Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Final Blog From Kenya


November 29, 2014

Last Blog From Kisumu, Kenya

Dear Friends and Family,

This is my last blog from Kenya before I return home in two more days. It is also the first blog without photos, so hope you will still enjoy it.  Actually, I am now home – it is December 2nd.

I have decided to return home about 3 weeks early because of an upsetting incident that happened to me earlier this week. A Kenyan visa is only good for 90 days, and so I went to the Immigration Office to renew it which I have done several times before.

I was directed to the Office of Registration for Foreign Nationals where I was “interrogated” for 5 ½ hours and my Passport was taken from me. I finally called the US Embassy who noted my situation and spoke to the Immigration Officials. Finally, my Passport was returned, but I was not allowed to extend it nor register as a Foreign National. Before I was handed my passport back, a friend of mine who was with me – a Kenyan whose passport and ID was also taken – had to “help” the Immigration Official. The reason my friend’s passport and ID were confiscated was because she was “rude”!!

I was told to go to Nairobi, and extend my Visa there. Thus, I had to fly there and after a couple of hours of going from building to building and office to office, my passport was extended without any problem and without a fee.

Never the less, I think it is time to go home, and I am leaving here on December 1st and see many of you soon.

One of the most unfortunate things is that I will leave my volunteering at KMET a couple of weeks early, although I have for the most part finished my work. My colleagues will follow up.

OK – enough of that.

Even though I have been in Africa so many times – about 12 or 15, I still can’t get used to Africa time which either doesn’t exist or is often hours behind my sense of timing. The result is that planning is meaningless, and my to do list just goes on and on. Oh well – maybe I will still learn but somehow I don’t think of I will ever get used to it.

The KMET Building construction is way ahead of schedule. Yes, that sounds strange given what I have just said, but I think part of it is my own sense of timing. I have been able to get the electrical power cables put underground which KMET had talked about but never did. It is now much safer since the overhead power cable was touching the new construction. Whew!!

The last time I went to the Kenyan Power Company, I found several of the workers sleeping at their desks. It probably happens in many government offices all over the world anyway. Maybe it was just a “power nap” Hahaha.

One of the people I know here is Everlyne Obama. She and President Obama are first cousins. Their fathers were brothers. Obama is a Luo name, and quite common around here.

The other night I had to go out of the house for a few minutes, and Tammy, a nice dog who lives here ran to greet me. Except that she was wearing a leash and ran around my legs several times and suddenly there I was and couldn’t walk. I yelled for help and in a moment from friends came to save me. Luckily I didn’t fall.

After some 3 or 4 years of being broken I was able to get the KMET soda refrigerator repaired. But, in the process, I introduced the KMET Canteen Director to the Coke people. The way I did it was to actually drive to the Coca Cola HQ, find a repair person, drive him back to KMET, let him find the problem, drive him back to Coke with the broken part, and bring him back to finally fix it. And then finally take him back to Coke. Well, it worked, and now I think they understand the saying, “If you cant bring Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed”.

I complained that my TV was not getting a good signal, so the caretaker came to my house and put scotch tape on the antenna which promptly fell off. Finally they gave me a small internal antenna, but there is nothing worth watching anyway.

So, another ending to a volunteer stint. Did I do well? Yes! Did I complete my tasks? Mostly. What am I proud of? Mentoring and teaching some of my colleagues and the KMET Construction. What I am disappointed in? Too many people relied on me to do things, and not enough people learned as much as I would have liked, but I did the best I could and that is what counts. You can’t do everything, and as one of my favorite sayings goes: “If you save one life you save the world” Well I did that, so I am happy.

Bye and love,


Peter

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Morning Sun Bath


A Very Big Boy


WOW!!!


Jumping Maasai




Maasai Woman Dancing


Maasai Village Girl and Her Baby Goat



Big Mouth!


The Day of the Jackal


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

7 Year Old Maasai Boy Herding Goats


Giraafe (Twiga) In Evening Light


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Nairobi, Kenya, Blog 4, November 2, 2014



November 2, 2014

Nairobi, Kenya

Here we are in Nairobi spending the day together before Hinda leaves for the US after being here for a couple of weeks. It was a great visit for both of us, spending time together, meeting old friends, seeing the progress Peter has made at KMET and going on a great safari.

There are new roads being built all of this country and all of them seem to be constructed by the Chinese.  There is one new road in Kisumu going to the airport however, all it is short and all roads leading to it are worse than ever. Try going on them on a motorbike or a tuktuk and it will might jar your teeth loose. 

