Sunday, 27 April 2008

Second time Lucky

Hi All,

(This was the email that had the attached story of the Sweeties which is now a separate post).

hope my email finds you well, actually, I hope it finds you at all! I have spent an hour now typing an email to go with the attached and then trying to do the attachments, now I have the attachments but have lost the email. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

OK so here I go, the attachments are as promised the experiences I have had recently with my friend Mama Sweetie and family. Anyone who is feeling low at the moment please either don't read part 1 or read when feeling you are able to get through without tissues (actually I cried again when typing it so no hope there!)

On a lighter note.......All the animals at home are fine, I am now giving the puppies milk as Kim is struggling and covered in suckling sores all over her belly a sign that she has more than she can cope with. Initially the puppies just walked around and lay down in the plate of milk and smelt bad afterwards, now two days later, I just have to tap the plate, pour the milk and they come scrambling over and in no time the milk is gone. I hope this isn't going to be signs of things to come, they will eat me out of my home! Kim sits by watching with a relieved look on her face.

Dominic at present is sick with malaria and as Judith has left, (actually was asked to leave) I am running myself ragged, managing Scann 5 days a week, the house, the puppies, the Sweeties and more, wouldn't be without any of them. Judith was found to be entertaining one of my fundis whenever I left home for Scann, when Dominic tried to point out it was inappropriate behaviour she turned nasty. Time to go, especially as the fundi was getting a nice cooked meal everytime he came round and that's not all!!!! I had some visitors staying with me on Friday night, my friend Jemo from Nairobi and an ex Scann older boy called Sammy who were performing acrobatics for the Showground IDP's (Internally Displaced People) on Saturday. They were joined much later by two girls who were dancers and the balance of 25 people in the troupe arrived on the Saturday morning.

Friday night was fun, Jemo, Sammy and I went to my friends pub to discuss future events that he wishes to plan with Jemo. We chatted and relaxed then when the girls eventually arrived we went home, the girls retiring straight to bed and Jemo, Sammy and I jigging about to reggae music. Actually we ended up dancing with the two dogs (puppies were rightly sleeping!) then Jemo and Sammy were showing Dominic some of the acrobatic things. Got to bed at 3.30am and they were performing at lunchtime! I was unable to attend their performance as I was attending the Scann Saturday Clinic for the boys. We had rather a number and then the drugs dispensing meant that I was late leaving. A pity as I hear it was a good performance, mind you did see highlights on the TV late news. They left for Nairobi straight from the showground. Mind you Jemo has told me of some events that he will make sure he invites me to, one is an open day by author Kuki Gulman (not sure I got that spelling right, I read a book of hers relating her story of Kenya and it was great) It would be good to actually meet her at her home, she opens it to less fortunate and hosts entertainment etc. Look forward to that one!

Scann today was good did some hair shaving and reports, stock taking the drugs and generally hung out with the boys. I have still been going between the other activities that have been going on as you may read in the attachments. OK time to go, back is aching sitting in this bad chair. At a new internet, my friends one closed and not a lot open on Sunday. I hope my recounting of recent events convey to you how it was, I try to paint a picture with words so you can see things that I see, not sure it works.

Love to you all.
As always Susannah xx

Kimberley, good luck with the move, hope all goes well, watch that back and shoulder don't want you starting your new contract in pain.
Paul-Simon, hope the training and job is going well, hugs and kisses all round.
Sis, thanks for the text messages and sorry for this long email it will probably be a pain for you to open and read, S O R R Y!! Love to all xxxxxx
Doris, thanks for your emails I appreciate them and you taking time to send them. Big hug.
John, sorry to read your email, my thoughts are with you. Just picked your letter up from the post box but not yet read it, will do so at home. Thanks.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Part 3 - Life Goes On for the Sweeties

My drive home from Kamp ya Moto was uneventful, well almost. I was flagged down at a police check, something that I was dreading. The policeman with his large rifle walked round the vehicle and climbed in the passenger side. I sat and didn’t know what to do, I thought he was just checking the outside. He asked me to drive him along the road and drop him off at the next checkpoint. I was a bag of nerves, I had flashes of newspaper headlines flitting into my mind reporting of lady car jacked at gun point and worse. I was in no position to argue with the man what was now sitting beside me with the gun uncomfortably facing in my direction. The policeman chatted to me finding out what I was doing, etc, we arrived at the drop of point and I must have looked visibly relieved as he climbed out into the rain. My mind reverted to thinking about Mama Sweeties home, with holes in the roof from vandals, no door no windows etc etc.

It was dark by the time I got home, I was exhausted again, I got Dominic to cook his own dinner and flopped into bed after a cold wash. I received a call for help from Timo my fundi saying that he had been unable to find work since I released him and he had been unable to pay his rent, he and his family were being evicted from their home (the typical home in Kenya for the everyday man is a one room or if you are lucky two roomed place, no electric, outside communal tap for water and a block of latrines.) A thought occurred to me, I could help both Mama Sweetie and Timo, I agreed to pay him the small sum he needed if he would go with me to Kampi ya Moto and do some fixing of the house, he of course agreed. I called Mama Sweetie and asked if she would be OK with this, she was overjoyed. It was agreed on Thursday, my day off from Scann we would head out.

Wednesday evening, (23rd April) I gathered together roofing plastic, tools, shamba tools, and anything else I thought would be of help. I was to pick Timo up at 8.30 at the same fuel station where we had broken down. I received a call asking me to collect various large washing basins and household items from a supermarket in town where Mama Sweetie had shopped and paid for the said items and left them with reception for me to pick up on Thursday, this seemed like a small task other than the parking in town bit. I made a mental note of the details of which supermarket opposite which bank.

Early the next morning, (24th April) I awoke to find it was very cold and very wet, leapt into action; I cleaned the house, fed all the animals, had breakfast, loaded up the vehicle together with a thermos of hot chocolate and a bottle of diluted fruit juice and set off. I picked up Timo and set off for the supermarket, or what I thought was the supermarket. I tried three different supermarkets and got no joy. Parking had been a nightmare especially as I had no handbrake, but I had had the foresight to collect a decent sized rock and had put it in the back of the pick up for such a use and it really helped, Timo kept jumping out to strategically place ‘rock’, this in itself seemed to amuse passersby. We parked at one location and I had ensured there were no yellow lines present, I left Timo with the vehicle and 50 bob for parking charge and disappeared to another supermarket with no joy, when I returned Timo had told me the parking warden who was now stood at the bonnet of the vehicle tutting was unhappy as I had parked on a yellow line. I huffed and told Timo that I had specifically ensured that there was no line where I had parked, it was beyond the vehicle. Timo agreed but said the road repairs had covered the line with tarmac, but it was still considered to be there. I apologized and smiled at the lady warden who appeared satisfied that the white lady was duly sorry. I climbed into the driving seat harassed, hot and sweaty only to be greeted at the window by a young street boy who proceeded to hastle me. He kept insisting I give him money, and was quite hostile and rude, I refused as I always do, if you encourage them you become a regular target for their begging and most of the time they buy glue with the money. My final No resulted in the boy backing off and shouting obscenities at me at the top of his voice, I shouted back for him to wash out his mouth, although I fought with the desire to chase him and give him a slap, a number of the passersby chased him away in disgust. I sat and calmed myself under the watchful but now sympathetic watch of the warden and tried again to call Mama Sweetie to confirm details but her phone was off .I had already grabbed a few food items for lunch and so set off, without her shopping, for Kampi ya Moto.

