Sunday, June 28, 2009

Last Minute Happenings

Wow its been a week since I last wrote. I meant to make it sooner, but now that my trip is coming to a close, it’s like I’ve been trying to cram into the last minute everything that I didn’t get a chance to do yet.

First things first. Right after I wrote last time, my mom called to tell me that she and my grandfather had decided to share the cost of a pump for us. Awesome! So a big huge thanks to my mom and Opa in Holland.

Unfortunately, there have been some other complications, so it looks like the well won’t be finished before I come home. Here’s the thing: The slums here are built on someone else’s land, and the people there are squatting in temporary mud houses. Anytime, the owner could come and demolish the houses and evict all the residents so he can build something else. In fact, one part of the slums here in Tudor is being destroyed right now. If we spend $700 on a pump and install a well in the slums, we won’t own it, so we have no insurance that it won’t be destroyed next week. A battle is currently going on in the Municipal Council about whether or not those people’s homes should be destroyed by the owner of the land. If things go well, maybe we’ll be in a situation where we can feel comfortable investing in a well. Otherwise, perhaps we can get a permit of some kind from the mayor, or talk to the owner of the land… in any case, this issue needs to be dealt with before we build the well. And the chances of that happening in the next two days are slim. It will just have to happen after I get back. At least it’s happening – that’s the important thing.

In other news… two Saturdays ago, I agreed to help some friends from an organization that I worked with on my last trip. They were writing a proposal for funding from the government and they needed someone to help them write it. I didn’t think it would be a big job but it really was. That’s the real reason that I haven’t written for the last week. I was busy writing that proposal. I spent two whole days at the WOFAK office discussing everything and a bunch of evenings writing and it still wasn’t finished. On Wednesday, I had to tell them that I couldn’t spend any more time on it. I felt really bad, but I only had three days left in Mombasa and I wanted to spend it seeing my friends, going out and finishing up what I could for Nuru. I’m glad to say that they managed to get it finished anyway with the help of someone from Likoni Health Centre, and they got it in for the deadline this weekend. I did feel guilty about flaking out though. And they bought me a gift – some kangas – which made me feel even worse. But at least they did get it done. And all of us learned a good lesson about planning ahead for proposal writing.

Things are still moving along for Nuru, but the energy that we started off with is starting to dissipate. I guess it’s because now there’s no way we can get anything else done while I’m here. I’ll be leaving for Nairobi tonight, Sunday, and leaving for home on Tuesday. Things are definitely in motion though. We have our proposals at the Municipal Council for the city works (the sewer etc) and for an office, I’m working on a proposal for medical aid for the people in the slums, which I hope will go through in the next month or so, the well, which I explained already, we are working on creating an advisory board, and there is even a little money left to get a few more kids in school. All these things are still going to happen, plus a few others, but I just won’t be around to see them. So the urgency has left a little, at least for me.

Seven weeks really wasn’t enough time to get everything done that I wanted to. I feel like I could stay for another two months and still not be done. I’m sad to leave and disappointed that I won’t be here to see some of those things happen. Plus I’ll miss my friends here. The girls who live next to me here are so upset that I’m going. I told them I would come back as soon as I can. They said they’ll really miss me. I’ll miss them too.

Last weekend, I went to a traditional song and dance competition that all the primary schools in Mombasa were invited to. It happens every year and those schools that do particularly well go on to provincials, and then nationals. There’s a movie – the name is escaping me right now – about a primary school in Northern Uganda that was picking itself up from the war and sent a team to the national dance competition… The one I went to was just like that. The girls from Marycliff were amazing. They looked so beautiful in their traditional costumes, and their singing and dancing was incredible. I remember when I was that age and singing and dancing were so embarrassing. But these girls were fearless. They did well in the rankings, too. They came in first place with their Baganda Dance, and moved to the provincials in four different categories. I have some awesome pictures which I will post on facebook.

That reminds me!! I never wrote about the library. A few weeks ago, a Dutch couple, Luuk and Maria, came to Marycliff to build a library. They had raised the money through a project where they sold Ninje books (did I spell it right? It’s that little white bunny) and used the proceeds to build two libraries at poor schools in Kenya. So we helped them. I helped the girls cover and stamp all the books and set them up on the new shelves in a newly renovated room. The guys from Nuru helped the school get ready to open the library by cutting the grass, setting up chairs and tents, etc. The school had invited about 200 people, including the mayor and the area MP. The mayor didn’t make it, but Councilor Kipara was there and the MP made it too. They had a big table at the front where I sat with Luuk and Maria and their old friends Yoko and Wilmijn from Nairobi who had arrived the day before to visit them and see the library. The MP and Councilor and the headmistress were up there too. I felt strange being set on a pedestal like that. Especially cause my fellow Nuru members had done just as much work as I had. Many speeches were made, Speaking of the area MP, he made this speech in which he detailed all the money the government had given to schools and then went on to explain how malicious people had been spreading lies that the Kenyan government is corrupt. He asked us not to listen to that horrible propaganda. I was kind of appalled. Wilmijn and I were exchanging looks of horror the whole time. I hope no one believed him, but they probably did. Sigh. Councilor Kipara made a speech as well and introduced me. A lot of the people there knew me already, but they clapped for me. Then Councilor went on about all the things we’ve done for the community with Nuru and everyone was cheering. Bobo filmed it on a video camera. It was really awesome. And Councilor really knows how to work a crowd.
Anyway, then we had some entertainment in the form of young dancers. Those girls can really shake it. ;) Some women danced for us too and pulled us down from the table to dance with them. That was fun. Even the fat, bald area MP danced. After all the entertainment, we went outside where the MP planted a tree on the school grounds. Then everyone went to see the library, where the Nuru members were keeping guard. We needed to guard the books so they wouldn’t be stolen. They won’t be lending them out, either, cause they’ll never come back. And they don’t have that many.
All in all, it was a pretty awesome day. I’ll have to make sure I get a copy of that film.

That’s about all the writing I have time for today. We’re having a celebration of our own this afternoon to open the toilets and shower in the slums. It won’t be as big as the one for the library – just the Nuru members and a few other guests. We have a goat, which is being cooked right now at Tudor Paradise, an outdoor bar at the edge of the slums, and we’ll be buying some crates of soda and whatnot. And taking people down to see the work. It’s all finished, except that the mud is not quite dry so they haven’t cemented the walls yet, But they will, cause otherwise wind and rain will slowly wear it away into nothing. The floors are cemented though and the basins and pipes are installed, as well as doors, so it’s mostly done. If they did the cement now, it would crack, so its better if we don’t rush with that.

Anyway, the party starts in an hour, so I better go get ready. I also have to pack cause I’m leaving for Nairobi this evening. Ahhhh… it’s too soon!!!!!

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