Our Trip!

Follow the intrepid 6 ladies and 3 men from Cisco as they adventure deep into western Kenya. Will the orphanage ever be the same? I hope not, we're looking forward to new buildings and new skills learnt! Will we ever be the same, for sure not but it will enrich us and make us better people, friends and family members ;-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 6.

5:25 Alarm goes off 'Green Onions' Booker T. Hit the snooze button, lay there for 5 minutes before dragging myself out of my silk bed liner. Everyone was up - there was some coughing & spluttering, but by & large we were all set for an early morning drive out to Kendu Bay. The aim was to get there to see the fishermen set out at sunrise, and equally get back in time to finnish the planning of the day ahead - sports day, 'banquet', and church. The school was so quiet - we were up and about before the children! We still needed torches for the loo! Breakfast was a ginger biscuit, purely to help take with the malarone, and a bottle of water. We were joined by Duncan, who'd be our navigator/guide, and we set off.

6:45 Driving up to Kendu Bay we drove part on lad part of the village which had been completely abandoned - it looked like a scene out of Apocalypse Now! At one time it must have been thriving, but now it was void of life. We approached Lake Victoria just as the sun came above the mountains and before it disappeared behind the clouds - perfect timing. Tony had taken his usual bouquet of serious lenses - by now I'm getting serious lens envy, but at $2k+ for a lens is way beyond my capabilities - and budget! But he does take awesome photo's. We're all looking forward to getting copies so we can pass them off as our own to family & friends ;) Ooops, blown my cover! As we parked up 3 boats were being pushed out, through the water hydrangeas, before raising their sales. We were all snapping away like mad! There was a derelict 'canteen' which had seen better days - you could see that the lake had been significantly higher, but over the last 10 years it's receded by 10 feet!

Duncan tells us stories of when he was a boy, and used to walk from near H&K to Kendu Bay with huge bags of charcoal balanced on his head to sell - a walk of at least 20km!! I'll never forget how resilient the Kenyan people are.

Next is Simbi, the volcanic lake. We sat down on the edge of the lake while Duncan recited some folklore about a woman, who after running off with her husbands animals was swallowed up by some mud. Voila, salty lake! OK, don't kill the messenger! We decided to walk round the lake - Virginia Water it's not, but it was an interesting stroll; half way round we were greeted by a dead dog, semi-decayed, Polly did say it smelt of wet dog, but she never mentioned it had died!. Obviously the salty water didn't agree with it! The walk round takes a good half-an-hour, and as the Land Rover comes into sight we all start discussing what type of coffee we'd order from Starbucks, and which pastries ;) Personally a nice cup of 'Breakfast Tea" would've been fan-bloody-tastic!

9:30 We pull into H&K - home sweet home. Usual goings on at school - kids are running around playing games, boys kicking a football, some of the girls are helping the cooks plucking the hens, others are placing them on a fire, and a goat's tethered up waiting to be slaughtered - same ol' same ol' ;) The chickens and goat were for the banquet later in the day. They asked if I wanted to slaughter a chicken - well, why not. First though, the goat was led away to be slaughter. The venue - the end of the children's playing field. The goat was tethered to a post while someone ran off to fetch the knives. Suddenly the goat made a run for it - I think he knew what was in store. However, he hadn't banked on Duncan (who, let me remind you, carried bags of charcoal on his head for 20km a day no-less!), who quickly sprang into action and caught hold of the rope before it could run into the next open field. I'd never seen a slaughter before, and had a morbid fascination to look - and Polly, and Tony. And we weren't the only one's - virtually all the children were crowded round, especially the really young ones, trying to get a good vantage point. I'll spare you the gory details, apart from the fact it was at least a minute before it had stopped spluttering - and if it wasn't for the bowl he had under it's neck the blood would have spurted a good 6ft! We didn't stay around for the butchering, but that would all take place where it lay, and the meat would be hung out on the post. We left the children to admire the skilful butcher, and walked back to our chilli-out room for breakfast.

We arrived to find the ladies tucking into their scrambled eggs on bread, and strangely enough weren't interested in our goat story. John then came and offered a gift - the goats sweetbreads. No thanks, we said, we've just eaten.

The rest of the morning we spend around the school - playing/talking to children, teachers… each other about our experience and future plan.

1:00 We make our way down to the school field to start organising the sports day, with our 'special' races. Walking past the kitchen area we see some children still helping the cooks make the chickens - stripping what's left and putting in a bowl for the chick stock.

The air-horns arrive, and we're all set. First of all, the 50mtr dash! One race per class, starting with yr1, the 4yr olds, through to yr7, who are 16. Age has is not related to class, it's based on academic ability. Children are called forward to race - there are some unusual names as some are named after famous people - the best being Vladimer Putin!

Once we've the obligatory 'dash' race is over, we move onto our very British egg & spoon race, though without the eggs we go with stone & spoon race :) It doesn't take long for them to work out the top cheat - thumb over stone to stop it falling off when running :) Lot's of false starts follow, re-starts but the kids love it. Next, the 3-legged race! We bought some elastic at the market a couple of days back, and start to tie the ankles together in pairs. We obviously bought cheap elastic as we only get one race out of each piece of elastic!

2:30 With the races complete, it's end of term prize giving time! :) The teachers are awarding academic prizes for best in-class, most improved, discipline & responsibility, social studies, language studies, maths & english and sport. The awards consisted of pencils, books and a new pair of shoes! Can you imagine our children settling for those? It's so hot - there's a make-shift piece of cover which everyone tries to crowd under to get some shade. The children sit very patiently - in this heat it's incredible. Some of the small children are getting some special cuddles from our ladies :) One little boy has taken a special hold of Polly - she found him earlier crying, but a few special cuddles, and the gift of a little whistle soon made the tears dry up. For the next hour he wouldn't let her go. I notice during the prize giving/speeches that he's fast asleep in her arms :)

4:15 Final speeches are concluded - we all feel completely drained and dehydrated - god knows how some of the children are. We crash back in our chill-out room and Rachel puts the kettle on (no, not Polly), and we start to dream about what cake we'd like with our teaa…. Malt Loaf, Blueberry Muffin, Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Vanilla Slice, ….hmmmm! if only! We realise we have no clean cups and no bowl to wash them with as everything's been used by the cooks for the feast - the tea will have to wait!

Ok whats for tea i hear you cry, well we could have goats and chicken claws but we were missing our noodles so more of them and some chips then, yes I know chips again, how healthy are we!

The new normal is our new saying! These are some of them:
Shitting in a hole
Not having electricity after 7pm
Wet wipes being a good substitute for a bath
Mozzie tennis being the only entertainment at night
The ladies having a back massage from Tony every night
Not having a fridge at all
Sanitising your hands before, and after everything!
Puking in your jumper, and not throwing it away!
Looking forward to travelling in a 40 year old Land Rover - anywhere and for however long
Not seeing any other white people since we have landed
Looking forward to a safari more for the food and plumbing than seeing the animals
Not wanting to have a drink in case you have to go to the toilet
Not being freaked out by looking at a very full fly strip in the front room
Children crapping outside a classroom
Having everyone call you mozungo

4:00 The feast commences! everyone had huge portions, ate well, and had sodas! Personally, I gave it a miss - somehow had lost my appetite after the chicken & goat incidents! The big shock - seeing the children opening coke bottles with their teeth!

5:00 Mr Bensen made a short speech, and we were all presented with individual letters written by the children! Now that was very special! It's something we will treasure forever.

9:00 We're all burnt out. It's been an experience more than any of us set out to achieve, but we're exhausted. We leave tomorrow at 9am and head to Nairobi. Tomorrow we'll be in tents, which have en-suits, running water, and alcohol. But before all that - a 9hr drive!

