Sunday, December 16, 2007

Early Return

After 4 great months in Mombassa, we returned back to the States. My mother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer and is currently undergoing treatement. It was an easy decision to end our contract early and come back to the states. We were all packed up and on a plane within a day.

She passed a little over 6 months after being diagnosed. Life definately throws you curve balls along the way and they never seem to be the ones that you are prepared for. For me this has been another reminder to not "let your dreams be dreams", to follow your heart and make the most of you life however you see fit.

As Cindy always reminds me, there is more than one way to live a good life. I hope my mother can look back and feel that hers was.

Cindy is currently enrolled in college again and is pursing a new career in the Travel field and I took another IT job. We moved to Tempe, rented an apartment and try to visit father as much as we can.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tolerance

We knew that the predominant religion in Mombassa city was Muslim. The East African coast was settled long ago by Arab slavers and traders and they brought their Islamic beliefs and traditions with them. Swahili is a cross between the tribal Bantu language and Arabic. Mosques are everywhere and 5 times a day you hear the “cry of the muezzin” calling people to pray. “Allllllllaaaaaaaaaahhhhh Aaaqbaaaaaaaaah………..” This can go on for about 15 minutes. Mercifully, they turn the loudspeakers down a few notches for the 5 in the morning warble.

To prepare for the trip, Cindy bought some appropriately long skirts, and made sure the blouses she was bringing were cut very modestly. We were not sure how conservative she should be prepared to dress. What we found was that the area was no where near as conservative as we found on our trip to Iran a few years before. That does not mean that you won’t see men wearing the traditional long white robes, or women wearing the a full Bhurka: the black shapeless dress that covers everything but their eyes.


Some wear “buibuis”: long dark robes that cover everything from the neck down. These can be all black or most frequently have lots of sparkles in patterns sewn into them. The origin of this garment is so that women are very nondescript when they go out in public, but these gowns can be so ornate that you can’t help but look at them as they sparkle in the sun. They will frequently wear headscarves with the later but if the scarves fall off or they have to fuss with them too much, you will often see the scarf just strung around their shoulders. If Cindy was seen without a scarf on her hair in Iran it would have been scandalous and people would just stare until she replaced it.

The Old Town area of the island of Mombassa has the biggest population of Muslim worshipers. Outside of Old Town there is a mix of Hindi, Sikh, every shape and form of Christianity and native tribal worship. This makes for a surprisingly tolerant attitude between the religions here.

Within a stones throw from our house there is a Catholic, a Pentecostal, a Born Again church and a Mosque. Every Sunday you hear the dueling churches blasting away through loudspeakers (they love everything through a big speaker here). It can be a cacophony of noise. The Mosque wailing the call to prayer, the Pentecostals stridently giving testimony, and the Born Agains singing loudly.

Churches are set up any place there is an open space and some electricity to plug and amp into. They can draw anywhere from just a few worshippers to a huge crowd that surrounds a stage at the park downtown. The churches are so close to each other that sometimes I wonder how they hear themselves over the din of the other churches. The Melodies of song compete with each other, one emanating from their own speaker and the other from the loudspeaker just 200 meters away. But it all somehow seems to work harmoniously. If only other places in the world could co-exist with this type or religious tolerance.

For instance, they were putting pavers down on a large stretch of road leading to the Bombolulu Compound. Unfortunately there was a large old tree that needed to be removed to make way for the shiny new road. Initially there was a problem removing it because the women who owned it is going a little wacko. She became so irate with the prospect of its elimination that APDK halted its efforts because they didn’t want to be responsible for her death if she got herself too wound up about it and keeled over. When that was finally resolved (nothing a bit of bribery cant fix) the problem was with the tree itself. It is said that Medicine men leave there belongings and spells in the tree and that it was a part of him. I think it was also a place to cast off the demons he had excised. If you cut down the tree it would be like cutting into the Medicine man and he would soon be coming for you in revenge!! An African religious ceremony had to be performed to exercise the trees demons before it could be cut down. Our very religious Pentecostal maintenance manager James had no problem with the ceremony. He just wanted to make sure it happened so that he could finish his road.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nairobi by Rail

We had to go back to Nairobi to finish the second half of the in country VSO Training. VSO split the classes up because there was a second group of volunteers coming 6 weeks after we arrived. Like the movie, our options were Planes, Trains and Automobiles. We had originally traveled to Mombasa by bus so this time we opted for the Train.

