Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Heart Babies


(You say, "Nzuri.")

That means (basically), "Hi, how are you?" and "Good."

My Swahili is slowly coming along. I am determined to learn it before I leave. A couple nights a week, after my baby home shifts, I have been talking to our night guard. He knows a good amount of English, so he is helping me learn. He even bought me a book! Unfortunately, I've been working so much I haven't had time to study...despite him asking me about once an hour if I have looked at the book. He's so funny. One of the first things he taught me was how to say "Homey-G" in Swahili. Now, every time I see him we do some fist pounds/knuckles followed by a "Whatz up Mushgwia." (or something like that). He thinks it's the funniest thing ever.

The babies at the baby home are SO adorable you guys. I can't even say it enough. There are 55 now, so it's much more chaotic than it was the last time I was here. The kids have also become more aggressive with each other, which makes me sad. I feel like I am constantly pulling them off each other, giving time-outs, or consoling a child who has just been bitten or pushed down. Sadly, the babies are much more starved for attention than they used to be. There is never a moment when I don't have less than four babies on my lap or in my arms at a time, and then when a fifth child crawls over, the four on my lap start crying and hitting the fifth to get him away from a potential hug or spot on my lap I might offer.

There are lots of sick babies too. Funny/sad story, the other night I was feeding one of our tiniest babies Oral Hydration Solution as she is extremely malnourished. Her name is Nora. She is 10 months old and weighs ten pounds. She is the size of a newborn. She is probably THE most beautiful baby I have ever seen. You have to look at her pictures on the baby home website. She is absolutely stunning...but so tiny. She can sit up, but can't crawl or anything because she just doesn't have the strength. Anyways, I was feeding her her ORS right after dinner time and she puked EVERYWHERE. I don't even know how that much stuff fit in her in the first place (which is probably why she puked). It was all over her and me and the floor. Try to imagine all the puke, me stuck on the floor trying to make sure she doesn't choke, and then now about six babies all start crawling over to put their hands in it. I was pushing them away with my legs (my arms were covered in barf). I called for another volunteer to come help me. We got most of the other babies away in time, but a few more had it on them too. We eventually got them all cleaned up and the floor sanitized. Just as I was walking back to the "big baby" room, I hear another volunteer call for help from the toddler room. I go in and one of our newly potty-trained little ones had a major pee and diarrhea accident all over the floor, and about five toddlers all had their hands in it! Again, I used my arms, legs, head, everything, to keep others out of it and raaaan to the bathroom to get cleaning solution. AHHH! I also want to mention that this all happened right after bath time, so we had to re-bathe about ten babies that night.

The next night we had three babies projectile vomit all over the place again. Same story, different day. :) So yes, lots of puke, lots of poo, lots of cleaning up. The sad part is that these babies are sick. They have fevers and need extra love and cuddles, but there simply aren't enough hands to give them that. I try to give them the love they need, but it's just so hard when there are so many of them. :( However, I must admit, holding sick, sleepy babies makes my heart melt. I could do that all day, every day for the rest of my life. I love these kids so much it's hard to explain.

On a quick, other note, I caught one of the nannies wincing in pain two nights ago. She was cleaning up the toddler room, and fell over holding her side. I ran to her and helped her out of the chaos that is night time, bath time. I immediately thought, kidney stone or appendicitis. That's the kind of pain she was in. The manager of the baby home gave her "advil." I told her it was more than that and thougth she should go to the hospital. I called Amy and she told me to put her in a taxi and send her to the hospital for a malaria test. Well, there was no way this girl (20years old) was going to make it anywhere by herself in that much pain. So, another volunteer and I called a taxi and took her to the hospital she normally goes to.

