A Travellerspoint blog

March 2010

Building up the church

and other mud sports

rain 27 °C

churchy sort-of news today. emma and i went to a pentecostal church that was recommended to us here in Kisumu on Sunday. It was encouraging as we have met our first friends! Some of them are white which makes a nice change as we can share some of the same cultural peculiarities together (although most of the whites are American, so maybe Im going too far saying that...). We were invited on Sunday evening to an American couple - Wayne and Mary Linn's house, and we decided to go because it meant that we would likely get good food (Em had been praying for spaghetti bolognese), stay out later than 7pm and have others apart from Dr Roger (the kitten) and each other to socialise with... It was a good call as Em DID get her spaghetti bolognese and we were able to meet some friendly people. It was Wayne's birthday and unfortunately we were all made to hold hands and then to share our deep appreciation to Wayne. One lady solemnly compared Wayne's gift of encouragement to a Bible chracter, although she got it slightly wrong, calling him a modern-day Barabbas instead of Barnabas. Barabbas was the murderer who was to be crucified instead of Jesus.
Anyway, now it means that my new best friend from this church is a Kenyan called 'Moses'. His parents are also very kind and work for the New Life Homes - an orphanage for abandoned babies. I wheedled my way into going along to Moses' football team's training which happened to be a full friendly match. I was a little worried as it was my first time to run about energetically since moving to Kisumu and the altitude is about the same as Ben Nevis so I didn't know how I would cope. I felt I played fairly well, so pleased myself, the only mishap in the whole game was when a cow bounded on to the field almost knocking into the keeper.
Rosalia had asked if we could help put walls up on its new church and take photos of the occassion. Her request was something that we were keen to take up even for the experience because of all the mud involved... It was a very good thing then that 45mm of rainfall fell the night before as it helped a lot with making the mud, although because of the slidey roads, my motorbike rider slid and I fell off getting there. Thankfully, Emma wasn't thrown off her bike.
Here are a few photos of the church getting their hands dirty.
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Posted by africraigs 12:59 Comments (0)

On the Funny Farm

visting Sam Ouma's

sunny 30 °C

It's quite a long journey back to Kisumu from Sam Ouma's, REAP fieldworker who lives in Asembo close to Lake Victoria.
I was with George Matengo, a REAP fieldworker packed in the corner of a matatu with my feet on a sack of grain and a pungent smell of small fish radiating from under my seat somewhere. [Emma and I learnt recently that the word in Luo for fish is "rech" and cooped up in a hot matatu bumping along, made me realise why].
Around Asembo

Around Asembo


It was my first time to visit Sam's place where George and I stayed overnight on Thursday as George was helping Sam to construct a raised goat pen to keep dairy goats. George is a bit of a goat-lover and expert with award-winning goats and always asks people who keep goats if their goats are "saved"- have they accepted Jesus or not. I think it is related to the behaviour of the goats - if they are allowed to roam free and eat neighbours' crops or not.
Goat Pen

Goat Pen


It was incredible to see George and Sam's cousin Fred construct the goat pen from trees cut from right around Sam's garden. One of REAP's principles is to plant trees on the farm which are multipurpose which can be used for soil fertility or constuction. REAP is taking part in a big campaign just now to plant more trees in Kenya in an 'Easter Tree Planting' initiative. (anyway, that is by the by).
It was also a real treat to be staying in the deep country - the boondocks- where at night it is so dark (though still noisy with all the crickets and other creatures...I saw my first monitor lizard, for example). Sam keeps a wide variety of animals, cows, chickens, goats, cats, dogs and donkeys. The donkeys help carry water, and helping Sam carry two 50 gallon buckets of water up a steep hill for 1/2 a mile made me realise again the value of water. In drought periods, Sam was saying that they fetch water an hour and a half away at Lake Victoria! Sam Ouma

Sam Ouma

New Kid on the Block

New Kid on the Block


At one point, Sam surprised me by jumping onto the foal of a donkey and yelling "I am like Jesus riding into Jerusalem". I don't think Jesus would have had as much trouble trying to control the donkey as Sam did as it scarpered away.
We were able to visit some of the farmers Sam works with around his area and learn what they are doing with REAP's ideas. I find it really fascinating to be able to get inside access to peoples' lives and realise the importance of farming and getting a good crop is. It is hard as a white Scottish guy to really understand the necessity of growing your own food, but I hope to somehow be able to empathise and be a part of making some sort of difference one day...
Planting Season

Planting Season

Pineapple Floret

Pineapple Floret

Mole Trap

Mole Trap

Farm Hand

Farm Hand

Charlie Charlie and His Cattle

Charlie Charlie and His Cattle

Posted by africraigs 12:14 Comments (0)