I was happy that the landmarks that I had noted for the journey back to Kampi ya Moto had served me well, we arrived at the house to find only the children who greeted us with shouting, chanting, running around and waving arms, it turned out that Mama Sweetie was out. Timo and I got to work, we started on the roof, the sky looked heavy and rain was something we were trying to avoid. The tin roof was flimsy and kept giving under Timos weight, I watched from inside the house, trying to guide him to make sure the holes were covered. I had remembered that we would struggle getting to the roof and had seen no ladder so I had added the tripod ladder to my list of things I had bought with me, it wasn’t high but enough to reach the roof, (a single storey building).

Timo and I are both unskilled in our work but enthusiasm and commitment to what we are doing push us forward. The roof wouldn’t be fabulous but it would keep out the rain.

Mama Sweetie appeared on the back of a motorcycle boda boda, what a sight, sunhat squiff on her head, handbag under her arm and when she saw me a beaming smile on her face. Her phone had died and she had gone to charge it at a local shop, she had also gone to visit a farm who had planted her maize seeds for her and were now ready to tend the crop, so she had gone to check. We chatted briefly and I explained the problems I had had trying to find her shopping. I reluctantly agreed to drive her to town to pick up the shopping (from the only supermarket I hadn’t tried, it will teach me to write down details next time, I have so much going on in my head at the moment and had thought if there was a problem I could call her!) At the same time we talked about the problem of the door, it was decided to take the door to another metal fundi and get it ‘reduced’. A piece of string was found and used to measure the door, knotted and taken together with the door. We left Timo with various tasks and the children playing and headed out. The door was dropped at the fundi, who smiled broadly as I drove in, he doesn’t see too many Europeans in his workshop and obviously thought it boost his business. I gathered the usual crowd before we left and headed to Nakuru.

I managed to find a parking spaced directly in front of the required supermarket and Mama Sweetie jumped out and set the rock in place for the brake. She returned a few seconds later with large water butt and large washing basins. We decided our next stop would be the fruit and veg market. Before I managed to reverse out of the parking place a group of street boys had assembled to ‘assist’ me. I now had no patience for them and shooed them away, much to their disapproval. The side street next to the market was manic, it is the area where the matatus load up, total chaos. I managed to swing very badly into a parking space only to be swarmed by another group of older street boys who wanted to ‘watch’ the vehicle for me. I suggested that Mama Sweetie jump out and I stay with the items she had bought as we were unable to secure the pick up. What hastle I got, one of the boys was upset that I had paid no heed to his directions when I parked, I informed him that I had eyes in my head and preferred to use my own judgement. He sat with his friends on the pavement in front of the vehicle and proceeded to talk about me in a disrespectful way, I told him this didn’t make me feel any better towards him. A friend from the market had seen the gathering and came to talk to me, he is someone I usually buy produce from and he hadn’t been around for a while as he had managed to secure an electricians contract with a company, it was now over and he joined his mother at the stall. I was pleased for the company as it diverted the attentions of the boys. Mama Sweetie soon emerged a small bag of potatoes in her hand. I looked at the prospect of reversing out of the parking space into the long q of matatus behind me, they were unforgiving and not gentlemen drivers who would wait for someone to pull out. My friend hung around to keep the boys at bay although starting the vehicle to leave, resulted in them scuttling to the rear of the vehicle in a vain attempt to ‘help me’. I ignored their indications to pull out, as my road was blocked by matatus. I edged back and forth until I managed to turn the vehicle round and faced a matatu driver with a smiling face, he nudged up to the vehicle in front and let me pull out. I was chased by the boys wanting payment for their work…………. I don’t think so.

I was relieved to head out of town, the drive relaxed me. We stopped off to collect the door which wasn’t quite finished. We both sat and chatted while the fundis worked, it started raining and Mama Sweetie moved the only item available to sit on, a metal chair with no seat into the dry, I sat in the vehicle. A gathering of 6 small children appeared and chatted to me, by the time we were ready to leave they were singing and dancing for me, we said our goodbyes and promised to return again sometime. We arrived at the house and found the roof patched the gate fixed and lunch had been eaten. Mama Sweetie asked me to get Timo to do the door, I explained that I felt this was a major job and beyond his ability…………….I was so wrong. Timo explained that he was familiar with the method of house construction as it was the method used in his rural home and it was no problem. We heaved the door into place and prepared it for fixing. The soil is a heavy clay type, red in colour and is used to make the bricks to build the houses it is also made into a kind of wetter mix used as filler to bind things together a bit like cement.

Timo showed me the method used, he took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his trouser legs in preparation, funny I thought. He lead me to the back of the house to an area that was obviously used when the house was constructed for ‘making’ bricks. Timo proceeded to dig in an area that was hollowed out into a kind of large bowl in the earth, he threw in some already dug soil and added water, mixed together with a hoe and then stepped in. His feet skillfully worked together the combination of water and soil and basically mashed it into a loose mud consistency, it was mad, he stomped around and basically acted like a cement mixer, but with feet.

The mud was scooped up and loaded into a wheelbarrow (strangely a remaining item at the house), wheeled by the children round to the doorway where we had seated the door in place using dried broken ‘bricks’. Timo now demonstrated how we were to fill the large areas around the metal door frame to secure the door in place. It was great fun, we took handfuls of mud and threw it at the area needing to be filled, ensuring it was thrown hard to slide into the gaps. The children joined in and we found this to be a great event, we were securing their home, working together to rebuild their life, we were also getting covered in the mud, those slinging from the outside were getting us on the inside and visa versa. A great time was had by all and I was so surprised that it actually worked, together we had managed to secure the door in place. I decided this was more fun than working on a modern brick house. I told Mama Sweetie that if she had any more building work to do I was to be invited. The time taken to clear up the mess and fill the hole the other fundis had dug for the door was long, we eventually gathered together for a break of chai, crisps, bananas and queen cakes, not a healthy meal but a greatly needed energy boost.

