A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

Water adventures

semi-overcast 26 °C

It has been a while since we have updated our news on the blog, but not due to not having any news. There always seem to be plenty of adventures here in Kenya despite your best efforts to control too much excitement…

It seems a while now, but 2 weeks ago, I started a week-long sanitation and hygiene course in Nakuru in the Rift Valley run by a Canadian organisation CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology). I was especially pleased since I was sharing the classroom with mainly Kenyans and I was keen to hear their thoughts on issues. It turned out to be the best course that I have ever been involved in, mainly because the learning was so interactive using audio, visual and kinaesthetic modes of teaching. Melinda, the facilitator was excellent and I thought that if I had that type of teaching growing up from all my teachers, I think I would have gotten straight ‘A’s (though still maybe for Maths that would be pushing it…). We were learning how to approach a community to teach about sanitation and hygiene issues – so were taught various participatory methods of making your message heard such as the use of pictures and diagrams and keeping your ‘key message’ short. ‘Chunking’ was one of methods of keeping the information bite-sized and digestible, like a chunk of chocolate or a chunk of lard.
Teaching on the Faecal-Oral route of contamination. Nice

Teaching on the Faecal-Oral route of contamination. Nice


Anyway, now that I have received the certificate and have gained more knowledge, I don’t even know whether I will put it into practice. I want to use it to really make a difference in communities, but as Em and I seek God on what the next steps are after Kenya 2010, we are not yet sure. Any suggestions?
Getting certificated in hygiene and sanitation promotion

Getting certificated in hygiene and sanitation promotion


One of the main messages confirmed to me during the training was about approach and attitude in reaching people. Your skills as a community worker are important such as communication or being a team-player, but even more critical is your attitude, especially humility and love. That is a challenge to anyone wanting to reach out to people in any role.
Emma had come to join me on the Easycoach (one of the most reliable and safest bus services in Kenya though it isn’t bright orange), and we thought we might have an overnight in what we thought would be a special place. Near Nakuru, there is a ‘soda lake’ (whatever that is, but it is salty and there is volcanic activity such as hot-springs), called Lake Elementaita. Lonely Planet guide book told me there was a basic guesthouse right on the shoreline and the lake is famous for its pink flamingos! We hired a taxi driver to take us there, stocking up on some food for the night and next morning. It was already dark when we were driving there and we had a bit of trouble finding the place. The road there was incredibly bad – very potholed and at times not even distinguishable as a road. On getting to the gate, eventually (though we didn’t know we had reached it, there was no signpost), everything was dark and the gate was shut. A young guy did arrive and tell us, as we were driving off, that this was actually Flamingo Camp. It seemed deserted, though, and still no light. Another young guy met us and then tried a few times to start a generator, succeeding, after a few failed attempts saw the lights briefly come on, then dim. The place, when illuminated looked pretty nice, but neither our taxi driver, nor ourselves were sure we should be staying a night in such a deserted place. We did notice, however that the building is right on the shore of the lake and would be incredible to wake up to. Next time, we will try and organise ahead of time and see if that makes a difference.
Other than that, the Dr Roger, the female cat is fine
Potty Cat

Potty Cat

Posted by africraigs 00:25 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Going, going, gone

(When the main water supply runs out and other frustrations)

sunny 30 °C

There is not much sweeter than the sound (or smell) of a flushing toilet after 6 days of a broken water pipe. In some sort of weird irony, whilst blog-hogger David has been away on a course on 'Water and Sanitation', I have been seeing first- hand the frustrations of not having water, and have seen my own sanitation rapidly go downhill. I hadn't expected that the lack of water would put me in such a bad mood, but I've been so cranky over the last few days, and I'm sure the waterless issue is a major contributor. The pipe may (or ... most likely, may not) be fixed by the end of the week, so I have started to buy water from a young guy who brings a cart of black jerry cans around the estate. We see these guys around the town, lugging these ridiculously heavy loads up the gradual hills, trying to dodge traffic and potholes, pulling the wooden carts in the same way that a donkey would (or should in this case?). I feel a mix of emotions every time I see them, as I think it is the closest thing I have ever seen to slave labour, and then I watch incredulously at their muscles and beads of sweat pouring down their faces. The guy today was no exception, really strong and helpful, I couldn't believe that the water from each jerry can (slightly disconcertingly in an old 'sulphuric acid' container..) costs the equivalent of 10p, including the man's labour.

