We were supposed to meet some representatives from Lavenda mid morning so we headed off to the KLM office to book the next leg of our flight before going bush. When we were ready to go we called Charlie, one of the guys we were meeting. He came to greet us in our hotel where he told us that the others were delayed and that we should pass time until he called. In the end after we got away early to mid afternoon.
We were shown to the school minivan where Charlie introduced us to the project´s manager, Sido along with another staff member Kenya and a group of senior school girls. The traffic was slow moving but we were kept amused by Sido and Charlie who wanted to compare countires. On the outskirts of town we dropped Sido off and met Charlie´s daughter, Queen Latifa.
In all the drive took about 5 hours and took us through several smaller towns and past such sights as ¨Thriller Hotel and Butchery¨. The last major town we passed through was called Nyeri, the closest thing to a city within one hour of Lavenda. We got our first taste of the town when within 1 minute of entering the streets some of our bananas were stolen out of the window. We pulled over to get some supplies from the local supermarket and continued on.
When we arrived it was dark. We had expected to be without electricity for the full three weeks but we were greeted by the humm of fluroescent globes that we later found out were powered solar-charged battery. Even better news was our temporary abode. We were shown through a door which led into a lounge area and in turn two bedrooms and a bathroom with flushing toilet which we could use at night time. Normally the residence of Ruth and Jeff, the institutes founders it was ours for the next three weeks as they had left for Australia. It was a far cry from the gender-assigned, shared rooms that we had expected.
Our third surprise for the night was our dinner: rice, vegies and beef stew. It was fantastic and best of all it had meat, something we had not anticipated eating for the duration of our stay. Over dinner we talked more with Charlie. He told us two saddening stories about the deaths of his siblings, both of which had occured in the last 12 weeks. He also told us a more light hearted story where he had escorted one of the academy´s guests back to Nairobi, she had booked him a room in an expensive hotel. Unused to this sort of establishment he proceeded to drink every single little thing inside the mini-bar, he thought he was getting ¨the most¨out of the room. In the morning the lady was confronted by a bill bigger than Mount Kenya.
Whilst I stayed chatting to Cahrlie, Di got to work unpacking all of our bags. She was so excited to be setting down for a few weeks that she couldn´t wait until morning.
In the morning after breakfast we wandered around the school to orientate ourselves. Shortly after leaving our room we were introduced to Mr Clements, the vice principle of the primary school who offered to give us a guided tour. The school is comprised of a several different sections. The first place we saw was the sporting/recreation area which had a football field, a netball court, a basketball court and a tree plantation. The courts were just unleveled dirt floors with slightly decrepent goals at each end but the kids didn´t seem to mind at all. Next we were taken to the Kivuli houses were 20 odd orphaned children live with their suggregate mothers. They were the best buidings in the school, complete with a bathroom, kitchen, lounge and two bedrooms. After saying hello to the kids we moved on to the nursery school which sat in the same building as the gigantic mess hall, kitchen and posho mill. Due to the fact that the kids wouldn´t come back from holidays until Tuesday there were very few people around. Before being shown the impressive senior school and library we were taken through the primary school which is the hub of the institute. Although it wasn´t part of the tour there is also another section of the school which plays host to the staff accomodation, the guest area, a few crops, the workshop and the medical centre to be.
In all the school seemed pretty well equiped but there were cleary things that needed to be done. To begin with there was a shortage of water around as they were without well or bore, they collected rain water to drink but were forced to collect dirty water from the creek some kilometres away. Although mostly aesthetical the grounds of the high school in particular looked completely un-landscaped. With 1 metre high steps, exposed trenches and seriously smelly toilets it needed some work.
To sum it up the school was an impressive organisation changing the lifes of its 300 students and 100 staff members. As well as offereing services and hope to the surrounding community.
With the school still in shutdown for the holidays there wasn´t much we could do so we passed time in the guest quaters talking to our host, Moorby. She was a heavy set lady with a beautiful smile and a matching personality. She always seemed a little cheeky when she talked but it was just an illusion generated by her smile.
Day two in Lavenda was not really in Lavenda at all as we caught a matatu into Nyeri where we wasted the day. On our way home we managed to crack an old record, 26 adults and one child in the same mini-van. The ladies at our local market found it particuarly funny.
Over the next couple of days I became increasingly frustrated at our idleness. On Monday we taught a group of early returning students some basic computer skills and on Tuesday we spent the afternoon building a water drain in the primary school but it wasn´t really satisfying.
On Wednesday we started to get a little more proactive as we found our footing. In the morning we went to the senior school´s welcome back assembly where we introduced ourselves and arranged to give a series of computer classes over the duration of our stay.
After assembly we walked to the primary school where we sat in on a year 8 english class. It was a double and the second half the teacher asked us to take the second half. We accepted but as we found out later the kids had difficulty getting passed our accents.
We had lunch then returned to the high school were we attended a year twelve mathematics class. As it should be, the material was familiar and simple to me so I enjoyed watching Di, furrow browed working seriously on the problems.
That afternoon we were asked if we would like to take some clases in the future but I couldn´t really see the point. There were teachers there doing that job. If we were to take the clases the staff members would have had extra time to take coffee but in the end the school would be no better off.
We helped out by doing some manual planing in the workshop until it was time for our first real computer lesson. To me getting kids computer literate was the best thing we could do. Unfortunately except for a few 15 year old macs there were only two laptops at our disposal. I had hoped to rectify this situation by the time we left but with limited money, no power and a shortage of time it became apparent that it wouldn´t happen.
I was shocked to learn that over 90% of the year 11 and 12 students had never used a computer in their lives so amazingly we spent over an hour teaching 14 or so students how to use a keyboard and mouse. It was a successful lesson which not only taught the students how to control a computer but also generated interest in their use.
Thursday morning we found some workmen who were building a sandpit. They had already dug the hole so we just helped build the enclosure and fill it with sand. Di got tired towards the end and turned to making friends with a calf who was in the procees of being weened. In the afternoon we continued planing wood as we had done for the last few days, it was boring as hell but better than nothing, I was desperate to find something better to do with my time. When school had finished we took a computer class for a second group of students.
The same day we got to talking with one of the labourers. His name was Simon and he was a really nice guy. After chatting about all sorts of things we found out that he is hoping to make it to Australia this year to study. He had a sponsor all ready and just needed a visa. For the first time since entering Africa we exchanged contact details with the first person we hoped to catch up with in Australia.
Our first Friday in Lavenda was pitiful. We wasted the morning and I cracked the shits. In the afternoon we helped carry pavers and sand but whenever we helped the others just stopped working. African work ethic is through the floor, for the most part if you don´t ride them they don´t work. Not to mention the shoody job they did with the pavers, I couldn´t believe that even an unexperienced person could be so bad at it.
That night we were joined in cards by Grace, our new carer. Her lack of experience kept us in stitches until bed time. We played fish and she never got more than two pairs. She always picked up one or two extra cards when she had to fish and she couldn´t fan her cards. To add to her woes everytime we burst into laughter she would lean forward and show all her cards. After a good laugh I went to bed a lot happier than I had been during the day.