Monday, February 9, 2009

What No Cows!

I learned in Africa cows are valued and define wealth, though most of the cows I saw in Africa wouldn't be considered to valued in the US. Most all the cows were very thin and didn't have to much life in them. There are so many cows of different breeds just wondering the streets, tied to front of a store and herded along the highways. So many people in Africa go without food and water so they can graze their cows. The cows are worshiped and rarely sacrificed (butchered) and if they are every ounce is used. From the blood that is mixed with milk and drank, to the hide that is used for a mattress. Even the tail that is used as a fly swatter.

My conversation with Elizabeth and the other women, I'm sure left an impression in their minds of my wealth or lack of it. They all acted as if they felt so sorry for me, as I had not even one cow. I however, feel so sorry for them as I have seen what they have and how they live.

From Mom: It's day 14, and I am doing good. A bit tired, but good. The food here has got my stomach upset a bit and I think I have lost a pound or two. YES!

My day that I called, "the visiting teachers" was fun. A group of village women who are friends sewing and laughing. I told them I have a bunch of bra-less buddies and some half ass Mormon best friends!!!!

Elizabeth, one of the women, asked me how many cows I had as cows are a sign of wealth. When I told the woman I have no cows, they were amazed. But, more amazed at the fact that we have two horses and two dogs. They all laughed at our animals. I think they think we are very poor without cows. Love to all. Lauri, Mom and Grandma.

From Kristina: Hope your stomach feels better. They probably think you are one weird lady, no cows, bra-less friends, and Mormons who have half an ass. Wow, you are strange! Nonetheless, I'm glad I'm part of your strange life! Lots of love, Kristina

From Mom: Tell Andi I'm doing good. However, the group doesn't know how to take my jokes about the Mormons. They think I'm serious. And, tell Grandma I tried to call. Love you.
From Kristina: You ought to invite them to your baptism in Teresa's pool! I think they would really understand then! LOL! Kris

Women Being Women

One of the things I most enjoyed while at St. Catherine's school was spending time with the women from surrounding villages. Several of the women have children who go to the school, while others simply wanted to spend time with other women and walked twenty miles to do so. I was so tickled to see, women are just women no matter what language one speaks, no matter the color of their skin, nor their economical status. They all want what is best for their children and are willing to do what ever it takes to ensure they have a good education.

The women came in our make shift relief society room, it didn't matter that there were no chairs, a nice floor, or any treats to share. They sat on the dirt floor, never went to the long-drop or got a drink of water. We all laughed, giggled, shared story of our homes, and our families. It was touching for me to see women ten thousand miles from the US, so proud of their children and grandchildren.
They are talented women with so much to share with each other. Several wanted to make quilts, so I pulled out several pre-cut 12X12 blocks and offered to teach them a pattern I had done before. I was so proud of myself, and I thought it looked very nice. However, they didn't agree with me as they said, "it needs more color." They wanted each block different and colorful, and so pattern, so that is what we did.
Others in the group made bags out of plastic bags that at cut into stripes, the ladies then crochet them and sell them for a very small fee. Just as in the US, "Necessity is the motherhood of invention!" The only difference is in Africa everything is a necessity.
One of cutest little ladies in the group of Nancy, a small petite woman who also had elephantiasis She was thrilled to make a hat on the loom. Though I am sure standing on her legs was painful, sure finished an orange hat to give to her daughter, of who she was so proud of.
I was a bit amazed by the common American names all the ladies had. I don't really know what I expected their names to be, but no Mary, Margaret, Joyce, Susan and such. My ladies, however, had never heard my name and said it was very difficult to say. So they called me "Mtani" meaning familiar friend in Swahili, Elizabeth said that was my new name. I considered it an honor and when I go back in a couple years I hope I am still their familiar friend.

Very few of these women have the luxury of a sewing machine, fabric or notions nor have any of them seen a fabric store. They use rags for cloth, and they protect their needles, buttons, and crochet hooks as if they were gold!

This is my sewing, crocheting group for the day.

This is Ester, the woman who is so determined to make sure her children get an education. She is in the AILC video. Love you.

