What a send off!


With the clinic staff

Well, today has been quite a day! We had intended to have a quiet day after I came back from school at porridge time and deal with most of the packing in an organized fashion. However, at seven thirty John, the Headteacher turned up at the door and requested that we both attend the school assembly and parade. We were there at eight and to our amazement and perhaps some embarrassment, were presented with gifts from the children and staff. There was a farewell ceremony and then, somewhat shell-shocked, Allan went for his walk down to the river and I did my usual stint with Class 1.

I was just on my way back to the house when Allan called on my mobile to say that Nancy from Lusoi had come to visit. She is a real character and had brought ten eggs for us to share for lunch. Before I could cook them we had to go to the clinic for a pre-arranged photograph. It was good to have Nancy with us as we needed someone to take the photo. Back home and the eggs were duly cooked. I printed out the photographs with a copy for Nancy and laminated them. I then transferred the photos of the morning’s parade and ceremony on to a memory stick for the school. So far no packing had been done. Finally Nancy left and Allan went over to the Home office (not the Home Office, of course) and I was about to start on the suitcases when Rebecca texted to say she was in Chaka and would be arriving very soon to talk about the next move in her educational process. In fact, during the course of the afternoon there arrived a procession of visitors, all wanting to say their last farewells. At last, at about five I was able to throw some things in the direction of the cases and prepare a meal out of left overs plus a delicious pineapple, purchased at the weekend from Chaka market.

There was little respite in the evening as we spent time with our great friends Chris and Nash, while Solomon and Peter from the Boys’ Home came over by arrangement for some last minute computer stuff. All in all it was not the day planned but then in Kenya when is it ever? That is part of its charm.

The end is in sight

The last two days have been excessively busy, especially for Allan but an awful lot seems to have been achieved. It looks as though we may be leaving with the vast majority of the work completed or completed as far as is possible. He has spent a lot of time in the clinic with Elizabeth and also at the school with Mercy and over the last two days he has the clinic email system at least working satisfactorily and the school printer. Yesterday he had another trip to Nyeri and saw the dental technician who had repaired his original broken teeth and returned them to him. He spent some time with his dental surgeon, the Slovakian who had married a Kikuyu and settled in Nyeri. He also met up with his favourite computer saleslady, Katherine, and had the usual fish and vegetables at Raybells before coming back home to me. I started the day with class photographs as requested by John, the Headteacher, and then had my day with Cecilia and the Class 3 kids who gave me formal thanks for the work I had done with them.

Today Allan left the training facility furnished with books as well as the computer and he has been to the Boys’ Home, leaving mid morning. He has spent time with both Peter and Mary, setting up Outlook and he has inspected the impressive tomato crop in the greenhouse. He has met with Rebecca and is looking at how she can be assisted in her search for qualifications and gainful employment. Finally he and Isaac picked up John 2, who is staying the weekend with us. I finished with Florence and Class 2, also with a formal goodbye and blessing from them. I would have been overcome with emotion had Florence not made a last minute request for a poster full of animals for me to draw by Monday!
Tonight we are sitting companionably, Allan, John 2 and me, but in a few minutes I must stir myself and walk down to the Village to join in the kids Friday night Devotions – this is a long standing promise.  



Chucking it down in Chaka


Mount Kenya in the morning

Sorry, no blog yesterday but time simply ran away with us. The weather is very unsettled – the long rains.  Both yesterday and today have started bright and got warm quickly but by lunch tine the black clouds have rolled in and the rain has started. This has usually been just a shower but yesterday there was some very heavy rain. Allan had spent most of the day here in Karundas but in the late afternoon he went to Chaka in the ambulance with Solomon and Nash to see an electrician who was repairing a couple of charger leads . While they were in Chaka the sky got very black and the rain fell down in stair-rods. It was so heavy that no one could actually walk in it and the temperature must have dropped ten degrees in as many minutes. There was no hope of driving the ambulance in those conditions so they were forced to wait until the rain reduced enough to allow travel. By the time the three of them got home Allan was very cold and I prepared soup quickly as I didn’t want to risk a cold. The soup was followed by an omelette and potatoes. Nash was invited to stay for a meal, which he did and pronounced the European style meal to be very good and wondered where he could buy Heinz minestrone soup in Nyeri. Interestingly, although it is less than three miles to Chaka from here we had not rain at all, although I could hear the rumble of thunder and was aware of the ominous black clouds.