It was getting late and time was nearing for us to leave. Mama Sweetie absently went over the things that would want to be done to the house to complete it, the main problem now was the lack of light. We decided to knock out some of the bricks in one window used to close the holes where to windows had been in order to let in some light. Timo and I secured a batten outside the window together with some of the plastic roofing so that it could be rolled up during the day to let in light and rolled down and secured at night or when it rained. This simple construction, (similar to blinds I made in my conservatory at home, proved to be a great step for the family), they could now read and do things in the house as they had light.

In time Mama Sweetie said she would one by one replace the windows or at least the metal security frames. I held her hand and told her that I wished I could help her financially but it just wasn’t possible, she hugged me tight and said what I was doing was far in excess of any money I could give her, I was helping her rebuild her life, giving her strength and sharing what I had, she said it was more than she could wish for. We said our good byes and I said Timo and I would return this week to do more work and release more light by doing the same with the other windows. I left a selection of books with the children and a large floor sized game of ludo which I didn’t have time to teach them but promised on the next visit I would do so. This time I left in the knowledge that the shell of a house was becoming a home again, for the ‘Sweetie’ family the road ahead of them was not going to be an easy one but they were where they had planned to be together, they were now reunited.

Life will now continue.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Part 2 - 'Sweeties' Homeward Bound

I spoke to Mama Sweetie the weekend after the funeral she said that she wanted me, at some stage, to collect her husbands pick up and keep it on the safety of my property. It had apparently become an item that was well sort after by his brother. She imparted to me that Baba Sweetie had planned on leaving the vehicle with me when he moved back to Kampi ya Moto, I am not sure why.

On Monday, 21st June, I received a call asking me to help her the next day by taking her and the children to Kampi ya Moto to sort out some things. I arranged again for Nick to take me to where they were living as I had paid little attention to directions when we went to the funeral. On arrival at the house, I found Mama Sweetie and the children frantically grabbing their possessions and piling them high outside the house ready to leave.

This worried me as it looked like she was leaving without telling anyone. I confirmed that she had in fact discussed her departure, it was just me who was not informed!!!!! I insisted on taking the pick up for a drive before I agreed to take her to Kampi ya Moto as I was aware from sitting beside Baba Sweetie that there were numerous ‘problems’ with the vehicle, firstly it lacked a hand brake, secondly it had spongy brakes that you had to stand on to get to respond, its headlights were so dim that they were almost non existent, but this I assured myself was in good condition compared to most of the vehicles here. My first problem was that I couldn’t open the door, you have to unlock the door, push down the window and pull the handle from the inside whilst lifting the handle on the outside, secondly the seat of the vehicle didn’t adjust, and you’ve guessed it I couldn’t touch the brake, clutch and accelerator, I found a large empty plastic oil container which I wedged in behind me, painful but did the job. Nick had waited around to check the pickup was OK and did a check of the dip stick and generally doing the manly checking under the bonnet thing, as a result the oil was found to be very low and almost tar like, something I made a note of the get changed. The test drive went surprisingly well, managed reverse, familiarized myself with the interesting braking system, adjusted the wing mirrors as the rear view mirror swung like a fluffy dice and looking at the large mountain of things that were to be loaded into the vehicle I wouldn’t be able to use anyway.

We first drove to a metal workshop where Mama Sweetie had ordered a metal door to replace the one which had been removed from her house, the red undercoat paint was still wet when we picked it up and when loaded we loaded it into the van we were left with what looked like blood on our hands, not nice. We went back and now loaded three sacks of maize, clothes, shoes, and what ever random items they still had including two guitars, apparently Baba Sweetie used to love to play, oh and the five children (one was visiting) and Mama Sweetie too. We left with the cumbersome load which by Kenyan standards was only a small one, whilst I was dreading being stopped by police or losing part of the load, more importantly the children perched on top.

Mama Sweetie proclaimed that we had to pass through town to drop off the young girl who had been staying with them, this notion didn’t please me in the slightest as driving the short length of town is always hellish. Whilst Mama Sweetie was making arrangements I suggested a petrol station on the outskirts would be a good place and we could fuel too. Duly arranged we handed over the girl and went to get fuel, the petrol cap proved a problem as it was opened by a broken key which had to be placed just so…… eventually succeeded in this task and prepared to leave…… our every movement being watched by all and sundry at the petrol station, we weren‘t a normal sight I suppose. The attendant looked eagerly at me as she had a car waiting to roll up in my place, when I told her the car was dead she smiled, (not quite sure whether out of sympathy or what). She waved her hands and a number of men appeared and rolled us out of the way. Then appeared two mechanics who investigated the problem, starter motor brushes were too worn and not producing the required something……….. we negotiated a price for the job and whilst they were at it I asked them to change the oil and filter. They used jump leads to start the car and followed them to their workshop.

I suggested to Mama Sweetie that she take the children off to get some food as it wasn’t going to be a quick affair. The men got to work, muttering about the lack of attention the vehicle had received and other things they suggested that needed to be ‘looked at’. I explained the situation to them and informed them that the limited budget that we had was not going to stretch to anything else. Two and a half hours later, after disappearing for half an hour to get oil and another half an hour to get the oil filter the job was complete. We loaded up the vehicle with our bodies and the large bags of essential shopping that had been acquired for the house in the time I had been waiting with the mechanics.

The day ahead of me just seemed to stretch and stretch, the drive was nerve wracking as I was so aware of the lack of responsive brakes, I kept a good distance from any vehicles in front but that just encouraged people behind me to overtake and fill the gap adding to my stress. At one stage I didn’t see a sleeping policeman in the road until we were on top of it I managed to shout to the children to hold tight as we flew into the air, I hastily looked in the wing mirrors and saw we hadn’t lost anything from the back of the pick up. The road we turned onto at Kampi ya Moto wasn’t doing us any favours, the dirt had been eroded by heavy rain and other vehicles, rocks protruded at difficult places, and recent rain had turned it into a muddy and difficult to negotiate terrain. The children were of sound voice, singing most of the way, obviously happy to be going home, now they were busy shouting and greeting friends as we passed.

I gave a sigh of relief as we arrived at the gate, the children scrambled off the back and opened it for us, they then ran around in obvious pleasure of being back home. It took an age to offload the vehicle as we had had help back at the house and Mama Sweetie and I struggled with the heavy items, especially the bags of maize. The house looked freshly swept and I was pleased although Mama Sweetie explained that a neighbour had done so to help and had put everything that had been strewn around the house into the one locked room, actually the only room left with a door on it, the others had been taken. I am glad she told me this as the sight when she opened the door was a room with the floor completely covered in all her health documents, dirty and discarded clothes from the looters, drugs from the missing cabinet she had an d other personal possessions that now lay without regard. This being the only lockable room was to be where they were all to sleep until a door could be fitted to secure the house. Mama Sweetie went in the room and just pushed all the things to one side of the room to make space for the small mattresses that were to be their beds. I suggested that we empty the room into bags or boxes, suddenly realizing we had none……. Mama Sweetie just smiled and said she would get to the mess in the fullness of time, we swept the small cleared area and started bringing things in.

