May 2002

May started off on a celebratory note with the joint ordination of two Deacons here in Lodwar. Thousands turned up for the occasion in full Turkana apparel, the likes you would never see in the towns usually. Very impressive really as the traditional ladies were in their finest beads, leather skirts and ochre in goats fat spread all over their heads. The men had mud caps, ostrich feathers and their best shuka (blanket) on. There were four groups of alleluia girls (they included boys for the occasion!) one group was very traditional with beads and all. Hours later the party was still going on as hundreds who had travelled for miles and days in some cases were fed. The new priests went on tour of the parishes for the duration of the month and as this is the time when many foreign priest go home they are delighted to be able to get engrossed in the life of a parish. One of them commented the other day that people now think that he is loaded because he is a priest. It is a sad reflection that after all the good done by money sent to the missions through the Foreign Priests over the years that the locals expect all priests to have a seemingly endless supply of money and this puts huge pressure on local priests who take over a parish, not to mention the African financial obligation to family once you have a job and being a priest is one hard working job! Only animal story of the month is that of the mouse in the house. Mice here are very cheeky and will even sit and look at you, brazen out! The only traps they have are big enough for a cat and the mice just use them as a playground. So poison is the only way to go, followed by a search for days to find the body. My mouse turned out to be one of many but I am now confident that they are all gone, funerals had for all as you can imagine.
One night after a few hours rain four of us girls two Dutch and two Irish decided to be very independent. Not a vehicle between us so we headed off by foot and met at one of the locals. A fine clear sky and good company what more could you ask for. We had planned to get a taxi home. The cars that have been taken off the road and scrapped in every other country in the world are taxis here. So you can imagine the thought of any of them venturing out in the MUD that follows any rain in the desert. This was not part of the plan so the 2km journey to the street children's centre where the Dutch girls were staying was after hitting a snag. They could not even walk, as the muck was traitorous, slipping and sliding everywhere. What we needed was a four wheel drive. Now where do you find one of those at 11pm in Lodwar town?? Luckily we managed to convince some poor lad to drag his brother away from a crucial pool game to do the honours. The 4km round trip took over an hour with much spinning of tyres and mud flying in all directions. With their gate in sight we sank... along with our hearts! We were stuck and no amount of turning tyres was going to change that. Out hopped the girls right into the mud and went to search for planks of wood to give us some traction. Yet another desert experience and another friend made, poor Mohammad ducks every time he sees me now I'd swear. But I am ever grateful to him as I got home without a trace of mud. We have a saying that might have described me, "sitting there like Queen Muck!"
Rain seems to be a continuing theme and continue to rain it did this month, to the extent that many of the roads were washed away and when I eventually headed down country by lorry I had to leave with several days to spare and enough food for two days just in case I got stuck on one side of a river or another. The only way that I can describe the two day journey to Nairobi is to compare it to giving birth. I can't say I know first hand but I can only imagine the great time of preparation and excitement looking forward to the big day. Then the seemingly endless pain of delivery (especially if the delivery truck is old and "shook"!) followed by huge relief once it's over. Suffice to say there isn't as much incentive to do the journey back the other direction by road! Rain continued in Nairobi and getting to the airport was through torrential downpours and thus hectic traffic, nothing like a bit of panic to add to the excitement of going home. To stick to the mood of the month it continued to rain during the majority of my sojourn in Ireland. Luckily I live in the desert and appreciate the need for rain, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept it!
In the lead up to my departure another successful workshop was held, this time in Lodwar town. The numbers were down due to rain but those who did come came with a positive air. The inspector of inspectors for the whole area turned up and I nearly died, I had invited her as a courtesy but never thought she'd come. She got stuck in and got on with the work like all the rest and enjoyed the opportunity to act like a child along with all the others as they played the reading games. There is a child in us all somewhere.
As I packed in panic and said my goodbyes a few days in advance due to the rain situation, the children in my school came up one by one with their requests for things from home. They then come back months later and say, "remember the promise you made me?" When in actual fact they had made it and you had merely been an onlooker. T-shirts and football boots were among the most common requests. Of course these request come every time you leave Lodwar not only when you are going home but this occasion was different. One of my English students asked me to bring him back two front teeth as he was having problems with his English pronunciation with the gap he has had from child hood. His teeth more than lightly having been knocked out, to counteract a dose of the runs or a fever. If the evil is within, the Turkana believe that you can bleed it out. Poor lad was deadly serious and I had to try to explain that not just any teeth can fit into ones mouth but after all my trouble it would have just been easier to say NO pole sans (very sorry!). I did mention it to my dentist while at home and he joked about coming out so you never know he might have his wish yet!
Double booking of seats by British Airways meant that I was bumped up to Business class, no complaints there! On arrival to Heathrow the 5 hour wait was whiled away with Fr. Con Murphy SMA in Nairobi also heading to Cork. Thanks for the company Con! Just before we boarded I noticed the bride-to-be's sister and bridesmaid Mairead en route from Australia. To my delight that meant that Julieann was at the airport with my family on arrival. What a bonus!! Then home for a bath!! I felt truly clean for the first time in eight months. The joys of home, wooly jumper on and I was happy out! For the first few days I was struck by the many cultural habits I had picked up. I walked into the chemist the first day and went around shaking hands with everyone and they all jumped back not sure why I was being so formal with them as I know them by name. I kept washing my hands at every opportunity until I realized that I could actually eat without doing so. Even better... fruit didn't have to be washed and you could drink water out of the tap. Such luxuries that are all too often taken for granted! Other than getting a surge of guilt over a desert trolley that may not have been finished and what a waste it would be, I felt right at home and though I kept in touch with Kenya by email I was happy to be back on my own territory.
The first week was full of the election, in which many seats came down to a mere fist full of votes and recount followed recount, and poor Roy Keane was sent home from Japan (I'm backing Roy for what it's worth!) but I just relaxed and caught up with family and friends, who were all subjected to five albums of photographs. Thank you all for your interest and tolerance!! Julie Ann and Dave's wonderful wedding finished off the week well. I wouldn't have missed it for the world! Congratulation to both of you!! And thanks for a great weekend. The party started on Thur and stopped early on Sunday. The next week was a veritable tour of babies, from Waterford, to Longford, to Navan, to Leixslip. I had a ball . Many friends were visited in-between. Much hospitality and lovely meals later I thank one and all for their part in my great time at home. Too many to mention as there were days in the last week when I had to meet someone different for coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and drinks.
To finish May off I went for a new look and convinced Eoin (the best hairdresser in Ireland) to cut my hair shorter than it has ever been. (Thanks Eoin I love it and it is getting much praise here!) With this new look I went back to visit my old school and spoke to some senior class who were fascinated by the fact that they could be already married at the tender age of twelve, if they lived in Turkana. There was a similar reaction from sixth class in Scoil Olibheir who interviewed me for their class paper. Hello to all in both schools, you must be looking forward to the holidays by now. Have a great few months off you deserve it!
May came to an end with the Aerlingus pilots on strike, the country in a heap over poor old Roy being sent home and the World Cup looming. You'll have to wait till the next edition to hear the thrills of my return journey and what's it's like to be back. Hope your team is winning where ever you are! Come on you boys in Green!!!
Bye for Now, Love from the PADDY in the desert.