It started off like any other day, we packed the van and I hugged Madeleine and Lucas goodbye for the day, Lucas shouting “I love you Daddy, look for some tuk tuks” as I made my way down the stairwell, his little voice echoing of the concrete walls. We hoped this day would come and we’d imagined it time and time again in the hope that it might be a reality, there was however always the very real possibility that we wouldn’t make it. A single vital piece of equipment failing, a police officer impounding the vehicle, getting stuck but not getting unstuck, team members being sick. In fact they all happened but somehow this final day had come and it didn’t feel like it did on our imaginings.
The clinic ran as usual but as we looked around at the incredible people who have become our family, we knew this was the last time we would be doing this. The team however had been led to believe that this was the penultimate clinic (we had a little surprise up our sleeves for them which we will tell you about later) and so they were not experiencing the emotional roller coaster we were internalising. We have learnt so much from the wonderful group of people we’ve been surrounded by and have at many times been humbled by their efforts and desire to serve the community.
Mid-morning a special delivery of the final bake was made. Two of the team were tasked to collect and deliver it, the look on their faces was very similar to the one on mine several years earlier when Madeleine’s mother asked me to carry out her only son’s wedding cake from the kitchen to the wedding marquee in the garden, an impressive cake she had slaved over for days. I knew that if I dropped it, the wedding would have been overshadowed by my blunder and the weight of the cake was nothing compared to the weight of pressure I felt. Thankfully, both the wedding cake and the gingerbread eye clinic were safely delivered.
Four days of design and planning to build a replica gingerbread eye clinic that required us to take apart our cupboard (temporarily) to form a base, for the entire kitchen and dining room table to be inaccessible for the duration and Lucas adamant on eating the eye clinic nurses and equipment was a fitting end to the project and several thousands of photos were taken before it was broken apart and eaten, quite symbolic, apart from the eating bit…
The baking begins
Piecing the clinic together
Edible coconut grass
A shosho (grandmother) with cataracts being led to the clinic by her grandchild
A gingerbread and liquorice slit lamp!
Many of the team will be involved in either the Kitale projects or the bakery and hopefully all are more skilled for whatever they take on in the future. The eye equipment has now been packed and installed in Kitale Eye Hospital for the next projects;
Our flat has the feeling of transition. Pictures are coming off the wall, graffiti (or art work – depends on your perspective) is more noticeable than ever, our clothes and books in boxes and bags. The random temperature generator is being readied for its last encounters with us. We’ve just finalised the plans for the bakery renovations and this will start any day now. The bakery team have all met together and the initial training went really well.
All that remained was to find specialist equipment for the bakery. We had planned a trip to Kisumu on our way back from Kitale but the owner was out of the country. A few days later, our time coming to an end, the owner still out of Kenya we decided to send Andrew in with his bargaining skills and sparing Lucas eight hours on the road…
The email conversation between Andrew (in Kisumu) and Madeleine in Nakuru
Andrew/11.25: I’ve arrived, wish me luck
Mads/11.27: Use those Egyptian bargaining skills! Praying it works out
Mads/12.45: How’s it going? Are you out of signal? Xx
Andrew/13.03: I’ve seen all the equipment, it looks ideal, about to speak the boss on the phone
Andrew/13.21: Looks like it’s not going to happen, he wants to sell ALL or nothing 😦
Mads/13.23: What! It can’t be?
Andrew/13.51: All is not lost, having another conversation
Mads/14.04: Well? X
Andrew/14.09: Nope, not budging, we can’t afford to take all of it so we are stuck
Andrew/14.33: We might have a deal…
Andrew/14.44: He’s agreed to us taking the equipment we need but it is still 30% more then we can afford, I’ll keep trying
Mads/14.48: Keep going beautiful, p.s. I just cut Lucas’ hair while he was asleep
Mads/15.22: Any progress?
Andrew/15.31: We are getting close, just agreeing terms on delivery and installation
Mads/15.37: Keep going! x
Andrew/16.01: We have a deal!!! Ujima Bakery is actually going to happen xx
Andrew/16.03: Did you seriously cut Lucas’ hair?
We’ve both been daydreamers most of our lives, dreaming of adventure, new worlds, challenges and excitement. Every so often the dreams fill our consciousness to the point that we can no longer only dream about it. The reality it turns out is rarely as it is in the dreams. Yes, there is adventure, challenge and excitement, but there is also, in equal measure: pain, fear, doubt and struggle.
The unlikely combination of day dreaming eye surgeon, passionate doctor/baker and blond afro toddler have not only been accepted in to this wonderful country but also have been given the opportunity to make dreams happen.
As this wonderful time comes to an end, we look back over the months filled with highs and lows. The single, overwhelming emotion above all others, is still gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunities we were born in to, gratitude for the incredible people who have become our family, who trusted us as strangers and dedicated their time, energy and passion to make the project a success, gratitude to our families and friends who have loved and supported us throughout (and read our blogs).
This is one of the very hardest goodbyes we have had to do.