To make a long story short, it cost 2000 shillings for her to see a doctor. She only makes 3000/day (about $3). The other volunteer and I paid for it. The doctor then saw her, did not tell her what was wrong, but told her she needed to stay overnight and "have an injection." He also did not tell her what that injection would be. We were sent back to the "check-in desk" where they then told us that it was going to cost her 75,000 for her to be treated. Um, what?! There was no way she (or anyone else in Tanzania) could afford that! She told us that it was because they saw her with us, two mzungus (white people). I would have just paid the $75, but I knew they were totally ripping her off (and I didn't have that much money on me). So we just went home! I have had a lot of kidney issues in my life and I couldn't imagine just going home. IF IT EVEN WAS A KIDNEY ISSUE...which I don't think it was any more because she said it didn't hurt when I poked her back. (Yes, I know, I'm not a doctor, but I'm beginning to think I'm the most highly qualified in this area here!). Anyways, apparently she went to another hospital that night where they gave her an injection of she doesn't know what for a diagnosis that they also failed to tell her. She didn't improve and went to another doctor the next morning, and then didn't go to work. I'm really worried about her. She is really sick. It just breaks my heart thinking that if you can't afford medical care here, you die...LITERALLY. It also killed me that they were going to charge her so much because she was with us and then they wouldn't budge with the price when we argued. UGH! We thought we were doing a good thing by taking her to the hospital, but we only made it worse. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Her name is Imma.
She is the sweetest girl. She remembered me from last time I was here and invited me to her house for dinner and to meet her daughter. Imma was an orphan herself and was living in the Bethany Home which is the teens program ran by Forever Angels. I went to her house and she was so welcoming. Her living room is smaller than my bathroom was in my apartment in LA. She lives there with her boyfriend, 2 year old daughter, and another woman and her daughter. There is no running water or electricity, but she is sooo proud of it. For dinner, she peeled and cut-up oranges and then made about 20 or 30 bites of steak for the whole group of us. She also made this really good salsa stuff that you dip the steak in. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about eating the meat, but she was so proud that I didn't care if it gave me diaoreah forever, I was going to eat it. (It didn't and I'm fine). :)

Anyways, there is so much more to tell. I have LOTS more baby stories that I will try to write about next week when I come to the internet again.

Sending my love from Africa!!!
P.S. The internet is so bad here that I just type and then submit, so I apologize for the jumbled mess I have made of my blog entries. I can't spell check and don't have time to edit, so it is what it is. :) Muah!

Oh, and I got invited to a wedding in September! So excited! I am definitely going to explore Africa more this time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Life Home Orphanage

Hello to everyone, all is well in Kenya!

Yesterday I spent about five hours in a baby orphanage in the middle of Nairobi and it was an extraordinary experience.

I woke up feeling very refreshed and eager to volunteer. Guy had called the day before to re-confirm that it was alright that anyone drop in any time to help out around the orphanage. The drive was long because of traffic, and I found myself more anxious as we zipped around the streets of the city.

The armed guard at the gate (a normal site for any well-organized business in Nairobi) let us in without so much as a glance. It made me wonder how easy it is for just anyone to be welcomed, or if I really looked THAT much like a volunteer; maybe the fact that I was sitting on the edge of my seat or my ear to ear grin gave it away.

I walked into the office and was given a very minimal amount of instructions: "Purse in cupboard. Wash your hands, get an apron, then play with the babies." Sounded simple enough, except I didn't know where anything was so I wandered around a bit and helped myself to looking into cupboards and through doors and around back alleys before doing everything on my short list and finding the playground by listening for quick bouts of laughter and baby noises.

I was the only Mzungu (literally "pig-skin-colored" person) there, and not one of the other volunteers talked to me, but I was okay with that because I wasn't there for them anyway! :) I played with babies for about three hours and fed them fresh fruit for snack. There was about 20 other volunteers there, and some you could tell had been there for a while, so I took most of my cues from watching them. The "purple women" were the ones who were actually employed by the orphanage and their bright purple dresses let everyone else know who was boss.

The babies are so beautiful. Aside from the deep coughs and runny noses, they are so happy and know very well how to manipulate a volunteer like me into carrying them around everywhere and giving them lots of additional love. They look at you in a very curious, but clever way that I haven't seen in babies so young. Most of the ones in my group were around 10-24 months old. Some of them were very sick, some of them were almost catatonic and needed a lot of extra care. There was one baby named Dillon that no one seemed to want to give attention to and it was because "he's too selective and fussy." He has cerebral palsy and is fussy because he can't move around too easily or communicate as well as the others his age. I spent a good deal of my time with him and found he was the happiest little guy of the whole bunch!

