A Travellerspoint blog

November 2010

A Certificate in Corruption

sunny 29 °C

Having a new-born baby in the house has given me another reason for being grumpy in the mornings. Not just that though, sometimes the ‘system’ also makes me grumpy…’

The last week I have made it my mission to get all the documents needed that the British High Commission require for little Amelie to get her ‘baby passport.’ We need this official booklet for her to travel out of Kenya, which means we require it before our flight booked for the 24th of January next year. It may seem a long way away, but it is only about 9 weeks away, something which makes me nervous, especially considering how long things can take to process.

Additionally, once the High Commission in Nairobi have all the documents, they send them all to South Africa for processing, the passport returning in 6 weeks. And then, even before sending for processing in South Africa, all 3 of us have to show up in Nairobi for an interview (whatever for, I don’t really know). So, I knew we were already battling for time. Amelie did her part by coming on her due date, but it still didn’t give us much time to spare.

The most important document in the process is Amelie’s birth certificate. Before getting this, the birth notification from hospital has to get to the District Commissioner’s office in town.

This wasn’t straightforward, as the forms are only sent at the end of each month from the hospital, and the hospital has very strict ‘procedures’. Eventually, I spoke to the person who sent the forms to the district commissioner’s office where the birth certificates get processed. He allowed me to take the birth notification in person, giving me the contact of a guy there who would help me.

That sounded straight-forward and I thanked God for how it was working out. Next on the list, I had to get that birth certificate processed asap. The guy in the office who was called ‘Rasta’ by everyone (due to his hairstyle), told me that because I wanted the certificate pronto, it was obviously cost more money. Instead of the 150 shillings (about £1.20), it would cost 5000 shillings (£40). Knowing nothing about the way things work for a birth certificate, I agreed, handing over the cash, but asking him to make sure I get a receipt.

Rasta phoned me to tell me the birth certificate was ready the next day, which was incredible! I had told a few of my Kenyan friends about the situation of needing the birth certificate and how much it would cost. They were shocked at the price for the birth certificate and were a little suspicious. Sensing a dodgy deal, my colleague Sam said he would accompany me to pick up the certificate and claim the official receipt to make sure everything was in order.

On going to the office, the Rasta noticed me and clocked Sam as well. He produced the certificate, whereupon I insisted on the receipt. Strangely, he didn’t have it, but told us to wait, while he went to another office to pick up the receipt. On coming back, he gave me the receipt, but seemed edgy and nervous. He didn’t leave us, but was keen on speaking to Sam and told him so in Luo (the local language).

Sitting down together, Rasta talked at length with Sam in Luo. I could only pick up bits and pieces, so was only partly aware of what was going on. Incredibly, though, Rasta was confessing everything to Sam, saying that the whole thing was a scam in collusion with the man at hospital and the man who wrote the receipt from the different office.
Sitting there, I found it a pretty weird experience to be part of, I felt quite awkward and somehow sad at the situation.
It turned out that Rasta believed Sam to be a part of the Kenya Anti-Corruption team and was extremely worried about his job. He knew that we could go to his superior and explain what had taken place, costing him his job. Without any compulsion, he gave back the money. Sam told me later Rasta was so worried, he would probably have given us 4 times that amount if we had pushed him. However, Sam and I told him as Christians, we were able to forgive, only that he needs to watch what he is doing at work from now on. He never knows who he is trying to scam next…

So, that was that, face-to-face with corruption in the heart of the Kenyan government system. A corruption that rots the country and stops it from moving forward. A local newspaper reported that an adult Kenyan pays around 16 bribes a month. In fact, I understand that a significant proportion of what an average Kenyan earns goes towards bribes and paying the ‘system’. I see it most often when matatu (bus) drivers and their touts leave 100 shillings in the palm of the police (ever so subtly) when the police stop them on the road. Kenya is near the top of the most corrupt countries in the world, a fact which the newspapers attest to daily. The amount of scandals and allegations about missing money makes me angry every time I pick up the paper or watch the news. Missing money for free primary school education or missing money for maize for a needy population. How can people be so callous and greedy? Kenya is a country where 80% of the people say they are Christian. It is hard to believe, if it is true, then Christians need to start following the values of God who says: Deuteronomy 25:16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

The corruption busting baby

The corruption busting baby

Amelie and mum in the sun

Amelie and mum in the sun

Amelie after first bath

Amelie after first bath

Amelie's favourite dad

Amelie's favourite dad

Posted by africraigs 11:27 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Amelie Zuri Shee

