A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

New Beginnings in a New Kenya

semi-overcast 27 °C


‘Kenya Reborn’

was the headline in the Daily Nation as President Kibaki signed in Kenya’s new constitution in a celebration in Nairobi on Friday the 27th of August. The new constitution is meant to usher in more equality, justice and accountability, things that the people of Kenya have never really had. The constitution had been passed in a peaceful referendum by the people of Kenya a few weeks before hand. Mwai Kibabki called it ‘the dawn of a new era’ in his speech.
It is exciting to be in Kenya while these potential seismic shifts in a country’s direction are taking place. I just hope and pray that things do change for the better for the common man, that the country as a whole can start moving forward for the good of everyone (not to line the leaders’ pockets).
We are really pleased that this event has not seen any violence this time round, though a number of foreigners were leaving the country early just in case .

It is also exciting to be part of a new event for REAP as well. A kindly soul, a friend of ours, who wishes to remain nameless (obviously a humble soul as well), donated a significant sum to us through Pioneers. Tempted to use it all on a beach holiday in Mombasa, we were brought to our senses and decided to use the cash on motorbikes for Sam and George, the male field staff for REAP here in Kisumu. REAP have been interested in acquiring piki-pikis for many years, so it has been really encouraging to the Kisumu staff here as it should make a real difference in the work. Taking public transport can be quite a hassle, sitting a long time waiting for a matatu to fill up, or haggling at a junction about the price of a piki-piki taxi ride. The motorbikes have a large rack which can be used for carrying plant material for planting at someone’s farm.

I have joined Sam and George doing motorbike lessons which has been an interesting experience. Most of the road- users either with motorbikes or in cars don’t have licenses, but it seems important to get trained up properly. That doesn’t stop training being another cultural insight. Theory, for example, is exactly what it says it is, theoretical. There is no practical application for the lessons in real life…The various road signs that we need to know are never encountered on the roads. I especially like the sign for bumpy road ahead, which you could put up anywhere. The sign for youth hostel is strange, seeing as there are none in Kenya either.
Irrelevant roadsigns

Irrelevant roadsigns

Driver training on the 'model town', though obviously not a model Kenyan town, in my experience

Driver training on the 'model town', though obviously not a model Kenyan town, in my experience


The practical side of things is strange to me as well, one of the things we were encouraged to do was to bring in our own motorbikes to train on. I couldn’t understand how you were suppose to ride them from the shop to the training ground without any training. Next, we have been allowed to ride around on our motorbikes around town without much worry. I have found that a little hairy, but a very good way to learn quickly! The road out to the training site passes the airport and there are a lot of large trucks and matatus on that route.

Sam starts to get the hang of things at training

Sam starts to get the hang of things at training

George takes Sam on a ride at training

George takes Sam on a ride at training

George seems to have been doing his spacecraft training

George seems to have been doing his spacecraft training


The matatus are somewhat disconcerting, it is a wee bit frightening to see them fly towards you in your lane as they do an overtaking manouevure, expecting anyone in the way to move out of their way.
Anyway, apart from these incidental things, we have our test tomorrow! I am not too worried about it as I have grown confident riding the mad streets of Kisumu.

Here are a couple of photos of the motorbike training. One of the photos shows one of the green off-road bikes we have bought.
Dr Roger the cat is a bit of a speed-freak

Dr Roger the cat is a bit of a speed-freak

Emma and I have been particularly encouraged by other gifts from the UK, a couple of packages from Greyfriars church in Reading in the form of Claire and Sarah.
The pretty girls

The pretty girls


They have been using their creativity and enthusiasm to help design and paint a mural at the orphans’ nursery school which Em has been involved at. The kids and their voluntary teachers have all been helping, giving ideas, painting and cleaning up brushes. It has been a real boost to the esteem of the teachers seeing their classroom come to life with a large Noah’s ark floating on the wall.

DSC_2082_2

DSC_2082_2


Joy teaching how to handprint

Joy teaching how to handprint


Painting the classroom

Painting the classroom


Sarah and the number snake

Sarah and the number snake


Claire's door

Claire's door


Caleb's number snake

Caleb's number snake


Outside number snake

Outside number snake


DSC_2073

DSC_2073


DSC_2076_2

DSC_2076_2


DSC_2080_2

DSC_2080_2

The girls have been great guests, we have a laugh together while playing bananagrams and they have enjoyed the good and ugly sides of Kenyan life with us. Thankfully, we have had plenty of water through the taps which has made life so much less hassle for them and us. It means there is always enough water to wash hair, a very crucial part of life, I have come to realize.
When we have visitors, Em and I appreciate what a blessing it is to have so many people interested in us and the work that we are involved in out here in Kenya. Thanks!

Posted by africraigs 22:07 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Africa: Life in the Raw

Chickens and other wild animals

semi-overcast 26 °C

I like to reflect on what makes life here in Kenya so much of a contrast to life back in Scotland. Recently, I have realised a little more that life for most people here is life in the raw. This thought crystallised most of all the other day when I was initiated a little more in the African lifestyle by slaughtering my first chicken. The chicken was given to us as a gift for dinner, but being a live one, obviously required a bit of work before it could become a meal. That we white people have no idea what to do with a live chicken to make it ready for earing always causes a surprised look on your average Kenyan, showing how normal it is for them.
David killing chicken for dinner

David killing chicken for dinner


The whole act of killing and preparing the chicken is quite a gruesome experience, something that I mostly did not enjoy at all, apart from the pride in having done it and having something new to boast about. However, having to slice through the neck of any living creature (especially with a blunt knife...), watching the blood pulsate out of the throat, removing intestines with my bare hands and cutting away the bird's anus brings you right down to the nitty-gritty of life. I think I am now quite intimate with the gory details of a chicken's digestive tract.
Anyway, the point is, is that this type of thing is just a normal, day-by-day occurrence here in Africa, demonstrating in one small example, how far apart our lifestyles in the West contrast. The word that came into my head when I thought of how life works in the UK, was 'sanitised'. We aren't really a hands-on, getting our hands dirty type of culture. Here, though, many people are still living 'life in the raw'. This aspect of life is pervasive throughout all of the culture here.
(Personally, it may be a bit less exciting, but just now I think I prefer the sanitised life of the West, things are much easier most of the time...I like buying my 2lb cold chicken from the refridgerated section of Morrissons).

