There is a certain kind of sadness over us all today. We are sad to be leaving these people who have treated us with such kindness and warmth of heart. Honestly, I cannot believe this trip is nearly at an end. Almost a year of planning and anticipating, and – poof! – it’s over in a flash.
Today is a short build day. We move bricks and do a bit of mortar work. We say our final farewells to James, who leaves to meet another Habitat team. Lizz, Gretchen, Bob and I make our way into town to pick up gifts for the small dedication ceremony planned for this afternoon. It’s market day in Kisii, which means that every empty space is filled with vendors selling vegetables, fruits, electronics, shoes, sweaters, novelties…anything and everything you can imagine.
I am given instructions by both Francis and Dorothy to purchase gifts for my team members. I am a bit annoyed at the request, not because I don’t want to share my gratitude with my team, but because I am worried about my dwindling funds. Still, I obey, purchasing head scarves for the ladies and fabric to make a Kitenge for each of the men. I also pick up a blanket for the family and a fresh cake to share.
At the stall, I balk at the idea of bartering with the woman selling the scarves I need. I’ve never been comfortable arguing over anything, especially price. Dealing with foreign currency almost makes it worse because I cannot tell if I am being taken or treated fairly. Still, I manage to barter down to what I think is an acceptable price, but only after threatening to walk away with nothing. Francis informs me that I still probably paid too much, but that most Americans do simply because vendors jack up the prices when selling to anyone with white skin.
We return to the site for lunch and find that the village council, Habitat staff, and about 40 schoolchildren have gathered for the ceremony. I wish I had enough words – appropriate words – to describe how moving this simple dedication was to us all.
Wilfred, the village secretary, opens up with a prayer in Swahili. Though I can’t understand most of it, I do pick up that “Mungu,” the word for God, is repeated over and over again. What a reminder that God is God, whether in America or in Africa, and that He is present even in a small rural village in Kisii.
The members of the council, Stephen and Beatrice, and the Habitat Kisii staff all offer thanks and blessings to us for what the team has done. They present us with the gifts I reluctantly purchased, and in shame, I realize my mistake. In this culture, giving gifts is a sign of friendship and respect. Earlier in the week, Baba had spent all she had on packages of roasted nuts for us, and I couldn’t part with 20 dollars for a few head scarves? I feel undeserving of the gesture, but accept it with a silent apology in my heart.
I then offer Beatrice and Stephen the blanket, along with a copy of the Bible signed by each of us. Jackie and Tom give Wilfred a new ledger, and Carol wraps a new white scarf around Baba’s neck. Stephen and his brother, Tom, also receive fresh work gloves to use while finishing their home.
To close the dedication, Stephen, Beatrice and I have the honor of cutting the cake, and in true Kenyan fashion, we feed each other small bites before passing the cake around to share. I think the next time I feed someone cake like that will be at my wedding.
Stephen says that today is a “day of double blessing” because a calf has been born! He names the cow Lizz.
We take a few more farewell photos in the hotel. We are sad to say goodbye, but home is on the horizon.