That night the Sweeties slept in the room surrounded by maize, the food we had bought and all the items from the vehicle as this was the only place they could secure. With no power at the property, the car battery they had used to supply a light bulb had been taken. the only light they had was a torch. Whilst hasty preparations had been made for their return a fundi had been instructed to fill the spaces where the windows had been, now the house only had one window a small one that was in what was a store room, no help at all really.

A short while after we arrived Mama Sweetie summoned the man to fix the metal door. I watched this process with interest as it was apparent the door was far too big to fit the hoe. The men knocked the mud brick constructed walls to accommodate this door and then began to dig down below floor level to make more room for the height. Now I took Mama Sweetie to one side and suggested she asks how the door is to open as they are putting it in a hole. They scratched their heads a lot and I went across to demonstrate that a door needed to swing open on its hinges requiring an area of level ground. They weren’t happy with this interruption. The level of earth that had been moved was approx 1 ft, I said when it rained the house would fill with water that collected in the hole and there would be no way to prevent it. I left to busy myself with other chores and when I returned I found Mama Sweetie had released the fundis, a good job too, the door was now propped up in what used to be a bedroom.

I settled them as much as possible and even offered to return to my home and collect Dominic to stay the night with them as guard. The thought of leaving them alone so far from anyone else without power, a door and transport was weighing heavily on me. Mama Sweetie hugged me and said they would be fine, they were being taken care of. Baba Sweetie was there after all. I wandered unseen over to his grave and had a chat before I left. Looking over my shoulder as I drove away it appeared to be a normal scene, mother preparing the jiko to heat the chai, boys running around with their homemade cars, the girls helping sort the house, they too now were HOME.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Silence is Golden

Dear All,
today I cant go into my experiences of attending a Kenyan funeral... that will be for time when I can type on my repaired laptop in the quiet of my home. I really enjoy the peace a tranquility I get from being home alone, it is almost a 'Godly experience', that is if you call alone having 11 dogs and two cats.........

I got a reply from one of my friends who will remain nameless. to a recent email I sent....... she told me that she hoped I wouldn't return to the UK a 'God-botherer'...... I know she will forgive me for saying this but it leads me into telling you the same experience I had and replied to her with.......... so sorry LINDA........ you will read twice., unless you skip....... .....

Talking of God-Botherers, I got on a matatu this morning the only person on the back seat which takes 4. At some point along the route a very tall Sudanese guy got on, he sat (I would like to say beside me) in actual fact on my outer left thigh. Bearing in mind the rest of the back seat was free. I squeezed even further into the corner and removed my thigh from his. He sat side on to me staring straight at me, I watched from the corner of my eye. I then turned and looked daggers straight at him. He introduced himself....... I am John and I love God.......... you know me I nearly burst into laughter, I didn't know what to do with myself. Instead I turned round and began playing with my phone. Whilst I find things out here don't test my faith (not sure I still have one) but it makes me realise that people out here have an unquestioning faith, everything good and bad is in the hands of God... I am constantly asked which church I attend and my stock reply is that God is everywhere and so my Church is wherever I choose to think about such things. (Strange and deep I know but so true). I think God is around when I sit watching the sun set or the sun rise, touching the hand of some unfortunate person and seeing a light ignite in their eyes, watching my crop grow, birds fly etc etc. I do struggle with the thought that someone can let disasters, tragic death and illness occur, but without these things the world would be over populated... end of surmon.

Scann is doing well, I am so busy with new programmes we are putting into place to make accounting for everything easier. The boys still enjoy my company, you would have thought they would have got bored with me already. I have begun preparing them for my return home, although the mention of me going to England has started James Mwangi on his going to England on Sunday thing.......

My clinic with the Doctor is proving to go well as less boys are sick. We even managed to do a presentation on The changes in your body and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The movie that went with it was so graphic with the diseases things that all the boys kept cringing in anticipated pain. It was so good we are repeating it on Thursday to hopefully get the older boys who were doing extra classes at school. I think I have missed my vocation as a health worker, I really enjoy it even with the basic facilities we have here.

The rains have really decided to come now, although whilst my crops are growing the weeds are growing faster.... big problem can't keep on top of it. Will lose the crop soon, won't be able to find it. My friend from Nairobi who is in an acrobatic troup called me to say he is Nakuru on Friday performing in Showground for the Internally Displaced People. I suggested he stay at the house, he asked how many I could accommodate, I asked how many in the group......... 25 was a little more than I anticipated. He has agreed to 6 the others will be found accommodation around Nakuru. Should be a crazy time. As its my day off will be able to go with them too!!!! Ok I will sign off now and hopefully my laptop will be up and running tomorrow so will be able to write from home.
Love to you all.


John, so glad to hear you are alive and kicking.
Kimberley hope the move goes OK.
PS hugs hope you still like the job.
Jean, take a big breath and relax. xxxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Baba Sweeties Last Journey

Story in 3 parts - Part 1

Mama Sweetie asked that I attended the funeral as part of the family and take photos of the event, now the latter really threw me into a tiz. I couldn’t get me head round photographing a funeral, what was I supposed to photograph. I asked the staff at Scann and was told this was routine and so was videoing the event. My western head found this so difficult to understand but I resolved myself to the task and decided that it would help me through the day.

17th April 2008.....The day itself started with me being picked up by Nick who had agreed to come with me, we drove to where the Sweeties were staying with the husband’s aunt some way from my house. I babbled all the way with Nick hoping to take my mind off the impending event. We pulled up outside the house where a mini bus was parked to take the other relatives and close friends. Lots of hugging of people I had never seen before but who were obviously aware of who I was.

Mama Sweetie and the children were already in the bus but she came to greet me and said she wanted the two girls and herself to travel with us, the aunt came too with a bag containing Baba Sweeties suit to take him on his final journey. We left swiftly to get to the mortuary early so they could dress Baba Sweetie. I was fine watching the scenery fly past until Baba Sweeties Aunt said she and the family wanted me to speak at the burial. I was almost thrown into a panic attack by the thought, I tried to respectfully say that they had totally the wrong person for this job but they said I was the best person for the job. My mind reeled. I spent the rest of the journey thinking of Baba Sweetie and the limited, but great times we had shared, in doing this I opened the flood gates and couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my face luckily the family were in the back and I hope they weren’t aware, this was the cue for me to reach for my sunglasses.. How could I find the strength to carry out this second and what appeared to me as an impossible request? All you who know me would understand the challenge it gave me. I looked out the window and marveled at the clear sky, the sun shining, the landscape and the beauty of the day, I absorbed the beauty of life and took strength.

