for a sustainable period for Joseph, his employees and the farmers who sell their coffee to him
John, a local farmer, shared his coffee farm experience. He showed us what the coffee goes through before he sells it the plant. The farmers in this area all have very small farms on very steep terrain. They must maintain terraced land and haul their harvested crop up and down steep trails to get to a road. Then they carry, wheelbarrow, or rent a truck to transport the coffee to the plant, about a mile away from John’s farm. Joseph and John were both very welcoming and very grateful to be working so closely with Starbucks.
We loaded back up, hit one more shop and then on to Nairobi. We went to a mall in Nairobi that everyone in Kenya is apparently very proud of. I got some T-shirts and an iced Americano with real ice!
We then went on to the Carnivore where we shopped one more time and repacked our bags for the airport. We also waited for James, Ben & Geoffrey who were 45 minutes late. Then we ate tons of meat. Morgan got our community bug and therefore received a shot of Fenergan. I ate crocodile and ostrich meatballs, and lots of other fun things. It was good, but it does not need to be a last meal of the trip before a 24-hour plane trip.
We got to the airport and said our goodbyes and then proceeded through four security checks of increasingly higher security. There was no air conditioning, and my deodorant was quickly gone. We sat in a waiting room for our plane that was smaller than the plane, but no one could leave because we had gone through two different security checks just to get in there. They boarded late, but we finally took off. I had an aisle seat, but I was still antsy and uncomfortable most of the trip. I watched “A Good Year” which I enjoyed and then fell asleep until we had only 1 ½ hours left of the trip. I watched the last half of another movie and then we were in London.
The Heathrow airport left much to be desired. It had a Starbucks where I had a cup of Café Estima, and sampled some Rwanda blend. Then they let me mark out my weekly pound of coffee for the Rwanda blend. I bought a couple of pastries and did an email. I did lots of wandering around and visited every single bathroom in the terminal at least once. All the coffee was not helping my “long calls” or “short calls” (terms we learned in the medical clinic).
We lost Dad in Chicago and I got to see Mom who picked him up. I had a smoothie in Chicago. Those last few hours were the longest of the trip. The lady beside me complained about the airplane bathroom. She has no idea. She’d never been to Arkansas and had to come on business. I hoped she saw me being greeted by my family and thought that my two kids plus the three older Chino’s were all mine! I was greeted very well and could not have been more excited to see my entire family!