Lunch and nap-time was very organized, but reminded me of an assembly line.

1. Baby in chair, feed him/her.
2. Take away baby and replace with another hungry baby.
3. Repeat steps one and two until all babies fed.
4. Change baby after meal.
5. Take away baby and replace with another stinky baby.
6. Repeat steps four and five until all babies changed.
7. Rock baby to sleep.
8. Take away baby and replace with another tired baby.
9. Repeat steps seven and eight until all babies asleep and in their beds.

I was exhausted after this process, but felt good that I seemed to be better at feeding them without food going everywhere, changing, and putting them to sleep than any of the other volunteers (even the veteran ones!) It was probably because they'd been doing this for weeks and were happy to let the new girl do the dirty work, but I had a great time. They are all so precious and lovey-dovey, just what I needed now that I've been away from home for a few weeks.

I walked down the hallway following the other volunteers, but realized they were all leaving for the day so I went inside to inquire about any other work I could do while the babies napped. The girl at the reception just pointed toward a door leading to the back and I ended up sitting outside waiting for a purple lady to tell me what to do. It was their lunch hour, and I asked to sit next to a familiar looking lady who had been upstairs helping me change diapers. Her name was Winnie, and I talked with her for about an hour about her family, her job at the orphanage, and why I came to be in Nairobi. She thought it was funny that I wasn't married, and that I didn't even have a boyfriend. She asked, "is it because your father has a bigger machete than they do?!" After picking myself up from the ground from laughing so hard, I said, "Yeah, sure" because I couldn't think of any reason that would have sufficed. :)

After lunch hour, a different lady at the reception desk told me I should leave because other volunteers were coming to take care of the babies after naptime, so I thanked her for letting me know there was nothing else I could do, and called Guy for a ride home. I sat in the sun to wait and wondered why I hadn't done something like this before. It made me sad to think I couldn't do more, but happy that there seemed to be plenty of people in Kenya willing to help out at organizations like these, even if it was just for a day or a few weeks.

An experience like that always weighs heavy on my heart and I was in a somber mood for the rest of the day. I'm going to try and go back everyday that we don't have formal plans so I can learn the baby's names and get to know their process a bit better before I leave here. I want them to run up to me and smile like they did to the other "regulars." I am thankful for the opportunity to do something like this and am reminded of how just a few hours of service is so important to a person's soul. I hope that it might inspire people to do simple things to help and uplift others in some way. I'm not saving the world by any means or standard, but I might be making someone else's day a little bit brighter (and why shouldn't it be for a baby like Dillon?!).

I hope all is well at home. I miss you all very much! Keep sending me emails! :)


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A different side of Kenya

Today was a tough day.

Guy got pulled over by a policewoman as we were leaving a parking area in town for having a cracked windshield and wearing sandals while driving.

Apparently "I am going to arrest you" in Kenya doesn't mean the same thing as in the U.S. because when she said that to Guy about 5 times (and I was FREAKING OUT) he seemed calm and kept yelling at her in Swahili.

He didn't get arrested, but he did get a ticket and has to go to court tomorrow morning. The whole ordeal took about 20 minutes and the whole time I was trying to figure out the words in Swahili, thinking "I'm going to have to stay here while Guy goes to jail!" and "what if she takes me, too!" It was really quite scary, considering all the dinner talks we've had about how corrupt the police are here and I knew my 3000 shillings wasn't exactly enough to bribe her. It reminded me on a very small scale of how my dad used to joke about running from the cops on the mesa after playing harmless tricks, but this was a much more sobering experience.

That was only the first part of our unfortunate day.

Guy got a phone call about 10 minutes after receiving the ticket and heard news of a friend who had been shot dead while on Safari in the Mara which is a park in Kenya. Without disclosing too much because it is being kept very quiet here, I will say that is was out of the ordinary, the gang wasn't provoked by the travelers, and it seems to be related to the upcoming referendum vote for some reason (It's all very suspicious, and there are government officials looking into it).

This is very unsettling to me, and I am sure it is to you as well. The family is very close to Guy's family, and they are all coming together to investigate the cause of the incident. Our plans at this time have come to a halt, and there are a lot of phone calls being made and talk amongst the community. It's as though the hair on everyone's back is standing straight up, and we are all simultaneously holding our breath.

