Monday, July 26, 2010

Roslyn Achieng - My Always Happy Smiling Landlady

Th e New K-MET Health Complex

Surrogate Wife Monica Handing Over Ram

"Dispatching" tne Ram

Monica "Mama K-MET" Dancing With SFC Girls at Opening""

Harambee Leaders: Martin, RoseMary and Joy

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Only Woman "Chief" in Kisumu

Josephine - A Beautiful SFC Student

Florence Olang'o Tells It Like It Is at Opening

A Good Message K-MET Tee Shirt

My "Mother" Rose

Quinta - Happy, Beautiful and Soon to Become a Mom

Nurse Hilda Onyullo on Opening Day

July 26, 2010
Blog 2
Kisumu, Kenya

Jambo rafiki na jamii,

Hope this finds you well. As for me, I really couldn’t be better – except for missing my wonderful bibi (wife) Hinda, but I will be back in just a bit over 2 weeks.

I want to tell you about what has been taking up most of my time here these past 3 weeks, but before I do, just a few other thoughts that you may find interesting. I am living in a neighborhood called Nubian not too far from K-MET with my host family Festus and Roslyn and their 2 children, Kennedy and Agnes. (2 year old Agnes has taken to calling me sweet heart)- this morning when I left the room to go to the kitchen she said “my sweetheart has gone”.

Festus is a journalist with KBC, Kenyan Broadcasting Company, a government owned radio station. I have known him now for about 2 years. His wife Roslyn takes such good care of me that I must admit that I am getting spoiled, although I help around the house with dish washing and the like. DISHWASHING – FESTUS DID YOU GET THAT? HAHAHAHAHA!!

Nubian is a residential area, not affluent, but certainly not the slums either. I have a nice room and our house (rented) has running water, toilet, and a hot shower. We eat breakfast and dinner together usually unless Festus is working late.

Each morning around 7:45 I go on a piki piki (motorbike) to work. It can be a little hairy but so far so good. My drivers – Dominick or Joshua are pretty good and careful. I bought Dominick a reflective vest so that other drivers will see us better.

Roslyn is a good cook, and I have enjoyed her food. Very much. We eat fish, chicken, meat, ugali, (a thick kind of porridge of corn flour and water) that is cooked until hardened into a thick mass, and is used to scoop up the other foods on the plate,and sukumawiki (kale) very healthy, and bogam, mixed local vdgetables. For breakfast, usually mandazi, a donut like food but without the hole, and chai (tea). Like most women here Roslyn works hard. Laundry is done by hand, food is cooked from scratch, and she is also taking care of her husband, the kids, and now me. And all done with a smile and a lot of humor.

Festus works long hours and on top of that is going to college at night, like I did long long ago. He is a good friend and we have good conversations together about politics, the condition of the world, etc. A very bright man, and I am very fond of him and his family. I am now happily a part of that family.

For the past nearly year and a half I have been volunteering at KMET and helping them develop and build a brand new building. Well, I am happy to tell you that on July 15th, I, and the rest of the staff finally moved into the new KMET Health Complex, and on July 23rd, we hosted the grand opening complete with speeches by government and private dignitaries, community people, beautiful singing and dancing by the girls in our Sisterhood for Change program, and Community Health Workers.

Yes, we all worked hard, and yes, I helped a lot, but the lions share of the credit goes to Monica Oguttu, KMET’s energetic and visionary Executive Director. She had a dream, and now it is a reality.

Our new building is beautiful and very functional. For the present we have admin and program offices, a community bank, clinic, lab, and a pharmacy called the Schnurman Pharmacy named in honor of my family. All the tea in China could not make me happier, and I am very proud and very humbled to be a part of this. I am using the present tense, because we have already embarked on Phase 2 which at the Opening, one of KMET’s donors announced that they will give us $60,000 to construct the next phase – our production facility to produce KMET’s nutriflour products. Outstanding!!

The staff was so enthusiastic in preparing the building for the opening and I have included photos for you to see.

As you may know, I am considered KMET’s “Mzee” (elder), and so to me fell the honor to slaughter a ram for the occasion. Until now, I had only slaughtered chickens – l last year for the ceremony of installing the gate for the new building. With Eliud, the unstoppable construction superintendent, we went shopping for 2 rams, one for me and one for the Grand Opening Guest of Honor, (his remained alive).FLASH - JUST LEARNED IT WAS SLAUGHTERED ACCIDENTALLY BY THE COOKS, SO KMET BOUGHT ANOTHER.

Early in the morning, Monica, surrogate wife according to Luo tradition, presented me with the ram I was to slaughter. For a few minutes I spoke to my ram, and petted him, and with the assistance of Eliud and a local Muslim man who knows how to butcher, I quickly dispatched the ram. Some people were afraid that I couldn’t do it, but I did it well – swiftly with a newly sharpened blade. Well, that ram was sweet and delicious after is was cooked and served to our staff and VIP guests. I am not not sure that this will be my new profession, but I am pleased that I conducted myself with honor and did not let down my surrogate Kenyan Niyeka Monica.

