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2010-01-16 a message from James

Jambo Everyone... Habari? Oh I'm so multi-lingual...

 
JUST back from another inspirational trip to Kenya... each one is better than the last. It was mostly comprised of 'ups', but inevitably there are always 'downs' too...

Thanks also to SO MANY of you for your Christmas wishes, cards, gifts etc. All much appreciated. THANK YOU ALL!
 
Ali, thanks for your perceptive review...I'm happy you like "Gaudete" and the Schubert...me too! And my friend's Mum's name was Letitia, not Trisha, but how on earth were you ever to pick up such an unusual name, eh? I was in college years ago with Letitia's family, and then did a birthday 'Tenorgram' for her 80th birthday a few months back...a beautiful lady.

This trip to Kenya was primarily to teach new songs to the kids...and so, this was at our own expense! It is important to point that out, because we also took a short holiday this time when we were there. This would be something I'd be very uncomfortable doing if it was during the building/concerts time. But when we paid for our own flights, I think we can do what we want... It was a TOTAL surprise to all of the children that we were coming, and we were welcomed with open arms. You should have seen Joseph's face!! He laughed out loud, and smiled for the whole time. And that was before he knew that Maeve and I were taking Kevin and him on a 3-day trip to the tropical spice island of Zanzibar! (An ambition of mine for a long time...).

We started by giving Samuel any money kindly donated by kind people...then did music for hours on end with the kids. They will sing until we collapse...they can never sing enough. We quickly revised the songs with the choir...because (and this is news hot-off-the-press) we are recording a CD with the children in the Summer, around the time of the concerts! Many people have asked for it, and if we can pay for it, then it'll be another source of income for the orphanage. Then we taught them new songs which they seemed to LOVE! "Oh Happy Day", "Amazing Grace", "Consider yourself" from "Oliver", "Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious!" (they adored this one), "Happy Talk" from "South Pacific", "Top of the World" by the Carpenters, "Forget your troubles, and just get happy" (Judy Garland?)...

We also visited other orphanages, as Basil asked us to, so that he can decide where next to work. That was kind of harrowing, as the kids at those places are infected with HIV...so that was tough. There were also a few kids in Cheryl's with illnesses when we were there... one with a large brain tumour...now how cruel is that?? Sometimes one wonders...really...

After 3 days of solid teaching, we then took our two boys on a flight to Zanzibar! The passports took a lot of organising, but they had them, and off we set. We stayed at the Cristal Resort near Paje on the east coast on the Indian Ocean...yes, feel free to be jealous...it was lovely! http://www.cristalresort.com/ (Check out the gallery) Beautiful pool, lovely food and ON a tropical white beach!

The flight would have almost been enough for the two boys...what an adventure...something we now take for granted. Even escalators were tried out over and over! Basil had taken a crowd to Mombassa in the past for 2 days, so Kevin had seen the sea and a beach...but Joseph hadn't. He is 10, going on 11, and saw sand and the sea for the first time ever. (Think about that). They had a little eco-bungalow all to themselves ON the beach. They built sandcastles, caught crabs (and released them again Kathy!), swam for HOURS and indeed learned to swim (!!), ate what they wanted, went on dolphin watching trips (I swam with dolphins for my first time ever - amazing), went to Jozani National Park and fed sea-turtles, saw Colobus monkeys, had a Historic tour of the capital Stonetown, and so much more! It felt like they were having the childhood they ought to have had packed into 3 days. And they were great company for each other, and for us...so funny at times. You can ask Maeve about 'The Tanzanian Aged'...I'd never presume to tell you. Joseph also suggested getting passports for the crabs so they could bring them back to Cheryl's!

The obvious question is - were the other kids not jealous? And the answer is (hand-on-heart) - No! We asked Samuel this months ago. The other kids wanted to hear all about it, and are genuinely happy for the two boys. The other kids have also had trips to Nakuru and Naivasha etc with us in the past, and some to Mombassa... they are all amazing kids, and want the best for each other.

Joseph and Kevin were great ambassadors for the orphanage and the charity! Polite at all times. And boy did they have a ball...!! Many people asked who these two boys were, and I have several business cards of Kenyans and others who want to help...so I think it is all good really.
It has been another amazing time in Africa. Truly. I feel blessed to be involved with Cheryl's and Kenya Build. And it has changed my life for ever.
On another note entirely, the "Sligo Weekender" asked me to write a column for them which was published early in January? Not sure if you saw it... if not, I have enclosed it with this email (it's on the fansite now). It is a little controversial...but I felt strongly... Apologies if it upsets anyone.

May send photos later...
Love and Happy New Year to each and every one of you!
James.