A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Train, no rain

sunny 26 °C

Emma told me to rant about the water situation on the blog, as it will help get things off my chest instead of punching things. Somehow, the pipes are dry once again. Man, it is so stressful especially because I feel so frustrated. It has been almost 2 months now where we have to rely on waterboys to carry hydrochloride acid jerry cans to fill our containers with water. 2 months of dragging water up the stairs to flush the toilets and washing from a basin crouched down in the bathroom. Water issues here make me really appreciate all the rain in Scotland, I feel like running naked in the driech and drizzle when we get back.

Anyway, that is our home in Kisumu. On Wednesday, I travelled to Nairobbery to meet with our first visitor from Edinburgh off the plane – Jordan (known to me as Katie Price). It is his first time in Africa, so it is quite exciting for him. I found it great to hear another Scottish accent and speak to someone who knows what Irn Bru is and who Partick Thistle are.
Me atop KICC overlooking Nairobi

Me atop KICC overlooking Nairobi

Jordan atop Kenya International Conference Centre

Jordan atop Kenya International Conference Centre

Kenya International Conference Centre and Jomo Kenyata, 1st President

Kenya International Conference Centre and Jomo Kenyata, 1st President


We took the train back from Nairobi, which isn’t the way to travel if you want a rapid inter-city transfer. But it definitely is the way to travel for a bit of adventure in an old colonial sleeper train. It was crazy as it had the ancient cutlery from 1910 or something like that when we were served in the dining cabin. The scenery was very picturesque when we woke up in the morning travelling through the Rift Valley with the sun rising over the peaks. After leaving the train station in Nairobi, it was a very weird experience to pass so close to all the tinned shacks in the shanty town of Kibera. It was really hard to imagine living in such desperate conditions where sewage is flowing openly and the housing is so jam-packed.
Travelling through Kibera slum

Travelling through Kibera slum

Jordan in train-ing

Jordan in train-ing

Train Station somewhere en route

Train Station somewhere en route

The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery

Meandering Train in morning sun

Meandering Train in morning sun

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery

Railway Scenery


Jordan seems to have settled quickly into his new life in Kisumu, he hasn’t been fazed by our water issues or by being called ‘mzungu’ everywhere. In fact, he has done well to be quickly picking up Swahili phrases, introducing himself as Jordan Bahookie to new friends as no one knows any better. I will let him speak for himself as a guest blogger nex time and you can get his perspective...

Posted by africraigs 12:37 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Round the rim of Lake Victoria

semi-overcast 28 °C

Emma and I travelled to visit my REAP co-worker Sam who lives in the Asembo area, a couple of hours away in the middle of the countryside. We stayed a night there and felt the peacefulness and solitude of being out in the sticks. It is a very different feel to the town, things are much more relaxed. It feels like you have gone back in time as well where people are living in a more traditional way on their compounds.
Sam and his family were a great host to us and really looked after us. We also visited REAP contacts in the area and popped into a local school to see what happens in a rural school on a day to day basis. Emma led all the kids in a silly song about monkeys and crocodiles. I was made to be the crocodile catching and eating the children, though I'm sure the kids have never seen a crocodile with such big hair.
Sam and Emma chat on hyena rock

Sam and Emma chat on hyena rock

Emma plays with chubby little Alice, Sam's daughter

Emma plays with chubby little Alice, Sam's daughter

Empty Market Stalls in Asembo

Empty Market Stalls in Asembo

Smiley Family in Asembo

Smiley Family in Asembo

Colourful maize harvest,Asembo

Colourful maize harvest,Asembo


We also took the opportunity while out that direction to head even further out along the rim of Lake Victoria to a place called Mbita, a small town right on the edge of the water and requiring a ferry ride to reach it. We knew of a lovely, serene resort there and stayed a night to recharge a little. Strangely, the resort is run by a Norwegian guy called 'Odd' and includes a lighthouse that he built which you can pay extra to stay in. The scenery is very reminiscent of Scotland's west coast - islands and bluish hills in the distance, so it felt like I was back home.
Relaxed at the resort

Relaxed at the resort

Relaxed at the edge of Lake Victoria with the lighthouse in the background

Relaxed at the edge of Lake Victoria with the lighthouse in the background

A Dhow plys its trade in the evening light on Lake Victoria

A Dhow plys its trade in the evening light on Lake Victoria

Local Ferry on Lake Victoria

Local Ferry on Lake Victoria

Interesting message on dhow on Lake Victoria: '<em>oh truly they have found me quilty but through Jah proved my innocency'</em>

Interesting message on dhow on Lake Victoria: '<em>oh truly they have found me quilty but through Jah proved my innocency'</em>


A weird coincidence happened when we were waiting for a matatu at the side of the main road after having been the night at Sam's. We were sitting, watching and waiting when a car pulled to a stop a couple hundred metres down the road and a white man gets out. As he walks towards us, we are wondering why he is interested in us. As he comes closer, however, we start to realise that it is Kevin McKemey, a humble, wise man with big responsibilities for advising NGOs, the World Bank and UN about the effectiveness of their development programs. We know him from Emma's family church in Greyfriars. These coincidences happen occasionally and are mind-boggling...
Chance meetings with old friends in the middle of nowhere

Chance meetings with old friends in the middle of nowhere

Posted by africraigs 06:13 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Bumpety Bump!

sunny 26 °C

We are so excited to share with you that we are expecting a baby! The last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster, from discovering we were pregnant, to nearly losing it, to seeing him/ her waving on the ultra scan last week. The baby has survived many potholes, hairy motorbike & matatu rides & general stress, and has managed to dodge malaria so far, and we are just hoping and praying that he or she will continue to be strong and healthy over the next 5 months. (Due early Nov!)

