Unlike last December, this year I decided not to come home to Connecticut. December here has so far been all I thought it would be; just look at the above photo and read my last blog post! But just because I chose to ride out the northern hemisphere’s winter in the 85 degree Kenyan summer doesn’t mean Arrive isn’t gearing up for the holidays. The kids are excited, I am excited, and you should be excited – this holiday season you have the opportunity to change a child’s life. What we have accomplished this year (which you can see by clicking here) has been nothing short of astounding and it is because of you. I have tried to be completely transparent, to respond to every single email and write blog posts as often as possible from rural Kenya (and a not-so-fast internet connection), and most importantly to create a sustainable home and future for the Arrive children while empowering members of the local society to create long-term, sustainable economic growth and standard of living improvement.
Like any non-profit organization, our success relies on your support. We are thankful for everything you have done and continue to do. This holiday season, I ask you to consider making a donation, of any amount, to Arrive. Because we are a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. But what, you ask, do we have planned for 2015 and your generous donations?
Besides continuing our success, our childrens home has been recently visited by Kenyan Health Officials. Unlike our home, there are many fake orphanages in Kenya – scams that enable a person to receive donations to be used for personal use. One “orphanage” I visited brings kids in from around their village when they expect visitors who they think have money, then when the visitor is gone, the kids are told to go home and the owner of the “orphanage” uses all money donated for personal use. If that type of behavior disgusts you as much as it disgusts me, then the Officials’ visit can be seen as a needed oversight. Visits like this are not uncommon but always a bit scary as corruption is unfortunately the norm here in Kenya.
The Officials were shocked – they arrived at a home they did not expect. They were blown away by the kids (like the one on the right), the sustainable aspects of our lifestyle, the running water, and what we have accomplished. But of course, they had their critiques (that is their job). They said that our infrastructure is lacking – the iron sheets which the boys’ and girls’ house are made from are less than 1/16 of an inch thick and can be cut through with a knife. They have requested we build “permanent” homes made from bricks and cement. So, to answer the question on the tip of your tongue, that is where our immediate focus will be looking forward.
But how can we look forward without looking back? Let me take you back a few weeks. For Thanksgiving this year, I celebrated by buying, slaughtering, and roasting over a fire my very own chicken (I couldn’t quite find a turkey…or an oven). I was thinking about my life here in Kenya. For anyone that has visited, you know I have always slept down in the boys’ dorm, even when we slept on the dirt without a floor, let alone beds. However, I would frequent the main house (about 200 yards up a hill that will give anyone's glutes a workout) to eat, to take hot showers, and to use the computer. As I was eating my Thanksgiving chicken, I thought that in order for me to really know how the kids here at home live I must live like them. I decided that, for the month of December, I would permanently stay down in the boys’ dorm. Furthermore I decided to forgo showers with running water, familiar meals, and toilets with seats. Eleven days in, it has already been a valuable experience and I have learned much about our home, the kids, and myself. Below is a short list of a few of those things.
Have an amazing holiday season no matter what holiday you may be celebrating. From the Arrive family to yours, from Kenya to wherever you may be in the world, Sikukuu Njema Sana (“Very Happy Holidays” in Swahili).
A Few Things I Have Learned (So Far...)
Using a Latrine Instead of a Toilet
My quadrupeds have become much stronger.
Always bring an incense.
Taking Bucket Showers (also in the latrine)
One thing worse than a hot bucket shower is a cold bucket shower. If there is enough firewood, I usually heat up the water first.
My 40-minute showers in America were a bit excessive.
Always bring an incense. Always.
Eating Local Cuisine
Avocados are lifesavers, or should I say mealsavers? My dinner is what the kids eat for dinner: ugali for carbohydrates; kale picked fresh from our garden cooked with diced tomatoes, onions, and peppers (also from our garden) for fiber and vitamins A, C, and K; kidney beans for protein; and avocado hand-picked from one of our trees for potassium and heart-healthy fatty acids. Ugali is the preferred food here (maize flour mixed with water: an African staple food, called "pap" in South Africa, "posho" in Uganda, "fufu" in Nigeria, etc) but has no taste and is so dry you can choke if you don't have a glass of water nearby. I love the kale, but adding an avocado makes the meal bearable, which is convenient because we eat this every...single...night (the kids, on the other hand, love ugali).
4:30am is somehow not considered an early time to wake up, and nobody seems to care if they make a small, noisy ruckus in the darkness. However...
...What a great start to my day! I wake up, enjoy a cup of fresh chai tea, and watch the sunrise. It is refreshing to wake up without my laptop staring me in the face, almost taunting me to check Facebook.
Training a Puppy
Sardines (omena in Swahili) make for perfect dog treats. Chui, one of our dogs, gave birth a few months ago. We gave away all the puppies but one - Chui is already pregnant again and as much as I would like, if we raised all of her puppies from every litter, dog breeding would force its way to our top priority. Plus, puppies make great gifts. However, my favorite pup, Bakuu (pronounced "bah-KOO"), isn't going anywhere and it is my job to train him. Without a dog treat within 300 square miles, I was stumped. But then I remembered the piles of sardines in the market and their cheap price because of our proximity to the second biggest lake in the world, Lake Victoria. For $2.00 I can buy a bag of omena that lasts a few weeks and Bakuu loves the nutritional, natural treat. Living in the boys' dorm means living next to Bakuu, giving me ample time to train him.
Be thankful! A bite of fried catfish, hot water instead of cold, or a roof over my head during a rainstorm - I am thankful for it all.