Thursday, August 11, 2011

True Africa...

Today, we headed out to Chuka to see the site of the deep water well project which has been spearheaded by Rob and Julie Neal.  After 7 hours of 12 men being crammed into a tiny van, we were beginning to wonder if it was going to be worth the trip.

But, at the point that they stopped the vans so we could get out and load into Land Cruisers, we began to feel that it was going to get better.  The only way in and out of the village is in a Land Cruiser and I happened to get a truck version and fought hard to be allowed to sit in the back to get the full experience.  It was a blast.  For a bunch of men, this was the ultimate adventure.  We were up and down hills, over rocks, through rivers, and tons of mud.  It was just as you envision the African wilderness with heavy vegetation and nice wildlife (I can hear the monkeys on the roof of my hotel room as I right this).

When we finally reached the village, they were prepared for us.  I have never experienced rock star treatment, but this must be what it feels like.  The entire village was lined up singing and clapping for us.  They gave us a very warm welcome.

Rob was the man of the hour.  He was able to connect with Cruise's birth family and as the leader of the well project, the people of Chuka were very appreciative of him.  Several village leaders spoke and then they gave Rob a very nice gift of some traditional dress clothing.  It included has handmade sport coat, tie, and hat.  He looked as goofy as it gets, but it was truly a wonderful gesture and these poor people combined all of their resources to give him the "key to the city."  I am truly honored to call Rob Neal a friend of mine.

They gave us a tour of the village, well site, and the stream where they currently get their water.  They say that 80% of the deaths in this area are due to unclean water, and based on their stream, I can see why.  Several of us were then able to make a pit stop at Cruise's birth family's hut.  It was pretty cool how they construct their buildings out of the local resources and it was very special to be standing in the place where he was born (right next to the 2 family cows that stay inside).

The men of Chuka made it obvious that the women of the village were not all that valuable, which is frustrating and leads back to the Man Up mission.  They laughed and asked us why we kept holding and carrying their kids.  They couldn't understand why we would want to interact with kids (much less black kids).  We love them all and enjoyed the opportunity.

The day ended with another off road safari and back to our hotel about 2 hours away.  Overall, the day was a perfect compliment to yesterday's rough day at the dump.  It allowed us to decompress a little bit and we had a lot of fun.

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