There was an impressive view of Mount Kenya this morning so we took photographs before going to Devotions. Today Allan has had his last computer training session with Solomon, John and Chris. He has got on so well with them and they are getting a lot more confidence in using the machines. I had a long talk with John at the end of the morning looking at how we can sustain the work that has already been done. He has asked for class photographs of the children with the class teacher to be placed on the walls of the Head’s office; I will do this immediately after assembly tomorrow morning. Allan spent some time in the afternoon in the clinic and the school office. He is still having a bit of trouble with Elizabeth’s Outlook software and will work on this again tonight.
I have brought out the suitcases and laid them out i Ruth’s room ready for packing. There will be no problem as to what to pack but we have had so many presents and bought a few souvenirs that weight might be an issue.    

Down to earth and ready for our last week


Delight at new socks

Thank goodness we have Sunday to get over the excitement of the last day or two. This morning Allan was up, suited and booted ready for Nash to arrive and for the walk to Kiganjo – about an hour – where Allan is to attend Nash’s church. As is typical in Kenya the six o’clock time of departure turned out to be quarter to seven and I watched the two guys stride it out on the way to Kiganjo. The walk, reports Allan, was tremendously interesting with lots of wild life and local people to talk to. They arrive din time for Nash to unlock the building for eight o’clock and the service started at nine. Allan had been informed that there were two services, the first lasting from nine to ten thirty and he intended to leave at that point. However, the best laid schemes of mice and men and all that . . . He found out that indeed the first service lasts until ten thirty but the second starts without a break and goes on until two. Never again will he even mention the length of a service at St Peter’s. Nash thoughtfully kept him awake with a surreptitious poke in the ribs and after the socialising following the service they walked home, having had no lunch. When they arrived back here soon after five, we agreed to have an early supper and Nash stayed for Mueni’s chicken and chapattis which we all enjoyed, followed by the usual mango.

I have spent a less stressful day. Church at ten thirty, lasting only until one and then a relaxing afternoon until four, when I went over to the village by arrangement to take photos of the kids receiving their gift of socks. I took lots of pictures and when I was looking at them afterwards I was pretty sure that our own boys would not have reacted with such joy and gratitude if presented with a pair of school socks! The kids were genuinely delighted and I spent an enjoyable half hour with them before returning home just as Allan was arriving back. A quiet evening followed, watching a DVD of “Only Fools and Horses”. 


Although we will not leave Kenya until the evening of Thursday 3rd April this is our last full week of work. We will leave Karundas on Tuesday 1st April and go to the Mayfield Hotel in Nairobi. Jed Hamoud the National Director will be staying at the same hotel as us so we can report to him on our visit and the progress we have made. We will then have another full 24 hours in Nairobi before leaving on the Thursday morning.
However, I set out this morning (Monday )to school for my day with Mary and Class 1. We looked at tens and units with some considerable success and in Science completed the unit on animals. We joined in with Class 3 for PE and had some great races out on the field.

In the mean time Allan went to Nyeri to get some parts for the ambulance. The work was to be done in Chaka and while they were waiting they went to the Rhino cafe for a samosa and a tea. (The lady in the Rhino was shocked by Allan having black tea with no sugar!) The ambulance is now on the road, going well. Another quiet evening, extremely quiet because Allan has fallen asleep while telling me about his day.   



Two days packed with incident!

Well, I don’t really know where to start with this offering; perhaps let’s get the more boring part pout of the way first. Allan went off for his morning walk and I went over to school to work with Class 2 and Florence. She spent some time talking to me about the funeral she had attended the day before. Apparently it was of a young woman who had a couple of young children, one of whom is particularly distressed, and Florence was asking me about the best way to help them.