I was not expecting the crowd of family friends who were gathered outside the mortuary nor for the strong hand that gripped me and took me into the building. Mama Sweetie was not going to let go of me. I appeared to be the only person affected by the stench of death in the building, I had to physically stop myself from gagging, I pulled out a wet wipe and pretended it was a handkerchief and held it to my nose to cover the smell. There were untold delays, other bodies were being tended and we had to wait. A few relatives joined us and I felt very out of place.

The mortuary attendants showed no respect or compassion, but then in Africa death is part of life more so than in the U.K., people here strongly believe that the departed are blessed that they are going to their saviour and a better place. Mama Sweetie left my side and wandered into an adjoining room only to be retrieved by the Aunt and told that they were not ready yet, the curtain to the viewing room had been left open and I saw a row of steel tables with dead bodies on them. Not something that would happen in the UK and I was shaken by the sight.

We were also told that the coffin had not arrived yet and many calls later were told it was on its way. When all was sorted the family was asked to walk through to the viewing room. I hadn’t expected to be ushered in with them and wish I hadn’t, the open coffin was sat on the floor in the room and I found myself beside it. I have to admit I stood with my eyes closed as I wanted to remember the always smiling face of Baba Sweetie. I heard Mama Sweetie sob beside me and turned to hug her and escort her out. We sat together in silence, tears streamed down my cheeks even through I tried to be strong for Mama Sweetie. I am pleased that the children had not insisted on seeing their Father, although Brian his mini look-a-like had continually requested that he see him.

After a great deal of waiting and watching the attendants lack of respect to the family everything was ready and the family, with me in tow, prepared to leave the building. I was passed by an attendant carrying a baby’s coffin, I was already feeling bad this just swelled the feeling.

The family all rode in the funeral vehicle, Nicks car acquired three occupant on the back seat, this we had expected as so few people in Kenya have cars. Somehow we ended up behind the funeral vehicle in procession. Baba Sweeties pick up was crazily overloaded by friends who seemed to be unconcerned that they were literally hanging on to the vehicle as it was so overloaded. The pickup ended up overtaking us and it made my thoughts a little lighter, I concentrated on the major infringements the vehicle in front would be incited for in the UK. After some time, in ignorance I asked Nick where to coffin was, he cast me a sideways look and said it was also in the funeral vehicle in a place beneath the floor supporting the seats the family were sitting on, I was speechless, what a thought… unfortunately that in turn started me off again. There was no talk from the back seat of the car to take my mind off things. I didn’t even have any music to concentrate on, as out of respect Nick had correctly turned the stereo off.

The journey to Mama Sweeties home seemed endless while we were all alone with our thoughts. If I thought there were many people at the mortuary there were even more waiting at the house. Borrowed chairs had been set out and I found a place to sit beside e Diana, the reporter who I had met on two previous occasions and who had done a report on Mama Sweetie when we presented the wheelchairs to the children, she had traveled with us and we lost ourselves in idle conversation whilst things were being arranged around us.

Yet again I was not prepared for a table to be placed in front of me between Mama Sweetie, her children and close family who were sat opposite me. It wasn’t too long before it became apparent that the coffin which had just emerged from the back of the funeral vehicle was to be placed on top of the table. I closed my eyes in dread, when I opened them again sure enough Baba Sweetie was arms length from me in his closed coffin, sat in the sunshine. I eventually calmed myself by chatting in my head to him about things we had all shared.

The actual burial service began with a few words from a relative, Mama Sweetie was asked to come forward and a chair was placed in front of the coffin for her to sit on, a photo of her husband had been placed on the coffin together with a cross with his name and dates placed leaning on the coffin. I realised that a group of people with cameras had gathered and this was to be a ‘photo shoot’. It began with the children gathered with Mama Sweetie, I stood up as I remembered I had been asked to take photos, this in itself caused a stir as the only non Kenyan at the burial everyone stared at me uncomfortably.
Luckily the person who was organising the gathering quickly called upon family members and a larger group of people assembled at the coffin side. I busied myself with the photos and was even more uncomfortable when I was called to his side. It was a very bazaar experience watching the whole gathering coming and going like the waves on a shore, moving but returning to where they had been. I kept thinking of it being a wedding but obviously it wasn’t! It was decided after what was probably an hour and a half of photos that the ceremony should start. Various relatives spoke after the pastor had said a few words and then I was called, my mouth went dry and I forgot all the things I had planned in the car. I took the microphone in hand nervously and looked out at the gathering, my first words were an apology that I would only be talking in English and it was apparent that most of the gathering would not understand me. I took a breath and prepared myself, only to be tapped on the shoulder by a man who proceeded to translate for me, phew, I breathed a sigh of relief as my words would not be wasted.

I talked about Baba Sweetie, the crazy meetings we had had, the impromptu visit that found me sick and he insisted on dragging me out of bed and taking me to a clinic for tests only to succeed in driving around after the curfew (during the clashes) to find that they were all closed. He said he hoped I would be OK and I had said to him that I would be fine as it was not yet my time as I still had too much to do. He had laughed. He took me home and promised to collect me first thing in the morning to take me to a clinic. As promised he appeared smiling as always, we found a clinic and he sat and waited with me, took me to the pharmacy and stopped on the way home to get me some fruit, I had typhoid. Over the next few days he and Mama Sweetie kept appearing with fruit and veg, even though they were homeless and had no money, they shared what they had with me.

I spoke to Mama Sweetie and told her the only reason that he had left us was because The Lord had a bigger and more important role for him, it was to work through Mama Sweetie to give her the strength to continue the amazing work she had been doing, together with the plans they had made together. He had been so proud of her.

I managed not to cry but my voice carried all my grief. When I finished and returned to my seat I realised I had missed many things I had wanted to say, I looked up and was reassured by the smile from Mama Sweetie and his aunt that they were very pleased with my words from the heart.

Sometime later after the Pastor had given his very vocal service, not that I understood a lot but it was a bit like the ‘hell and brimstone’ sermons you see on TV. Close male relatives gathered and lifted the coffin, we all moved to a corner of the ‘compound’ (garden) to where there was an area prepared to receive it. People were silent until the reality of the burial sunk in, the coffin was placed ready to lower, uncontrolled sobs came from various people gathered. The one thing that struck me as strange was the lack of emotion shown by the children, it was as if they were unaffected by the accident and were at a family gathering. Maybe it was their way of dealing with everything, not a tear in sight. Diana the reporter broke down and sobbed uncontrollably and was led away, apparently her father’s funeral was still fresh in her mind. My own emotions were a struggle to control as the coffin was lowered to its final resting place. People close were invited to scatter soil before the coffin was covered, I was too far back to take part but I said a few farewell words to Baba Sweetie before I left the crowd. People I had never seen greeted me like an old friend, hugging and holding me. It became apparent that whilst I sing Mama Sweeties praises for the work she does she has been doing the same for me.