This seems to be an example of the dichotomy of life in Africa. In some ways, life is easy and fun and carefree, in other ways it is terrifying and sad.

I am safe and sound, no worries. I love you all, and I will keep you updated. Although I don't know to whom you would share this information, I would like to ask for your discretion because I want to respect the family here that is no doubt suffering a great loss. Pray for them and all their friends here in Kenya. I am sure tomorrow will be a better day.

xoxoxoxoxoxo...and some extra xoxoxo,


P.S. Thank you for your updates and emails. I would like to extend again the invitation to email me at if anyone has any other questions or want to send me pictures of home!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Habari from Kenya!

Hello to all my friends and family!

I have to apologize for not keeping up with this whole blogging thing, but when you are in a place so different from home, it's hard not to get wrapped up in just observing simple things like the color of the dirt or the way people smile. :) I assure you I am doing a lot of smiling myself.

Where do I begin?!

The first few hours I was in Kenya we drove from the airport to Nairobi in Guy's mom's RAV4 which is a zippy little SUV that is perfect for traffic through Nairobi. There are very few laws which ensure safe driving, and my heart rate did go up a bit whenever we tried to "overtake a lorrie." Passing these medium sized trucks packed with chickens and people and loads of other stuff wasn't as exciting after we had done it a hundred times, but all the smoke and yelling and honking horns is still an exciting part of driving through town. We got to Guy's house with Mark (a friend from Santa Barbara visiting Guy) and Peadar (from Tanzania, and also a friend from SB). In the driveway, waiting for me to arrive, was a pair of giraffe which were perfectly silhouetted against a beautiful sunset and I cursed myself for putting my camera in the back of the car for the drive over. I thought there's no way I could see something that cool in the dark on the drive to Guy's house, but I was totally wrong! He laughed and said, "Cacey, you're here for months, you will see this about 100 times before you leave." I have to say he was right, and I haven't even been here for a week!

Tuesday morning we woke up for breakfast which is always promptly at 7:30am. We ate homemade cereal, fresh papaya, guava, mango, tangerine, and banana. I was already feeling spoiled when their maid came out of the kitchen and asked me how I would like my tea served to me in the morning. It's the best tea in the world on its own, but I decided to have it in a traditional Kenyan fashion with "two sugars and cream." The sugar is all raw sugar, and the milk tastes as though the cow is in the backyard (but its literally only down the road). Everything here is fresh and delicious. All the meals here are made from fresh ingredients and prepared only minutes before being consumed. I have never eaten such food in my life, nor have I been accustomed to leaving my plate at the table and not having to clean up after a meal. It's something quite frustrating because I love to help clean up and organize meals (as most of you know) and its hard to let other people do it, but here it is almost an insult to take away part of someone's job. Victoria and Margaret are two lovely Kenyan women who are employed by Guy's family and make a very fair wage, who make sure I have plenty to eat and drink, and pretty much do all the cleaning and what I would call "chores" around the house. This is general practice for most families in Kenya who make moderate salaries. It is a way of contributing to the community and providing jobs for people (unemployment is at about 65% I believe here). Anyone could clean up or cook for themselves, but it is better to be providing about six other families with income if you can afford to do so. I feel very spoiled, but am happy to see how things are managed here in one context.

We were off to visit the elephant orphanage after running a few errands and it was the coolest place ever! There were about 40 baby elephants, some only a few weeks old who we got to touch and interact with for about an hour at the cost of only about $3. I got plenty of photos and some video of the babies and had to be dragged out of there by Guy and Mark after they had their fill of getting mud splashed at them and dust blown in their faces by these playful animals. On our way out, I pet a rhinoceros and some wart-hogs. Wow, that was cool too! If anyone can tell me of a zoo or animal enclosure in the U.S. that lets visitors pet those animals, then let me know! :)

After that, we went to have tea at home with Guy's dad Jonah, then for a walk to a glass-blowing factory nearby. On the way there and back, Guy played ultimate Survivorman and showed Mark and I his knowledge of not only animal tracks and scat, but also every plant and animal on the way. He is literally like the people you see on TV who know what you can eat, what will make you sick, how the animals all co-exist, everything! We even tracked a pack of lions as they must have been on the same road only the night before! How cool is that?! The other awesome part about Kenya is that everyone knows all these things about the land and the animals. They are all so in tune to their environment and what's going on around them that I feel like I have really been missing out on learning the indigenous and exotic species of things in California. We have such a beautiful state, and I wish I knew so much about it as these Kenyans know about their homes. I might not get all the scientific names down, but if I could tell you what the names are of all the plants and animals in my own backyard I'd be pretty proud of myself.