The lessons went well; I took in some containers from the kitchen in order to demonstrate volume and we used the scales that the A team took out a couple of years ago, when we did practical science projects with the children in the school. Incidentally, it is really good to see how the members of staff are now using the various bits of equipment they have. They are also reproducing some of the material that I used last year and are filing away the current worksheets that we are using. In science we completed the work of animals; water is the next topic. Allan did some work in the clinic and dealt with various issues that come up during the morning and I arrived home at a quarter to one.

We then packed up as quickly as possible ready for our adventure into the unknown. Allan has booked us into a hotel near the bus (matatu) station in Machakos and Patrick, our driver, is to take us there. Allan has invited Chris to join us as he was so helpful at Samburu and it seems a shame to have Patrick’s room – a double – with only single occupancy. The purpose of the visit is to see Patricia once more and to take her a couple of items Allan has got for her in Nyeri. Silas and his wife are also to join us for lunch and it should be a very jolly occasion.
Patrick arrived, Solomon came to see us off and we left at quarter past two. The journey to Machakos was estimated by Patrick to be between four and four and half hours so we expected to be there before dark. As soon as we reached Karatina the traffic became very heavy and the journey extremely slow. Of course, this is Friday afternoon and everybody is anxious to get away or to get home. The route around Nairobi is beset with large trucks and we stopped at Thika to have a break and to go to the bank. A mango juice set us up well for the rest of the journey which proved to be no better than the earlier part and we averaged only about 20 miles per hour along the Mombasa Road. Finally we turned off on the last 20 km to Machakos and it was well after seven and completely dark. This was a bit of a blow as we had no idea where in the town was either the bus station or our hotel. Patrick drove to the town centre and made enquiries only to be told we had passed it but was given directions as to how to get there. The road did not look very promising and Allan and I, somewhat fainthearted, suggested that we turn back but Patrick was made of sterner stuff and ploughed on. He was rewarded by signs to the hotel and we finally arrived. In the dark we looked at the hotel in dismay. It looked like one of those Spanish hotels that have been booked but not yet finished and the area seemed like a building site. In from on us loomed a stark building which resembled a prison rather than a hotel. Allan and Chris left Patrick and me in the car and went to investigate. He returned very soon, extremely excited and beckoned us in. While I followed the manager of the Khaka (pronounced Chaka, rather confusingly) Hotel up a flight of stairs, through an alarmingly secure door with a huge padlock and into one of the most beautifully appointed hotel rooms we have ever been in. True, some of the finish was lacking, and the gas cooker had not yet been attached to the cylinder but this is Kenya, and the rooms, two bedrooms, a living area, a kitchen, shower and toilet were a welcome reprieve from what we had originally feared.
By the time we had got downstairs to Allan he was organising a meal which we ordered immediately. It took a very long time to prepare but when it arrived it was clear that the whole thing had been prepared fro scratch and although there was one moment when Allan nearly dozed off, he stayed awake until quarter past nine when we finally started to eat. The food was beautifully cooked and would have graced any restaurant, especially when the meals averaged four pounds each! After we had eaten it was off to bed, as we were pretty exhausted after the long drive; I don’t know how Patrick did it.

