Sunday, August 31, 2014

The sweetest smiles you have ever seen

I don't know that I slept very well that first night on the island, blame it on the lack of airflow in our room, or the anticipation of the visit to the school the next day. We were up and at 'em early and off to breakfast at the hotel. Your first question I know is, "What are the hotels there like?" Well I can answer that, imagine a motel 6 and then whittle that down. We had a room with a queen bed,  and a twin bed, both surrounded with mosquito netting. A tv, that we never turned on, a bench a wardrobe to hang clothes and a bathroom with a sink, shower and a toilette that flushed every other time. We had a door to an outside balcony, that we may have enjoyed a couple of times, but mostly kept doors shut to fend off mosquitos. Our room was larger than most because of the second bed, which we kept or luggage on during the stay. Okay back to breakfast. There was fruit, hard boiled eggs, juice, coffee, you could order an omelet (egg only) and a cereal similar to shredded wheat, but became mush when milk was added (warm milk, they don't have cold milk) I had packed peanut butter so I had that most mornings with a banana and some juice. Oh yes and fried potatoes, those saved me more than once. They have ketchup, more like a tomato sauce, it was decided before the trip to pack our own, and Leo Trey Fetch is a ketchup snob so we had Heinz, he was my hero! He shared his ketchup andI shared my peanut butter. My biggest thank you is to one of the FAs that brought powdered creamer!
After breakfast we gathered and waited for the bus to return, praying that it would and that the driver hadn't headed back to Nairobi as he wanted to the night before! Once loaded we made our way through Mbita and crossed the causeway to Rusinga Island! We had paved roads until the causeway and from there on it was bumpy, rutty, dirt roads. I took in the sites from all the windows, amazed at the beauty I saw in the midst of the poverty. I believe it was Jeff Jurgis that coined the phrase that has stuck, "Paradise in Poverty" There were people walking everywhere, I don't know why that would surprise anyone. Picky Pickys going back and forth carrying people, livestock and furniture wherever they needed to be. (A picky picky is a motorcycle) Little children headed to school, women with jugs on their heads, on their way to gather water or do laundry. They have some major neck strength! We made our last turn and headed up for the last mile of the journey, this road was the ultimate 4 wheeling experience, very narrow with shrubs, and ruts that I am sure were rivers when the rain came!
We turned into the area outside the school and parked, we got off the bus and were greeted immediately by Lillie and a group of preschoolers with wide eyes! Lillie has a million dollar smile and if so good with the kids, what a blessing she was and has continued to be for the PH team.  It didn't take long for all of the FA's to have at least one of those precious kids in their arms, checking out their name badges and smart phones. Every picture taken had to be examined by the kids, they had never seen such magic before! To say they loved having their photos taken is a huge understatement. Lillie gave us a tour of the school and then Leo Trey Fetch and I broke away for the group to start lunch for our group, we volunteered to be the "camp cooks" for the first week. We found the area that we were to build a fire and started gathering wood. What had we volunteered for?? It wasn't long before the women I call "Fire Ester" brought us more wood and showed us how to really get the fire going. (Ester is a popular name in the area, so we specified by what they contributed, Fire Ester also makes all the school uniforms (more about that later)

I am surprised we didn't succumb to smoke inhalation and die. Needless to say all meals after that were cooked on a propane stove!

We FA's were busy playing games and singing songs with the kids. Teaching them the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken dance. The giggles were a joy to hear. Suckers were handed out, but you had to be careful, you could cause a stampede and get injured, the kids love "sweets". I can't remember how many kids attend the school, but by the end f the day the amount had doubled when more kids showed up to see "the white people" they hung around the entire time we were there. I really think it was the "sweets" that brought them, and maybe a little curiosity.

Mame, the other nurse that was there with me and I spent the day examining scraped knees and other boo boos. At one point she left to go visit a man we now call "Jack" and I left to go check on a little girl named Whitney who was very sick.

Lillie asked me to go check on Whitney, so I gathered my supplies and Molly one of the FA's who had taken some nursing classes before changing her career headed down the hill to journey to Whitney's house. Lillie spoke with her mother and told her why we were there, she invited us into her home, a small 2 room house with a couch and a couple of chairs in the main living area. Whitney lay on the couch covered in sweat drops the size of dimes.  Her heart rate was in the 120's and her breathing was rapid. Man I wished I had read up on yellow fever and malaria before leaving the states!
Kat, she always had a little one in her arms, and they were usually asleep!

                                                 Leo Trey Fetch cooking using the butane

                                            Meeting Miss Lillie at the school
Molly having fun with the kids

Jeff and Leo Trey Fetch, usually had one or two kids hanging around their necks!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My first Kenyan Massage

We spent the first full day in Kenya getting to know the others in the group and waiting for one of our member to catch up with us. It seems that if you wash your passport you may not be able to travel with it. You might be able to leave the US but returning with a damaged passport can be difficult to do.  We took the bus from our hotel and went into Nairobi and walked around, did some shopping and saw first hand the amount of political campaigning done before their elections that took place the next week.

We had dinner together that night at the hotel and really got to know each other. We met Momma Esther and she shared with us her story of how the orphanage came to be.  Late that evening our last team member Leo Trey Fetch arrived, we were now a complete team.

We loaded up our bus the next morning and headed to the market to buy supplies and most importantly water.  We all crammed back into the bus, our luggage on top and the aisles filled with 5 gallon water bottles and the back seat filled with food and water as well.

