Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Yesterday's News... Sorry Had No Credit!

Good morning,
today is Tuesday and it isn’t raining, a good day to have the fundi (repair man) to come and fix the ever determined leak in my roof. I have already had 3 try to fix it but guess what, it still leaks.

Ailsa my friend from Scotland arrived on Sunday unfortunately I had had a bad night with terrible diarrhoea but by the time she arrived in Nakuru I was up and about and Nick collected me with his boys and we picked Ailsa up from the Mololine shuttle.  As it was now lunch time we decided that we all needed something to eat so off we went to …..GUAVA café.  Ailsa said she had heard so much about it that it was time she tried it for herself.  The boys eagerly tucked into sausage and chips, Nick had chips, Ailsa had a tortilla wrap and chips and I ate 2 pancakes with maple syrup which was all that was on the menu that my stomach didn’t do a mad flip at the thought of.

Nicks two boys had been to early church service and were in their Sunday best, white shirts and 3 piece suits, they looked lovely and were so cheekie with it.  We chatted and Ailsa re acquainted herself with Dickson who used to serve us at Sweetmart before it closed……. Guava is so much better and we enjoyed our chat and lunch. 

Nick and the boys headed off somewhere and Nick left us with the car to take us home.  The plan was that he would call later in the day to collect it or to get me to pick him up……. Problem……. Shaffer (Nicks youngest) had been playing with my phone and slipped it into his breast pocket to pretend he was cool. Guess who forgot it was there until we got to the house and I had no phone. Ailsa was going to use my spare sim, but we couldn’t get it to work so had to walk to the local duka (shop) to ask the lady to help us get the credit accepted, she did this and we eventually managed to call and tell Nick to retrieve my phone from his son.   Many hours later and still no sign of Nick we called him and he decided to leave us with the car until the next morning.  Suited us nicely, but meant that I had no phone!!!!!

On Monday (yesterday), Ailsa, myself and Henry (my askari/Guard) headed into town, Henry had an interview at a café, he is looking for another job while I am in the UK. Ailsa and I met up with Nick and busied ourselves with tasks around town.   We went to our friends club called Garden Villa to say hi, had some lunch and a ‘couple’of Tuskers…. Well we may have had a few more than a couple.  Veronica who owns Garden Villa was the lady I first stayed with when in Nakuru back in 2006!  We had a lovely catch up and I was still mindful of my grumbling stomach and realised that the Tuskers probably weren’t doing me a lot of good, but by that time it was a little late. We called Nick he collected us and we decided that neither Ailsa or I were in the mind to light the jiko and cook so we phoned Guava and ordered steak and chips for dinner, just before they closed for the night.  Dickson kindly cooked our dinner as the ‘ladies’ had already packed up for the night, it pays to have good friends around town who go the extra mile for your.  We got home, had a warm drink and wandered off to another early night.

So I find myself at home giving the fundi a watchful eye, I think he thought I was joking when I told him I would be on the roof later to check his work…….A woman on the roof is something unheard of here, except me of course!  The crazy lady in Teachers hits the headlines again! Ailsa has gone off in a matatu to visit Mama Sweetie for the day, hopefully to catch up on stories and check things are going Ok with their project.

Yesterday was my uncles funeral and my thoughts were with his family and mine who had travelled to the funeral.  I heard from my brother and my daughter in the evening and know it was not an easy time.  My cousin has since been in touch via Facebook and I look forward to taking time when I return home to the UK to visit my family in the north.

I will be busy tomorrow as The Chairman of Scann has just called to say he has been given many items of clothing and toys and he wishes me to pass by his office tomorrow to sort them out, take them to Scann and distribute (never an easy job).  I also want to pass on some messages to him that I have kindly received from the BBC crew who came over to do the filming of Taking the Flak pilot that the boys were in.  I notified them of Yasmine’s death as I know they spent time with her here and thought a lot of her and the work she was doing. 

I am trying to mentally prepare myself for my return to the UK but it has been hard with everything that has been going on here.  It was nice having the two IKEA friends over to talk to and now my friend Ailsa, it doesn’t lessen the feelings but it is good to share them and the company is good.

Ailsa, unfortunately is only here for a short time, she is leaving on Monday as she has only managed a short time from work.  I know Ailsa will be busy catching up on old friends and acquaintances here in Kenya who will give her such a hard time when they find out she is only here for such a short time.