Going to bed - love all.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 5.

6:30 Woke up this morning - oh my god what is that smell? A horrible disgusting smell! Oh, yeh - that'll be me then! Yesterday was non-stop, in boiling heat, plus running around for 30 minutes of football, and at the end of the night I was just too exhausted for a shower - yuk!!!

This morning we're handing out the solar/wind up lamps we brought. We brought 50 with us - I hope that's enough.

7:00 First thing first - shower! The morning start is now becoming routine; shower (stand in bucket, turn the tap on above head - cold water, freezing cold water dribbles out, put on soap, turn tap off, wash, turn tap on, quickly was off soap, turn tap off, dry & dress, get out of bucket, pour watt from bucket into bigger outside), breakfast (salty porridge and/or boiled egg), malarone tablet, toilet (I'll spare you the details on this one - needless to say, it's an ordeal!), clean teeth, fill up individual water bottle from 5 litre bottle. Got all this now down to 15 minutes. After 4 days of living in such close proximity to each other, we're all getting very frank - toilet humour is very often the source of our laughter! Polly just come back into the our chill out room - toilet roll in hand, and gave a thumbs up :)

8:00 The elders, guardians and parents had turned up for the lamps. They are all sitting down outside the school. First impression - we don't have enough lamps to go round. One of the teachers comes with me and helps interpret for those who don't speak english. I take them through the basic instructions on how they use them/wind up etc.. I hear gasps of delight. None of them have power at their homes and therefore when the sun goes down they have no light until the morning (Tania & I were very upset in our bed last night, under our mosquito net, with our solar lamp, thinking of Stephen and his 2 brothers in a mud hut, no lights, no protection. We were hopeful his mother turned up last night & we'd meet at school today). I start to hand them out with Tania - I'm 5 short. I go back into our rooms and fetch our - the ones we'd been using/brought with us). I've got 5 - perfect. Oh no. 4 more guardians had turned up. We make a list of those who didn't get one, including the teachers who have the same dire needs. It totals 18. We'll have to work out how we get more shipped over. Shipping anything in to Kenya is very difficult due to customs - it can take months! We brought ours in our luggage.

I ask the teacher to find Stephen's mother - "is she here?" She calls out to the guardians. I hope she's here. A hand goes up, and a women comes forward. Tania & her naturally give each other a hug. It's very emotional. She knows we sponsor Stephen. We talk and try and find out more about her. Her name is Aska, she's a nurse, was working at an American Institute, but it closed down. Now she can't get a job - she has to pay to get a job! She's doing occasional garden work for money. We found out she also has a daughter who's 16. She wants her to go to secondary school to finish her education but she has no money to pay for it. She said she needs 20,000 Kenyan schillings - around $200. We said we'll see what we can work out with H&K. I give her some money to keep her going, and the woman who's looking after Stephen when she's not there - I find out this is the woman who was in the small dwellings with Stephen last night.

9:00 Tony left in the Land Rover to photo Garad the gravel maker, Mary's (H&K site manager) vegetable patch, and Joseph (remember, the man with one one, who's neighbour hacked it off with a machete when high on "Bang", a drug here they smoke). Looking forward to seeing those pictures - will be amazing as usual! :)

Whilst I'm standing outside Rachel comes out and asks for my speakers and iPod; they're organising a game of 'musical bumps' :) I set the music up and explain the rules (with the help of a teacher). Rachel & Polly are in the game to show them some moves - I think they'll be the ones learning new moves! I hit play & Michael Jackson kicks out 'Billie Jean'. All the children (about 30 of them) suddenly start to dance/jive/groove there thang! It's hilarious! The ones at the front are as young 4 - where do they get their moves from? H&K has got Talent! :) I suddenly hit the pause button and they all drop onto their bums - a huge dust cloud appears! The last 2 to sit down are identified by the teacher and they're out. We continue for the next 20 mins - dust is getting everywhere, so we agree the last 10 will get a sweet - ok, this wouldn't be fair, so we agree everyone gets a sweet. I start to hand out sweets and a stampede erupts! My security guards (Polly, Rachel & Tania) try them to get in an orderly queue, with helps for…. 30 seconds before they break ranks and I'm stampeded again. The girls begin to loose it - you can't tell who's had one and who hasn't. We were saving the 5kg tub of sweets for tomorrow, but hey, now's a good a time as any.

9:00 Helen & Emma started the IT training to the teachers. IT training constitutes: file save, save as, new folder….., basic MS Word principles. They've just broke for a stress diffuser - cigarette break! This is not going to be an easy session - they've never used a PC before.

10:00 Meghan started her management training. It was due to start at 8:00, but not everyone was here - this is Africa after all :) Her pupils were the Kosele primary school head & deputy head, the District children's officer, the principle of the local secondary school, Mary & Deden's (H&K Head teacher). I asked her how's it going, she replied "it's going"!

Bad news - I've just walked over to field and I notice Connor's football has a puncture. It was less than 24hrs old :( Though they're still out there playing football with it :)

10:30 Sand Filter building time; once the pandemonium and stampede has settled, along with the dust, we start work on the Sand Filter. We bought all the bits & pieces at the hardware store yesterday. We don't have all the right tools, but improvise is the way forward! Polly does a great job of drilling the perfect size holes in the 250 litre drums for the pipes, and it's not long before all pipes, taps, seals are in place. Next we need to build up the ground so that one drum is higher than the other, and then need to fill the higher one with 3 layers of sand, charcoal and gravel. Water is then poured in, filtered through the sand, charcoal and gravel, and then trough the pipes is transported into the clean drum! Voila! Clean(ish) water.

As I walk past the school's kitchen I notice the cooks sifting rice. I ask John what they're doing? He said they buy the cheapest rice, which has grit in. They then go though each grain of rice and pull the grit off - some of the grit is the same same size as the grain of rice. It's a tireless job.

12:30 we've gone as far as we can with the Sand Filter. Problem is we don't have enough bricks to raise the drums, so we're going to have to get more in - we still have time to do that before Friday as there is a team of guys on site building 3 new EcoSan toilets.

1:00 Polly & Rachel are in the kitchen cooking up lunch. On the menu today is avocado, saute potatoes, chopped tomatoes & onion. They're getting adventurous (yes, that menu is very adventurous here!) - where's my noodle & tabasco - I have a simple pallet!

Helen is now entering mild hysteria. She's been looking for her room key for the last half-hour. She's turned everything in the teachers room (our chill-out zone) upside down - twice! On reflection, me reminding her she keeps looking in the same places may not have been constructive :) Tania's drafted in as a new pair of eyes. 10 seconds later she's found them. Case solved, hugs all round - except me - Helen I guess didn't value my 'help' :)

The place is now full of dust. Everyone is dirty, sweaty, slightly stressed and feeling tired. Lunch break's required. We start to work out the plan of action for the afternoon - parcel delivery, Tony's got some portraits, IT training & management truing continues.

Tony arrives back from the grinding mill, with a gift of flour! The pictures are amazing, though he comments the grinder's conditions are not conducive to a long-life - flour dust everywhere which he's inhaling. Tony could only stand it for 10 seconds.

Chief Benton arrives for a visit. He is in charge of the district. He's come along to thank us and offer his support.

1:30 Lunch is served. Tony sent Tiny out for cold soda's. We distribute them to the teachers & elders on the training. Everyone wants Fanta!

We hear that back in the UK there's chaos - most of the airports are closed due to snow! That's the first time we spoken of home (excluding our individual calls back home) - we're all totally wrapped up in the events here. We all it down for lunch - the first time we've been together all day. We laugh about the events of the day, the frustrations we have with the place, discuss simple things they can do to improve and observations we've made. We draw up a list which we'll share with Terry (H&K founder, who's a teacher in the UK).

