Short or Long story - the rest of the trip.


Lots of people have mentioned that they are looking forward to hearing the rest of the stories etc, but I know many of you won’t see me for a while. Others may have caught up already or will do soon. So you have the luxury of two options. A quicker version shall be under 50 words, with no promises regarding grammar. The long version can be read at leisure, but you are under no obligation to read it. It is long, but I have tried to make it interesting and fun. You could print it out and stick it in your loo to read...

Under 50 word blurb version.

51 campers turned to 61 late notice. Camp fun and spiritually great despite no electricity and running water. Team fab. Ups and downs abound. Prayer worked. Vision fulfilled.  Tourism bit ok but not amazing. A few mad stories I can tell you myself if you buy me a drink.

Friday 3rd August

We spent the majority of the day driving west from Nairobi to Kisumu and then on to Maseno. We left predictably late and our driver, Patrick, met us with the dry words ‘Happy Christmas’ in honour of our timing. Patrick has been known to the Clucae for many years, and is just the kind of guy you want on these journeys. He is a man of few words- but the ones he chooses tend to make us laugh in difficult situations. He was employed as our driver as Bishop can’t concentrate well for long drives since he had a head injury from a crash many years ago (the one my Dad was involved in).  Ken, the usual driver who had an ‘episode’ in Nairobi, is not allowed to do long journeys too. Patrick is good at getting us to where we need to be much quicker than we anticipate. However he does it with higher driving speeds and more hairy take-overs than we would choose in the UK, especially considering the state of the roads. The travel was one of the most difficult things about the whole trip.

After a marathon 5 hour non stop journey we went to the lakeside food quarter to have a late lunch of fresh tilapia and ugali. It was pretty epic, and very local. We arrived in Maseno as it was getting dark, so we went to bed by the light of a few dim bulbs and waited till morning to see it fully.

Saturday 4th August

Maseno does look lovely in early morning light. The buildings are set around two open areas in a kind of figure of eight with a farm to the side and a muddy (and dangerous when wet and dark) slope between the two areas. There is a small dining area, a woodfire kitchen (with a terrible chimney), two craft rooms, three big dorms, and a few smaller rooms for team. It is surrounded by hilly green farmland and traditional dwellings. The countryside is by no means barren in this area, and by judging by the number of schools and churches, it is pretty highly populated.

Saturday was a final day of shopping for bulky things such as blankets, sheets, plates, cups, chairs, and everything you would think they would have.  We even commissioned 12 benches as there weren’t enough places to sit! Maseno children’s home only just has enough to get by with the few children they have. The home is winding down so has very few children despite the number of buildings. The mosquito nets had holes big enough for cats to get in, so we replaced them all. We couldn’t ask children to bring their own blankets because they are often shared by a few siblings, so if one child takes bedding, the others have nothing. These basic things are now stored at Maseno for future camps and conferences. The nets and benches are used by the children year round now.

Paul was my codirector and the social worker who recruited all the campers and most of the leaders (known as counsellors).  He had come with us to see the site and finish shopping.  As Will put it ‘Paul is worth his weight in gold’. His mother tongue is Kikuyu, and it is widely regarded that Kikuyus are good businessmen – his diligence and skill were brilliant for the shopping stage and he patiently explained things we didn’t understand. Shopping in Kenya is draining and complicated, and we were glad to tick off the last things.

At one point we didn’t have the car and needed to get to the other side of Kisumu, so all five of us (Bishop, Paul and the three mzungus (white people)) piled into a tuktuk. I was on Pete’s lap and Will was hanging out of the window. Madness. We have some comedy photos.

 Paul had to get back via a night matatu (minibus) to pack the bus and bring the campers to the camp on the Monday (what a legend). During our final tour and check round the camp to decide final jobs with Bishop and Oscar (the children’s home manager) we tripped upon the realisation that there had been a communication error.10 children of camp age from children’s home had been promised to be part of the camp. Not even Bishop had realised this. Having bought everything we realised we didn’t have enough of anything including food and beds. It was a stressful and frustrating few hours as we realised the implications of being 61 campers, not 51. However after prayer and time I came to realise that we had the opportunity to share the gospel and fun with 10 more children, and that that was a privilege.  So I ate a sneaky bit of british chocolate (thank you Pete) and told God he might have to pull the feeding 5000 trick again and got on with it.

