June 2003

June bank holiday weekend was spent at the lake. Brother Dario, Reinhard and Marc, and I headed off on an adventure, which involved loads of fish. I ate crackers while I watch the others suck out the best of the meat from behind the eyeballs, which looked up at me from the poor dead fish. I must admit that I did eat some Nile perch that didn't look, smell or taste anything like fish. The lads ventured to the lakeside to sleep, which I was reluctant to do what with all the crocodiles not so far away so I headed to the nearest hammock! No fear of a mosquito as at 4am the wind kicked in and even rocked my entire weight in the hammock. When I woke I half expected to find somebody rocking the hammock. The obligatory sunrise photos were taken at 5.45am. Great shots but not enough sleep! The lake was a popular spot for the weekend with many different groups coming on both days we were there. Fr Prabu from the refugee camp had come with the staff from their Don Bosco centers and ended up putting his shoulder out of place. This put an end to his escapade and we brought him to the hospital in severe pain. I thanked God that I never have had to go there as I sat and waited for someone to attend to him. What a dodgy spot, a smell of sewage wafted though the male ward and I fell into an open drain and nearly cut my leg. When they had knocked him out to move the socket they recommended that I take t-shirt, glasses and anything that is portable as they might disappear!
The next night Reinhard made pizza for the lads on the strip. It is much more of a community now with four of us living in the line of houses. That night I worked till 1am preparing to send out letters for the workshop that I would do on my return from Nairobi. As the road is still backed up though a new bridge has been put into place I flew to Nairobi. I wasn't able for the two days of hell by road, I was too tired! But I was sick all the way down on this tiny plane! I will never get used to it. Undeterred I had a lovely lunch and went shopping with Guy. Veronica who is now based in Nairobi was in Lodwar for the week so thankfully I was able to stay in her place. That night I went out to Carnivore to see Brian's new band Lynx with all the Nairobi lads and met up with some new Irish Concern staff who had just arrived.
Up early and off to the airport to meet Aisling (my sister) who was flying with British Airways through Entebbe due to insecurity. Why? Who knows, as this is right on the edge of Lake Victoria and anyone with a mind to blow up a plane would only have to get a boat out to the middle and set off a rocket. Anyway with the high security the staff in the airport could not tell what plane she was on and whether they had arrived but eventually a tired and weary Aisling arrives with Jacinta, Sr. Louise's niece. The Mercy Sisters kindly gave us a lift back to the house and after breakfast straight to bed for Ais. That evening we called to meet a very sick Fr. Simon, and convinced Fr. Rico his collogue to bring Aisling's bags up to Turkana by road. A tired and hungry Aisling and I had fabulous dinner in Brunos, great cooks lads! Next morning we went straight to work, picking curtains and seat sponges etc. for the library. GOAL boss Dave Shand's Anniversary Karaoke party followed, with fights for the microphone with the many good singers and then out with Benya, Brian and Ruben. A day at the races with John and Moira, Catherine and Brian finished the weekend off. Dinner in John and Moiras next night saw Aisling play the tin whistle and a bit of a session. Another lovely dinner at Sao's followed as a goodbye! My time here is coming to an end when people are saying goodbye to me already!!
A week buying books, ordering a dedication plaque and looking for donations followed. Jomo Kenyatta Foundation donated all the new text books for standard 1 and 5 and Njigua Books donated 8,000/- ksh worth of books to supplement the ones we bought from them. Aisling had had enough of books by Thursday and John brought her on a tour of the slums, a hard lesson in reality but one she will never forget. Everyone was reacting the same as we told them that she would be in Turkana for two months, disbelief and distain all round. Poor Aisling was dreading what lay ahead but undeterred we returned by air (didn't have two days to spare to trek up by road when I could get there in two hours) to Kakuma exhausted having sent all the books up by road. Luckily I refrained from mentioning to Aisling that it was Friday the 13th or she would never have gotten on the plane. But Kakuma was great as always. This was a slow integration process for Aisling as things within the compound in Kakuma are somewhat normal in our terms and the temperature cool in comparison to Lodwar. The following morning we dropped in on World Refugee day dance rehearsals and ended up dancing Somali Bantu style and getting several Sudanese dance proposals. Had lunch in Franco's Ethiopian place. That night a party for Olympic Aid girls, Andrea and Charlene, saw the Cogan girls setting standards in the dance world. Great night girls, good luck in the future! Elaine came to pick us up on Sunday, and we headed off home in yet another dodgy vehicle! That night we sat in my local "restaurant" and poor Aisling had her first taste of Turkana, soggy chips in the dark with matatu's driving up and down blowing dust and sand into everything. But humour was not lost when a little lad walked by and not saying the usual "how are you?" he piped out "Today we are going to talk about..." and walked away happy out to have used his only sentence in English with the two white ladies. We laughed for ages and to this day every now and then one or the other of us will fill a quiet moment with "Today we are going to talk about" and crack up again!