Lunch was fantastic! Well done Rachel & Polly! :) We also had rice - and I didn't bite on any grit!

2:00 Everyone splits up and gets back top their designated tasks; Meghan management training, Helen & Emma IT training, Rachel, Polly Tania & I are going out delivering food parcels. Tony gets the thankless job of washing up - after those saute potatoes that is a nasty one!

The chickens arrive in the Land Rover. We're about to get into the Land Rover when we see the back is full of chicken poo - do you think they knew today was their last? I jump in the driving seat, Duncan alongside (helps out at the school, though not employed by them, and has come along to help with directions and translation). The girls get the chicken coup in the back.

First stop was Mary. Mary's got learning difficulties - we met at the church on Sunday. She was raped twice before the age of 15. We went as close as we could in the Land Rover, and then had a small walk to her dwelling. She was there standing outside her door, breast feeding her youngest. She recognised us and looked pleased. She pulled her child off her breast and shook our hands. We went into her house and was met by her grandmother, who was trying to tidy up and collect the rags which were our being drying on the ground. It was a sorry sight. Every item of clothes had rips/holes. They were thankful for the food. We would've like to stay - learn more. I had to remind the ladies we were on a tight schedule and wouldn't be able to deliver them all if we didn't leave now. I wish we had more time to talk to them all, but this part of the trip was never in the plan and we had to get back to H&K for 16:30 as Tony going out on another photo project.

On the way to our next stop we walked past Grace's house - the one we built on day 2. Good news - it's still standing! But the final layer of cattle poo is still yet to be applied. I'm told that's because our mud layer is still drying. Grace is standing there in front of her new door - she seemed very happy and gives us all a big handshake. We eventually come to we're aiming for - I can't recall her name, but she was identified by one of the groups from Day 2 as someone who's destitute (the list is long-the list is endless). As we approach her house the first thing that really shocks me is a small boy, no more than 4, with a huge knife in his hands that he's playing with! Unbelievable. As we get closer he drops it as he cached a glimpse of the sweets. Another child is playing with something which resembles a butchers knife. He too drops it as sweets appear. Crazy! Their mother is in the garden making string, made out of strips of a certain plant. She's so happy. We pass around some biscuits to the children. I count 11. 2 of them are very small, under 2. They have no clothes on and are covered in mud - thick mud up their legs and arms. One of them is eating a biscuit with fingers caked in mud. Her mother reaches down and cleans it's hands. We walk next door to the elderly couple we also met 2 days earlier (he's the one with cataracts). We're welcomed inside (everyone always welcomes you into their houses and asks you to sit down), but it's so hot! We chat for a short time and say our goodbyes - always receiving HUGE smiles, cuddles and firm hand shakes :)

Iffe's grandmother was the last call. Iffe is one of the children from H&K school. Her parents have both passed away. Her grandmother lives on her own about 2km away. She looked very old - I asked her how old she was (through Duncan who was translating). She said she was 90! An incredible lady. She was so pleased to see us, though you could tell her sight was fading and had early stages of cataracts. Again we say our goodbyes - I know everyone's thinking them same as me 'this is all wrong - this is so cruel' :(

4:15 All done we make our way back, but call in at a local shop for a Fanta - we hadn't taken any fluids out with us and we were a bit parched, including Duncan. We set off again and come alongside Stephen's dwellings - he's playing outside with his brothers. He sees us and screams with delight - his face all lit up. We've run out of sweets, but we give them our Fanta's. Before each child drinks the lot in one gulp we insist they need to share - which isn't common practise. We need to get going and tell them we'll see the at school tomorrow. "see you tomorrow" Stephen shouts, with a big smile and white teeth beaming :)

4:30 As Tony made it out to I started to capture my Blog, and some of the ladies went down to the field for a chill with their cup of tea! Pis*ed of with the amount of flies in our chill-out room, I wander down to find the ladies. There they are, sitting in a circle having brain-dump of the day, capturing observations and ideas of improvement. One concern we have is that we don't want to appear condescending - just trying our helping hands.

5:15 Mid brainstorm, Emma appears with a hand signal which can mean only one thing….. they've brought back some Tusker! We chill-out, sup Tusker, and I re-start capturing my Blog. Reflecting on more humorous moments; why is it Helen & Emma have designated the EcoSan area (toilets) the smoking area? It's bad enough mustering up the courage to go for a long drop, let alone knowing Helen & Emma are smoking away outside! And why??? Tony & Emma said walking into the bar to get the Tusker was something like a scene out of 'Dusk 'till Dawn' :) Having been in there yesterday I couldn't agree more! However, the lady Tony went to photograph wasn't ready - she's a potato chip fryer and she went to get more potatoes. So he has to go back. Good news is that he should return with some chips! OMG we all shout!

6:15 Tony returns with chips! Chips have never tasted so good - who wants to eat plain noodles every day anyway?! :)

Area of concern; everyone's getting far too good with the Terminator (mozzie fryer). Emma's just pulled in a couple of back hand drop shots - a double burn. The competition is hotting up! ;)

7:00 It's getting dark and I need a shower. Oh well - cold shower in the dark - another new experience.

7:30 We were never going to get through the day without our daily noodles - noodles are served. Just how we like them - plain with tabasco. We all agree we will never eat noodles ever again. You'll have noticed that by now we've stopped eating what the cooks serve to the children. Unfortunately, when they're having their dinner, 5pm, we're still doing our chores - that's our excuse anyway ;)

8:00 Torrential rain starts. We hear the children scurrying around outside - 2 minutes later a girl brings in our washing. How considerate :) We're now cooped up in our 'lounge' which is now our home. 9 of us tucking into noodles, a couple want to go to the loo, but with pouring rain, creepy crawlies, long-drops… this place continues to challenge you :) Coffee/tea is kindly made by Helen and we settle down for a game of cards, liar dice and mozzie/fly frying - bring it on!

Tomorrow is going to be an early start. Tony's going to photograph the fishermen's village at Lake Victoria, and we all agree on joining him - we're ahead of schedule and agree to have a few hours at the lake. We'll be setting off at 5:45am so we can be back for 9!… and in time to organise the children's sports afternoon!!! Camera's start being passed around and we reflect on the day. There's so many wonderful memories. Heathrow seems light years ago! I download the flips onto the MacBook Air I brought and look back at today's music bumps - quality! :)

8:45 Tania goes to read a bedtime story in the boys dorm, Emma to the girls.

9:00 I join Tania and take my laptop to show them some of today's flips. I'm instantly hit by how hot it is and the dim light. Tania's just finishing - they're all sitting so still and quiet. I show them their dancing from today & some of football skills. They all close in and lean all over me. They laugh outlaid and point at each other on the screen. I then try and show them 'Photo Booth' but it's too dark - that'll have to wait for tomorrow - I can't wait for that! :)

I get back to our 'dorm' to find the girls mustering up the courage to go to the toilet - yep, all of them together! I hear them running back squealing/laughing :)

9:25 As we start to settle down the girls next door (Meghan, Polly & Rachel) burst out into fits of laughter. What the heck are they laughing at? Tania's sent in to find out… Meghan's wish was she wished she had a tail - she realises animals have tails so they can swish flies away when on the loo! :)

Goodnight all. Tomorrow's our last full day at Hope and Kindness. I know we'll all be sad to leave - although we'll all have a sense of achievement, we all know deep inside we still need to make more permanent solutions/improvements. Hope and Kindness is an incredible place - like no other any of us have ever encountered before. It's achieved so so much - it provides a home to 34 orphans - a school to 131, and something Terry and Judi must be (and absolutely have the right to be) immensely proud of. We all feel privileged to have experienced the warmth and love that emanates form here, and equally to witness the painful hardships that we need to change - don't do something just because you can't do everything is our motto.

