First Stop: Kisii
After the ordination in Kampala we boarded a night bus to Kissumu, Kenya. Unfortunately buses from Uganda only travel at night to Kenya, but in Kenya night buses are not allowed. So we arrived at the Kenyan border in Busia at 3am in pitch darkness and subsequently were awoken from our slumber, and told to get off the bus. I was still half asleep and getting off a bus at 3am in Africa in silence was a bit creepy. It did not help that a man with a huge rifle was guarding the immigration line. After walking across what one passenger described as “no man’s land” we walked back to our bus where we stayed until 5am when we could continue driving again. After arriving in Kissumu we hopped on a matatu to Kisii where we connected with George and Risper. I had met Risper at the ING Miami Half Marathon in 2012. We were both running the race, and I started a conversation with her after the race (of which she happened to be the winner) about Kenya and we were soon exchanging contact information. Never could I have imagined that day that she would stay at my house for several days between races, and I would be visiting her home in Kenya.
We spent three full days in Kissii and were welcomed by so many of George and Risper’s friends and family. I could spend pages describing our trip, but here are a few of the highlights….
-At Risper’s families house we shucked cobs of corn (took the kernels off the cob with our fingers.) Embarrassing to admit, but Anne and I both got blisters on our thumbs after about fifteen minutes of work. Now keep in mind Risper’s sisters had already shucked well over a hundred cobs before we arrived, and their skin was still intact.
- Risper’s sister, Emily, taught Anne and I how to make chapatti…in a grass thatched hut with an iron pan over a small flame
- Risper’s family served us goat meat for lunch. Meat is served only on special occasions so I knew I had to finish all the meat. I like goat, but the only problem was that Risper served me and when I looked at my plate I found a mix of goat intestines and unrecognizable goat insides on my plate. Oh God. Risper told me it was very tasty, but I was not convinced. Anne and I looked at each other, and knew we had no choice but to eat it. I closed my eyes and swallowed a hairy piece of meat and slimy white intestines. For the next hour all I could think about was how I was going to get sick. Thank God Anne had cipro.
-We ate like Kenyans. The first night we were given silverware to eat our dinner with, but after that we used our “natural forks” to eat ugali and greens, the staple foods of Kenya.
-The first night Anne and I were shown our room. It had a bunk bed to sleep in, okay hakuna matata. I went to the bathroom and then back to the room for bed, and found out that Risper and I would be sharing the small lower bunk. It made me laugh, good thing we’re both small!
-I used the bathroom at Risper’s house, which was an outside pit latrine consisting of wooden planks crisscrossed over the ground with one small hole in the middle in which you do your business. Although I do not like using these toilets this trip has given me choice but to accept them. This time, however, I walked over to find a cow inside the latrine. Never have I had to wait for a cow to finish going before I could pee!
-We stayed at George’s sister’s house on the second night. She lives on a beautiful and spacious tea plantation, but we arrived late in the evening when it was dark out so we were not able to get a view of the surroundings. I asked Risper where the bathroom was and she brought me to the side of the house. Thank god I only had to water the grass that night!
-The next morning I took a bucket shower in a community shower outside. Risper boiled water for me to use.
- I went on a run that morning at the tea plantation. I was planning on going by myself, but George’s brother accompanied me. Now I am used to running hills in Uganda, but there was a whole new meaning of hill at the plantation. I was gasping for air after about five minutes of climbing. It did not help that during the run I found out my running partner was a 2:14 marathoner whose main U.S. competition is Ryan Hall, the U.S. Olympic marathoner.
Second Stop: Nairobi, Kenya
Originally after visiting Kisii we were planning on going to Sipi Falls, but our Seminarian friends convinced us at the ordination that we should visit them in Nairobi instead. In Nairobi we visited Bomas, a cultural dance show; went to theology classes with the seminarians at Tangaza College; saw the Kibera sluma; and toured the Westlands and the Catholic University of East Africa with Father Barasa. We did not hit up many tourist spots in Nairobi, rather the majority of our time there was spent talking, joking, and enjoying our time with the Priests, Brothers, and Seminarians at McCauley House. Anne even managed to get her hair cut by Richard, one of the Seminarians. He wanted to use a razor to cut off her hair, but thankfully we discouraged him from doing that. Instead he used a pair of blunt school scissors, and then a pair of sharper kitchen scissors for a touch up the next day. It is hard to put into words the love and friendship we felt from our Holy Cross family there. We do not see these men very often yet I am so grateful for their hospitality and laughs we shared together. (I think they also enjoyed having the presence of two females in their house as usually it is only men.)
Stop Three: Dandora, Kenya
We arrived in Dandora on Tuesday afternoon with plans to return to Uganda on Wednesday morning. However, plans changed. In Kisii, Nairobi, and Dandora we had been asked several times to extend our trip. Anne and I were torn between wanting to stay longer, yet knowing we needed to get back to work in Kyarusozi. After a bit of convincing Father Luke and Father Andrew finally convinced us to change our bus ticket. Only problem when we tried to call the bus company they did not pick their phone. So early Wednesday morning we left to the bus park with our bags packed unsure of whether we would be staying or leaving. After a bit of negotiating and bribery with a cup of tea our ticket was changed!
This was my second time visiting the slums of Dandora, and unfortunately the sanitation of the place has not changed nor has much hope of changing. The town is full of trash and people have little respect or hope of cleaning the environment. Despite this the Catholic community here is large and the parish has many outreaches. Here are a few highlights…
-We attended two small Christian community masses at night in community members homes. One of the homes we attended had no electricity so the mass was lit up by one small candle. We sat on plastic chairs/stools in a small cement hallway and water dripped down from a ceiling pipe during the mass. Despite the location the mass was so vibrant, the singing was beautiful, and you could really feel the presence of Christ. Afterwards a young couple invited us upstairs to their small home where nine of us squeezed into a small room (about the size of a half bathroom) to eat a meal of rice, greens, ugali, and tea.
-Anne and I assisted at immunization day at the dispensary. I thought our immunization outreaches in Kyembogo were busy, but Dandora has just as many if not more babies attending with even fewer staff members assisting. Despite this I was impressed by their staff knowledge, the cleanliness of the clinic, and the friendliness of the staff. We made a lot of new friends at the clinic and promised to be back soon.
-We visited Resurrection Gardens, a prayer garden and retreat house in Nairobi with Dennis
-I met Father Andrew again and learned he had not changed. Although I do not drink after much peer pressure he was able to get me to take some wine, and he created a game where every time he said cheers I had to drink. Needless to say I will not be sitting next to him at dinner again, as he said cheers about every three minutes, and then once I had finished my glass, he would add more before I could stop him.
-I finally reconnected with one of the Banytereza sisters I had met and stayed with in 2012. I had been hoping to get into contact with her ever since I had returned to Uganda in September. She stays in Dandora, and we were finally able to enjoy and reminisce about the times we shared in 2012.
As I write this it has gotten dark…and we still have several more hours of travel for the night. It has been two weeks now since Anne and I have left Kyarusozi, and it is time to get back home. I will miss all the friends and fun we had in Kenya, but at the same time I am looking forward to getting back into our routine again and giving a big hug to the Sisters, kids, coworkers, and our friends in Uganda.