A Travellerspoint blog

February 2010

'Singing kills the boredom'

(and other Kenyan teaching tips)

I was planning to greet you in Luo after our 2 hour lesson yesterday on Luo greetings...but have promptly forgotten them all. David seems to be getting on much better with the Kiswahili and Luo pronunciation than me, (I credit David's skill to his big pouty lips.)
We've had a fairly busy week, (although the evenings are very quiet) and I am glad to say I am back in the world of teaching...
We went back to Florence's place on Tuesday- (the one where the orphans are paired up with the widows to make family units) and I sat in on a nursery class made up of thirty or forty tiny weeny ones and slightly bigger ones.


Apparently 2 of the teachers were off at a funeral (sadly a common event here), so all three classes had been merged into one, and obviously the babies struggled to understand what was going on. I had forgotten how different the approach to teaching is in rural Africa, much more rote learning and repetition and lots of singing and chanting. One little boy passed wind and the teacher and his peers all chanted 'Bad manners, bad manners, you are rude...' The teacher said to me 'the singing kills the boredom' as the babies were wriggling around and not following the lesson. There were very few resources in the classroom, although the alphabet and numbers were strung up like in my old classroom.




I'm planning to regularly volunteer at this nursery school, so need to work out the balance of understanding and appreciating the teaching culture already here, and introducing some of my ideas (gradually). My first idea is to collect soda bottle tops, (which litter every street), and use them for visual counting aids, as active learning doesn't seem to be a particularly high priority.
I learnt an important lesson whilst in the nursery school- don't let little munchkins sit on your lap until you have checked their bottoms. Meanwhile, whilst I was teaching numbers to 20, David was taking measurements of the solar drier to try and create one with George to dry moringa and artemisia in.


We continued to be frustrated every day by small things, and bigger things, such as not being able to trust people and systems, and always being ripped off. David seems quite flat these days (despite his triumph in language learning) and I'm extra aware of how much we miss having friends around us to just hang out with and share frustrations and challenges with, and go somewhere to let off steam. Rosalia continues to be a God-send in helping us every day with various cultural confusions. We had a confusing event today with the people making the furniture for the new house (if it's ever ready) and Rosalia was great and reinforced our gut instincts, but it leaves you with a sour and annoyed after-taste and heightens my wariness and suspicions of people, which could be a good or bad thing.

A couple from my parents church in Reading should be coming to visit with Roger and Jos tomorrow, and it would be an understatement to say we are looking forward to seeing them.

Other news worthy, (or actually probably not worthy), of reporting... our curtains were beautifully made by the girls in Margeret's orphans project, and David took particular interest in the shower caps and aprons when we went to collect them...DSC_2388


We are getting a kitten for our new home which we are excited about and hope we won't becme the sort of people who upload endless pictures of the cat...


Posted by africraigs 08:45 Comments (0)

Kids-umu is bustling

(we visit plenty of children's homes and feel like naive over-sized children ourselves as we negotiate our new environment)

semi-overcast 29 °C

As the thunder rumbles outside, we cannot escape the fact that we are in a completely different environment to 'home'. In the mornings we are often woken up to babies screaming and people doing their washing outside and gates screeching open at 5:30am. I think we now seem to sleep through the 5am call to prayer (although as a good 'missionary', I have already been up at 3am for an hour, ok?)
We are also still trying to negotiate Kisumu as 2 of the very few mzungus around, that means we can be hounded by hawkers trying to make us buy or get on their particular brand of transport, of which there are many- tuk tuks (little three wheeled petrol taxis) are my favourite, but you can get on the comfy seat on the back of a bike, get on a matatu (van packed with people), ride on the back of a motorbike or hire a taxi. Part of the problem of being white is that people view you as a naive and easy target, which means trying to charge a far higher taxi fare, ie getting charged a 80p to get into town on the back of a bike instead of 20p. This may not seem much, but it is the principle of it all, I think.
Often this new environment is confusing and a little unnerving. Only today we heard through a friend, Margaret, who runs a widows and orphans organisation that an Asian friend of hers was shot dead yesterday by a gang as he left his shop to take money to the bank at 9am! The even more scary thing is that it is the same shop we visited on Friday afternoon to pick up cloth for curtains. We actually had an idea that we were going to go on Saturday morning before our Swahili lesson at around 9am....
So these things play on your mind and it can be hard to know how to respond and how to have peace despite these circumstances. Today's sermon in the Anglican church we visited mentioned peace a number of times and that brought some comfort to Emma. It is also really hard to understand how a country which is supposedly 80% Christian has so much corruption and robbery. I suppose as the Kenyan lady in the cornershop was saying, most people are unemployed so are trying to survive however they can. I was trying to empathise and put myself in someone's shoes who has nothing when the TV shows adverts and TV programmes which could make you think you were living in a very well-off Western country.

