Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Return to Rondo -- and Reality


Emmah shyly told me two months ago that she had heard Rondo Retreat described as a "little bit of heaven in the Kakamega Forest." I agreed with her and privately tucked away the thought that she should see it for herself. So last weekend Emmah and I took her niece Sheila and Dr. Hardison's assistant Linet with us to Rondo. A brave young male visitor from Boston, Brandon, accompanied the four of us. It was a glorious, if gluttonous, 28 hours. We thoroughly enjoyed the serene surroundings and fabulous food. (Please pardon the alliteration and see more pictures of our Rondo retreat at www.picasaweb.google.com/dianne.smith.rn)

While at Rondo, we walked the beautiful Yala River Trail. It took a concerted effort to explain the importance of the rain forest's ecology to three wonderful women who were nervous under the canopy of tall trees while marveling at the abundance of "firewood" -- and understandably hoping to carry some of it home. Fortunately, Brandon was reading the story of Wangari Maathai's "Green Belt" movement during our trip. Sheila picked up the book and began to read -- and to appreciate even more of the world's complexities.

Kenneth, the Hardisons' driver, picked us up at Rondo and coaxed "Private," the Hardisons' vintage van, into struggling and sputtering its way home. The radiator has been unhappy, in and out of the shop, for months, so our 90-minute trip turned into an anxious three-hour drive. It is not a good idea to be out at night in Kenya. At one point, we were prepared to abandon van (vs. ship) and hop onto the next available matatu/taxi. I carefully stowed my camera and laptop in my carry-on bag because Emmah warned me about keeping a vigilant eye on the luggage, should we need to use public transportation.

"People will jump off, take your suitcase from the boot/trunk and insist that it is theirs," she solemnly counseled. "That happens a lot, especially around the holidays. Everyone knows that people are carrying food and money home. Of course," she added, "once in awhile, they get surprised." Surprised? I asked. She and Sheila nodded in tandem. "Yes. You see, some people are too poor to have the bodies of their dead loved ones embalmed, but it is very important for them to be buried at home. So people pack bodies, especially children's bodies, in suitcases to get them back to their villages for burial."

I am grateful to report we didn't need to take a matatu.

Re-entry was interesting, nonetheless. Mbwa, our neighbor's dog, had secured the premises during our absence, but she had obviously had the help of three very attentive friends. She's in heat. And (sorry) speaking of heat... The day we returned, Kenya Power turned off the hospital's electricity because last month's bill was not paid in full. Again. Fortunately, a visiting surgeon was able to continue his efforts on nine-year-old Felicia, who is suffering from osteomyelitis. We had enough gasoline this time for the Operating Theatre's generator. It hadn't yet been siphoned into the ambulance for a joy-ride.

3 comments:

auuudra said...

Every time I read an entry your world comes to life through your writing. You write beautifully and writing is a reflection of your thoughts. You are incredible and you giving and sharing yourself with the world is a huge blessing and inspiration. with love.

Nancy said...

I love reading your log, Dianne. You are a gifted writer. Mungu Awaberikie to you. Your nurse friend from WI. Nancy

Kristin said...

Yes - I agree with all of the above. Thank you! Love you. K.