Sunday 5th August

With dawn’s cockerel alarm arrived 6 young counsellors who had taken a night matatu from Nairobi. These counsellors, who are in their early 20s, live in Mathare and have grown up going to OCC schools. Most became Christians on camps themselves and they were all brilliant at connecting with the campers and working hard to make sure the camp ran smoothly. They were ace and all brought something different to the table. Their boundless energy was great too.

We three went to visit Pastor Bob’s church (he was part of OCC) and then visit some lake site spots to decide on trips, so the counsellors rested and then got on and sorted all the mosquito nets and made all the beds. No small task. Legends.

A side note - The chickens at Maseno gave a new meaning to free range, as I discovered as I walked into my room to discover a chicken chilling out on my bed. I squeeled and ran out, followed by swiftly by the chicken. Pete found it hilarious as he was just outside brushing his teeth (no sinks, and we used bottled water, so outside easiest to spit). After that we shut the doors more. One day we were in the small sitting room having a meeting. A chicken came in the room, hopped on an arm chair, made itself comfortable and casually laid an egg (well, with no small amount of straining) – then left. The eggs were all fertilised as they are trying to breed many before using the eggs for food.

Monday 6th August

The majority of the day was sorting out last minute jobs and rotas for chores etc. When you have a camp site with no running water etc, chores rotas are pretty important for the camp to run smoothly. Everyone had to be involved. The children was split into ten ‘families’ with a counsellor each, named after the fruits of the spirit (plus hope), which did everything together including bible study, games, crafts and chores.

I also got to teach some of the counsellors the crafts which they were to become ‘experts’ in. The main crafts were painting, marbling, t-shirt designing and decorating photo frames. We also did papier mache modelling which Henry the Mathare Secondary School Art teacher was in charge of. It was a real privilege to teach these counsellors things like how to mix paint – and show them the magic trick that red paint plus yellow paint makes orange. They had never learnt that before! I was expecting them to have not seen paper marbling before but paint mixing surprised me. They loved it, and loved passing it on to campers more.

The camp bus arrived to a glorious sunset. It emerged down the single lane mud track with borrowed steel frame beds flat-packed and tied on top, thus also bringing what seemed like half the tree branches they had passed on the way. It smelt lovely and fresh but it was a little surreal.

The first night was utter chaos. The campers showed their awesome patience, good nature and cooperation. With night drawing in and only dim bulbs and a few torches to give light the beds were put in the different places. We only had one spanner. The beds had matching numbered parts and were all over the camp site. It didn’t work and in the end the children happily shared beds for the night – which I should say is pretty normal in Kenyan culture. The fish for dinner arrived over an hour after the children, and delayed dinner till 9.30. I started my first bible talk at 10. Kids got to bed around 11. I went to the loo to discover the buckets for flushing were empty so I had to pump the bore hole at 11.30 by torch light with Paul’s help. Just as I was getting to bed at 12 my room started filling with wood smoke from the kitchen next door. We opened the window shutters (no glass) and door and prayed that I wouldn’t get carbon monoxide poisoning – and that God had better help with energy or improve things tomorrow as it was tough! I had to be up at 5.30 ready for the 6am leaders meeting.

Tuesday 7th August

God answered the prayer and the first full day went very well. The beds were put up in the morning whilst we got on with our daily bible time. I taught them a new bible study technique involving three symbols (it is known as the Scandinavian method), which took a while for them to get but by the middle of the camp was proving worth it. It really helped reflection and honest discussion within the groups. We hope they will feel confident to use it in their own devotional time once back home.

