Thursday, January 27, 2011


I'm laboriously posting pictures of our trip on Facebook. This is supposed to be a public-access link.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Update 10--The Babies

No trip to Kisumu would be complete without a visit to New Life Home, a haven for abandoned babies. My first visit there, seven years ago, was overwhelming. Prisca the nurse/director had showed me around the clean, sunny rooms full of gentle caretakers and toys and lots of adorable babies. "They are found beside the road," Prisca had said, "or in latrines, or in the garbage, or along a riverbank. Some are left at the hospital, and the mom gives a false name and address, and then slips out without her baby." I remember the enormity of it hit me and I couldn't stop crying, remembering my fierce love and protectiveness of my own babies, and here were these motherless babies by the dozen, and I couldn't take it in. This time I was better prepared.

Back then, we used to walk over once or twice a week just to hold babies. This time we came with a big box of cloth diapers someone had donated and also $100 worth of supplies, paid for by the ladies from Brownsville Mennonite Sewing Circle. Prisca's sister happens to be our friend Vincent's wife Phyllis, and she had sent me a list of things they need, from Vaseline to cooking oil to porridge meal. So I had shopped at the local Nakumatt the day before and we came loaded down.
The caretakers posed a few babies with all the gifts.

And then, of course, we held babies. Amy's was a feverish little girl, also named Amy.
I fell in love with Peter, who put his head on my chest like he belonged there. Peter had a piece of packing tape in his hand and was furious when someone tried to take it away and replace it with a safe toy. He would fit right in with our family.

Babies and toddlers everywhere--may God have mercy on them all and bring them safely into loving families. Thankfully, New Life Home has an excellent track record of placing these babies in good homes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Update 9--Home

One bag of tea spilled, sprinkling black grains all over the suitcase contents. Lots of soapstone rhinos lost a leg or two. The pottery survived intact. So did Ben's chess board and set. All the wooden lions are fine.

And so are we. We came home to daffodil shoots pushing out of the flower beds and supper from Grandma steaming in crock pots on the counter next to plates of Bonnie's awesome cookies and sour cream twists and a bouquet of flowers. I'm afraid the supper wasn't fully appreciated because we were all kind of in a daze, so we ate and put the food away and went to bed.

Paul and I slept til almost 4 a.m., and got up and ate a sour cream twist each which were fully appreciated this time, especially with a cup of fresh Kenyan tea. Now our clocks are only two hours off. Pretty good for less than a day at home.

Flying home was only slightly eventful. In Warsaw, the guy at the KLM counter asked how many bags we have, and his eyebrows shot halfway up his forehead when we said "ten." [Those Europeans, they take one small bag for a week-long safari.] Paul informed him firmly that we were assured of two bags each the whole trip since we had gone to Africa, but he still had to make phone calls and type a lot while we nervously watched the clock.

Steven's backpack got held up in security, of course, even though Paul had sifted through it beforehand and removed two nail clippers. I have a feeling they stuck a microchip in the pocket during that awful episode in Amsterdam and it's going to set off the alarms for the rest of its natural life.

In Amsterdam we parted ways with Amy and Emily who didn't seem nearly sad enough about parting from their wonderful family after two weeks in close quarters with them. The girls flew to Washington/Dulles, and they plan to get Emily's car and possessions in Virginia and leave them at my sister's in Pennsylvania, visiting old friends at SMBI in between before they fly home.

As I was telling my SIL Laura in Poland, I didn't realize how much I process things by writing about them, mostly on blog posts, until this trip, when I had limited internet access and only brief snatches of computer time.

Of course, said Laura wisely, there's always writing it down by hand. True, but there wasn't much time for that either.

So like a Jersey cow I'm sure I'll be ruminating for a long time and if you want to read about it, keep coming back. Otherwise, wait a few weeks.

Many thanks to everyone who followed our journey and prayed us through hippo encounters and bacteria on lettuce and all the perils of land and sea and air.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trip update 8

This is skipping over miles of territory but I wanted to write a bit about today's adventure.