My love to you all and thanks for the words of support and comfort that you are sending.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Time Heals All Things

Dear Friends,

Whilst I have devoted a lot of time to Yasmine it would be extremely terrible of me not to share the loss of my Uncle Graham who passed away last week, (brother to my father).  Whilst we saw little of each other in recent years, whenever he was around he used to make me smile.  As a young girl, he often used to chase me to say hi by rubbing his bristly beard on my cheek, it drove me mad.  As I grew older it became an act of endearment between the two of us, instead of a greeting I used to offer my cheek for a bristle kiss.  Crazy the things that change over the years, childish dread that I would be ‘bristled’ by Uncle Graham and now it will be a fond memory of a lovely man.  My love and condolences to my whole family at this sad time and my strength goes out to you all for the funeral on Monday, Farewell Uncle Graham you will be missed.


I remember telling you that I was arranging various things to help the boys come to terms with Yasmine’s death, well this is what I have been up to……

I have been busy running round Nakuru trying to gather materials to decorate one of the large notice boards in the dining hall at SCANN, it will be transformed into Yasmine’s Remembrance Board for the boys. It will be somewhere they can express their thoughts, put letters, pictures, prayers, poems words of songs that will help comfort them.   The notice board that I am using is very old and pitted so I decided that I would need to find some sort of paper to cover it with.  This in itself took a while.  I managed to find lots of flowery metallic birthday wrapping paper but nothing that would be suitable.  I eventually stumbled across some pale purple almost parma violets coloured paper with a very small almost embossed pattern on it, I carried off 8 sheets hoping it would be enough.  I then (when nipping though one of my many short cuts along the back alleys of Nakuru) found a shop that sold artificial flower garlands and arrangements for wedding cars.  I decided that there was one garland that contrasted well with the paper it had deeper purple and white flowers, knowing how much the boys love flowers I bought one.

I had already had enlarged and printed my favourite photo of Yasmine (actually my only photo of Yasmine because she hated to be in any) this was when the BBC were filming Taking the Flak and Yasmine was grabbed for a group photo with the boys dressed in their ‘boy soldier’ outfits, she looked so happy and proud of the boys! I had also been busy cutting out letters from gold metallic paper to make the words, WE REMEMBER MAMA YASMINE.  I typed out a notice for the boys and had put one in the entrance to each of the dormitories, explaining what I had planned and asking them for any words, etc that they may want to put up.

I had received nothing from the boys and was actually told by one older boy who I asked if he had anything that no one had understood what I was planning…… I sent him off with a clearer mind and asked him to spread the information.

Yesterday I went to SCANN with all the items ready to prepare the notice board, teacher Catherine assisted during her free lesson time and we put together the basics for the remembrance board.  The final effect was quite stunning and I really hoped the boys would be pleased, I mounted the items that I had already gathered, one being a letter written that morning by Sammy Mwangi one of the boys who had briefly returned from Tanzania to visit Yasmine’s grave, some were the pictures from the younger boys that I had been given to pass to Yasmine on the Friday that I visited her only to find that after my short visit I still had them in my hand when I left the room mind distracted by how frail Yasmine had looked.  The picture I had enlarged was now mounted in the centre of the notice board, proud of place with some of the flowers from the garland draped over the top and down the sides of the photo like a shroud, it looked very effective.

I had printed some emails that I had received sending support and condolences from friends and relatives, typed up text messages of the same and put these on the board, to let the boys know their loss was shared and love was being sent their way from many directions.
By the time I left SCANN some of the boys who were on the premises had come to see what was going on and they loved the board, I just hope the others will think the same and provide me with additional messages etc to add to it, it is a way for them to say ‘Goodbye’ as they had no time to do so and to celebrate that they had known Yasmine as their Mama for many of them it had been from day one, 9 years ago.  Other things that I have planned are still in early stages so I will inform you when they come about.

Today I didn’t get to SCANN, I was busy preparing the summary for the bike repairs that the ‘fundi’ had given me hand written.  I am hoping to get the green light to get the repairs done before I return home, one less job out of the way and one more thing that the older boys could do with to make their long journey to school easier.

We had quite heavy rain today but having just wandered around outside a couple of hours later you would not have thought a drop had fallen if you didn’t walk on the grass, which would reveal the secret that the dry ground was hiding, that in fact rain had fallen, I even had to check the water butt which collects the roof rain water to double check……. before I walked on the grass that is!