So, the good news is, our toilets have been flushed, (although a bit depressing to see all that precious water going in one fell swoop- but only temporarily depressing as I look at a nice clean loo) I have done the backload of washing up, and got rid of the ants who were taking over the kitchen, and hopefully have enough water for the lovely lady, Pamela, who helps with the hand washing on Wednesdays. And, even more excitingly, I am travelling to meet David for the remainder of the 'Water and Sanitation' training tomorrow, and he tells me (not rubbing it in, of course...) that there are hot showers in the accomodation... bliss.
Dr Roger (the man) has agreed to house sit whilst we're away- feel that he gets a bit of a rotten deal with the current water situation but hey, he can play with Dr Roger (the cat) as a consolation.

I'm looking forward to a bit of a break as my patience has been wearing thinner and thinner recently, and during the last few days small things have annoyed me, like waiting almost 2 hours for a taxi, who keeps saying 'I'm coming, I'm just there...' (well, you're clearly NOT).. and the constant 'hey white girl, buy a bag/ bananas/ watch/ whatever' so I will take my sugar sacks and oil paints and hopefully make some more school resources, and brush up on my Luo for the test next week- (2 aims for the test, beat my previous score of 35%, and beat gloating David)
oh, and shower to my hearts content :-)

Posted by africraigs 07:41 Comments (0)

Field Trips

and other political issues

semi-overcast 26 °C

The REAP team were off on a field trip again yesterday, and unlike many so-called ‘field trips’, we do basically spend much of the time in peoples’ actual fields viewing their handiwork and how they have implemented REAP techniques, giving advice and even getting our hands dirty.
The first part of the journey usually involves public transport in a matatu, and I was sitting in one now listening to the Congolese beats, squashed by the window which wouldn’t open despite the building heat. I was the lucky one, as the skinny guy next to me didn’t even have a seat, he was sitting in the space in-between 2 seats, partly on my seat and partly on someone else’s seat. George (my REAP colleague) and I were at the ‘stage’ in Kisumu where all the buses and matatus from the region congregate, and it is a very noisy, busy, confusing place. Hawkers are busy weaving in and out of the vans, bikes, people and small street dukas (‘shops’). The hawkers proffered their wares into the matatu windows and doors hoping to tempt us travellers. It seems you can buy an entire wardrobe while sitting uncomfortably in your seat – hankies, vest-tops (wife-beaters), socks (nice looking ones), earings, hairbands (made in China from plastic). Pirated gospel albums, torches, padlocks and reading glasses are all available if you suddenly realise your need for such an item. Actually, my pen had stopped writing as I had used it to try to pry open the difficult window (unsuccessfully), and so I did realise my need for one. Like a miracle, at that very moment, a hawker passed carrying a cardboard box with plenty of red, black and blue pens. As the matatu pulled off, having filled itself up with passengers, I managed to hand over my 20 bob, receive my fake BIC ‘Beifa’, and get my 10 bob change.
We managed to squeeze 21 passengers into the van built for 14 including the two touts who resorted to hanging out the door holding their folded shilling notes threaded between their fingers.
One of the things causing matatu drivers a headache regularly is the presence of the policemen in their blue-shirted uniforms waving their batons at the on-coming vans. As this latest obstacle waved us down, we slow down, but never stopped. This made me figure that the obligatory 100 bob (80p) bribe had been paid which is done ever so very subtly by dropping it at the side of road. I have been told that the subtlety of the bribe is of the utmost importance and that white people are very obvious when they do it. I have also been told that the police will be out more often when term-time starts and everyone needs to find money for their childrens’ school fees.
Bribery is endemic in this country. REAP have been trying to go through the legal process of buying land for demonstrating natural medicines and other important plants and techniques. Yesterday, the REAP co-ordinator Rosalia was told that she could pay 5000 shillings (around £50) to get the process finished by the landboard straight away instead of waiting till June. However, this money ‘would not be receipted’, code for paying a bribe. At the moment, Kenya is hosting the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Ocampo, who is looking into the post-election violence in 2008, when the government were highly implicated with promoting tribal tensions for their own gains. Hopefully he will make some difference while he is here as it is high time that things in this country (where 80% of people claim to be Christians) are brought into the open to face truth and justice where only the poor people suffer because of so much malpractice.
Anyway, these issues frustrate and annoy me here, please pray for this country and many like it in Africa where the small fish constantly get exploited by the big fish.
So, I will share some photos from the field trip yesterday. On Sunday, we visited a lovely family who live in Manyatta, the slum area, and who generously gave us a very expensive juice costing a tenth of the cost of their rent! I have added their photo.
I will also share with you some expressions that we have found people saying which make us laugh. (I have no idea what type of things we say in Luo or Swahili that causes laughter, though I am sure plenty more. For example, it easy to get kunywa in Swahili mixed up with kunya. The first means to drink, the latter means to pee).
Luos are very diplomatic people, so we have often heard people say, “It is the same, but different”.
“Yes, welcome inside the chicken”, mixing up the big feathered bird with the word for kitchen.
“We need the Holy Siprit”
There was also a very poor spelling of burger on the menu the other day, though Emma has told me it’s too rude to write it here.
George Abura and his family whom we visited on Sunday

