This morning, at the "late" hour of 5:00am, I woke up. Not because I wanted to; but because a large rooster walked directly across my face. It was then that I had the thought "today would be a great day to write a blog (and to have a chicken dinner)!" Last weekend I had the privilege of taking a weekend vacation to Kampala, Uganda. After crossing into Uganda, I got my first giant glimpse of The Nile River, the longest river in the world. I was seated between a Rwandan man (our conversation revolving around Hotel Rwanda) and a Ugandan man (our conversation revolving around The Last King of Scotland) and the 12 hour bus ride flew by. But the fun really started when I arrived in Kampala. I had a great time staying with my friends Yazan and Amy, who live in a small home in the "Old Kampala" neighborhood with about ten Congolese refugees. Citizens from the Democratic Republic speak Swahili and French among their tribal languages, so it was easy for me to communicate with them in Swahili. Hearing their stories of their experiences of the ongoing war in the eastern DRC was heartbreaking, exhilarating, and kept me up all night.
Besides making amazing new friends, Yazan and Amy gave me a top-notch tour of Kampala. Different in many ways than Kenya, Uganda itself was a new experience. Different foods; different languages; different cultures. That is one amazing thing about East Africa - you can travel 20 minutes and be in a different tribe; a different world. After my full day's journey, I felt like I was on a different planet! In Kampala, Yazan, Amy and I walked around inside the Gaddafi Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Africa. We thren climbed to the top of the minaret to get a 360 degree view of Kampala. Later, we went to an Indian restaurant located on the top-level of the parking garage. The tables are set up in the middle of the parking lot.
As Yazan says, one time, mid-meal, they had to pick up their table and move because a car wanted to pull out. And did I mention they serve Chicken Lollipops?!? Balls of fried chicken and Indian spices, with a chicken bone stuck into in like a lollipop. A must visit, locals-only spot in the middle of Kampala, with the best Indian food I have ever had. Another night, we even grabbed dinner (unlimited sushi for $5) with Brin, the amazing founder of "The African SOUP," which I mentioned in my previous blog post. I learned so much from her and look forward to building our frienship moving forward.
Back at home in Kenya, things are going smoothly. The Arrive family is becoming just that...a family. During this break from school we have had time to hang out, relax, work, learn, and grow together. The newest addition to the home has been a freezer. A freezer in the middle of Kenya is like an oasis of cold in a desert of heat. The children immediately searched for any bottle they could find, saved up a little money and bought 5 cent packets of the Kenyan version of Crystal Light sugar. After mixing flavors like mango, apple, guava, and pineapple together to make their own concoctions, they lined up at the freezer to have their drinks be magically turned into ice.
For a long time, I have watched our children pick up boiling pots of water, straight off the fire, with their bare hands (I have tried to introduce the idea of oven mitts, to no avail). The one time I tried, I promptly got about eight blisters on my fingertips. But revenge is so sweet, and so so so cold. Watching the kids trying to hold a water bottle of ice is like watching someone learning how to juggle. The kids watch in awe as I casually hold the bottles and bite into the ice, knowing that if they tried the same maneuver their fingers and teeth would ache from the cold. What they have in heat tolerance, I have in cold. Thank you Connecticut and Colorado!
Besides continuing construction on the running water system (more information coming soon, I promise), we added a new member to the Arrive family! Felix is 12 years old and only lived on the streets for a few months. When both of his parents died he was only a young child. He lived at his uncle's home until just last year.
Instead of going to school, he was limited to spending his days doing farm work and other manual labor. With not much food at home and an urge to go to get an education, he decided to search for a better life on the streets of Kisii. Upon arrival, he heard about our home and walked all the way here. When he reached our home, in January, it was the first time we met. I found him sitting on one of our picnic tables. Like so many other street children who find their way here on their own, he received a meal, some new clothes, and money to get back to where he came from...the streets. Not because we didn't want to help Felix; we did. But we have a limited amount of funds and resourcrs. However, I was fond of Felix. I researched his family and background. I made a visit to his village and talked with everyone that knew him. Finally, after three months of living on the streets, we gave him the opportunity to live with us at the Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home. He hasn't looked back since.
In truth, none of the kids have looked back. We continue to move ahead, through the good times and the challenging times. The kids are succeeding. Everyone is happy. Everyone is improving. And myself? Well, I may never be able to casually carry a pot of boiling water, but at least I can enjoy some ice-cold beverages from our new freezer.