Sunday, August 14, 2011

East Africa Day 84 (Fri Aug 5): Departure for Daraja Campus

Hearing Jason and Jenni Dougherty's story from Caitie inspired to want to volunteer at Daraja Academy of Kenya this summer. (The Dougherty's founded Daraja.) I was really looking forward to meeting them this summer, and hearing their stories. Unfortunately we crossed paths - they were in the USA while I was on Daraja's campus. Jason returned to campus a few days before I left Daraja, so I got to meet him in person before I left Daraja bound for Uganda. But Jenni didn't return to Kenya until just last week. So I decided to head up to campus this weekend, to meet up with her. I couldn't leave Kenya without meeting her! :)

Andy, Daraja's Volunteer Coordinator, helped me plan my weekend visit. I went to the matatu park off of River Road in Nairobi's CBD this AM, and was very proud that I found a matatu bound for Nanyuki only ten minutes after I arrived. (All of the passengers have to sit on the matatu until all of the seats are filled up. Luckily I only had to wait for one more seat to fill, before we left.) We listened to some good music on the 3-4 hour drive up to Nanyuki, the town closest to Daraja's campus. I hadn't fully appreciated the beauty of the Nanyuki area until I'd seen more of Kenya, but it is really a unique and beautiful environment. Drastically different from Uganda, to be sure! Looks much more like a desert, though that's really not a great way to describe it because there is so much plant life. I didn't see any animals on the way up, though aside from the domesticated animals that are all over the roadsides in East Africa - cows, sheep, dogs, chickens. I wish I'd remembered to ask the matatu driver the name of the band we were listening to - was kind of bluegrass, but I couldn't understand a word of it.

I was so happy to get back to familiar Nanyuki! I stopped in Nakumatt for cookies, and then found the matatu stage where I could find a matatu headed out towards Dol Dol, which would pass the Daraja driveway. I wasn't so lucky this time. We waited probably about two hours in the matatu, before we departed Nanyuki. A woman and her two kids got into the matatu at about the same time that I did - we were the first passengers, and had to wait for the matatu to fill up, before we could leave. Her son was in Form 2 in a secondary school in Nairobi. I asked him about his aspirations, and he told me that he wants to be a pilot like his uncle. I've met a few aspiring pilots this summer! I asked this student what kind of training he'd need to get, after secondary school, and how long it would be, before he could fly a plane. He did not know. I wish that he had that information. It would make me more confident that he would achieve these dreams. However he was very enthusiastic and it was great to get to talk with a secondary school student, as always!

While we were waiting for our matatu to fill up, I stopped at a curio shop to purchase more air time for my cell phone. I finally got a chance to ask the curio shop owner if he gets to keep any of the proceeds from the sale of the top up car/air time. I asked this because the scratch off card is valued at 200 ksh, and that's exactly what you pay for the card. So it doesn't appear that the seller is profiting from the sale of the scratch off cards. But the curio shop owner confirmed that yes, he gets a profit from selling the scratch off cards. I think he was not sure why I was asking this question - he seemed a little hesitant to answer me. I smiled at his response and said "good" and he smiled back:) So from now on I will definitely be purchasing my scratch off air time cards from independent sellers like this curio shop owner, and not from the chain stores.

The matatu driver dropped me off at the Daraja rock, at the end of the Daraja driveway in the mid-afternoon. I then started walking up the semi-long driveway towards the campus gates. It felt like so long ago, since I'd last run down this driveway! Like maybe a year had passed, instead of just two months.

All was quiet, when I got to the campus gates. Christopher, head of the Daraja Askaris (guards) was at the gate, when I arrived. He is so awesome! He warmly welcomed me back to campus and told me that the students had departed for home that very AM for break. The first group left at 6am, the second at 8am. So I had missed them long ago. I headed to the office, thinking I might find some people there.

I was greeted at the door by a very sick looking Tusker, one of the Dougherty's dogs. Pamela, Daraja's Social Media intern, was at Andy's desk, doing work. She filled me in on how things have been on campus, and let me know that Jenni and two of the volunteers were in town. I got to meet Andrew, who is on campus volunteering for six months, from San Francisco. He's helping with Maintenance, coaching football (soccer), and at the moment was doing some maintenance on the computer lab laptops. Always fun to meet another Californian:) Pamela filled me on on Tusker's health, too.

I then sat outside of the office in the grass, watching the setting sun, reading a book with Tusker lying next to me, and Ajax and Rasta Jane playing near by. I called Sabrina's San Francisco vet practice, the very wondeful San Francisco Veterinary Specialists, and spoke with a woman at the front desk about Tusker's symptoms. She said it sounded like an infection, and that he needed antibiotics. It felt good to talk with her, and to have a sympathetic ear, even though there wasn't anything either of us could really do for Tusker.

Jenni, her mother-in-law (visiting from Marin County) and the two other volunteers returned to campus a little while later. Jenni invited me to dinner up at the Dougherty's house, which was really nice. I stopped by the kitchen and got to see Ruth before dinner, but campus was otherwise very quiet. Andy was out of town for the weekend, on a school errand. Jenni invited me to stay in a banda, and helped me get set up. The banda I stayed in is on the hill overlooking campus, below the Dougherty's house. It was a beautiful location - especially when the sun set! Too bad I didn't get a photo.

It was really nice to get to talk with Jenni, while she helped me get re-settled on campus. At dinner I got to meet her in-laws, and learned that they are flying back to the USA on the very same flight as me!!! What a coincidence!!! I also got to meet one of the other volunteers, who is a medical student. She has been teaching the students about HIV/AIDS, and will soon start shadowing the medical care practitioners at one of the hospitals in Nanyuki. I am very excited for her. She also just so happens to be one of Jason's cousins:) Unfortunately Jason wasn't feeling well, and didn't make it to dinner.

Fortunately I had brought my headlamp - I definitely needed it, to find my banda in the dark night, after dinner! I saw a dik dik (a very, very tiny deer-like animal) in the vegetation outside of my banda, which was very cool! I've seen very few of them this summer. Read a little bit in the banda, and then easily drifted off into a deep sleep. Daraja is a special place!

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