Location: Nakuru, Kenya
Well, it's just as well that we had so much to do yesterday as otherwise I would have been a complete gibbering wreck. After chopping cabbage for the last time, using the last of the bubbles in the playground and sitting in on our last lesson with our classes, we hurried off into town to buy the exercise books so desperately needed by the school, and some sweets for the children as we'd forgotten the day before since we'd been trying to deal with 'bank problems'. After a quick dash in the tuk tuk back to school, (luckily we weren't quite as late back as we expected, but still were too late for the afternoon class) we went to hand out the sweets we'd bought for each class.
The tears had actually started as we arrived at the school that morning. One of the little boys in my class was escorting his younger brother and sister home after bringing them to the school to register them for the January intake at the centre. Their older brother in the top class, had already mentioned that their mother was poorly so knowing that we'd be able to afford to buy uniforms for the new children as John's sister ran forward to hug my legs really caught me by surprise and set my eyes leaking. Unfortunately though, by the time I'd reached the playground and met the younger sister of another little girl in my class (she was just a smaller version of Miriam) it was mini-Miriam who was crying. Whilst most of the children at the Walk Centre and in London greet us with "hararwoo?" ("how are you?" for those still too young to know what they're asking) and come to stroke our arms or hold our hands, unfortunately there is the occasional child who finds either our skin tone or grinning faces just too much to bear...
My final class in the morning was also emotional but I'd managed to keep it together and we knew we had a job to do at lunchtime. By the time I'd dropped sweets off in the top Primary class and they'd shouted "thank you very much" in unison, however, the floodgates were open. My class, who I visited last, found this quite curious - that I cried as we gave out their sweets. We'd be warned about an assembly, but having arrived back, and bearing in mind it was already gone 3pm when the children would normally go home, I was pleased and sad at the same time that we'd not had the opportunity. And then I saw several classes lined up outside...
We were asked to give messages to the children, which were translated by one of the teachers. The children sang for us and then the children were asked if they wanted to come to the front to give us messages. I have an audio recording of this. A video recording was not likely to have been very straight. And then to walk the children home for the last time. Since they see so many volunteers come and go, they smiled broadly - carefully guarding their sweets. Very emotional. I've had another 'moment' this morning after escorting the few children who came for breakfast home. Eric, again from my class held my hand all the way home, and as I finally shut the gate at the house peered at me grinning broadly through the hole in the gate and pushed his hand through to hold mine for the last time...
Things I will miss desperately about Kenya:
* The children. If you've read any of my blogs over the last 4 weeks, that goes without saying
* The people and the very warm welcome we've had from complete strangers. People are genuinely keen to say hello, pass the time of day, or find out about our reasons for being here. I suspect if I try to say hello to strangers like this in Manchester I'll either be carted off or lamped.
* The relaxed atmosphere
* The ability to be pleased with 'your lot', and to be thankful for small things - things that would barely raise a grunt of appreciation in the UK
* The weather. Even for someone like me who burns really easily, it's been nice to get a bit of sun
Things I won't miss about Kenya:
* The matatu beeping in front of the house at 5:30am, 5:45 am, 6:00am...
* The flies. They're everywhere, especially at breakfast
* The relaxed atmosphere - people (Freddy being one of the worst) actually refer to being on time as 'mazungu' (white person) time. This morning was a case in point - Fred asked me to be at the school at 8am, then rocked up at 8:55am!
* The ability to be pleased with 'your lot' - whilst this is nice in some ways, it also means that people don't expect life to get any better. One of the tuk tuks has a sticker that reads 'Live to your standard to avoid stress'. Whilst this encourages people to not think about things that are out of their reach, it also encourages people not to question the system or to expect things to get any better - and those who do at protests etc are often beaten or killed
I know that I'm rambling now, so if you've stuck with me this long, thank you again for reading. I can't wait to see you all next week. Cathy xxx
Location: Nakuru, Kenya
I can't believe that tomorrow will be our last day at the centre! This month has at the same time been one of the longest and yet the shortest of my life. So much to do and see and get used to, and just as I feel that we've got to grips with the matatu, and diplomatically declining the street vendors, and chopping cabbage, it's almost time to leave. The trip has definitely made both Yvonne and I realise how lucky we are at home, and whilst we've had a fabulous time and got a massive amount from the experience, there are things we've both missed about the UK. What we will miss most about Kenya is the children.
Despite the circumstances in which they live, they're just as you'd expect children to be - sweet and funny and mischievous and stroppy (sometimes) and unique. The only difference between them and the children in the UK is that they've never heard of an X-Box 360, let alone played on one or asked for one for Christmas. We got the bubbles out again today and it brought home how made up the kids are with simple things - bubbles, skipping (the boys from my class had a go at this today. The result was hilarious as they pushed and blamed each other for them not being able to skip very well), being measured for shoes and uniform...
They also love singing and clapping games and "roundy roundy" (aka Round and Round the Garden) and also This Little Piggy (when requesting this they just wriggle their fingers at us) as these result in them being tickled. I pause sometimes before tickling them and the squeals of anticipation are fabulous. As this and holding their hands as we walk home is the only physical contact they get, we cherish it as well. We try to comfort children when they cry but since they don't understand us very well, I'm not sure we make it any better normally...
