Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From Kenya

As written from Mwaita on Feb. 17, 2013 at 10:45 p.m.:

It's my second night in Kenya and I'm writing in what is a stone building with three sleeping rooms. We are in the village tonight - "the real Kenyan experience."

The morning was slow and at around 11, Wesley, Tarah, Mikayla and I went to Eldoret. We stopped at his cousin Patrick's house for about an hour before continuing on. We ordered pizza from a bistro (my Mastercard raised an eyebrow and confusion from the clerk, but the manager approved it) and while Wesley bought natural gas and fixed a flat tire, Tarah, Mikayla and I shopped at the market. It looked as if it was the Kenyan equivalent of Walmart, except guards ran you up and down with a wand.

I was told it was a "major shopping trip" as our cart (probably half the size of a Walmart cart) was full. We arrived back at Wesley's house at 2:45 p.m. and hurriedly got back onto the road for the village.

It was a seemingly chaotic but purposeful rhythm of stopping, switching Kenyan drivers, Wesley going in one director and Tarah, Mikayla and I in the other. Along the way, we picked up Wesley's mom and neighbor. We drove further into the villages and to a primary school where a large group of women were waiting for Tarah to speak about Wesley. She asked me to say a few words and introduce myself - she would translate. I did and she explained more about how I met Wesley when he first came to the United States.

I learned quickly that the Kenyan greeting is a handshake, and the children will crowd and wait for you to initiate contact. When one hand has been touched, dozens of hands reach out.

When we left the women, a man planted himself in front of the car, forcing us to stop. He came to my open window to shake my hand and he grabbed my arm, not letting go. Our driver kept driving until the man couldn't keep up. We stopped shortly after a butcher stand along the road so Wesley's mom could purchase meat. Our car was swarmed as adults and young children crowded to see, talk and touch us. A woman, a friend of Wesley's, explained that besides Tarah, they had never seen a white person. My glasses are also drawing attention. They wanted to talk to "Mrs. Wesley" and it was as if she was some sort of celebrity - their hero's other half.

At one moment, a man climbed into the back seat and would not get out. Our driver, Timothy, tried coaxing him, and another man - a Wesley supporter - went around to his door, opened it, and tried to get him to leave. He refused and kept pointing at me. Finally he climbed out and I saw the man slip Kenyan shillings into his hand. Our driver locked the doors.

We left the butcher shop and drove a bit to drop off Wesley's mom's neighbor. She showed us the nursery school she had built in 2 weeks time. It sits in the middle of a field, obscure and the equivalent of an American outbuilding, but such pride and promise surrounded it.

She has 6 acres and a small farm. She will build a primary school, she said. She wants me to come back, that we are close friends and connected now.

We drive to Wesley's village via a tangled mess of roads riveted with ruts and holes. My days on the ranch prepared me for Kenyan roads.

Once at the village, we settled in...unloading our supplies and I was given the tour. We drank chai tea and Stewart and I talked about his time here and the ag perspective he has. People floated in and out and soon our English was overtaken my Swahili. We listened. Most of the conversation centered around politics and the future of the Cherangany. It's hard to separate politics from the foundation in Wesley's mind because they are connected. He wants to bridge the two sides, he said, something that has never been done - a politician working with and for the good of the people.

Conversation flowed easily from one topic to another - politics, college football, races run, training and brainstorming ideas for foundation fundraising. Dinner is served (plow) and the conversation continues. There's lot of laughter. People love to laugh here, and it's a universal language.

All of my interviews so far have been done in the car en route to the next destination. Once we arrive, there are many people and distractions.

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