ON Jesse’s 1st birthday we left Wilson airport aboard a 12 seater Cessna 208 to fly the 1.5 hours to our new home. It was beautiful flying over Mt. Kenya and seeing the last bit of snow we will see in a while. The anticipation was building to see our new home, our friends and colleagues the Swanepoels, the Samburu. How do we share with you what we experienced? A mere 10 days of being settled before our return to Nairobi and to language study to come in Tanzania. In 2 days we will board a shuttle bus to Arusha, Tanzania to start another adventure learning Swahili, but for now, let us remember and share with you about our first recollections, thoughts and images about the place that will become home, the place that burdens our hearts and the Samburu people who are apart of that landscape.
I can not take any credit for the beautiful picture posted,- it was taken by our colleague, aptly named now, “Uncle Grant”. The picture is one of a bride celebrating on her wedding day last Saturday. Although we often think of the differences, we are struck so often of the similarities, those universals that seem to stretch from one culture to another, which seem to bind humanity in raw form regardless of the many other differences that seem to exist: in this case,- wedding jitters and celebration.
How to find words that might describe Kurungu. The place is nestled in the groove of two mountains it seems. From the back porch I look up and see mountain as the backdrop to the huge acacia trees in the yard and the monkeys that trapeze and run from branch to branch with mocking ease. From the front porch there is also an expanse of mountain, the yard a bit more barren, perhaps due in part from the local camels, cows, donkeys which frequently taste test the small shrubs around. Grazing in the yard are chickens, the rooster we have named, “simba cock” (lion rooster) as he seems to growl more than crow, and takes the liberty to call at any part of the day, particularly feels entitled to the wee hours of the morning. It is a landscape that seems luxurious in its harshness. We are not fully forest, nor desert, nor mountain region, nor bush. The in-between place I suppose.
The 10 days were busy! From unpacking suitcases to cleaning and tidying the house we are living in, (cautiously opening drawers and cupboards to alert the scorpion that we are coming to peek)… thankfully the score is Scorpion 3 Callaghan 5 ( 3 live, 5 dead scorpions) There seem to be more of these critters that we would care for, but I suppose, it makes for careful and conscientious walking about. It is indeed “snake season” so we are told,- so far only some ‘skin’ spottings near the house,- the kids are all primed to keep an eye out for snakes and we ‘borrow’ Jack the Swanepoels cat for a ‘walk through’ of the house every evening. She indeed earns her keep, and we look forward to getting a few cats of our own to be hunters.
The house we live in seems so grand by Samburu standards of stick and thatch. Although we have a thatch type roof on the house, the stone and cinder house is a beautiful place that we are privilege to dwell. We have running water (hot and cold), indoor plumbing, solar fridge and freezer and enough furniture to get started. We can even run our computers although we are still trying to figure out how to get email/internet…. I have two small shamba’s (gardens) outbacked that are fenced to keep the monkeys at bay,- although I have noticed they seem to do a little dance over the netting as if taunting me to plant something scrumptious for them to steal.
We have a gardener/guard named Samuel, who speaks some English for which we are extremely grateful. Samuel has helped me speak some words of Samburu, but I am afraid that apart from some greetings and basic words I am fumbling along trying to use Swahili mixed with English and hand gestures. I am sure I look a sight and probably sound worse as I use words such as “Sirien, or Supa” which are simple greetings. Unlike Ki-Boran, it seems that these greetings can be applied to both women, men and children and I do not have to learn separate greetings for variations in age and sex.
After unpacking there was figuring out how things work, the solar panels, the plumbing, finding what items are carried in the local duka (store) mainly it seems, sugar, flour, salt and soda,- the four staples of North Kenya. Jay helped with moving the water tower and pouring concrete to maximize the water storage and usage. We also prepared to co-host along with the Swanepoels the prayer days for the Northern Kenya AIM missionaries. We had 35 visitors, which helped me remember some of my long forgotten hospitality and cooking skills, which are challenged to say the least with an oven that seems to have only two settings: On and Off.