Before Hinda came I had power blackouts at least twice a day but since she came there have not been any, but now that she is leaving I am a bit worried.  I’ll see what awaits me when I get back to Kisumu Monday night.

At work, the construction is progressing faster and more efficiently than any of us could have imagined and I am sure it will be finished before I return to Seattle at the end of December. One of my jobs is to help raise money for this project, I have raised about 1 million shillings or $12,000 and still going strong. If you want to see the construction progress find KMET Kenya on Facebook. I have just successfully negotiated with the power company to underground all wires so that there will be no wires or poles hanging around the building which will be much safer.  This is the kind of expertise I bring to KMET that no one else has.  And hopefully will pave the way for others, in fact, I am mentoring a young man who I worked with a couple of years ago when he was an intern and he is learning quickly. So this is what it is about for me.

Guess what? Bagels have come to Kisumu, well, they look like bagels. But looking like and tasting are two different things. 

I was supposed to have wifi in my cottage, but somehow, like so many things, it never came.  Finally I was told one day that when I came home from work the wifi would be there. Hakuna wifi-No wifi.  Hinda was here by this time, we called the wifi company, that evening, 3 technicians and a salesperson came to our cottage, while they were trying to figure out the problem, one of their phones rang and the ring was “this is the president of the United States calling”, we all had a good laugh but the wifi still did not work. The next day, and three and half hours late the wifi company replaced the router and lo and behold, the wifi came right on and has been working ever since.

We have told you before that even when people live in mud and stick houses with dirt yards they are neat and clean. The people who live there have the whitest, cleanest, neatest well ironed clothes. And despite walking through mud their shoes are bright and shiny.

Shortly after Hinda arrived she was asked to give a motivational talk to the young women in the KMET training programs.  She spoke to about 30 young women, telling them they need to believe in themselves, make sure to take care of themselves and their children and not to let anyone tell them they cannot do anything.  They had lots of questions about the US, like how many wives can a man have, (in Kenya a man can have many), does everyone have to go to school, how do we support young girls who have children as young as 12 or 13, is it true, you can earn a lot of money, washing cars on the street?  These young women have a very distorted view of life in America.  Many of them have had children and are very young, one women I met is 24 and has a 10 year old son. Since she is the oldest child in her family she is responsible for taking care of her mother, 3 sisters and her son.  Talk about burdens. See the KMET Kenya facebook page for some photos.

We have traveled all over the world beginning in 1961. We grew up in NYC which purportedly has some of the worst traffic in the world but nothing compares to Nairobi.  The traffic jams are endless.  It can take more than two hours to go 10 miles/17 kilometers.

We went to the Maasai Mara for a 4 day safari. We saw every animal except a Black Rhino, that live in the Mara. For the first time, we saw a leopard on the ground.  All that we have seen previously were in trees. We also saw a crocodile trying to take a Zebra as he crossed the Mara River.  Fortunately, the Zebra did a double kick and got away.  Wounded but alive.  It was sad, because his family was on the other side of the river and could not cross because the crock was lying in wait, so the poor wounded Zebra paced back and forth not knowing what to do next.

On the morning before we left while out searching for the elusive Black Rhino, we came upon a magnificent male Lion.  It is no wonder, they are called the King of the Beasts.  He was having a morning sunbath alone in a quiet spot in the bush. We were less than 10 feet away as he posed, yawned and seemed quite unconcerned about our presence, and why should he be. We took lots of photos, here are a couple.

But to get to the Maasai Mara we had to travel 90 kilometers/55 miles on dirt road which was blocked most of the time by rock barricades. Why? The Chinese were supposed to pave the road but were held up by the county refused to pay the contractor who prepared the road for the Chinese, so the contractor blocked the road every few feet with rocks since he was not paid. 

Before and after the safari, our son Saul, gave us 2 nights in the Nairobi Hilton.  It was really nice and we even had lox and eggs for breakfast, which was really good. Thanks Saul.

Back to KMET, the girls in the training program and some of the staff and volunteers are hard at work preparing to record a CD similar to the one we produced, and some of you may have heard in 2009. Again, the songs and music were composed by the singers.

Love, Hinda and Peter

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Christine's Beautiful Smile Now


Christine "Before"


Hairdressing Class


SFC Student in Class Doing a Pedicure


Going Up!


Marion and Me at Her School


Blog 4 Kisumu, Kenya

Blog 3
Kisumu, Kenya

October 19, 2014

Hi!!