The move to the new building had some amusing moments. The truck we borrowed to move had no battery, this very large 2 ½ ton truck, fully loaded had to be pushed to start it each time it made a trip between the old and new building. And not just pushed, but pushed uphill. To make sure it didn’t roll away, rocks were placed behind the wheels so I guess there was no emergency brake. By the way, it was not only men who did the pushing, but the women as well. Women here are strong – not only physically, but have the strength and fortitude to do anything. It has taken me a long time to appreciate the strength of women all over, including of course Hinda who has stood by my side for 50 years and helped me through many a hard time. African women have a hard time given the mindset of people here, but they are really strong. Just look at Monica and so may others like Roslyn who work tirelessly day in and day out without much or any appreciation.

Festus, Roslyn and I went dancing Saturday night. We went to a very nice club with a live band that played great Luo and Swahili music. Roslyn and I danced a lot, but all of a sudden you are dancing with someone else, even men. The dance floor was very crowded, and everyone was dancing whether they had a partner or not. The crowd was enthusiastic. Some of the music was “ohang’la”, traditional Luo music – very nice. Lots of drinking, but no rowdyism. I was the only mzungu amongst several hundred Africans, but felt completely at ease and at home. The band was great. Roslyn and others said I was a good dancer, and perhaps I am, but also got tired from time to time. Anyway, we made it home around midnight, after a late dinner of nyama choma – roasted meat (goat) and kachumbari, (tomatoes and onion salad, and of course ugali. We will go again at least once before I leave.

So all of you, while I feel good about how I have contributed to KM\ET, I am ready to come back in January with Hinda and together we will do more to help as we enter our next 50 years of a wonderful marriage. We are unstoppable, and as they say here, “unbwogable” – un afraid. As our President, and son of Kenya says, “Yes we can”, and as I say, “Yes we will”.

See you soon.

Nakupenda sana – Aheri Ahinya – Love you a lot,

Mzee Kijana Mdogo Sana Peter

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Brenda Lives in the Room Next to Mine and Goes to College

Old Woman at Village Meeting

Old Man at Village Meeting

Community Map

New KMET Comples

Waiting for Help

She Has Come for Help

July 7, 2010 Kisumu Blog 1

July 8, 2010

Blog 1 From Kisumu, Kenya

Dear Family and Friends,

I am in Kisumu yet one more time for a very special occasion: to participate in the opening of the new KMET Building that I have been helping with for the past year. This is my third trip here and the second alone without Hinda, and it will be my last one alone, though I am getting along well without her.

But first about my getting here. It was a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry loooooooooooooong flight:
Seattle to Atlanta to Accra, Ghana, to Nairobi to Kisumu. About 23 hours in the air,and another 12 or so on the ground including waiting for the plane I missed from Nairobi to Kisumu because of lost luggage. In fact both of my suitcases were lost, but after a couple of days I retrieved them including one that Kenya Air forgot to put on the plane.

I am happy to be back here with all of my friends at KMET, and I received a very warm welcome from all of them. nIt is great being back except Hinda is not with me. But, next time. We have agreed to that.

I am living in the community with friends of mine – a couple with two children . Festus Amino and his wife Roslyn and their children Kennedy and Agnes. I have my own room, and there is running water and a toilet. But most importantly, Roslyn and Festus are wonderful hosts and we have lots of fun and laughs together. I feel very comfortable there with them. I ride a motorbike to and from work every day for about $1.30.

For those of you who know that I am an insulin dependent diabetic, I am happy to tell you that I have reduced my insulin intake to 0. Why? The living here is easy and relaxed. Little stress, and because of the heat, (for me), am eating less. Hopefully I will lose the weight I gained since I left here in March.

The new KMET building is beautiful and quite functional. There will be an opening ceremony on July 23rd in which I will participate and will have a role to play on that occasion. Perhaps I will slaughter a goat for the meal we will eat afterwards. We shall see. Hahahahahaha!! On a more serious note, for my recent 72nd birthday gift, KMET has named the pharmacy in the new building in my honor: The Schnurman Pharmacy”. I am proud, honored, and humbled by this.

A few days ago I attended a meeting in a village some distance from here where the KMET staff has been doing some community organizing, and the meeting was to explain to the people in the village of Bondo the short and long term plans that the committee had developed. The committee created a community map drawn on the ground showing what exists, and what they will develop over the next few years. It is yet another example of how KMET works to support the needs that the community articulates and supports them to implement them. This organization really believes and practices empowerment, rather than develop programs for people and communities which in the long run do not work anyway.

But there is a long way to go. I have attached a photo of a young girl who was sleeping on the ground outside KMET’s Sisterhood for Change Program. She needed to be given food, and more. It is sad to see, but it is the reality here, just like it is unfortunately in our own country – the wealthiest in the world. If we wanted to eradicate poverty, we could, but do we? I don’t really think we do.

So this is an introduction to my next month here. Hope you are all well.