Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Walking the equator line

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day!! Sorry Mom I didn’t get to the internet on time, I was thinking about you, hope you had a wonderful day :). You know, Kenya doesn’t always lend itself to internet access. I woke up in the middle of the night last night to hear it pouring rain outside! So far, it has rained overnight (I’m guessing as there are always puddles in the morning), but has been absolutely beautiful during the day. Sunny with a nice little breeze, a perfect 75/80 degrees. A has some excellent tan lines starting (v-neck tee and khaki capri pants here we come). Despite my loving this weather, those who live here year round find this weather to be cold as they are approaching winter. Winter here lasts for a whopping one month. Far different from our extended winters at home!

This morning A and I had our morning chai tea, however, we found it to taste quite strongly of goat’s milk. As A put it, “it tastes exactly like the goat smells.” I couldn’t have put it more accurately myself. A more interesting wake up than usual, but we’re always up for anything here! A Sunday in the center means “relaxing” all day. Many of the children were lined up just sitting enjoying the morning. Several boys would come and go, helping with chores around the centre to earn extra points. If the kids help out here around the centre, they receive points, which enables them to go to the centre’s store to purchase new clothes/shoes/supplies. All the materials sold at the centre store have been donated (much appreciated!). I thought that was a really great way for the children to learn to save their points, assessing what they needed and how much they needed to save for it, etc.

Something very exciting happened this morning!! As a parting gift, the girls who have been volunteering here from Denmark bought 60 boxes (small trunks) for children who did not have a place to keep their belongings. A significant problem here at the centre is that many children steal from one another, especially among those who cannot claim a space for their belongings. Many times, since some end up with nothing in the end, they may choose to leave the CYEC. Needless to say, this was a very generous and appreciated gift. It was so great to see the smiles on the children’s faces (both older and younger children received boxes). Some carried boxes at least as large as they were, with a smile a mile wide. How happy for them! After the kids got their boxes claimed and settled, we all sat outside together enjoying the sunshine. Amo is my little rafiki (friend). He is seven years old. We have a friendship of little words, we mostly hold hands all day. It’s mutual.
Meet Amos.
Wanting to explore the CYEC a bit, I headed down with Margaret, Judy, and Elizabeth to see all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables the centre is growing. Everything is so lush and green. I can’t remember everything, but they are growing onions, kales, carrots, cabbage, maize, bananas, potatoes, as well as a variety of other vegetables I have never heard of before. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was nice to go on a walk to explore a bit. They also showed me a little river that flows at the South border of the CYEC. It was a very pretty sight. I will have to go back down to take pictures another day so you can see, I didn’t have my camera on me.

Jackson, a 14 year old witty and charismatic rafiki of mine, decided to deem A and I Kenyans this morning. We are apparently no longer Americans, but Kenyans from this day forward. He gave me the Kenyan name of Muthoni. What it means? I couldn’t tell you. But even tonight, word has clearly spread of my name change as there are children I have yet to meet yelling “Muthoni, muthoni, kuja muthoni!!” (Kuja means come in Kiswahili). I need to retrain myself to answer to both my American and Kenyan names :).

Back up to the center of the CYEC, Jane and Caroline were planning to take a trip to the equator and invited A and I to come along. Why not?? Leaving in 20 minutes turned into leaving in about 45 minutes (Kenyan time) and we were on our way! (Side note: Caroline taught us that if you invite a Kenyan out to eat, etc. it means you will pay for them and vice versa. Just some indigenous knowledge if you ever find yourself in Kenya ;)). The drive was about an hour to get to the town where the equator lives. It was a very scenic drive as we drove past Mount Kenya. Caroline said it took her and her friends about three days to climb it. I wish we had the time, I would love to climb Mount Kenya. Maybe another time.

Standing on the equator!
Finally we arrived at the equator line in Nanyuki. There were many small tourist shops where Caroline wanted to do some last minute shopping. A and I were a bit overwhelmed by the push of the shop keepers to “take a look.” To be fair, we made our rounds to every little shop. Many of what was being sold was similar from shop to shop. All hand crafted works of art. It was great to see such authentic Kenyan work. It was just a bit of a stress as we were being consistently pleaded to just “buy one small thing so I can eat,” but at the same time “come look, no hassle.”

Once we concluded our browsing time, we headed over to the small sign along the street that indicated the equator line. A man stood there ready to give us the full explanation, including a brief demonstration. He explained how the flow of water on the South side swirls counter clockwise, whereas the flow of water on the North side swirls clockwise. Interestingly, water stands still and flows in a direct straight line on the equator and does not swirl until reaching 20 meters to the North or South. It was a very interesting demonstration. The man kindly took our picture and we hopped back in the car to head back to Nyeri.

On our way home, all five of us were starving as we had not eaten since breakfast. We stopped along the way somewhere at Jane’s uncle’s shop. He offered us goat meat… something L’s husband warned us to only take a small portion of if offered. Caroline, a rather picky eater, decided this was not for her. A and I promised Jane’s uncle that we would be back with Jane another day to taste his goat meat. I was always taught to try everything at least once, so naturally, I stand by my promise. In the middle of our search for a lunch destination, we decided to stop at a super market to grab some necessities.

The store was much larger than the grocers in Nyeri and Jane was bewildered. It was a pretty standard sized store for the US, but no Wal-Mart superstore. She had never seen prepared frozen food before. She asked me how to cook frozen French fries. This was an eye opener. Something I was so used to seeing in daily life was an innovation so new to Jane. We ended up driving a ways to find another place to eat which took EXTRA Kenya Time (even Jane said it was ridiculous). We ended up eating chicken and chips (French fries) which was delicious until I put chili sauce on my chips instead of ketchup. That was a sad moment for me… there are worse things :). On the way home, I realized I had never seen the stars so bright.

Once back at home, we waited to see if we would be able to hop on the internet to wish our moms a happy mother’s day, but unfortunately no one was around who had the key to the computer room. Instead, we had a very extensive Kiswahili lesson from Dan, who was visiting from school (he is a student at the University of Nairobi). When he offered a Kiswahili lesson, we welcomed it with open arms! We didn’t expect it to last quite as long as it did (about three hours), but we were happy nonetheless. Included was Dan’s interesting views on US politics consisting of a very unique take on how Osama Bin Laden was in fact killed. I would be happy to share the details at another time, but essentially the US had no idea as to his whereabouts and brilliantly stumbled upon him as he, forgetting he was in hiding, accidentally exposed himself in the midst of a celebration? Dan also shared that Barack Obama is his uncle, and that he planned to marry an American so that he could produce Obama the successor. Interesting man, that Dan.

Jane and Issa also spoiled us again with a Kenyan home cooked meal consisting of ugali, kale, and eggs with tomato. It was delicious. We will be learning how to make ugali soon… hopefully some time this week. Off to sleep now as Dan and Kevin (he came to join in on the fun) kept us up way past our bed time. Early morning to get our curriculum printed and copied!!

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