We are now at Paul's brother John's place in Poland, and John's wife Laura and I were just talking about those freak-out moments as a mom when you realize "My child doesn't know this obvious thing that everybody just KNOWS! Where have I gone wrong??? What's going to happen to him??"

I had tried to help Steven pack before we left home and he took to that like a cat to a cold bath so I lectured him good and let him pack his own backpack.

At Portland they confiscated three too-large bottles of shampoos and such. "Steven, what were you THINKING??"

As we left Nairobi on Tuesday and flew to Amsterdam and then to Poland, I assumed all was well and he knew the rules. After all, hadn't I given him another lecture--no shampoo, Ok?? And no knives! Nothing like that! Got it??

So we went through security to catch our flight from Amsterdam to Warsaw today and suddenly all the antennae went up on the heads leaning over Steven's backpack.

And there was a big Dutch security guy holding Steven's high-powered slingshot.

I had a fit. You had a SLINGSHOT in your BACKPACK???!!! WHY???

Shrug. "I thought I might use it."

Two big Dutch security guys with black boots and big guns and blue berets came over to Steven and Paul and me. "Do you speak English? Yes? Well, do you realize that a catapult is considered a weapon in Holland?"

Lord have mercy.

"We will have to call the local police."

We gave the other kids their passports and boarding passes and told them to go on to Warsaw without us if need be.

Soon a few policemen surrounded us, joining the normal airport security guys and the guys with big guns. The policemen had small guns and lots of other stuff on their belts. There was lots of talk in Dutch and the occasional sentence in English about taking us to the police station and/or fining us 60 euros and this is considered a weapon and it's illegal, do we understand that?

Yes, believe me, we did now.

They took a photocopy of Steven's passport and filled out a few forms and looked serious.

Finally, finally, they told us we can just go. "No fine."

I think they figured out that we were hick Americans who consider slingshots normal equipment on international trips and a fine wouldn't change anything and maybe in another generation or two we would be more civilized, they could only hope.

So we left and I apologized profusely for about the fourth time.

Steven didn't act dented by the ordeal at all.

Paul said, "I hope you at least feel foolish," plus a few other things.

I didn't say much because it's better if Paul says it and I was too furious and most of all because I was, and still am, having a crisis as a mom. "Where have I gone WRONG that my kid didn't KNOW not to take a SLINGSHOT of all things on an AIRPLANE????? HOW COULD HE NOT KNOW THIS??? Adn what POSSESSED him to stick it in in the first place???"

Somebody please tell me he's going to grow up and eventually learn this stuff.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our trip. Update 7

One of the purposes for coming to Kenya was to Trigger Memories. It is very odd and sad to have five children with overly documented childhoods and one whose childhood is like having only five random pieces of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

So the biggest thing on my agenda was going downtown and walking around with Steven to see if any places look familiar and trigger a forgotten memory for Steven which he can then share with me and I can write in his baby book.

Since we all know how Steven likes to share his Feelings and have me whirl around and grab a pencil and write it down like it was the latest word from the Oracle.

Sammy the blessed guide took us to all the current haunts of the street boys. First we went down to the lake where three vehicles were parked in a little pond of water at the edge of a vast field of lush green hyacinth that used to be Lake Victoria and three street boys were washing them, sloshing lake water on with rags.

Along the lake stood a line of ragged, open, makeshift buildings held up with posts crooked at odd angles and decorated with bits of ragged lace curtains. Most had the word "hotel" in their name, and I couldn't imagine staying in such a thrown-together package of loose corrugated tin and crooked sticks and lots of dust and air.

No, Sammy told us. A hotel is where you eat. See, the boys gather here, and people bring their cars to get washed, and while they're getting washed the owners eat at the hotel, and then they pay the boys a few shillings. The boys will often do a few jobs such as washing dishes for the hotel owners, and then they get to eat the leftovers from customers' plates. Not get a fresh meal of their own. Just leftovers.

