It was with sadness, happiness and anticipation that I left Australia yesterday. It has been a very ’emotional’ time the last 2 weeks of 2011 with my dad passing on, my son’s wedding and over a houseful of visitors during this time, plus the last fundraising event for the year before I left. I didn’t get to pack until about 3 hours before my flight, and yes, I did forget something, but my friend Lesley can bring it over to me in 4 weeks.

I felt very lonely at the airport in Brisbane, as I had time to actually stop and reflect over the past couple of weeks and the pride I felt in Wesley at his marriage and the pride I felt in my dad for being who he was, and mum for her years and years of looking after dad putting her life on hold.

My hotel room

She has virtually been looking after dad for nearly 40 years. Each of them continue to give me strength and determination I never knew I had by their actions.
I am notorious for sleeping most flights and lived up to my reputation. I must say the food on Emirates is excellent. My ‘restless legs’ kicked in and I just wanted to scream when I woke up as it drives me mad and with little room to stretch. Movies weren’t that interesting but did watch a fantastic interview with Amie Winehurst where she sang several songs. What a talent and beautiful lady she was, and to think I didn’t even know who she was when she passed. That woman could sure sing soul and jazz. I have been listening to many of her soul music songs on you tube and I am truly amazed at her talent. What a loss. Dubai airport seems to get bigger each time I am there.
Stayed at Glory Hotel in Ukunda. A$30 a night with a pool including breakfast. No workplace health and safety here. Very ordinary but staff very friendly. Moved across the road to Eden Drops Hotel where I have stayed before. The staff remembered me and put me in their ‘best room.’ It is high season here so it cost me A$25 a night instead of my usual $20. This time I have hot and cold water so feel a little spoilt.

Cleanliness a problem in my hotel

Thursday 5th January 2012

Went to Diani Beach for a walk today. The sand is so like the Gold Coast, but without the surf. It was so stinking hot, I walked up to a hotel overlooking the beach and bought myself a drink at the bar and went and laid on their lounges in the shade by the pool. I was a ‘guest.’ No one knew the difference. It was awful seeing the beach boys and girls looking up at all the westerners enjoying themselves while they struggle to get food for the day. Most of the hotel pool area was filled with Germans. Walked back along the beach and got a matatu back to the hotel. 30 KS = 3cents Australian. Walked down to a restaurant where I’d eaten before (nothing like Aussie restaurants) and had a lovely chicken biryani, with biryani rice and salad, with banana for dessert and also a passionfruit juice all for $4.00 Australian. It was a huge meal, but I was starving as hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.

Friday 6th January 2012

Kerry and Patrick picked me up at 10:00am with some tourists who wanted to see the orphanage from the UK. A granny and her 3 granddaughters. I could see the heat was killing them. It was magic seeing Kerry and Patrick again, and the road trip to the orphanage seemed so familiar with several new houses built along the way Kenyan style. Ukunda village a dirty dusty bowl as we passed through, a hive of activity with people busily going about their business. You can’t compare it to anything in Australia – at all.

Not so clean

The children and staff were so excited to see me. Dotti remembered me calling Aunty Catty! Aunty Catty! and Aunty Siriani and Aunty Rachel cried and wouldn’t stop hugging me. Even the guys who work there – normally so shy, and only shake hands hugged me – was so lovely. Straight away Hadija with those big beeming eyes began chanting the lines from “Wombat Stew.” (I had been teaching them the lines for a play we were doing last time here), and Eliza wanted to play some games I’d taught them last time. I remembered all their names. Kerry now is homeschooling the elder children with an employed teacher, and their English has progressed in leaps and bounds. They were allowed to greet me then back to their work. The younger children were all at school – now going to a different school than last time as classes are smaller. Early days yet with homeschooling and hopefully Lesley and I can help more. Mr. Colonzo a teacher who tutored the children on weekends on my last visit is their teacher. He has asked already for my help next week. School has only been back a week.
The children have grown so much, especially little George who is really into the terrible twos. Tumaini remembered games we played too. It really felt lovely to have them all wanting to be around me and chatting so much about what we used to do when I was here. Samwell has grown the tallest that I noticed.

