Letter home – Nairobi, Kenya

Dear Mum,

Thank you for your lovely advice. I am just starting to learn all 92 of the childrens names…there is a Faith (she`s just a baby and even tho most of the kids here haven`t progressed to the stage of AIDS…they just have HIV…little Faith has AIDS.) and a Purity, and many Johns and Samuels. I am falling in love with them. Most of the kids have to have their heads shaved because of the fungal infections. Also did you know that some of the children, if they are caught early enough and put on the right medications, they can turn from HIV positive to HIV negative and even get discharged!

There is little girl named Amal who just got rescued from Somalia just under a year ago. She is only about 4 (she looks 2) but she is almost ALWAYS smiling and laughing. She is one of the most affectionate kids I have ever seen. She doesn`t communicate very well but her face says it all. I just learned that in Somalia, when your village finds out you are HIV positive, you get stoned to death. This little girl was kept tied up and kept under the bed for the first three years of her life so she wouldn`t be found out and murdered. Her brothers would just shove food under the bed to her…like an animal. Now the only thing that upsets her is if you threaten to take away her tea time. Last Sunday we just found out that the woman who had rescued her and brought her here to us was shot, murdered back in Somalia. Someone just walked into the hospital and shot her and walked out.

Its nice to be reminded that you are thinking of me and really appreciate your letters and gifts. I have them up all around my bed. I also just put up a mosquito net because for the past 4 nights I have been eaten alive. I have tried sleeping with the mozzie net hat thingy but it wasn`t very comfortable. So yesterday I finally put up the net and its so cool. Remember how I use to love sleeping in a tent? Well, its kinda like that and I am happy to say that there were no new bites this morning.

There are two older ladies who are really cool bursting with energy. Kate reminds me soooo much of you mom, with her enthusiasm and creativity. Sometimes, I see her with the kids and I see you and Khaalid and Nubian creating some game or adventure. Susan is a really picky eater and I worry because she has lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. Granted the food is not gourmet but she is withering away.

Valeria is Italian and was sooo helpful in the first few days I was here. I was quite sick in the end of Egypt…so sick I was scared. I have never lost my appetite and I had a ton of other symptoms as well. But she was kind and helped me when I got here. I was scared to say anything feeling really bad coming here sick, like I was a burden. Anyway, she is my roommate and is really easy to live with. There is also Mike who has a really loud contagious laugh. His best friend was Mark who just went home on Monday. I thought it was funny because the kids called both of them Mark all the time. All the others are from the States, except for Valeria who is from Italy and Jon who is from England.

There are stunning shiny metallic blue birds here and gorg flowers. There are about 4 dogs, three of which sleep all day in the flowerbeds or the sand in the playground then proceed to bark all night. The other one sleeps at night because he is like a bullet chasing the kids around on their scooters all day. I have heard that there is a cat in Cottage C but I have yet to see it.

I had no idea how starved for affection I have been. They are so loving and there is never a shortage of hugs and kisses. Imagine having a hundred little Nubian and Khaalids to love. So anyway, almost all of them speak English alright and understand it just fine. They are smaller for their age because because of the illness their growth has been stunted so at 7 or 8 they look the age of 4 or 5. Some are a little slower but then others are brilliant. All of them are beautiful.

So I was wondering if you can think of any group games I can play with them. I mean, their ages range from 3 to 12-ish (some are older but majority are in this age group) so I need something without too many rules. I know the ball game would be fun but their attention span is quite short. So as for resources, we have paper and colors and craft stuff. I am going to buy some yarn today and teach the older ones how to do macrame bracelets. Also tonight I am going to do a fire twirling show for them after dinner. You know, what I learned in Australia. I just know how creative you are. I really value your ideas. I like to keep them outside as much as possible and we do have a big field. There is also a playground but the sand is not really good for making sandcastles. I could try taking smaller groups of different age levels. We do also have access to the school rooms…there is a VCR and TV there. We have lots of books and music so that is not a problem. But I really want to teach them something different. Wouldn`t it be great to teach them how to make something worthy of selling? Like if that macrame works out…There is some great talent here. And these kids are determined.

Oh and guess what. You will be happy to hear this. I walked into the nurses office to get a Qtip and saw that they were preparing the childrens medications. I peeked over and looked at the pills. Along with the antiviral and vitamins guess what every kid gets two of daily? Exactly the same blue green algae capsules you have been eating for the last 15 years. Again, you were right on the money. You are before your time, Mum. Have you noticed that so many juice shops are selling wheatgrass juice now too? I am sorry for ever doubting you. Can you give me your top ten heath tips? I also find it strangely nostalgic when I wander into the health food stores. Mom, I owe you a big thank you for trying so hard to instill healthy habits in us when we were little. I told the nurses how you have been taking algae for years and how you used to try and give it to my pets even!

Anyway, I am still not losing any weight even tho I have been eating mostly bean soups and rice and kale. There is not much variety here but a treat that we volunteers enjoy is the fruit sessions. We take turns buying a fresh pineapple for about 2 dollars then at about 9pm after reading to the kids and tucking them in, we sit around and visit devouring our fruit. You should know that I am not going to write in the travel pod while I am here. So for two months I will write to you personally instead. I am keeping a daily journal tho and maybe one day I will share it with you.

I love you guys
Write when you can

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