Dinner is always at 7:30 pm, and we always talk about politics and what the next day will bring. When I say "we" talk about politics, I mean I sit there and am completely silent during the whole meal while everyone else discusses the future of Africa. I know nothing about what they talk about, but am catching on fairly quickly. I know now that there is a "very definitive moment" approaching as we are a week away from the people of Kenya voting for a Constitution. There are problems with voting both 'yes' and 'no,' and everyone seems to have their own opinion about it, but the community here is incredible in how they communicate these things with one another. They are all loyal to their communities, and are seriously involved in politics because unlike in the U.S., there is little or no continuity between parties here. If a different party is voted in, an entire community of people can be kicked out, ostracized, forced to close their businesses, or even killed in extreme cases. If voting for Republicans or Democrats meant something that extreme, I guarantee we would all be talking about it over dinner!

Beyond the political talk and the memorizing scientific names of indigenous plants and animals, eating wonderful meals, everyday here seems to be perfect but that is just one side of life in Kenya. There are a lot of sick people, a lot of homeless and jobless people. There is social unrest and death, and I have gotten a taste of this as well.

Guy's house is monitored by two men everyday, each of them wielding weapons of some sort to protect the house from thieves, wanderers, and animals who might cause trouble. Each member of the neighborhood has a walkie talkie which is turned on when it gets dark so they can communicate if any danger is in the area. People at the banks are locked into the booths so no one can get in or out until the transaction is completed safely. There always people walking on the sides of the road who need help or shelter. It is heartbreaking, but being with Guy has given me a very interesting perspective on the whole thing because he grew up in the center of all of this. The people here like his family do what they can whenever they can to help, but they have a much different view on how this should be done. They are all part of a million different charity and community support efforts, they volunteer countless hours of their time to organizations, they buy only local foods and brands, they will spend extra money to support positive businesses within their community, and I am so happy to be a small part of that.

I have been given the opportunity to help out just a bit with some young men who are starting an ornament business by making handmade beaded Christmas ornaments to sell locally. These would easily sell for about $15-$50 dollars in the U.S. and are being made to support these guys because their parents can't afford to send them to school anymore, but they make only about $3 each on them and hope that between them they have enough to buy food. I have been working with them on marketing to tourists and selling them for a price that will generate enough income to expand and support a better life. I didn't think my little experience with business would be of any good here, but in Africa, any skills you have are utilized and taken advantage of. I am happy to help in any way I can.

Overall life is completely different here. Guy keeps apologizing for spending hours fixing his car or having to drive around town to run errands, but the truth is that I am a fascinated observer of life. The oxidized dirt alone could keep me busy for hours! I look for new flowers to take pictures of, track ants with bodies the size of buttons, go for walks trying to find the leopard that's in Guy's backyard, (yes, there's a radio-collared leopard that is hiding somewhere around Guy's house-so cool!) observe the characters that rip off tourists in the local "mall," laugh to myself as zebra and giraffe walk through the backdrop of the scenery during lunch, and generally soak up all the new stimuli of this beautiful country.

If it sounds overwhelming, fascinating, and is! There are no dull moments, and while I am very safe and well taken care of, there is an amount of discomfort I feel because of how different it is here (which is probably also working to keep me safe). I am so thankful to be able to experience a small amount of this life here, and appreciate all the people who are making sure my days are rich and interesting. The people are warm and inviting, and I can't wait to see and experience more. Africa is nothing like what we see on CNN, and I will be happy to blog so long as everyone knows that even my story isn't the full story because you can't summarize the beauty and tragedy of this place. It's something you have to experience, but I hope I can at least articulate a fraction of it with truth and fairness.

