Adventure

The Reality

My mother asked me not to post anything like this until I was safely out of Kenya and I agreed that was the safest way to go, but there are some things that you all should know.

First of all, DO NOT send your money to Watoto Wa Baraka!  Do not donate money or items to them.  The children will never see the items unless you know someone who can personally present them to the children and the money will never make it to the children, either.  Some of the children have as many as THREE sponsors “paying for their school”, each without knowing about the others AND in spite of the fact that it costs hardly anything to send a child to the school in pundamilia.  WWB is CORRUPT.  The children don’t ever get to be just children.  I was looking forward to Saturday as a day I could spend with the children…..boy was I wrong.  Almost every single moment that the children are not in school or sleeping is spent doing various tasks like correcting (which, as I stated earlier is literally picking leaves up off of the gravel to make the place look nice for us wazungus), prepping food, cooking food, doing laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping the walkways (again, it’s in AFRICA.  That red dirt isn’t going to come out!), fetching water, taking care of younger children, serving meals, taking care of the animals, etc. etc. etc.  They are often “caned” (i.e. beaten) for behavior that is completely developmentally appropriate for them (for acting like the children that they are).  They are often accused of stealing (OH THE IRONY!) and many children have been kicked out of Watoto Wa Baraka.  I tried to have a conversation with Geoffrey before I left and he manipulated me into feeling almost bad for him and into feeling like he genuinely believes he is doing everything he can for the kids.  I’m not sure how that happened, but the rose colored glasses came right back off as soon as I had a conversation with one of the staff members about what she thought the kids needed and she told me she could be fired for even having the conversation.  The employees and the staff are not allowed to even voice negative opinions, thoughts, or feelings about the place for fear of getting kicked out.  Geoffrey speaks to the kids in Kiswahili or Kikuyu (not sure which) and TELLS them to call him Daddy in front of the volunteers.  His wife is an ice queen and from my brief encounter with her, I couldn’t imagine anything she would be LESS interested in than making the lives of 40 children in any way better.  I had a conversation about sponsoring one of the girls at the orphanage with Geoffrey.  He was so happy about it!  I was, too, until I found out from someone else that she already has three sponsors.  I realize that I am one white girl and I can’t go in and change everything, but it is SO SO SO SO frustrating to see all of the corruption in this “Christian” organization.  I realize that there is, of course, a certain amount of corruption that is just a part of Kenyan culture, but this is RIDICULOUS!  I’m obviously still really heated about it right now, so I should probably calm down before writing anything else.

 

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Update: Shortly after I left WWB one of the boys was “fired” from living there because he was in possession of a cell phone…..that didn’t work…..that was legitimately given to him by a volunteer.  One of the staff members was fired because he offered his suggestions on ways to improve the living situation for the kids.

Kenya Travel

Tuesday, July 17

First of all, I heard from another volunteer that Geoffrey was seen piling a bunch of the donations given by community members into his car and driving off with them.  He took a lot of the food and all of the blankets.  I’m sure he would try to explain this away by saying that he was taking it to the other orphanage he recently started.  My bet is that he took it somewhere to sell it.  Even if he did take it to the other orphanage, that is not where the donors intended for it to go and I would be super mad if I was one of them.

I woke up and went into Kenol with Mary, Hunter, and Leah. I shopped around for a few things, then we ate lunch at the Junction. While I was there waiting on the other three, a little boy came up to me, stood about a foot away, and just stared at me. After Kenol, I went into Makuyu by myself to pick up James’ field trip pictures. That took a very long time, so I walked around some of the shops in Makuyu. Some of the pictures still weren’t ready, so I paid for them so James could pick them up after I left. I took the pictures I had to Pundamilia Primary school via bota bota, then went to hang out with Blackie for a bit. It makes me sick to think of all of the material possessions I have back at home that I don’t need. I could have paid for children to have an education instead.

Kenya Travel

Monday, July 16

Today, we went to Nairobi. Mary, Hunter, Leah, and I met Hannah and Olivia at the Hilton in Nairobi and we all went and ate western food at The Java House. Then we went to the giraffe center, but the giraffe’s had been over fed and wouldn’t come up close. We left and went to the City Market, where I got three pairs of very long lasting shoes for 2500 ksh.

 

I didn’t write much because going into any of the large cities or towns really takes a lot out of me.  It’s exhausting to not only be a minority, but be a minority that many people assume is rich and therefore try to exploit.  While at the City Market, there were multiple times that shop owners physically blocked me from exiting their shops.  Further, the people I bought the shoes from tried to charge me more than the price we had already agreed on, which was frustrating.