The railway was built in 1895 by the British after Kenya and Uganda became a protectorate. It ran from the eastern edges of Uganda to the south east coast of Kenya. Construction took over 6 years and hundreds of Indian laborers lost their lives. Like so many projects of its type, it cost far more to build than it would ever recover financially, and those costs continued to climb long after it was finished. Its construction opened up the fertile Kenyan highlands, and travel time from England, by ship and rail, was reduced to just a month’s journey. With its now secure supply lines and easy access to the interior, Kenya was suddenly opened up to a flood of White settlement paving the way for the creation of an apartheid like governance in the 1920’s and 30’s.






Sadly, with it’s chronic under funding and the result of much of its finances being siphoned off by the powers that be, most of the rail service lines were halted in 2001. There were too many railway accidents and the passenger service was considered unsafe for travel. Fortunately the Nairobi to Mombasa service was never stopped and this was our chance to ride a traditional steam engine with classic colonial services such as train conductors, sleeping berths and fine china in the dining car. The train has 3 classes of service. First class gets you a private car with 2 person births, one above the other, a tiny sink and offers dinner and breakfast the next morning. Second class has a private car with 4 births, offers breakfast in the morning and is supposed to be same sex only. Third class has only seats and you are on your own for a meal. It costs half the fare of a bus to Nairobi and it’s packed.

We were told that the train leaves at 7:00 at night and arrives in Mombasa the next morning between 8:30 and 10:00 AM. Delays are routine. Cindy and I have gotten very good at waiting for transportation and being idle. Our year of travel trained us well. The most common answer we received while traveling in developing countries to the question of “When does the bus leave?” was “When its full’. After waiting in the station for almost 3 hours, our train finally showed and we quickly loaded in and headed off into the night.

The car was quaint and comfortable and in it’s hey day would have provided everything needed for the distinguished traveler. There was a fan mounted high on the wall (didn’t work) a small closet, a tap just for drinking water (I didn’t dare try it), a small sink for washing up, a medicine cabinet, a screen over the window, and two beds. The top one folded up against the wall when not in use and the bottom one doubled as both a bed and a settee. The wash room was at the end of the car and was of the typical Asian style. There was a sign on the door asking that you not use the facilities while the train was in a station. I looked down and saw that there was no tank, just a pipe to the tracks below and understood why.

The attendant came though almost immediately sounding the dinner bell and we made our way up to the dining car. The tables were set with china and silver utensils all stamped with the initials KR (Kenya Railways). Waiters in white uniforms walked up and down the aisle serving a full 3 course meal. Beer, wine and soda was also available. I could just imagine myself sitting there 50 years ago rubbing elbows with British colonials and dining in high style. It wasn’t until later that I noticed that the uniforms on the attendants were stained, threadbare and patched and that the china was dull and chipped. Signs of the under funding and the faded grandeur of what the railway used to be.

All night long the train stopped at various unknown destinations along the way picking up and dropping off passengers or parcels. While we were at dinner, the conductor set up the bedding in our compartment. Sometimes the train would just stop in the middle of no where for up to an hour and then mysteriously start up again. I was told later that it was waiting for another train to pass. I woke before dawn, climbed out of the bunk, entered the narrow passageway and watched the sun come up over the countryside while the train was stopped at yet another of its many way points. It was perfectly quiet and unimaginably beautiful. I didn’t know it yet but we still had over 7 hours to go before we got to Nairobi. The total trip actually took 17 hours to get there and 16 hours for the return. The bus averages about 8 hours. Both of us were glad for the delays. Otherwise we would not have been able to see the countryside by day. And unlike a bus you can get up and walk around to stretch your legs or lie down to read or take a nap. I spent hours just staring out the window watching the scenery pass by…...... Like I said we are good at being idle.

