Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mud, mud, mud

The last couple days have been interesting. Yesterday, I went to Kisumu first to buy the things one of our sponsored students needed so that I could take them to her at school when I went for visiting day. While in Kisumu I ran into the girl that I met on the matatu a while back and she invited me to join her for pizza for lunch. Too bad I didn’t have enough time! I went to the school and had a great visit with Brenda. Around 4:30 or 4:45, the deputy principal asked me to wait half an hour until the principal came so that I would have a chance to talk to her. He said that she would be able to take me up to the main road (about 2k away) so that I could get a vehicle. I agreed, although I wondered if it would give me problems getting home before dark. After talking to her for a few minutes, it was nearly 5:30 and it had just started pouring down rain. The driver who would take me in the school bus had disappeared and by the time he came back, it had rained quite a bit, so that the short way back to the main road would be impassable. So we went around the VERY long way (about 1 hour, instead of 15 minutes). Oh my goodness, there was so much mud and everything was flooded. There was literally a river of muddy water gushing down the side of the road. Can we say serious soil erosion? I had called Pastor Kepher to see where his matatu was. He called the driver and fortunately he was on the right side of the route to pick me up, along with a group of people from home who had gone to a funeral that day. The matatu was completely full (no standing room) and for a while I had a lady sitting on my lap. But I didn’t mind at all because at least I wouldn’t be stuck at the school overnight at a stranger’s house.

It was way too late to get home, so I slept at Pastor’s house, which is always nice. I get a chance to talk to him and his wife more than I would normally. I think though, that I should put a small emergency package in my bad with a flashlight, an extra pair of underwear, a small toothbrush and toothpaste and a few of all my medicines. This was the third time in three weeks that I ended up sleeping somewhere away from home because I couldn’t get home in time. All the way home, it was very muddy and the rear-wheel drive matatu was sliding all over the place. I’m sure if I had been driving, we wouldn’t have made it, but the driver is good and we didn’t run into anything. I told Dave that he would have enjoyed it because it would remind him of driving his pick-up truck in the snow in high school.

So today I went to church with them, but I was so tired that I had a very hard time focusing, besides the fact that I was tired and a bit grouchy. I was also very hot because I was wearing a polyester dress that Noel lent me (very 70s-ish, although everybody told me that I was very “smart” and looked just like an African lady.) So, after 2 weeks of not getting enough sleep, I got really frustrated with all the kids just looking at me. It’s really hard to focus when everyone is turned around staring at you, just as you’re trying to be normal. I had to really guard myself to not say anything because I was afraid I would just yell at them to stop looking at me if I wasn’t careful. I was telling Noel about it after church and from her reaction, I think I probably should have told them at least to pay attention instead of looking at me.

We were still at church for a long time after the service ended (which itself was 4 hours), and we only left when we did because it started raining. I drove Pastor’s matatu almost to home. If it had taken the road going home, it would almost certainly have gotten stuck, so they dropped off me and one of the elders at the junction. As I got out I realized that I didn’t have my umbrella – I think I left it in the school bus yesterday. We waited at the shops for the rain to finish and then we walked the rest of the way. On the way, we saw the priest’s car sliding all over the road and hopped out of the way on to the embankment so that we wouldn’t be hit. Just as he got to where we were standing, the car got stuck. Lots of people gathered to help push him the rest of the way up the hill and it was quite an enjoyable event. In the village, anything can be an event.

I was thinking this afternoon about how issues like this of transportation can be annoying, but they’re only annoying for me because I am not very poor. For most people, it’s just part of life and it’s not a big deal because there are so many other problems that are much more important. I can be frustrated by bad roads and not being able to get around when it rains because I have the money and the reasons to travel around and because I have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, etc. If I were worried about where my next meal was coming from or how to pay school fees for my children, I probably wouldn’t be too concerned about the inconveniences of waiting half an hour for the rain to stop and about walking in the mud. That’s definitely something that I’ve seen doing my research. Everybody has different priorities based on their own life, struggles and experiences. Some of the things that I see first are electricity and roads because they’re the things that challenge me more. Sometimes I don’t see the other issues as clearly because they don’t directly affect my everyday life. I’m not in the field farming. I’m not going to the river for water. I’m not struggling to send my kids to school. But for the average person, agriculture and education are much more important than things like roads and electricity.

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