Eldoret locals working in the bean fields.
Beautiful, exotic Kenya - an inspiration for the author in anyone .
But first to get there. A six-hour delay in Toronto meant a mad dash at Heathrow to catch our flight to Nairobi, already in the final boarding stage. So off we went at a dead gallop. I was determined to be on that plane, and despite a heavy backpack I outran people 30 years my junior. I also outran my luggage which didn’t arrive in Nairobi until late the next day. So in my rumpled travelling clothes I joined the others the following morning for Sunday service – the only time I’ve ever had to stand in line to attend church.
And then on to the Mully Children’s Family (MCF) Eldoret location, on behalf of Careforce International. I volunteered in the optical clinic there with the help of a translator because my Swahili was limited to hello, good-bye and hakuna matata from the Lion King which means: no worries. I also spent a good portion of my time working in the bean fields, pulling out old plants and hoping not to encounter the gigantic hissing fan tailed centipede or a scorpion. Fortunately, I escaped both. The frozen bottle of water we each took with us was as hot as a hot water bottle within a couple of hours and tasted about the same - I imagine. As we laboured under a cloudless sunny sky one day I looked up to see a fellow volunteer towering over me. “So journalist,” he declared in his thick Polish accent, “what you think now!”
“Loving it!” I said.
I asked Tom our overseer why there were large holes dug in a straight line across the bean field. He said those are hippo tracks. Oh.
Of course the highlight at MCF were the throngs of happy, enthusiastic children with heart-warming smiles. Some were not well, victims of the AIDs epidemic, and their faces will forever be in my memory. I can still hear the children of all ages, their voices raised in natural harmony - their animated laughter as it danced in my ears. Our love for them was immediate and never forgotten, especially one young girl, Jackline, who ran after the bus as we were leaving, calling my name. Yes, there were tears – both hers and mine.
They were full, meaningful, inspirational days that ended all too quickly. Literally. The sunsets were amazing – but being so close to the equator, very brief. And the nights were pretty interesting too, beginning with avoiding the dreaded mosquitos….
We each brought our own mosquito net that we attached to a hook in the ceiling and draped over the bed. When I sat up I was wearing mine. All that was missing was the bouquet. I looked like a bride in the world’s largest veil - the mosquitos humming menacingly outside the wedding finery. As I sat there jotting notes for the poem that follows, I looked like a bride making last-minute adjustments to her guest list.
Oh those memorable nights……
AFRICAN NIGHT IN ELDORET
As children by the hundreds sleep
in peaceful innocence regained,
it’s only foreign ears alert
to every sound the night contains.
The light of day now long extinguished,
the warmth since given cool relief,
while the Sosiani River hippo
is thundering danger with belief.
More fractures in dark‘s solitude
- and by the pack they’re numerous:
quarrelling bush babies shriek and spring,
night monkeys not so humorous.
And the constant risk with steady hum,
net-frustrated mosquitos swarm.
Their tiny size belies their threat,
malaria is their weapon form.
Sleep does finally come at last,
ruptured by half-wild dogs on prowl
- on guard to protect these orphaned lives,
their outrage songs of bark and howl
Too soon it seems the morning waits
for our hard labor in Rift Valley,
that mocks the sun’s relentless climb
- off to do our willing rally.
The setting sun is brief then gone,
a nightfall one can’t soon forget
as we gratefully claim our netted beds,
another night in Eldoret.