I got off of the train and felt like I do when I have been on a boat for a while. Sea legs. It lasted for days. A reminder of the gentle rocking that you felt constantly on the train and of my new favorite way to travel.



Check out our latest video about the train at http://volunteertechies.com/myvideoplayer.html


Monday, April 2, 2007

Adopting Gertrude

We have adopted ... a Praying Mantis. I call her Gertrude or Gertie for short. She sleeps in our house all day then comes out to hunt our little bugs at night. Wikipedia says they are day feeders, but not our little Gertie. Geoff grew up playing with them, but I don't remember any growing up. I think she's so fascinating and big: 3" or more. At first it would scare her when I went over to watch; she would start to wiggle and do push-ups. Now she just turns her head and looks right back at me. It is the strangest thing to make eye contact with a bug. It sounds crazy, but I think she some how recognizes me and has learned that I am not a threat. She washes her head like a cat: licking her "paws" then running them on her head. I've grown attached to her. I think the heat is affecting me.

Type rest of the post here

Friday, March 30, 2007

Athletes with Heart

Peter dodges Matatus and Lorries for 6 kilometers in his wheelchair. His hour-long trip down the Mombasa-Malindi highway is done in 35 degree heat at 90% humidity. It’s dangerous and very very hot. He takes the trip every Saturday for the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball with the team he founded eight months ago.



Practice is held at the White Sands Beach Resort. The resort is kind enough to donate their court time once a week. For months there was no where to store the basketball wheelchairs at the resort, so Peter would heap the chairs on to his hand-trike (see photos) and hall the chairs himself down the highway to the resort. Eventually White Sands agreed to give them a storage room. Peter is grateful. I think it’s ridiculous that this posh hotel loaned them a room on the third floor. Only one team member is sufficiently mobile to hobble up and down the stairs with the chairs. The coach helps.



Practice starts with wheelchair repair. The donated basketball wheelchairs are crumbling. The tires have slow leaks. Pumping up is the first order of business. It takes several men to pump up the tires because all they have is a standard bicycle pump which requires someone to stand on it for stabilization. They work at it as a group and get the job done. There’s lots of general tweaking and tightening that goes on. These chair are about to fall apart.



None of the players can afford basic protective equipment. Hands bleed from blisters during practice. Shines take a thorough beating. Some players don’t have shoes for their deformed feet; which are occasionally bashed between chairs in the heat of play. Water is available from a nearby spigot, but in the extreme heat they players suffer from head aches because they cannot afford re-hydration salts.



The game stops frequently as the small front tires literally spin off the chairs and across the court. There is a loud bang. One of the tire tubes explodes. The tubes are ancient. They can’t stand up to the heat of the black top on the court. The tread-bare t-shirts of the players and the dilapidated wheelchairs are in stark contrast to the palm trees and enormous crystal blue pool of the five-star resort.



Once practice starts they all go at it on the half-court. James is the star. He has been selected to travel to Nairobi next week for national team trials. Go James!!! Not once did any one complain. Equipment malfunctions are taken in stride. Injuries are endured with a smile. They love this game!!



There is so much drive, spirit and determination. They are contagious. After spending a morning with them I’m onboard. There are so many insurmountable problems here, but this one can be fixed, and I with so much commitment I know any help they get will be put to excellent use.



Geoff and I will be writing American and Canadian organizations looking for a sponsor. If anyone reading this post would like to pitch-in, or if you know an organization or person we should contact about this, please email us.



What the team needs:

Shine guards
Gloves
Basketballs
Net for the hoop
First Aid Kit
Re-hydration salts
New basketball wheelchairs
Portable Hoops - they can practice at Bombolulu and would not have to travel the dangerous highway to White Sands
Uniforms would be great
Boots

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reality Check

We had a reality check yesterday about the hard life that people have here. We are starting to make many friends here. One of them is Paul. He is a great guy with a physical disability that leaves him confined to a wheelchair. He has no use of his legs and barely has use of his arms. He is a guide here and it is someone’s job to be constantly push him around the premises because he can’t move the chair himself. Paul has such a strong and great personality that sometimes all I see is him and forget to say hello to the person pushing his chair. I need to remember to work on that.