I sat in the shade of some trees and watched, people now circulated and carried out animated conversations. My attentions turned to the two ladies sat directly to my left. They were Baba Sweeties Mother and Grandmother, I greeted them in Kiswahili and they hugged and chatted away, I found Nick to explain that that was actually my limit on the language front, it didn’t stop them, I just smiled. Nick sat down beside me and said that the two ladies, whose faces looked like they had been carved out of old drift wood were now deep in conversation regarding the childhood antics of Baba Sweetie, known to them as Billy.

People now appeared relaxed and smiling as though the actual burial was a release from the sadness, now life goes on. After all Baba Sweetie was now with his maker somewhere they all regard as a better place, so they were happy. After most of the gathering had broken up I wandered to beside the mound of earth that now represented Billy and spent a few moments in reflection. It was time to leave, I found Mama Sweetie and gave her a big hug, she invited us to return to the house we did but only for a brief time. The day had proved exhausting, emotionally and physically, it had been so hot and I had dressed formally in trousers and a jacket, whilst I had taken a bottle of water with me I had found little time to partake of it.

My mind on returning home, (so exhausted I skipped dinner and went straight to bed with a throbbing headache), relaxed in the knowledge that Baba Sweetie had been talking of going back to his home in Kampi ya Moto. He is now HOME.

Mama Sweetie, as she became affectionately known in the district she worked as a district nurse, midwife, HIV and Aids worker, and overall carer for her local community, her real name is – Diana

Baba Sweetie, I have to confess became Baba Sweetie because I kept forgetting his name, his name was in fact Billy Mwangi, he died at the age of 37.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Loss of a friend

You may not want to read this if you are feeling down.........

Hi All,

Well, my email this week is on a somber note. I think I have mentioned Mama and Baba Sweetie before in my emails. They are a couple devoted to doing good in the community always giving what little they have to help others. Whilst they were displaced from their home in Kampi ya Moto due to the troubles there, they were living with Baba Sweeties Aunt near Lanet, during that time their house was totally ransacked, the windows torn out the tin roof removed, the house trashed. It was a bleak comparison to the home that I had last visited last year. They had planned with my friend Ailsa from Scotland who I met out here in Kenya that they would build a children’s home to cater for all the children orphaned in the community by Aids and other illnesses.

During the past few months they had been unexpected visitors at the drop of a hat they would appear always bringing something with them, a mango, some fish they would share, potatoes and lastly a bag of charcoal for my Jiko stove for when it is cold. Baba Sweetie has always been someone who sees good in everything, opportunity is always round the corner and there is always Gods will being carried out.

When we went out to the ceremony for the wheelchairs, he was in such a state as he was late to pick me up in his Peugeot Pickup (he had been forced to sell all his cattle he had at home when he left Kampi ya Moto in exchange he was given a Peugeot van which drank petrol like no ones business, but he was sure he would get work doing deliveries!). The van had Mama Sweetie, Baba Sweeties Uncle and Aunt and their granddaughter, an old lady and her disabled son together with 6 wheelchairs. I was squeezed in the front with Baba Sweetie, his aunt and her grand-daughter. A little way outside town we ground to a halt, he had run out of fuel. Dressed in his best suit Baba Sweetie with Jerry can in hand flagged down a truck for a ride to town. We waited, and waited and waited, in the distance running like a mad man was Baba Sweetie with full Jerry can in hand sweating buckets. When he got to the car he was so close to tears as he was so embarrassed. I gave him a big hug and told him all was fine we had all sat and had a nice get to know me chat.

Baba Sweetie called me the following Thursday, 10th April, to tell me to buy the Metro paper, he was so excited that Mama Sweetie had appeared in the paper and it was good to see at last that she had been recognized for her good work. At about 6 that evening I received a call from Mama Sweetie telling me that Baba Sweetie had been killed in a road accident leaving Mama Sweetie and 4 children behind.

Life is sometimes so unfair, they were both looking forward to moving back to rebuild their house back into a home and in all that time all they were concerned with was helping other people who were less fortunate than themselves.

I visited Mama Sweetie where she is staying last night, there was a huge gathering of many church elders, friends, family and neighbours. They held a small prayer meeting and discussed the week’s preparations. The Funeral is to be held on Thursday (17th April) and I have been asked to carry out the strange task of photographing the event. Apparently it is as customary as it is to photograph a wedding, even videos are taped. I think this will be a very strange day for me, but I won’t miss it, we have become good friends. The future for the Sweeties has always been looked on as being difficult, I have no idea what it holds for the family now.

The news brought home to me how fragile life is, how at the drop of a hat things can change your life. I still don’t know what has brought me here, not being particularly religious, all I can say is, I feel a greater force is at work.

My love to you all.


Saturday, 12 April 2008

Double Whammie

Hi Everyone,

well I have managed to get to the internet and it is working so I realised that I have missed two emails, or have I?????? I wrote one from Easter that you should have got but cant find it in my sent box.. If you have already received it S O R R Y!!! move down the page and the most recent one is half way down. I am fine other than a red sore rash all over my body that they thought was mossies but not.......... never a dull moment!

Hi Everyone,

I hope my email finds you all well. I have decided that as it is Easter this weekend and I have been working a 7 day week for some time now – I am taking a break, it will only be for two days but it will feel like a life time! I have given Dominic my guard permission to go to his home village of Marallel to see his wife. Judith I have given Saturday and Sunday off so she is visiting her brother. I just want alone time, should be good.

On Thursday the teachers, Judith and I are having a cheap night out, lots of dancing and few drinks, we are all broke so should be a laugh, they are all sleeping at my house to reduce traveling costs and Friday they are not at work.

I have been listening to Dominic talking of Bibi often, his wife. When I acquired another puppy I made them all laugh, I said to Dominic and Judith why don’t we call the puppy Bibi, they both gave me a strange look and then Judith explained that bibi wasn’t Dominic’s wife’s name it meant wife. I can now see the problem;- me standing in the shamba calling out for my wife to come isn’t quite the done thing in Kenya, may raise some eyebrows and reduce the housing prices!! Back to the drawing board for the name… although I thought Gizmo from Gremlins would be good as it looks like a gremlin when lying flat on its back on the floor with its ears splayed. Not sure the Kenyans will be able to get their tongue round that name though.