Most of the FAs already knew each other, but we all visited and talked about where we were from and shared stories, and snacks. True friendships are made over food. We spent at least 10 hours traveling that day at times through some of the towns the traffic was horrible, all due to the upcoming elections. Our first stop was along the Rift Valley, it was beautiful.We stopped at another store and bought more water and some food to eat, we were starving.   This stop was our first exposure to going to the bathroom over a hole in the ground, it would be nicer that what we had the rest of the trip, but still disgusting. I do have to admit, you get stronger calves and thighs squatting that much! The was a traffic jam so bad in one town that one of the FAs got to know one of the peddlers selling his wares on a first name basis. Items were passed around the bus in hopes that one of us would buy something from the man and the others that came up to the bus to make some money. That guy made a killing, I'm sure his family was very happy that night. The sights we saw, chickens, goats and sheep riding on top of buses. Twenty or so people crammed in vans with the doors aspen and people hanging out. Piky Piky's (motorcycles) with 5 people on them, or the driver and a couch, or a goat. It was market day so in every town there were open air markets going on, the piles of produce lining the streets, booths with clothes and shoes. tools, you name it, and it was being sold. Trash everywhere, the are no laws against littering there and people don't care.

We knew we were close when the last 30 minutes of the ride we were off road. The roads were dirt and very BuMpY! We laughingly called it our Kenyan massage. Once we finished the bumpy part we had glimpses of Lake Victoria! We crept along the coast line inching our way closer to the island and our beds for the night.

We wondered around lost for a bit, we arrived at the end of dusk so it was hard to see, finally after Teddy (our in country support and Mamma Esther's son) had a few phone calls we found our hotel. We unloaded and found our rooms.

Within minutes it was apparent that our bus driver was leaving and headed back to Nairobi because of the elections, he feared for his life (he supported the candidate not so favored in the area we were in) Teddy was amazing and stepped in and reassured him, disaster averted! Teddy was our hero!

They fed us spaghetti that night and french fries. Basically spaghetti with tomato sauce on it. At the time of this trip Mac and I weren't eating meat or processed food, so we had fries and a coke for dinner, that was okay, I just wanted BED and SLEEP! It was hard to sleep knowing that the next day we would meet the kids at the orphanage and begin the real work!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Getting there is part of the adventure

The month before we left we were informed that a couple that was signed up to go and help with the well drilling had to cancel. Darren asked my husband Mac and I if we were interested in doing both trips ( a total of 18 days rather than the 9) We figured what the heck, the cost wasn't that much more.

Before we left for Africa we were assigned items to collect to take with us, and we were given jobs to do while we were there. The first part of the trip was a large group of flight attendants, mostly from American Airlines. I will add now, that they were a HARD working group of men and women. They got along so well and fell in love with the kids while they were there. Their plans were to work in an orphanage with the kids that were there. It is really  more of a school, the kids come early in the morning and go home in afternoon, most to aunts and uncles or grandmothers. Most of the parents have died from AIDS or other illnesses. These kids are pre K and kindergarten. I signed up that week to reach an art class. I am a mosaic artist as well, so I decided to teach them mosaics with paper.

We also had items to collect that would be handed out while there. I mostly collected medical supplies, since I was going to do medical work, but we also collected shoes. Adults shoes and kids shoes, whatever we could find. The 2 checked bags we had each were filled to the brim, 50 lb limit, they were at their limits! Our personal belongings were kept to our carry on suitcase and backpacks. (I really think they each weighed 50 lbs as well, I over packed)

We left the afternoon of February 27, 2013. We flew out of Houston, we were scheduled to fly to Detroit and meet up with 2 more volunteers, but our flight got changed and they rerouted us through  Atlanta. From there we went to Amsterdam and then Nairobi. The Amsterdam airport was a blur because we had to hurry through to catch our next flight. In Amsterdam you have to go through security again at each gate. It was there they took one of our carry ons and made us check it. At first I was irritated, then I realized that was one less bag to keep up with. We also met our first other Project Humanity volunteer there, a flight attendant names Jeff Jurges, a nice guy, a hard worker and just an awesome person. He was a great add to the team!

After 30 hours in the air via several flights we arrived at the Nairobi airport at around 11pm, tired, stinky and excited! While waiting in line for customs we met the next member of our group, Mame Fancett, an AWESOME nurse from California, she had flown the entire way on her own, she saw the Project Humanity patches on our bags and flagged us down. We spent a better part of the next hour waiting on and getting our bags, well most of them, Mame's were missing. We filed a report and head to meet up with Darren, Kirsten and Teddy, and wait for the remaining flight attendants (FA's) to arrive!

As we came around the corner tired, but filled with excitement our eyes met a cardboard sign with the words Project Humanity on it, my dream was becoming a reality.... I AM IN AFRICA! You can see our arrival video at

When Mac and I started traveling abroad we bought a Texas Tech gnome(Little Guy) to go with us and share the adventure. Before leaving for Africa some dear friends, Tim and Jennifer Odom (who happen to be Chic-fil-a operators) gave me a Chic-fil-a cow to travel with us, his name is Raider! Little Guy and Raider had a blast on the trip, you will see more of them later, this was at the Houston airport before leaving.

Well I guess the Purple Slip part will have to wait, there is a lot that happens in between that leads up to the story and makes it that more special. I promise it is worth the wait.

For more information about Project Humanity  and upcoming projects/trips and how YOU can volunteer or donate, go to