Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's Saturday . . .

I'm working at the center today, as I do every Saturday, and have access to the computer today - so I'll do a little update. This week I had the experience of working with one of the social workers in the field to try and locate two (twins - boy and girl) of our sponsored children who have been attending school rather irregularly. The way we find that out is due to the neighbors who noticed that the kids would leave for school, stash their uniforms in a bag, then head for who knows where, but not for school. Then they would change back into their uniforms to come to the center for lunch so we were none the wiser. Thank goodness for good neighbors. We tracked both children down, on foot, eventually, one was actually at home preparing food and the other was miles away at her sister's house (a 16 year old, pregnant, primary school drop out!! nice example) watching the house while her sister did who knows what. The kids have reported back to school with the promise to attend regularly - we'll see. We spent half a day walking to find them both then speaking with the deputy at the school they are supposed to attend. They avoided the usual discipline of caning - I said how about giving them a break just this once. They are orphans (mother died of aids) father is not responsible, so they are cared for by an elderly grandmother who can barely see - not a good situation. The shelter they have is poor at best and I would guess the best and maybe only meal they get is the one from the center every day. They are beautiful kids, smart and I hope they make it. Education is their only hope. They are both in Class 4 - primary school. You really have to pay attention because the school has so many kids (1400) they really cannot help track down the ones who choose not to attend so they get lost in the shuffle. I hope these kids do not continue to be influenced by their older sister, she is a very BAD example for them. Anyway . . . there are lots of cases like this.

Water . . . there was a community meeting this week about the cost of water. My Kiswahili teacher gave me an example of his escalating bill - it has gone from 1300 shillings per month to 16,000 - unaffordable even for someone with a good teaching job. One grandmother said her bill has gone from 300 shillings per month to 13,000 she stopped watering her banana trees so they died and the children (orphans again) have no fruit to eat. The District Commissioner has also been affected so there will be something done - he says. We will see. Something has to happen because no one can afford to pay their water bill. The water company in Makindu, at least, is a government/private partnership - it started two years ago. The managing director, I am told, drives a big fancy new truck, while his customers cannot afford to pay the escalating rates . . . where is that money going? People just aren't paying or they are paying a portion so their water won't be shut off. I hope some relief will come soon. Fortunately, my water is included in the rent . . . so far!! But I am very conservative with usage - it is a prestious commodity here.

We have a gang of bad "young" men in Nairobi called the Mungiki . . . I am not sure that they get any press in the US but they are disrupting public transport this week. They are enforcers or something like that . . . they force duca (store) owners to pay or they decapitate them, I am told. Sorry for that graphic . . . this week the matatu (public van transport) drivers refused to drive because of their threat. Not a good situation but they are not in Makindu and I hope they never are!!! I am not a fan of travel to Nairobi so I go only when Peace Corps calls a meeting - the next one is in April for a few days. Everything will be OK - you just go your way and mind your own business.

I have been working in the shamba (farm) at the center - we grow a lot of our own food. They cannot believe that I actually enjoy it but I do. I have my own rake and I borrow a jembe (hoe) from the "guys". I weed and water. It really is "relaxing" but it is a lot of work and I get very dirty. Hauling water is heavy and tedious but good for the biceps!!! We grow bananas, avocados, mangos, kale and 4 other green Kenyan vegetables, oranges, tomatoes, onions. I suspect their are 5 acres or so. The maize crop failed because of no rain so we are also growing "grass" for cow feed - I think we are planning to get a dairy cow eventually. But for now we can sell the grass to other farmers.

Tomorrow is National Women's Day in Kenya - not sure if that is a world event or not. I think they have to have it on Sunday in Kenya because that is the ONLY day the woman don't work from sun up to sun down - they get a break to attend church. I will attend the event after church with Erin (the other PCV in Makindu) and see "what's up". It should be a good one.

I am continuing my Kiswahili lessons . . . I hope someday I can actually speak some fluent sentences. I know a lot of words but their sentence structure is so different from English that I struggle a bit with putting it all together. But I study 2 to 3 hours everyday and am putting forth great effort. It will be great to speak Kiswahil then I can learn Kikamba which is similar and the language that the people I work with actually speak most often. Kiswahili is the national language but each of the tribes have their own tribal language and I am in Kamba land.

That's the update . . . good health and continued good happiness to all!!!

Love from Paula

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