Anyway, apart from these incidental issues..., we have had a productive week in terms of starting to get inolved a little here especially for Em. On Friday, we went with one of the REAP field workers, Pastor George, to Orongo where an enthusiastic and energetic lady called Florence runs the Orongo Widows and Orphans Programme.
Innovative and enthusiastic Florence

Innovative and enthusiastic Florence

She is also very involved in REAP's work and uses REAP's natural medicine teaching to help look after sick orphans which offsets medical costs. She says that even the local hospitals refer patients to her at times because of her knowledge. She is currently in the middle of building a fish farm which will provide much needed protein for the vulnerable people she supports.
Fish Pond

Fish Pond

Emma is hoping to volunteer in the nursery that Florence runs. There are about 30 kids in this nursery. Most of the orphans are looked after in the community by volunteer widows so there is no 'orphanage' as would be typical in the west. Orphans Nursery

Orphans Nursery

On Saturday, the two of us took a tuk-tuk together to visit New Life homes. It is a care home for babies and toddlers that have been abandoned by mothers for one reason or another. These babies are cared for at the home until they can hopefully be integrated into a adopting family. We met one of the families from Holland who were staying in Nairobi and adopting 2 children. For some reason there are a number of Dutch families adopting in Kenya at the moment. Anyway, it seemed well resourced and has a number of volunteers, so Em is not sure about being involved there.
Today (Sunday), we visited an English service in an Anglican church in town where the aforementioned Margaret attends. We also do our language lessons on the church property. (We are going to be learning kiswahili as well as the local tribal tongue Luo which is Obama's tribal group). After the service, we took a matatu to visit Margaret's orphanage out of town with a great view of Kisumu and Lake Victoria. Here there are about 35 vulnerable children being looked after. After some very long African introductions, we stayed for over an hour playing football and with the skipping rope. We are hoping to come every Sunday to play with the children and teach them some Sunday school as well. The orphanage seems quite under-resourced and Margaret was saying that on occasions, the children do without food.

Posted by africraigs 20:54 Comments (0)

Mop, pins and cutlery

Thief in the night

I'm writing this upstairs whilst David is distributing cutlery and pins downstairs to warn off any potential intruders. We discovered tonight that the make-shift curtains in our temporary home are see through, and we realised a man had been loitering outside the window for a while this evening. We have since discovered that he is a well -known high school drop out and frequently thieves. Our lovely neighbour, Tom, is currently looking out a metal rod (the local way of dealing with thieves). Thankfully there are patrols and watchmen in this housing estate so hopefully the pins, cutlery, mop handle and rod will not be needed.
Other than this slightly unnerving event, we have had a highly productive day, organising ourselves and our new home, and orientating oursleves in this crazy bustling town. We have negotiated boda-bodas (bikes) and tuk-tuks today, and got a good deal with wicker furniture for the new home. I visited an International School where i might be volunteering once a week to teach swimming (!) and we visited a superb project set up by a dynamic and enthusiastic Kenyan lady, Springs Ministries, which is based around the verse: ''The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, frass and reeds and papyrus will grow.''
The organisation is aimed at empowering and equipping windows and orphans who have been affected by HIV/ Aids. The girls are given a 2 year apprenticeship with textiles, where they learn various skills with sewing machines and marketing. The money that is raised from their sewing is used for an orphanage for younger children. We have been invited to visit the orphanage this Sunday, which we are looking forward to.
We've also arranged our first language lesson for this Saturday, which seemed (yet again) a confusing and vague process with many 'mmm' sounds and negotiating.
Hope to write soon, goodnight x

Posted by africraigs 12:57 Comments (0)