Paul lives in one the newer buildings here in the compound. They were constructed with money given by Zimmerman. They are built in rows of 3 and have a common courtyard with the 3 houses opposite them. The houses are about 9 or 10 feet wide and probably 20 feet long. It is split in half with a room in the back and a room in the front.


There is no running water or kitchen. The front door is a thin piece of cloth or curtain. There is a small porch in the front. If there is not enough room to sleep inside, the kids will sleep on a straw mat outside the buildings. They are airless and have poor ventilation. We get a bit of breeze here from the coast but it doesn’t seem to make to these houses. There is power but they have no refrigeration. Food is cooked on charcoal on a small grill out front. I can only assume that foodstuffs are bought every day. The bathrooms are at the end of the block of houses. There is no wheelchair access and those confined to a chair either have to have someone carry them there or have to crawl across the floor to get to the toilet. The housing is provided free to the workers by Bombolulu. For the families here, it’s still a good deal for them. Because they don’t pay for housing, their money will go farther.



On Saturday after we got back from Nairobi, Paul told us that his wife had just had Twins and Cindy and I went over to his house for a visit. They were two small perfect looking little babies. Paul was just beaming. His wife who is not handicapped speaks little English. They didn’t expect twins and it was a total surprise. Her mother is here from her village to help her take care of them. He has 3 other children. A 9 year girl died last Christmas.



Yesterday (Tuesday) I saw Paul and asked him how the little ones were. He greeted me and then broke the news. The little boy had died the day before. He started to get sick in the morning and wouldn’t eat. Paul went to the compound nurse and she gave him some medicine for the baby. I don’t know what it was. Paul checked in on them a few hours later in the afternoon and the baby was starting to get worse. Strangely it started to bleed out its nose. Paul had his pusher run to the main building to secure transport to the hospital but it was too late. He said the baby turned orange and then died. He thinks that there was something wrong with the boy from the beginning. Something they should have found at the hospital. Unfortunately his wife was only in the hospital for one day. There are too few beds and if she stayed longer they would have given her bed to someone else and made her stay on a mat on the floor. Paul thought it would be better to bring her home where there was better care and a mosquito net. Malaria kills so many babies here. She was still bleeding from the birth.



They cleaned the body as best they could and buried him on Sunday. The rumor mill in the compound is already circling. "if only Paul had taken the baby to the hospital in the morning" blah blah blah. He would never have known that the baby’s condition was serious. It all happened so quickly. We went over to give our condolences last night and brought a small amount of money in an envelope as is customary. On the outside they both looked like they were handling it better than I would expect. Children die here. So much more than in a developed country. It’s actually rude to ask a pregnant women when the baby is due because so many don’t make it to term. Reality checks suck.

Friday, March 9, 2007

And now....A word from our Sponsor

I am very impressed with the organization that I am working for. Its called The Association for the Physically Disable of Kenya (APDK) was created in 1958 and operates eight branches throughout Kenya. I work for the Coastal branch. They operate the Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Center (who Cindy works for), Likoni Quality Furniture (in the town of Likoni just south of Mombasa), The Mobility Workshop (here at Bombolulu) and the APDK Rehabilitation Clinic near the airport.



The clinic was originally established in 1964 to rehabilitate children with Polio and was taken over by APDK in ’71. As the incidence of Polio diminished, they now address other types of physical and neurological disabilities. Most of the people who work here at Bombolulu have been through the clinic.



