(This is the first post from my mom. She's working on another one. I thought you'd like to hear from my parents too. Their perspective is definitely different than mine, having just arrived.)
It has been wonderful to spend time with Sarah and to experience East African hospitality! We have been welcomed with open arms into the village where Sarah has lived the past few months as well as the 6 months she was here in 2002. We created a stir wherever we went, though, with 3 wazungu traveling together! When we greeted people that know Sarah, we frequently got the same response. “Sarah is one of us. She is our child who is from here!” It was evident that these folks know how much Sarah loves them. The fact that she returned to the same village spoke volumes to them. Bob and I achieved instant status as soon as we introduced ourselves as Sarah’s parents!
Listening to Sarah interact with everyone she sees in fluent Swahili has been amazing to us. People continue to be surprised to see a mzungu who speaks their language so well. She is quick to greet children we pass along the way, and they are drawn to her like a magnet. It sure has been helpful to have her to translate and to speak for us. We’ve learned a few Swahili words, but we’re pretty helpless if folks don’t speak any English.
Our week in Sarah’s village was full of activity. We worshipped in her church last Sunday & experienced a 4-hour service! As visitors, we were called upon to bring greetings and again at the end to pray, while Sarah served as our translator. We visited many villagers in their homes and experienced extraordinary hospitality. We went unannounced, so we could just visit for a short time without anyone feeling like they had to feed us, but the custom of providing for guests is so strong that many people prepared tea (chai) for us anyway. It would usually be served with bread, nuts or fruit. One family we convinced not to prepare anything for us cut a big bunch of bananas off their tree to send home with us instead. Another sent us home with a live chicken! It was great fun for us to share the gifts we brought with us. The calendars and the beach balls were the greatest hits. Most of the family compounds we visited had lots of children. Coloring books & crayons, small stuffed animals & chocolate kisses were also a hit.
Our week also included a visit to 2 boarding schools to meet the girls our church is sponsoring for their 4 years of high school. We included a side trip to Jinja, Uganda to see Lake Victoria and the mouth of the Nile River. That was really a beautiful area! Sarah and I also worked on and presented a nutrition seminar together, which was received very well. We created posters using pictures of food I had brought with me and added little baggies of local items, like beans, nuts, grains, seeds & tiny dried fish. I learned so much about local food customs in the process. The posters and information will be used for additional seminars all around the area.
We have enjoyed the foods of Western Kenya and after observing the cooking process, we never took a meal for granted. In the morning, just to prepare tea, someone has to start a fire to heat the water & milk – then also heat water for all the family members to bathe. Food is cooked over a wood or charcoal fire, usually just a few items at a time. Preparing dinner takes several hours. With no running water & no electricity, each task is complex. We usually ate with the light of kerosene lamps.
In our travels, we certainly experienced a variety of modes of transportation – we walked to many places, rode on boda bodas, which are bicycles with a padded seat on the back where the passenger sits. These are the single passenger taxis of western Kenya! For longer distances, we traveled in matatus, busses designed to hold 14 passengers, but often pack in 20 or more. That was an interesting experience every time! Several times we hired drivers to transport us. Regardless of the means, the roads are such that drivers have to weave back and forth across the road, searching for the path with the fewest ruts and pot holes. Traveling is always a jarring experience & really rattled our bones! We have never experienced roads like this and will think twice before complaining about the occasional pot hole or rough pavement at home! Actually there are many things we will think twice about – like appreciating our lights, running water, refrigerator, stove and vehicles!