Thursday, January 17, 2013

MARCI and LYNN...December 2012

Jambo!! from Marci and Lynn, 3 weeks at Majengo...I'm writing this in January, cold, dark and grey in downtown Toronto, remembering... Marci's first time over, and every once in awhile she might say "'s not for everyone!!", rice and beans, rice and beans...sounds healthy and good..but everyday?? lunch and dinner?? But now that she's back......

Our first day, off to Majengo to visit the kids who swarm us as we climb out of the old red truck, so heart warming to see them again...4 years now and how they have grown.

The big girls, not little kids anymore, but young women now, teaching us line dance in the middle of a field with Filippe holding Charles' laptop blasting Itunes - the girls asking for long skirts now and nice shoes.

The boys, well like all boys, a little gawky, not wanting to show a lot of emotion, but its so there.  Our visits twice a year  - we get to follow their lives closely.  When we first met them coming from such unspeakably terrible early years, either on the streets without family, or worse, and then into their first home at Majengo, in March 2009 when we opened with 27 kids living in.  Now, jammed into 3 rented cottages, 4 years later,  bursting with 77 kids and, as of this month, another 60 living out.
 And can you imagine! by April they'll be moved a few miles down the road into their brand new home

So on day one, I couldn't wait to see it! after 8 months of Margie's designs we pile the kids into the back of the truck and pull up to the site, astonishing! Imagine 2 football fields of wide open space under the magnificent rift valley, with 2 houses built up to the roofline..and the 3rd- its footprint started with foundation.

The kids leap out of the truck and birds set to flight, I can't begin to imagine how they must feel seeing their future home pop out out the ground, like a miracle...This place will far surpass our current facility, in space...with big airy homes, a room for a mama in each, good open ventilation, and wide open spaces, to run and play, a soccer field, play ground, a big open dining room for 100 kids, kitchen, pre school..and someday, a library with computers and lots of books, and DVDs...a tv for once in awhile watching...chicken coop...goats, cows..a vegetable garden behind every house...and a tree for every child!

We start walking from house to house, from room to room...this one is for the girls, the boys, the is your bathroom, your bedroom, kitchen, here is where you do your homework!! Can you imagine how this must feel to them!

19 guys are working on the spot, hand mixing cement, and lugging it over to house 3, truckloads of stones dumped into the the foundation, to be broken in small pieces with a sledgehammer, again, all by hand. No electricity. Awesome!

Here is Charles, our build supervisor and engineer and Majengo project coordinator extraordinaire! who is holding it all together on the ground. Over at the site every day, revising plans, enlarging windows, doorways for better ventilation, doing estimates, buying materials, organizing labour, touring us around.....Majengo would not be happening without Charles...

On day one, we're at a meeting with village leaders on site, and tour them around  how could they not be impressed! I report on a project back in Canada called POWER AFRICA...raising money to bring wind and solar into rural Africa, interested in appraising Majengo and the community early in the new year. Free technology and hook-up. Very cheap electricity. I'm meeting with them late January...

The days fly by...everyday we head off to Majengo, to draw with the kids, read stories, just hang out...budgets with Charles, we headed 100 km from Mto Wa Mbu in the old red truck to speak at an international celebration for HIV AIDS day!! to a place called Locksale...way out in the middle of no where, a Masai village bustling with market day, top politicians who had come a long way for the celebration, hundreds of school kid, songs, dance, speeches...

....after a big lunch of rice and beans, jumped back into the truck where it broke down. 3 hours later, as dusk fell they found a village truck to haul us 75 kil over bump and dale to the main road, no bus, no truck, waiting, Marci and I and a delegation of HIV positive people, tired and starving, we rustled up a bit of dinner, in the middle of the night, dark, cold...waiting...and finally finally, finally....home.

Marci was clearly on a work-a-day tour, as opposed to a nice safari, where wheels stay on the trucks, the windows go up and down, and people are on time. Rice and beans, rice and beans, rice and beans....Working at Majengo equals local food at $3 a meal, lodging ($15. a night - private room and bath with hot water!) on a back street, dirt road sort of motel, side by side with women cooking dinner over fires on the side of the road - real Africa...our days filled running after Charles, doing  or waiting for Charles. I have tried to learn patience here. Cause I know when he is an hour or two late it is because he has taken a baby to hospital en route between Majengo and picking us up, or attended a funeral - always a good reason. But communication is a challenge,  and when it happens it is thrilling!