It’s an amazing center with a mobile force that reaches far to the north, south and west. The clinic is free to all that come there. They are mostly children. The average stay is about 2 years. Many of the children require some sort of surgery to correct physical disabilities like bow legs, club feet, and a neurological problem called Hydrocephalus (it’s a swelling of the brain in children that they think is caused by Malaria). They will do as many surgeries as necessary to fix the problems. We were shown one 8 year old child who was in the process of having bowed legs fixed. They fix one leg at a time and make the patient stay in bed for 6 weeks while the bones heal. Honestly I don’t know how these kids do it. I can’t imagine an 8 year old sitting still all day every day for that long a time. After intensive Physiotherapy (another great department in the compound) they will walk as good as new. There is a also a great school on the grounds because they don’t want the children to get behind while they are recuperating.



They have an in-house fabrication department that makes orthopedic appliances (think of things like specialized crutches, or customized shoes for people with club feet or with one leg shorter than the other because of polio) and prosthetics. The shop can’t keep up with demand. They made all of the prosthetics and appliances that I see people wearing here in Bombolulu, all of the pieces for the patients at the clinic, and have a backlog of pieces to make for the mobile force. The mobile division sends in measurements or plaster casting from the field and a month later the units are ready. Amazingly it’s all done by about 4 people. I was in awe of the place.



(Writers aside: I just spotted another cricket that came in from under the door. It beelined to where my shoes are usually kept. I was smart tonight and put them up on a chair. I think the word has spread among the cricket population that the effervescence from my footwear is not to be missed and they are all coming inside to experience it first hand. I hope the ants attack and kill it tonight. I have made an uneasy truce with the ants. They can live here as long as they clean up only the food crumbs left of the floor and devour the occasional wayward cricket. We are still in negotiations about their excursions to the food in our cupboards.)



The Field workers also do a lot of training of the family’s of the handicapped person. The clinic feels that it is part of their job help the recipient have a better life wherever they live and that they should raise community awareness wherever they go. In Kenya, disabled persons can be treated like they are lepers. I heard a story from a VSO physical therapist about a patient of theirs who was kept in a shed out back by her parents.



Because the clinic is free, many parents leave their children there and expect to wash their hands of them. Sometimes a false address will be given and the clinic has to try to track the parents down once the child has recovered. Often the patients leave with no trace of the disability they had when they arrived. The patients are then returned to their frequently disbelieving families to hopefully lead a normal and productive life. If the parents cannot be found, the children stay on the compound until foster or adoptive parents can be found. When I asked about what happens to the children who don’t get adopted, I was just given the vague answer that they keep trying even though sometimes it can be difficult.



They do so much here with so little.


The Matatu Experience

Necessity is the mother invention, and Matatus are the result. Thousands upon thousands of panel vans, locally called "Matatu", race up and down the streets, roads, boulevards and highways of Kenya to fill the gap left by the lack of public transportation.



To take a Matatu, I walk down a rough dirt road, dodging goats and chickens, to the Mombasa-Milindi Highway. Highway is an overstatement. It is a very busy paved road with a rocky shoulder streaming with pedestrians. At the end of my dirt road a crowd of people will stand at the highway waiting to get picked up. Every fifth vehicle is an eighteen-wheeler. Every third car is a Matatu with a conductor shouting out the window: "Mtwapa, Mtwapa, Mtwapa" or "Ferry, ferry, ferry", or "Postoffice, Postoffice, Postoffice". During evening rush-hour, when I head out to the pool after work, it's a free for all. Most of the Matatus are full, so when one pulls over for passengers everyone launches for it. The crowd crushes against the van until 15 people squeeze and slither into the rickety seats.



Now the game is on. Looking through the front window is a first-person ride in the very best NASCAR xBox game. Drivers aggressively weave, bob, accelerate and break their way through cars, trucks, bicycles, pull carts, motorcycles and pedestrians. Going off-roading is always an option if that keeps the Matatu in motion. If traffic is stopped in one lane, the two lane highway will turn into a three, four, or even five lane road. Matatus scurring like ants around the congestion.