The main cooks had arrived on the bus and on the first day timing was a bit out, but to their eternal credit, they got it by the end of the first day. Lunch was 90 mins late as we hadn’t taken account for killing and plucking the chickens before cooking them. The best way to keep meat fresh without a fridge is to keep it alive! The trick to keep milk fresh it to get it from the cow on the day you want it.

We went to a really great trip called Kit Mikayi for a short hike. The children tried out their new shoes which were much better for walking than their usual flipflops. Kit Makayi was tall mass of what appeared to be tumble down rocks covered in greenery– but there was nowhere for them to have ever tumbled from. It reminded me of Pride Rock in Lion King – if I had a baby to hand I would have had a Rafiki holding it up moment. The views were awesome and the guided tour about tribal Luo legend was interesting. They loved the Luo dancing at the end too. All of this was in the rain yet it didn’t seem to matter.

We started realising pretty quickly that there were language barriers especially for Will and Pete. Most of the children had pretty good English but spoke to each other in Sheng (slang Swahili), which made bonding difficult. The Maseno home children also couldn’t speak sheng as they were educated in their mother tongue, Luo. As the minority outsiders, who were often a bit shy as well, we wanted to make sure they didn’t feel on the edge of things. It was an extra challenge but it made us more deliberate in the way we thought communication through and God worked through the weakness.

Wednesday 8th August

As we got into the camp the inter-family competition to earn points heated up and rooms were made spotless and chores done with gusto to gain the edge. The reward for being top family of the day was a lolly each and privilege of sitting on chairs for meetings by the winning team. We discovered community based behavioural management, time keeping and games worked a lot better than individual ones. An interesting cultural difference.

My talk/ drama on the man born blind and the Pharisee’s mistakes went really well and campers were starting the really engage with the bible studies.

The Kisumu museum trip went well and they loved the snake house particularly.

Pete was ill and rundown and rested, so Henry the art teacher took his family. As Pete was in charge of accounts and Henry had craft responsibilities it made sense for them to share their family responsibilities for the rest of the camp. This lifted a big difficulty with Pete and helped with communication in bible studies too. Praise God for his forward planning in having Henry there and family-less.

Thursday 9 th August

The cross day – it was an important day for the children to really take the good news for themselves. God really convicted them and 23 people came up for prayer under the trees. It was truly a special moment

Sylvia, one of the youngest girls was clearly poorly. She was the first child who had bonded with me, having come to hold my hand and smile just because she felt like it. Her stomach was swollen and the usual meds were not working. She couldn’t sleep due to the pain and was exhausted. Once taken to the local hospital (basically the gp) they did tests and apparently she had typhoid! But she came back completely better – stomach normal and gorgeous smile back. Praise God.

The trip of the day was the beach – not sandy but the kids actually screamed in delight at seeing Lake Victoria. They loved doing games on the grass and chilling out.

Friday 10th August

Will tackled the resurrection in his talk and the families studied Peter’s story in the bible time. The children made loads of cards in the morning and we did fun games, ran brilliantly by Pete, in the field of a local school in the afternoon. I had gone to Kisumu in the morning to print photos of each family (pastoral group/ dorm) for the children to put in the frames they had decorated in craft time.

I came back and was suddenly ill with Kenya belly, which sent me to bed during the trip. I woke up when they arrived back, but with a croaky sore throat which descended into a whisper voice and what felt like golfball tonsils. All around me I could hear the camp going on happily but I could not get up to be part of it. Then I found ants on my bed. I tearfully texted my mum to get people praying and took it easy for a few hours.

Two hours later I was tired but well again, tonsils back to normal and gut not playing up. The guys had started a camp fire. We heard testimonies, prayed and sang. Sylvia had sought me out to lean against and decided she wanted to commit to following Jesus, we prayed together and then she promptly fell asleep with her head on my lap. A contented moment. I am so grateful to God I was well enough to be there for it.