A story for Brian Rowan…. One morning we were sitting outside when a Samburu moran (warrior) strolls past in the yard carrying switches of branches. With some investigation we discovered that although the mission owns the property, the Samburu own the trees and the bees that live in the tree. The warrior had come to get his honey. As a prize Jay was given part of the honey comb,- Jay made the warriors tea, which they were not too keen on (apparently the Samburu do not like spices in their tea the way that the Gabra and Boran do!) Little things that are good to know. We are trying to think of ways that we can help the Samburu can market and sell the honey locally to bring some income especially during times when times are difficult. Please pray as we consider this further.
Jay also took a trip into see the girls school he will be working at. The headmistress was away on leave so he did not have a chance to find out the specific expectations for him when he returns. The girls school is a building without water right now…which means that for now the girls meet at the primary school instead of their own building.
Although not open for business nursing wise,- I have seen a few patients already. Word travels fast and somedays I have had few come seeking medicine and help, I have had only a few sample children’s tylenol packages flavoured tutti-frutti and which have had rave reviews from the few who have received the packets. So far, treated various things: scorpion bite, various aches and pains, wounds etc. I went into part of the village to see a boy who I heard was sick. My heart burdened once again with the poverty and illness and the great challenge of being limited in resources. After about a 45 min walk through scrub brush (I was shown the place that the leopards have taken to… thinking to myself,- why on earth would my guide point out that I have a likely chance to be eaten in this very moment…) I was shown the mynyatta (house area) of Monica (who sweeps for me). The bramble placed in a circle called a bouma to create a goat enclosure,- and inside the bouma under the sparse shade of an acacia was her son, Jonas, 10, recently parlayed from the waist down, with pressure ulcers open lying on the dirt ground, naked, sweating from fever, wasted muscle tremoring. He is a very sick boy,- and with my rudimentary thoughts of diagnosis, think possibly that it could be a spinal tumour. I had only small things such as antiseptic for his wounds, some gauze and we managed to find a bit of a mattress to help bring some comfort. But heavy thoughts surface again to poverty and suffering and how to redefine how I can help when I can not cure. I am hoping to return with more medicine (antibiotics, basic dispensary type stuff) to be able to help more, but also realize that I am but one,- and need wisdom and prayers to know how to go about ‘doing healthcare’ in such a needy place by myself… Pray for Jonas in these days ahead for him.
Ahh,- not to forget the children! They seem to have taken to Kurungu very well. Whether it is the huge tree house that rests about 20-30 feet off the ground in the elbow of a 100 year old acacia tree, or the tire swing or wonderful friends, (or the lack of homeschool) the kids seem to love the new life that they are experiencing. Even with sickness which we have all seemed to have endured at least a few days for us all,- they have been brave and cheerful. Sleeping in their own rooms at night is a challenge, when you hear the calls of hyena, the barks of dogs, sounds of wild boar, monkeys, mice, and about 1000 varieties of bird calls, not to mention Samburu celebrations and singing and the wind…. it is pretty well a miracle indeed that we are not submersed each night under the sweaty bodies of 3 terrorized children! Lily the brave has slept in her own room from the first night on! The boys share a room and prompt each other onto to greater aspirations of bravery. Thanks for so many who pray for our kids, for their adjustment to this new life and new place.
And our neighbours,- the Swanepoels,- how could we but forget to mention such blessings! From warm welcomes to meals shared and ideas exchanged we have come to appreciate, love and enjoy our new ‘neighbours’. We look forward with great anticipation to returning and working alongside Grant and Loki and their four brilliant children.
Oh, there is so much to mention but I fear that I have probably bored a few too many already with such a long description… I will try in future to write smaller samples! It is only with a keen desire that you also feel apart of this work that I write the details of our first thoughts and impressions… Thank you once again for sharing this journey with us.