The Matatu will "alight you", as they say here, anywhere on their route; very convenient. Rap you knuckles on the nearest window or side-wall - or on the ceiling if you are stuck in the middle and can't reach a window or side-wall - and the driver pulls over. Then join your fellow passengers in a spontaneous game of Twister until you tumble out of the still-rolling van; spring loaded like a clown coming out of a car at the circus. It is absolutely impossible for me to accomplish this without sticking my patooty in someone’s face, just impossible. But, no need to apologize. People live through this everyday, and they assume that you wouldn't have bumped them, nudged them, stepped on their foot or even put your patooty in their face if it was at all avoidable.



I'm a bit strange, so I like taking Matatus. It's cramped. It's hot. It's certainly not for everyone, but for me it's a laugh and a rush.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

First Days in Mombasa

My day starts earlier than in Portland; around 6AM. I role out of bed and the day is already warm. I sit for breakfast now insteading of grabbing a granolar bar and milk as I run out the door. As I make my way across the field that is my front yard and the compound of workshops and big trees, I take the time to greet the people I see. Everyone radiates smiles, hellos and "how was your sleep?". We all arrive at the office punctually at 8AM. Being late is not an option. We settle into our work, and the office gets quiet. Being white sometimes grants me status here that I don't deserve. I have an office for example. A big one with four breezy windows. My Kenyan counterparts jam two or three desks into one room.


Lunch is another strole back across the compound. This time it's much hotter. I don't notice the moments when I am sweating any more, just the moments when I am not. Geoff and I prepare a small meal. The heat has reduced our appetites. We are usually full after a crisp, cold cucumber sandwich. A siesta usually follows for the next 20 minutes, then it's another walk down the path and through the trees to the office.

We take lunch at 1PM, so the afternoons seem very short. When we come home we are always greeted by the 6 chickens and 3 chicks that are Bombolulu residents. Our yard is the last stop of their day. Later, around 5PM, we hear the cheers and laughter of the boys playing soccer in the field, and the call to prayer from the minarets.

Dinner is cooked entirely from scratch every night. We have each lost 10lbs already from eating less and better food. Dirty dishes are an invitation for the streams of ants we've conquered by putting all our food in sealed plastic containers, so after each meal we chat and do the dishes. Then its time to sweep and wash away the days dust blown in through our ever open windows. Many evenings we do a little laundry. It must be done by hand, and leaving it all for one day is back-breaking, so there is almost always laudry drying on the lines in the yard by our banana trees.

The rest of the evening is spent reading, learning Swahili, playing games or journalling. At 10PM it's time to go to bed. There is very little leasure time to my day, just the last hour or so, but I'm never rushed. I never want to "detox", and I'm happy to be getting up in the morning. I know my days here are simpler, I have so many fewer options for my time, but I'm left feeling full instead of overflowing.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Daily Rythms

We have only been here a week and are starting to settle into the rhythms of our new life. Up every morning at around 6:00 because we went to bed early, bathing in buckets in the shower room (water rarely comes out of the shower head but does come out of the spigot at waist level), ironing the clothes for the day (the Kenyans dress nicer for work than most Americans I know), checking the cupboards to see what the ants have gotten into now, a light breakfast and then off to work, home for lunch when we strip down to shorts and T-shirts, dress, more work and then home (strip again) to wile away the evening by cooking, writing, checking the ants, staring blankly at the walls, watching the sunset or the chickens in our front yard, playing cards, etc. The nights go by to fast but I am always exhausted and ready for bed early.


We have started to explore more of the surrounding area in the last few days and are becoming masters of the matatus (mah-ta-twos), panel vans from Japan with 4 rows of passenger seats fitted into them. They can tightly hold 15 passengers, plus the driver and his helper. Each one has its own route and has the endpoint towns written on its side, but in case you can’t read, there is a tout hanging out the window yelling its destination for all to hear. Their job is to make sure the van is full at all times, and collect fares from the riders. They are constantly in motion, opening and closing the side door, directing you to your tiny little seat, taking money, or banging on the ceiling to let the driver know if they need to pull over or not. Im not sure why speech doesn’t work. When we were in Kenya before, there was no limit on the amount of people they could squeeze into these vans and even in an explodingly full one, there was always room for one more passenger. The government now limits them to the number of seats in the van and in city limits they pretty much obey this law. Needless to say they are much more comfortable now.