Please post this Blog link to your Facebook page to help publicise this fantastic charity - thank you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 4.

First things first - the donkey culprit was John! I've been instructed by the ladies to get the story straight in the blog, and absolve any guilt that may have been cast!

I was up early this morning, around 6am. I wanted to be up and about, take some photo's; Tony's an amazing photographer, and I was keen to get some of his expert tuition - and one thing he did say is that the light is so much better early or late in the day, so I was keen to start early. Cup of tea in hand, and we were off to take pictures of the "hotel" about 200 meters down the road - it's actually a shack - remember what I said in Day 1 about what they call hotels?

When we were back Tony showed me some of the pictures he'd taken yesterday; while we were here enjoying the assembly, Tony was out taking pictures for his project - the positive impact that Hope and Kindness has on the community, leading to jobs and work that wasn't here previously. Over the course of the week Tony's subjects are a farmer, a seamster, a carpenter, a string maker, a local businessman, a seamstress, a gravel maker, workers at a maize grinding factory, a man of the church and "True Love" (Bernard and Suzannah from next door, who have have lost all of their 7 sons to aids - they split up, but have now got back together, he's 71, she's 65. When asked what they'd like for having their photos taken, all they wanted was washing powder :) His pictures of the farmer and seamster from yesterday are amazing!! Once back in the UK he's planning to exhibit his pictures and sell some limited editions to raise money for Hope and Kindness - you'll hear more about the details as soon as they're ready!

News splash - Rachel just came in laughing at Polly heaving whilst trying to wash her crusty clothes from her sick incident on the flight :)

Breakfast was boiled eggs & pineapple. More than I've had for breakfast all week! Sitting here in the teachers office (our chill-out zone) trying to break my hot egg shell (with the help from Tania as I blog), I notice a big file called "Pending Applications to School" :( Walking around the community you realise there are so so many kids who have no access to education - what are their chances? Yesterday John went with Mary to look at some land the school is looking to buy so they can expand the school - with the amount of money we've raised the school can now realistically look at expanding!! :-)

This morning we went to Oyugis market to buy items for the Sand Filter we'll be constructing tomorrow, plus food & provisions for the food parcels we'd be delivering later in the day. The market was CRAZY!! You could buy anything & everything! Over the next 2 hours it was like something out of "The Apprentice" as we went around buying in bulk, which we'd later divide up into parcels. At the Hardware store Polly, Rachel & I had the job of buying the items for the Sand Filter; the owner had all the bits & pieces we needed within arms length - just when we challenged him to a new intricate piece, he'd put his hand bellow the counter and bring out just what we were looking for! :) For the elder Brits reading this Blog it was like the scene out of the Two Ronnies - 'fork candles' ;) We were also buying items for the sports day we'll be running on Thursday, sacks for the 'sack' race, elastic for the '3 legged race', 'medals' for the winning team … to be continued ;) We finished our purchases in the 'supermarket' so we had all our essentials.

Tania & I also put together our own food parcel for Stephen and his family and bought Stephen and his 2 brothers a new pair of shoes each, as we noticed yesterday they hadn't any. We also bought a pair for his mum. Cost, about a pound each!

We were just boarding the fun-bus, when I saw a bloke selling the "Daily Nation". I thought it'd be good catch up on the local news. Paper in hand, I crossed the road back to the van. All of a sudden I heard a screech of brakes and a thud! I turned round to see the newspaper salesman lying on the floor - he'd been run over by a motorbike - who didn't even stop! the newspaper salesman was a little shaken, and was trying to keep his dignity while his mates just stood there laughing at him. Actually, he seemed ok.

On the way back we were really feeling pleased with our purchases, and were looking forward to lunch - yep, more plain noodles with tabasco. All of a sudden smoke started pouring from the front of the Land Rover! Then thick smoke! PANIC! Elkana, aka "Tiny" brought the van to a sudden stop and we all literally ran out the back; we'd also bought some gasoline for the generator, which was in bottles in the footwell - justified panic then! So there we were, stranded 5km from home, with all the shopping and groceries we'd bought! John and Tiny soon had their heads under the bonnet trying to diagnose the problem. After a very short time John has deduced that the brake cable had 'shorted out' the ignition. I could've told them that, not ;) We needed some cable, or actually any piece of thin wire to conduct for the ignition. We were just about to dissect one of the girls underwire bra's when a truck stopped to see if we needed help - couldn't he have arrived in just another 10 minutes? ;) The truck was no other than from the company sent to mend the solar power! They had all the gear, and all the idea! What a stroke of luck! Whilst all this was going on Tony had spotted half-a-dozen children walking down the side of the road, with 1 balancing a bowl on her head with around a dozen mango's inside - she must have no older than 5. Tony agreed a price of 500 shillings for the lot (they were probably worth 100!). You should have seen them - they jumped and skipped all the way back up the road, screaming and singing. It was a fantastic sight! His mother came back and thanked us - no thanks were required, it was us who were grateful.

Fifteen minutes later, van fixed, we were on our way back to our home :)

As soon as we came back home, the children asked if they could borrow my copy of the "Daily Nation" newspaper I'd bought at the market - no sooner than I'd given it to them they were all huddled over the paper reading! They were aged between 7-9yrs - amazing can you imagine our kids doing that! :)

After one more check of the van, Meghan & Helen left with Tony who was off to capture more portraits for his collection. The girls then got assistance from some of the children to make the food parcels. They took to the task with huge enthusiasm, and it was soon complete. Their payment - harlbro sweets :)

Just as I started to relax and write the blog, the girls decided it was football time. My son Connor had given us his prized football to donate to the children, and we'd been waiting for the right time to give it to them - I guess this then was the right time! The children loved the sight of the ball :) I divided them into 2 teams - their were about 18 children, and we played in about 32c! The children played in bare feet - that's what they would naturally do. They were fantastic - why hasn't Kenya won the World Cup yet? Apparently the life expectancy of a football is only 1-3 days! The problem is the bushes which surround the play area have the spikiest of spiky thorns - and they kick the ball blinking hard! Anyway, the good news is, as I write this blog at 9pm, the ball is still perfect spherical :-) Connor, you gave a fantastic ball! ;)

Later this afternoon we divided into 2 groups - some went out to distribute the food parcels we'd made, whilst some stayed to work on the management training course work for the teachers tomorrow. Tania, Helen, John & I were on food parcel delivery service - Meghan, Rachel, Polly, Emma & Tony worked through the training. We went out in the Land Rover, which I drove, and which was an experience in itself - 40+ years old, and 250,000 on the clock! Tania reminded me I wasn't on the Gumball, and needed to drive slowly! Easy tiger - I hadn't been able to get out of 2nd gear! I thought the Campervan was a challenge to drive, it seemed like a Bentley compared to the rattle & bounce of the Land Rover. We were also joined by Peter (daytime security)and Joseph (the carpenter) to help with the directions, and security - just in case. First stop was Martha (you remember, has TB, 2 children, no husband, no house, and no money to pay rent). Her children were out playing on the road, and once they saw the car coming they started screaming! They were so happy. Helen and Tania led the way with food parcels in hand. Martha's face was a picture to behold :) She had the biggest smile. Next stop was Anna-Mourice who lived a couple of "houses" round the corner. Again we were greeted by huge smiles, and so grateful. We also gave her a months rent - $6. She asked for a private word with me - after giving her a months rent I didn't know what she would ask for - she wanted chairs, chairs so that when friends come to visit they have somewhere to sit - she said she feels embarrassed. I said I would talk to the church to see what they could do. We wanted to drop more off but we didn't know where they lived, so we made our way back to H&K and hoped John would be there, so we could pick him up and carry on delivering.