Tyre-d

(Written on Thursday)
Amosi! I’m writing this offline as the internet doesn’t seem to working today. I was at the Orongo Orphans’ Nursery today and yesterday, which had the usual mixture of discouragement and glimpses of hope. Roger sent me 2 books at the start of the week about making toys and school resources from local materials, like an abacus from bottle tops, a sand pit from a big tyre, musical instruments from bamboo etc. The books inspired and excited me more than any of the projects and schools I have seen so far, and I wonder if this will be the education related ‘niche’ I have been longing for.
The bottle top collecting is going well, and there are several ‘soda- sellers’ collecting them for me, so I have a growing colourful collection. I spoke to the Nursery teacher, Joy, about some of my ideas and showed her the books. She surprised me by bringing various lovely homemade resources like a bottle top number chart and a soft toy that she had made on her teacher training course. It turns out that Joy started out with a more interactive classroom with different areas, colourful sugar sack posters, etc, but as the classroom has no lock they were all damaged or stolen. It made me realise how problems can be much more complex than they initially seem. So perhaps, the starting point for the Nursery school isn’t more resources, but a secure place to store them and a lock for the classroom. I also discussed with Joy about whether there was some work that could be done on classroom rules and encouraging the children to respect property. I’m not how well this went down, but I don’t see the point in making funky bamboo xylophones and a colourful bottle top abacus if they won’t be looked after. I used the bottle tops today with the baby class to practice sorting into colours, and it was again a sad situation, where they tried to hoard and hide them in their pockets and clothes, and put them in their mouths and didn’t share them. It makes you wonder what the solution is when children are not only fighting over toys, but also over freely available ‘junk’ items. I suppose any children anywhere will fight over things of novelty value, and playing with a heap of bottle tops was a novelty to them.
Sorting bottle tops into colours

Sorting bottle tops into colours

Modelling cows with mud clay

Modelling cows with mud clay

Number game

Number game

Despite the mix of emotions at the nursery, I’m encouraged that Joy seems willing, (and even a bit excited) to create some of the toys and resources with me and my next challenge is to negotiate a good price for an old tyre…

Posted by africraigs 11:45 Comments (0)

Living on the edge

of the matatu seat

semi-overcast 30 °C

Amosi uru!
Yes, we are attempting one of the many tribal languages that you could learn around here, Luo is the main group here so that is one of the many Luo greetings as greeting people is extremely important.
We have survived another day in Kenya which is no mean feat, I believe. Yesterday, for example, we took one of those 3-wheeled taxis from Rosalia's carrying tools for the garden that we had just bought. I think the driver was angry that Rosalia had haggled with him so that it cost 70 shillings (55p) instead of the 100 shilllings (80p) that he had originally asked probably thinking that he could get a good deal with the mzungus, which is a fair enough assumption. Anyway, we have never had such a wild ride over the potholes as that tuk-tuk drive. He then managed to almost crash into a matatu, the driver of which he got so irate that he was he was getting out of his matatu to fight him. At another point straight after, we were sandwiched by 2 matatus almost hitting another before escaping the hazards eventually. And that was in a 15 minute ride from Rosalia's...
Today, I was riding with the REAP team to do a field visit in another matatu. I was holding on tightly to the seat in front of me, praying and trying to stay calm because of the speed it was going at. While going up a hill, we saw a truck overtaking a matatu that had stopped. However, the truck also had to negotiate the other vehicle in front of us on the same side of the road. The truck had to drive off the road and up the hill a little to avoid crashing. It was suspected it may have had faulty brakes.
All in all, to say that living in Kenya is a little hairy, though the lifestyle can be considered exciting too, as a mzungu recently told me, you are living life on the edge a bit more. He considered that living in the West was too boring...

I really enjoyed getting out to the field with the REAP staff Dom, Sam and George to visit some of the farmers who employ REAP techniques. The visits help to encourage people and motivate them as well as give technical advice or provide seeds and planting material.
George and Sam advise bishop Enoch about planting vetiver (and ask him where he got his colourful hat)

George and Sam advise bishop Enoch about planting vetiver (and ask him where he got his colourful hat)

Bishop Enoch and Grace Okani show off their roselle and artemesia

Bishop Enoch and Grace Okani show off their roselle and artemesia


REAP works with some interesting sounding local churches such as the African Israel Ninevah church whose HQ we visited. The high priest who began the church was buried there and there was a shrine there dedicated to him. The lady contact who REAP works with thought I was Roger's son saying that I looked like him somehow. I hope it is just the long hair that is confusing people...
Dom waits expectantly for a motorbike at the HQ of African Israel Ninevah church