The mosquitos have decided to start nibbling away at me so I am retiring early and hiding under my mosquito net for safety…..
2010, I feel will be a harsh year.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Read When You Are Feeling Strong

Sorry I know this is sad but I can't just share the good times with you all because it would be unrealistic and believe me this is all real and painful.

Sharing the sorrow….

I went into SCANN on Sunday to see how everyone was, the staff were heavy hearted but still watchful of the boys, many of whom were absent attending their own church services within the district.  The only boys I managed to see were the smaller ones who attended devotion on the premises.

The weight of sorrow within SCANN could have crushed anyone who visited that day, boys trying to come to terms with their sudden loss.  I called the small boys to the veranda by the computer room and came out with the pile of board games which were very quickly accepted and eagerly started I presume in an attempt to distract their minds, it appeared to work even for the short time that I was there. 

I had on the Saturday afternoon received various calls from The Chairman, (Moses Kombo was on leave) to put in place arrangements for the funeral on Monday.  I checked with the Housemaster, Patrick, that the details were now in place, all the boys were to practice a Muslim song they knew and the Muslim boys attending SCANN were to recite a prayer.  It had also been requested that 6 older boys were to go to the Mosque on Sunday morning to help erect the marquee and put out chairs as the Mosque itself, whilst large would not be able to accommodate the number of people expected to attend.  I was pleased that the boys had some part to play in the preparations, even if it was only 6 of them.  Many of the other older boys had been taking part in a football challenge and decided to still attend which would also help occupy them.  I wandered round the dormitories checking that there were no boys hiding their sorrows lying in bed, luckily there were none to be found, all had busied themselves, so much washing was being done to make sure that everyone had a clean ‘Sunday best outfit’ for the funeral.

When I had checked all was Ok I headed into town to get a matatu home, I had left the girls packing ready to leave on Monday for their trip to Mombasa.  I had arranged that I would go with them to Nairobi, do a few places of interest, get them to the airport and then return to Nakuru, but with the funeral all the plans had to be changed.  Jenga my Nairobi taxi driver and friend was now my stand-in. It had already been arranged that the excess weight bag that could not go to Mombasa would be left in the luggage room at the hotel where the girls would be staying in on Saturday night before they left Nairobi for the UK on the Sunday. The girls then had time to kill so it was decided that they would take Jenga for lunch, then off to the airport for their flight to Mombasa.

I had promised that I would take the girls to a local club on Saturday night but the plans were postponed after Yasmins death, with view to possibly doing so on Sunday night.  As it happened we had a lovely time with local music and dancing which helped me relax a bit too, Nick came to pick us up (a little later than we had originally planed) but we had had a good evening.  Sleep was a long time coming as I dreaded the arrival of Monday morning.

Everything went as planned though, the girls all packed, Nick arrived to collect us and take us to the Mololine Shuttle for the girls to buy their seats ready for Nairobi, once confirmed we said a tearful goodbye, emotions were high and for me it was only the beginning.  Nick dropped me at SCANN.

SCANN was actually a hive of activity, boys were busy washing themselves after having completed cleaning duties in case visitors decided to come after the funeral.  The place was spotless, Yasmin would have been pleased.  Moses Kombo the Officer in Charge and various members of staff were gathered checking on the days arrangements.  It had been decided that lunch would be served very early as the funeral was at midday. Once lunch was out of the way and everyone was smartly dressed we locked the doors and left SCANN in the care of the guard.  The walk to the Mosque was a long one, not in distance but in thinking time, I had repeated to myself that I had to be strong for the boys and so far it was working, but for how long.

On arriving at the Mosque it was obvious why they needed to carry out the service outside, so many many people had shown up to pay their respects and that was before we all arrived.  I was directed to show the boys to the grass on the left hand side outside the open marquee where we observed the proceedings.

The marquee was rectangular with seats running all round the perimeter, the grass had been covered with many rugs and within the perimeter were knelt many of the relatives and close friends.  At the centre of the marquee lay Yasmin wrapped in decorated shrouds, knelt beside her was her husband Mohib who was seen to be silently mouthing prayers.  Shamsher the Chairman came to speak to me about organising the all boys ready to recite the song as there would be no time to do the prayer also as so many people were arriving.  I had to wait for his signal once everyone had walked up to Yasmin to pay their respects.  On the signal I started the boys off and even though it was not in English I felt the weight of the words in my heart, it was a mournful sound that fitted the ceremony.  Once the boys had finished we were asked to come forward to pay our respects to Yasmin.  I held back having ensured all the boys had slipped off their shoes before entering and squeezing the arms of the boys that I knew would find it hard to see Yasmin which consisted of most of them. 