In the morning we were up reasonably early and I prepared a light breakfast in our room and invited the boys (Chris and Patrick) in to share it. Rather suspiciously they accepted a Weetabix and then went downstairs for a cup of Kenyan tea, which was to be prepared for them. We followed and they sat down to a couple of pancakes, bread and jam, and I joined them in a single pancake. We had a lovely chat to the very attractive waitress cum receptionist and then we all went out for a walk around Machakos. Patricia was expected at nine but had texted to say she might be late as the matatu was taking a very long route and Silas had originally said he would be with us at ten and had later altered to this to be half past. We had to order our meal before we went out, presumably so that food could be purchased and prepared for our stated time of half past twelve for eating. We phoned Silas, who ordered for himself and his wife over the phone and as we could not contact Patricia I ordered for her. Machakos is an interesting town with business people in evidence as we walked around. Patrick is proud of this town as he is in his home county and now surrounded by his Kamba tribe compatriots. We walked round the market, which Allan had visited earlier with John and John. We realised that time was passing and rushed back to the hotel. There was no sign of Silas and Patricia again texted to simply say she was still on her way. By half past eleven there was still no sign of any of them and we started to wonder if we would have to eat seven meals between the four of us.
However, just before twelve there was action. Firstly, Patricia phoned  to say she was at the bus station and Allan and Patrick set out to collect her and bring her to the hotel. When they arrived back here they were accompanied by not only Patricia but Ron Kohler, her American neighbour, who joined us for a while. Allan ordered him a meal as well and then Silas and his wife, Joyce, joined us. The air was filled with talk and shouts of Kenyan laughter as we shared reminiscences and jokes. The meal was excellent – as it had been the night before. Unfortunately Ron could not join us as he had business to attend to in the town but we managed to share his meal between us so nothing was wasted. The time flashed by and at two, after we had completed our meal with a cup of tea – black with lemon for us and Kenyan for the rest of them – it was time for us to leave. Silas was giving Patricia a lift so the four of us set off on our return journey. This was much speedier than the day before, and in barely than two hours we were at Tusky’s in Thika, where we had stopped yesterday. After another mango juice we continued on our way and were making excellent progress when we suddenly found ourselves in a long queue. Evidently there had been an incident of some kind. The driving in Kenya is a very undisciplined affair so we were not too surprised to discover that there had been an accident but the behaviour of the drivers now was startling to say the least. Those behind us started to overtake, the consequence being that the two lane road was now completely blocked to all oncoming traffic. To add to this, several drivers drove past us on the nearside verge so the two lane road had turned into three, all of which were virtually stationary. After some considerable time the police appeared on the scene and some sort of order prevailed. It was soon after this that we passed the incident which appeared to have involved a matatu, a private car and a coach, all of which looked sorry for themselves on the side of the road. There did not seem to be any serious injuries, and we were glad of this as we finally got on our way having lost about three-quarters of an hour. Not long afterwards we were held up by a broken down heavy vehicle and continued until we came to a police check point. My heart sank as the officer directed Patrick towards him; I wondered if he was thinking that he might be able to get some money out of a couple of “rich white people” (what Silas called “the skin tax”). However, the officer simply asked to see Patrick’s licence, perused it and handed it to me, waving us forward. Hooray!
We drove on without any further delay and arrived back home around half past seven. What a weekend; full of excitement and interest. We would not have missed it for the world.    



A long day for Allan

My day has been quite straightforward. School with Mary and Class 1 as Florence has not been in today owing to a burial. Tens and units using blocks and then Science and wild animals. They loved my photos and were thrilled to have a copy each to take home. Also my drawings for a classroom poster went down well. When I got home I did quite a lot of work with the video film that Allan took when we were at Samburu.
Allan left home at seven thirty in the morning to go to the Boys’ Home. He needed to catch Isaac before he leaves again for Nairobi – his wife is ill. He met with Isaac and  Peter and did his business with them before going on to Nyeri. Unfortunately both his friend Katherine at the computer shop and his dentist were not in today but he went to the bank and the supermarket and virtually witnessed a bank fraud, where the fraudsters attempted to get away in a clapped out motor and had the tyres shot out by the police. They also took several boys to the Tumu Tumu Hospital for counselling and Allan bought them a cake each afterwards. The return was via Karatina and he finally arrived home, tired but very happy at seven in the evening. A twelve hour day (nearly) is a lot for an old boy!

