My Name is Kaporet

I woke up at 6:00 yesterday morning as the sun started to rise. We are now in Kapenguria, and I have my own room at the guesthouse at Daylight. I was able to get up and look across the far hills through the mist to watch the sun continue to rise. After getting ready for the day, I sat down to have breakfast of Kenyan tea (sort of like Chai) and bread. It was a little surreal to be sitting in a place with no running water or electricity, watching Michael’s kids play with the soccer ball I had just given them, and suddenly a loud noise jolts me. Michael has turned on the car, and changed the radio station to the BBC so we can listen to the election results. It was unlike any other time I have waited for election results to come in during my life.

Things are going well here. Monday was a busy travel day to get here, and after eating dinner, we got settled in at Daylight. Tuesday was a bit of everything—I started out the morning running with Michael to pick up supplies for the crew—sodas, water, and bread for lunch. We then continued onto Kitale (about 30 minutes away) to pick up the lumber  supplies that we needed for the construction project. When we arrived at the lumber yard, we were told that we were in luck, fresh lumber (which is referred to as timber in Kenya) had arrived yesterday from Uganda. The cypress trees used as lumber are very different from what we are used to in the states, but get the job done.

We returned to Kapenguria just before lunch, and after eating I spent some time playing with the students at Daylight, who were having a pre-lunch recess. I took some pictures of the students, and then they started singing to me. It was fantastic to hear them sing—in Swahili, English, and their native tongue—Pokot.

After lunch I traveled with the two doctors and dentist in the group to the school’s other site (a rented building that we are slowly moving out of), where they did some initial screening for further follow up. Each child met a doctor, then went to the dentist, and finally stopped at me. I was handing out deworming pills to each child, and explaining through gestures that they needed to put it in their mouth, chew, and swallow before leaving the building. I think several of the kids were rather disappointed, as they were hoping it was candy, and upon biting in, realized that if this was candy it tasted terrible!

Later, I went with Michael to the small grocery store in town, and picked up more soda and water. He then dropped me off at the old location, and picked up the kids who needed further follow up after yesterday’s screening, taking them to the new location so they could meet with the doctors or dentist. While I was at the old location, I interviewed the headmaster and three of the teachers (I returned today to interview the other 2-3 teachers who I couldn’t meet with yesterday). The purpose of these interviews was to do some planning for the future—finding out what’s going well, what can be improved upon, and what they would be interested in learning from future groups that come from the US. It took awhile (and more energy than I expected) to conduct these interviews—asking the questions and making sure we were all on the same page (in terms of language, as well as the purpose of the interview—some of the teachers seemed nervous that I was calling them in for a performance review).

When the van (mutatu) returned with the kids and teachers from their medical appointments, I headed back to the new site for lunch. I conducted more interviews during the afternoon, meeting with seven teachers.

Today we met with many people at the medical clinic, the two doctors and dentist were each busy all day long, and we had to tell several people to come back tomorrow.

At the end of the day yesterday, I was informed by the headmaster at Daylight, James, that they would like to give me a gift, if that was alright. I agreed, and he informed me that he would check with Michael, as they would like to give me a Pokot name, which is an honor in the tribe, to be given an additional name. After much discussion throughout the day apparently, the headmaster came and found me, excitedly letting me know that a name had been decided on. They have decided to call me Kaporet, which means first born or pioneer in Pokot, because I was the pioneering person to start the organization, the first to join the board, the first board chair, etc. It is considered a very big honor, and makes me smile to know that it is a sign of being accepted into the group.

It’s been a great week– it will be exciting to see what the rest of the week has in store before we head out to the nomadic land in Allale on Sunday!

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Week One, A More Thorough Look

It is now Sunday again, and I have been gone almost a week. There has been so much happening, and sporadic internet access, that it has been difficult to write complete updates. Here is a more complete update on the plans ahead.