On the way back Helen & I thought it only fitting to call into the local small village and pick up a few cheeky Tuskar's - 8 cold beers were soon making their way back to H&K :) We'd only been back for 10 minutes when John came back, and we agreed we'd shoot off and carry-on delivering :) I'd managed a couple of swigs of Tuskar (the others said i necked it), and I hoped it would still be cold when we got back.

Out first stop would be Stephen and his brothers (Stephen is the young boy Tania & I are sponsoring - paying for his school fees/food). Tania & I knew this would be difficult. Stephen was on the side of the street when we pulled up. He had the biggest smile you could imagine. It's actually difficult to write in words how we felt based on what we saw. Stephen was there with his 2 brothers - all alone. No mother. Stephen said his mother was on her way to see them - she lived 10km away where her job is - his elder brother had gone to fetch her. He showed us where they slept. It was a mud block which was divided into 4 dwellings - theirs was one of them. Inside there was nothing - I mean nothing. A mud floor. That's it. There were some adults outside - a man and 2 women who lived in the other dwellings with their children. Firstly we gave him the food parcel - he was so happy, though seemed embarrassed - it that makes sense? We took it and hid it in the corner of the bedroom. Next we gave him the shoes - he particularly liked the shoes we'd bought for his mother. We said we'd call back on the way home to see his mum - hopefully she would be there. As we walked back to the van Tania & I were shell-shocked, very emotional. It was getting dark - we only had time for one more drop. Next it was to see Helena, grandmother to 7 children, no mother or father - both had died of aids. No she had the biggest smile yet! She started singing in joy when she saw us - her whole face beamed with joy. The children were happy as they knew we'd have sweets, and we'd take some photo's (remember they love to look at themselves on the LCD display). It was now dark so we couldn't stay - mozzies were out in force, and the roads aren't safe at night; one the way back there's alll sorts of traffic - lorries driving erratically, donkey & kart (obviously with no lights!), kids playing on the side of the road, and thick dust making it very difficult to see. We made it back in one piece - all very emotionally drained. Over the last few days we've all got ideas on how we can make H&K more sustainable - and we have 3 more days to fill in the detail before we leave.

We arrived back to see the girls had started work on a pasta feast; the plan had been hatched at the supermarket earlier in the day. Tomatoes were being chopped, garlic crushed, avocado sliced - OMG this was going to be good! Helen & I immediately went back to where we'd stopped - our Tuskar's! Helen put hers in a coffee mug just in case Mary came in (H&K manager). Next minute, Mary came in. "Nice cappuccino" I said to Helen :)

Just before we ate Mary wanted us to take some time to talk to the children - talking about respect, how they need to look after each other, set the right examples to the younger children etc.. We decided to split the children into 4 groups, older boys/girls, young boys/girls. We agreed to just set the scene tonight - give them some things to think about, for them them to sleep on it, and we'd be back tomorrow to spend more time with them, and look forward to their questions. Tony & I took the elder boys. 10 minutes later we were done. Mano-to-mano. The woman who'd taken the other 3 groups were another 15 minutes. Blinkin 'eke don't women rabbit on?! :)

Dinner was served. The meal was fantastic! The proof point was I didn't need tabasco! Now that is a compliment. We're now chillin, reflecting back on the day. What a day! We're excited about the problems we know we're in the midst of providing solutions - and equally emotionally drained by our day's events. It's 21:45 and we're going to bed. Well almost, Polly is now trying to give us guys a run for our money with the Executioner, yep there is flying malaria in the room and she is determined to get them. Ok you know we are blooming exhausted, we have had no booze (well apart from a tuskar beer) and lost the plot when our excitement and conversation is all around how many blooming bugs we can fry!


Ps.. if you've enjoyed reading this, and are moved by what you've read and would like to help, please donate to Hope and Kindness at www.justgiving.com/ciscohopeandkindness/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 3.

The girls are getting very competitive - they're discussing their aim when on the loo - gross!

It was quite a late night last night - must have been midnight, so everyone was a little slow to start - even still, we were all up by 7am. The noise and excitement from the children was infectious - they all looked so smart in the school uniforms - well, I'd say 50% had uniforms. After breakfast - salty porridge and/or mini bananas, it was time for assembly. We walked out to see 121 children all standing perfectly still, across 3 sides of the square. Then we heard chanting as 10 children came marching in, singing all-together. They stood still, completing the square, and came to attention. They then moved alongside the rest of the children. The children range from 4yrs to 15. The Headmaster, Mr Dedans, then came out and addressed the children; "Good morning, how are you?", "I'm fine thank you Mr Dedans, how are you?", "I'm fine". It was very special. We all had huge lumps in our throat. Over the next half-hour the children performed a series of songs, poems and stories. It was amazing - fantastic - we were all transfixed :) It was then time for us to be introduced - we all stood in-line at the front, and John introduced us one-by-one, and again after saying our names, they would repeat, "Hi …." - what a buzz! :) John mentioned Megan was from America, "you know where America is don't you?", and they all replied, "Yes! Barack Obama!", who's Grandmother of course was born in Kenya :)

Next it was time to hand out our clothes. First the 4yr olds. They all lined up neatly and the teacher read out their name to Tania, who after a quick check to see the football shirt would fit, wrote each child's name in indelible ink in the collar. With 131 children, this would take some time! But to see the faces of each child was magical. Of course, when a Manchester United or Chelsea shirt came out, you could hear the boys all softly call the team name - usual school football fans then, just like back home, all supporting Man U, or Chelsea - and not one Nottm Forest fan - what!?

Tania and I were then introduced to Stephen - we're sponsoring Stephen for $30 per month which pays for all his food, education and school uniform. Stephen knew we were his sponsors; we noticed he had no shoes - this was very upsetting. We told him about our son Connor, who at 9 is the same age as Stephen. Connor had written a letter to Stephen - we gave it to him for one of his teachers to read to him later. We called Connor on my phone so he could speak to Stephen - Connor asked which team he supported, "Manchester United, and my favourite player is Rooney!", "really! Same as me" Connor replied! :) We then had some photo's taken with Stephen, and with his 2 brothers who are also at the school. Every time we took a picture they want to see it - their friends would then say who's who - some of them have never seen their own reflection and so of course they don't know what they look like! :( One of the girls had never even seen a mouzungu (white person) before - she was 4 yrs old, and so so cute! :)

We didn't have time for lunch - we needed to start work on Grace's new houses so we took a picnic with us and the 10 children from the home that came along to help us :) The 9 of us then squeezed into the Hope and Kindness Land Rover - it looks like it's very much on it's last legs, mind you with the roads around here its not really surprising!

I can't stop giving my clothes away (Tania here) - yesterday a small girl was sweeping the yard at the school, and her dress had lots of holes & rips in it - I went and gave her one of her Abercrombie T-shirts and later that day she was wearing it - she looked so cute :) Today when building Grace's house, a boy had a T-shirt with rips in it - I took off my "Cisco volunteer" T-shirt off and gave it to him - Phil asked him his name - he replied but he voice was very quiet - he was very shy. "Pardon?" I replied. This time I heard him "Clifford" he said, just like phil's dad - suddenly that made us sad as Phil'sls dad passed away from cancer 2 years ago, and at times Phil in particular still finds it hard.