"Did you wash cars here?" I eagerly asked Steven. He said no.

We went to a different part of town, a market area. If you've ever been to a county fair on a summer night you can maybe picture it. Heat, crowds and crowds of people, little shops and loud music and people-action all around. That's what it was like, only it was the heat of the day, with the sun at its usual wattage of ten times any sun I've seen in Oregon, and the shops a hundred time dirtier and more desperate than any at the county fair.

"Do you remember coming here?" we asked Steven. "No," he said, with a Pleeease, Mother, look in his eyes.

Suddenly I spotted them, a small herd of street boys across a deep drainage ditch. They looked about ten years old and had the requisite filthy brown clothes and old water bottles with mind-numbing glue hanging from their mouths. I started taking pictures and they came to life, grinning and lining up beside each other, arms across shoulders.

How does a half-high street kid know how to look cool for a picture?

I shot a few pictures and then pulled a handful of little candy canes out of my pocket and tossed them to the eager boys, all the while trying not to think about who these boys were and what their lives were like.

Then I caught up with the family and Emily said, "MOM! Why did you take a picture of the guy with the obscene t-shirt?"

"Huh?" I said. "I didn't notice his t-shirt. Only his face."

We walked through the teeming crowds and smelled the terrible smells and came out by our van again. Within a minute the street boys found us. Who knows how they got across the ditch and knew where we were, but no doubt they have great instincts by now. They held out their hands and begged for more candy, which we were happy to supply.

And oh yeah, the one kid had a shirt with a few unsavory words and a large anatomically correct picture of a woman.

They darted around the van as we backed up, hands out for more and more. And all I could see was their eyes, their haunting, empty, terrible, drugged, suffering eyes.

I still see them. Those eyes, those eyes, those eyes.

Steven does not have eyes like that--that is my sole comfort.

And down another street as we passed a gas station he said, "Oh, yeah, I used to sleep there." I got a picture. One of these days I'll post it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our trip--update 6

Steven sits at the table here in the guest house, wisecracking and being all snarky and sassy as he plays a game of chess with Jenny using the cool new carved set that Ben bought two days ago, with lions for kings and elephants for knights and so on. He just put a piece of tape over his nose. We're not sure why.

Today we had lunch with the Into Africa boys, about seven boys who are the remnant of what was once an orphanage with 25 kids, plus Sammy the supervisor and Benard the guy that Paul trained in when we left. The boys live together and Into Africa sponsors them with a stipend that pays their school fees and basic living expenses.

Steven remembered most of his old friends right off--the other Steven, Francis, Victor, Vitalis. We sat around a long table and ate fried chicken and chips/french fries, and learned to know each other again. Steven and Steven sat beside each other, across from Paul and me.

"What do you want to do when you're out of school?" said the other Steven. "I don't know," said ours, "I haven't thought about it much."

"I want to be a barber," said Steven 2. "I'm saving money for equipment and Sammy keeps it for me." He looked connivingly at Paul. " If you buy the equipment for me I can get started."

This guy obviously knew where he wanted to go and took an opportunity when he saw it.

He also talked about soccer, and the World Cup, and which village he had come from, and such normal things.

And when we go, Steven 1 will go and Steven 2 will stay, and that is a lot to think about.

Three of the orphan guys are brothers. The two younger ones look like they're about 12, and their older brother Richard joined us later, looking all sharp in a shirt and tie, after he had finished some exams at school. Their parents are dead, as are their two older sisters, and Richard takes his responsibility seriously as the head of the remaining household, hence the priority he gave to today's exams.

I left the lunch early to go buy some supplies for the baby orphanage we'll visit tomorrow, and Paul told me that after I left, Richard's principal happened to come by. Paul asked her how Richard is doing. "Very well," she said, "didn't you see his tie?"

He had a special badge on his tie denoting him as a student leader.

He wants to go to college and be a mechanical engineer.

He is amazing. And I really really want his life to work out, and his funny little brothers', and every orphan's there.