I know it has not been very long since I wrote to you last, but there are some things I want to share with you – most importantly that Hinda arrived a couple of days ago and we are happy to see each other again after too long of an absence.

When I flew to Nairobi a few days ago to meet Hinda, a friend of mine met me at the airport.  Before checking in, you have to go through a security check and then again immediately after checking in.  My friend was carrying a large bottle of water and a can of spray net.  No problem through the first security check, but at the second one she was told to give up her can of spray net to the security guard (a woman), but not the large bottle of water.  The security guard wanted the spray net for herself!!

Many of you know about Marion who Hinda and I and some of you are helping to send to school.  I visited her school for the first time a couple of weeks ago and got to meet her teachers and see her school as well as to visit with her.  She is just about to finish Class 7 and enter Class 8.  As usual she is near the top of her class – she is 6th in a class of a hundred or more, and she is doing well.  But Marion is not only bright, but a very nice young woman.  I have put a photo of she and I on this blog.  I will be sending an email to some of you soon asking those of you who have helped support her education to do so once again.  Marion’s education, indeed that of any girl here in Kenya and elsewhere in similar places is a good investment.  If you invest in a girl’s education, you are helping a whole village.  If you only help a boy, that is all you are doing as important as that may be.

Here is an amazing story about what an organization like KMET can and does do:  Christine is a young woman of 29 who has twins and another young child.  She was widowed 2 years ago.  At the age of 9, one of her front teeth developed a problem that you can see in the accompanying photo. 

A couple of years ago I helped KMET start a community dental clinic designed to be accessible to low income people and affordable.  It has been a great success.

So I arranged for Christine to go to see the community dental technician there, (Joshua), he is not a dentist, but does everything a dentist does.  Joshua examined her; determined that her tooth which has a nearly dead nerve could be saved; did a root canal; measured her for a cap; had a lab make the cap; and installed it all in one day at the cost of 8,000 Kenyan Shillings - $90.40.  I checked a private dentist in town and the cost was about 50,000, and in the USA, thousands of dollars!  So Christine has her smile, I am proud, and the KMET Dental Clinic is doing what it was set up to do.  A win win win for all.

Here where I live I discovered that the water from the bathroom sink, shower, and kitchen sink were all flowing directly on to the ground and forming a pool of water and a nice place for mosquitoes.  So the plumber came connected everything to the septic tank. OK?  Not quite.  In the process he cut the underground power cable to my cottage and then there was no power for another day or so until the cable could be dug up and replaced.  Does it sound like fun yet?

The power here has been going off at least once or twice a day for the last 2 weeks; buy since Hinda came the power is back.  Thanks Hinda not only for coming to visit your husband of nearly 54 years but bringing power with you!!

At KMET where I am helping to add an additional floor, we discovered that we had to move a power pole because the power wires was going to hit the new floor.  The city power company – KPLC has estimated the cost to be nearly 1/3 of the entire construction cost of the new floor, so we will have a meeting with them next week and do some heavy bargaining.  (That’s what I am here for so wish me luck).

One the things that I have been doing is fundraising to cover the cost of the new floor being built.  There was not enough donated initially to pay for all of it.  Thus far I have already raised or have commitments for nearly 500,000 Kenyan Shillings!  And I am still continuing.

KMET has had for quite a few years, a skills training program for vulnerable and abused young women – tailoring, catering, and hairdressing.  The younger sister of my motorcycle taxi driver told me that his 21 year old sister had a child out of wedlock and had not finished school, so I connected him to the KMET training program – Sisterhood for Change, and she is now enrolled in the tailoring program at a very affordable cost and after graduating will stand a good chance of getting a job or even starting her own small business. 

When I went to meet Hinda at the Nairobi Airport, a policeman stopped the taxi I was in at the airport entrance.  He looked inside and outside the car and then got in himself.  He asked where I was going and I told him I was going to meet Hinda.  He asked the driver some more questions, thought for a while and then finally got out and let us go.  He wanted “something”, but he was unsuccessful.

Then as I waited for Hinda after her plane had arrived she seemed to be taking a long time, so I called her. She told me that everyone getting off the plane was having his or her temperatures taken as a precaution against someone who might be contagious with Ebola.  That’s a good idea, but she told me that there were only two people taking the temperatures of hundreds of passengers, and one of the thermometers was broken, so she and other passengers just walked past them.  Imagine!!

This is far too long!  Sorry! 