Wow!! Right this very minute, as i am writing today, I got skyped by Charles with all the great kids at a good bye party for the first Give Get Go Majengo build tour!! they have had a fabulous time over the last two weeks...every day out there in the hot sun lugging rocks, building walls, on safari to the Ngora Crater, visiting Masai markets, and biking through banana plantations. Monika, who has worked on 5-6 Habitat for Humanity builds wrote that this far surpasses anything she has EVER done!!! wow!!! Check out Give Get Go for their next trips (February!!). It was so much fun seeing the kids...I miss them so!!

We took the little kids into Arusha to a great playground for the first time, all 40 of them, and then of to the NgoraNgora Crater with the big kids...37 of them...what a fiasco, waited a couple of hours for very late vans to arrive, drive up to the crater their very first time! Kids were crazy with excitement, they'd been talking about this all week...

Got into the park...a few hours late to meet the big old bus that was certified to take all of us down into the crater. Well he got tired of waiting for us, and took a group of Asian people down, driving around looking at lions until Charles hit the roof...! we were up on the rim waiting with all these kids, eating lunch in the van, pouring rain outside when the poor guy pulled up the crater, we loaded in and got on our way. Well we were only down there for 15 minutes when the back left tire burst. All the guys poured out, and took awhile to fix it, all the while i had diah. and had to be escorted out to the back to do my business a little worried about lions and tigers and bears...the kids, once i was done, followed suit. Finally we were on our way.
Zebras...wildebeasts! lions..male and female, leopards lurking through tall grasses, elephants and even a rhino, we saw them all in a few hours..back up before 6pm closing time..Marci and i headed out on our trek...back into the red truck, pouring rain, and searching for the park ranger with a gun, all the way over gutted wet muddy roads slipping and skidding to Nanokanoka...we found the ranger, headed out to his cashe to pick up the gun, when after a big fight with our tour director Frederick with cook Mohammed, took off, the gun flopping up and down on his back. What!! we had paid for him, but not enough, or he didn't have the money but all we knew was that we didn't have a ranger with a gun. In the middle of no where out there, with said lions and hyhenas...and whatever else, we called him back. And paid. Double. but we had a guy and a gun.
An hour later, rambling driving in the dark, pelting rain...arrived on the ridge of the Embarkai crater, too dark to see anything, but squeezed into our pjs in the dark while those guys set up our tent, and theirs, canvas to canvas, side by side,  a few inches away. As we crawled in wondering whether this was a big mistake, their last words to us were to stay in our tent, and to call our them when we needed to pee.  The Masai warrior who had walked 20 miles over with 4 donkeys had given up waiting, turned around and headed home..another 20 K - we dined en tent a la spagetti with carrot/tomato sauce, tent leaking, tired, disgruntled, sort of,  and off to bed, chuckling. Sort of.
The next day dawned bright and beautiful. Hamidu and I did a bit of a workout on the road...Mohammed made a great breakfast, Frederick took down the tents and the park ranger watched it all. He'd had a bit of a tough night, with both Marci and I getting up twice each, fending off mosquitoes and wart hogs and what not...down into the crater we trotted in a, Marci, Frederick and the ranger with the gun. Through glorious rain forest and dew, bits of sunshine seeping through high entwining vines and mist, awesome. Flamingos pink and white basked at the bottom around a vast lake, the mist lifting...smoke from a hidden Masai camp pretzled up in soft swirling circles, up the other side, no path, rock, hard...the warriors in hiding, hunkering in there to regain their strength, a donkey tied to a tree nearby.
The trip up was not terrifically to my liking. I am strong, thankfully but i don't like up. Marci was fine. I was not, counting my steps, swearing under my breathe enough already.
Saved by our driver Hamidu, jumped on his back piggyback style to the top..and on to the masai village to pick up the warrior with our four donkeys...a circle of women on the ground now, more and more coming as they see a chance to sell the lovely beaded necklaces, bracelets they wove...we choose a few from each one. When you visit me, at one of our next Majengo fundraisers I will show you them..We take off after a few hours...the Masai with the four  donkeys burdens of beast now laden with all our kitchen, bedding, food, and whater...rushing alongside a herd of cows...
one like Jonathon Livingston Segal rushing out from the group towards me!I am running along, and he is running along beside me, a big black cow of some sort, but with ill intentions, he is almost alongside when Frederick, who is also in orange, batts him off, not once but twice, this guy is persistant. And on we go, rushing, power walking ...the entire Masai village running along at our heels hoping to sell us of more beads, followed by four donkeys, the herdsman, the cows....a procession.  We hit nightfall at dusk. A tranquil rural setting amongst hills and valleys...cows mooing....they unpack, unleash the donkeys and set up tent as Marce and I head downhill to lie on old burlap sacks...cover our heads from the late afternoon sun and rest ourselves.
...a boy of about 8 is hiding behind a tree drapped in dark brown rags...the shepherd of 17 cows loitering below and proceeding steadfastly in our direction, a flotila of flies and flees and flying things carving the way. There is no rest. The boy is fascinated by us, i give him water. He doesn't go away. His cows attuned now to the seeming attentiveness we have shown to him, draw closer. Covered in flies we scramble up and back toward our tents, where just behind a line of Masai women wait patiently, for us to get up in notice of them....and their beads.
Then, suddenly, out of the jungle, Masai warriors appear, dancing, jumping high, wailing with aborigional sounds just like the warriors I once knew in the American Indian Movement in the Black Hills of the Dakotas ... we amalgamate, the men, women and celebration. And later, deep into the silence of night, cries of  whooping, laughing and joy. 