A group of us went off for a little side visit while the rest were finishing the house, oh my goodness you just cant believe what its like, a woman with 11 children in a tiny little mud hut, no water, no electricity, no real furniture to speak of, a picture from the side of a packet of razors is what they have to decorate their walls with. We had some little toy cars and some biscuits, but sadly not enough for all the little children. We'll be back there tomorrow with some aid :)

(Wrighty back now). I must say all the girls did an amazing job (Rachel, Helen, Polly, Megan, Emma & Tania). They were covered in sweat and thick mud - Tony couldn't resist and stop taking lot's of photo's - so lookout fella's for a 2011 Cisco Calendar special! ;) All this and it's still like 3pm in the afternoon!. House finished - well the first mud layer, so we decide to be very decadent and go for a soda on the way home, thats a coke to you and me. No diet coke here, you just take what you are given and be grateful - tasted blooming marvellous out of a cold fridge!!!I It was like out of the scene from Shawshank Redemption when they're on the roof having a cold beer! OMG that cold coke tasted good - the best coke I'd ever had! And talking of beer, we almost snuck in a cheeky beer in too, even though bars were not opening until 5pm we found someone who would serve us - we agreed a price of 800 Kenyan schillings for 8 large bottles (no negotiation - we're not here to barter). However, just as our mouths started to drool, when we touched the beer bottle it was warm - very warm! Tania hates beer but even she was nearly tempted. I wasn't having it, so the beers went back. Off back to the home, muddy, filthy dirty, all rushing for a nice cold shower, getting used to them already. Looked like Rachel had decided to have a bath, her bowl was almost overflowing!

Entertainment is quite interesting here so I challenged Tony to a game of fly frying in the teachers office (which has been turned into our chill-out room) - first to 5. It was a close game, and at 2-2 we changed ends. 4-4, match point! The kettle was whistling, and complained the tea/coffee needed to be made - we clearly pointed out that if it was for our skills they'd be 8 more fly's buzzing around their noodles (it was a fair point, but an hour later the tea still hadn't been made!). Whilst I was going for a backhand smash, i heard the crackle crackle hurt which meant Tony had won, 5-4. A close game, and one in which I feel a re-match coming on! Yep thats right, not TV, no X-Factor, no I'm a Celebrity, no blooming anything, but we've been playing cards and Perudo which is a lot of fun, and ok, Tania won at cards - damn where's the TV!!! :)

Now dinner here, well I said I'd try anything but tonight was pretty hard, that cement stuff ugly, just call it ugly, they pile it on their plates, then some whitebait type of fish (heads and all of course) and some seaweed stuff, big fat yuk! we came back and ate noodles with some salad stuff and loads lovely biscuits, that is our saviour, biscuits.

Big rain tonight but literally for half an hour, it wont touch the sides but at least it might be a little less dusty in the morning. We have all piled into bed early (all by 10pm) we are just so exhausted, so lying in our mozzie net sweating while it snows back home, how surreal does that feel.

Early brekkie tomorrow and then shopping for food parcels to take out to the community - they are all so desperate we agreed that would be a good use of our time and resources, so time to say goodnight, blog you for tomorrow with no doubt more sad stories to tell, but hopefully generous portions of laughter thrown in :)

Ps… just as I'm about to post this there's some weird noises coming from the girls room next door (Rachel, Megan & Polly) - sounds like a donkey trying to catch it's breath after carry a fat bloke on Skeggy (Skegness to you) beach! Noise has gone now - I think one of the girls must have thrown a pillow at whoever it was - come on girls, own up! :)
Day 2.

The start of a Day at Hope and KIndness is far from your typical - everything requires significantly more effort, from cleaning teeth, to showering, and of course the loo! But I'm sure in a couple of days we'll be well adjusted and it's business as usual (no pun intended!).

Breakfast was porridge, which apparently was salty! I wouldn't know - I don't do porridge at the best of times, and settled for a couple of mini-bananas - very sweet - gorgeous! Then filled my water bottle up by syphoning from the large filter bottled and took my daily malarone. The toilets are something else - 3 in the block - girls, boys and staff. There are 2 wooden hatches, which slide out of the way depending on your intentions! Either latrine or a "long-drop". Let's leave it there shall we!

The main event of the day is Sunday worship in the church across the road. I reserve my visits to the church for weddings & funerals, however this I couldn't wait for and was really looking forward to seeing the community - church is the life-blood of the community where they all come together to worship, communicate, celebrate and most of all sing! However, this is like no church I've ever seen - a shack made out of corrugated iron, tied onto lengths of tree branches. Back home it would be condemned and not even used to house cattle. It was an incredible experience. At one stage we were asked to come to the front and introduce ourselves. We asked if they had any questions - they replied, could we sing to them :) The only song I know is "swing low, sweet chariot", but we agreed on "Amazing Grace"… if you could call it singing! We were all struggling for the words, but John did us proud and quickly spoke the line before we sang it. It was a very uplifting experience. I met Joseph, and his wife Vinnie; Joseph only has one arm - his neighbour in a drunken rage attacked Joseph and severed his arm. He still lives door to Joseph. We met one old man (forgot his name) who has cataracts - easy to treat, but there's no money to pay for it. We'd be meeting him again tomorrow at his house.

We came back to Hope And Kindness for Sunday school (boarders only) - the children were reading & reciting stories. We were then introduced to the children one-by-one, and the children repeated " hello ….." all in time together - very very cute :) Next it was time to blow up some balloons - many hadn't seen balloons before - it was mad - fantastic fun - but mad, mad in a very nice way :) And next it was the bucket of Halibro sweets I'd brought from Costco - now they went down very very well - and just enough to go round one each :)

Lunch was next - noodles, plain & simple, with the obligatory poring of tabasco :) In the afternoon we wanted to split into groups and visit the community, walk to see some of the people we'd met at church. I was with Tania & Helen. The first house was Martha's - it was "only a short walk" of 5kms. Martha, who has TB, 2 children, no husband, and also looks after her sisters child, doesn't own a house - she rents a "house" for $6 a month. We then went to see Anna-Mourice - she also didn't own a house as it fell down in the rain earlier this year. She too was renting for $6 per month, to put a roof over her 5 children. Next was Lucas' house, who wasn't there at the time. His house wasn't complete - it had only had it's first course of mud applied. It needed 2 more before the layer of cattle manure, which binds and makes the house more solid. However, nothing was happening as he could afford to finish it. A house costs $500 to build, plus land. We'll be building one tomorrow - Grace's house. You feel so helpless. We gave some money to help pay for some rent, although it's discouraged as you don't know where the money ends up - I know that doesn't sound right, but if it ends up in the hands of the men it could be spent on alcohol. You're better off giving it to the mothers, but really it should come through the church, and through Hope and Kindness.

Everywhere we went there were children - lots and lots and lots of children, all smiling children. We'd taken sweets out with us - the children beamed with huge smiles on seeing the sweets. We were out for around 3hours visiting as many as we could in the community - and the other 2 teams were doing the same. When we came back we all shared stories of the hardship we'd witnessed. Everyone had a story to tell - we were all quite emotional.