We took off on Monday afternoon from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, with a fairly uneventful flight. I stayed awake the whole time, watching several movies, including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I would recommend if you haven’t seen it), and The Adventures of Tintin (also very good). The next flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was fairly uneventful (but was a huge plane—two levels of seating), and we landed, purchased a couple of books at the airport, and went through customs (which took a very long time—the lines appeared to be standing still, and there was very little sense of order). After making it through, we met up with Michael, and one of the new teachers at Daylight, Georgina.

The first night we headed a short ways outside of Nairobi to stay at the Maasai Discovery Guesthouse. On the way to the hotel, we grabbed a bite to eat at a little restaurant where we ate ugali and some meat (Michael said it was beef, but he explains almost all meat other than chicken as beef, so I don’t know how accurate that is). We then headed to the hotel to sleep.

Wednesday morning we woke up and headed into Nairobi. We met with the people that will be providing transportation for the Rochester group to confirm details, and also managed to do a little shopping at a street-side market. While there, we were encouraged to stop in every single booth. They wanted both Nathan and I to step in, and then they would follow, making access out of the booth difficult while they negotiated trying to get you to buy something. One man said he was offering me a great price when I expressed potential interest in an item (trying to be polite), saying that he would offer it to me at 50% off for a total price of $70! Clearly, he thought I had no idea what my money was worth. I ended up picking something up that Michael negotiated the price for. It was great to have someone else there who was more experienced than I was.

Thursday was a day of meetings—first with a friend of Michael’s, Maroto, who is a current student at Daystar University, and will be interning at Daylight this winter. He is also a member of parliament. He took us to meet with one of the new political parties, where we were able to meet with the former Speaker of the House (or equivalent position in Kenya). Michael stayed there to do some talking while Nathan and I took off for the US Embassy for some meetings about getting Michael a visa to the US, as we have had some problems securing one for him recently. The time at the embassy clarified a few things for us, and we are hopeful that we will have better luck in the next application.

After the embassy meeting we took off for Maasai Mara. Michael originally said the drive would be about three hours, but when we got in the car, he explained that it would be closer to four, maybe five hours. After five hours we made it to a small hotel for locals (Kenyans) outside of Maasai Mara. We arrived in the dark, and there is no electricity there, so the owner started kerosene lamps in our rooms for us. There were outhouses available outside of our rooms, and being unable to find my flashlight, I took my nook (e-reader) in with me so I could see—I hadn’t envisioned it being quite so multi-purpose when I bought it!

I slept until about 5:00 that morning, and got up and ready with enough time to watch the sunrise through the mist and fog. It was quite something to watch, in the Kenyan countryside. We left at 7:00 with our local guide for a tour through Maasai Mara (which is a part of/the same thing as the Serengeti—the park land extends from Kenya across the Tanzanian border- the Tanzania side of the park is called the Serengeti, and the Kenya side is Maasai Mara– Maasai after the tribe who lives and grazes their animals there, and Mara after the river that runs through it, it’s a huge space of about 5000 square kilometers according to Michael).

We first came across zebras and wildebeests (which we saw thousands of). I was excited by the zebras, but apparently they are so common that everyone else was pretty nonchalant about it. We also saw antelope, dykdyk, and giraffes in the first hour or so we were there. We stopped when we saw three lions sleeping after a recent meal. We took a few pictures, but were able to get some much better ones after our guide decided to be a bit gutsy and stepped out of the car to throw some mud at the lions to wake them up. They woke up, lifted up their heads, but fortunately for us decided not to move any closer (they were only about 30 feet away at this point).

Continuing on, we saw water buffalo, hyenas, and elephants! The elephants were great, and we probably spent the most time there, taking both pictures and video.  In total, we spent about five hours driving through the park, with a brief stop at one of the ritzier resorts in the park so we could stretch our legs. We then drove back to Nairobi after a brief stop in the village where we had spent the night earlier, so we could have some lunch where we had sheep’s meat and some tortilla like bread. Apparently we had made quite the impression (I get the feeling that not many white people stay in the village with the locals), as they wanted us to stop in other stores before we left, just to sit, and Nathan and I were each given a gift by the owner of the hotel we stayed at. I found the Maasai people to be incredibly sweet and thoughtful, and was glad to have met them!