And how do you process the fact that this kid over here won the lottery, so to speak, and doesn't have to worry about more than finishing his homework and emptying the dishwasher in the morning.

And that one gets up every morning taking full responsibility for his own life and his two brothers', knowing how high the stakes are and what the result will be if he fails the exams or the funding dries up or Sammy the supervisor decides to leave.

It is just a lot to think about.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Update 5

I am having a leisurely afternoon with time to write. This is why: Last night as I mentioned we took our friends Vincent and Phyllis out for dinner. Oh, before that we went to their house and met their two adorable little kids who loved to growl at our kids and "scare" them and we got updated on all the current issues in Kenya from Vincent who works with a development agency and knows all about how free school lunches from the UN affect HIV rates among girls ten years down the road. And I had a little mom-to-mom with Phyllis about how to survive morning sickness. Then their kids stayed with a sitter and we drove out to a lovely restaurant by Lake Victoria and had a nice dinner and Steven was over the moon with joy because he could order a whole grilled fish, complete with eyeballs, and a pile of ugali.

As Amy says, we were at a classy restaurant with two forks apiece and fancy cloth napkins--and geckos on the walls and ceiling.

It was beside Lake Victoria, as I mentioned, but the ambiance was lacking severely because almost as far as we could see, the lake was covered two feet deep in a lush green plant called water hyacinth. Apparently it grows on the surface and moves around when the wind bloweth it where it listeth, and it all got blown into this arm of the lake. This all meant that no hippos came ambling by either, which Vincent thought was nice but I disagreed.

Our plates came with a lettuce leaf and cooked carrots and green beans. I told the family they can choose for themselves with the fresh lettuce--it's fresh and Kenyan which is dangerous but from a nice restaurant which probably means it's ok. But I didn't eat mine.

Then on the way home, as mentioned earlier, we hit that speed bump and I hit my head.

When we were here seven years ago, the orphans' learning-to-read class was taught by a young man named Francis who took his work seriously and tried to teach the kids phonics from an American supplier even when it meant twisting his mouth around to say with the cassettes, "R. Rrrrr. Run." He also went to the local museum with us once and taught me more about Kenyan culture in half an hour than I had learned in weeks from others.

A while back Francis moved out to the Yala Swamp about an hour and a half from Kisumu and opened a school, continuing his passion for teaching kids to read. Recently I was told that now he has students who go home and read to their illiterate parents, and that is very satisfying.

So the plan today was to go out to visit Francis, in a hired taxi, accompanied by Sammy the best guide around.


Ben ate the lettuce last night and woke up feeling awful. "I don't want to go, but I don't care if you leave me here alone," he said.

I gave him activated charcoal to try to ward things off.

Meanwhile with my painful head I was still walking around like the floor was made of thin ice and debating about whether I wanted to spend three hours in a taxi on Kenyan roads with a Kenyan driver and my head flapping around like a bobblehead doll.

"How about you go, but then if after two or three miles you see you can't handle it, we can bring you back," said Paul.

Ok. Cool.

I got ready to go.

Ben threw up.

Not cool.

"Mom, could you stay with me after all?" he asked, suddenly much less tough and independent.

Ok, I said, that's my sign.

I did three loads of laundry at the neighbor lady's house and then Ben and I hung it up together. He dragged himself out bravely and I would hold the garment and clothespins up as high as I could, like shoulder level, then he took it from there, and it looked odd but it worked.

He is doing better by the minute.

I am able to sit still which is the best therapy of all.

Update 4

First a QOTD.

This morning Steven was bouncing around the kitchen, frying up a passel of veggies and eggs, looking very pleased with himself and life.

Paul: Are you enjoying yourself?

Steven: I am VERY MUCH enjoying myself!

Paul: So, you're having a good time?

Steven: I'm having a VERY good time!

And that, people, makes it all worthwhile.

It is so odd coming back here with Steven. Picture an old photograph, black and white. Ok, now picture the negative. White is black and black is white. Everything you knew about light and color in the first is reversed in the second.

