Slow Communications & Food Theft

April 22:
Field Work
I left Watoto Wa Baraka orphanage at 8:30 with Erick, our field worker. We were walking to Ciumbu and Mihango to visit several of the sponsor children. This Saturday we had planned our monthly sponsor event, where the sponsored children come to collect food and supplies. Unfortunately, due to a death in the family of one of the staff, we had to postpone it. Back home, if you cancel an event, you pick up the phone or send out a quick email letting people know. Here, you spend hours and hours walking. Eric had just let some of these people know last week to come, and now we are spending the day telling those that live the furthest away not to come.

Mihango landscape while out on field work

We first walked to Ciumbu and paid a visit to one of the village administrators. His grandson is sponsored so of course we explained the situation. But better yet, there was a village meeting today so he was going to tell all of the other sponsored children in the village for us. Excellent.

Learn from a Local
As we’re walking to Mihango, Erick and I had plenty of time to chat. Field work is one of my favorite activities. Not only do you visit families’ homes and see new villages and landscapes, but it also gives you plenty of time to hold discussions with a local staff member, and in my case, to ask lots of questions! We spent 5 hours walking to and from these villages so we discussed politics, religion, community development, our life’s ambitions, the kids, cultural differences, changes at the orphanage…. you name it, we probably talked about it. And what came out of it? He is going to take me, along with some other volunteers, to visit the Nairobi slums, a place I would not have the opportunity to visit otherwise.

It’s So Hot!

In Mihango, we passed an old man who Eric knew because his wife is in the micro-savings program, and he has a child in his household that is sponsored. This man spoke excellent English and told us he was taking his cow to get vaccinated for foot and mouth disease. He’s also a devout Catholic, so he had to tell me about Saint Laura who everyone thought was crazy because she was praying to die, but he emphasized that he thought she was incredible. (By the way, I’m not Catholic and have never heard of Saint Laura, so I cannot attest to if any of this is true).  He was quite the chatter, reciting parts of Obama’s speech and telling me about Kenya’s poor. By this point though, I think I was dripping in sweat- it was so hot! I tried to pay attention, but didn’t feel like I could stand there much longer. When our conversation pertaining to ‘everyone’s right to vote’ ended, he continued on with his cow. We visited his house to see his wife and then visited another sponsor child’s home.

mihango village
Some of my favorite flowers in Mihango village

By that point Eric and I were both tired. It was time to head home- down into a valley, across a river, climb back up the valley. We passed the old man again, and when his cow walked past me, he informed that the cow was afraid of white people because it wasn’t used to seeing them. I laughed because I saw the cow stopping to eat some grass- I’m pretty sure it could care less about who was walking by it, as long as it could eat!

Food Theft
We arrived home, ate lunch, and then it was time for a bucket bath and laundry. Before dinner, James and his brother came over to play volleyball. I greeted them, and James told me he needed to talk to me later. Uh oh. He only said that to me twice my last trip- once when his shoes were stolen and once when his uncle got beat up and was in the hospital. I started to read The Kite Runner, but it got dark shortly thereafter. When the volleyball game was over, the boys sat down and broke the news to me- the food that the orphanage gives them weekly had been stolen. By who? Most likely one of their friends while they were away at school. They needed 50 shillings to buy some food. The boys are in the process of building a mud hut for the youngest, and in the meantime, have been storing food in it. Luckily it wasn’t all that much, but now they are out of food. I told them I would get a lock for it this weekend while I was in Thika. Easy solution. James then got bold and asked to take my book home tonight. No way. I told him I was only 8 pages in, and that I would give it to him when I was done. But of course he had to continue with how he really wanted to read it tonight, and “Please Laura may I take it, and return it tomorrow?” How could I say no to that?  I gave it up, but with a smile on my face, I threatened him with the ‘I know where you live’ speech. He got even bolder and scolded me for not visiting his house over the past few days. So tomorrow afternoon, I’m headed next door to pay a visit and drink tea!


As I was wrapping up this post, my computer died. I shut it and just lay there in bed, reviewing the day. In other situations, I might say that if you’re hungry enough to steal food, take it. But the fact that whoever took the boys’ food was probably a friend, someone who plays volleyball with us, is the worst part. (And the suspect has a mother and a father- he’s not orphaned or starving). With the help of my wonderful parents back in 2008, I was able to buy clothing for James and his brothers and nieces. I took them to Nairobi to see their first movie in a theater (and also their first time on an escalator which was fun!). I took them out to eat and when I headed to Tanzania and sent them back to the village, I stuffed some money in their pockets. By American standards I am a poor backpacking bum, but by their standards I am a wealthy American. They asked only for 50 shillings, or about $0.65. And when the tables turned, I scolded him for not asking sooner. He said I was like family, and it’s difficult to ask your family for money. I can relate as I’ve been there, done that, and it’s a humbling experience. James knows that he could’ve asked for 200, 300, or 400 shillings, and I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at it. But he didn’t. It’s impressive to say the least. Oh, and by the way, he did bring back my book the next day and was already a quarter of the way through. So of course I had to send it back home with him again and just let him finish it!

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