Friday night we slept at Maasai Discovery (just outside Narobi) again, and woke up on  Saturday to head to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. For those of you who have seen Born to be Wild, a 2011 IMAX film (which I think is currently available on demand if you have Comcast and are curious) about rescuing orphaned animals, we visited the elephant orphanage covered in the movie. The elephants are only out for the public for an hour everyday, while they eat lunch. We got stuck in traffic, but managed to catch them for the last few minutes, and were able to swing by to see the baby rhino they had recently rescued as well!

 

After grabbing lunch (chicken and rice), we headed for the Kibera slums. We were there for about 45 minutes (it’s not recommended to be there after dark unless you live there), and it was amazing to watch the steady stream of people returning home from work, passing through the Kibera market where they had everything under the sun for sale—watches, VCRs, bolts of fabric, rain boots, movies, new shoes, used shoes, etc. The children we saw there were incredibly cute, and so excited to see mzungus (white people) that they all wanted to come up, shake our hands, and speak the few words of English they knew—so we got a lot of, “Hello! How are you?” excitedly yelled in our direction (they weren’t looking for a response, just wanted to practice). Smiles seemed to go a long way in this crowd!

And now we are at today, Sunday. We have spent the night at the Free Pentecostal Guest House, and will relax today before driving to the airport to meet the Rochester group that flies in tonight. We will sleep here again tonight, before taking off early tomorrow morning for Kapenguria (a full day’s drive with a few stops along the way).

That’s all from here! Let me know if you have any questions!

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Week One with Pics

 

The baby elephants at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage outside Nairobi!

 

Me taking pics while on safari at Maasai Mara.

 

Warthog we passed on the road today (does this make anyone else think of Pumba from The Lion King?) 🙂

Things have been great and crazy here, I am looking forward to a day of relaxing tomorrow before leaving for Kapenguria. But, I wanted to update you all too– I will include more pics later!

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The First Three Days

I’ve been in Kenya for three days and am having a great time– its a lot to adjust to, but things are going well! We have gone on safari, had meetings at the embassy, and met with the former speaker of the house of the Kenyan government. I don’t have much time to update, but wanted to let you know! I will write more and share pics later!

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The Final Countdown

So, I leave on my trip in five days. I feel like the final countdown has begun. I had a coffee meeting with my friend Nathan (US Director of Daylight) this morning to work on the final details. Right now, there are only a few things left to pick up– granola bars, a pump for the soccer balls I bought (that will need to be flat to fit in my suitcase), and a few other miscellaneous items. I will try and take a picture of my suitcase before I go so you can get a sense of what’s included.

Here’s the general itinerary right now (all times are local for their time zones):

Monday, 10/29

1:45 pm– arrive at MSP airport

4:00 pm– flight to Amsterdam leaves

Tuesday, 10/30

6:30 am– arrive in Amsterdam

10:30 am– flight to Nairobi leaves

8:30 pm– arrive in Nairobi

Go through customs, get visas, meet Michael, and head to our hotel in Nairobi for the night.

Wednesday, 10/31

Sleep in, get acclimated, spend the day in Nairobi.

Thursday, 11/1

Breakfast, hang out, head to US Embassy for Michael’s visa appointment, spend some time touring Nairobi. Possibly leave for Maasai Mara in the evening.

Friday, 11/2

Spend the day at Maasai Mara on safari. Possibly see the Great Migration, although we might be a little late for that. We will head back to Nairobi this evening or Saturday morning.

Saturday, 11/3

Spend the day being tourists in Nairobi. Possibly go to Kibera slums.

Sunday, 11/4

Spend the day in Nairobi, pick up the Rochester group from the airport in the evening and head to a hotel outside Nairobi.

