George has been our gardener since we arrived in Kenya 2 1/2 years ago. We never thought that we would have a gardener, regardless of where we lived, but when we arrived in Kenya we found out that George had been working for the previous family that lived in our home. So the decision wasn’t if we wanted to hire a gardener, but if we wanted to fire one. Well, obviously that was no decision at all, so George has been with us ever since. He works one day a week keeping the flower beds tidy (which is not an easy task in such a fertile place we assure you). Neither of us have ever had much of a green thumb so we just trust George to plant and remove whatever he chooses. Since we rarely give him tasks we think he gets bored, so he has started washing the car every week, which is an awesome bonus.
George recently approached us and our neighbors (who he also works for) about his desire to provide a better life for his family. He had done copious amounts of research and had decided that if he could invest in planting sugar cane that the amount he could make in 2 years could give him a strong financial foundation, a foundation that could provide his family with a better home, better education for his kids, and would give him the overhead to continue renting land for planting (and eventually buy his own land). However, George was in need of initial investors, to help him rent the land and buy the initial crops of sugar cane. Like many Kenyans, George lives day to day. His wife and children live in rural Butere, Kenya, 6-7 hours away, while he lives here in Nairobi working to support them. We decided that this was something worth looking into, so my neighbor Daniel and I decided to go with George to Western Kenya to take a look at the land and see what we could do.
We left early on Saturday morning, stopped in Eldoret to have lunch with missionary and friend, Kevin Sneed, drove on the Webuye, and by 2:30pm (8 hours later) we were sitting under the shade of a tree, sipping a warm coke in a remote village a couple of hours from the nearest paved road beginning the long process of negotiations. The next several hours were spent walking through villages surveying different sugarcane fields, bartering over the prices, and finally stopping to rest under a shade tree near the bank of the Nzoia River to finish negotiations. In the end George was able to rent 3 different pieces of land for the next 3 years. In that time he should be able to plant and cut sugarcane twice for each field. This should give George more than enough of a foundation to completely change the quality of life for his family. By dusk we were loading back into the car to drive another 2 hours on rough roads to George’s home in Butere, Kenya, where we would stay the night. Like many people in Western Kenya, his family lives in a mud hut on a small plot of land where they are able to grow maize, bananas, mangoes, and other subsistence crops. We arrived around 7:30 pm and were treated to a nice dinner of rice, chicken (Dan got the head…but luckily wasn’t made to eat it), and stew. After dinner we spent a couple of hours chatting with George’s family….though the language barrier, not to mention exhaustion, made this quite difficult. We were eventually able to get ready for bed, and I must admit, after the long day of driving I was desperate to crawl inside my sleeping bag. George prepared a palate on the floor of Peter’s (George’s oldest son) hut for us to sleep on and as soon as the opportunity arose, I wasted no time in burying myself in my bag. With a sigh of relief and joyful expectation I rolled onto my side, only to become aware of the fact that I was extremely uncomfortable. I was sweating from the humidity, the lumps in the pallet were brutally uncomfortable, and bugs of all types were flying all over me. I turned on my head lamp to try to read myself to sleep, but this only increased the bug population. I turned off the light and spent a few minutes thrashing back and forth trying to find a comfortable sleeping position, when suddenly a rooster was crowing. A small bit of light was coming in through the edges of the thatched roof. It was morning and I had slept more soundly than I had in a long time…but over 10 hours of driving on Kenyan roads can do that to you.
We packed up, took a tour of the village, had a small breakfast and began the return trip to Nairobi. We were eager to begin the journey which took us out of the Western Highlands and into the Lake Basin surrounding the town of Kisumu, because it was going to only take 6-7 hours. The landscape on this drive was stunning. I couldn’t have been happier as we drove through the highlands with the vast Lake Victoria stretched out below us. That is until we reached Kisumu. The annual Kisumu Marathon was being held and all roads out of the city were blocked off……..but that is a whole other story. Suffice it to say that 2 1/2 hours later we were once again on the move, but the 7-hour drive to Nairobi had become a 9 1/2-hour drive. At 5:30 that evening I crossed the threshold of our door and took Sophie in my arms. I was achy, exhausted, and a bit irritable, but George was elated and grateful…..so I have to think it was worth it.