Yesterday my son turned five months old and I stood on the equator for the first time. As I said in my first post I am grateful to my husband and parents, among many other people, for providing support to my son so that I can be here. But I feel the need to reiterate it. A lot of people here have been appalled by the idea that I left my baby son to come to Kenya without him (they're also appalled that I didn't breastfeed him, but that's another story for another day). However, I imagine if it were Landry in my place people would ooh and ahh over his pictures of Amare and go about their day as if it made perfect sense that he was here and his son was at home with me. I love my son, but I love myself too. And in order to teach him how to be an independent, happy person who pursues his dreams I have to do that myself. And today I stood on the equator. One foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere. How many people get to do that in life? I am loving every moment of this experience and every opportunity that it provides.
I realized today that it has been SEVERAL days since my last post. We've been quite busy and the internet has been a bit spotty, so I'm excited to have a few moments to myself tonight to get this written and published.
Thursday we went on our second round of home visits. This time we visited homes that were more rural than in the slums. The first home we visited was actually quite spacious in comparison to the homes we visited on Tuesday. The family consists of three boys and their grandfather. Their mother died when the youngest was just one week old and their grandfather had cared for them since then. He is now quite old and struggles to work regularly. His aunt and uncle live next door with their three children and his aunt explained to us that she and her husband had tried to support the kids, but school fees for all six was too much of a strain on the home. As such, St. Mary's has taken all three siblings and, due to the distance from their home to the school, boards all three though only the oldest two attend primary school.
|Exterior of the first home, complete with goats|
|Outdoor kitchen. Most kitchens are outdoors if the family cooks with charcoal or firewood because of the smoke and soot it creates.|
|Backyard of the home. The toilet and shower are actually right behind this tree in a small wooden building. The small green plants in the foreground are actually cilantro plants, which the family sells at market for income.|
Our third visit was the most challenging. While the home itself was the largest we'd visited, the conditions were seemingly the worst. This family was living on the grounds of the stadium in Nyeri, which had become a refugee camp of sorts after post-election violence in 2007. For several families it has become a permanent settlement and they have stayed. The mother of this family is 27 and has four children. She said that she married and had her first child at just fifteen. Her husband has since left them and her fourth child is from a different man. Their home has strips of bark and 2x4's for the exterior walls and a tin roof with visible holes that must leak terribly in the rain. The interior of the home was so dark that it took several minutes for my eyes to adjust and be able to see her sitting just feet from me across the small coffee table. Her three oldest boys all reside at St. Mary's and her youngest is just one year and two months old. She says that they only have one meal a day in the evening consisting of ugali, which is basically cornmeal and flour cooked into a sort of moist, pastey cake and vegetables if they're lucky. The baby is still breastfeeding, so it was a major concern for us to learn that she is very malnourished because the baby is almost certainly not getting what he needs for healthy brain development. She does casual labor, washing clothes for $6-$8/week and because she was married so young does not have a very extensive education, making other work options unlikely. The interior of her home was also insulated with cardboard and paper and there was one giant bed which the four boys, their mother, and grandmother all share.
|Interior of the living space for this family. There is another room used for cooking.|
|Despite these bleak living conditions the boys have been practicing their English by writing motivational quotes on the wall of their kitchen when home on break from school. Beside this was math practice as well.|
Yesterday we drove out to Nanyuki, the town the equator passes through. It's actually quite underwhelming if you're looking for a big to do. There's just a small yellow sign and a white line painted across the ground so faint you can barely see it. But, if you can get past the lack of bells and whistles it's pretty cool to say you've visited and stood on the equator. Now I'm looking forward to visiting the equator in Gabon to say I've stood on it in more than one place in the world!
|The girls on the equator|
|And the boys...|
|One foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern!|
|View from the overlook balcony down on the restaurant seating and trout pools|
|The whole crew before lunch arrived|
|Paul invited this hyrax to join us. A member of the pachyderm family, not a rodent surprisingly!|
|My whole trout with chips and Fanta :-)|
|Curious collobus monkeys|
When we came back we headed over to Sakwa's house to celebrate Maggie's baby shower before she heads home on maternity leave tomorrow. That was followed by dinner out with Sakwa and his wife, hosted by a professor from Northeastern University who is in Kenya with a group of students for a travel study course.
|Hate this pic, but it's the only one of us. That's Sakwa and his wife, Oliviah, in the middle and Sean, our other staff leader on the right.|
|Fantastic Sunday view|
|Lounging poolside, Mount Kenya in the background|