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Monday, July 29, 2013

Food, Math, Computers, Mosaics, Elephants and Mountain Climbing . . .

 . . Or cousins, part 2.  Last Friday we spent a day in Nairobi, crowding along with a thousand tourists at the Shedrick Wildlife Trust's Elephant Orphanage, doing our part to save the wildlife of Kenya.  The keepers introduced each young elephant (This is  . . . . . who is 2 years old, and was rescued from poachers, and is still milk-dependent . . ) while we watched the 300 pound babies suck down bottles of milk and roll in the dust.  After a half hour or so, the front-row hundred identically suited primary school kids filed out, and dozens of tourists with them, enabling us to get a much more enjoyable view of the bulky, playful, wrinkly beasts' antics.  These oversized orphans are eventually habituated into family groups in Tsavo National Park.  A beautiful picture of caring for the fatherless, and for creation, and for restoration.

After a fun lunch at a very authentic Ethiopian restaurant (where we were the only non-Ethiopians) and where our cousins gamely tasted goat and injeera for the first time, we spent the afternoon at the National Museum and Snake Park, learning about archeology and anti-colonial movements and pythons.  And meeting up with another RVA grad who was coming to stay with us for the weekend.  I love witnessing the kids from far reaches of the globe settle back into the comfort of Africa.

Saturday saw us climbing Mount Longonot, the extinct volcano in our valley.  Up the side and around the rim, narrow ridges, gritty dust, friendly fellow climbing Kenyans, scudding clouds, brilliant sun, glimpses of wildlife, spectacular views.  For the cousins, an African peak and a day of glorious outdoor air. And for me, gasping lungs and leaden feet, vowing never to climb with Scott and a bunch of fit kids 30 years younger than me, especially not within two weeks of blood donation, again.  I felt really really old.  When the fastest sped ahead, most of the group who gamely held back with me decided on a short cut that turned out to be a very very long cut, winding by a giraffe and zebra until we finally found the park entrance.  We all survived, a 15-20 km hike and a great day.

After church Sunday, the project of the afternoon was to arrange broken tile pieces on the dome of the pizza oven as a globe-like mosaic.  Scott and Luke pressed on to the bitter end, the caustic mortar stinging their hands.  We were pretty happy with the result, which both beautifies the oven and hopefully improves heat retention.

Today, after a brief morning in the hospital, I took advantage of our visiting help to get the cousins OUT of Kijabe, and arranged to accompany an RVA teacher Mark D to visit one of the 25 schools in the Kenya Kids Can school-lunch and computer center program.  A previous teacher, Steve Peifer, started this program in response to chronic child hunger.  The idea is simple:  provide corn and beans to the neediest schools, who agree to provide a cook, kitchen shelter, and fuel.  Feed 17,000 kids so that they have the energy to learn.  Later he added simple computer centers so that even the poorest and most rural children can engage in the 21rst century.  You can read the whole story in the excellent book Steve just published, A Dream so Big.  Having known the Peifers, and having worked quite a bit with schools and kids and nutrition in Uganda, and having a great respect for Mark and Sherri D who are the new directors, it was a privilege to get to sit in the classrooms, chat with the teachers, and see the whole program in action.

Two more days in Kijabe, trying to give my dear nephews a full view of Africa from spectacular scenery to hungry curious kids to the challenges of elephant survival to art to independence.