02 May 2017

Our Last Full Day In Kitale

Tuesday was a day unlike any other. After a run to town to buy shop supplies for Mama Manu, we arrived at Precious Kids Center to a sea of people! A team from Mighty Acorn had come to spend the morning showering the staff and kids of PKC with gifts and love!

Mighty Acorn visits PKC frequently. Each team is made of a combination of Americans and Kenyans--both kids and adults. Many of their team members return, so I had met three of the people on the team on previous trips. 

They are always so intentional about moving around the house and property, spending intentional time with each child, making sure no one is overlooked. The team leader, with the hope of teaching the kids on their team about serving, tasks a group of the Kenyan teenagers with creating a shopping list of gifts and supplies the team will take the next morning. Then another group accompanies some of the American visitors to the store to pick up the items. 

When we arrived, they'd already scattered throughout the living room, talking with kids, even holding some of the smaller children. Once we'd settled in, (and apologized for being a few minutes late) they broke out boxes of bubbles, bouncy balls, small xylophones, and other sensory toys chosen especially for the children at Precious Kids. These gifts were met with such excitement you would not believe! A few dozen kids ran outside to blow bubbles as bouncy balls flew around the living room!

I had found a seat just behind one of the chairs in the living room and was working on making a connection with one of the boys I had yet to spend time with when Josephine popped up over the chair and showed me her brand new spike ball. I bounced it against the wall, but she scooped it up and decided it worked better as a hairbrush.

John is a 7-year-old blind boy who was found abandoned in town. The Children's office called Sammy and she brought him to live at Precious Kids Center. One afternoon--a few months ago--while we were texting, she sent me his picture and I immediately burst in to tears. I just loved him. I showed a couple of friends the same picture and cried each time as I talked about him. I couldn't wait to meet him.

The first week or so that we were in town, John wanted very little to do with me. I would walk over and greet him as I do the other kids and he would sort of whine and crouch down. I mentioned it to Sammy and she said it was odd since he's usually really snuggly. (Maybe it's the pitch of my voice?)

This morning, while the team was in the house, I sat down with John, determined to befriend him. I watched as he marched back and forth from the window to the couch, squealing to himself. Then, he walked towards me, I put my hands out and called his names. Eventually, he grabbed both my hands and began to jump up and down. We played together for nearly an hour...he sat in my lap and rocked and sang, he stood and jumped up and down. (Clearly, I was over-the-moon!)

Two kids who previously had wanted nothing to do with me...now leaving me little-to-no personal space.

Meanwhile, the team was outside showering the kids with love and toys--and food! One team member sang a few songs with her ukulele while they blew bubbles, ate cookies, and drank orange soda.

Junior was very excited about the visitors.

Gracie was very excited about the treats!

Linah and Ezekiel

Marvelous and Sunny

I'd taken off my shoes while I was in the house and couldn't find them again when I went out to help the team coordinate snacks distribution. While most of the team members were kinda grossed out by my feet, this is exactly what I want them to look like while I'm there--that's the sign of a day well-spent.

Malay loving her bubbles

Mama Salome is newer to Precious Kids Center, so this is the first time I've met her. But she is wonderful! She is the Head Housemom, so she helps to keep the women in line. She helps oversee rotation of responsibilities, days-off, and is the keeper of the keys to the giant pantry to make sure they're using the right amount things like of food, soap, toilet paper so nothing is wasted and the money is stewarded well.

She stopped me on my way through the kitchen to ask if we could take a picture together. Isn't she beautiful?!

When the team left, we helped feed some kids and then sat down to lunch ourselves--just outside the kitchen door, as usual. Phoebe walked up and snapped a quick photo of us on her way in to get a plate.

The evening before, when we'd taken the party of boys to dinner, we'd asked the restaurant to have two bags of samosas ready for us to pick up at 2pm the next day as a surprise for the house moms. (With all of the work they have to do, it's too difficult to sneak them out of the house for a meal--so we just bring meals back for them!) Sunny, Phoebe and I made a quick run to town to pick them up. We casually handed the unmarked bag to the moms when we returned so none of the kids would figure out what we were doing and try to sneak a bite!

We had one more trip to make that afternoon, but with the windshield wipers in the condition they were in--and the roads we'd be attempting to navigate--we had to wait out the rainstorm. Sunny, uninterested in the Batman movie the kids were watching, snuggled up with Sherry and a good book.

After about an hour, the rain let up and we headed back out to the van. We'd told four of the older boys they could come with us to deliver the supplies for the new shop--four of my favorites. (As my time in Kenya winds-down, I grow less and less concerned about being fair and become a bit more honest about wanting to spend time with my favorites.)

We drove up toward the tarmac road just as the rain picked up again. I had my trusty wiper blade, but it was no match for the storm we were driving in to. As we neared the turn, it got to be too much...so we decided to turn around and try again the next morning. 

