Well I’m back! I have just spent 9 incredible weeks in Nairobi, Kenya. This is going to be my best attempt at portraying my time in that beautiful country.
I arrived in Nairobi at 6:30am and took a good two hours to get my visa and bags! I was met by Jesse, our Canadian volunteer coordinator, who took me to what was to be my home for the next two months. I was met there by the lovely Louisa and Michelle, who were absolutely full of beans and definitely made me excited on my first day. Jesse said that I could stay at home and sleep then come in for the afternoon, but I told him that I couldn’t wait to see round the home and I wanted to start right away. So, off we all went! The home was not at all what I was expecting; I don’t know what I had pictured in my mind but, whatever it was, it was nothing like this. It was so big for one, very spread out and I had no idea that the Jonathan Gloag Academy was so close to the home. After being shown around I went straight to work in the nursery with Louisa. Now, I am not a baby person, which anyone who knows me will tell you, however, I couldn’t help but instantly develop some favourites. After a very hectic morning Louisa took me to the Can-Afrika Cafe to meet Michelle and Jesse for lunch. The cafe is just one many ideas to help fund the home and hopefully one day push it towards self-sufficiency. After lunch we helped Jesse make up some goodie-bags that were to be delivered to Mashimoni on Monday. After doing this I realised how shattered I was and Jesse offered to take me home.
That was my first day which I remember vividly. However, the rest of my days have all blurred into one big memory due to the fact that I omitted to keep a journal. So I thought that I would give you a typical day in the nursery, crèche and kitchens, as they are the main areas I worked in.
A day in the nursery consists of a lot of changing, playing and feeding. You start at nine and the first thing you have to do is take off your shoes and put on a pinnny. You then have to put on one of the nursery’s pair of flip flops, or ‘slippers’ as they call them, wash your hands, then you are ready to enter. All visitors into the nursery are asked to take the same precautions to avoid spreading germs and it works relatively well. At that time of the morning the nurses are already busy changing the babies so I go and get a baby from one of the cots and join in. We keep going till all the babies are dressed and changed and are in the play pen. There is also a section of the nursery for the tiny babies, when they reach 6 months they get to move into the play pen during the day. A volunteer’s main job is to play with the babies, give them all attention and talk to them in English. Apparently it is also important for them to get used to seeing white people, as a lot of adopting families are from European countries. We then give them breakfast at 10:30 when they get porridge or, as I liked to call it, brown sludge. They are then put back into the play pen and the one of the nurses usually turns on the TV. Now, the nursery was in possession of a Barney DVD which had two episodes on it. Unfortunately this was all they were in possession of and they proceeded to play it at least four times day. This was the only downside of working in the nursery. I would also feed them lunch which was more fun as there was less chance of it ending up all over me as frequently happened with the brown sludge.
A day in the crèche has to be one of my favourites. There were very few children in the crèche which surprised me because there are about forty-four babies in the nursery at the moment. This just shows how many children are adopted from the home; last year approximately ninety children were adopted. First thing to do on a crèche day was collect the children from the houses; Remmy from house three, Lidempta from house seven and so on. The most frustrating thing about the crèche kids is that you know they understand English, especially Remmy and Melanie because they grew up in the nursery surrounded by volunteers. However, even though they understood us that never stopped them from pretending they had no idea what we were talking about. Which could be funny at times and their little cheeky faces just made us laugh and forget to be cross anyway, which I am convinced they were totally aware of! Remmy in particular was extremely fond of saying ‘no’ to absolutely everything we said. Another word to which he was particularly fond was ‘umbrella’. It may come as no surprise to you that darling little Remmy was my absolute favourite of the whole bunch!
We would play with them till 11:00 when we gave them tea or ‘chi’ then we would take them outside. Playing with them outside was a joy and a chore because they are very good at disappearing when you aren’t looking. Melanie would constantly run into house four with Aggie her partner in crime. Then at half past twelve then we would take them back to the houses for lunch.
Working in the kitchen was the hardest of them all. They work you incredibly hard in there! It’s on the go, non-stop, always something to do. The second you finish top and tailing green beans there are carrots to grate, and there are a LOT of carrots. Once it took me two whole hours just to grate the carrots! Another job they love giving the volunteers is counting bits of pineapple. At 12 o’clock it is time to move all the food that has been prepared to the school dining halls. We were always sent to the senior school as there were more children to serve. My job was always to put the fruit in a bowl and dish it out to the sea of children that surged towards us. Then the washing up had to be done. Three hundred plates, bowls, spoons and cups all to be done by hand. The job of a volunteer at this point is to dry up and put it all away. By the twentieth plate my tea towel was always completely soaked and felt as if I’d dipped it in the sink full of water and they were all full of holes. To be honest, I think they were more holes than cloth but Kenyans are famous for their determination to use something until it has practically disintegrated, which I always felt my tea towel would do at any moment. They are also famous for never giving you more information than you ask for. The first time I worked in the kitchen I was there till 3 o’clock because no-one had told me that I was allowed to eat. Almost faint with hunger I gathered up my courage to ask one of the scary chefs if I could possibly go for my lunch. His stern face then broke into the biggest smile and he said ‘my dear, have you not yet eaten? Go at once!’ I’ll never forget his shock at me having lasted so long without eating!