's no joke' at snappy snaps

rain 29 °C

Emma and I met someone from Child Evangelism Fellowship this morning as Emma considers what to do with herself. She has a couple of people to meet about working in some local orphanges and schools too, so we will keep you updated. Right now, though, we are at a bit of a loose end,but we are thinking we will try to familarise ourselves with the town this afternoon to figure out our way around. It will stop us fighting with each other anyway...
An exciting thing we found out, was that we won a photo competition in the local Reading Snappy Snaps of a photo of snowy Edinburgh. It is a bit weird when we are sweltering in 30 degrees heat here now. If anyone is around Reading, the photo is hanging up there and so anyone can admire it....This was it...6DSC_2071.jpg

Posted by africraigs 04:29 Comments (0)

Obama's Gra'ma

(and other esteemed bloodlines)

semi-overcast 33 °C

We've been in Kisumu for almost a week and it's weird how quickly things can become familiar and normal- how walking through the market place and having many people shout 'Jesus' to Roger who nonchallantly walks on, and feeling the dust in our flip flops, and perpetually sweating buckets, and needing to boil water to drink it, and waiting for ages for yahoo to load...
..But there are other things which continue to take time and energy to adjust to, and understand. There have been so many moments of confusion over the last few weeks, particularly trying to negotiate rent and accomodation, when it seems expected to barter and then vague answers and 'mmm' sounds are given.

Roger and Rosalia were so kind and helpful this week, trying to help us settle here and as a result of their pro- active searching , we are temporarily staying in a nice place, probably for a month or so (well actually, who knows...mmmm...) and then hope to move to another house, which is needing repairs just now, where we can settle for the rest of our time here. It has felt good psychologically to unpack and put up personal touches like photos and calendars here, although it has been quite confusing here too, with people needing to finish odd jobs off in this house, so yesterday we were eating our breakfast and someone turned up to measure for curtains, someone else to fit a lock, and someone else to fix the oven.

Another major source of confusion are the languages- Kisumu is a junction for several tribal areas, (hence the post election violence 2 years ago) and Kiswahili, Luo and Luhya are all spoken. The people here can recognise which tribe you are from and greet you appropriately, but I have not mastered this knack yet, and have to keep asking Rosalia which tribe someone is from, and how to greet them. Thankfully when we went to visit Barack Obama's Granny today I was prepared with the correct greeting, although bodged up with the policeman, who was from a different tribe.

There have been many amusing moments, along with the continuous cultural faux pas I seem to keep making. Roger has provided much interest with his beard, and is recognised wherever we go. Yesterday he was called 'Judas Iscariot' and people keep asking if David is his son. Sadly he returns to Nairobi tomorrow so that will be one less source of entertainment and deep intellectual insights, as well as a loss of Roger's incredible taxi-driving skills negotiating all sorts of Kenyan road hazards (crazy matatu drivers who have no road sense, potholes, mish-mash traffic converging from everywhere, people in the middle of the road, cows in the middle of the road....etc...). Roger's stories of his extended family tree will also need to wait until we next see him - did you know that he is the distant relation to Princes William and Harry and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? His relative also sold a brewery they owned to Guinness brewers back in the late 1700s! Roger boasts a plethora of brewers in his ancestry, a fact that is all the more interesting in that some of the inheritance money from the breweries helped pay for his schooling...! We didn't realise we were in the presence of an esteemed bloodline.

Talking of esteemed bloodlines.. the REAP dynamic duo of Rosalia and Roger have been very active in helping us tour some of the interesting sights around Kisumu and most exciting of all for David was a visit to Barack Obama's Granny in a police-guarded compound in the middle of nowhere. While we visited, another 2 groups came to pay their respects and get their photo taken with the very normal and unfazed old granny who was a great and cheerful host. We gave her some Scottish tablet and a little Scottish calendar to remind her of Obama's supposedly Scottish roots as well...Her humble home with cows roaming about and a simple brick hut with her family washing her clothes for her belie her position as the relative to the most powerful man on earth. Maybe we will be hosting Barack himself one day when he next comes to visit Granny.
Meeting Barack Obama's Grandmother

Meeting Barack Obama's Grandmother

Barack Obama's father's grave

Barack Obama's father's grave

Posted by africraigs 11:13 Comments (0)

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