A deathly hush descended, even the low praying murmurings of the mourners seemed to stop. I was so proud of the boys but I was dreading having to follow them and say my final farewell, one of the older boys broke down and sobbed openly which tore at my heart, unfortunately I was already on my way and had no way of reaching him to offer comfort until I had excited the marquee.  Yasmin looked at peace which helped me keep it together, having seen the pain she had been suffering I focused on the fact that she was in a better place.  I walked round to where the boys had spread themselves out on the grass, the older boys had distanced themselves from the party trying to hide their sorrow.  This was so hard, hearing and seeing so much sobbing and tears from the boys made me cry, I wandered between the boys holding and supporting those that had broken down into desperate sobs, I think that my tears helped them accept that it was OK to show their sorrow, I handed out my tissues to those that needed them finding that I was actually left without I had to beg some from a lady standing nearby.

 After circulating among them I sat on a verge and tried to compose myself, in no time at all I was joined by many boys seeking company, we just consoled each other without words but by just being together.

Many people were still arriving following the procession route that we had taken past Yasmin. When the numbers dwindled some of the women started a chant and then there was some movement, some of the men carried what looked like a coffin but without the base on horizontal poles.  This was lowered over Yasmin secured then lifted, I gathered the boys from their various places of sorrow and we stood in line to watch Yasmin pass us on the way to the hearse.  It became apparent that this was a very male part of the ceremony so I held back and watched from a respectful distance only joining the hearse as it was about to leave for the cemetery. 

I had already been told by the staff at Scann that on the day of burial the coffin is escorted by the males only for internment, no women, including the daughter and family are able to attend.  The younger boys were escorted back to SCANN and the male staff and older boys continued on to the cemetery, leaving myself and the female staff behind with the female attendees.  This was now when we paid our respects to the female family members filing past them as they sat within the marquee, offering our condolences and words of strength. 

When I had completed my round, (which was difficult as I only knew 3 family members, the rest looked at me with questioning eyes but took my hand in friendship anyway) I found Zacharia (one of the older boys) sobbing uncontrollably by a tree.  I sat with him for sometime talking to him about Yasmin and how much pain she had been in when I had seen her on the Friday.  I pointed out to him that to wish her to still be with us as she was would be unthinkable and he needed to be happy that she was now at peace.  I also explained to him, as I had done many of the other boys that Yasmin had entered our hearts and as such she was part of us.  He should take solace in the fact that Yasmin would always give us strength when we needed it, she would always be there when we needed to make decisions, we would always feel her presence and love as she was now part of each and everyone of us.  

In talking to Zacharia we both gained strength from my words, his sobbing subsided, we both took in a deep breath and hugged. We were then joined by a few other boys who could not face going to the cemetery, we walked slowly back to SCANN talking along the way of other things.

When I arrived at SCANN I sat with the smaller boys who appeared to be unaware of what the proceedings meant, those that did know were lying on their bunks sobbing, sleep being their only respite that afternoon. I was informed that the older boys who had travelled back from university and college had to return that day or early the following day as they were sitting exams.  During the course of the day it had not been a fitting time to discuss money to be made available by the Chairman so I was collected by a motorbike and taken home to collect my bank card, driven back to town to withdraw money from the bank and then arranged to meet the boys at Guava Café.  I was supposed to meet up with 9 boys and had decided to provide them with a soda and chips to see them on their way. 

I actually ended up with 14 boys as some of their younger brothers had come to town with them to say ‘goodbye’.  Guava had been empty until the boys arrived and then it was suddenly full.  Dickson my friend at Guava saw my distress standing with all the boys with no where to sit.  He ushered us into the Guava Lounge, the bar side and sat us all in the corner.  I was not comfortable with this as I was now sitting in the bar where I worked with the SCANN boys!!! Dickson was very good he sorted us all out and even managed to help when more boys arrived.  We talked of Yasmin, toasted her with soda, ate the chips, gave out their travelling money, big hugs all round and the boys went on their way…….but not before a group from the funeral arrived in the bar.   I knew this would not look good!  I decided that the first opportunity I got I would explain the reason for me sitting in the bar with boys from SCANN before anyone else reported it incorrectly!  News travels fast in Nakuru!!!!!

I sat at the bar after the boys had left, deep in my own thoughts following their departure, feeling empty and inadequate in my role, nursing a pina colada that I felt was well earned. Between all the above events I had managed to send a text message to Anna and Nicole to check that all was well and they had managed to get to the airport.

