You hear the words “pole-pole (pronounced po-lay, po-lay)” a lot in Kenya. This translates as “slowly slowly” but said with the right intonation in the voice, it also means, “I’m so sorry things are taking so long.” I am beginning to understand the true meaning in which these words are spoken. With all the delays on the front end of the trip, the well drill is running longer than originally scheduled and I am supposed to be on a plane back to Nairobi today. Needless to say, I will not be on the 11am Air Kenya flight. I try calling our travel agent but it is Sunday and their office isn’t open. I explain my predicament to one of the helpful managers at Sarova Lodge. He replies “pole pole.” He also remembers that there is an Air Kenya agent staying in the lodge. He will speak with her and sort it out for me while I am in the bush today. There is also another expression in Kenya that says things will work out. With that in mind, off I go..BIG WATER day awaits!!!
Out of the lodge, past the giraffe, through the gate, over the lava road, past a lone elephant, onto the tar mak road, zoom past Archer’s Post as I’ve done every day. However, today is not like every other day. Almost at our turnoff, I see 6 beautifully adorned young ladies in their Sunday finest on the opposite side of the road waiting for the bus. Hold the phone! Turn the car around! I ask Robert, my driver to translate for me. Where are they going? Church and then shopping in Archer’s Post, they reply. Do they mind if I take their photo as they are looking so beautiful? They don’t mind at all. We have some fun taking photos and as we get ready to leave, I get the gist of a conversation that we just came through Archer’s Post and are going the opposite direction. I tell Robert of course we have time to drive them to church and just like that, our car is now carrying six Samburu girls who sing a song of thanks that seems to have no beginning and no end over 10 kilometers to Archer’s Post. It’s a good morning in Samburu.
Back on the road to the drilling site. You can hear the drilling as we get closer. We arrive to see the uniforms of the crew hanging out to dry. The usual suspects who I have come to recognize are congregating around, including Aldo. Aldo, a Samburu man 40 years old spent four years living in East London married to an English woman before moving back to this area. He speaks perfect English and tells me how much he loves Chinese and Italian food.
Insofar as it seems the drilling will be going on for a while today, he asks if I want to see where the people get water in this area. Of course I do! Off we walk about 1/2 mile where I can see a tiny boy down in a hole. Aldo asks to see the water he is bringing up. He shows us a cup of brown, dirty liquid that will most likely be filled with waterborne bacteria causing diarrhea. I have seen photos of similar sites many times over the past 5 years but seeing this in person was a painful dose of reality.
Walking back to the site, it is HOT! The sun is sweltering in this area. Sweat is dripping off me from everywhere. I feel I can’t complain or even comment about it. I can’t help but imagine walking out here carrying a jerry can full of water in this heat. I try to steer our walking under the shade of the trees but there are so many thorns that prick my pants and even pierce through my sneakers that it is impossible. All in all, this little walk is a real reminder of why we do what we do at The Samburu Project.
The texture of the earth is changing around the drill rig. It is sandy and wet, water is starting to migrate to the top of the rods and soil out onto the earth. Lucas says the big water is coming but we still have several rods to insert until we get to 70 meters. Pole-Pole. Aldo asks if I want to see his house, meet his Samburu wife and father who is more than 100 years old. Sure! As we enter through the thorny barrier of the manyatta, there are chickens and kids killing around and then OMG..I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sitting next to his hut was a small solar panel, inside the hut was a table with about 10 cell phones that were being recharged from the solar panel. I was absolutely amazed to learn that these Samburu who are 90% illiterate were so technologically advanced to have cell phones and solar panels. Why shouldn’t they have clean water, an education, and good health & hygiene?
Waiting and drilling, drilling and waiting. Back at the site, we still have not hit the BIG WATER yet. I met some very resourceful boys who fashioned a toy out of discarded plastic. Aside from thinking that recycling is alive and well in Samburu, I notice the boy who was gathering water in the hole is with us on site. Wearing his christmas bear pants, he smiles and I wonder how this water will change his future.
No BIG WATER today so back to the lodge I go, where much to my delight there were big happenings going on. At reception I found no one, at the bar I found no one but a little farther a field I could see everyone at the hotel gathered at the riverbank watching a heard of 30 elephants across the river. They were absolutely magnificent! Big huge bulls, little babies, all grazing and drinking from the river, putting on a fantastic show for the lodge guests and staff. We stood watching and taking photos for about an hour until they disappeared back to where they came from. What an absolutely fantastic treat!
Despite the fact that today turned out not to be big water day, it was wonderful. I pinched myself for all the amazing experiences I’ve had here in Samburu and think how grateful I am for everything that has brought me to this moment. That night I dined with Carol from AirKenya. She sorted out my ticket and said I could take whatever flight was good for me tomorrow or the next day. Imagine that! Another Samburu surprise. Everything is going to work out..but a little pole-pole.