Dressups and makeup-Saturday night

He was severely malnourished when he arrived here only a few weeks before I came last time, and he has progressed well in his health.
Lots of changes here. A new toilet block being built with 8 toilets and showers. Unfortunately it is not finished so with 25 of us using the one toilet and shower it is difficult and it is a squat toilet!! There is a little more solar power, so I now have a little light in my accommodation which works sometimes, and the light can stay on a little longer in the dining room at night. The washing area has had to be shifted because of the new shower and toilet block, and a couple of the buildings have had paint jobs from volunteers. Kerry’s house is finished also. The staff are still the same with Aunty Irena the only one gone, and staying full time at her other job. I hope to get to see her while here. I thought it would rain today as it looked like it and humidity very bad, but ‘not the wet season.’
You certainly know you are back in Africa, the white person is viewed as being so rich and prices double when they see you coming. This is Africa! Mzungus we are called. It is understandable when you see how these people live. We would do the same, but one has to be always on the alert so as to not be ripped off or have ‘banditos’ steal your bag or money when in busy places.

And we just turn on a tap

I couldn’t stomach ugali for dinner (polenta type staple food here but white), so had rice with my sumawiki (vegetable like spinach). My lunch was cabbage and rice. Food and petrol have DOUBLED here since January last year. It makes life so difficult for the people here to exist day by day. After dinner I sat and listened to Hadija debate with Patrick’s eldest son, whether Swahili is better than English. Wow!! Has she come along way. She could argue her point so well. This was a girl who had had virtually no schooling until coming here, could only speak Swahili and here she was having a debate in English that English was better than Swahili. Still though – the external knowledge of the world outside Kenya is missing. This is what needs to be addressed as the teachers also have knowledge only of the world around them. I was asked by the owner of the hotel. “Do you have hotels in Australia?” and off the teacher Mr. Colonzo “What seasons do you have in Australia, and where is it?”
There are also here at present Uncle Patrick’s 2 children Peter 21, and his daughter Grace 19, as well as Kerry’s daughter Lauren, 20 and the other Australian volunteer Sarah 26, who has been here 3 months and leaves on Wednesday back to Sydney.

After breaky wash each day

She also spent 3 months in Tanzania at an orphanage, and climbed Mt. Kilimajaro there so been away 6 months. She is eye testing the kids tomorrow. Cataracts are a HUGE problem here in Kenya for children and adults. There is an eye clinic close to here that I will donate eye glasses given to me by staff at school, to help some people see. I brought too many clothes – Aggggghh – that’s what I get for not packing until the last couple of hours before I left.
The visitors from the hotel didn’t stay long – it takes 1 hour to drive here and they were only here about 45 minutes and the Granny asked to go back!! The fuel alone is terribly expensive and Kerry doesn’t charge, she just asks for a small donation for the children even if only crayons – I saw it as an absolute insult and a free ride to fill in time, as they gave nothing – even after Kerry had been telling them how every cent is fundraised and how difficult it is to keep ahead with the price of fuel now. I just don’t understand how people can stay in 5 star hotels, ask repeatedly to go and see an orphanage, be collected, returned, fed, watered, and then not even give a cent toward their lunch or even $5. However on the bright side most visitors want to stay for the day and play with the children and the children gain immense pleasure from it as do the visitors, and most go home and do some sort of fundraising for the orphanage.

Kijana, his uncle and me

The new toilet and shower block has been funded by a visitor from UK who came here to visit while on holiday here – 8 new toilets and showers so how amazing is that. In the post arrived a parcel with a Christmas card and photos of every child with a visitor who had been here earlier in October. The kids went crazy over their photos and remembered the guests, so 99% are lovely and appreciate that Kerry has to take a day out of running this place and the cost of collecting them, feeding them and returning them to their 5 star hotels.

Saturday 7th January 2012

Big wash today. Was so tired after it. Took about 3 and a half hours with 3 of us doing it. Not used to it. The humidity is really bad today – virtually unbearable. Have done nothing but sweat. The builder came to work on the toilet block but slept all morning!! It is so hot at night with no fan and I just sweat most of the night – like a permanent hot flush!! Just got to suck it up. Think tonight I’ll leave my door open and let some breeze in. Mosquito nets are a must here, so won’t be bothered by mosquitos. The dogs were going a bit crazy last night so don’t know what was outside the compound. Lunch was banana and potato stew which I do like.

