A Travellerspoint blog

Night Runners

and other strange African things

semi-overcast 30 °C

It has been a while since we last blogged, and for all those that follow us diligently, we apologise. We are feeling a bit of the ‘empty nest syndrome’ following the departure of my dad, sister Lizzie and (fake) Aunt Margaret, our final guests till baby, our permanent guest. (Aunt Margaret isn’t really a fake, just that she isn’t genuinely my aunt, but I have known her since a youngling growing up in Zaire). These 3 musketeers were passing through Kenya to see Em, bump and me having had a couple of weeks visiting old friends in Zaire. Aunt Margaret Mum and Dad were missionaries in Zaire, still feeling a strong connection to those that they worked with.

It was weird to have them here in Kisumu because of the cultural confusion that everyone seemed to be experiencing. Zaire (now Congo DRC), has gone through a heck of a lot with a one of the worst wars in living memory killing more people than any war since 2nd World War, child soldiers, cannibalism and mass rape. Where I grew up, though, was thankfully left isolated by the war, but it also means that there has been very little development and hardly anything has changed or moved on. Dad, Lizzie and Aunt Margaret couldn’t believe how ‘luxurious’ everything seemed in Kisumu, a place where they could go swimming in a hotel pool or shop in a supermarket. Aunt Margaret was astonished at all the hardware items that could be bought in the stores here. In Congo, there is very little available in the shops, and what you can get, you get at an inflated price. A 50kg bag of cement, for example, costs £7 or so here, but around £35 in Congo. Everything is imported, and with no roads to speak of, things are carried over vast distances by motorbike or bicycle.

Lizzie (a nurse) had been in a couple of hospitals to look round and had also been shocked. In the maternity ward, the only instruments available were a pair of scissors and a pair of tweezers. (Em says she is very glad that she is not due to give birth in a hospital like that…, but it does show us how lucky we are in the West, even when we complain about the NHS!)

It was surprising to see how Dad, Aunt Margaret and Lizzie responded to the level of need in Congo. Lizzie and Mum had done fund-raising for Congo (by running a half-marathon in my 60 year-old Mum’s case)! A very significant amount of money was taken out and distributed to friends in the church and the hospital. It is such a different approach to the ethos of REAP (Rural Extension with Africa’s Poor) of sharing ideas and empowering people to help themselves. Since being out in Kenya, we have begun to realise how money can cause more harm than good sometimes (like in the area of corruption). Aunt Margaret and Dad could see the great value of REAP’s teaching reaching their contacts in Congo because the ideas are long-lasting and won’t disappear as easily as the cash.
Visiting REAP stand with Mama Dom and Samwel

Visiting REAP stand with Mama Dom and Samwel

Dad collects stream water to water REAP plants

Dad collects stream water to water REAP plants

Aunt Margaret chews on a neem twig to clean her teeth. Lizzie looks on unimpressed

Aunt Margaret chews on a neem twig to clean her teeth. Lizzie looks on unimpressed

Sailing into the sunset after a successful visit with the hippos

Sailing into the sunset after a successful visit with the hippos

On the issue of money and Africa, a significant book that we have been reading called “African Friends and Money Matters” has been a help in grappling with some of the cultural chasms that exists between us Westerners and Africans especially in the realm of money. Money is one of the most stressful issues that you have to face here everyday, when (very poor) people ask for something because they are hungry or have malaria or need school fees. Even little kids are regularly coming up, saying “Give me money”. Usually, then, I say a culturally appropriate expression like “Stuff off”, while kicking the offending child.
When Lucy and Jon were here (Ems sister and brother-in-law), we had a number of deep chats about what is the most fitting way of helping people in what we perceive as unbelievable poverty. We never came to a neat conclusion about this massive issue, only to realise that it is a more complicated problem than just the need for dollars.

Other strange things that we have had to deal with recently: Emma’s trip to the hair ‘saloon’ made a turn for the worse when the lady used a handful of castor oil to flatten her hair, making it very shiny but also very slimy, unable to come out for days of washing.
Roger the (female) cat is in heat, which has caused no end of stir among the cat neighbours who have been out caterwauling all day and night, much to our annoyance.

Finally, our estate management had to put up a notice for everyone’s attention. I think you will realise how important a notice it is:

Warning! Warning!
To All Residents
1. There is a night runner on court 7 who practices his charm naked from around mid-night. He throws debris to houses. Security officer is hereby directed to get hold of him and produce him for all to see.

  • Bwana night runner, take care and everyone watch out.*

2. Dear fellow parents: This is to strongly advice your teenage girls and boys (youth) never to sit or group in dark corners, corridors, pavements, school field etc. It is a disgrace! Security Office is hereby directed to discipline the pairs by caning and escorting them into their houses.

Should any parent (body) feel oppressed with this action, write back why your should not be disciplined if found.


Hosea N.A.
Clerk to Welfare

Storm brewing over Lake Victoria

Storm brewing over Lake Victoria

Posted by africraigs 13:52 Archived in Kenya

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