Siaya County, Kenya: December 20, 2018

This day opened with our usual breakfast at the County Club, followed by a planning meeting for tomorrow’s commissioning ceremony.   This meeting, as is becoming customary, was extremely long, but productive. A detailed plan was made for the ceremony as well as for the invite list.  The invite list included the Minister of Health and the Governor. Following the meeting, we went down to the incinerator site to check on progress and discuss a time to return this afternoon for a test-fire.  The amount of work completed was impressive; the incinerator refurbishment was basically complete and at this point, cleaning up and cosmetic adjustments were in progress.  We agreed on 3:00 for the test fire, which left a chunk of the day open for some touring around with George. We drove out of Siaya and into the countryside, heading toward Barack Obama’s grandmother’s home.  Our intention was just to view it from the outside, but when George pulled up to it, he suggested we go in to meet her (!!!). Benji and I were both very hesitant, as it did not appear to be open to the public.  As we sat at the end of the driveway discussing this possibility, a gentleman began walking toward us from the house. He approached the car and George spoke to him in Swahili, and the next thing we knew, he was telling us to park and come on in!  Who knows what George said to him!?! We entered the property and were told to sit in an area that was clearly designated for just such a purpose while the gentleman checked to make sure it was alright with Sarah Obama to receive visitors. Shortly thereafter, he returned and gestured for us to follow him into the home.  Sarah Obama was seated on a couch just inside the front door. We shook hands and exchanged greetings, and it became clear that she did not speak much English.  Via a translator, we thanked her for her contributions to her grandson’s upbringing and for the resulting positivity she has contributed to the world. I was thankful for the opportunity to meet her and that she graciously accepted us into her home with zero notice.

We departed with business cards for her orphan project, growling bellies, and a full bladder (me).  I made my needs known and we drove maybe 100 yards before we saw a restaurant/hotel establishment by the name of “The White House”.  

George slammed on breaks, reversed, and pulled in. Let’s just say that this establishment differed vastly from its namesake. An eerily kitschy painting of the former First Family graced the entrance, followed by an even stranger statue/sculpture of Barack and presumably his parents (??).  

The place was deserted but sported a sign that said “bar/restaurant”, so we were tentatively hopeful. I, at the very least, was going to find a toilet. We found a table (not difficult) and placed our lunch order.  After approximately 45 minutes, our food arrived. We all three wolfed it down in silence, paid, and climbed back in the car to make the 3:00 incinerator test.

We got to the hospital a few minutes late, but no one was at the incinerator site.  We essentially attempted to herd cats for the next two hours and finally the test fire was complete.  I am so proud of the operations staff – they have learned the incinerator inside and out, and are able to beautifully articulate their understanding and explanations of how it all works.  

We gathered for yet another meeting to finalize the plan for tomorrow, which took another hour-ish, and by that time it was after 6 PM.  We had a late dinner, arrived home by 10 PM, and crashed hard. Tomorrow is the day! The project will be complete, we will have to say goodbye to our new friends, and leave Siaya County Referral Hospital to carry through what we have begun.

Kathryn Blount
Asheville Engineers Without Borders Chapter Secretary