Thursday, December 8, 2011

... the one less traveled

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
                                    ~ Robert Frost

Salma is in her wheelchair with Joseph pushing; 
Helen, Oliver, and Joel escort me back to the
 road to say goodbye.  It's perhaps half a 
mile, a gesture of affection that they 
would make the trek.  I've been in 
Mombasa for only a few days, 
but we had time together.
Now it's time to leave.

From our world 
to theirs       
and back.  
What a journey.

OK, this is way too sober and serious.  So for a counterpoint, here's my brother Samuel.  He made the trip up to Guruguru to visit the kids we've been helping to stay in school.  He threw a little Christmas celebration with them just to let them know they're loved.
We're hoping to build a church/preschool/community center there sometime soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

He wants to be a doctor

On my last day in Kenya, the boys escort me along the path back to my hotel. It's Monday, and they're not in school, one because his uniform is worn out and they won't let him attend until he has a new one.

I wired a little money to Salma after I got home; she took him to the shop for a new uniform, black shoes, and book materials. She called excitedly to tell me it was all resolved, and he got on the phone to say thanks, with everybody celebrating and laughing a lot in the background. His name is Tomas, and he wants to be a doctor.

There are six children in the extended family.  The costs associated with keeping them in school are difficult for families to manage.  They do their best with their little kiosk where they resell vegetables and dried fish, and they're building a chicken coop.  Mostly, the income goes to feeding the family.  Medical care is inexpensive, but medicines can cost half the family's income when malaria flares up in one or another.

A little help goes a long way in Kenya.
Salma and the family struggle to keep a straight face for a photo (right).  I didn't help matters by making faces while they tried to look serious. 

With my buddy Anderson (left), the family and I sit and talk about the practical matters of work and school and future goals.   Anderson battles with malaria.  

They're doing their best.  Salma's brother Joseph works as a safari guide when he can get the opportunity and in construction when jobs are available.  In his early 20's, Joseph is an impressive gentleman.  Big voice, big heart, good, hardworking fellow.  Salma manages the chickens and the kiosk and the kids at home.

Salma and Joseph and I are trying to pull together a plan to keep the family healthy and ensure the six children get to stay in school. 

Wanna join in the fun?  Ask me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Real World

She wept silently as I told her about my injury.  I didn't realize she was crying until her friend kidded her about it.  Sweet lady; she'd brought friends to come sit with me and cheer me up while I was bedridden.
In Africa for the fifth time this year, I managed to break some ribs and get stuck in Mombasa, Kenya, recuperating.

Confined to bed for the first couple of days, the front desk calls with guests asking to visit me.  It's Salma, my dear friend with her brother and a friend.

Thus began a parade of friends that continued through the week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

They share their lives

My phone rings at the office this morning. It's my 3-yr old buddy Anderson in Kenya! He wanted to say hello. His mom dialed the phone, of course, and it costs just pennies for them to call for a minute. I got to tell the family that I'll be there in a couple of weeks to visit. What a joy!

As much as I'm physically over-taxed by flying for hours (days), I'm so glad for the chance to visit good friends.

Photo: with Anderson and James; Anderson's mom Salma took this picture with my camera, and the kids took many more.  Anderson has malaria which flairs up every now and then; he's doing well at the moment.

James wants to be a doctor. He's in the 9th grade, and the family has difficulty keeping the school fees paid. The family has never asked me for a thing, so I have to ask if I might help with this or that. They've given me so much; they've made a place for me in their lives.

Photo, left; James and a camel in the distance.  If we manage to connect while I'm in the area, James likes to escort me here and there and talk about school and things.  Nice young man; part of a large family of similarly nice folks. They're African, mind you, and strong. You have to be strong to face the days here, yet they're gracious and welcoming when I visit. As pleasant as family. Maybe more so. :)

Photo right: as close to a smile as I've gotten out of Helen, the younger sister. I've got pictures printed and some little gifts for the trip; perhaps she'll smile this time.

Have you ever wondered what you'd do if the power was out, and there was no TV, no air conditioning, no lights as the sun went down. Would you sit in the yard on the ground with your family and chat until everyone was tired, then go to bed? That's what this family does, each and every night.

Want to encourage them along; maybe offer a little help? Ask me.  Please.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Give us today, bread, and deliver us from evil.

"If I survive at the expense of another, death would be sweeter and more beloved." ~anonymous Arab American
The poor along Kenya's coast are being systematically displaced by government's cooperation with the wealthy.  Their ancestral homesteads are being declared government land, sold to influential businessmen, and bulldozed, leaving the residents on the street.  Some of my friends have received notice that they're next.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Child's life ... in Africa

The kids are celebrating Children's Day and included me in the fun, dragging me from place to place and posing for pictures.  Here, they're standing still just long enough for the photo.  Then back to bouncing and running.  Kids!  Too nice for words.

Delightful youngsters at their elementary school insist on being photographed over and over.  Printed copies of the photos delivered the following year elicited squeals and dancing.  Like children everywhere, a little fun takes precedence over serious conversation.

The scar on this young lady's cheek tells a bit about her life.  Their environment includes open fires in the outdoor kitchen, uneven pathways, simple home construction, roadways without separate sidewalks, and a lack of construction safety standards for pretty much anything.

The photo here is of the cooking area at their elementary school.  It's in a corner of the playground next to the classrooms and unprotected from the 400+ kids who use the area.  Lunch most days is rice from USAID.  Upgraded by an assistance project the year after this photo was taken, it's now walled in to keep the kids away from harm.

Like most African countries, theirs is working hard to improve life for citizens.  It's an uphill road, though.  A former colony, their independence was hindered by Soviet influence until democratic reform emerged in the 90's.  Unemployment hovers around 50% despite a strong work ethic and healthy Catholic culture.  A lack of skilled labor is part of the problem, and education is a big part of the focus for development efforts.

Parents and teachers are tough, practical folks.  They work hard, long days, every day.  Apart from the children, life offers few reasons to smile.  Change is slow.  Hope is hard to come by.   Feel free to join in and lend a hand.  Mom and dad will thank God for you.

(Poppa, in back, chuckled and commented that he was glad he'd worn his nice shirt for the photo.  These shots were taken in Sao Tome & Principe, one of the nicer places in Africa where we work.)