Saturday 11th August

The last day was the climax in terms of fun. Pete spent a long time filling water balloons to do variations of volley the splog (volleyball with water balloons). The pressure from the rain water outside taps was poor and wouldn’t fill the balloons at first. It usually takes a long time but when you have to do a nifty technique using an adapted water bottle takes longer. Using towels to catch and throw the water balloons in groups was a great idea from Pete, but the counsellors vs campers round created the best laughs. The Kenyans don’t mind gloat chanting when when they win.

We went to Lake Victoria again for a hippo spotting boat ride. It went well, and we did see a family of hippos – or rather their heads, but I was nervous as we realised too late that there were too few lifejackets. The counsellors, let alone the kids, couldn’t swim! When I put my best teacher-who-is-not-impressed-voice on to point this out afterward to Maurice the boatman, he apologised with a shrug and  said they were expensive and the simply didn’t have enough even when he borrowed some. I have a higher respect for our western obsession with health and safety now, but we were not ones to talk as all 70 of us piled into the 50 seater bus.

We had had a close escape earlier when the bus pulled onto a grassy verge to let by a wedding party. The verge turned out to be a bog and we ended up stuck at a 25 degree angle. We were walking distance to the boatyard so I stood up and gave a series of instructions to get everyone off the bus. Blank looks. Will got my attention and said ‘accent’ – I had slipped back into English English. I tried again in Kenyan English with much better affects. The walk was ok but hot and walking along dodgy roads without pavements. Pete and the drivers sorted out the bus, hiring a pick-up truck to pull the bus out.

Sunday-Tuesday 12-14th August

With Sunday came the end of the camp, we managed to send off the kids by 10 (we still don’t know how) and finished everything in the camp by 11! We visited Bishop’s tribal family home for lunch first for lunch. We hadn’t realised that a dozen short term missionaries from Maryland, USA were also joining us, and I confess I had not got much energy to be on my best form with new people. Nonetheless the Maryland team were delightful and gracious and when they saw us on the Monday they greeted us with ‘oh you look more rested and alive today good, you have had a hard but wonderful week’.

We travelled up to Nakuru (half way to Nairobi) to stay at Bishop’s older brother Samuel’s secondary school guest house. It had waiter service, knives and forks, double beds, showers, running water and electricity. It was good value chill space. When we arrived the watchman told us we had a slow puncture and had to change the tyre. Who knows how long and fast we were driving with that! No wonder Will had more problems than usual with comfort sitting over that wheel – the bargain pineapple digging into his leg probably didn’t help.

The next morning we chilled in the morning then we travelled an hour to Lake Bagoria hot spring. We were disappointed to find it was fifty dollars a head for non residents – too much for us. But the drive itself was lovely (surprisingly smooth, empty and with a fixed tyre which helped) and we saw a massive wild tortoise crossing the road on the way. The termite mounds and monkeys at the hotel we briefly stopped off at were good too. We got another puncture on the way, same back right wheel.

On the Tuesday we had a look around Samuel’s school, which looks grand but is simple inside. Then we went to the oddest half built hotel in order to see a good viewpoint of the surrounding area. The decor reminded us of a demented theme park. We wanted to stop off for some more sightseeing on the way back to Nairobi, but another puncture among other things shot down our plans. By puncture number three we were really getting fed up, especially as this one happened just after a scary take over. Seeing wild zebra and gazelle as we trundled along was a bonus. Bishop was our host the entire time and was gracious and great.

Wednesday 15th August

On our final day we went to the market to get a few presents which was an experience. We got led into the middle of a market and nearly got a bad deal but we got out before money changed hands – mainly because of Pete’s presence of mind and the fact someone tried to pickpocket him. We got a great deal on necklaces though.

We also went back to the slum. We had been thanked by the children and main players in the camp (with Masai warrior shields and spears for the boys and jewelry and a mirror or me) and then they joined us for a tour of the slum again. It was really positive to see how Will and Pete’s reaction had changed, especially being escorted by some of the local campers and counsellors. It is an awful place to live, yet it is somehow more alive than most places. An ideal way to finish I feel.

Thursday 16th August

Simple. Long day flight. Sitting watching films all day. Pizza at Heathrow. A lovely friend picked us up from the airport. Easy.