Fred is going to be on his own now for a while chopping the cabbage, we're around tomorrow and I've volunteered to help on Saturday for lunc too. But there aren't any more volunteers due here until February. One of the former volunteers from the Centre, a lady from London called Amy, has however been able to set up The Walk as a charity in the UK with a charity number and bank account that can transfer funds monthly to the centre, so for anyone who asked about making a regular donation to the centre (which they will find especially useful since they won't have the extra revenue from receiving volunteers) then we'll forward details when we get back.
We may be busy with shopping for uniform tomorrow afternoon, and we've got our meeting about building materials for low cost housing, so we might not get the chance to blog. Hopefully we'll get the chance for final thoughts on Saturday, and failing that will see you all next week. Thanks to everyone who has persevered and read all of my ramblings, and/or sent messages. It's really meant a lot to know you've been there. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon! Cathy x
Location: Nakuru, Kenya
Well we did try to blog yesterday, but the internet connection died and despite activating the auto save yesterday's info is all gone...
Never mind, things have moved on a bit anyway now... Yesterday we spent measuring the children throughout the school for shoes and uniform, as with the money you helped us to raise we were in a position to provide uniform for the 3 classes going to the prison school, and as we thought new uniform for the children remaining at The Walk. We were going to do the shopping today. In the meantime Gladys the Head teacher has had a call from Alex who runs the school to advise that he'd like us to hold off on this.
When the 3 classes move to the Prison School there will be an intake of another 50 children aged 3-5 at The Walk who will have no uniform at all so Alex would prefer us to provide uniform for these children instead. Yvonne and I spent all evening last night working out sizes and prices etc for the existing children and now we might not need this info! Humph! It's a shame really since some of the children in the lower classes are wearing clothes that we would have thrown away months ago. As such we're hoping that even after buying new uniform for the new intake, that we might at least be able to replace a couple of items of uniform for the children whose current uniform is most damaged.
I think we're both kicking ourselves a bit that we left the shopping this late (we were warned!) but we've had to hold off on committing to too much as we weren't sure of the final amount that was going to be in the account to spend as there was still fundraising money coming in. Unfortunately this means that instead of buying the uniform and shoes today we'll need to wait to speak to Alex on Thursday since he is away for a few days. We were hoping to spend all day Thursday and Friday at the school before we left, but as it stands we might be in town shopping... We're making the most of our time with the children though while we can. More about this tomorrow...
Location: Nakuru, Kenya
I can't believe that this time next week we'll be on a plane home. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone at home, and there have been things I've missed about the UK, but I looked around the playground as the children were having breakfast, and (as I'd been warned) I wanted to bring them all home with me!
I've now got to grips with all of the names of the children in my class, and plenty more in the playground, and each day you meet somebody new, or find out how one child is related to another. Some of the kids start off with quite a brash exterior but in some of them over the last few weeks, this has melted away and left the most sweet children. Some of the children used to be shy if I caught their eye or smiled. Whilst they still sometimes bury their heads in their elbows if I smile, they beam back with the most enormous grin before their faces disappear from view. Or there's the child who doesn't do especially well academically, but who now replies confidently in English and smiles when I ask her how she is when I see her in the morning. Don't get me wrong, there are the kids who fight, or cause trouble, but they're children, and these 'troublesome' kids are in a tiny minority, and aren't naughty all of the time.
Each of the children has their own personality and just as we're getting to know them, it's almost time to come home :o( It's been some of the shy children who have picked up the clapping games that I've been showing them the fastest, or who have taken that step to take our hands as we walk home and it all comes to an end at the end of this week. I've met children who are called names that remind me of friends at home - for anyone who works at Southern Gate, there is an Eric and a Kevin in my class - mirroring the names of the lovely caretakers who look after our building. Then there's a Marion and a Martin and a Stephen and an Ann... I don't know anyone at home called Obadiah or Milka though...
Can't believe we've so little time left at the school, and this is made worse by the fact that we've now got a mad scramble to spend all of the money that you helped us to raise... More on that and what we've been spending your money on very soon!
Location: Nakuru, Kenya
We weren't actually sure we'd be able to blog today as our usual internet cafe is closed on a Sunday, but one of the street vendors offered to show us another place, and here we are. Am sure it's going to cost us a fortune in postcards when we finally do some shopping in what is known as the Masai Market in the centre of Nakuru, as the vendors in the town centre remember your name - especially if you're white. I say centre, but it really is just one main street - nothing like the town centres we're used to...
We've had another fabulous weekend with Rufus, our tour guide. Yesterday we visited Lake Nakuru National Park (the park that the volunteers took the children from The Walk to a couple of years ago), had a trip up to the Menengai Crater - the volcano summit just 8 km from Nakuru town and then a trip over the equator (yes, we've seen it, the water really does drain in different directions depending on which side of the equator you're on) to Thompson Falls, a waterfall which is also suffering from the drought.
We've been so, so lucky with the animals we saw again, seeing rhino, a hippo grazing out of the water, flamingo (although again there are fewer of them because the lake has receded so much because of the drought) more lions, baboons, velvet monkeys stealing and playing with the toilet paper from the loos at the main entrance to the park, and wait for it, 2 more leopards! A mum and her cub this time. Unfortunately the photos of the leopards aren't quite so good this time, since they moved so quickly, but it was still fabulous to see.
Evalyne, the young girl who is staying with Alex and Patricia came to Lake Nakuru with us. At 12 this was the first time she'd seen any of the animals despite living just 5 km from the park. She's not the only one. Freddy has never seen a lion, and from what Rufus said, this isn't unusual in Kenya despite how many National Parks there are...
No photos today as I have to download my photos to a disc before I'm ale to upload them, so more next week. x