Kenya Travel

Sunday, July 15

At four o’clock in the morning the neighbors decided that it would be a really great time to play their music as loud as possible, which also upset our rooster. If it was this loud here in my room, I have to assume the people standing next to the music have done some serious hearing damage. I heard doors opening and closing, so I clearly wasn’t the only person they woke up. At 4:45, they finally turned it down. I wonder if the other neighbors went and said something to them. People here are more friendly and generally more courteous than at home. It is considered polite to talk to people you don’t know for several minutes in greeting. It’s interesting to me that manners are a virtue here, but people trying to sell goods or a matatu ride feel okay about getting up in people’s faces and trying to manipulate others into buying from them. Joshua, the man I bought jewelry from at 14 Falls, was the most polite salesman I have met here. He didn’t harass me to buy anything and he didn’t charge me more just because I am a mzungu. I need to be more aggressive about bargaining, but I am not very good at it and my time here is so short. It will be strange going back to the states where prices are fixed and strangers ignore you. Being here has caused me to grow in ways I am not even sure I could explain if I tried. I had never seen such poverty or such a different quality of life. I think America should require civil/volunteer service. If our government really wanted to help other countries and help Americans be thankful for everything they have, they would make Peace Corps service mandatory. This morning, I walked with James into Makuyu to get some of the pictures he took on his field trip. On Friday, the kids went to see parliament, the animal orphanage, a museum, and an aquarium. They got to have soda as a special treat. The man who printed the pictures for James wasn’t there when we arrived, so James went to a man to get a few songs put on his iPod (a gift from one of the volunteers that would DEFINITELY be taken away if Geoffrey knew about it) and I went and bought a lightbulb for the office, a bottle of water, and a bigger and better flashlight. Then I took James to the blue hotel in Makuyu, where he ate mandazi and stew and had chai tea. We went back to where the photo developing was and I paid for all but 180 ksh of the photos. They were printed on kodak photo paper on a laser jet printer. It would have been better for me to print them at home and mail them here. We went back to the orphanage and a group of about twenty visitors came. They brought maize, rice, milk, biscuit cookies, shoes, blankets, and some other supplies. We walked them around and showed them areas that could be improved.  One of the staff members gave me and Mary the opportunity to talk with the community members by ourselves, which was nice because we were able to be more frank with them about our concerns.  There is a window that has been broken for two years, there are rooms full of stuff the kids don’t get to use, and the children are working every second of the day that they aren’t in school  We also discussed how we could collaborate with them to work from America to make a positive impact. Then we took the kids to Blackie’s soccer game. They had a really great time and Blackie scored two goals. Afterwards, we walked Blackie home and Peris, John Mwangi, and I hung out at his house for a while. Peris, Margaret, and Mary’s father, Peos, was there.   I would have gotten in big trouble if Geoffrey knew that I had even hung out with Blackie, let alone that I took the kids to his soccer game.  Geoffrey doesn’t like Blackie because Blackie stood up for what is best for the kids.  Anyone who realizes and speaks out about the corruption at WWB gets fired pretty quickly.  The kids say staff members and kids get fired all the time.  That means that kids are kicked out a lot, too.  The kids and I walked back to the orphanage, ate dinner, and went to sleep.

Kenya Travel

Saturday, July 14

Mary, Hunter, Leah, and I took John Mwangi, Peeta, and Sarah out for the day. We rode a matatu into Thika and walked towards the opposite end of town. Sarah had to use the bathroom and Peeta had peed on himself, so we walked into a butcher shop for the kids to pee. The woman there sounded like she was being very mean and teasing the kids. Sarah told us that she had been mean to them for being with the wazungu, but didnt want to tell us what she said. We took the kids out to eat at the Golden Restaurant. They ate as much of what they wanted and they were all very full when we left. We went to the staging area to find a matatu that was headed to 14 Falls, but all of the drivers and conductors were very aggressive. One man said “I am going there. I take you. Come!” We got in his matatu and discovered that he was only going there because that was where we wanted to go and he expected us to pay 2500 ksh to rent the private matatu. We agreed to give him 1000 ksh, which he complained about the whole way there, but we didn’t ask him to take us somewhere we weren’t already going. The road into 14 falls was very bumpy and Peeta threw up all over himself, Leah, and the matatu. We had to pay to get into the falls, had to pay extra to take our cameras in, then were immediately accosted by locals trying to get us to pay them to walk us across the top of the falls. We ended up taking a boat to the other side and the kids had so much fun climbing on the rocks to get as close as possible to the water. We walked back to the top of the falls and bought some souvenirs from people who had made their own beads. One man was named Joshua and he gave us a very good price for everything, then walked us to show us where the hippo pool was. We saw two hippos, but one of them mostly stayed under water. Joshua walked us all the way to the matatu stage and made sure we got on the right matatu. He was very kind and never even tried to bully us into buying things from him when we were at his “shop”, a blanket spread out with his goods on it. We went back into Thika and took the kids to Tusky’s, a GIANT supermarket that has almost everything you could want. Then we took them to a restaurant right next to Tusky’s where they had fries, chapati, and mandazi. Peeta wouldn’t eat because he was afraid, but Leah let him try soda for the first time and it was precious. We took them home where we ate dinner and went to sleep.