George Abura and his family whom we visited on Sunday

REAP field worker (my colleague), Sam Ouma and his characteristic smile

REAP field worker (my colleague), Sam Ouma and his characteristic smile

Alan Metho, keen REAP participant with wife (one of the ladies) and his moringa tree

Alan Metho, keen REAP participant with wife (one of the ladies) and his moringa tree

A child care centre, presumably for big babies (or maybe posh babies)

A child care centre, presumably for big babies (or maybe posh babies)

Wizened features of this Mama farmer

Wizened features of this Mama farmer

Broody clouds: it's rainy season

Broody clouds: it's rainy season

Pretty red flower in unexpected places

Pretty red flower in unexpected places

Man taking his load of scrap metal to market

Man taking his load of scrap metal to market

Posted by africraigs 12:05 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Body Parts

semi-overcast 26 °C

We had a Swahili test today set by Joash, the friendly teacher. His co-worker ‘Wolf-Features’ (Hosea) was also there chipping in with any terms that Joash couldn’t quite remember.
Part of the test was on naming parts of the body (viungo vya mwili), but somehow contained some things that we hadn’t learned. This didn’t seem to bother Joash, as he explained that through the test, we had now learned new vocabulary: armpit (kuapa) and navel (kitovu).
He also was telling us that he will secretly teach us about the names of the private parts, although he himself didn’t even know them as talking about things like that is a very discreet thing here. Interesting lessons ahead, then…

Emma was very encouraged this week with her school resources that she has been making. She took with her some finished resources to show a community orphans nursery out in the sticks which she has contact with (Orongo). Her bottle-top abacus was an instant hit with the teacher there as she starting using it to teach the nippers about number values up to 10. The teacher then left to go and breast-feed her 4 month old leaving Em in charge of the class. Florence, in charge of the orphanage set-up, is really keen on Emma’s ideas of using locally available material to make resources for the kids to encourage their learning.
Emma's Abacus helps with number learning

Emma's Abacus helps with number learning

Emma's number chart getting used

Emma's number chart getting used

Emma and baby Inga (named after a Swede)

Emma and baby Inga (named after a Swede)

My week has been interesting as well. I am learning a bit about a permaculture concept being introduced by Harry, a mzungu (white guy) from England out for a few months. One of the concepts is of a key-hole garden, so called because of the shape. It is designed for those with limited space to grow vegetables and herbs near their home, Down the centre, your compost is thrown which adds to the fertility of the soil and feeds worms within the garden. Harry is also bringing in the concept of producing electricity from a small windmill, used to charge up a battery. I am hoping to learn how to do this too! When a nuclear disaster occurs and everything gets destroyed, I will be prepared to be self-sufficient!
Harry's Keyhole Garden

Harry's Keyhole Garden


This week, I was also out in the field visiting Mahanga (somewhere in the hills north of Kisumu). We visited a lady called Roda and another called Rispa. One of the exciting things about Mama Rispa is that she is the proud owner of Dr Roger, the goat, named after Dr Roger the man, my boss. He was pretty stubborn, though and wouldn’t let me get a proper shot of him. Roda showed us around her small farm and had a variety of local medicinal plants she told us about. One of the ferny bushes caught my imagination. Supposedly, it is meant to attract customers to your business when it is hung above your shop entrance.
The matatu trip

