It was an ordinary Saturday in Ngiya, a small village in Western Kenya. At 5:30 a.m. the cock crowed his morning reveille and all of those within ear-shot groggily rolled out of bed to start the day.
By 6 a.m. buckets of water had been carried in to do the laundry. Practiced hands scrubbed and rubbed, squeezed and wrung-out shirts, skirts, socks and sheets. Clean clothes were stretched out to dry in the blazing sun on the ropes, wires, trees and fence posts that were woven throughout the community. The rainbow of attire from the four families on our compound dipped and danced like flags in the breeze.
Dirt was swept from kitchen to sitting room to veranda to garden. Chickens scurried to investigate possibilities hiding in the dirt. Buckets splashed the leftover wash-water across the floors and verandas, finishing the morning cleaning. Pots of boiling water bubbled on the fire, preparing clean drinking water for the week.
My Saturday morning routine consisted of enjoying my morning cup-of-joe in the sunlit sitting room and strumming lazily on my beloved guitar. The four children who have adopted me, Elvis, Emmanuel, Daniel, and Janet know that Saturday is a day of fun at the muzungu’s (white lady’s) house. It was nearly 11 a.m. and my little friends had been hovering near the door. They’ve come to collect sweets, make sidewalk chalk drawings on the veranda, create beautiful artwork in coloring books, and play catch using a beanbag kitty called PussPuss. On special Saturdays, when the electricity is working, the children are able to watch a video. Yes, it was an ordinary Saturday in Ngiya, until…
Shortly after noontime, my happy entourage and I headed down the dusty, rutted dirt road to the market intending to buy oranges to savor during their afternoon viewing of “Prince Caspian, Chronicles of Narnia.” As we strolled along, kicking rocks and competing in foot-races to the next tree or building in our path, I heard a vaguely familiar whop-whop-whop sound coming from the horizon.
The sound was so out-of-context that it took a moment for me to recognize it as the sound of an approaching helicopter! As we arrived in the marketplace, all faces were turned skyward, people’s hands reaching high as though trying to touch the shiny red chopper coming into view over the trees. Children tugged at Mamas’ skirts. Men called out loudly in their native tongue. Shopkeepers emerged from their stores, and everyone stared in awe at the amazing spectacle overhead. Chop-chop the children sang in chorus as we watched the magical sight fade from view in the direction of Kogelo.
An impromptu committee of men decided that there must be visiting dignitaries being taken to see the famous “Fatherland” of “United States, President Obama.” This did not affect our little town of Ng’iya, so the marketplace returned its attention to Saturday business-at-hand.
Later in the afternoon I was squeezing oranges, and the children were playing a game of “monkey-in-the middle” when we again heart the helicopter beating its way through the air. It was headed back toward Ng’iya!
Our excitement increased as we ran, following the direction of the sound to the Ng’iya Mixed Elementary Day School. The landing helicopter hung briefly over the school playing field, then slowly lowered onto the grass and hit the ground with a bump. From every corner of Ng’iya flowed crowds of children, grandparents, teachers, priests, shopkeepers, nurses, doctors and one muzungu missionary. All eyes were fixed on the big red chopper, mouths agape, waiting breathlessly to see which important celebrities and dignitaries had been brought to put Ng’iya on the map!
As the blades wound slowly to a stop, children bounced and jostled impatiently, fathers lifted little ones up to their shoulders to get a better view, and grandmothers stood at a distance murmuring and shaking their heads. The first feet appeared on the skid, and a smiling man wearing a cleric’s collar emerged from the helicopter. Then three more pastors stepped from the flying machine grinning and laughing with delight at the enthusiastic reception of the crowd. The delighted pastors made their way through the throng of people and headed for the school gate. There a vehicle was waiting to take them to some remote destination to attend a church function unknown. The villagers shouted questions all at once; and all of the questions were deflected with a smile a wave and a hand shake.
The animated mass of villagers was making its way toward the school entrance, when the helicopter began to again play its rhythmic beat, “whop-whop-whop.” This took attention of the crowd away from the pastors loading into their vehicles, and they turned again to watch the slow elevation of the chopper. Ear-splitting, loud rotors beat and whipped the hot dry air and dust into a frenzy until the skids lifted above the surface of the earth.
The nose of the chopper bowed to the crowd as if to bid them goodbye, then it turned and departed into the northern sky. All eyes followed the flight, longing for one last glimpse of the vehicle that had delivered the four important pastors. Children ran to the now-vacant spot where the helicopter had been, and searched the ground for souvenirs of the event. Grandparents, teachers, shopkeepers, nurses, doctors and one muzungu missionary wandered back to homes, schools, kiosks, and hospitals.
The rapt attention of the villagers over the exciting arrival, and the unceremonious departure of the pastors dissipated as the people returned to their chores. The daily rituals of life returned to normal. Fish and cabbage were purchased, children played, dry laundry was taken down and folded. On verandas jikos were lighted and cooking fires were started to prepare the next meal…indeed, it was just another ordinary Saturday in Ng’iya.
– Yvonne North, Partner Care Facilitator