The next day is beyond anything i have experienced. We walked, hiked, hung on to each other, well here is where for some reason i could dance and sing and hike 8 miles down a series of blackened volcanic ash mountains to our old red truck at the bottom...My dear friend Marce who forgot her hat, improvised swirling her Tilley blouse round and round leaving the collar tilted high as a sun vise....a Masai stick in her right hand and Frederick on her left, she was like her mom, with vertigo, and a lovely man aside. African men, are real men. They haven't been liberized to the point where they are unsure of how to be, who to be. They get out there and do their job, the guy stuff...and let the ladies lie in rest in the sun. They laugh, their camaradarie is infectious...lovely...
We treked across rift and mountain, valley, alongside the sacred Mountain of land untouched and unseen by fellow man, at least for that day, we were alone on the planet. The last bit across acrid plain. Hot, dry....with Hamidu's red truck in the distance. Lake Natron. We visited Chief of the Engaruga tribe on our way home, love to his family and the 27 goats i now stop a quick visit on our way home,
with Tatu, one of the 24 Masai girls supported through Majengo's Masai Girls Education Fund, sponsored by Marion and Peg with artist friends, at their annual Art Show. Tatu, four years of secondary, now married with baby Lynn running her very own successful shop, with help from Matt, in the village of Selela...

The next day, back to Mto Wa Mbu to interview another young girl just starting out thanks to the Education fund. Here she is with her family, her mom age 32, raped by an employer, (her father) now wracked with the HIV AIDS virus her little sister at her side, her gramma and uncle behind. She is going into 2nd year, like Tatu, her life will change dramatically over the next few years.

Ah...and Baby Anna..everyone asks about her, the little 9 month old brought to us by police a few years ago, emaciated, dying, with a day or two left to live. Hadija, our cook, took her home...and here she is today....bravo!!

Back to Majengo for our going away party, so hard to leave, but so good to know that soon i will return.
House three is built all the way upn to the roof!! Here Charles is inspecting every room, window, wall and foundation carefully. Next, the roof and the insides...
We hope it will be finished by March or April to move the kids in!
And for Marci and I, home...a six hour bus ride to Nairobi, catch a flight to Paris, smoked salmon with little toast pieces and chardonay at 10am..on a plane with a guy whose passion is to grow big you fill up a rain barrel with water and sink into it a burlap bag of cow or chicken manuere...let it mull about and water your veggies every few days and stand back andf watch them explode! or..if you like long straight carrots..get a 28 inch long, 2" inch wide circular plastic pipe...the ones they use for plumbing..sink it 10 inches into the ground, with 18 inches above. Fill it up with good soil and plant three carrot seeds at the top, watered with the manuered water. One week later, snip off the two little plants leaving the best one to grow, water every three days. Wow! one big 18 inch long straight yummy carrot delicious he tells me. Yum.

Next trip over...Give Get Go!! watch for it on our updates, home page!

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