Oregon is full of white folks. Steven always stands out in a crowd. If you're shopping and see a black guy out of the corner of your eye you know it's just Steven trailing along a bit behind like he always does.

But here, the non-Steven family members stand out and get stared at. And all of us keep whirling around and looking for Steven because we're afraid we'll lose him in the crowds. And when we're shopping for carved lions and see a big black guy out of the corner of our eye our first thought is that Steven is right behind us and then we whirl around because no, it isn't Steven, and where in the world is he?

Oh. Over there. The Luo guy with American clothes.

Everyone expects Steven to speak Luo, but unfortunately he's forgotten most of it. Even when he's obviously with our family, people look totally confused when they speak to him in Luo and he doesn't answer.

We had a few strange episodes at the Nairobi airport. We were all clustered at the desk to get our passports stamped, and one by one we had to make ourselves known, get compared to our passport photo, and have our picture taken. The guy spoke English to all of us until it was Steven's turn. Then he turned to this American kid in American clothes with an American passport and a surname of Smucker, and told him what to do in Luo. Huh? He repeated it. We all looked confused. I turned to the official and said, "He speaks English." So he complied, but acted like the world suddenly didn't make as much sense as it once did.

I forget at which point in the process we had to pass through a doorway and show our passports. I showed the guy all seven at once, then we walked on as a group and Steven as usual was last. The official stopped him in his tracks and said something like, "Where do you think you're going?" Steven said, "I'm with them." The official looked like, "Nice try, kid," and at that point I turned around and saw what was happening and tried not to freak out and said, "He's with us!" Mercy, something about that gave me a turn and ever since I've been harping at Steven to keep one of the rest of us behind him at all times.

And there again, the official looked like his understanding of the world was flipped around, and next thing you knew, rain would start falling up instead of down.

Everyone who knew Steven before keeps exclaiming about how huge he is now compared to then. Kenyans are naturally tall people, and I wonder what they would be like if they all had access to meat and potatoes for supper every night, seven eggs for breakfast, and peanut butter sandwiches in between. They'd be a nation of giants.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Trip Updates

We're in Kenya. Early morning, cool air from the open windows, rooster crowing. Our days have been very full and I haven't had much time to write about them, but I did write a few updates on Facebook, which I will add below. Meanwhile, Emily has done much better and you might enjoy her posts here and here and here.

Update 1.

So everything went fine getting to the airport.

And then we went through security, and at the same time Jenny was pulled aside for extra screening because of her splint and Steven was in very hot water with the bearded guy because he had for some oblivious reason packed big bottles of shampoo and other vanity items in his backpack.

Mercy me, I thought we had covered all this in detail the last two weeks.

So the precious ointments were sent to the trash.

And Jenny's hands tested positive for explosives.

So she and I were taken to a private screening room and gone over in great detail, us and all our belongings, and after that Paul was likewise inspected.

Thankfully they were nice about it and let me stay right with Jenny and weren't as intrusive as they could have been.

But Jenny was still terrified.

Now we are all waiting quietly for our plane to arrive.

They told Jenny it was probably some kind of soap on her hands that set off the alarms.

She is threatening to not wash her hands with soap until we are through security in Amsterdam, some 17 hours from now.

I got the distinct feeling the TSA ladies felt like they were caught helplessly in some bizarre scheme, having to pat down a skinny 11-year-old in the name of protecting the airlines.

Update 2

At last, at last, we are safely in Kenya, where the very air is heavy and slow, and the people friendly and the ladies sit in their booths and sell fresh fruit and the windows have screens but not glass and everyone roars along on the wrong side of the road.

Some things have changed so much. When we were here 7 years ago there were very few motorcycles because someone who didn't want the competition had arranged for a hefty duty on imported cycles. Now they're all over, and also lots of three wheeled things called tuk tuks, sort of golf cart size. And there are far fewer matatus.

We are staying in the guest house at the Mennonite compound and are blown away by the hospitality. I had all kinds of plans for making or buying our own meals, but suddenly we have invitations coming at us on every hand from people we don't even know.