We pulled back in to Precious Kids, the right side of my body drenched, and decided to camp out in the car for a while. (Since it was raining, all of the other kids were huddled inside the house...camping out in the car would give us even more time with my favorites.) 

Hilary ran inside to grab two warm (dry) jackets for me and Sunny and we leaned back in our chairs, laughing and chatting with the boys. Phoebe, who had not taken one photo before that day, took another of my cool jacket and our packed car.

One by one, the older boys started to realize that we were outside hanging in the van, so one by one they joined us. Eventually, we had a big crowd laughing and chattering while the rain came down around us.

One of the salt packets we'd purchased (and intended to deliver) had broken open and was spilling on to the seat, so obviously, we began to see who could sneak salt in to someone's pocket, on to their lollipop, or--for the really skilled--in to someone's open mouth. It was much more fun than it sounds...the boys giggled and whispered as they plotted against one another and then roared with laughter when they executed their plans.

Manu and Manu

Jabal, Ezekiel, and Manu

Eventually, the rain let up and the kids poured out from the house--ready to run around until dinnertime. Suzie headed straight for the van and I pulled her up to sit with me in the front seat.

We'd be flying to Nairobi the following evening, so this was our last dinner at the house. We hadn't told the house moms, but we'd also agreed to dinner with some friends later that evening, but we couldn't pass up out last chance at ugali and cabbage!!! So Sunny and I agreed to keep quiet about the second dinner and try not to fill up (too much) on this first one.

I fed Rooney (in the middle) that night. He motioned to me and then to his dinner, but I couldn't understand what he was trying to say. Then he pointed at Sunny and did the motion again...and then motioned to two of the house moms, the second glanced at him and then at me and said, "Oh, he wants you to mix it more." I'm always so amazed--and so glad--when the moms understand the non-verbal kids. To me, it shows their love and relationship with them...that they know them well enough to understand sounds and motions, to hear and meet their needs. In a house of that many kids, it would be easy for some to be overlooked or forgotten...but these moms are so attentive that I can't imagine that ever happening!

Sunny fed Japheth--for the second time that day. I bent down to take a picture and Rooney looked right at the camera and smiled. When I showed him this photo, he fell to the floor laughing, then leaned over and tapped Mama Mo so she would look, too. He was so proud of himself!

Sweet Suzie's kisses...just placing her teeth on my face.

On our way out to the car, I tried to get the boys to take one picture, smiling. They kept saying, "we are smiling..." and then finally, it clicked. Manu said, "OH! You want me to take a photo with my teeth on the outside!" and then politely refused.

Phoebe's always up for a picture!

One more flashlight--this time, for the night guard.

We ran home and quickly changed clothes--still stuffed from our dinner at the kids--but we were SO excited for dinner with our friends from the bookshop in town that we knew we'd be fine to eat again. 

They live just around the corner from Sammy, so we drove to their place in less than two minutes were welcomed in to their living room and feeling right at home. We talked about America (a few years ago, they traveled to about ten major cities in the US) and a bit about American politics (lots of varying opinions on Trump over here!) and, before we knew it, dinner was ready.

Every time I have dinner with Diptha and Pradip (and their daughter Mital), it's super delicious and super fun! Homemade Indian food...and a lot of it! (Sunny was even more excited to learn that they are vegetarians, too--so she could eat everything!)

Full plates of food, sodas, and lots of talk of travel and wedding traditions--and some tips on places to visit while we were in Nairobi--and we were back in the living room with Indian coffee and tea.

We sat, drinking and talking for well-past the time I had told our landlord we'd be home...then said our goodbyes with a promise to do this again when we're back in town.

Back home, later than any night we'd been out so far, we watched an episode of New Girl and put-off thoughts of goodbyes the next day... It's so, so great to be here...and always so hard to leave!

23 April 2017

Chicken And Fries For Twenty-Three

You know it's going to be a good day when it begins with a tiny child in a onesie...

We had very few plans for Monday except to make sure we were making the most of our last few days in town. There were several kids who still hadn't gone to town for lunch, so we'd made plans to take a big group of girls for lunch and the remaining boys to dinner. Little did we know, we'd miscounted...oh, and that I'm a total sucker!

Japheth was a little overwhelmed by the noisy living room, so they brought him out to the patio to relax

Tiny little Shangi is super smiley

Lounging with Dinah while we watch a movie

with Marvelous and Imani

We loaded up the van as best we could and I went to tell the house moms who we were taking. Then Mama Mo stopped me to say, "Dinah and Sherry want to go, too. They share a bed and every night ask when it will be there turn to go. I told them their turn was coming. Then yesterday, they said, Alice only takes the kids with legs, so we won't get to go."

And it broke my heart. Are you kidding me?! So, of course, we loaded them up in the van, too. But not before they went to get dressed up to go to town. I went back to help and pulled out some leggings, but Mama Salome said, "Oh, no...Sherry said she'd like to wear a dress!" These two are so cute.

