Africa’s Peanut Butter Ambassador

 Jill and I survived the small plane and the flight across Mozambique, and then flew back to South Africa.  After one night in Johannesburg where I was treated to a fancy steak dinner by an exceptionally nice local couple, Jill and I split up the next morning.  She to Namibia for safari, and me to Nairobi for work.  Although I was at the airport 4 hours early, somehow I nearly missed my plane. I was shopping, and eating in the lounge, and when I went to board, they were all looking for me – I was the last to board, even though I was at the gate merely 5 minutes after boarding time started.  This seems to happen to me a lot in Africa.  Unlike flights in America where boarding takes a while, boarding in Africa seems to me to happen in a rush.  So you can pass by your gate and it can be closed, and then you go away for 15 minutes, and when you come back, boarding is over and the door has closed. I generally don’t think of myself as the kind of person who would miss a plane, but this happens or nearly happens to me with some frequency, so apparently I am that kind of person.

In Nairobi, I went straight from the airport to Gatanga, an hour outside Nairobi, to an orphanage GO Campaign has supported for the past year and a half. 6 months ago, GO Campaign funds enabled the 25 kids to move to a new and safer home with electricity and modern plumbing.  (As it turns out, the plumbing is not working due to low water pressure, but I encouraged them to get a water pump soon.)  The kids all seem well and they are so happy to have electricity for the first time.  Several are excelling in school, including one teen boy who was number one in all of the district.  (Imagine being number one when he didn’t even have electricity and couldn’t study after dark.  Now he’s able to study even more!) When I arrived, the kids were all doing schoolwork and I looked at some of their assignments.  I tried to do one of the math problems and take a science quiz, and I failed miserably. It’s very advanced stuff.  I distracted them from their studies, and they sang a couple songs, and I felt obliged to dance around like a fool and make them laugh, and we all had a good couple hours.  I brought bread, margarine (a treat), milk (a treat), and 2 jars of local peanut butter (an even bigger treat – none of the kids had ever had it before.)  They decided to save it for breakfast. Hopefully none have peanut allergies and I will not kill any children, as that would not be a good thing in my line of work. If you’re even in Nairobi, please drop in and visit the kids at Gatanga (and make sure I didn’t kill any with peanut butter.)

At night, I went to my friends’ house in Nairobi, expecting to find it empty, but instead it was full of guests.  They forgot I was coming.  Luckily, they found an empty couch for me to crash on.  The next morning, I had a breakfast meeting about a GO Campaign project on the Kenya/Ethiopia border.  It’s a brick-making/tile-making/bakery project for women and youth which has been in the works for a few years and it’s nice to see it finally coming together.  Construction should start in a couple weeks and the project has the potential to truly impact the community and change lives in this arid region.

From breakfast (which wasn’t really breakfast – just a cup of tea), I went to Kawangware Vision Center in one of Nairobi’s biggest slums.  It’s a project we’ve helped build for a few years now and they are working on improving their income-generating business so that they won’t be dependent on help from outside organizations like GO Campaign.  Life in the slum is a struggle, but KVC has done terrific work and they have even more potential, and it’s nice to see them hunker down and build their own capacity. One of the youth was working out with a weight that looked like it was as old as Kenya itself.  I went over and showed him a few P90X moves, which I probably appreciated more than he did since it’s the only exercise I’ve had since I left home.

From Kawangware, it was back to the airport for my 9th plane of this journey, this time to Tanzania…

PS – A shout out to Crossroads student Holly Konner who read my recent blogs in South Africa and is making a generous donation to our work there.  Way to GO, Holly!