|Me trying on an African Kitanga|
|One of the Nyumbani trucks leaving the village. It is nice and cozy in the back tailgate.|
Thus far, I have worked in the sustainability division of the village performing jobs such as: planting trees, planting vegetables, picking vegetables, helping install a solar panel to provide energy to operate a water pump, working in the carpentry shop, and working in the greenhouse. By the time I arrive home, I could be an expert farmer with all the exposure to farming that I am receiving. I gave my first tour of the village to a visitor this week and was pleasantly surprised at how much information I have obtained about the village. These are the notable volunteer activities I have partaken in so far.
|Volunteers Jeremy (back right), Chris (left) and I taste testing the newly harv||ested tomatoes.|
I have noticed that many of the children in the village do not have shoes to wear and hygiene varies drastically from home to home (depending on the guardian's priorities). Some children are completely dirty and don't look like they have taken a bath in weeks, and others are so dedicated to cleanliness that they do their laundry every day (by the way, unlike the States children here do their own laundry and cook dinner every evening). The older children in the homes often take on many responsibilities including cooking, laundry, cleaning the homes, and studying under a kerosene light at night after attending class from 7AM to 7PM. The grandmothers in charge of each home heavily depend on the older children to maintain the daily functions.
|An orphan that just arrived in the village. She is HIV+ and has lesions on the back of her head due to poor diet and no anti-viral medication. She is now being administered a proper diet and medication. She will be healthy soon.|
Young teenagers are mature beyond their years and are very eager to receive an education and become successful. Sr. Francis, the high school principal, adamantly expresses her disbelief at how hardworking, focused, and disciplined the students are in and out of the classroom. Education is not taken for granted here in Kenya!
The climate in the village is ideal for growing exotic fruits like papaya, mangos, bananas, and passion fruits. Passion fruit is quite an interesting fruit and is used to make a delicious fruit juice (passion juice is not just a mixture of many different fruits like sometimes found in the states). The temperature is now increasing and it is in the 80s and 90s every day.
I spent an enjoyable afternoon at my Kenyan friend's home, which is outside the village, a few Sundays ago. John Cutter, a security guard for the village, invited me over for a nice lunch that consisted of rice and peas. He is a man in his early 30's with four children and a very nice wife. I told him that I would be available to depart for his place after Mass on Sunday at 11AM. Little did I know that he worked a 12 hour shift on Saturday night and finished at 6AM, only to wait five hours in the village so he could escort me by foot to his home. Our journey to his home lasted 90 minutes by foot, the same journey that he travel every day to and from work. Serving a meal with rice (one bag of rice to feed his family for a day costs $1.25) was a sacrifice for a man that only earns about $75 a month. John was so excited about my visit that he spread the word to all of his neighbors that his "masungu" (white person) friend was coming for the afternoon. I was warmly welcomed by all his friends and neighbors. The table was placed outside under a tree and surrounded by undersized stools, although John insisted I sit in the only chair the family owns, with pleasant background music echoing from a radio manufactured decades ago. It was a simple lunch that included a wonderful view of the hills and hospitality that is not to be duplicated. It was a great day! John has since pestered me about visiting again. I will be sure to take him up on his offer. When I was at the supermarket the other day I bought him a bag of rice and sugar (valued items to the locals; the price tag around $3) and presented them to John as an offering of thanks. I wish I could have had a camera to capture the excitement and gratitude on his face. It was the least I could do.
|Myself and two grandmothers, each in charge of a home.|
Jeremy, the volunteer from California, and I enjoyed a beer last Saturday at the nearby town of Kwa Vonza. We ran into one of the Nyumbani Village police officers who was so excited to see us that he proceeded to order a portion of goat leg for dinner. Goat is the preferred meat here. We indulged in the meal as the chef shaved slices of meat and fat off the bone in front of us. As the darkness of the evening arrived, we decided to take a motorbike back to the village (a 5 minute ride). Jeremy and I jumped on the back of a bike and soon realized that the driver was not fit to safely escort us home (he was heavily intoxicate although we could not tell at first glance because of the darkness). The bike made it 50 feet before we took a violent tumble. Luckily I was not hurt due to my catlike reflexes and amazing agility I developed as a backup power forward for the Rockhurst High School JV basketball team. Jeremy was also not hurt. After deciding to take another crack at motorbike transportation, this time on separate motorbikes, we were equally frighted as the drivers decided to partake in a competition in which they took turns speeding up and passing each other at questionable speeds and stretches of road. We eventually made it home safe and recognize that we should avoid motorbike transportation at night.
|Cookies and juice after Nyumbani Day mass.|
As many of you know, D'Agostinos tend to be follicly challenged on the head but not on the arms or legs. God blessed us with that attractive physical trait. I bet your wondering where im going with this. Well.....the only thing that the young children are more intrigued by than a tall "masungu" is a tall hairy "masungu". The children are thoroughly fascinated by my arm hair and have no reservations with touching it. I can't help but laugh at their excitement and curiosity.
Nyumbani Day was on September 5th. On this day the village remembers my great uncle Angelo (Fr. Dag to the village) and gives thanks for all the blessing in the village. At the end of the mass the priest called me up in front of the congregation of 700 people to offer a few words of advice (as if I possess some valuable wisdom). I must have said something right because many people presented me with complements after the mass which only lasted a shade over 3.5 hours. Immediately following mass a stampede ensued when cookies and juice were offered. This was quite a treat for the children who each received two cookies similar to the size and taste of an animal cracker.
|Staff and volunteers after Nyumbani Day mass.|
The guest house that I live in has two cooks that provide us three meals a day. I found out this week that one of the cooks, John, was a chef at a 5 star restaurant in Nairobi before taking the position in the village. He explained to me that he was from the area and felt obligated to take a significant pay cut if it meant helping orphans in need. I can learn much from his sacrifice and humility.
|John, the guest house cook, and myself|
The other night all the volunteers decided to go on top of a water tower and look at the stars. The vision and illumination from the stars are like nothing I have seen. Its interesting how visible stars appear in areas mostly absent of fossil fuels and skyscrapers. It is pretty cool and it feels like your in a planetarium at the science center.
|High school freshman in the village posing as if they are kicking a soccer ball into a goal.|
Until next time friends.....