From Mom: Well, today was a great day. I got to work with the women of several villages. We crocheted bags from plastic bags. Don't worry, they are new bags we brought. It's a pretty cool idea. The women then sell the bags so they can pay for their children's education. Elizabeth has been coming to St. Catherine's school for the past four years. She speaks very good English and has fifteen children, six of them attend St Catherine's. All the women had many questions about America and Obama, and hey were also interested about my family and my grandson. Okay, I had to boast about my Lil' Buddy. I will take photos of him tomorrow.

Today, I also tested people's eyes for reading glasses. It was fun to see people's faces light when they could see their Bibles or thread a needle.

I also spent some time in the medical clinic. There was a lady with elephantiasis and a man with a huge tumor on his face. I took some pictures so I could show the ER Docs. I miss everyone, love ya!

From Kristina: Sounds like there is so much to be done there. What a great woman you are to go and help these people! Stay safe, can't wait to hear all your stories. Love, Kris.

From Tiffany: Way to go, Mom! Look at what a wonderful impact you are having on the world!

African Cement Work

Our first day at St. Catherine's School & Girls Boarding School was a welcomed sight, especially after being at Athi Village for two days. St. Catherine's was build and opened about five years ago, however the Girls Boarding School has only been open for two years. The school sits on six acres in the hills over looking Lake Navsiaha. It is owned and operated by AILC and is currently home for ten boarding girls ages 15-17 years old. These girls live in a dorm type complex, a very sparse dorm at that. They go to school with bible studies starting at 5:00am six days a week. Their day ends at 8:00pm again with bible study. The parents must pay for school and boarding, with the exception of two girls who are sponsored by AILC. These two girls are sponsored because of their extreme intelligence, their determination to succeed, and their desire to help their fellow country man. I was so impressed with these girls attitude towards their elders, the enthusiasm they have for learning, and the lofty goals they have for themselves and their families.

There are eight large cement buildings at St. Catherine's, where school aged children from three to eighteen attended school daily. Though there are no boys who board, there are ten very bright, very energetic, very good looking young men who have the privilege of attending school at St. Catherine's. There are also children in several different levels of their educations learning as much as they can. It is different than school in the US, as these children must pass the test in order to move up. In many classes you see an eight year old in with the four year olds. All the students have a great respect for their teachers and stand as the teacher enters the classroom. The students never speak off, and when called up on they stand in respect before giving speaking. WOW!!! No one would ever see that in the US. In the US you would see a student flipping a teacher off, before they would stand! The students in Africa have a love for learning and I am convinced that all teenagers need to spend a month in Africa. Possibly they would come back with a new out look on life, their self entitlement, and more respect for others.

My first day at St. Catherine's was spent doing construction, yes construction as I wanted to experience it all. So with that in mind I headed for my first lesson about "African Cement Work." First, off I was looking for the cement mixer, not one. Second, where is the scaffolding, it's an old fifty gallon barrel. Third, where is the hose so we can mix the cement? Grab two five gallon buckets and trolley the water from a deep rain water well. All I could think as the process was being explained to me was Oh, Hell would Steve get a kick out of this!! With my first lessons learned it was okay let's dig in. First the dirt and sand must be haul from a pit five miles away. Then it is four wheel barrows of dirt/sand to one bag cement. It is mixed on the dirt floor of the building, being built. A well is made in the center of the pile and water is added in so specific ratio. Now the fun begins you take your trowel and with a quick flick of the wrist you throw it on the wall. Michael the job foreman, said I was a natural, oh my please don't tell anyone. After the entire wall is covered with this so called cement then you scrap it back off using a large African level. This process is repeated FOUR times! The last coat is then troweled using a long wooden trowel. The wall ends up being semi smooth and actually sets up pretty good. I really wanted to write my name down in the corner, but Michael said absolutely NOT! My day doing construction was long, back breaking, and interesting to say the least. I was amazed at the lack of tools, the lack of technology, but impressed with the skills they have, and to use what they have in order make it all work.


From Mom: Well, it's Saturday and I've gone about 10 days. Today we all got our first look at St. Catherine's School, the school AILC built and supports. Each child must pay to attend, wear a uniform, and go 6 days a week. I have decided that American children have everything and value nothing. However, the children here in Africa have nothing and value everything! Today I and 2 others helped a mason finish a wall in a new classroom. Oh boy, it was almost like going back 50-75 years--they are so far behind the USA. The kids are so cute and not as poor. I will try to call tomorrow. Love you.