So, from killing one animal for food, to preserving animals for tourism, we took an excursion to a Lake Nakuru National Park on one of the last days of Emma's family's time in Kenya. Nakuru is on the way to Nairobi, so it made sense to divert there for a couple of days indulging in the natural beauty that makes Kenya famous the world over. DSC_2162.jpg
The day of the tour started off extremely badly, however as the tour guide organised for the early morning start (6:30am), didn't turn up, producing very worried and despondant faces on all of us, especially as this trip was so eagerly anticipated and we were paying good money for it. The guide did turn up later on, however, he had been drinking heavily the night before and was very hung-over. His boss, having been summoned by phone, was very apologetic to us and extremely angry at the errant driver, whom we found out later lost his job.
So we were very relieved to get into the park at all, though our problems didn't stop there, as while driving around, a shock absorber came loose from the underside, clunking noisily against the wheel and forcing us to stop and sort it. Supposedly, this was also the fault of the drunk driver from the night before who had taken the van out and had been driving it for long distances. Break-down

Break-down

Local with the map trying to help us with directions

Local with the map trying to help us with directions


After those mishaps, we were all very ready for our tour through the National Park, which has beautiful landscapes as well as incredible wildlife. It is set in the stunning Rift Valley area of Kenya which contains dramatic scenery. My favourite part of the park were the flamingoes (as pink is my colour), but also because their bright colour can be seen from miles around hugging the fringes of the lake. Flamingoes on show

Flamingoes on show

2DSC_2268.jpgFull of Tourists

Full of Tourists

VIew over Lake Nakuru

VIew over Lake Nakuru

Overlooking the national park from baboon cliff

Overlooking the national park from baboon cliff

You can see why they called this place baboon cliff

You can see why they called this place baboon cliff

A squeaking rock hyrax

A squeaking rock hyrax

Grazing Gazelle

Grazing Gazelle

2 heads are better than one

2 heads are better than one

Looking at you, looking at me. The King of the Beasts

Looking at you, looking at me. The King of the Beasts

Resting at Makalia waterfalls

Resting at Makalia waterfalls

Eerie Trees

Eerie Trees

Lastly, back in Kisumu, Emma wanted to share her experiences of inviting some ladies over for baking, baking using the sun's energy- solar baking. She says it has been one of her highlights of her time here so far, and is a type of baking which suits her style right down to the ground. The reason for this, is that Em's style is a hap-hazard, slap-dash, inexact measurement type of baking (these are her words, not mine), which solar baking at a more grassroots level, happens to be. It is incredible to think when you are eating some cake or bread, that it was baked only with the sun's energy. I wonder if it is an idea that would take off in Scotland....
Lemon cakes

Lemon cakes

Moringa cake

Moringa cake

Sam tucking into solar baked bread

Sam tucking into solar baked bread

Eating

Eating

Solar baking class

Solar baking class

Posted by africraigs 12:50 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Just the two of us...

Empty nest syndrome, and the beat goes on...

One of the best things about having visitors is the supply of treats they bring- we are currently enjoying a packet of minstrels…:-)
One of the worst things about having visitors is the sad, empty, flat feeling when they leave. David and I are alone in the house for the first time in about 7 weeks and I would say it seems very quiet, but the noise from a local club which played continuously in the week of the agricultural show has annoyingly continued into this week too, so beats are still playing ‘til the early hours of the morning.
Still, we have water at the moment so I suppose we shouldn’t complain. We are also fast becoming experts in the best earplugs- (silicon ones are by far the best- they even muffle the sound of an alarm clock).

David wants to write about this weekend, so I will try and upload some pictures of some events in the last week or two…

One of the things I enjoy about having people to visit is hearing their first impressions and observations of life here- in many ways it was quite reassuring to hear how they found the heat draining and how much longer simply living takes. It makes me feel slightly less pathetic for how tiring I can find daily life here. My brother was frustrated with the constant hassling and attention in town, and the whole tipping and subtle -handshake- giving and vague prices baffled them all initially. They all coped and adjusted well though and enthusiastically visited various people and projects. My mum just began to pronounce ‘matatu’ properly by the end of her stay, and my brother developed a liking for ugali (even though he disappointingly mistook it for mash potato in his last night and took a big serving…)

Mama Florence and co. at Orongo

Mama Florence and co. at Orongo

Matthew clowning about

Matthew clowning about

Children at Orongo enjoying a new book

Children at Orongo enjoying a new book

Z at New Life homes

Z at New Life homes

Dom's solar cooker I've borrowed- bring on the solar baking :-)

Dom's solar cooker I've borrowed- bring on the solar baking :-)

Handsome boys

Handsome boys

Me and Zed

Me and Zed

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria

Dad in one of REAPs 'improved kitchens'

Dad in one of REAPs 'improved kitchens'

Visiting improved kitchens in a rural area

Visiting improved kitchens in a rural area

Posted by africraigs 12:00 Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]