Kenya Travel

Friday, July 13, 2012

This morning I woke up at about 8:30 and helped Jacinta do the “correcting”, which is picking up the leaves from the gravel areas. Then I helped her sweep and wash the windows. The employees here do so much work, receive very little pay, and the orphanage is very understaffed.   The children pretty much never get any time with the staff, so the only lovin’ they really get is from volunteers.  I plan to talk to Geoffrey about it on the way to the airport. I also want to talk to him about a few windows that the kids told me have been broken for TWO YEARS. I realize that there aren’t always volunteers so money has to be put aside for those times, but there are FIVE ABV volunteers here, most of whom payed more than I did because they are staying longer than I am. It doesn’t make sense that the orphanage is so understaffed, the windows are broken, and many of the children are wearing clothing with holes. It makes me so sad.  I also found out that there are ENTIRE ROOMS full of stuff that past volunteers have brought or that has been donated at various times.  There are clothes, toys, and books, none of which the children are allowed access to.  It makes me so mad!!!

Kenya Travel

Safari Safari! (July 11&12)

Mary and I road a matatu to Kenol, then had to transfer to another towards Nairobi and we saw the driver pay off the police, then were transferred to a bus that dropped us off in Nairobi. I had a problem at the ATM because my daily withdrawal limit is based on Pacific time. Stanley picked us up at Tusky’s and we road to another ATM where I got out the money to pay him. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and I bought a cold Coca Cola and some little cakes. We stopped to use the bathroom when we entered the great rift valley and I bought a handmade stuffed elephant for Falon. We continued our drive to Nurok, where we stopped at a hotel with a buffet. I had delicious chipati with rice and another cold Coca Cola. We haven’t seen any animals yet, but we are still 100km from Masai Mara. The scenery is so beautiful and it is a little surreal to be on an African safari right now. I am currently riding through the Great Rift Valley. EEK!! I called Apple and they told me that my iPhone won’t work unless I can connect to wireless internet. Ha!

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We eventually did see LOTS of animals. We saw lionesses, a lion, lots of elephants, a leopard, giraffes from a distance, baboons, antelopes, gazelles, dik-diks, buffalo, wildebeests, hartebeests, jackals, and many types of birds. Kenya is beautiful and I can’t believe it is already almost time for me to leave. After the first safari we stayed at Flamingo Camp and two Masai men, one of whom was named Joseph, stayed up all night to guard the camp from being trampled by elephants. Joseph could speak a little English and he told me that his father has 7 wives and he was one of 31 children. He told me he had killed two lions and some elephants, too. The animals presented a threat to his herd of cattle and goats, so they had to die.

We got back to Watoto Wa Baraka last night and I didn’t realize how much I had missed the kids here. When we got back, they were so excited to see us and told us they had missed us a lot. John Mwangi got a giant smile on his face when he saw me and he immediately wanted me to pick him up. I did and he kissed me on the cheek. It was very sweet.  I worry about what happens to them when there are no volunteers around.  Corporal punishment is used ALL THE TIME.  The other day, I heard a child screaming and crying like they were being killed because they were being “caned.”  There isn’t really anything I can do about it other than offer all the children my love and be kind to them.

Kenya Travel

The first 24 hours

I made it!  We stopped in Makuyu on the way from Nairobi to the orphanage to buy paint for a mural and I was the only white person there.  It was a humbling experience to be the minority for once.  We went to the orphanage where I met the children.  There are almost 40 kids living there and they know varying amounts of English.  They walked me into the small town Punda so I could see the shop there and I bought some type of ginger soda made by Coca Cola.  It was pretty delicious.  I have my own room that has solar power, a mosquito net over my bed, and a locking door.  Being here has made me so appreciative for the luxurious privileges we have in the United States.  I never thought to be thankful for running water, a toilet, electricity, the internet, or a washing machine.  All of those are things that are often taken for granted in America.  There is a water tap for drinking/cooking water and a water tap for washing water.  The toilet is quite literally a hole in the ground.  I will be happy to have a hot shower and a cold coke when I get home.

This morning, I used donation money to purchase two milk goats for the orphanage.  They cost 12,000 shillings for the pair, which is approximately $120.  The woman I purchased them from didn’t speak any English, so the owner of the orphanage, Geoffrey, made the deal for me.  I have a feeling that there was some hanky panky going on in that deal since $120 is a LOT to pay for two goats.  As I couldn’t understand them, I have a sneaky suspicion Geoffrey may be getting a kick back from that deal.  He tried to talk me into buying a calf, which the woman listed some astronomical price for (and the cows weren’t even perfectly healthy)  We put the goats into the trunk to take them to the orphanage, which I thought was very interesting.  We  (some of the other volunteers and myself) came to a local town named Kenol so we could get on the internet.  We used a Matatu to get here and that was definitely an experience.  It only cost 40 shillings, which is about $0.40, but at one point there were seventeen people crammed into the van.  I will write again as soon as I get a chance.