I came to Scann late today as many of the boys needed their hair clipped and my clippers have been in need of repairing, during the week I miss the boys as they come back from school after I leave. Today I have a meeting here at 4 so will stay late and clip for Britain. All boys are now de-wormed and others are awaiting to receive their ringworm anti-fungal treatment, sounds great but just a course of pills.

The two puppies that I rescued from Parvo virus are growing so big now and are well and truly at home at Scann. I have got a carpenter to come and make them a strong kennel so that they wont be roaming around the place picking up illnesses like me! Not sure they will like being chained but it is for their own good, they can be released at night so they can add to the guarding of the place.

Kim my dog is getting fatter and fatter, no idea when her puppies are due or how many but I think they will be a handful. I just hope its soon as she is finding it difficult to get through the security grill to the main house, her stomach stops her.

Dominic is busy preparing the seed bed and shamba for the wet season to start as planting will be imminent. Cant wait I enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing my crop growing even if it was at the wrong time of year.

I am now fine although I get tired very quickly which goes hand in hand with getting grouchy so I sleep early – a real party pooper which means that Thursday night out will be hard work but very very long awaited.

James Mwangi – spoke to my sister and her two girls on mothers day and since then he has decided he is ‘coming to England – On Sunday’. Not sure which Sunday but he tells me all the time ‘going to England on Sunday see sponsor’. It would be a fabulous thing but at only 5 years old I think it is a little beyond his comprehension. When I first came to Kenya James was always sick with one thing or another he has now developed into a confident and healthy boy. I often think it would be a fabulous thing to bring someone to England so they can experience the place but knowing full well the multitude of problems that they would face when they returned, knowing that this is their ‘lot’.

For many here it is better to live in ignorance of what the world has to offer although many see it here on the TV donated last year by the BBC. Life has enough frustrations without the knowledge that no matter how hard you work chances are you will live your adult life in a state of poverty, even those with an education find it hard to get work, the saying it isn’t what you know but who you know – takes on great meaning here.

On Thursday 20th March I am going to a grand presentation of wheelchairs. I think I mentioned Mama and Baba Sweetie who had been displaced from their home in Kampi ya Moto. Well she called me to say she was at my gate one night at about 8pm, it was already dark, she asked me to store about 12 new wheelchairs that had been donated to her for the people that she helps in the community, mainly children who have been abandoned due to being disabled mentally or physically. I duly accommodated the wheelchairs and received a call from her telling me I had to attend a ceremony on Thursday when they would be allocating the chairs and various community bodies would be present including the press and TV. Something I would usually avoid but Mama Sweetie would not accept no for an answer…….. I was asked to go with my camera in case there are any photos that are missed by the press!! Well at least it would be a day out, Mama Sweetie is very committed to her community and the work she is doing. There has been a great deal of effort to trace the children who have also been displaced from the community to bring them together for the ceremony. I am honoured to have been asked after all I only stored the chairs.

ill catch up later must go now boys are arriving from school for their hair shaving….. bye.

Hi All,
As promised the rains have arrived…… last night was the heaviest rains I have seen here. George (the roofer) has been waiting for the heavy falls to test the roof, needless to say there are a couple of areas that have issues, gladly not any of the bedrooms!! The previous problem areas are fine but there are a couple of new ones. I am hoping they will be rectified quickly! It makes me think of all the people still living at Showground they must have been flooded out last night, they are all in tents, I dread to think of it all. I was tempted to offer my garage for a dry room but how would I chose who gets to use it……………..there are hundreds and hundreds of people still camped out. On a lighter note………

The Easter break was good, I had planned on receiving a visitor from Nairobi who didn’t show. I had given Dominic and Judith the weekend off and decided to spend the time at home. I had a great relaxing time, no one around to trouble me and worry about just two cats and two dogs needing attention. I pottered round hung some of my pictures on the walls, did a bit of outstanding painting jobs, a bit of Scann sewing so I didn’t feel guilty that I had not been all weekend. Went round the fruit and veg market and visited the internet to send you all an email only to find it was closed.

Kim is getting very tired now sleeping most of the time waiting the arrival of her puppies. The acquired puppy, (now named ‘Pip’ short for ‘Pipsqueak’, someone’s childhood nick name’ is giving her little rest as she is always climbing on Kim and chewing her ears, legs, actually anything it can reach. I may have to find Pip a new home when the puppies arrive as not sure Kim will manage as her patience is growing shorter as the days pass. I found Kim over the weekend digging for England under the wood pile in the ex-‘chicken house’. It looks like an escape route from Colditz the only reason I knew it was going on was that I went to hang washing and was bombarded by dirt flying through the wire mesh grills in the chicken house. I ventured to look and there she was. Every few minutes she stopped and rested for a while, digging is a very tiring thing apparently. When Dominic returned he helped make the area bigger with the aid of a spade to speed the work, we lifted the wood and used it to make a hide for her with the ‘tunnel’ underneath, she is obviously nesting, Judith said the hole was the maternity unit!

I have now been up since 7am had a cup of coffee and watching the sun push its way through the clouds, contrary to yesterday there will be nice sunshine today, will get more washing done. I have decided to take Thursdays and Fridays as days off from Scann, I have been doing a 7 day week for one thing or another and it was taking its toll. I am now there at the weekend so that I can be more useful as the Doctor comes for clinic on Saturday mornings and I spend a number of hours doing medical records and medicine distribution after he has been and then there is the hair shaving that needs to be done on a constant basis as there are only 12 smaller boys at Scann attending school so I am better used at the weekend when they are all there. In the past I find that I am usually leaving Scann as the older boys are arriving, we pass like ships in the night with them reeling off lists of things they need me to be doing.

Scann is doing well, they have had the bio-gas system built which will in time provide gas for use in the kitchen, the cook won't know himself, he is constantly ill with chest problems due to burning of wood for cooking the huge cookers. The only problem is that it will take some time for the gas from the pit latrines to build up. I find it interesting and will spend some time learning exactly how it all works. The wall is now built other than the side that is under land dispute. There are huge gates in place and a sign writer has been to paint the Scann info on the gates.

The dormitories are now coming together with a supply of about 25 new bunk-beds, many of the boys had been sharing beds which I have always complained about. One of the next jobs on the list is painting of the dormitories which will be fun especially if they let the boys loose on them. James Mwangi my little friend is still insisting that on Sunday he is going to England and he will return on Monday…. Maybe one day, who knows.

There is still little sign of volunteers coming to Nakuru although the tourists are arriving in dribs and drabs, everyone is on standby as a lot of the income in Nakuru is from Tourism, I am bombarded by attention when I go to town as I am the only source of income around, even though I tell them my resources have dried up, they don’t believe me, I suppose the little money I have is still more than they have but as I have no income it is precious and being held on to pretty strongly, I am still wondering how I can make it last until I fly home on 25th June. I must make efforts to promote my accommodation more productively although I have been spreading the word when appropriate.