Monday, 11/5

Drive from Nairobi to Kapenguria (where Daylight is), with a stop along the way in Kitale to pick up some supplies.

Tuesday, 11/6- Saturday, 11/10

Spend the week in Kapenguria at Daylight Center and School. This week will involve construction on some new classrooms, a free health clinic for the locals and tribal people, as well as spending time with the teachers and students at Daylight.

Sunday, 11/11

Dedication of the new building. The Rochester group will return to Nairobi to fly home on Monday. Nathan and I will stay at Daylight.

Monday, 11/12

Leave Kapenguria for Allale, the village where some of the Pokot tribe live. We will arrive in the evening.

Tuesday, 11/13

Spend the day in Allale with the Pokot.

Wednesday, 11/14

Return to Kapenguria.

Thursday, 11/15

Drive to Nairobi.

Friday, 11/16

Spend the day in Nairobi.

11:00 pm– Flight for Amsterdam leaves.

Saturday, 11/17

5:30 am– Arrive in Amsterdam.

10:30 am– Flight for Minneapolis leaves.

12:45 pm– Arrive in Minneapolis.

So, that’s the trip as it stands right now. This is a very rough itinerary, plans can and will change. But, I thought you would want to know! If you have any questions, let me know!

 

 

 

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The Countdown Continues

I will leave in just over two weeks. I’m excited– the trip is getting more and more real, but also realizing that I haven’t gotten much done in the past 10 days or so. I just returned from Pittsburgh last night, so am looking forward to the chance to start packing (and figuring out how to get everything to fit, and leave some room to pick up a few things after I get back).  I’m also hoping to run some errands to pick up a few more things from my packing list.

One of the items I am planning to pick up is a travel journal. I have been advised by several people (from various and unexpected places) that writing while I am gone (not just through the blog, but also personally) would be a good thing. I also need to pick out a few pictures from home to show the Kenyans, and am planning to bring a few soccer balls (flattened) and  a pump to leave at Daylight.

The plan right now is to leave from MSP on Monday, October 29th, landing on Tuesday the 30th. We will meet Michael (the Kenyan Director of Daylight) on Tuesday night, and stay in Nairobi through Sunday. Michael has an appointment at the US embassy for a visa on Thursday, and the group from Rochester will arrive on Sunday. We are considering taking a trip to a safari park on Friday or Saturday.

There are also a number of people we have plans to see before I go, and while I am excited to see everyone, there is also the realization that that means I will have to think strategically about how to squeeze everything in!

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Four Weeks

In four weeks, I will be flying out to Nairobi. Technically, I will be flying directly from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, and from there to Nairobi, but you get the idea. Work stuff has been crazy this past week with a large annual conference being in town, but I have been able to work on my packing list– here’s the initial list, and what I’ve been able to pick up so far–

  • small travel pillow
  • mid-calf length skirt
  • granola bars
  • immodium
  • peptobismol pills
  • hand sanitizer gel
  • crystal light or kool-aid mix packs
  • Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash (works as shampoo, body wash, and laundry detergent)
  • No Rinse Shampoo
  • large travel towel
  • steripod toothbrush cover
  • oral rehydration salts
  • water treatment tablets
  • camping toilet paper

Progress is being made, although there is still more to do. I have also scheduled my final shots for this week (a chicken pox booster and a flu shot). I will be traveling for work next week (the week of the 7th), but expect to start organizing things in my suitcase after I return from that trip. Right now everything trip-related is piled in a central location. Daylight has its last board meeting before my trip tonight, and I’m sure we will be discussing things relevant to my trip. I will also be traveling down to Rochester on the 6th, and picking up a generator we will be taking with us when we go.

On a side note, I will be watching Half the Sky on PBS tonight and tomorrow night (8 pm central/9 pm elsewhere), and would highly recommend anyone reading this watch too. It’s based on Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same title (Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide) about human rights issues impacting women globally.

Any questions? Let me know!

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