I slept badly again as my thoughts were still on how to help the boys deal with their loss.  My ideas will hopefully help them but I will not bore you with them now, you have read enough.

Love to you all,

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Sad Goodbye...

Dear Friends,

yesterday I went to visit Yasmin, a dear friend, Trustee-in-charge and devoted SCANN founder.  Yasmin as you know has been fighting cancer for a year and after extensive chemo therapy managed to pull through and gain strength enough to attend a clinic in India for the radio therapy following her surgery.  Whilst in India Yasmin was able to have the chance of visiting many sacred places that she had always wanted to reach.

On returning to Nakuru Yasmin's health declined and we were advised that she was weak, expecting her to recover her strength after a rest period, however this was not the case.  Last night I went to visit Yasmin and was shocked to see how frail she was.  I managed to talk to her not really knowing she had heard or understood as she was not up to conversation.  I told her that I was there to pass on the love of the boys, staff and myself and to know we held her dearly in our hearts.  Yasmin held up her hand and acknowledged that she understood.  I left the room feeling that life was truly being cruel to someone who had done so much for so many.  

I returned home knowing that Yasmins time was short and spent a sleepless night thinking of the best way to help the boys deal with the loss of someone they loved so dearly.  Today I went to SCANN to hold the doctors clinic for the boys and made some phone calls to the Chairman suggesting that neither the staff nor the boys were aware of the situation and would need to be prepared.

It was decided that we should arrange for the boys to visit Yasmin to say their farewells in the afternnon.  I busied myself with arranging for boys to be excused from their schools where they were attending their Saturday tuitions.  The boys who were present at SCANN were explained that Yasmins health had declined quickly and they were to prepare themselves to visit her in the afternoon. I talked to the boys to try and ease the shock they would feel on seeing Yasmin but knowing from my own experience the night before. that nothing I said would.  I eventually told them that they were going to say 'goodbye' and to remember try to Yasmin as she was before.

I busily sent text messages to all the university and college boys asking them to return to SCANN as the time to see Yasmin was short.  Many phone calls later we heard that before the boys had a chance to return from the local schools Yasmin had passed on.  I felt guilty as having seen her the night before I had wished her a swift release from the pain and suffering she was in but knowing that the boys had not had the chance to say farewell.  We waited for the majority of the local boys to return from school and made the announcement, so many listened in disbelief and then many broke down and sobbed the realisation had set in that she had gone.

I then spoke to the boys and told them that I had had the chance of seeing Yasmin the night before and had given her the love from all of them and that they should be happy that her suffering was now over and she was at peace, she would always be living within the hearts of each one of them.  I hoped that this would help them a little in the knowledge that someone had passed on their feelings.  After they boys held prayers the hall soon became quiet as the boys left and found solice in their solitude.  I am not sure what was worse the sounds of the boys sobbing or the silence that fell across SCANN as boys disappeared into their own cocoon of thoughts.

I struggled alot with the emotions of dealing with the boys knowing that it was strength that they needed and I was the last person to provide it.  Whilst the staff dealt with the shock of the received news I wandered into the 3 dormitories and checked on the boys,  offering a hand on the shoulder, a ruffle of the hair, or just a look to let them know they weren't alone, actually what I wanted desperately to do was to wrap my arms round the shuddering shoulders of the boys and take away their pain but their grieving process had started and here it appeared to be a solitary one, it would need to run its course, the majority of the boys had experienced loss so many times before and this just opened new wounds.   

I resent messages to all the university and college boys informing them what had happened and that they should continue to return to SCANN to attend the funeral to be held on Monday at midday.  The family of SCANN reuniting under such tragic circumstances.

My two IKEA girls Anna and Nicole have been fabulous, supporting me last night on my return from Yasmins and today doing shopping and preparing dinner in my absence (including managing to light the giko).  I am so glad for the company and support they have given.

Tomorrow I will return to SCANN to finalise arrangements for the boys prayers and attending the funeral on Monday, I will hopefully take time to sit and talk with the older boys on their return.

Yasmin was a formidible woman, quick to rile and with a roar louder than a lion, she worked tirelessly for the boys welfare and often did alot more than people were aware of.  Yasmin's shoes will never be filled. We love her and will miss her terribly.  My one great relief was that I was still in Nakuru to be with the boys to lessen their burdons of grief.

Rest in peace now Yasmin.

Love to you all,