Monday, Oct 17:
Grace Art Camp artist, Julie Romberg, and I leave Portland at 1:30pm. My daughter, Amber and grandson, Diego, and Stephen Schneider see us off. We are carrying 100 lbs of art, art supplies and equipment for Chwele and Daraja. Ten hour flight to Amsterdam. Back through security (in body scan machine!) in Amsterdam. Another 7.5 miles to Nairobi. We do not see our contact at the gate and proceed to line for visa. All lines moving quickly, except ours. One officer only in our line and he is very slow. I started out as part of the first group and ended up last. Joked about this with the officers. Next customs. I’m last through and customs officer too tired to worry about our shipment of art. Thanks be to God. Then we see our driver contact, Ben. Ben drives us to Rose and Justus home. Julie and I will share bed and bath while there. They are very generous and have tea and refreshment for us. It is now the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 18 since we have travelled through several time zones.
Wednesday, October 19:
I wake early to the sound of the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. A cold shower for me today because I forget to flip the switch for hot water. Julie sleeping hard…I finally wake her. We leave for Kenyatta airport to take short flight up to Kitala to make our way to Chwele. We sort out the art to take to Chwele. We climb up roped ladder to find our seats crammed three across in the back of the 15-seater. We meet Jimmy, working for Unicef. Jimmy’s an Irishman who works all over the world and doesn’t go home much. We are met at Kitali by our Oregon friend Paul Kuto and his nephew and driver. We begin the trip to Chwele. Stop for lunch in Kitali, go to market for some supplies and a paid of sunglasses. We visit the town bank to exchange money from dollars to shillings and begin learning how to understand the meaning of 10,000 shillings ($100.00.) When the sun is out, my eyes run with the brightness and I quickly don my new African sunglasses. I look like a combination of Amelia Earhart and a bug.
The countryside is a beautiful, lush, patchwork of farms….tall trees, nandi flames, golden daisies in the hedgerows, purple blossomed trees, corn, potatoes, yams, bananas, papayas, peanuts, mustard greens. The people truly make hay while the sun shines. They will harvest all this for the winter and eat well now. In winter, it gets a lot leaner and harder. Chwele sits up high with broad views of the valley and the hills beyond. The roads are deadly slow due to washouts and potholes, long bumpy road.
We arrive in the evening and are welcomed by members of the Kuto family. We are served a meal of chicken, ugaro (corn mush bread), rice and greens. Small local bananas for deserts and Chai tea. I am a vegetarian but have learned that I must have protein when travelling in these kinds of situations. There is no tofu here. When in Africa, I eat chicken and protein bars packed earlier in the suitcase.
Julie and I have separate rooms complete with mosquito net. Electricity is available via generator. We have it from 6am – 10pm when it works. We clean our teeth with bottled water. Rest room is inside and works about once an hour. I sleep under my net, but am awakened at 4:00 am due to sound of mosquito. My net has slipped and I am bitten. I adjust my net and try to get back to sleep but I am too awake to the whereabouts of the mosquito and the compound rooster is making his morning sounds.