Loose ends being tied up


It was my turn to speak in devotions this morning and the Bible passage I chose was from 1 Peter. After this I went down to school to Class 3 and Cecilia. We had a great deal of success with counting on in thousands today and it was a great help starting with Maths while the kids were fresh. While I was in school Mercy asked me about some animals photographs and she will come to visit later to look on the computer.
Allan did his usual training work during the morning with Solomon, John and Chris. Chris came by later, having completed a form he has devised using the techniques shown him by Alan and me and I printed it out for him. Allan has one more Wednesday session with these guys and this will enable him to complete the topics in the Form 2 text book. He will not have a chance to look at the books for Forms 3 and 4.

 Returned to Form 3 in the afternoon and we practised multiplication problems while Pastor Joseph drove over on his motor cycle to work on a word processor template for the Chapel at the Boys Home and to create an email account for the same purpose. It was good to be able to chat with him at a time when he is not busy with the Sunday service. We told him we will not be able to come to the Boys on a Sunday again as we will be engaged fully here at Karundas. Allan has planned a for a full day tomorrow; he wll leave for the Boy’s Home with Solomon at half past seven and then go on to Nyeri to do some jobs and to collect the old teeth which, hopefully have been mended. He may finally end up with a set of English teeth and a set of African ones.
We are looking forward to the weekend in Machakos. It should be good fun and will be great to catch up once more with Patricia and to see Silas again. Allan has promised to take me round the market which he went to with Simon, John and June.
Nash came round at the end of the afternoon to send an email while Allan went for his constitutional down to the river. Mueni has promised to make chapattis tomorrow – my favourite!

Multiplication Tables versus tooth decay

Nicholas performs well!

We have moved on a lot further with fitting things in before we leave. Today Allan has organised a final visit to see Patricia, this time not in Macueni but at Machakos. He has been in contact with Patricia, Silas (ex manager of Karundas) and Patrick, our Nyeri driver. We will leave here early on Friday afternoon and drive to Machakos where Allan, Patrick and I will stay in a self catering hotel for the night. The following day we will see Patricia and Silas for part of the morning and lunch before travelling home on Saturday afternoon. This looks to be an excellent arrangement as we will not need to take any time out of our working days and be a another good experience for us in seeing other parts of Kenya (Allan has already been to Machakos but I have not). Allan has also had a minor breakthrough with sorting out Microsoft Outlook on the clinic machine. He has painstakingly worked through all possibilities and thinks he has finally found out the correct settings in order to get the clinic email working. He is looking forward to his training session tomorrow. I have had a wonderful day with Class 2 and Florence. She and I are getting like a house on fire and she really is a born teacher. She has such a feeling for all the pupils without any discrimination and a real desire for them to achieve at their highest level. We worked on measurement and estimation this morning and I was impressed at the way most of them were able to estimate in metres the width of the room, the height of Florence and other such measures. Today I took several photographs at the request of the Head Teacher to send to the Nairobi office and will take another couple tomorrow. Quite a few members of Class 2 have now memorised sufficient tables to warrant their lollipop prize. Allan is not happy with me giving these children sweets because of the possibility of ruining their teeth but I feel that the amount of sugar in a lollipop is minimal when compared to the vast quantities of sugar everybody takes in on a regular basis and, anyway, the consumption of lollipops will certainly cease in two weeks!

A look over the shoulder


Computer in use at Hall Mead

Today Allan has been working in the clinic with Elizabeth, with whom he has struck up quite a rapport. There is still a problem with email but the clinic now has a working printer and a new laptop. I was in school with Class 1 and as part of the morning’s lessons I persuaded Mary (who was not all that keen) to let me do a drama lesson with the children. We linked it with CRE and, remembering yesterday’s presentation at the Boys’ Home, I reminded the children of the Bible account of David and Goliath. We split the class into Philistines and Israelites and auditioned a small David and a large Goliath. The kids entered into the spirit of things very well, with Goliath producing a spectacular death. Mary was quite won over and started thinking of things of this type she could do later on.

