February 27, 2019

DAY 6

Up again today early. I sleep so soundly here, even with the dogs barking at 5am when Leon leaves. And I think all the fresh country air is invigorating, as I’ve yet to take a single nap! There’s a chill in the air so I keep my sweatpants and sweatshirt on. I head out the back door and see a plastic chair and the ever roaming plastic table on the back patio area, I grab my notebook and pencil to journal my adventures to send you these travel logs. “Mr. Dude” is laying in the grass and comes bounding up for me to pet him. Scary dog has disappeared apparently. Keith is wandering around preparing the banana cropping for the cows, in advance of their milking and he warns me that Mr. Dude bites. Turns out he does – but only in a “hey, you stopped petting me! Give me your hand!” nipping kind of way.

I sit back down to write. A bit later, two sets of dark bright eyes peer out from around the open kitchen door. The twins are up! One is dressed in black, the other in gray. The one in black comes out and gives me a great big hug while the other hangs back. With my stellar deduction skills, I determine that Paulette is wearing black today and Paula is in the gray outfit. Paulette approaches me and stands with her hands on her hips, eyes locking me in a stare-down with a grin on her face. I get up and mimic the way she is standing and we both move closer to each other. Eventually, we’re eye to eye and I lean forward until our foreheads are touching. She looks me in the eye, glances away, giggles and runs back into the house. Paula simply watches from the door.

Back to writing…. Naomi comes out to join me and as we’re talking I mention what happened with Paulette. She laughs and tells me it is actually PAULA who is in the black outfit this morning! SUCCESS! I have won over my namesake – and soon come to discover that it is SHE who is the “bossy” one of the two of them. Paulette, on the other hand, is fascinated with my hair and has made me pinky swear that if I ever decide to shave my head, I will bring my hair back to her so she can sit around and pet it whenever she wants. I am torn between wanting to be flattered and freaked out by this. LOL

Naomi invites me to come milk the cow this morning, so we head up to the cow shed, twins in tow and Lavender on camera duty. Naomi instructs me in how to use the warm water she brought to clean off Black’s udder, then apply the udder cream to make the pulling smoother. I am pretty good at this milking thing. I’m not getting the loud “squirting” noise Naomi was producing, so I figured it might be a lengthy process for Black if I do the entire milking, so Naomi takes over again.

Now that both twins are fully engaged in the adventure of having “Big Paula” around, they are hilarious. Think Cooper, cloned. Non-stop questions and hilarity ensue, including me turning into an octopus-armed tickle monster.

Today is laundry day. Ana, one of Naomi’s nieces, has come to take care of the twins and help manage the household while she’s in Nakuru. Ana is hauling up water, preparing to scrub the laundry by hand, rinse it, and then hang it over the bushes to air dry. Naomi is preparing breakfast (chai and chapati!). I go back to my writing, watch chickens roam and answer “why” questions from the twins.

They agree to leave me alone to write, and have breakfast – and in return I will read them a story! Naomi and George sit down to breakfast and we go back to working through our top priorities again. There’s only one left:

Buy a house with land for farm animals/gardening

It may seem odd to have “buy a house” on the list of things that are important, when most folks in the US don’t even own their homes outright. In the states, tenants have certain rights, and making sure a home is “habitable” is required. Here in Kenya, it’s not necessary for a home to have electricity, running water, or even indoor plumbing of any kind. Plus, landlords can arbitrarily raise rents anytime they desire. God forbid any change in circumstance should happen, like when Naomi was unexpectedly hospitalized for three months when she was pregnant with the twins. If you fall behind on your rent, you’re not just evicted. They also seize everything in your home, without warning and sell it at basically garage-sale prices, and put the proceeds toward your debt (which continues to grow at high interest rates).

We were shocked (but not altogether surprised) when the brothers-in-law of the widowed landlady sold the previous property out from under us, before we had a chance to purchase it, as we had contracted with her under the rental agreement. Real estate prices in that part of Kitale are soaring right now. In this new neighborhood, a bit further from town center, prices are more reasonable, so buying a four-acre property with a house and outbuildings is more possible. This gives us a new opportunity, as I outlined in my annual letter for The Village Gathering.

The owner of this new property, Richard, has offered us a unique proposition. He has been trying to sell this property for three years now, and has had to pay a caretaker to watch the property in his absence. With the “deferred maintenance” at the house, he didn’t feel comfortable renting the house to Pastor George and his family. Instead, his hope is that George can buy the homestead, using sweat equity to help generate the 20% down payment needed. We are committed to helping make this happen, as it’s a suitable property for the work George is doing and provides economic benefit to the neighborhood as well. (More about that later!)

We plan to travel to Nairobi Thursday, leaving at 5:30am to arrive in time for an afternoon meeting with Richard, who is flying in from Sudan where he is working right now, specifically to meet with us. They are asking Ksh 6,000,000 – just under $60,000 for the property, at today’s exchange rate. I think we can get a better price, as this is the same price he was asking three years ago. It has yet to sell at that price, and the property is not in as good shape as it was when someone was living here full time.

My task this visit, is for us to toss around every possible idea, and find ones that will work to create long term financial success on a personal level for George and his family, and thereby create the ability for them to manage and grow the projects on the ground here, on their own.

