Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Getting to Michura

Several friends have asked if I can share what happened day by day, so I'm going to take the next few posts to detail a couple of days at a time. Today I'll detail our team leaving on Thursday and finally arriving in Michura on Saturday.  Prepare for insane picture overload now that I have our team pictures.

Thursday 8/2- Our team of 12 left Left Raleigh-Durham on an overnight flight for London.  The same London smack dab in the middle of the Summer Olympics.  What else to do with a 12 hour layover then TOUR!

Friday 8/3- First up, buying day passes on the Underground and paying homage to the Queen.

Then a short stop at the Apple store.  Why?  One of our team leaders was the former head of global retail store development for Apple.  Don't even ask how or why he left a corporate job in CA for church service NC, it will blow your mind.  All I can say is our team benefited from his leadership in so many ways.

We opted for trying to make it to Olympic Park via the train in hopes of getting in, sadly once we arrived all tickets to enter were sold for the day.  Not since being at the Obama inauguration have I been in this much of a crowd.

The crowd was insane as well as totally alive with Olympic fever.  I picked up t shirts for our family as well as a Apple Olympics pin for Bill.  Next up we headed to the hotel we were suppose to be sleeping in instead of touring for one hour before heading to the airport, hello a much needed shower

We headed to Heathrow were we flew out of the Africa and South Asia terminal.  I totally won the "where is that city award" among the group.  Social Studies teachers rule.

Saturday 8/4-We again flew overnight bound for Narobi and lucked out with an extra seat so I got some sleep.  We arrived in Narobi at sunrise and had to change to the domestic terminal which involved crossing the street.  Yes that would be me brushing my teeth while waiting.  Two of the things I am most happy to return home to:  using safe tap water and US bathrooms.

We had a several hour layover in Narobi in which we got visas, got breakfast, exchanged money for Kenyan shillings.  We took a super short 30 min flight to Kisumu, and luckily we didn't take a super small plane nor did we land on dirt. In the last year a brand new airport had been built.  We did land in what felt like the smallest airport ever and I was very thankful that on journey to Michura was almost complete without incident.

We headed directly from the airport to Michura, a village of around 1,500 around an hour southwest of Kisumu.  Kisumu is the 3rd largest city in Kenya and is situated on Lake Victoria and near the border of Uganda.  I was surprised at how big the city was and sadly was also surprised by the poverty along the streets including wandering cows and goats, burning garbage, kids drinking from dirty water, and a population density with people on top of one another.

I took politics in developing nations in college and thought I had some idea of the vast differences between the haves and have nots. This was real poverty just feet away from me and never became easy to see on our daily drive.

Then there was the traffic and the smog.  We would drive through the main outdoor market and shantytowns each day along the one major road out of town.

By the end of our time I got used to the pervasive smell that seemed to permeate my clothes and body.  Even Bill commented when I opened up my suitcase once home that he was surprised the smell traveled thousands of miles home.

This is a good chance to also mention our hotel.  By US standards it would have been a low brow place to avoid.  By Kenyan standards and what we would see in the village it was a luxury to have access to indoor bathrooms, a bed with a mosquito net, food that actually was really good, and a private room for our group to meet nightly. We were lucky for our fan even thought it was technically "winter" season.  Most days it was in the 80s with moderate humidity.  Did I mention that there was a tv in the bar area with the Olympics on continually?  Every day we returned I sat in the bar drinking bottled sodas not available in the US like Black Current Fanta and watched the Olympics.  Awesome memory watching women's weightlifting with two Kenyans with no common language other than exchanged glances meaning "these women are insanely huge."

Plus, there were monkeys everywhere.  Monkeys, people.

I also spent time each night sitting here journaling the day.  I'm embarrassed to say that while I did miss my family, I also loved only being responsible for myself.  Each day was physically and also emotionally draining and I took time everyday to be alone, go to bed early, take a walk inside the walled grounds.

We arrived in Michura around noon in time for an opening ceremony lead by the town elders.  When we turned the corner to be greeted by teacher Beatrice and her students with flowers and singing. every bit of tiredness and culture shock was erased.

We are met by approaching children in their school uniforms, climbing over big rocks on the main trail into the village. I will never again experience a welcome like this again for the first time.  I wish you could hear the purity of singing and joy of the faces of Michuran children that will soon become our family.


LauraC said...

Loving all the details!! Can't wait to hear more.

Carrie77 said...

Such an interesting trip. I would have not wanted to land by plane on dirt either! Yikes! A 12 hour overlay in London? Sweet! It sounds like you've seen so much! A mosquito net on your hotel bed? Wow!

Gillian said...

Love the pics and the story!!