Now there are only two working weeks left I feel it is not inappropriate to take a look back and see what we have achieved and what we have learned from our time here. It has been a joy to see how the boys at Mount Kenya Boys’ Home coexist so well together. They are obviously of mixed ages and abilities but the older ones take care of the younger ones and there appears to be little bullying or teasing kind of behaviours.  The poor little unfortunate child of seven or eight, who has recently been rescued from extreme neglect, where he has allegedly been shut in a cupboard for long periods of time, is being introduced to loving family relationships, not as easy task when he eats with his hands, cannot speak and has had no toilet training. Isaac, the rest of the staff and boys alike have taken him under their respective wings and he is already responding to the atmosphere. It is hoped that he can be placed in a special school once he has been assessed. Allan has been able to spend a fair amount of time over at the Boys’ Home and has assisted with getting the various laptops working faster and some software installed. This is apart from some smaller jobs for individuals, which have given everybody confidence in his ability and desire to help.
The children at Karundas are happy and well-cared for and generally perform well in school. The teachers in the lower classes are all well motivated and happy to work with me and to try out new (to them) methods, most of which they intend to continue after our departure.

Allan has also spent a lot of time in school making the computer facilities more accessible. The computer is now housed in the Deputy’s office, also used by the administrative staff, and a printing facility is being available. The problem with this is the cost of toner and paper if the printer is to be used to greatest effect. I wonder how funds can be set aside for these consumables.
Within the Karundas and Hall Mead environments Allan has done wonders with the training room. He has held regular weekly sessions for several members of staff, including the Head Teacher, and they are disappointed that he has to leave while they are the middle of their course of study.
The staff at Mitaboni now have a working system with proper antivirus installed on their new windows 7 machine. It is too far away to have a great impact, but in the two visits he has made Allan has progressed the computing in spite of constant power outages, which need battery backup to avoid damage to the machines, as well as preventing work being carried out.
Nyamarambe is too far off to have received more that one visit but the technology appears adequate in the hands of Gideon and Benson. The major issue with the computing situation here at present is that most of the machines have Windows XP installed, in spite of a stated desire to upgrade to Windows 7. This is likely to prove more of an issue in the future.
We have, of course, been privileged to spend time with our great friend Patricia the nurse out in Macueni county and our evenings are punctuated by regular visits from our friends Nash and Chris, who pop in for a coffee or an English cup of tea (we have still not mastered making Kenyan tea). They will also usually take in a DVD or watch the new on TV. This relationship, which has blossomed over the last three months, will be greatly missed by us back in the UK.
There are still some tasks needing to be addressed and we almost certainly will not be able to do all we would have liked to do but that glance back has encouraged us to think that our time has been well spent here and it is a pity it could not have been longer.

We reiterate that we are immeasurably grateful to all those at home and here at Kids Alive Kenya for their work and encouragement; they have contributed just as much as us in helping vulnerable and abused kids experience a Christian education and upbringing.   

Administration Saturday


Snow on the mountain (07:00)

On rising this morning Allan calls me to take a look at Mount Kenya. The amount of snow on the peak is amazing. It must have been the cold day yesterday and all the rain we have experienced has fallen on the mountain as snow. Both Nash and Chris said they had never seen it like that before.
Today we have decided to sort out a few things and so, of course, I make a list. This is always my strategy under such circumstances and we refine my list during breakfast. Firstly I will prepare for my teaching week and complete a little marking and Allan needs to make some calls and write a few emails. Then he goes for his walk and  on his return we write a Word Template to help Pastor Joseph; Allan will take it over to him next week as he will be busy tomorrow with the church service. By now it is lunch time and afterwards we make a big effort and sort out our many photographs, so as to have them all together in one place. Now it is time for the video editing. We have to install some new software on our working machine because MovieMaker is not on our version of Windows 7. This takes a lot of time and effort and, in my case, is punctuated by the preparation of our evening meal – a chicken stew with peppers and courgettes.
We work on the video editing until way into the evening. Chris drops in for a short time and then Nash arrives with a preaching video he wants to watch. Allan goes off to bed and leaves us to our various pastimes.