Dinner was with the children here at Hope and Kindness school - those that lodge here, that are permanent. There's currently 34 - 18 girls & 16 boys. Dinner was rice with gram-greens (like lentils), again with dashes and dashes of tabasco. I had a big portion - but it was insignificant compared to some of the children's - they were HUGE! and they didn't leave a grain of rice :)

Next it was back to the teachers office to discuss our working week ahead. We broke down the tasks in hand and divided them up between the group. Tomorrow was going to be a group day - morning with the children as it was their last day at school before they broke for holidays, and in the afternoon we were going to build Grace a house - Grace is homeless as it fell down in the rain. Up until a few years ago there wasn't a word for "maintenance" in the Swahili - commonly they'd just leave things to deteriorate. Everyone was excited about what lay ahead :)

Next it was to divide up all the clothes we'd brought over into sizes/age groups - we needed to arrange into piles for all 131 children - boarders and day scholars. The room looked like a hurricane had passed through! It was going to be a long night! But fortunately, thanks to Rachel's folding skills from her days at Gap & Jigsaw, we were done by 23:00. The room looked fantastic, and we were very pleased with ourselves - tomorrow was going to be a great day :)

We just had enough energy for a cup and a game of cards - yes, I won, of course ;) much to the annoyance of Tania :-> Oh and a game of mozzie frying, and John spider catching in the girls room - it was HUGE!

ps.. John mentioned one of the teachers, Josephine, walks 10 miles each way to school, with her 3 yr old son who also attends the school. Josephine is paid $3 per day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 1.

So after 26 hours we're finally here. Get us - we had Nigel Havers (I'm a celebrity and I did get out of here) on the plane, did no one tell him there is no jungle here!

Interesting airport Nairobi - there isn't a lot to it, a couple of luggage belts. We were met by Victor from the Born Free foundation, who be our guide until we board the plane. First challenge is fitting 21 bags of luggage into 2 Land Rovers! Luggage on roof - case solved. First near miss - as we're loading the handbrake was not on in one of the cars so John nearly got his legs crushed!

First stop, see the baby orphaned elephants, very cute, must wonder what the hell a huge group of adults is doing just stood there gorming at them though. They get very attached to their keepers apparently so they have to have "families" so people can actually have a day off now and again.

Next, lunch overlooking the national park and some baboons, naughty little monkies. I of course went for a T-Bone - well, it was the final final last supper with…. Kenyan Tuskar Beer!

Next stop a 9 seater plane over to Kisi; we were allowed 1009 kilos. And to check we're not a kilo over we all have to stand on the blooming scales with our hand luggage, how humiliating.Of course I leaded the list coming in at 106k (with hand luggage I will add!) - well I had just eaten a T-bone after all ;)

One-by-one, we literally squeezed tight into our plane, and Derek (mr Grumpy) told us to listen up and put our 3-point belts on! A very small plane it has to be said, good take off, slightly worried when the pilot put his oxygen on though - ok, why you ask… well, I think it had something to do with Polly throwing-up on her own lap!!! OMG the stench! Where was our oxygen masks!

So we landed on a tiny airstrip, and couldn't fail to notice the hundreds of people that stretched the entire length! A plane landing is a rare site - they didn't know who we were - they were just so excited to see a plane, and what surprises were inside! As we came out onto the tarmac there were hundreds of kids lined up on the edge of the strip - all being held back by "the man with the stick"! With more than enough sweets for Hope & KIndness, we had to give some out there and then, so we brought out half-a-dozen bags. What happened next was overwhelming - swarms of children's hands stretched out for sweets - a sea of hands is all you could see, oh and Tania's faces - a mixture of joy & shear panic!! There was never going to be enough to go round - and you couldn't see who'd had what. The man with the stick suddenly raised his namesake and for a few seconds order was restored, only to be broken as the children knew the bag was nearing empty.

It was then a matter of squeezing our 21 bags into another Land Rover as we squeezed into a Matatu (Toyota people carrier - they're everywhere!), which for the next 2hrs would take us along the bumpiest of roads any of us had experienced. It was to be a fascinating journey… a non-stop mixture of shops littered our route - everything from furniture shops (well, huts actually), food/market stalls, mobile phone top-up shops, "shopping centres" (which were one small room shops), "hotels" (small snack bars)… and all the way people were shouting "Mouzungu's!!", which is a friendly way of saying white people.

We arrived at Hope And Kindness into an amazing reception - all the children were there to great us, all full of song, hand waiving and chanting - very very over-whelming! It took quite some time to go round and greet everyone - so many happy faces, so many hands to shake and so many names to remember! Many of the children were quite shy - though I'm sure that'll change, especially when we get our sweets out :)

After a while it was time to get the children to settle down - the teachers took them into their classrooms for story telling time and time for bed.

Dinner for us was ugali (corn maize flour) and talapai (a local white fish from lake Victoria), plus….. several dashes of the tobacco i'd brought! It went down just great - though no one asked for more! I just hope the tobacco bottle lasts the week!

Evening entertainment mostly consisted of my Terminator - the mozzie tennis racket fryer! My forehand was better than my backhand, although I did manage a multi-kill from a back-hand lob! Problem was everyone wants to play a game of mozzie frying - good job we brought 2 so we can have a game of doubles :) We were just getting into it when the electric went out - we quickly wound up our lanterns, and all agreed we needed an early night - after all, it was turning 9pm. We were going to start opening up the laptops which had arrived (bought from the kind donations we'd rec'd) and talk about the week's itinerary, though we were all bushed! That could wait till breakfast.

We'll all sleep sound tonight - and think about the days ahead. It's going to be a rollercoaster of emotions - I know that sounds such a cliche, but already we've experienced the hard reality of living in these extreme conditions - when tiny things we take for granted back home can bring such joy, and seeing the joy and laughter of the children is a high like no other. I still can't take in the fact that all of these children have no parents - I have to try and put that out of my mind, otherwise there's a danger of getting so depressed that you're not in the right frame of mind to enjoy the experience; hearing the giggles & laughter of the children quickly snaps you out of any thoughts of despair. Can't wait for tomorrow :)

Good night all…

ps… just been told we mistakenly have brought mr Gumpy's laptop with us! Oooops ;) Oh well, he can have it back when we get back to Nairobi on Saturday.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The last supper!!!

So here we are, finally all 9 of us, at the last supper before we are for the off!

We are embracing our giving back culture fully by indulging in lots of free champagne and burgers in the lounge........ oops but lets face it we wont see any more alcohol for a week so we've got to make the most of it!!!!

The bags are packed (ours mostly full of sweets and football shirts) and loaded and we are now waiting for the off.

We have raised over 17k, absolutely amazing, honestly that is more than a third of what the orphanage needs to run for a year, you guys are fabulous. I cant wait to bring you back the pictures and videos to show you what your money is doing.

Nothing funny to report yet, apart from Phil's Movember tash, which is wonky and absolutely hilarious.

I must post this now as killing precious battery, further updates later.........



No more sleeps! Wow this has come around so quickly. It really sunk in yesterday as we started to take the malarone tablets – 1 a day now until a week after we return. I bet them blinkin mozzies already know I’m comin’! They’ll have been fasting waiting for my blinkin blood – they love me!

So what's new - well firstly, with the amount of business travel I’ve done over the last 5 weeks (away for 3 of them) I’ve not been able to get myself motivated to get into the gym – so I thought “why not have a go with Tania’s personal trainer?” Bad idea! Especially when I heard her telling him she’d pay double if he made me throw-up! Well, he didn’t quite manage that, but not far off - for the last 2 days I’ve been walking like a man of 90 in high heels! Oh the pain. I'm nearly recovered just in time for the 26hr door-to-door journey.

I called in at the mountaineering shop on the way home from the office yesterday – just to see if there were any last minute gadgets I forgotten – nope, got them all I soon realised. However, I did purchase one item I think could be invaluable – a torch on a strap to fit around you head – for nocturnal comfort breaks you see! Can you imagine going to the loo in pitch black, holding a torch – let’s not go there! Anyway, case solved. I also called in at a games shop - bought a couple of packs of cards, game of liar dice... stuff to keep us occupied at night once all the kids have gone to bed. Though one problem – there’s no alcohol!! Yep – a week of abstinence! Ouch! Actually, that’s just what I need - I need a break before the Christmas holiday celebrations.

