We’re back ..and yes it was an OMG trip of a lifetime …it was all bloody amazing ,at times heartbreaking, at times decadent , at times like being part of a David Attenborough documentary ( we saw those Wildebeest gathering at The Mara River ), at times scary -as one of us was diagnosed with Malaria- and we got rather too close to some basking hippos for my liking … always different and constantly jaw-dropping .But i’m aware that hearing about peoples trips can be like hearing about their dreams – a bit dull , so I’ll keep it shortish.
It really was a trip of three thirds .
We flew to Nairobi and then on to Kisumu where we were met by 4 of the Ace Africa Team. After a proper Kenyan lunch ( no cutlery ) of spiced Tilipia and ugali on the banks of Lake Victoria , we were taken to Bungoma , stopping to look at a couple of projects on the way – a factory where youngsters were being trained to process soya beans into soya milk to distribute to those children who are not getting enough nutrients and then after collecting the ice for storage we delivered the milk ( this happens twice a week ) to another project- a sort of orphanage . I cannot begin to describe the welcomes we got .The children hugged us the women hugged us – they showed us their goats ,their shed ,their toilet . It was a very moving and humbling experience .We then checked into Bustani Cottages with the lovely Rachel and her artist husband, Robert.
The next day we went to The Ace offices and met the team .We all spoke, I broke down and then broke down even more when I saw the photo they have of Rosie on their wall .It was taken at John’s 50th .She has that orangey satiny dress on and is smiling straight at the camera – it blows me away that deep in the depths of Kenya her smiley face shines out .We visited a local school to see their anti jigger ( an animal that burrows into the feet of the bare-footed children and causes untold damage ) campaign . We saw nurses carrying out voluntary HIV tests and counselling .The six year old children sang to us a couple of songs .One was somewhere along the lines of ….”These are my Private parts , private parts ” with actions to match .Another song about not contracting HIV ( not quite Old Macdonald had a farm ), with the jolly chorus ‘My mother died of it ,my Father died of it ,so we have to be sensible.”Then after lunch it was our visit to the Southend Academy .Of course Jacob and John have been there once before , but I think for all of us it was highly emotional .The tree Jacob planted in 2010 is growing and the children swarmed round us .They were holding an exhibition of artwork of current and ex students and the work was beautiful,original and made from scratch .They taught me how to make clay – which of course I shall be introducing at Hanwell Community centre pottery Classes ( not sure if I can find a river with the right stuff to scrape off the bottom ) . Then we sat on the field and the whole school came out and danced for us .They were amazing – the costumes, the songs ,the choreography , their painted faces .Of course we pulled ( some needed less pulling than others ) up to dance with them .The whole experience was up there on my ’emotional moments top ten’.Then Simon read a poem he had written .When I can bring myself to read it again ,I shall type it out for you . Then speeches and photos and talking and then that universal language – football . Jacob bought them a football ,but the garage blew it up so hard he had to tell them not to do any headers ! The atmosphere was amazing .
On Saturday we visited a household that has benefitted from shelter, counselling and jigger-eradication .It was a very sad case .The fathers’ jigger infestation had caused him to become very confused , he couldn’t work and his rural community turned against him , he lost his home ,his dignity and his sense of worth and belonging .Thanks to Ace he is now jigger free and once again accepted in his community .
In the afternoon ,Jacob and I visited Caren Wangala’s home. She has done so well and is planning to go to university in September to study Teaching Training with maths as her specialist subject . Caren with her mother, sisters and brother lives in a very rural community – where they have never had white visitors before .They fed us like kings – chicken, potatoes ,white and brown ugali , rice .All the members of the village came to look at us ,they stood at the entrance to the room and watched us as we ate .Jacob rode one of their bikes ,while Caren showed me her Father and Brothers’ graves .We gave them gifts ,her little sister,Sarah, was so moved when she opened her huge tin of pencils, sharpener and sketchbook,she cried silently .We talked ,they showed me their home ,I was introduced to all their neighbours and when we left ,they gave us 2 presents .A huge bunch of bananas ,straight from the tree, so heavy took 2 people to carry it …..and a live chicken !.That night we dined with The Ace Team and then it was back to Kisumu to fly to Nairobi .As we left ,Robert gave us one of his paintings .
It was a very special few days