My Mom took a trip to Kenya last month, and this post is in her words, with her photos, as a convenient way to share the story online with her friends. Take it away, Mom …
We left Sea-Tac on February 27th and had an uneventful trip until we arrived in Nairobi, where our luggage couldn’t be unloaded because the conveyor system was broken. So the plane – with our luggage still aboard – returned to Amsterdam for repairs. It returned the next evening.
This meant we had an unplanned day in Nairobi. Instead of one night at CHAK (Christian Hospitality Association of Kenya) Guesthouse, we stayed two nights. CHAK is a fenced and gated compound with a 24 hour guard on duty at the main gate. So in spite of warnings we’d heard about safety in Nairobi, we felt quite secure.
We visited two sites I’d visited when I was in Nairobi in December 2006: the giraffe center and Kazuri bead factory. I was able to be “kissed by a giraffe” – something I was too timid to do in 2006. And at the bead factory, I knew exactly which necklaces and earrings I wanted because I had seen them in 2006.
The five hour drive from Nairobi to Mitutu Andei was mostly on a smooth blacktop highway. What surprised me most – besides the good condition of the road – was the heavy amount of traffic. Especially truck traffic. This is a main thoroughfare for gettings goods from the port city of Mombasa to Nairobi.
When we left the highway at Mitutu Andei, we drove 5KM on a one lane red dirt road to the big house we would be staying in for the next week – Gracie’s house.
The next day we were divided into three teams and each team was driven to a different farm. The woman who lived there had done her preparatory work (had the hole dug, had cement, gravel, sand and bricks available) for us to make the concrete bases for plastic tanks that will be mounted on those bases to collect rain water during the rainy seasons.
By the end of the week we had helped build 15 bases on 15 different farms. It will still be several months before this project comes to fruition and the women actually have a supply of water without walking for miles and carrying it home.
I liked this project for several reasons. We weren’t coming in and “doing something” for these women. They’ve been working and saving for months to purchase the supplies for these bases. We were “helping them” – with the physical labor as well as WEI (Women’s Enterprise International) matching their savings.
It was just a neat experience to be working together, all of us on the same plane. However, at the end of our work day, we returned to our lodging at Gracie’s house, where we could take a hot shower and get all the red dirt washed off, and eat wonderful meals in her spacious dining room (cooked by someone other than ourselves). The farm women had no running water, no electricity and dirt floored small homes, and they had to prepare their own meals, as well as for their families.
I should mention that at each site there was a “fundi” in charge. This was a contractor who was hired to oversee the construction. Most of us women would not have had a clue as to how to mix concrete and build those bases.
We were picked up by the vans and returned to Gracie’s house for lunch each day, then we returned to each site in the afternoon. There was dancing and singing and prayers and blessings offered for each base.
After dinner we had some free time, then devotions, and to bed around 10PM so we could be up around 6:00 or 6:30 to start the daily routine over again.
On Saturday March 8th, we visited a couple of girls’ boarding schools where WEI provides some girls with scholarships.
Saturday afternoon was a farewell celebration on the lawn at Gracie’s house. The women from the women’s clusters all around Mitutu Andei came. There was dancing, singing, displaying their handicrafts for sale, and gift exchanging. It was a joyous celebratory event that lasted until after dark.
The next morning we left Gracie’s house, stopped for part of a church service in Mitutu Andei, then we went to Tsavo Game Park, where spent two nights at the lodge and had our debriefing meeting as well as several game drives.
Our last game drive – early Tuesday morning – we were surprised by a champagne breakfast on Lion Rock. The lodge had set up tables and chairs and a full buffet, with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.
The 5 hour drive drive that Tuesday back to Nairobi was in an overpacked van. We literally had our luggage packed in around us.
Our return was uneventful – a five hour layover in Amsterdam in the wee morning hours. We arrived home Wednesday afternoon, March 12.
It was a great trip; I am glad I went. I experienced Kenya in a totally different way than I did in 2006. One of the highlights for me was receiving praise for being “a grey-haired Grandma who could work so hard.” I soaked it up. For once I didn’t feel I had to be ashamed of being “the biggest,” “the oldest,” or “the strongest.” (All such unfeminine characteristics.)