In Kenya, a 20% down payment is customary, and the remainder of the sales price must be paid over 7 years. Richard proposes that, to create the 20% down payment, George start by making improvements on the property – including:

  1. Installing an electric, submersible pump (Ksh ) in the bore hole and adding a water tank and tower in the yard (Ksh )
  2. Installing a standard toilet seat in the second bathroom (currently a squat toilet)
  3. Installing shower heads, pipes and taps for the showers and sinks
  4. Running connecting plumbing to the house and within the house and hooking everything up to the existing plumbing fixtures. The condition of the existing pipes within the walls is unknown, so it’s better to simply run new plastic piping on the outside of the walls so no leaks in the walls or ceilings create additional problems.
  5. Laying tile in the bathrooms and kitchen where that work wasn’t completed (approximately 30 square feet, plus the title edging.
  6. Fixing cracked plaster and painting the inside and outside of the house.
  7. Moving the existing electric pole and line to make room for the water tank and tower
  8. Checking all electrical outlets, switches and fixtures and repair any that aren’t working.

Of course, in addition to sweat equity, these projects will require some cash, for supplies, equipment and parts, and any specialized labor, We are gathering numbers to see what can be started on right now. Clearly the tile will be the least expensive, and the quickest to do. The cost of the work including the costs we spend on material will be directly subtracted from the purchase price, so we are getting prices for labor as well, and then we can do whatever parts we can do ourselves during our service safari – including building a chicken coop.

I will propose that we also add hot water to the home as an upgrade that can offset the purchase price. This will require the addition of “on-demand” water heaters for the showers (Ksh1,499 – $15), kitchen (Ksh 3,770 – $37.70). Having hot water for the bathroom sinks would also be a benefit. We’ll want to price a solar heated system and see if that’s more economical for the house, as it will save on the electric bill immensely if we can install solar power here. So many numbers to calculate and convert and consider!

Now, the next step is to figure out where the rest of the down payment comes from, along with funds for the remainder of the purchase. We’re dedicated to reducing the dependence on donor funds so we start exploring various options.

The former landlord is paying George the remainder of the unused rent from the previous house, which is Ksh 120,000. She has already paid Ksh 20,000 ($200), which they used to buy food. She is paying another Ksh 50,000 in March and the final Ksh 50,000 in April. They will use this for food for the next few months so our donations can be used toward the out of pocket costs needed for the house repairs.

Naomi is traveling with us Thursday morning. We are dropping her off in Nakuru to finish her continuing education – and hopefully interview for positions there in Nakuru. If we can get her back working, at least that’s another Ksh 30,000 ($300) that will be generated each month to go toward household expenses.

Options for house purchase money

Naomi is an RN with a diploma. We’re researching the steps needed to bring her to the US to work for a while. Working for a single year in the US could give her the equivalent of 10-20 years’ salaryin Kenya, depending on the position she can obtain. We’ll research the best nurse recruiting agency – they sponsor nurses, especially those who are looking to come to Colorado. Colorado is currently experiencing a HUGE nursing shortage – estimated at 6300 registered nurses as of January – which is growing every month.

We will seek out nursing agencies that sponsor foreign nurses and do all the legwork for getting her a visa. Many of the hospitals in Colorado are even paying bonuses, and paying for diploma nurses to complete their Bachelors in Nursing. They’re offering work/residency visas and Naomi is excited about the possibilities of being able to give her family the kind of stability this income would provide.

With Naomi gainfully employed again in Nakuru, she’ll be bringing in an income while moving through the visa process. Which brings us to our options for George.

George’s unexpected encounter with his old mentor triggered the memory that this pastor used to come back and forth to the US to work. It’s how he bought his land and built his house, as well as how he bought land for the church he then built.

George qualifies for a visa that is quicker to obtain, as an ordained minister – known as the R-1 or temporary religious worker visa. This visa would allow him to come to the US under the umbrella of The Village Gathering (which is a 501(c)3 tax exempt religious organization). He would then be able to speak at Sunday services and conferences around the country, conduct workshops and increase his skills.

The process requires The Village Gathering to submit an application for a formal request for him to come over which costs $490. It will then cost George $190 for his part of the application, plus travel money to Nairobi for his in-person interview and to get his approved visa. The sooner we get our part done, the sooner they will review and approve it – and then he can do his part. The best part of this visa? George can come for a few months, then go home. The visa is good for 60 months in the US and they don’t have to be consecutive.

Our first goal is to raise $500 to get our application submitted and processed and bring George over ASAP.

All money George earns would be used to pay toward the house purchase, after deducting his airfare and travel expenses)

When George was in the US in 2014 and I was doing an event in Roanoke, I brought him from Virginia Beach, and he dropped in on a midweek church service at a hotel where the minister invited him on the spot to speak. It was a small group of about 9 people; they gave him the $60 offering and then asked me to wait with him while they brought him a check for $350. That’s $410 in a single night! (Ksh 410,000). Combining that with other work during the day, we can seriously create financial independence for the family.

This could be quite a game changer!

We decided to take a break – and come to a local hotel that has free Wi-Fi (since there’s no internet at the house), so I could send my first travel logs.

When I returned, the twins were back from the local preschool – and insisted I read them one of the books from the Magic Tree House Series I brought with me as a gift from Cooper!

After chai and dinner, it’s close to midnight again… time to turn in.

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