Many of the locals here are very interested to see white people.  They have a word for us, “mzungu.”  On the way home from the shop yesterday, a group of women invited me to go fishing or swimming with them.  It was very endearing, but I did not go.

Things are very different here.  I saw a police officer accept a bribe and there are armed guards outside of the bank down the street.  That was the first time I have seen anyone with a gun, which kind of surprises me.  There is evidently a soldier who guards the orphanage gate at night, but I didn’t know that until someone told me this morning.

The way people drive around here is also very interesting.  They just kind of drive wherever they want on the road and honk at people to get out of the way.  I am hoping to go on a Safari at some point in the next week and plan to go to fourteen falls in Thika as well.  The other volunteers are awesome.  Their names are Olivia, Leah, Hannah, Hunter, and Mary.  I didn’t think I would care if I was the only volunteer at the orphanage during my stay, but I really appreciate having them to show me the ropes and talk to.

They serve beans with pretty much every meal at WWB.  Last night they served beans mixed with corn and potatoes.  This morning I had bread and nutella.  For lunch they served beans, rice, tomatoes, and onions.  I have eaten lots of protein bars so far and plan to buy the stuff to make pb&j while we are here in Kenol.  I am pretty adventurous right now, but not hungry enough to eat beans, which I hate the texture of.

I hope everyone back home is doing well!  I love you guys!  ❤

Kenya Travel

Airport Fiasco

I had a bit of a fiasco checking in at LHR with Etihad. Even though I checked the website and DOUBLE checked by calling the customer service hotline, they told me the wrong thing about how much weight I could carry onto the plane.  They ended up letting me shove things into one bag and not charging me extra, but I had to throw the new carry on that I just bought specifically for this trip in the trash.  At this point, I am jet lagged and completely exhausted from cramming as much as possible in while I was in London, so naturally I had a hysterical breakdown and started sobbing when they told me it was going to be £200 (roughly $300) to get my bags to their final destination.  They weren’t very helpful at first, but really didn’t seem like they wanted to deal with a hysterical passenger, so they helped me (kind of) in the end.  I am so so so tired.  I am going to get on this plane and pass out.

Kenya Travel

On the road again (July 4, 2012)

I am currently riding the underground back to LHR to depart for Nairobi via Abu Dhabi. This morning, I woke up, packed up, and headed over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. It was raining when I got there a little before ten this morning and one of the police officers told me that the changing of the guard could be cancelled due to rain, but they wouldn’t know until eleven. I didn’t want to waste an hour if the changing of the guard wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to go into Buckingham Palace for a tour of the state rooms. One of the first places the tour takes you is the quadrangle in between all of the palace buildings. You would probably recognize this if you watched the Royal Wedding. If you go through the castle’s front gates and through the main archway, you end up in the rather large courtyard that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rode through to the main castle door. As I could kind of see through one of the arches, I camped out on a bench there for about an hour and a half to see what I could of the changing of the guard. Admittedly, I couldn’t see much through the little archway, but it was still cool. I got to see the throne room where the famous wedding pictures of QE2 and Phillip and William and Kate were taken. There were some very old thrones there, which was cool. The palace was very interesting from a historical standpoint. There were so many beautiful objects and so much beautiful art. The irony of me visiting Buckingham Palace on American Independence Day is not lost on me. I had a conversation about it with some fellow Americans who were also touring the palace. I got to see a Rembrandt, an entire collection of Royal diamonds, the ballroom where Queen Victoria hosted giant parties and QE2 conducts knighting ceremony, and the room where Prince William was baptized among many other neat things. To get out of Buckingham Palace, I had the pleasure of walking through the Royal Garden, which is basically a large park. I then returned to the hostel to pick up my baggage and am now about half way to London Heathrow to pick up my bags, repack, attempt to organize things, try to get some Kenyan Shillings, and check in to my flight.

I am still exhausted today. I think the hostel experience last night combined with my jet lag to make me so tired. A drunk Australian boy set off the fire alarm last night and the lady at the front desk couldn’t figure out how to disable it. On the bright side, I made some French friends who were incredibly lovely people.

It is 3:30, I started this post before 2, and I still haven’t made it to the airport because some of the underground signals are malfunctioning and I had to switch trains three times. Luckily, I met a gentleman from Pakistan who helped me get on the correct trains. People here are SO nice and friendly! I know to still be careful and aware and blah blah blah but I have met a lot of truly kind people while I have been here.