It’s about 30 Shillings to downtown Mombassa, and 10 to 15 either way to the markets. One is the swanky rich people super market with everything known to man for a high price. And the other is the local outdoor market with everything known to man for a low low price. Well, a little more for us, but we are learning what we should pay for things. My boss sent someone with us the first time and he would just cluck and in a non confrontational way tell us we were about to pay too much money for something. It’s a maze of a place with clothing, food, toothpaste and every other household item you can think of……. all slightly used. We will definitely have to spend more time there figuring it out.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Creepy Crawlies

We arrived two nights ago from Nairobi and were given a few days to settle in. The house we are living in was built for a man named Hans Zimmerman. He put up the money to build a few of the workshops and some of the employee housing on the compound. He stayed on the compound and the house appropriately has the name “The Zimmerman Guest House” painted in large letters on the front. I’m not sure it has ever had any long term guests. Mr Zimmerman is older and ailing now and won’t be back. The last volunteer here stayed in a house just outside the main gate. Not really sure where.



The house is so much more than we expected and has everything in it that you might want. In the kitchen there is a stove with 2 gas elements, 2 electric elements (they don’t work) and an oven (we haven’t cooked in it yet but I burned my finger on the element inside trying to see if it worked). There is also a small fridge and a sink. There is another sink just off the kitchen and a small separate room with toilet (thankfully western, even blue stuff in the tank). Another separate small tiled room has a shower. It has one of those electric shower heads that I had found so prevalent in South America. This one doesn’t have any exposed wiring like those down south, and the chance of a slight shock if you accidentally touched it while showering is diminished. In the bedroom there is a King size bed frame and a queen size mattress (that’s another story).


The bedroom has two small dressers and an open closet thingy. Over the bed we have a large square mosquito net. I treated it myself and am sure I cut at least 10 years off my lifetime while handling the toxic chemicals I used to do it. Supposedly the mosquitoes will die just landing on it, but that remains to be seen as I have seen none of the nasty little buggers in their death throes. The clincher is the ceiling fans in both the main room (not mentioned before) and the bedroom. I am sitting under one right now and would be sweating profusely without it. No wait, I’m always sweating profusely in this climate.



The windows to the house have bars in them, have nice screens and slotted glass panes that are always open to let the breeze and dust in. The front and back doors are behind heavy iron gates that are secured with enormous padlocks. When we are all locked up, it’s like Fort Knox in here. Its funny but they did a great job of sealing up the windows but the doors have gaps in them where they meet the frame. One is large enough for me to stick a finger through. Consequently, we share the house with many reptiles and insects. You never know what you might find underfoot. I am constantly stepping on something, yelping and jumping back. Just this morning the plastic ring from the top of a water bottle gave me a frightful scare. Geckos ply the walls gulping down copious amounts of small insects, ants march in lines to whatever food we have left out, Praying Mantis occasionally wander the tiled floor, toads stand watch at the front door, and various other small creatures roam the house. You never know what you will find crawling on your body and I am often flicking things off of me. They all seem very harmless.



Lastly there is my nemesis the African Cricket. They hibernate under or in anything they can creep into. After I put my shoes on this morning, I thought better about it, took one off, shook it out and a cricket popped out. I got over my bout of heebee jeebeies, felt something in the toe of my other shoe, took it off, shook it out and another cricket fell out, although that one was slightly mangled by my big toe. I guess they don’t like to hide together. Revolted and squealing, I made Cindy sweep them both out the front door. Except for the heat, sleeping night is a blissful time, safe under the hot gauze of the mosquito netting.



We are not yet sure what to do with our garbage. We will have to ask about that one today. I think everyone just burns it in the backyard at night. We do the laundry in the small shower room with two buckets and have a clothesline in the back, next to the banana tree. All in all a very cozy comfy place to live out our time here.