The matatu trip

Rispa and her husband with the REAP team

Rispa and her husband with the REAP team

Dr Roger, the old goat

Dr Roger, the old goat

Roda in her farm showing off her plants

Roda in her farm showing off her plants

The fern that will attract customers

The fern that will attract customers


Tomorrow, we are supposedly meeting a friend, George Abura to visit his church in the shanty town area which starts at 8am and probably goes on for another 5 hours so I better get to my kip…

Posted by africraigs 12:41 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Showers of blessing

pouring again

storm 25 °C

It poured this evening, about 60mm of rain in about 1 and a half hours, which compared to the average rainfall of 50mm in the whole of May in Edinburgh, shows you the intensity of it here. The rainfall has an annoying tendancy to interrupt cable TV beamed from South Africa, which meant that I had to stop watching Man U v Sunderland in the local hang-out. In the time it took me to run home, I was soaked to the skin already. The storms also often affects the electricity, so off that went as well while we were making dinner. It makes for a nice romantic dinner by candle-light, though… Rain here is called 'baraka' which means blessing. I wonder if that idea will ever take off in the UK.
There has been rain everyday for the last week or so which is great for my garden which is looking particularly lush – we have started harvesting greens – kale (eaten all the time here), amaranth and cowpea leaves are ready to be thrown into the pot. We are waiting for the maize, sorghum, beans, coriander and other veggies and herbs to be ready. We also have some tasty fruits like cantaloupe beginning to flower, so I am excited about that juicy thought. Getting involved practically with planting your own food is the only way to actually start to get to grips with understanding what so many people in East Africa rely on for their sole income and food source. I have also been trialling seeds from ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organisation) whom I studied with in November and December last year, to see if there are any plant varieties that can produce a bigger and better crop.
How does your garden grow?

How does your garden grow?

Before all the rain today, we went round to our local vegetable lady’s house to visit her family. She had invited Emma and I round after Emma had given her a banana cake she had made. It is so nice to be invited to local peoples’ houses. Her name is Polly and the only trip her husband has ever made on a plane was to Aberdeen, strangely enough, where he was involved in a teacher-exchange programme. Polly works extremely hard to make ends meet, visiting the wholesale market at 6am to buy her wares, then sitting at her stand till 8pm, 6 days a week.
Polly's kids: Bianca, Chelsea (the dad's favourite team...) and Fidel Castro (seriously)

Polly's kids: Bianca, Chelsea (the dad's favourite team...) and Fidel Castro (seriously)


Emma wanted me to blog that she is getting on well with her school resources that she is making out of local materials and scrap. She finished her abacus this week from bottle tops, which looks great, though she has a long list of various useful teaching aids to produce in the next few months. She particularly likes her husband’s help in such technical areas as sawing straight or hitting nails in without bending them.
Emma and Becky make blackboards

Emma and Becky make blackboards

Bottle-top Abacus with model

Bottle-top Abacus with model

We have struggled a bit to find a church that doesn’t burst our eardrums when the preacher points and shouts down the microphone at everyone. The church we made it to last week made Em burst into tears with the noise! There seems to be a lot of emphasis on prosperity teaching as well – the idea that things are going to get better and better for you and your business as long as you have enough faith.

Driving around in matatus continues to add excitement to our lives, with a near miss head-on collision with a tractor… Everyone was heckling the driver after that and I think some people rightly refused to pay.

Another highlight of this week was failing our Luo test for having learned the wrong information. We studied numbers – and now know numbers up to 100,000, but there is a bit of discrepancy as to what 1 million is in Luo… In case you are curious, achiel is 1, ariyo is 2, adek is 3, angwen is 4 and abich is 5 (make sure you say this one right…). For the test, we both were stumped when it came to remembering what cooking stick was (oluodh kuon).

Oh, and I am now the proud owner of some Obama underpants bought at the side of the road. Barack Obama’s heritage is from around these parts and you can also buy Obama bubblegum with his face on it and t-shirts as well as find schools and gates named after this most famous of Luos.
Obama is pants

Obama is pants

Posted by africraigs 12:06 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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