Week 12: Thanksgiving, Henry’s Back, and Mfangano Island

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving family and friends!  I was blessed to spend mine with the Kenya YAVs and we had an amazing dinner that our site coordinator made for us!  Mac and Cheese, Lots of Meat, and Apple Pie, praise Jesus!  It is very interesting how what I am thankful for has changed since I arrived in Kenya and completed my hospital chaplaincy this summer.
Henry’s Back
One of the YAVs Henry is back with us so we are all very excited!  Shelvis and I went to the airport Saturday night to pick him up.  When he came out where everyone was waiting, Shelvis and I busted into Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror chorus” very loudly and surprised Henry.  It was fantastic to see him and an added bonus that our reuniting included 100 Africans (mainly) staring at us as we sang MJ and rubbed each other’s beards from beardvember.
Shelvis, Henry, and Robert’s song:

The Journey to the Island

Sunday morning, Cosmas, Bill, and I woke up and left AEE by 6 AM.  We hopped on a charter bus in downtown Nairobi which drove us west at stomach curdling speeds.  I felt left out because everybody had a kid on their lap, but I did not. It was a 5 hour bus ride (usually 8) and on it I learned that to Kenyan children I am more interesting to stare at than 7 Zebra, but not 10.  After the bus ride, we took a taxi for 2 hours which was made for 5 people, but contained 10.  The taxi dropped us off at Cosmas’ uncle’s house and we visited with him.  The tradition in Kenya is that it is rude to have someone visit you and not offer them something to eat.  However, the last boat to Mfanano Island was about to leave and people kept calling Cosmas and telling him so, but his Uncle kept telling him we had to eat.  Thus, Cosmas and I ate very hot food with his Uncle before a motorcycle appeared at the front door which whisked us off to catch the boat.  When we arrived at the shore, the boat was already in the middle of the bay so I thought “our ship has sailed,” but apparently not in Lake Victoria.  It turned around and came back for us, Cosmas and I took off our shoes, waded out to the boat, and climbed in.  Once in the boat, we traveled for an hour and a half arriving at Mfanano Island at 6 PM.
Mfangano Island – Cosmas’ Island
As I got off the boat and walked up the shore of the island I felt like I was in an episode of LOST, or at least on that island.  We walked for 20 minutes and I didn’t see any homes or people, just the path we were following.  The island is beautiful and has 2 great hills in the middle which are covered in trees.  There is no power on the island which consists of  around 30,000-40,000 people.  This led to plenty of questions about how everything works.  My favorite answer was to recharge their cell phones they take them to a kiosk where they pay 20 Shillings (a quarter) to have their phone recharged.  The island is expected to receive power sometime in the next year.  The power lines are already up, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  The community is made up of mainly fisherpeople and I have found them to be extremely welcoming.

The Island

The Boat Ride to the Island
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Cosmas and I are staying with his pastor, Pastor Felix, and sleeping in a new school that the church has built.  Monday morning, I awoke to Pastor Felix telling me that there was warm water ready for me to bathe with.  So, I practiced the art of bathing from a basin again.  This style is not made for the 6’5 I have determined, but I am getting better at it as time goes on.  Cosmas called a motorcycle which took us to the other end of the island so he could show me the shopping center and the other islands.  I tried to explain to him how he had grown up on a tropical paradise and he just laughed at me and said, “no, no, no.”
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I had kept telling everyone that I hadn’t seen a snake yet and I thought that was weird.  Welp, I found one.  So, the most interesting part of my day was when I went to the bathroom and found a snake in the toilet.  I thought it might be dead so I spat on it and it moved so I went and got Cosmas.  I didn’t tell him what was in there just that he needed to come and see something.  When he saw it he jumped back and started screaming.  This resulted in them pouring boiling water in the toilet and sending the 6 ft. snake to heaven.  Cosmas couldn’t believe that I had taken a picture of it in the toilet, I just said, “I am my father’s child.”


The day ended with a stroll on the beach where there were several people pulling in fishing nets.  Cosmas wanted to help out and I wanted to give it a shot too so we jumped in.  When we jumped in there were 2 groups of people pulling nets in and the groups were about about 150 ft apart.  I kept telling our team to go faster so that we could beat the other team.  They laughed at me and we kept pulling.  It took about 30 minutes before we actually got to the net and then the net was another 15 minutes.  When the end of the net was finally close the 2 groups came together (this is when I learned we were pulling the same net (thanks for telling me…)) and we pulled in about 20 Nile Perch.  I clapped with glee and they all laughed at me.  They gave us a few smaller fish because we helped and Cosmas bought another very large fish for dinner.  This was the first time that I had ever caught (helped caught) anything I was going to eat for dinner.  So, Cosmas and I strolled back home with fish hanging from our hands as the sun set behind the hill.

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Cosmas and I went fishing again.  I spent most of the day reading because Cosmas had errands to run.  Once the sun goes down and there is no power I spend my time talking with people and reading Catch-22 or The Brother’s Karamazov with the flashlight on the Nokia 1200.  Most amazing phone in the world.
We hiked up the island’s hill which had absolutely breathtaking views.  Cosmas’ grandfather lives at the top of the hill and there were many other homes along the path.  Here, it is important to stop and say hello to everyone you see.  So, we spent a majority of our climb stopping and talking to people.  The only problem for me was that it was all in Luo, so I would just stand and study my Swahili book.  Cosmas kept saying that they wasted 5 hours a day catching up and talking with each other and I told him that it is very important for community and I wished we did that, but maybe they can cut it down to 2 and a half hours a day.  On the hike down I fell on some thorn bushes so I was in a hurry to get back and wash my arm and bandage it.  Once we got back though, I konked my head really hard on the door frame.  First time I’ve really hit my head here.  I was dizzy for a while and spent the rest of the day lying down.

Half Way Up the Hill

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Thursday – Rise and Shine and get on the Boatie, Boatie
Cosmas and I are on the mainland today visiting his Uncle again.  We will return tonight and be there for a while longer.  I am hoping to swing by Uganda on the way back and then by Obama’s grandmother’s home, where Obama’s father and grandfather are buried.  Thanks for reading!  Have a great day!

The End of Baerdvember
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