It is wonderful.

And they brought sloppy joes for our lunch, and the fans are blowing, and the air is heavy and tropical and just right for a nap. Seeing as how we had a long, long journey to get here, and very little sleep.

Update 3

Yesterday was wonderful. Except for the beginning and end.

For breakfast I chopped up some local peppers, onions and tomatoes and fried them with eggs, all food that had appeared at the front door from these phenomenal Mennonites in this compound.

Then we borrowed a van and went downtown, where Paul had arranged to meet Sammy, whom we knew back in the day and who still serves as a "dad" for the remaining orphan boys Steven's age and a liaison between the Into Africa Foundation in the US and about a dozen orphans here.

Sammy sent a text that he's at the old Nakumatt store, so we headed there and walked into the central hallway and wow, it all came back, the crowds, noise, smells, action, and even the same hideous huge plastic Santa Claus that grinned in that tropical heat at Christmas seven years ago.

But we couldn't find Sammy. And Paul couldn't get his new phone to work to text him back. Some tense moments were had when we were trying to persuade the Man of the House to actually go into the Safaricom store and ask for help but perhaps those moments are best ignored. Finally he went and bought some more minutes for his phone, but the Safaricom folks were less than helpful. So we went back to the Mennonite compound and got someone there to help, and Paul arranged for Sammy to meet us here where we're staying.

And then things went wonderfully all day, but I will go into that later, since I need to go back to sleep, but I will just tell you about the end of the day. We had taken our old friend Vincent and his lovely wife Phyllis out for dinner and were driving back after dark when Paul didn't see a speed bump and hit it going way too fast.

The van, being Kenyan, had only a few seat belts, none of which were in the front bench seat where Phyllis and I were, and we both went flying and hit our heads, me on the ceiling and her on the side window. Both of us were in terrible pain but the really horrible thing was that Phyllis is pregnant. The kids got various odd bumps but Phyllis and I got the worst of it by far. We finally got back here and I sat with ice on my head and neck, trying to figure out if my head was actually going to stay on or not. Finally it stopped hurting quite so badly and I decided it would stay on after all and went to bed and 7 hours later I still have a stiff neck but my head is much much better.

I want to call and see how Phyllis is doing in a couple of hours.

And I don't think I've ever seen Paul this repentant. In his own way he felt worse than I did.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

New Column

Today's Letter from Harrisburg involves such disparate elements as my set of china, Randy and Shelley's baby, and Grandma organizing the Smucker circle letter.

Available here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


One of the perks of growing up conservative is that there is a fairly small pool of style you can choose from. (Yes, I said perk, I know a lot of my friends would disagree) Even with the small pool there is a style to be had. There is a cool way to dress even if you’re Amish. There is a cool way to do your hair.

So says Andrea on WritersBlock02.

She is one of those snarky clever young bloggers that I have to read with caution because they make me feel like I am old and deliberate, kind of like Walter Cronkite.

But yes, between Andrea's post and another incident, which I will get to later, I was reliving this odd memory of how in my youth there was a right way and a wrong way to tie your covering strings, proving, I think, that fashion is an inborn thing that you can't legislate away with a 20-page Odning.

By "covering" I mean the white cap that Amish and Mennonite women and girls wear. We started young, like at six weeks old, the first time we showed up at church. The conservative end of the Anabaptist spectrum requires strings on coverings. In the old days I'm sure their purpose was to tie under the chin and keep the cap from flying away with a stiff breeze. But later, when coverings were anchored on with pins, strings took on a life of their own, and became something that the church fathers required as a way to keep the covering large, since no one was going to have a tiny little cap on the back of the head and strings dangling from that.

And believe me there was a protocol with covering strings.

If you were sloppy like me you left them flapping in the wind during the week.

If you were really insecure you chewed on them during school.

If you were any sort of cool you tucked them down the neck of your dress. This was The Only Cool way to treat strings. And it had to be down the back of your dress, not the front, even if you went to public high school and mystified classmates asked if they were holding up your undergarments.