So, here we are: eight kids and three adults at lunch! Lillian, Lucy, Dinah, Triza, Sherry, Suzie, Stellah and Marvelous.

It's a bit easier for Dinah (and Suzie) to eat on the floor, so we set them up in their own spots (so Suzie wouldn't eat Dinah's fries) and they ate every bite!

When Sherry had finished her chicken and fries, she asked to sit with Dinah. The two drank sodas that matched their dresses while chatting and smiling with joy about their trip to town!

Suzie was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. She'd been too hungry when we arrived, so she was already starting to meltdown. Luckily, I had a bag of almonds in my purse, so that kept her preoccupied long enough for her soda to arrive. After lunch, she was clearly done, so I attempted to calm her down the best way I knew how: a piggyback ride. But it was no match for her frustration...she wriggled and fought and scratched all the way to the car. The best part was when I was trying to pay for parking, but the machine wouldn't take my ten shilling coin so I had to ask the man at the stand near the machine to trade me for a new coin. (Just taking his sweet time searching his pockets while Suzie continued to meltdown on my back.) I was so sweaty by the end of the whole ordeal!

Once we were back in the car, she was okay, but she refused to sit down on the ride home. Instead, she stood and looked around and, when she saw a bump coming, would let go of the bars so she would almost lose her balance while we went over it. She's a nut...but she did keep the entire car entertained on the drive.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, I jumped out and let Sunny try her hand at driving on the opposite side. She kept veering a bit left, but we weren't going too far, so it didn't matter much. Plus, she's now able to say she's driven on the other side of the road--totally worth it!

When we brought Dinah and Stellah back inside, they crawled straight to Mama Mo to tell her all about their afternoon. I thanked her, again, for letting me know that I'd overlooked them and asked to take their picture together. Look at those sweet faces!!

Rooney never misses a photo op!

I grabbed Japheth and headed to the yard.

While we were sitting there, Moses came over to hang out for a bit.

Before long, the wind picked up and it was clear we were in for an amazing rainstorm! Everyone ran inside to take cover.

Sunny had gone to one of the back rooms to take a short nap, but I knew she wouldn't want to miss her first Kitale rainstorm, so I ran back to wake her. Sure enough, the storm picked up--so we sat on the tin-roofed patio enjoying the sound of the heavy rains.

All of the small kids running around inside drove many of the older kids out to the patio with us...




Peter, Ezekiel and Jabal


As the rain continued, we noticed it pouring in to the patio. Slowly, but surely, it grew in to a nice pool. I turned and saw Jabal stomping around and snapped a quick picture. He stopped, pointed at me and said, "Oh, Alice! You know, that is bad manners!" and ran back inside. (I'm pretty sure he meant playing in the muddy water, not taking a photo.)

Some kids went to quite a bit of effort to avoid wading in to the waters. I love this photo of Manu and Kevin (in the doorway.)

Once the rain died-down, we began to talk of dinner plans. Knowing we'd have a big crew that would need to get to town, eat and get back before dark, we'd planned to leave early. The rain had put us behind schedule, so we had to make quick decisions once it'd stopped.

I walked to the back porch to tell some of the bigger kids to get ready, but was cornered by some of the older boys (who'd already gone to town) who were asking to come along tonight, too. Earlier, I had told Sunny that I wanted to take all of the boys again, but didn't want to be unfair to those who hadn't had a turn yet, so when they were asking, it was a very easy 'yes'. (Though I let them think they were working for it. One boy even said, "You are leaving this week...if you let us go to dinner, this will be like your goodbye and we will remember this chicken forever.")

Hard to take them too seriously when one of them is dressed like Captain America.

So, we loaded up fifteen boys--including a few of the smaller boys who hadn't yet had a turn--and headed back to Ruby Deli for our final meal there.

With Junior and Eric David

After dinner, we sent a few of the boys in to the market to buy watermelons for the house moms and cookies for the rest of the kids. And then asked for one thing: a photo together. Here we are! All of the boys!

They even held still for Sunny to get one, too!

As we left the restaurant, it started to rain...hard. A few days before, Pascal had been talking to me as we were leaving and accidentally pulled the windshield wiper off. They hadn't worked for awhile anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal...I casually tossed it on the dashboard.

On the drive home, I'd been attempting to use my old method of wiping the window with a rag, but then it got too damp and wasn't doing much to help me see. Then I remembered the wiper was just in front of me! Sunny reached down to grab it and handed it over. Well, that did the trick! It made it do much easier to see where we were going--and, as a bonus, it made the entire group of kids (plus several vans filled with strangers) laugh!

We dropped the boys just as night fell, so we turned around and headed home ourselves...laughing pretty hard at just how ridiculous this windshield wiper routine was.