We are going to enjoy Kisumu for a couple of weeks and then go on a 4 day safari to the Maasai Mara just before Hinda returns home on November 2nd.


Enjoy, and love from both Hinda and me.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Morning Singing at KMET

video

Monica, KMET Security Guard


Mary, Panda's Paradise


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Flower Was Gone In A Couple Of Hours. Lesson: BE THERE!


Sisterhood for Change Tailoring Students


Sisterhood for Change Hairdressing Students


Blog 2 Kisumu, Kenya

Blog 2
Kisumu, Kenya
September 28, 2014

Hi All!

Everything is fine with me here in Kisumu.  I am starting this blog on Sunday, September 28th, but probably won’t finish it for a few more days.  I think there will be a big storm soon.  It has been raining most evenings – sometimes in torrents, and sometimes just rain.

I am just about to prepare breaded tilapia fillets, rice, and vegetables for dinner for a friend and myself.  Hope it will be good.

There is a lot to talk about and a few nice photos.  I also took a short video of some of the KMET staff singing at one of the twice weekly morning meetings.  I will post it to this blog and hope that you will be able to open it and listen for a few seconds, but even so, it does not do justice to the beautiful acapella singing.

Where to start?  With the bad, the funny, the good?  Let’s see what you think!

I don’t know whether to call it highway robbery or highway bribery.  Actually, it is both.  If you take a trip out of town on the way somewhere, there are a lot of police checkpoints and stops.  There are a lot of “matatu’s” that take people from one town to another.  A matatu, or mat is a van that is always overloaded.  Nearly every matatu – actually every matatu slows down and drops some money on the ground, or gives it directly to the police.  Highway robbery?  Highway bribery?  Both – what’s the difference?  The police aren’t paid much, but I think there is a culture of bribery here at many different levels.  Perhaps that’s the way it  is, but to me it is still disheartening.  I really love Kenya, but I have to admit there are some things like this that I don’t like!

So now it is Tuesday, September 30th.

Hinda sent me an interesting article a couple of weeks ago from NPR about hypertension here in Kenya.  Maybe Kenya is a Third World Country, but it now has some First World problems such as hypertension – a silent killer.  Plus of course all of it’s own problems.

Peter is proud!! Why?  I have been accepted as a board member of KMET.  I am also honored.  Thanks KMET!  I promise to work hard to improve and help this fine organization.  And for me, there is no conflict of interest because I am a volunteer and don’t get paid anyway.

Some of you know about and even have the CD that Hinda and I helped to make in 2009 featuring the beautiful singing of the Sisterhood for Change girls who attend training here.  We called it from Despair to Hope and it a very uplifting thing for the girls, Hinda and I, KMET and so many people who have it, heard it, and love it as we do.

Now, I am going to make another one, but this one will include the girls, the staff, both men and women, and other volunteers here.  Tom Milongo our friend who produced the first one in his Kisumu studio has agreed to help us record and produce this new one.  A committee has already been formed and is writing the words and the music of 8 new songs.  Stay tuned!

A couple of years ago on one of my visits here, one of the KMET staff – John Asuke who is a Tae Kwando expert started to teach this martial art to the Sisterhood for Change girls.  Some became pretty good at it, won some contests, and even used it once or twice to defend themselves.

Now some of same young women are teaching it to other women and girls in the local community.  Sometimes you plant a seed and it grows!

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  I was walking with the architect who designed our building and something got into my eye.  I asked him to see if there was something in my eye.  He looked and said there was and it needed to be blown out.  I said ok.  He took a deep breath and blew into my eye and POP – it was gone.  Now I know what blown out really means.

 A lot of the primary children go to school driven by a motorbike.  It is not uncommon to see at least 4 little ones and the driver on one of the motorbikes here.  They are pretty small, and sometimes only I can ride with one of my thin friends.  Imagine!

Well, I see that I have already rambled too much.  Those of you who know me well, know that I like to talk too much.  But before I go, I have told you before about the twice weekly staff meetings which I helped to start a couple of years ago – an import I brought from KCCC in Kampala.  Those meetings start with very beautiful singing – hymns, but never the less very very nice.  I recorded a short segment with my camera and hope that I can put it on this blog.

By the way, construction is to start here at KMET next Monday!  WOW!

Love and hugs,


Omosh (Peter)

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Cottage - "The Down Under" Be It Ever So Humble - Small But Comfy


Mmmmmm! My Swimming Pool! (For The Compound - Not Just Mine)