Turkana wasn't half as bad as everyone had made it out to be so I guess it was worth listening to the constant negative advice before arrival and Aisling took to it like a duck to water and was picking up a few words of KiSwahili and Turkana in no time.
Monday found me on site and only 4 days left to the dedication. So I ran around like a mad woman killing any fundi (skilled labourer) in sight. I ended up borrowing painters from Brother Dario, freaking because they FORGOT undercoat! There was still no glass in the doors and that fundi was at a funeral, one toilet didn't flush and the welding was not finished, furniture hadn't arrived and there was not enough material to cover the chairs!! PANIC AND STRESS!!! On Wednesday morning with two days to go the watchman arrived with a note informing me that there had been a SMALL flood in the store. On inspection this meant that ALL the curtains were covered in a combination of water, dust and sand. I nearly cried but Aisling, Elizabeth and I washed out the 48 pieces and borrowed clotheslines from the neighbours and made more from any bit of rope lying around! Major panic!!!!
12 Boxes of books we had bought arrived the morning of the dedication, having been brought from Nairobi to Kitale by Kentainers (thanks Nikhil) and from Kitale to Lodwar by Turner, Barker & Hatfield (thanks Navaz). Furniture arrived at 4.30 just before the people at 5. Thankfully the Ursuline postulates helped with curtains, and cleaning and the place looked great! Bishop Harrington arrived, dedicated the building to the memory of Anna and blessed it. Children from Anna's school recited a poem they had written and sodas and somosas were well received.
Next day we headed off for the first deanery workshop in southern deanery with 5 parishes. Lokichar is nice and cool so we slept well. The next day poor Aisling couldn't deal with eating goat with her hands yet, so decided to go back to the fathers house and ended up picking what she thought was liver but it turned out to be fried blood! The poor girl nearly threw up but put on a brave face and left the rest. The teachers watched Dead Poets Society but just didn't get it! We watched Sarafina and the theme of South Africa was as far away from our world as the world of the Ivy league schools to the teachers of Turkana. The workshop really brought me back to my roots with loads of crayons and posters and group discussion. The teachers really came into their own!
We were picked up by the fathers from Lokori and spend two days way down south. The road is shocking but worth it for the views and the chance to see the informal school and shepherd boys classes. Jacinta (who travelled over with Aisling) is based here and was in charge of food distribution at the door. We travelled back up on Tuesday and the real library work started. Each books had to be stamped with the library stamp and the "this book was sponsored by" stamp, which took three days!
During this week I twisted my ankle and thought it would get better and it didn't, I was avoiding a bunch of bananas hanging outside a shop and fell over a step I have stepped over many times!! Then to top it off Kenya Power and Lighting were slow to send an estimate and I had to visit and revisit their offices to try to speed up the process. When they did arrive I was in Nairobi and the estimate that followed was way out of my budget. More heated discussion followed.
More goodbye parties this month saw the departure of my Ethiopian friend Dawit, a vet with VSF and Chris with SNV.
The Central Deanery workshop held in Lodwar ended off the month. One teacher had to be dismissed for drinking and many teachers were called away to the district education offices to discuss buying new books (which I had on hand as part of the workshop, pity!). Crossed lines again! Despite this it went well and we headed off to the Lake on Sunday to celebrate two deanery workshops down and two to go! On return from the lake the usual saga of the Suziki kicked in! Having returned from Lokichar on the Tuesday I felt that things were not right with the brakes so into the garage it went again!!! This time to find that one brake shoe was gone so instead of replacing it so close to my departure we put the car back together without one break.(This was not the problem!!) Having left late we were half way home from the Lake when the car got stuck in the sand, which is not usually a problem as the car has 4 wheel drive - BUT when the car cuts out and won't start in the middle of a sandy dry riverbed AND the bonnet won't open - this IS a problem.
We pushed like 3 mad women with the help of Raphael, a friend who was getting a lift back to town and for the 45 minutes it took us to get out of the sand and up the hill leading into the sand, we each watched the sun going further down and quietly panicked never mentioning out loud what might happen if the car didn't start 50klm from the road in the late evening. It did start however and home we went filthy, exhausted and grateful. The next day I discovered that the bonnet had been forced open and therefore the pulling mechanism broken, or vice versa, and as my starter motor works now, I no longer have to check under the bonnet each day so I was unaware. It also seems that while the car was being "checked" the battery had not been secured and therefore had slipped to the side and the positive connection DISCONNECTED! Never a dull moment!!!
Only two monthly reviews to go now! I know you'll miss them but it has been a challenge to keep it up. Thanks to all of you who actually get to the end and have written so many lovely supportive notes over the years!! You really kept me going! Hope life is good where you are and that if it is summer there that you don't forget the sunblock if there is any sun!
Love from the desert! Nora