road to Sondu 021

The Graduation


Thinking back on how the day ended up playing out, I’m not sure I have the energy or the words to really convey the emotional content. It’s exhausting just to reflect back on it, much less to tell it.

We got to Eldoret in pretty good time, about 3 hours for a 60 mile trip. I checked into my hotel and then we proceeded to Moi University where the family would be spending the night at a hostel abutting the U. About 45 minutes in each direction. they emphasized that I had to be on time for the ceremony which would begin promptly at 8am. They were expecting several tens of thousands of guests as there were over 5,000 graduates. Oh yeah, there’s only one two lane road to the campus, so full of potholes that sometimes you have to drive right off the road altogether to get by…

The next morning I got up at 4:30 am to make it to the school in plenty of time to find them in the mob, park, and make our way to the graduation pavilion. I arrived at 6:30, Fred met me in a satellite parking lot (muddy field) and we motored off to get closer to the graduation area. Of course the parking lot gate was padlocked by then and no, the guard wouldn’t let the guest through. We would have to make our way all the way around the back of the campus via dirt road (muddy path) and through another way. OF COURSE WE GOT STUCK IN AN EPIC MUDDY WALLOW; was there ever any doubt it would end any other way? With a great deal of pushing, pulling, shouting and no doubt swearing help in Swahili from some amused bystanders I finally 4-wheeled it out and we carried on. Settled into my seat at 7:30 I was so grateful and surprised that not only was I not late, I was even early! Fred ran off to clean up and get into his gown and assured me that Mark and the others would be along shortly…

Many frustrating, weary hours later I asked Mark by phone, “How can you be an hour and a half late to a place when you’ve been here since yesterday?”

The ceremony started right on time, there was a procession of the faculty in their regalia, some speeches, some stand up comedy, mostly all in Swahili. Then, one department at a time, all 5000+ graduates were announced individually by name. At least I was sitting in the shade….

There were so many people trying to use the cell phone network at the same time that I had great trouble reaching Mark. It turned out that the family was so late to the gate that even though they had admission tickets no more were being admitted as all the seats were occupied.

Eventually we were reunited after the ceremony ended, the proud graduate photographed in cap and gown and much fussed over and we decided to return to my hotel in Eldoret for a celebratory meal: I had known full well there would be no chance whatever for a bathroom break of any kind during the day so I hadn’t eaten anything at all and only sipped lightly at a water bottle since the previous evening.

Later I brought them back to the University hostel, came back to the hotel again, my second round trip of the day and gratefully hit the hay, knowing that I would have to be back to pick them up again for the trip to Kisumu at 7:30 the next morning.

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More from Kenya

Greetings All,

I’ve been here since Monday, it’s now Thursday evening and I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and try and catch up a bit.

Dubai was a breeze, I think I mentioned that I got just a look at the Burj Khalifa shimmering in the haze off in the distance from the airport jetway, probably the closest I’ll ever get to it in real life. I also had a chance to drool over some gold bars in the airport itself, and decided not to stop in at the store offering the very finest in camel’s milk chocolates; yum! A little stress in the airport in Nairobi as my plane arrived an hour and a half late but made my connecting flight ok. I didn’t really feel like I was back in Kenya though, until I deplaned in Kisumu and smelled right away that particular perfume of diesel fumes, burning trash and rotting seaweed that only this lakeside city has in those proportions.  The terminal has been improved, and I loved the crooked white plastic Christmas tree with flashing red lights installed in the middle of the luggage carousel.

Mark was waiting for me in the terminal and boy did he get the biggest hug ever! It was just super to finally lay eyes on him again. The dusty, dingy Imperial Hotel hasn’t changed too much, and it was nice to be back there as well.

Tuesday, no Wednesday morning first thing; it’s a bit confusing, I left Boston at 11am Monday, traveled for 22 hours and got here on Tuesday night, we connected with Steven tuk-tuk, our regular driver in town (he’s the one who found my stolen passport in the mud some years back) and headed down to the bank to try and straighten out a problem we’ve been having transferring funds between the 2 charity accounts there. I had to come in person to the bank to do it so it’s been a while One hour plus and three CS reps later I was assured the problem was fixed, and it would only take 10/12 days for the fix to take effect- well after I leave here. One does what one can; I’m not holding my breath but we’ll see.

After that we loaded seven of us into a 5 person car and headed off to Eldoret City to attend the graduation of Mark’s brother Fredrick from Moi University. He is the first one in his family to go to university. All of you who read this know that Joni and I are sponsoring a bunch of kids in High School here in Kenya through Rosie’s Rafikis, but using our personal funds we are also sponsoring Mark’s brothers and sisters in school too, and Fred is one of them. In fact, we are hoping that sister Elizabeth, who just graduated from High School, will be able to come to the US for college next year. She is smart as a whip, and a hard worker too. Fingers crossed!

So that brings me up to Wednesday, and that’s it for now. I’m really beat after a long day, and have to get up early tomorrow.

More soon and thanks for reading.


