Monday, October 24 – Tuesday October 25:
Into the thick of it….
We left at 7:45am in order to pick our way out of town in the already packed Nairobi traffic. We are on our way to Nanyuki to visit Daraja Academy. I have been told by several people States-side that Daraja Academy is a few kilometers south of Nanyuki. “Just follow the signs.” We drive through Nanyuki, but see no signs. I reach into my paperwork to see if I can find further directions. None. On a whim I turn on my I-Phone and am amazed that it gave me access to the internet. I go to Daraja’s website. No contact data, of course. They don’t want to be found. Try to find directions by texting U.S. contacts…no one picks up….then I realize, it’s the middle of the night in U.S.
We asked lots of people for directions….motor bike “taxi” drivers.goat herders, maasai cow herders….no-one has heard of Daraja. We don’t stop the car when asking directions so that we don’t get car jacked. We are on the road where there has been trouble. It’s the Thika road. We’re becoming unsure. Then a man on motor bike….tells us the old Baraka school is now called Daraja and gives us directions to the southwest. We find the turn he indicated and a sign painted on a rock. With much relief, we make the turn.
The trip has been long and arduous with the constant potholes, animals wandering in the middle of the road and bouts of torrential rain. We moved through the time with, sometimes hilarious, discussions with Ben our driver. He couldn’t believe we allow dogs into our houses…that we “bless” dogs and cats and other animals. He was amazed to consider that a dog might sit on the couch with us. Ben’s repeated quote…”Oh My GOT!”
We cross over a little rickety bridge and pull up to the gates of Daraja. It’s surrounded by electric fence and a guard is at the gate. Our reception is less than welcoming. We sat in the car while security checked at the office. I finally got out of the truck and went into the reception area to meet the volunteer named Pamela. It was hard to tell if she knew we were coming or not….we suspected that she did not. Our contact, Any Harley is in Nairobe and not expected back until late afternoon. The only person who seemed to remember we were coming is Naomi…whom we have yet to meet.
Pamela begins to understand that we are here by arrangement and are expected and are donors. She invites us to lunch after we are driven to our quarters, a round house reminiscent of a mud hut. Rice and beans for lunch with Naomi. We are so glad to finally meet her and she us.
Ben leaves us reluctantly as he leaves to return to Nanyuki for the night. We are due to leave at noon the next day. Ben tells us he will return at 10:30am the next day. He is wary of the electric fence and isn’t sure if it’s there to keep us in. We assure him it is to keep people out.
Naomi is a lovely young lady of 15 years, about 5’8” tall and slender with a shy, sweet smile. Later Andy told us she was extremely shy and withdrawn when she first arrived at the school, but has come out of her shell. She told us the story of the burning of her village when she was a young girl and she feels God spared her the humiliation of rape.
During week before our arrival, her uncle was killed by raiders who robbed him of the family camel, goats and cows….the livelihood for Naomi’s mother and family. Now with uncle and livestock gone, Naomi’s mother must move in with a sister. The funeral for Naomi’s uncle is today, but Naomi doesn’t want to go. She is afraid to go to Isiolo where this incident occurred and where there is trouble with raiding parties. She feels safer at Daraja surrounded by the electric fence.
We are invited to attend two classes with Naomi…history class and biology. In each class the teacher is handing back mid-term results. Naomi has scored well and passed her tests and she shows us her scores with great pride. I confess to feeling pretty proud of “our” girl, too. .
Andy arrives. 4:00 pm. We arrange for evening classes: printmaking. The girls have “clubs” from 5 – 6. We are invited to dinner with the girls and sit with Naomi to hear more of her story.. Ugali and cabbage again. (we hit the M&M’s later back in our room.)
Another printmaking class after dinner is very well received and the girls really enjoyed the experience…all very proud of their work..
Andy asks if we have flashlights to help us find our way to room. Incredulous, we say no as we peer into nothing but dfar4ness. Even a flashlight would not be much help to us finding our way across several hundred yards of open, unfamiliar territory wrapped in total darkness. Andy leads us home and we find huge bugs in our room. Andy kills one. Another finds its way into Julia’s towel…..screams.
I do not sleep. I was very wide awake all night. The remoteness, the difficult conditions and the face that Kenya has invaded Somalia at the border makes me restless. I feel responsible for Julie’s safety. The bath room is full of bugs and ants and if we shine a flashlight we see what looks like Los Angeles in bug land. I’m glad to see dawn.
Tuesday, October 25:
Andy had planned to take some of the girls to Nanyuki today, however the plan is cancelled due to trouble in area. The death of Naomi’s uncle brings the reality of the Maasai tribal rebels and their approach to acquisition of livestock home. Life is cheap here. Death is a fact of life.
Naomi is excused from her classes in order to give us a tour of the academy. She does a very thorough job and wants us to see every square inch including every dorm, even though they all look the same….neat and Spartan and clean.
At lunch we present Naomi with some gifts, art. We showed her the rings we made for Haiti and she chose two. We left enough rings for her to offer to her class friends. I talk with her about her aspirations. Julie discusses projects and art with the Daraja art teacher. He was thrilled with ink and brayer and other items which we left for him.
Ben shows up 90 minutes early. 10:30….anxious to get us, and him, out of there.
Naomi does not want to let us go….tearful goodbyes. We left most of the remaining supplies and gifts for the girls. We exchange promises to write…to not disappear. I resolve to keep the doors open for Grace Institute and Grace Parish parents to continue this relationship and to continue donating to her school fund. Will find out from leadership where she is with her school fund.
We leave Daraja and make our way back through Nanyuki. We took time to stop by at a Benedictine Monastery. We saw their lovely grounds and visited for a while. Unfortunately the sanctuary was locked and the monk with the key couldn’t be found. We said we hoped to return on day and were gifted with Benedictine souvenir bracelets.
Nanyuki is on the Equator, so we stopped to have our pictures taken at the line….real tourists!
Ben is really wanting to get going. He drives at 120 kilometers/hr on the stretches of road where there are no potholes or herds of livestock wandering across the roads. We hear that a second bomb has exploded in Nairobi. There are security blocks all the way home, but none of them stop us much to our relief. (In a later conversation with Elisabeth, Rose’s sister….she says she is amazed that any driver would go up to Nanyuki, into the Thika area. This region near Isiolo is problem area.) Hearing this….we appreciate Ben even more.
I am glad to be out of there. It was worth the trip and we had to go to see Naomi and deliver the art which was the main purpose of our trip. But the trouble here is escalating and I am acutely aware of the possibility for flash flare ups. Paul keeps calling…Rose keeps calling….they want us to be safe and home. We reach home on time, around 5:00pm. Everyone really pleased to see us and we have a wonderful welcome. Paul calls to let us know he is glad we are home. I gain insight into the value of such a welcome. Shouldn’t we welcome each other this way every day?
We eat dinner and I sleep at last for 9 hours straight…safe in Nairobi in a bed with no bugs. Just one mosquito because Wendy forgot to spray.