Being pregnant here has heightened my sensitivity and awareness of what the average Kenyan woman faces through pregnancy. Women here (particularly rurally) seem to display a supernatural strength, which I can only watch in disbelief as I wilt in the heat and feel dizzy in queues. Women are expected to continue carrying heavy jerry cans of water throughout the pregnancy, cook for the husband in the roasting tin of the kitchen, work the field in the blazing sun, not to mention caring for numerous other children.

We heard on the news the other night about how in the north of Kenya (Turkana), there is 1 medical specialist to 50,000 people and the average distance between health facilities is 50 km. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this means most women give birth at home without any medical support, and therefore the number of deaths related to childbirth and pregnancy is extremely high.

I feel a mixture of emotions in response to these observations and statistics, selfishly, I feel lucky or blessed to have health insurance and choices, ultrasounds and check ups, I also feel a bit guilty, and confused as to why my experience of pregnancy is so different from a majority of the women here, and why the value of life seems to vary in different cultures.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a happy blog entry so I will stop my dreary ramblings, and post some pictures instead…
Fuzzy ultrasound pic

Fuzzy ultrasound pic

My new work place

My new work place

Feeling caternal

Feeling caternal

Posted by africraigs 06:05 Comments (0)

Siendani uru

and other riotous ocassions

sunny 29 °C

This evening, I was returning from football through the bustling, haphazard traffic and noise of Kisumu town on the back of my piki-piki ride with 'motorbike-boy'. Looking around, I felt how much I enjoyed being a part of this crazy community most of the time - with all its buzz, creativity and energy.

Other times, it can get a bit overwhelming, wearing or maddening. Like when you go out of your gate and all the children notice you yelling 'Mzungu, how are you?' in their bright voices over and over and over again. Or the myriad money magnets who are attracted to the white skin-man and several times a day you are hassled for straight cash or to buy them something. Or the problem of there being no water in the pipes for the 5th or 6th day straight, so you need to buy water from the human donkeys who ply their trade by lugging a trailer of filled water containers from home to home. All the effort they make earns them about 10pence a water container - about a pound a trailer...
Water-boy

Water-boy


One of the incredbile qualities of people that I have noticed time and time again in Africa, is their survivabilty skills. In the face of problems such as lack of water, people get on tirelessly with life often having a clever, creative solution.

Recently, though, Emma inadvertently came face-to-face with a less savoury face of Africa. Emma's matatu travelling to town was suddenly surrounded by numerous street-boys with angry faces carrying rocks grasping through the windows of the vehicle to trying their best to grab whatever they could. They were taking advantage of a security issue, a stand-off between matatu operators and police. At this point, all the passengers had no choice but to get out the matatu and start walking to work, no matatus were driving anywhere. `Instead, a convoy of riot police with shields and guns pointed were travelling to the 'stage' where the buses converge. As Emma walked with the crowd of other commuters, her eyes stung from tear gas. Later, she also found out that bullets had been fired into the air, while a police car had been set on fire. Needless to say, Em was late for her voluntary work at a local school, and was a little afraid.

Thankfully, things are calm now and REAP were displaying their teaching at a local university, Maseno last week, where a 'Women and Climate Change' topic was being hosted. REAP's stand attracted crowds of visitors, which was encouraging. Emma displayed her teaching resources made of recycled material. Much of REAP's teaching is relevant to climate change as it encourages good stewardship of the environment.
Em talking to a tall Danish lady about making low cost school resources

Em talking to a tall Danish lady about making low cost school resources

REAP display at Climate Change conference

REAP display at Climate Change conference

Sharing knowledge...

Sharing knowledge...

Susie and her sanitary project (and a weirdo in the background)

Susie and her sanitary project (and a weirdo in the background)

Talking to people at Maseno climate change conference

Talking to people at Maseno climate change conference

Another story about living in Kenya, and then Im finished...Joash, our Swahili & Luo teacher was reviewing body parts in Luo with us. He told us that 'siendani' is the word for 'bottom' and then explained that it is very important for us to know such words. He illustrated that point by telling us that there was an American preacher who had wanted to make a bit of an effort with the language and so asked on the streets what a good greeting would be for the congregation. He was told to greet the congregation with 'siendani uru' which is what he did. What he had said was 'your bottom to all of you', a very rude thing to say in Luo! Supposedly no one knew where to look or what to do after he had said it, but I would loved to have seen that preacher's face when he heard what he had been told!

Posted by africraigs 14:04 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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