Gents, take a walk!
No pirates here, but we would eventually encounter a fleet of ships of the desert. The meeting under the trees broke up and we left the relative comfort of the shade to walk through the village then to follow a few of the women on the trek to the stream where they gather water every day.
We take a walk
The first stop was a small, dark school – just one room lit only by sunlight from the open gable at one end, supplemented by rays that struggled through cracks in the mud walls. I had spent a few minutes chatting with one of the village leaders on the walk and when I got to the school, it took me a few minutes to make my way in; seems the entire group from the meeting had managed to enter and now pretty much occupied all of the very limited open space behind the area where the children were sitting. Kieran was already at the front of the class, helping the teacher show off her students. There were a few teaching posters on the wall and the teacher would ask the children a question. They would respond with answers, then Kieran would point to the relevant item on one of the posters. This building was built quickly during more difficult times so that the small children did not have to make the walk to the "permanent" structure a few kilometers away – not safe for them. Now the plan is to move that building to this site.
Temporary small schoolroom
We went on through the brush to that other building. Along the way, we passed another sign of what are the unusual, to us, activities that are part of everyday life here - burning down wood to charcoal sticks to use for cooking.
Smoldering pile of sticks, soon to be charcoal
The building we visit is now a cement floor with a tin roof atop poles rising from a short foundation wall. Talk was about how to dismantle the building and move the materials back into the village proper.
Building to be moved
A short discussion of the logistics
I am happy to report that the move has been completed and the building is now up, sided and, I imagine, ready for use...
New building - with siding - is now in place. Great work!
Next, a few of us set off to see Attir's water source. It is hardscrabble surface of dry, red soil and rocks through scattered rough, aggressive vegetation. At points it is a bit of a challenge as you need to look down to make sure you do not stumble over the rocks, but also need to keep your eyes up to avoid being impaled on all manner of thorny branches.
On the way to the water source...
Somewhere along the way, I thought to ask about wildlife in the area. Thinking, you know, about rabbits, ground squirrels, spiders and the like. The answer we got was something like this, "Only lions, snakes, hyenas and a few elephants." WHAT?! That put a new twist on things. Now, you had to look down, up, AND keep your head on a swivel. In response to questions about how often the villagers actually encounter any of these denizens of the bush, we are told that "we see the hyenas more than the others." Well, that was reassuring. Being well on our way to the stream, it really did not make much difference now, although we did work a little harder at not being the stragglers in the group!
There had been some talk about getting water from the river, I think. But when we arrived, we found something that would be a push to call a stream. More of a ditch, really; it was quite easy to step across it.
Attir's water source
The water was a murky brown color. While it was not unlike coffee with cream, it was not in the least inviting. There were clearly issues, not the least of which was the fact that cattle and camel herds frequented the area. One of the women had carried a 20 liter container and a smaller one, cut out to serve as a dipper. I am guessing she had already made this trip once today, along with many others from the village as they did the real work of getting water. This was a demonstration for us. She stooped down and began to scoop out water and pour it into the larger container.
Collecting water from the murky stream
I found this hard to take
The people here have developed a certain tolerance to the water. Of course, I would be incapacitated by issues from this water had I taken any and the people we were with were not. We were told that some of the villagers would boil the water, but all in all, it was taken just as this woman did, straight up. Seeing it happen, however, was so impacting that it felt like a blow to the midsection.
We continued on the main road where we would meet Martin who drove the Land Cruiser around from Attir. Here, the stream pooled up, maybe with the road acting as a dam. There was a visible green belt of tall, green grass. And, there was a herd of camels filling their tanks. During my previous visit, Wubshet told me that the camel herders would get upset over having pictures taken of their herds. Here, we asked the herders and found that these men did not mind.
Ships of the desert pausing for a drink
There will be more – quite a bit more, actually – to report about this day, but that I'll save for the next posting.
Clean water is something we generally take for granted. But we know that there are so many people all over the world who have to deal with water from sources not unlike the one in Attir. Perhaps that thought is overwhelming, so many places, so many people needing a hand up. But I do know one thing for sure, we can offer this hand up to the people we have met, in this case, the village of Attir in central Kenya.
So, before I continue on with the accounts of our visit, I will put up a special posting here, this to connect you with GHNI and provide you with a chance to participate in the TCD project with Attir. When you consider this, recall Margaret Mead's observation:
"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have."