the land of fortitude

This equatorial sun is doing a lot for the growth of our family. Hannah has grown a foot, Zach is nighttime potty trained, Madelyn’s medical knowledge is expanding, and Rachel comfortably introduces herself to others. The heartiness factor of our family has increased. We can eat local veggies without fuss, live without electricity and even last a few days without running water. The kids have even tried a squatting outhouse, nuff said.

And today, we hired a taxi driver to take us twenty five minutes out of Kapsowar and drop us off in a tiny village called Sisay. We stood, we photographed and we awed over the Great Rift Valley…misty green with miles of sky above. We stood atop the highest local point and looked way down to the purported beginning of civilization. Photography does not do this view justice.

We were followed by the kid-arazzi…can’t say paparazzi, because they don’t have cameras. Don’t always know what to say to these sweet little things, but I shake their hands and hold my hand to my chest and say mamaHannah (introducing myself) and ask Djena lanku? (what’s your name?) Then I learn if they know a little Swahili. And if they don’t speak Swahili, I’m stuck. And if they speak Swahili, I’m still stuck, cause my repetoire ends at the next phrase: nini gabbi? (how much is that?… which doesn’t apply to a nine year old). The flock grew the longer we walked. The shocked cackles of kids up on hills looking down at us, or running alongside us pointing, or mamas directing their little ones to look at the muzungus…this all in honour of the colour of our skin! Imagine the trouble we’d be in if we made that sort of show walking down Victoria Street!

When we’d had our share of the Valley view, we walked out of this tiny village, back to Kapsowar. The taxi driver didn’t believe that we’d want to be left way up here. We anticipated a two hour walk back home. Up, down, and around these hills, motorcycles passing at every turn, travelling with one, two, or three passengers and no helmets. Children herding sheep and goats. Lots of little ones packing water, firewood, or bottles of oil.

Lush green, but with sharp and immediately descending shoulders, and continuous ruts of rust-coloured dust or muck, not even flat roads for walking let alone driving. Zach panted for water, despite being on daddy’s shoulders. Rachel and Madelyn had the occasional piggy back, and Hannah trekked independantly. Promise of a lollipop at the one hour mark kept them going. Shambas speckled throughout the valley, grass thatched roofs, and wandering cows. Every couple minutes we yelled motorcycle and everyone shuffled left or right. I was nearly clipped by one that came only inches from me. I am driver, hear me roar!

As we climbed the last hill, we recognized a few more landmarks, and saw the hints of town, Zach tripped, and a young girl came running to help him. Many men and boys were peeping down into the Kapsowar valley to watch a soccer game playing at the girls high school. We were relieved to see familiar Kapsowar.

We were thankful to have a little weekend of reprieve for Jim to share in our journey to the Great Rift Valley. Almost as soon as we were home, though, he was called about a thirty three year old who’d been in an accident and had serious reactions to a blood transfusion. He’s been the emerg doc/pseudo-ICU nurse, watching and waiting for the fellow’s oxygen saturations to improve after intubation ever since. But that’s why we came.

Being here has grown us, increased our fortitude, a fortitude that the Kenyans grow up learning. I’ll bet none of the kids we walked with along the way have sore feet and aching hips. In fact, they’d make no note of a two hour mountain walk, it’s their everyday.  Africa, the land of fortitude.

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