You had to tie your strings for church. I don't think even the coolest, most rebellious girls at our church flouted this one.

When you were little, your mom got you ready for church and tied your strings tightly under your chin, or more often and far worse, off to the side, under your left jaw. Terrible.

By the time you tied your own covering you would rather wear your grandma's old gray Amish dress with pins to church than have your covering tied tight under your chin. No, you tied a little bow down lower that landed about two inches below the clavicle. The bow had to be small and neat and even. It could not tilt to one side. And the trailing ribbons had to be even.

I could not manage such a bow. I just couldn't. It was always uneven and cockeyed and sloppy. Of course my big sister Rebecca always had chic little bows but I simply didn't have it in me, no matter how much time I spent at it, going cross-eyed during Dad's Sunday morning prayers during family worship in the living room.

And I have this awful memory of being ready for church and my big brother looked at me with disgust in his eyes and his voice and exclaimed, "You're going to church with your covering tied like THAT? It looks like a shoo-bandel gnipp!"

Well, a shoo-bandel gnipp is a shoestring knot or bow. Sigh. He was right, much as it hurt.

Finally I learned how to make a square knot, and I started tying my strings in a neat little square knot, and it worked just right for me, and was easy but looked neat and tidy, and I may even have started a bit of a trend, probably the only time in my life that I did.

So yes, "even with the small pool there was a style to be had."

The other incident.

Yesterday Jenny came home from school holding her right arm to her chest. She and a friend had been racing for the door of the play shed when break was over. Jenny's shoelaces were untied, and her friend happened to step on one stray lace, and Jenny went flying into the gravel.

I took her to the doctor today and yes, there's a small break in her right radius. The doctor had mercy on our upcoming travel plans and didn't put on a full cast, just a lower molded cast thing like a small canoe with a sharp upward bend at the elbow, then it's held on with Ace bandages and supported in a sling.

This could make traveling overseas really interesting but it could be far worse.

But the reason this incident velcroed in my mind with the covering strings of the past was that I couldn't help but think that if Jenny had had a proper shoo-bandel gnipp like I've told her a hundred times, she wouldn't be in such pain and such a pickle now.

Quote of the Day:


--A big sign that ought to be hung around the neck of a certain sweet young Oregon maiden who is off at EBI for six weeks, according to her protective family

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Conversation

So I posted on Facebook that I was packing for Kenya, first things first--TP, Kaopectate, and Pepto Bismol.

"No no, take activated charcoal," said two friends, Frieda and Jennifer, who ought to know, especially Jennifer.

So I stopped at Walgreen's today and looked for activated charcoal among all the other tummy remedies. I wasn't sure what I expected, maybe a rattly paper bag with black chunks in it, but all they had was a bottle of capsules, and the label said it's for gas and flatus.


I went to talk to the pharmacist. He was a friendly young man.

"I'm traveling to Africa," I said, "and someone recommended activated charcoal in case we get sick from the food. Is this what I want?"

"No no," he said, "that will just bind the bacteria and keep them inside. You want to get rid of them. And really, if you get a foodborne illness, you'll want to see a doctor and get on antibiotics."

I thought but did not say, "Yes. See a doctor. In Kisumu, Kenya. On short notice. Indeed."

"But," I said, not really comfortable discussing such a delicate subject with a young man, "there are times you really need to, you know, deal with the symptoms."

"Yes," he said condescendingly, "but like I said, you'll need to see a doctor and take antibiotics."

"But," I persisted, "if you're, like, on the plane, you really need something immediately."

He repeated his spiel and I should have looked to see if someone was behind him pulling a string out of his back and then letting it go.

I looked at him. "Have you ever traveled overseas?" I said.

He smiled, a bit humbly but not as humbly as I thought he should. "No, I haven't," he said.

How did I guess? I turned and left, leaving the activated charcoal for another day and time when I've talked with someone who is experienced in its use.