Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Day

So here is what I did today:
I woke up around 7 am.

I washed my sheets. I soaked them in a bucket with detergent and a splash of bleach and unfortunately it took the color out of my fitted sheet. So then I had to let it sit longer so the color was more uniform.

I burned my garbage but I forgot to take the cap off of a two litre pop bottle. It exploded and the flaming plastic burned my hand.

I went to Kisumu which is about two hours away. After three hours there, I made the two hour ride home.

I went to the Masai Market and bought (more) souvenirs. I think I am officially done buying souvenirs except for tire sandals, which are a must.

I used the ATM and told myself it was the last time I take out money in Kenya. Then I promptly spent half of it on groceries and movies and it is now the second to last time.

I then went home to eat my first meal of the day at 5pm, to fetch some water, and to relax while watching a couple of movies.

So it was just another average Saturday. The crazy thing is next Saturday is Halloween. Then I have two more Saturdays after that before I go home. Where has the time gone?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Raphael's Story

A few weeks ago we got a new baby at the orphanage. We called him Raphael because like many of our children he was abandoned and we knew almost nothing about him. He was about six months old and seemed to be healthy. I found it funny that he could practically stand on his own but if someone tried to get him to sit he would just flop over. Raphael is a good baby and he quickly adapted to life at the orphanage.

Then after about two weeks, a women came to the orphanage and said she was Raphael's mother. According to her she "went mad" and was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Two weeks later she was discharged from the hospital and went home to her family. However, when she got home the baby was gone. Her husband is an alcoholic and apparently he did not want to take care of a baby so he just abandoned the baby. She started frantically searching for her son, not even knowing if he was still alive. Eventually a neighbor told her that a baby had been taken to our orphanage. When she arrived at St. Albertos, she didn't know if that baby was he son or not. When she was reunited with Raphael, I could see the relief, joy, regret, and love on her face. She spent the entire day with him. The next day the police released Raphael into his mother's custody and he left the orphanage.

No mother should have to face the pain and anguish of not knowing where her child is or if her baby is even alive. My heart went out to this women, as she described the whole ordeal. Yet at the same time, I worried about Raphael's future. What happens if she is hospitalized again? Will he be neglected by his father again? The police wanted to question the father but he refused to come in for fear of being sent to prison, which I think is exactly what he deserves. When the mother left with Raphael, he took the clothes on his back and we provided a blanket and jacket because he didn't have one. I wondered how many other things this family will do without. Raphael has survived so much in his young life and he will probably have many more obstacles to face in the future. All I can do is wish him well and hope for the best.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some More Random Thoughts

I just got Season Five of the Office in the mail. I am soo excited. My family is awesome for sending it.

This week at work has been trying. It seems like everyone is sick. Calli has sores in his mouth and they must be very painful because he cries all the time, and after three leg surgeries he is tough as nails. The only one who isn't sick is Raphael and he gets upset when everyone else is crying and joins right in. I love the babies but if tomorrow is as bad as yesterday and today I may go crazy.

Our stove is out of gas. Normally we would just go to the gas station and get a new tank but Malava is completely out. I could ask to use the Sisters' stove but I feel weird about that. So for now I will settle for cold food or take out.

Today it was ridiculously hot, one of those days were the heat feels like a weight pressing down on you. Sitting in a matatu crammed against the hot metal wall and a mother and her five year old was not pleasant, especially since we sat around for half an hour waiting to leave. The funny thing is this morning was cool and it was gorgeous outside. It got me excited about going home and enjoying some nice fall weather (or if I miss that, then the horrible cold).

I have discovered pineapple² juice. It is apple and pineapple juice mixed together and it is supper tasty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I have never been to an orphanage in the United States but here is a list of things my orphanage does that I am pretty sure would not happen back home.
  • Boys wear what we would consider "girl clothes" (pink things, stuff with lace and frills, etc.) In the US it is usually possible to tell whether a baby is a boy or girl strictly by the outfit but not so much in Kenya.
  • Babies are put on their stomachs to sleep, even if they can't hold up there heads yet.
  • If a child can walk (or sometimes just crawl) he or she can go out unsupervised. Calli and Matthew will disappear for an hour or two and no one seems to know exactly where they are. The good news is that everyone from the children to the teachers to the gatemen know them and look out for them. It still makes me nervous though.
  • Toilet training means stop putting the kid in a diaper and hope he learns from the other kids.
  • We use cloth diapers and the Mamas wash them out by hand. If that is not love and dedication, I don't know what is.
  • There are very few toys at the orphanage so if the children find a rock or a bottle cap or a discarded watch battery it becomes a toy. The children are fiercely protective of their things and when I took away the tiny battery Hillary was putting in his mouth, he started screaming bloody murder. A few of the adults are aware of potential choking hazards but many don't notice or don't care.
  • The babies sleep with bed nets, just like adults. However, we still get a lot of malaria.
  • The weather gets pretty hot here in the afternoons but the children usually are dressed in three layers. I always feel bad for the babies in sweaters when it is like 80 degrees out. But if I try putting the kids in a short sleeve shirt, the Mamas say they will catch a cold. If the someone is sick, the baby is put in a parka regardless of how much he or she sweats.
  • All of the babies food is cooked at the orphanage instead of using jars of baby food. And usually once a week, we serve fresh homemade fruit juice.
  • If a child is crying, one sharp word from a Mama or one of the nuns will usually get them to stop, pronto. I don't know their secret but I need to learn it. It has to be some crazy Jedi mind trick.

At the orphanage there are a lot of things that most American parents would cringe at. The children don't have much in the way of material things and they have a lot of free reign. However, everyone has an undeniable love and dedication to the orphans. On the wall of the baby wing it says "We thank the Lord for the opportunity He gave us to serve the abandoned of society." The Sisters and Mamas definitely have that mind set, and so do I.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Thursday sucked.

It started on my ride to work. I got on a bus and was attacked by about five chickens. These chickens were on the way to the market and were being transported under my seat. Apparently they did not like being tied up and confined in a cramped space because they started flopping around my legs. Then one started pecking at my shoes. It made me nervous that this chicken might miss my shoe and peck at my bare calf. This was the second time I was attacked by chickens on a matatu and I sincerely hope it is the last time.

Then I got to work and it was a hectic day. The day before we got a new baby, Raphael and like most new arrivals he cried almost constantly. I don't blame him for being upset about the strange new surroundings but the crying adds more stress to our day.

We also have a set of twins, whose mother died in childbirth and their father visited on Thursday. This guy was 18, his wife was dead, and he has two infant children. I couldn't help thinking that he looked so young and lost. It could not have been an easy decision but it is fairly common in Kenya for parents who can not care for their children to put them in an orphanage. At one time I would have thought that was wrong, families should stay together period. But my time in Africa has taught me that there are no easy answers. All I know is that this poor guy had the look of someone whose life had changed in the blink of an eye.

All of these things were enough for a bad day, but it got worse. We lost Janaina. One of the nuns took her to the hospital that morning and she passed away in the early afternoon. She had been sick and wasn't eating much but it took me completely by surprise. One day I was feeding her, changing her, holding her, and the next day she is dead. Janaina had such a sweet temperament and she would grin whenever someone talked to her. It is so hard losing a baby and things won't be the same without Janaina.