Hadija and Eliza

Got to have a coffee this morning. Oh! It was HEAVEN to have it, so had 2 more. Nanna nap in the arvo as just drained of energy. In a few days I will be acclimatised again.

Thursday 12th January 2012

I can’t believe I have been here at the orphanage a week tomorrow. The days blur into each other with the daily routine of what happens here. I spent a morning at the school a couple of days ago, and it was too frustrating for me, so came home and began making maths resources for the younger children. Walked the long way back for a change and some secondary students from the village school walked with me as they had been sent home as their parents had not paid their fees. It is very common. Lots of the primary students were also on their way home – same problem. It is so difficult for children to have a proper education here. As a teacher I get so frustrated at how little resources there are and that the teachers actually only get paid from the students’ fees – not from the government, so if the parents have not paid, the teachers don’t get paid and the parents keep sending the kids and the kids keep getting sent home. A vicious circle – as often the wimbi porridge at the school is the only meal some of the children get a day. A teacher gets paid here around A$50 a month or less – imagine that.

The other volunteer Sarah left yesterday which was hard to see her go. She was so lovely. Back to Sydney after 3 months here and 3 months in Tanzania. She was so upset leaving. We had some champaign the night before (hot) – but was drinkable – this is Kenya – you do what you have to do.

Njoki – tired as

Yesterday the generator broke down so no power was able to be accessed. We usually can get it for a hour or a bit more at night, so hence no water being able to be pumped from storage tanks – so a quick shower for all of us and it is still not fixed, and we are out of water in the tanks to wash, so unable to wash today and water on rations. They are trying to get a loan of another generator while the orphanage’s is getting fixed but it is late arvo and none forthwith. Phones have been unable to be charged, so is difficult.
We have visitors from Scotland today. The heat is knocking them. -2 degrees when they left Scotland. They seem very impressed with the orphanage and bought goodies. Mamma Siriana is on ½ day tomorrow and wants me to go spend the arvo with her at her house – mud and dirt floor, about 30 minutes walk away. Last visit she was so hospitable making me chai and showing me the shamba so proud. Don’t know yet as depends on the water situation. We will have such a backlog of washing for so many here.
Went to church with all the kids on Sunday. We were late and it’s a wonder the roof didn’t fall in with me being there as I don’t ‘do’ church. The mamma remembered me (as she worked at the school) where I taught last time. Bought some mangoes on the way back – 5 for A20 cents. My little treat to myself for the week. Another lady at a village store called out my name – she also remembered me and my name from June. I had given her $50 to help her, while here last time as she was so nice, and her husband had not long died and she was always so cheerful to me, and again she just kept thanking me again over and over. Amazing!! As did a few of the teachers I passed along the way.

George – not wanting his dinner

No, I could not remember theirs…

Next Friday is the Rotary Meeting at Diani Beach so looking forward to going into town as it is a week tomorrow since arriving at the orphanage and haven’t been to town when Kerry and Lauren have gone this week for supplies. Sarah (the other volunteer) and Lauren (Kerry’s daughter) bought me back some cashews the other day – heaven. Kenyan food is not impressive by any means. Beans, sumawicki, ugali, mashed peas, rice, cabbage, chapatti, and that’s the diet here, and other vegetables. We killed the rooster on Sunday for dinner. I didn’t gut it – just plucked it. As usual didn’t eat it as I know roosters are so tough to eat and really only good in a stew, and couldn’t after feeding it daily. That’s the treat here chicken on Sunday nights – usually barbequed.
I help the kids with their homework every evening. Such long days 7:30am until 5pm, then at least 1 hour + of homework each day. They never complain – They just do it.
Until my next blog – I hope we have water by then…

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Umoja Orphanage Kenya is a Project of the Sunrise Rotary Club Bundaberg 
RAWCS Project Number 51/2011-12
Umoja's founder Cathy is a member of Fitzroy Rotary Club District 9570

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