I am having the time of my life, and this summer will be more interesting than I could have hoped. I am thinking about all of you at home (especially a certain someone who is counting down the days to meeting her already incredibly-loved bundle of joy!) and wishing you could all be here with me. I love you! Email me at if you have specific questions or want to let me know what's going on in your lives (yes please!).

xoxoxoxox -Cacey

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Made it to the Baby Home!

Jambo! Helllllloooo from Mwanza!

I made it to the baby home and am so happy here. Before I get started, I only have about 10 minutes to write everything in this blog post, so I apologize. The internet here is sooo slow.

Cacey and I made it to Nairobi from Zurich after having an amazing two week vacation in Switzerland and Italy. We are all so thankful for Nadia and her family for accomodating our huge group (Mom, Dad, me, Cacey, Cody, Jarred, Kevin, and Justen [two of Jarred and my friends]). We saw Rhine Falls and swam in the Rhine River, jumped off rope swings into the river, hang glided, skydived, bungy jumped, river rafted, canyoned, ate fondue, went for walks, and just had an unforgettable time. Jarred and I then went to Rome and Venice and it was OMG so awesome. We fell in love with everything about both Rome and Venice. I wish I could write more about it, but I'm running out of time! (maybe I'll write more later).

So, we went back to Zurich and then Cacey and I said our goodbyes and headed to Nairobi. Cacey's friends who live in Kenya and Tanzania met us at the airport and arranged a hotel for me in Nairobi. Cacey's friends are really nice and I know will care for her well.

I made it to the baby home the next day and as soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew I was "home." My heart has been aching for the last two years to be back here and I finally made it. It's funny, you know how smells bring back memories? Well, when I got my first whif of African air I was flooded with all the happy memories of my time here two years ago. Wanna know what the smell was? Burning trash. Haha! I totally forgot that there is a consistent smell of burning trash here. Kinda funny that something so...well gross really...can make me feel so happy!

Ahh! Two minutes!

So the babies are TO DIE FOR. They are just beautiful. I feel so lucky that the only thing I have to worry about for the next 5 months is keeping 55 babies happy and healthy. I wish I could upload pics to this, but the internet is way too slow. You can see some on the website

I better submit this before time runs out. I'm happy and healthy too here! Please don't worry about me. I am living my dream. I still can't belive it.

Love you all.

Friday, July 2, 2010

So Excited!

Hi guys! Cacey and I are getting anxious to be in Africa!

For those of you who don't know, my sister Cacey and I will be going to Africa for about five months. Before we reach Africa, my family, Jarred, a few friends, and I will be going to Switzerland for ten days to visit Nadia (our exchange student from Switzerland). We will mostly be in Zurich and Interlaken and we are SOOO EXCITED! After my family leaves to go back home, Jarred and I will be going to Rome and Venice for a few days, while Cacey stays with Nadia.

On July 19, Cacey and I fly to Nairobi, Kenya! I will be going on to Tanzania to volunteer in an orphanage for babies called Forever Angels. It is the same place I volunteered at two years ago for one month. Cacey will be staying with a friend in Kenya, working in a hotel until September, and then joining me at the baby home from September to December. Yeaaaah!

Like I said, we are SOOO excited to be there! I can't wait to see the babies!!!! My heart has ached for so many months missing them. Here are two pictures from my trip before. You can see how happy I was in these moments. Ahhh! I am so excited, so excited, so excited!

While we are craving African babies in our arms, we are also saying goodbye to our friends and family, which is proving to be more difficult than I imagined it would be. We both want to thank everyone who has supported us on this journey; not only the donations we have received for the babies, but also for the love and encouragement you have given us to pursue our dream of helping those in need. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

So, this is our first attempt at keeping a blog. Be patient with us. Cacey and I will try to switch off posting info on our travels. We will probably only have internet access once a week or so...although, if it takes us longer to post, please don't have a heart attack. WE ARE OKAY! The places we are going are very safe and we will be taken care of. :)

Love you guys! Wishing you all the best for the next six months! Please comment, email, and facebook us too. We want to know what's happening in your lives too! :) Muah!