Yesterday we took a drive to visit Charles and his family in their village in the district of Machakos. The general location is a little over an hour from Nairobi, but the non-paved road to Charles' specific land makes it closer to 2 hours. Kristoffer described a lot of his first visit to Machakos so I will try not to be too repetitive, but there were definitely some strong impressions and funny stories from our day. First of all, the area is SO beautiful. They have recently been blessed with lots of rain - including all day yesterday - so our drive up Charles' mountain gave us a GREEN view of successfully growing crops.
This is the main building of Charles' homestead; it has a sitting room and two small rooms for his mother and sister. There is also a small kitchen building, and a building with a room for Charles and his wife. Then there is a building for his uncle close by, a latrine down the mountain, and their new building.
They had made signs to welcome us.
Charles' wife Janet is possibly the sweetest women I've met in Kenya. They are not extremely poor by Kenyan standards, but live very simply compared to our lifestyle (no electricity, no plumbing) and were still extremely generous and hospitable to us. They bought 2 liters of Coca Cola and also of bottled water for us, which is a luxury they don't normally spend on. When Janet was giving me a tour of their land (4 small buildings) she showed me their 11 chickens ("kuku" in Swahili) and among them she showed me "your kuku" - the one Charles' mother had picked out just for ME. She asked if we wanted to take it home alive or if they should slaughter it for us first. I went with Plan B because what do I know about slaughtering a chicken?! This is a great honor that they would sacrifice one of their chickens for me - their chickens give them eggs and they eat them every now and again. By the time we were leaving 3 hours later, though, the chicken hadn't been slaughtered yet so Kristoffer said they could wait until next time we go back. I was secretly so relieved because I had a scary vision of trying to de-feather the chicken in our kitchen at home. Yikes! We did manage to come home with 2 dozen fresh eggs. They were so generous.
Another funny moment with Janet when the two of us were sitting alone with Grace and their baby Elsie (I thought her name was Hezrah before because of the way they speak that is what it sounds like...but it turns out to definitely be Elsie, which is a very cute name). She told me that she liked my hair and had never seen anything like it, and asked if she could touch it. I said yes and she spent the next few minutes just holding and rubbing and touching my hair! Then she said, "and there is so much WHITE!" Gee, thanks...I really needed a reminder that my hair is turning white! She also said, "it is funny how it goes like this (and made a swirling motion with her fingers to indicate my curls)". I told her they are called "curls" and she kept saying "coils". It was so funny and sweet. We discovered that Janet is just 4 months older than me.
Charles' son Emmanuel is 4 years old. We brought him some coloring and alphabet books with colored pencils and crayons and they said he was very happy, but he wouldn't say anything or crack a smile. Finally a little while before we were leaving I started to play "hide and seek" and "tag" with him and I ended up getting him to laugh and smile and play with me. He then took my hand and walked around with me and even let me hug him. When it was time for us to go he was crying loudly as we walked down the mountain to the car. So sweet. Janet said that he and I are now friends for life.
Me and my friend Emmanuel.
Janet and Grace.
The baby Elsie is just 4 months old. I have to say that I am a little worried about her. Kenyans don't really know how to breastfeed properly, so Elsie only nurses 2 or 3 times a day and isn't eating anything else. By comparison, Grace was still nursing every 2-3 hours until she was over 5 months old, and even know she still nurses about 5 times a day in addition to eating 3 meals and some snacks. Elsie doesn't look underweight, but she still sleeps almost the whole day (about 20 hours) and they said she isn't in the best of health. We gave Charles the morning off of work on Monday to take her to the hospital to be checked by a proper doctor.
Trying to get the babies to socialize.
The beautiful thing about children (babies) is that they don't see color or care about race. That is something that is taught to them. They just know kindness and friendship.
I also met Charles' mother (called "Mama Mze", and she is feeling better we were told), his uncle and his nephew who will be a senior in high school next year and is a really nice young man. We learned that Charles' family is very religious - they prayed when we arrived and before we ate. Grace ate ugali for the first time and definitely liked it!
Grace liked Charles' mother!
Before we came back to Nairobi we went into the town with Charles and gave him an early Christmas gift: a 3,200 liter water tank which he can use to collect rain for irrigation and other purposes. It was almost $200 but is a very good gift, especially for his wife and mother who usually walk up and down the mountain to collect water. We hope this will make their life a bit easier, especially when Charles is in Nairobi with us. If only we could have stayed to see them haul this enormous tank up the mountain to Charles' land!
Especially because I rarely get out of Nairobi and see the "real Kenya" I think it was an important trip for us to make. There was a lot of talk of his house project (almost finished, see below) and their crops and the weather. It was also interesting because there was a big funeral in the village yesterday for a very important man in the village; Charles said there had never been so many cars on the "road" going up to his land. We will go back to visit them again in February with Kristoffer's mom and Hans. It is really nice to feel positively connected to Kenyans; Janet says we are family now.
This is the new building which will have a sitting room, a visitor's room and a new room for Charles and his wife. Charles' nephew will move into the room Charles has now. You can see from the last pictures I posted that they have made progress on this building and it just needs concrete on the inside now. It was definitely bigger than I expected to be.
It was a great day for all of us!