The other exciting purchase was in Costco at the weekend – a 5kg party pack (mega-tub!) of sweets.... 5kg! Oh, I also bought a 2kg of Halibro & 2 kg of Jelly Belly jelly beans! 9kg! I’ll have to find room in my bag somewhere, though that’s 30% of my weight allowance! So what - the children will absolutely love them, and us of course!

So that’ll please the kids - and I’ve just seen a mail which’ll please the adults – we’re taking 2,000 flavoured condoms kindly donated by Boots – WOW! How long will 2,000 condoms last – now that’s what we all want to know! I hope we don’t get searched when we land – can you imagine the looks/questions... 6 girls, 3 blokes & 2,000 condoms! "So exactly how long are you planning to be in Kenya?" OK, not politically correct, but hey, you got to see the funny side :)

Good news... Virgin are giving us all access to their lounge! I think we’ll be on a mission to drink our weight in Champagne before we get on the plane – now that’ll ruin our chance of an upgrade! OK, I’ll have to settle one-to-three of their delicious burger & chips – our last supper before a week of ground maize flour & spinach. Actually – the food at Hope & Kindness looks great, and I can’t wait to help out in the kitchen – I might even spice everyone’s meal up from the 500ml bottle of Tabasco I bought (also from Costco at the weekend!).

Right – got to rush.. got to finishing packing (not that I’ve got any room left after all those sweets!), and a last tidy-up of my Movember.

Blog you later, from the Virgin Lounge!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not long to go now – just 8 more sleeps as my son Connor would say!

Talking of which, it’s his 9th birthday today – he was very excited this morning – couldn’t get the little blighter to sleep last night. So we were woken up very early this morning for card & present opening – usual stuff for a 9yr... football gear & computer games! I started making a video which I’m going to take to the orphanage – I did the school run with Connor and went into his classroom to video a typical classroom morning (though recalling my school days it was very un-typical) - it was very quiet, even though it was pre-class; several of his mates were in “reading corner” with their heads stuck into their books! I was very impressed! So then of course it was my opportunity to embarrass Connor, and sing Happy Birthday :)

I’m making the video so I can show the children in Kosele the daily life of our son in school – Tania & I are sponsoring a boy called Stephen, and we want to share with him Connor’s typical morning – though of course he doesn’t have a birthday every day! Next week Tania’s going into school to talk to the children about what we’re trying to achieve, and take some video messages which we’ll be sharing with the children in Kosele. And equally we’ll be taking lots of video & photos at Kosele to bring back and share with children at Connor’s school – and of course with the blog readers!

The fundraising is going really well – we’ve already smashed our original target of £10,000, and now in typical Cisco stretch mentality are aiming for £20k – now that really would be amazing, especially with Cisco match-funding!! The charity will be able to do so so much with that – we’re hoping we can now build an additional classroom so more children can gain access to valuable and desperately needed education.

Anyway – enough of the serious stuff for a moment :) .... the other news is I’ve expanded! Yes, after 2 solid weeks on the road, for 15 nights in 3 different hotels from Miami to Dubai hosting customers - engaging in the odd glass/pint of the wine/beer, of course just from a social perspective you understand, I’ve literally ballooned - I have what you ladies call a muffin-top! So much so, that all the clothes I bought (well, 3 pairs of trousers to be precise) no longer get round my now perfectly shaped sphere of a belly!! What the ..! So what can be achieved in the 8 days left before I leave for Kosele? .... major healthy eating, exercise & drastic abstaining from alcohol is the only way forward! Fun fun fun :-/

Also, on the gadget & gizmo front the portfolio’s growing nicely; yesterday a present arrived from Tania.... “The Executioner TM”! It’s an “electronic fly, wasp, mosquito and bug zapping racket”! WOW, it’s brilliant!!! I’ve never been a dab hand at tennis, but I reckon I’m a Federer in the making :) Though one word of warning – I’ve noticed it does say “not a toy for children!” – is this something I really should be taking? I don’t care!! I’ll make sure it stays way out of reach of the kids and in my bedroom! Blinkin mozzies!! Whilst in Miami I managed to get a round of golf in, and before I could even hit a ball I was nearly eaten alive by teeny weenie insect vampire-type thingy’s! I must be their favourite dish – I swear I had over 50 bites in 10mins before I could spray myself. So I’m panicking about those blood-suckers in Kosele – should I invest in a burker?

That’s all for now bloggers – I send an update before we leave next Friday, and let you know the results of my fat smashing!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Post From Wrighty!!!!!

Unfortunately Wrighty is on a plane and hasnt accepted my invite to post so i've got to do it for him, typical bloke eh, well typical Wrighty!

So we’ve started our journey... which actually nearly didn’t start at all!

... we trotted off to the doctors for our jabs, the main one you have to have being yellow fever but actually there are quite a few others needed for the far west of Kenya, some of which I’d already had a  couple of years back as part of my job in Emerging markets so I needed less jabs than her indoors – so the nurse says she'll do me first and when I whipped my top off well lets say she was impressed (suggested to Tania that she leave the room, ha ha ha J) and starts to inject away with all the usual stuff... hepatyrix, typheria, revaxis... I was a human pin cushion! So that's me done and just as she's about to do Tania she asks us why we are going.

We honestly never thought about it but when Tania disclosed to the nurse she’s a cancer survivor and has recently had radiotherapy & chemo, the nurse says she can’t give her the yellow fever vaccination as it’s a “live” vaccine; chemo basically blasts everything, including your whole immunity system and It takes 6 months afterwards for your immune system to build back up. Tania’s last chemo was 5 months ago, oops and therefore the injection could actually give Tania full blown yellow fever which could kill her, great and you cant get into Kenya unless you have proof that you've had it!! To say this was a massive blow is an understatement – Tania’s had her heart set on this trip, and after all she’s been through this just seemed yet another bitter pill to swallow – “when will it end!” she cried L

However, determined as you probably know she is, she asked that given it’s been 5 months since her treatment, surely it’ll be ok. The nurse said she’d need it in writing from her oncologist and only if she sanctions Tania having the injection will she go ahead. So being the woman she is she’s immediately off talking to her oncologist’s secretary, and the following day she gets the news - as soon as she rang me later I could tell from her voice she’d had good news! J So next week it’s her turn to have the human pin cushion treatment – though she should be used to it by now with all her various operations and treatments!

So now the adventure is back on, and it’s full steam ahead with fund raising!!! Asking... pestering/hounding/harassing, even bullying family and friends, colleagues, customers... (hint: that’s you!) you name it, to raise the valuable money required which the children at H&K desperately need.

And of course, apart from that, the fun starts as I’m now well into buying on-line our personal clothes, gadgets & gizmo’s to try and make it as pleasurable and (comfortable) an experience as possible – you know, normal stuff... mozzie sprays, and more mozzie spays, mozzie coils (those things you light at night), insect repellent, bite relief click thingies, tick removers, wind up torches, solar battery chargers for cameras, ...etc... And then there’s the food! I’ve seen the food we’ll be having, and of course I recognise I need to fully immerse myself into the whole experience, but my palette has been developed & nurtured on all the delicate things in life, like kebabs, balti curry’s, pepperoni pizza’s,... surely would it be wrong to take the odd bit of “luxury”? You know, like instant (pot!) noodles J I’m being told ”NO!!” So I reckon on taking the odd bottle of tabasco, and/or sweet chilli sauce to help give the local food a little spice for my Western/British palette! J

That’s all for now - lots more to follow. Please add yourself as a “follower” to this blog & pass onto your family & friends. Oh, and of course, please don’t forget to sponsor us for H&K at http://www.justgiving.com/CiscoHopeandKindness