Friday, January 22

A Year (or Two) in Kenya: Fifth journey into Pokot

There are two official programs we practice while in Pokot, Survival and Famine Feed. In brief, they are, respectively, purchasing livestock for the poorest of the tribe and distributing maize flour and cabbage to combat malnutrition. Should such things appeal to you and you are not totally tapped out since giving to rescue Haiti, you can donate through the links.

Then there are the unofficial programs. We have, on occasion, brought along our staff nurse and medicine to perform basic treatment at each station, especially during the recent cholera outbreak. One particularly generous sponsor has funded the construction of a water pump and installation of solar panels to power it. We are also an informal taxi service. If someone is looking to make the trip between Chesirimion and Riongo last minutes rather than all day on foot, they just hop into the back of our truck. Except when we're picking up forty-odd kids from their holiday in Pokot, there's always room. We can fit twenty easily and, if we're willing to be a bit uncomfortable, up to thirty. We can always fit more on top.

It's this last service that ground on me this past trip.

“Come on,” I wanted to say to them. “You're the Pokot. You're proud walkers. It's what you do. One of your chiefs once bragged to me that he had walked twenty miles already by the early afternoon.”

When we told one of our Pokot boys that we were going to walk from our hotel in Chemolingot to Ngingyang for the Monday market, he said “We can't do that.” Then he paused to consider and amended himself. “Well, you can't. We can.” We did it in about an hour and a half in the dark. Little snot.

Rationally, I know we have plenty of room. So long as there is enough for all of those who need to go back to Nakuru, there should be no problem. They don't make a mess and aren't troublesome at all. It's not like the other options are all that attractive, either. Walking can take hours, and if they are fortunate enough to find a passing pick-up, they can't afford the ride. If they are still more fortunate and have the shillings, the drivers pack them tight. I know. I rode some thirty miles in the bed of a standard pick-up with some thirty of my closest friends. It still bothers me.

I think it's the attitude about it that gets me the worst. Leaving the market around noon on Monday, people had begun queuing for a ride almost before we even began giving out goats and camels and cows through Survival. No one asked. They just assumed we would be available. When I had to start kicking men off to assure there was room enough for all for the boys and me, they would refuse until I literally pointed and stared at each of them individually. Not even then for some. They tried begging. I think we eventually found room for them all, but if it wasn't annoying.

We bought you goats and gave you cabbage, what else do you want? That was the kind of thought to hold my attention then. They were uncharitable and not all that sensical, but they were there.

Maybe, too, it's the contrast between what I expect to do and what I don't expect. I expect to be fighting over the price of a chicken and how many were actually were bought. I know giving out maize flour will inevitably collapse into a scrum by the bottom of the second sack when it becomes clear some will be leaving with nothing. Having never promised to take anyone anywhere, I don't so much expect to be a chauffeur, though I should after five trips out.

I think it's the sense of “When have I done enough for you?” that is the greatest source of irritation here. I want to feel like I've done something good and decent. When you keep asking for more from me, it kind of depletes that feeling. Depletes it like something that causes something to deplete rapidly. Like a cup of Nakuru tap water depletes the contents of my stomach out the wrong end.

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