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Off to Kenya at last!

Hey Friends,


Well, I’m off to Kenya after an absence of over 2 years and it fells great to be returning. As I write this I’m sitting at my gate at Logan waiting to board on Monday morning.

I’m only going for 8 days this time so instead of going through Amsterdam or London like we have in the past I’m going through Dubai. This will get me into Nairobi in the afternoon so I can transfer to Kisumu the same day, thus saving a night’s stay in the capitol city, which is just as well as the WTO is having a ministerial conference there this week so everything will be extra crowded and expensive.

This trip was kind of a last minute decision; one of our protege’s is graduating from Moi University, the 1st in his family to ever to earn a bachelor’s degree, so I’m going for his graduation ceremony. Also, the school year is now over, so I can visit with our 8 scholarship students and catch up with them. Two of them finished High School this year so now we are down to just 6. One of my goals while I’m there is to scout out possible areas for further aid from Rosie’s Rafikis.

Joni and I have been missing Mark and his family terribly, and we have just gotten past the most difficult time of year for us so it’s nice to have something exciting to look forward to and help keep us distracted.

When I was checking in on arrival at Logan the guy at the counter wanted to me to check my carry-on bag because it was a few pounds overweight; who ever heard of that, anyway? So, I just acted distracted and started mumbling about my meds, going through my bag to try and take some things out and put them in one of my checked bags…going very slowly as the line behind me started backing up…next thing you know, the guy tells mr never mind, it’s okay, move along…and he even forgot to ask me to pay the surcharge for my overweight checked bag! Thank you so much sir, you’re so kind, I really appreciate it, have a nice day, etc., etc.

Voila! The first hurdle successfully passed. -May all the coming ones be handled as smoothly…

More soon.


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Rosie’s Rafikis at the Burrell School

On Thursday, June 6th, Rosie’s Rafikis presented a 10 minute movie on our work in Africa, and then a spirited performance by the Dukpah African Drum and Dance Troupe to the children of the Mabel Burrell Elementary School in Foxborough, Rosie’s alma mater. Each child donated a book to us which will be brought to the Nyagweno School in Nyabondo. Stupidly, I figured we would end up with a box or two, we ended up with 12 boxes, packed full. We’ll bring some with us but most of them will end up being included in our next freight shipment to Kenya, which we will work on when we get back from our trip. The 1st and 2nd graders came first and they were really enthusiastic all the way through. The older kids are a bit jaded I guess, they took some time to warm up but eventually  got into it also. Some of our friends and relatives attended as well. The shows were great; wisely the movie came first and then the drumming, had it been the other way around the kids would have been too worked up to sit through it! It was nice/bittersweet to see the Principal, Michele and many of Rose’s old teachers. They are always kind, and gentle too.

When I went to the school a few days before to drop off the DVD I stopped at the Garden first; it looks nice, the school is really staying on top of it. There was a note on the front door telling people showing up for some athletic event to use the entrance on the other side of Rosie’s Garden. Something about the casual wording hit me hard; I realized the Garden has become integrated into the life of the school; it’s not an afterthought, or a place most people don’t really know about: It’s a hardsadbrutal place for me. It has gotten a bit easier for me to go to the Burrell, but I kind of feel like a ghost walking those halls, the littles all busy about their precious schoolwork. I don’t know them anymore. When we were upfront in the auditorium as the young ones first began coming in Joni left me to greet a friend in the back; I was alone in a big room full of excited children: tears came into my eyes but  but no one noticed, I did manage to maintain my composure, more or less.

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Playing catch up…

Well it’s been a long time since my last post, I know. Joni and I are beginning to gear up for our next trip to Kenya in July. All is relatively quiet there after a successful election season and we can’t wait to get back and see all our old friends, meet our new ones, and see the changes Rosie’s Rafikis have wrought in our absence like the gate, fence and new latrines at Nyagweno, and the two shelters built by Rosie’s on the Sondu-Nyabondo road, pictures of which will all be posted on the website after I write this, if I still remember how, that is!

Here at home Rosie’s Rafikis will be sponsoring an African music program and slide show/movie about the Nyagweno School, and about the animals we saw in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, presented at the Burrell Elementary School, Rosie’s alma mater, in early June. The price of admission will be one book, or something else we can send to the Nyagweno school, and maybe a packet of pen pal letters, too. We have been slowly accumulating and boxing up items to send over by ocean freighter and the things we get from the Burrell will be part of that. We’ll have to find another shipper though because as you may remember our last shipment got hung up in Uganda for almost two months and it was all Joni could do to keep me from going there myself to try and straighten it out.

Our efforts to get Mark over here for a visit last fall were a bust. I’m not sure what more we can do but keep on plugging away. I’m sure that eventually we will be successful and all our friends and family here who have heard so much about Mark, his family, and all the good things he is doing in Kenya for us will be able to meet him at long last. But don’t hold your breath…sigh…

I swear I’m going to try and be better about updating the website and blog on a more regular basis, really, no I really mean it.

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