LOVE TO YOU ALL, AND EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MACKENZIE....... got to run as will be late.

Big hugs,


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Long Rains

Hope you are all well, can't remember where I left you all but here goes.......

Well we had two or three days of decent rain when everyone got very excited and busy preparing to plant...... since then no rain..... how frustrating is that.... I am hoping that there is more to follow and I didn't blink and miss it all. My tomato seeds from Nathalie when I was home have now produced 4" plants, along with marigolds, geraniums and poppies. I hope everything else we plant does as well, mind you Henry is very good and feeds plants and treats bugs quickly.

Catherine and I have been joined by Edwina who is 22 year old girl from Devon who is working and volunteering her 6 months break from studies. She is staying at mine and now volunteering at SCANN providing tuition in bead making (sorts we don't already know) exercise and dance and poi (something for you to look up on the internet... as I can't explain it) we are busy at the mo making them for the boys to practise with. They are really enjoying it and have been using weighted socks! Ones from the market not theirs as they don't have many and they would be a bit smelly!!!

On the chicken front, the two half size chicks that we had some time ago were doing very well and ready to introduce to the large chicken house but before we did that we needed to put some small chicken wire over the large square wire that we had used to prevent the dogs getting to the pen. Unfortunately before we got a chance to do this one of the chicks decided to go on safari and flew over the top of the small enclosure we made them within the chicken house. It then made its way 'downstairs' and managed to get through the large wire enclosure............ needless to say Kim and Fatso were very quick off the mark and decided to have a tug of war, ripping its breast feathers and a lot of skin with it. Henry leapt to the rescue and we managed to treat with antiseptic and put it back in the chicks pen. It was still alive in the morning but died later that day.

Henry made himself busy securing the pen with the smaller wire and let the remaining chick join the brood. We are due to have hatch-lings any day now, as broody hen is sitting on 8 eggs, hopefully they won't all hatch!! We are having a few eggs from the previous layer and they are very very tasty..... I don't want to have any more chicks as they are a handful all the feeding and attending to...... unfortunately they can't be totally free range or the dogs will eat them!!!

Edwina's father is a bit like Ray Mears - he does 'bush training' for city folks and kids as fun and also as preparation for safaris. He has a 'camp' in Devon where he takes people for courses etc, sounds like fun if you want to look check out . As you know I have not replaced my cooker so Edwina suggested we construct a 'bush oven' seemed like a plan. We walked with Henry for ages round the 'matumba' second hand and junk stalls and found some selling food oil drums a very suitable item when you can't get a metal dustbin with fitting lid (we found these items were not available in Nakuru!) We sent Henry to negotiate and were still struggling to get a decent price........ one item that was ideal was a half drum with a lid and a securing rim too. We talked they guy down for ages but he wouldn't budge.

We decided to go and see the 'tin men' near SCANN but they were even more expensive. On the way home Edwina and I passed the same stall selling the half drum and we managed to buy the drum for 1,000ks instead of the 2,500ks (obviously over priced) that the other guy was selling it for. We left there pretty quick in case he returned and then had to negotiate with the matatu driver to get it on the matatu, he wanted to charge 250Ks (I explained it would only take up the space of one person on a seat ie 25ks!!) After a lot of making a fuss he let us on for 50ks and no more was said.

Henry was amazed that we had managed to get the drum and the next day he set to work ensuring a good seal of the 'lid and securing rim'. I scrubbed the drum which had only had cooking grade oil in it but it would be smelly and bad when we first used it so gave it a good clean. Now the plan without drawing a pic is the drum is mounted about 2ft off the ground on blocks so that a fire can be lit underneath, the drum is lying on its side (imagine a washing machine). All we need to do now is to get Mama Sweetie to come over with her pickup and a load of her red /clay soil so that we can cover the drum with a good layer so that it insulates the drum as it is cooking. A chimney is inserted at the back of the drum to remove any of the smoke emerging from the fire underneath. A wire rack is put inside the drum to hold whatever you wish to cook, cake tins, baking trays for meat etc etc..... can't wait. So if you come and visit I may just be able to bake you a cake or crumble!!! Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

That is our current project not quite completed as Mama Sweetie called today to say she was up to her ears in trying to plant her fields and alone it is not a small job believe me. May have to visit her for a couple of days to lend a hand.............

The dogs are fine and the cat is its usual lazy self, although it did bring in a couple of birds and a small mouse the other day........ feeling a bit left out no doubt. Anyway I am going to leave you know in the knowledge that we are plodding along as we do, water situation at the house is good, hot showers as and when ..... within reason. The boys are on Easter Holiday now which means a lot of work for me, I am still wading through their clothes inventory which I hope will soon be finished and then I will be on to head shaving........lucky me. I am hoping to talk one of my friends here to invest in another singer sewing machine so I can continue with running repairs as the pile is now getting beyond a joke!

Love to you all and HAPPY EASTER..... enjoy all that chocolate ummmmmmmm


A BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MACKENZIE FOR TOMORROW. Love you lots, grandma. Hope your card has arrived.....

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Birth - Day has arrived

Well what can I say,

Kim was obviously close to delivery day when I went out yesterday but I wasnt prepared to get home and find she had had 6 puppies. All healthy and wriggly, by the time I went to bed mother and puppies were doing fine. This morning Dominic the guard came to 'tell' me that during the night Kim had got up to stretch her legs and left him watching the new arrivals ............>>>All NINE of them!!!! There are 5 black ones and 4 dark and tan, unfortunately they will be a nightmare to pass on as there is only one boy and no one wants bitches out here it costs too much to get them 'spayed'. Maybe I can bring them home with me in my suitcase........ maybe not. Oh well, I will have a job on my hands with this little lot, so in total I now have 11 dogs and 2 cats!!!!!! OH MY GOODNESS! Luckily she is a great mum, when she is out of the hide the slightest whimper and she is back watching them.

Today I caused a stir on my day off I went to Scann to drop off some of the sewing jobs I had done and to take some bones for the 2 guard dogs who get very very little to eat......... I wore a dress which for me is unheard of. I bared my lily white legs which was a shock, but I was told I have to wear a dress everyday, not really practical for Scann. This was just a short and sweet update. Another day off tomorrow, supposed to be buying more things to plant for the shamba. Bye for now, love to all, life is good and I am smiling, until I run out of dog food that is. Having a cup of chai with a butcher who supplies me with bones for Kim, I am hoping he will be even more generous with his servings in the future............
Keep well, Susannah xxxxxxxx

Nats, loved talking to you this morning, was like we were sat with a cuppa! All those who sent recent emails thanks, sorry for my mammoth edition will try and keep shorter in future