This time they gave us a sheep.....

 When we travel around to various communities to install wells or to give  seminars, we often receive gifts. African culture dictates that a visitor  or  guest must receive something to drink and to eat, varying from hard boiled  eggs and ground nuts to an elaborate meal of stewed beef or chicken.
 Whatever we are offered bears little relevance to the time of day. In  addition we are often showered with the produce of the local community:  eggs, nuts, huge stems of bananas, carrots and live chickens. At the  moment  we have a pile of small, sweet bananas (banana bread in the future again)  and a large stem of dozens of plantains sitting in our apartment. I have  learned to make matoke from the latter and am experimenting with various  spice flavours. We give the chickens and most of the produce away and use  what we can.

 This past Saturday we handed over a well in a small village about an hour  away. Their water supply was down a steep slope to a polluted source. The  women and the children in the local school spent a great deal of time  fetching water. We were able to put in a well (financed by a US Rotary  Club  who installed a well last year with us) with three piped outlets: for the
 community, for the Health Unit and for the school. There was much  rejoicing  when we drove out this past weekend and gave the whole installation to the  community. It's always a happy occasion with prayers, songs and the  ceremonial turning on of the water. It is hard for us in the west to  understand the impact of a reliable, relatively easy source of water on a  community. Health improves, hygiene is better, women have more time to  tend  their vegetables etc and communities can irrigate.

We were not surprised when they told us to wait for a gift just as we were  about to leave. But this time their gift to us was not produce, but a male  sheep! "A small something to roast," they said. Gulp!

Of course we accepted with many thanks, the poor creature had his legs  tied  and he traveled back with us to Kakamega in our Trooper. We live in a  compound that has cows, goats, chickens and turkeys and our landlord was  willing to accept one more animal. We're not sure how long it will live  with  us, but at the moment he's happy wandering around and nibbling the grass.

We have three more wells to hand over in the next month, bringing our  total  to seven for this tour.

There is never a dull moment. I was reading the newspaper the other day  and  was struck by three news items on the first pages. One was of course the reports on the wrangling of the politicians as they gear up for an  election  at the end of the year. Another was the story of two widows of one  husband, now dead.  One is Catholic and was married in church. The other is Muslim, married  under Sharia law. Both were vying for the right to administer the estate.

It's  not uncommon for the deceased to remain in cold storage for a year or more  while each of his wives tries to gain control of the property. The third  item was the report of the closure of a secondary boarding school because  the (male) students were being harassed by ghosts in their dormitory!

Again on the topic of schools & cultural traditions there was a great deal  of controversy this past week when a principal sent home 25 boys who had  just started Form 1 (first year of High School) because they had not been  circumcized, with instructions not to return until they were 'men'.. Some  call it a violation of human rights, some a respect for tradition, others  a way of protecting the boys from being 'forcibly circumcized' by their  peers (that doesn't bear thinking about) Others claim the head master was  incapable of controlling his school. There are a couple of communities who do not circumcize boys, but most do. However, it takes about a month to  heal and the rite is often carried out in April during school break. So  these 25 boys would be effectively out of school for a year. The head  master is back in school after being summoned to see the District  Education Officer. No word on where the boys are.

We leave Kenya the third week of March, so this may be my last newsletter  from Africa. Looking back over the last few months, we have seen progress.  The students we have sponsored in school are all settled in, vowing to  work  hard. Our poultry project is on track with the hens expected to begin  laying  anytime now. I shall go to another community next week to lay the  groundwork  for another group of women for micro-finance. The seminars on Positive  Discipline (Virtues) have reached about two hundred people (mainly  teachers)
and are continuing to spread. Our Kenyan team will hold workshops with 50  young people this coming week. The HIV curriculum was well accepted and I  plan to do more work on that when we return in a few months.

The computer school is full to bursting and we are trying gradually to  replace our old, donated computers with P3s. We can buy them for about  $200  and have nearly replaced them all. Our students are largely young people  who  have left secondary school, although we get the occasional older person, a  teacher or someone sent by their company. Our main problem now is training  enough new instructors to meet the demand. We insist that they have an A
 in our  exam, that they redo the course as an observer, that they work as  assistants
 for a full session and then practice teach every lesson before they are  allowed to face a class. This is likely why our school has such a good  reputation in the town and we have a waiting list for registration..

We have strong and faithful people who run the school while we are away.   It  would not survive without them.

 Please pray for us as we close up shop in the next few weeks and travel  home  to renew ourselves with friends and family