Dispatch 3: Grateful for all we haveby kenya on May. 03, 2010, under Life
May 3, 2010
By Arielle Greene
Today was one of those days that I would have expected to wake up by 5 a.m. because of the jetlag, but this morning I slept in and it felt wonderful. I think that finally I am over the jetlag and that I will finally be able to get a full night’s sleep every night. Today was a day of wandering, learning, interaction, and lessons.
Today was our first day at Irigithathi Primary School. Being the first day of the second term after their four-week break, things were a bit chaotic. This is normally a day when the students clean their classrooms, teachers meet to discuss the new term, and by mid-morning classes begin. Today, however, there were many parents who wanted to meet with the headmaster and teachers. The headmaster, Mr. Kihara, anticipated that this might take some time, so rather than have Arielle and me sit in on a meeting that would be in Kikuyu, the local mother tongue, he said that we would get a fresh beginning tomorrow. I did, however, see all of the classrooms, tour the tree farm for which the students are responsible, and meet my fellow teachers and many, many students.
From Irigithathi, Cait, Mr. Roberts, and I went to the Naro Moru Disabled Children’s Home, which was only a five-minute walk from the school. An Italian mission runs the home and the head sister gave us a very thorough tour. It was so surreal, being at a place that takes in children who are extremely disadvantaged, mostly physically but a few mentally, as well. They are provided food and a place to live in one of the four dorms. There is a workshop which designs braces and special walkers specifically for individual children. There are also two physical therapy units staffed by several Kenyans and two volunteers, one from Australia and one from Holland.
We were told that once a year a group of orthopedic surgeons come from Italy for a three-week period and perform surgery on children with correctable disabilities. Common procedures include correcting clubfoot or a difference in the length of legs. After the surgery, the students live at the home for therapy until they are ready to go back home. During their rehabilitation they attend school at Irigithathi. I learned that about 35 students at Irigithathi live at the home and some of them are likely to be my students soon.
When we first walked in I saw a young boy about the size and height of my brother. One of his legs was much longer than the other and he used crutches to get around. I tried to hide it but it was just too hard to keep it all in, and I cried. I immediately realized that I am such a lucky person to be living in the United States, to have such a wonderful family, and to be able to even attend a school like St. Gregory. These children are at such a disadvantage, but through their own determination and the assistance of the home, they are able to have a chance at a better life. I was so grateful to be able to have this experience and to have grown from it in many ways.
Cait and I then walked the three miles back to Batian’s View where my peers and I brushed up on a little Kiswahili. Then in groups of two or three Mr. Roberts gave us a “shopping list” of items we were to purchase in Naro Moru. Most of the list was in Kiswahili and we knew many of the items we were looking for. A few others, however, we didn’t know the English translation, and Mr. Roberts wasn’t giving us any clues. He simply said that we would have to figure it out when we got to town.
With our lists and 2000 shillings, roughly $30, we were dropped off near the post office and given an hour to make our purchases. The vendors were super-helpful and when we showed them our list, they pointed us in the right direction to find the next item we needed. We bought a variety of fruits, meat, and other necessities for the kitchen. We also purchased a few other odd items, such as a half-pound of four-inch nails, a jar of honey and postcard stamps. This is not an activity that any normal tourist would undertake, but it was so much fun to interact with the people at each shop and practice our Kiswahili.
We met at the van at the appointed time and traveled the bumpy ride road home, passing many cows, goats and people along the way. But the day didn’t end there. After dinner Mr. Roberts and Lucas set up the zip line at Batian’s View and we all took a ride in the dark of night, a ride that I certainly won’t forget. Last but not least, we finished the day sitting around a campfire sharing our experiences of the day, wondering what the other seniors were doing back in Tucson, and looking forward to what the next day would bring.