7 April 2010

Second Update From Julie in Kenya

"...share your food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, clothe him, and don't turn away from your own flesh and blood" Isaiah 58:7

Wednesday 31st March - I was very tempted on Wednesday to take the day off. Not only had the three house dogs kept me awake all night barking, but once awake, it was difficult not to think about all the hardship that I had witnessed over the last few days. Eventually, I must have fallen asleep but I woke relatively early and decided to shower before the rest of the house rose. Taking a deep breath I even washed my hair! Cold water is all that is available at Covenant House. At 9:00 am we piled into our battered jeep.

Today, we were going to visit two schools and then drive 3 hours to see another two of the Trust's boys who were found on the streets of Kisumu but had been repatriated to a boarding school relatively near to their own villages.

In the first school, we were introduced to seven boys and two girls each sponsored by the Isaiah Trust. Ruth was a very articulate and intelligent girl. When asked what she wanted to do when she left school, she said that she wanted to be a lawyer. She was a serious girl and looking at her report card it was obvious that she could easily achieve this dream. Being the last to speak, Moses asked her to tell us a little bit about her life. Ruth hesitantly told us that she was the eldest of 7 girls, the youngest being 3 years old. Gently Moses prompted her to tell us her story. Her father was rarely with the family as he worked nights so the children were left on their own frequently. Ruth then began to tell us of her mother's illness, how they had to take her out of hospital because they couldn't afford the fees. Ruth attended to her through the next couple of nights until she died in her sleep. By this stage of the story Ruth became overcome with emotion - me too. Here was a young girl who carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. I hugged her until we both managed to stop crying.

Later, she posed for photographs with me and showed me around her dormitory. In the washing area, us girls asked her what she needed. Hesitantly she asked for some soap and sanitary towels.

I left with Ruth still in my heart, with a promise to find out who her sisters were and what I could do to help.

Thursday 1st April - Only two more schools to visit today before they close for Easter!

Yesterday afternoon, we visited the last of the boys’ secondary boarding schools. Their schedule is gruelling by our standards. They are woken at 5:00 am

Today, we visited two more primary schools in Kisumu. I was delighted to meet three of Ruth's sisters - twins Margaret and Susan and 13 year old Kezia. When I met Ruth, it was not apparent that her sisters were in school. Were they not, they would be prime targets for prostitution, hence the relief at seeing them all together!

Good Friday - Today we are going to visit Violet, Alex and Zablon but first we needed to do some shopping. I struggled a bit with 'presents'. Tim picked up salt, cooking fat, sugar, bread, gravy powder and tea. I chose sanitary pads, toothpaste and brushes and soap.

We drove to Violet's house which was off the beaten track and in a slum district. Mud houses with tin roofs squeezed together - hardly any room to pass at all. Barefoot children trying to climb on the car as we manoeveured through the narrow passage ways. Every few houses we would go past a 'shop' or someone with a blanket on the floor selling tomatoes or a single cabbage.

It felt too intrusive to take any photographs from the car and for the first time, I felt fear at being a westerner in the middle of an African slum. We had to stop the car as we couldn't get any further and the heavens opened. Rain's a blessing! As we continued on foot slipping and sliding, I desperately tried not to notice the open sewers on either side of us. Eventually, John led us to the house Violet shared with her father and 6 siblings.

Easter Saturday - Today we are taking the boys out to the ‘Car Wash’ - this is an area where they do - guess what! Wash cars! It is all very amusing as they drive trucks, cars and school buses into the lake and valet them.

The atmosphere there is very lively as there is much activity but we were heading to the fish shacks by the lake which are tin hutted corrugated shacks. It is impossible to get to the lake unless you walk through one of them.

The heat is the first thing you notice from the charcoal fires situated near the entrance, on which the 'mamas' are boiling oil to fry the fish. In another corner, someone with a giant wooden spoon is pouring maize flour into boiling water - this is the Kenyan staple dish - Ugal. If I was going to be unkind then I would say it tastes like wallpaper paste (but without the taste). Next you pass the Tilapi neatly lined up, side by side and on top of each other. These are the ugliest fish you are ever going to find! Their mouths in death are a distinct ‘oh’ shape as if caught out by surprise.

Eventually we managed to find chairs/tables and benches to seat all 40 of us. I had to hug all 30 boys (twice) before sitting down so you can guess that took a while.

No menu - just fish and ugali and some green stuff (sorry I'm not good on names). After about an hour, the huge plates were passed down the table. The English amongst us were somewhat surprised to see the whole fish on the plate (head tail etc) but I was all ready to filet mine! But where was the cutlery??

The lady with the hand wash and bowl came round and the ritual began. Find the soap in the water, soap thoroughly, then wait whilst she pours clean water from a jug over your hands to rinse, then you drip dry.

The boys gave us a lesson in eating the fish – using their fingers. The green stuff was mixed in with bits of tomatoes and was salty and delicious. Plunging my fingers into the ugali and taking a small piece, you roll it in the palm of your hand until it becomes the consistency of dough, make a thumb print into it and fill that with the sauce.

Everyone ate until they were completely full. I have to say that the fish was meaty and extremely tasty. I ate everything in between the tail and the gills ... Then watched Shadrack who was sitting next to me demolish all except the tail.

The boys so love this meal - they probably do this only once each year - they ate until every morsel, on everyone's plate was finished.

See pictures at the following link:


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