Dom waits expectantly for a motorbike at the HQ of African Israel Ninevah church


Another lady and her husband the bishop from African Devine Church wear green, red and white hats. Invited inside her house, I was pleased to note the ubiquitous ancient calendars on the wall from 2009 or even 1991, though none from 2010. (If anyone is coming out to visit, I'm sure some old calendars that you may have lying about in a cupboard would make a very welcome gift for people). Christmas decorations of tinsel or garlands are also a common sight in Kenyan homes which also seem very out of place (again, there you go, another easy gift).
One of the REAP participants and her husband of Africa Devine Church

One of the REAP participants and her husband of Africa Devine Church


One of the problems about being out the whole day in the sun walking place to place is dehydration, so at the end of the day, I was feeling a bit rough. It was a welcome break at around lunch-time when we stopped and had a bit of lunch and a 'soda'. My meal of a couple of chapatis and some chopped kale cost 25p! I enjoy mealtimes with the Kenyans as it is expected that you eat with your hands, you can belch quite happily, and spit bits out onto the ground that may be a bit chewy. At the end of the meal, everyone reaches for a toothpick and enjoys a good prod. Getting told off for halving my elbows on the table seems a bit trivial.
On the matatu on the way back, another cultural norm, being tightly squeezed between a big mama and George who had to get my wallet out for me as my arms were forced upwards. I didn't even have a seat to sit on, I was between seats and so only one butt-cheek was comfortable. The conductor who collects the money was content leaning over the passengers in front of me hitting his head on the roof of the matatu.
When I returned home, Emma had said she had had a good day swimming with her little kids at the Braeburn International school she volunteers at. I found her painting various colours and weather symbols on sugar sacks that she had bought at the market for using at the orphan nursery she helps out at in Orongo tomorrow and Thursday. She has a lot of ideas for using bottle tops and other low-cost materials for producing resources at the very poorly resourced nurseries she is helping out at.
George is coming to meet me to help in our rather good-sized garden tomorrow. He is bringing Dr Rogers the kitten which Em is very excited about. We have small fish ready for it...!
Emma paints nursery resources on sugar sacks

Emma paints nursery resources on sugar sacks


This is Rose - I thought she looked like my mum so I took a photo

This is Rose - I thought she looked like my mum so I took a photo

Posted by africraigs 10:55 Comments (0)

Pencils and papyrus

Today was a bit of a sad day in some respects. As Florence's Orphans Nursery in Orongo is inaccessible during heavy rains because of the thick stodgy mud and frequent floods, I was investigating other teaching options, and went to visit another nearer nursery school. It was similar to the orphans nursery, although there were more painted sugar cane bags on the wall (like posters) with fantastic pictures of local food, tools, transport painted on. Definitely an idea to take to the orphans nursery.

After just meeting, the headteacher asked me to take her class as she had to go and send her daughter's birth certificate to a school in Nairobi, so would be gone for a few hours. I don't think I have ever felt so ill- equipped to take a lesson. I was handed a piece of chalk no bigger than 1 cm, and a scrap of paper with 'broom, spoon, soon, noon, moon' written on and was expected to stretch out a lesson on 'oo' sounds for 2 hours. There weren't enough pencils, and most of the pencils were broken and the children were using a rusty razor blade to sharpen them. Once again the rote learning felt pretty dull and uninspiring so I introduced hangman and am glad to say the chalk somehow lasted to the bitter end. The class seemed fairly friendly and keen to learn and the headteacher seemed very flexible about me helping there when rains prohibit me from going to Florence's Orphans Nursery. I might even look in my bag of tricks for a pencil sharpener.

I came back home and found our the brother of our neighbour Tom, lying on the doorstep very sick and very thin. We gave him moringa and rozelle tea and water, but it doesn't look too promising, and was quite disturbing to see someone so desperately ill, a common story here with the high AIDS rates. REAP promotes growing highly nutritious plants to help manage HIV, like the moringa and rozelle that we gave him. It probably sounds stupid but it was shocking to see someone in the flesh, with their hip bones jutting out, and so weak and frail, rather than just read the staggeringly high statistics abotu HIV/ AIDS in Africa.

We were supposed to collect our furniture today for our house and went down to a shack by the Lake where the papyrus chairs and sofa were made. The father and his apprentice son had done a great job, and the wandering cows thought so too as they munched our chairlegs before being chased away. (Apparently the papyrus tastes salty which they like).
Hopefully the cows won't pay us an unexpected visit in our new home ;-)


The following pictures don't fit with the writing above, but are from David's day trips with REAP to visit field workers, like Monica with the Gambles and Jos- the- poser...

Oil press for all sorts of seeds:
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Monica, an enthusiastic and active REAP member
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Sudan's next top model...

Our last evening with the Gambles:
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Posted by africraigs 12:37 Comments (0)

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