In case any of you were wondering what those mad characters at Bala Mercy Orphanage had been up to, well… you have to know the last few weeks have been super-productive!!
For starters, after a long quest we’ve finally found our alternative construction materials. Thanks to our friend Betty’s help, we’ve managed to buy our first 100 polypropylene tubular bags, at a really competitive price, in the nearby town of Eldoreth.
Also, our friends Marco and Davide have finally reached us safe and sound… not too “sane” though, since they’re still look intoxicated by the frantic routines of the Western world.
On the other hand, we’re now accustomed to Kenya and to the slow, healthy and easy pace of life of these regions of the world. As such, we reach Kisumu’s airport slightly J late to find out, in amazement, that the plane from Nairobi has landed on time: our two new guests are waiting for us sitting in the bar, sipping some classic Kenyan tea.
Marco and Davide’s excitement would even be tangible if not for the fact that they’re already dead tired first thing in the morning… That’s when we decide to get them a nice and filling breakfast in our trusted bar, having immediately guessed the huge hunger of the 2 Italian friends. That hunger will be reconfirmed during their entire stay here (these Italians, always living up to their reputation).
The first day goes by quickly amongst guided tours of the city of Kisumu and therapies to adapt to the slow pace of the region. Without us even noticing, the sun has now set and the two new guests collapse exhausted on their beds.
The lights are off.
The following day we’re finally at Bala Mercy Orphanage. We get to the place that has been like home for the last few weeks and we introduce the two new arrivals to the community. From that very first moment they will be likeably dubbed Brother David and Brother MarIco (Marco).
The Brothers are keen to start working straightaway.We show them with pride the progress made on the two constructions and put them to work with shovels and hoes to complete the digging for the foundations of the Guest House. Between one dig and the next,their second night falls over the African sky.
The morning of the third day, it’s the first resistance test for our two novices.
Early wake up call and a thrifty breakfast are an unexpected surprise, as shown by Tommaso’s unforgiving camera.
But the Bros. are not easily scared. After finishing their food (they literally finish between the two of them a box of biscuits that would normally last us for a whole week… J) we head promptly for the orphanage, ready for another day of hard work. It proves such hard work that after lunch Marco and Davide, showing the first signs of psycho-physical backdown, decide to improvise a resting-area in the middle of some planks of wood, tools and barbwire on the back of our office.
A couple of days to finish off the foundations digging and to collect the first wheelbarrels filled with soil and finally the time arrives to celebrate a proper start of the construction works with our friends at the orphanage. That same evening we indulge in a moment of relax amongst songs sung from the children of the Bala Mercy and improvised lessons in guitar and percussions.
The next stage of the works consists of making water-proof the foundations, with a layer of gravel covered by a plastic mebrane: putting in place this plastic sheeting proves initially a bit puzzling for Roberto and Tommaso, neverthless this stage gets quickly completed and it signs the beginning of the big moment.
The moment of truth, long awaited and prepared with plenty of research and analysis, proves a success! After some initial dilly-dally, positioning the first layer of bags proceeds quickly, thanks also to Mark and Turner’s help, two newly arrived American guests who are intrigued by the unusual construction.
Just one day after laying the first bag, we’ve completed the foundations’ first layer and we feel well up for starting again.
Fabiana patiently lays two rounds of barbwire, holding them in place with some rocks and amongst the amazement of the passers-by we fill in and lay in place the first two bags of the second layer, before the sun starts to set over our tired but happy faces.
One week has already gone by, Marco and Davide will soon leave filled with gratification and good memories; we look at each other and realise the moment has come to shout: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!
After a couple of weeks “off-air” we’re here again to tell you about the latest events straight from Bala Orphanage. The orphanage has now become our home since we moved into the Bishop’s house, in the middle of the Kenyan wildlife (or in the middle of nowhere if you prefer).
Over here is like being back in time some 50 years or so… and we just love it.
We get up every morning with sounds of animals and on the way to work (about 5 minutes walking…) we travel through an intense traffic of cows, bulls, goats, etc. The fastest things speeding by on these paths are dogs chasing bicycles with frames re-enforced by steel bars: those bicycles are built this way in order to carry the weight of water barrels that are getting filled from the nearby river.
That’s right: water here is a luxury… You wash using rainfall water, conveyed from the roof gutters. When that water is finished someone has to go and pump water up from the river into a water tank (which will be then filtered and purified). And when that water is also finished, one hopes the wet wipes packs are not finished yet…
Once we reach the orphanage, we set up in our make-do office amongst chicken, chicks, goats and curious children and the day begins.
Having checked the progress of the dormitory works, we focus on the Dome House, our most experimental project. Only few days have gone by, but thanks to the help of some local people we’ve managed to quickly complete the digging for the foundations.
Enthusiastic for having started, we engage as well in the digging works and after some initial problems (creaking muscles, knees convergence and clerk-hands syndrome) highlighted by comments of the amused local spectators, we show our worth by proving some hidden talents in delving. That’s at least for the starting and ending hours of the day, when the African sun over our heads is a bit lenient.
The builders (or rather the one builder) show his appreciation for our help. Looks like over here the locals are not used to see white people doing hard manual labour.
In spite of everything, our help results crucial, especially the help from Fabiana, who’s showing energy and resilience that leaves amazed the two strained guys (Tommaso for a normal reaction of his body adapting to the local conditions… and Roberto due to the learning curve in using the shovel, which is not a type of African guitar…). And so the foundations’ digging gets completed after less than a week.
Now on the ground one can easily see the “footprints” of what, in a couple of months, will become the result of so many passionate researches and nights spent drawing (and dreaming…).
We’re very enthusiastic and we start walking amongst the foundations, envisioning the finished house, we open “air doors” and we lay down on imaginary beds. Everything is like we pictured it.
At the beginning of last week the materials we were waiting for finally arrived and also of our friends Marco and Davide, who are helping us for a couple of weeks with laying down the first layers of soil !!