Day 4 – August 1
We get up around 6:30 with a planned breakfast meeting at 7:00. The breakfast consists of corn flakes, a Wheetabix bar (wheat type of cereal that you crush up), eggs as you like them, bacon or sausage, toast, fruit, and coffee or tea. I have definitely put on a couple of pounds since leaving home, I’m glad to learn we are going for a hike to stretch the legs and burn a few calories.
We head south of town a short distance and turn up a dirt road that takes us to an agricultural research station where Michael lived when he was first in country during his Peace Corps stint. We are climbing an ancient volcano, now a steep hill I call Farley’s bluff but the real name is Mt. Mielu. If we are lucky we will get a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa nearly a hundred miles south of us.
It is a steep climb and it feels great to have a strenuous hike to shake off the days of air travel and sitting in the Land Rover. As we approach the top we look south to see if we can spot the famous mountain. Clouds are covering it but we can see one of the smaller peaks. Then, as if on cue the clouds part and we can see Mt. Kili. Wow! What an incredible sight. Sad to note, what used to be the famous triangular snow cap has dwindled to a small strip of white. Global warming is alive and not so well in Africa.
Tommy brings one of the two HDTV video cameras he has to document the Makindu Children's Center program and the Proper Walk. The hike serves as a chance for him to get out hiking while carrying the camera and to add a little footage of this area of Kenya. It also is a good chance to figure out my new hiking poles because I have never used poles before. Michael gives me a few hints as to some pole rhythms to use and Tommy uses a tool to lock the poles into my preferred settings.
The view from the top is spectacular on all sides. We can see the hills just beyond Makindu, our next stop. We head back to the lodge, clean up and head out to the MCC. It is a short drive and we expect to be a bit early but to our surprise the kids are lined up along the drive into the center waiting for us. The beautiful colors of the school uniforms and the guardians’ kangas are set against the red dust and adobe of the center. There is singing, whistles blowing, and shouted greetings as the children, the staff, and guardians all crowd around as we get out of Teddy. Michael and Cathy are well known to everyone here so they are quickly surrounded.
I get hugs and handshakes and smiles and a big lump in my throat. I wasn’t quite prepared for this. A teacher gets her students lined up and they begin singing a song written for the occasion all about welcoming us and our bravery and generosity for going on the walk for them. Michael joined in the dance but I do have to report it was not pretty but, was pretty funny.
Michael walks to Teddy and gets out a number of frisbees, soccer balls, and basket balls and throws them to the kids. I play a great game of frisbee with about a dozen kids smiling and laughing with each throw and attempted catch. I was showing the children all the different ways to throw a frisbee and they were inventing new ones for me, such as the jump up in the air and throw it back between your legs, a very dangerous throw if not done properly.
The guardians did a traditional Wakamba dance, complete with whistle blowing and singing. The dancing kicked up dust which added to the effect of this wonderful spectacle. They dance in front of a huge bougainvillea with raspberry colored blossoms. The rich colors of their dress create a visually stunning sight.
Michael and I sang some songs to the kids starting with a rousing version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" with a bit of a creative ending followed by a round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" which turned out great. I was teaching some of the students about my home town and we started chanting SAN FRAN CEESCO, CAL EE FORN YA, over and over. The children are so much fun and always have big smiles, almost as big as mine.
The women had prepared a feast in huge pots over open fires. Rice with goat was the main course. One of the interesting things was watching how they finished the cooking of the rice. They placed paper over the top of the rice and added coals on top of the paper to finish the cooking from the top and bottom. The kids were served and Phil and I went into the class rooms to snap some photos with the kids. As Phil was sitting by some young girls, the youngest girl started crying. It turns out she was very frightened of Phil. Could this become a theme of this adventure?
After eating we were ushered outside where all the student, guardians, board members, and staff were gathered for the traditional speeches. The president of the board started off the speeches with every board member and walker and anyone else for that matter, given a chance to have their say. Patricia, the social worker at the school, did the interpreting. I told the gathered crowd that I was pleased to return to Makindu as I had visited there 27 years ago to visit Michael when he was in the Peace Corps. This was long before any of the students were born and back when I had hair and I ran my hand over my bald head. That got the biggest laugh of the day.
Following the speeches Phil and I handed out bracelets from our respective cities. Patricia and another board member handed them out while I interacted with the kids. I put bracelets on several children’s wrist to show how the clasps worked and then kids would hold up their arms to show me their bracelet, a nice ending to a truly great day.
We say our goodbyes and hop into Teddy with many children following us and shouting SAN FRAN CEESCO and showing me their bracelets. We drop off a friend of Michaels at her home, pick up Cathy and head back to Hunter’s Lodge very pumped at the amazing day we just spent. Phil was especially moved by today’s celebration, it was really fun to talk with him and share the struggle of putting into words what we experienced today.