The last week has been the most intense week of my life, with every emotion experienced under the sun, from ecstasy, to unbearable pain, to frustration, fear, disappointment, joy, relief, love, faith, exhaustion, confusion, and thankfulness beyond belief ...
This time last week we had been invited to visit our whacky Hawaiian friend Joe in the evening, and were walking in the dark through puddles and rubbish, and probably sewage to his house because the matatus had stopped running at 8... Not long after returning home at 11, I went into labour! We were picked up and went to the house of our lovely South African midwife friend, Karin at 3am for the early stage of labour. At about 8am, we decided it was time for the hospital. I won't bore you with too much information about the labour but there were questionable levels of competence at the hospital from the word go, which made us feel very uneasy throughout the whole labour, especially knowing the baby had the cord around the neck. We can't begin to express our gratitude for Karin and Dianne, who helped to bring our daughter into the world, and I can't bear to think how things might have turned out had they not been there. It's a strange and humbling feeling being so indebted to people, and knowing that we can never thank them enough or repay their kindness.
midwife Karin

midwife Karin


Dianne

Dianne

We have learnt so much through this weird time, seeing how God provides in amazing ways, and seeing His faithfulness regardless of human errors. So the long and the short of it is that our beautiful baby girl arrived last Thursday at 1.14pm in Kisumu, Kenya weighing 3kg exactly or 6lb 6oz. baby1.jpgbaby2.jpg

We were surprised that our daughter was very punctual and arrived on her due date- (obviously not taking after her Dad...).

Her name is Amelie Zuri Shee, the name Amelie derives from 'Emma', and can mean 'hard working' or 'work', 'Zuri' is Kiswahili for 'good' and 'beautiful' and 'Shee' is the Gaelic for 'Peace' as in Glen Shhe (although the real Gaelic spelling is Sith, a spelling we really didn't want...!), so we have dedicated her name as meaning the 'beautiful work of God'. Her birthday was Rememberance day and it seems a good time to remember all the good things we have experienced over the last year.

Having a baby here in Kisumu has been a whole new can of worms in terms of cultural differences which has added another layer of confusion to an already exhausting and overwhelming time. Some of the memorable things from the last week have been:

  • No rules about visitors on hospital- even during labour, so we had various faces popping in to watch during labour- (even at the moment of Amelie entering the world) which was a bit awkward...
  • The man came to take my order for lunch and dinner, again, during labour- and seemed completely unfazed that I was semi naked and could barely speak when he was asking whether I wanted goat stew with ugali or rice...
  • The babies were wrapped in hospital clothes which were fleece babygrows and then 3 blankets (despite being 30C)

We have also discovered that we have made many cultural faux pas in Luo culture since leaving the hospital, firstly, I should be imprisoned in the house for 2 weeks, not leaving it once, and should be bombarded with visitors who will sit for hours- this sounds to me like a recipe for a breakdown and when we are out and about people say with an incredulous face 'you are walking??!'
Secondly, David has now become even more of spectacle than now that whenever he carries the baby he is stared at and questioned, laughed at etc, because men here would not carry the baby. It is beginning to annoy him, and sure it will continue to annoy him... ( beware of future ranting blogs...)
People here have very strong ideas which are a mix of old wives tales, truth and strong opinions, but mainly old wives tales, so every day I am bombarded with people telling me what and what not to do, to eat, to do with my baby, how I shouldn't be wearing a bra at this time, how I should wear a tight belt around my belly, how I should drink milk to make more milk for the baby, how I should feed the baby continuously, and of course, her name should be 'Achieng' because she was born at midday.
Life here seems to be one saga after another at the moment, from trying to get initial injections for the baby which was a disorganised nightmare, to David trying to get the birth certificate for Amelie which could be a whole blog entry in itself.
Anyway, forgive us this once as today we are those annoying people who upload loads of newborn baby pics... we are really enjoying our daughter and are so thankful for her safe arrival :-)Special visit by the big mamas convention of Kisumu

Special visit by the big mamas convention of Kisumu


sunflower1

sunflower1

Amelie dreams of having big curly locks like her dad

Amelie dreams of having big curly locks like her dad

In the garden with dad

In the garden with dad

baby7.jpgbaby6.jpgbaby4.jpgbaby3.jpg

Posted by africraigs 10:59 Comments (0)

'Damage the white man'

Sorry it's been a while, we have been relatively busy with various everyday things here, but not many of them seem news or blogworthy.
Since our last blog... we have renewed our visas, witnessed several hairy road incidents- (I saw a school bus hurtling down a hill with screaming school girls tumbling out of the door onto the road- apparantly the hand brake had been removed and the driver wasn't in the bus..) I have helped with several more school resource making workshops,

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...and David has been sweating and slogging away at the new REAP land.

David has been involved in a local football team which has been a mixed experience. He played an away game with them the other weekend and had to be taken off as the opposite team were saying to each other 'damage the white man and the Asian'. Nice.

With a week to go before the baby's due date, we find ourselves in a weird limbo time of waiting, slightly anxiously, on tenterhooks, unable to make serious plans or commitments, but also keen to keep busy. The hospital system here has been an eye opener, to say the least, and 2 phrases which spring to mind are 'trying to get blood out of a stone' and 'wild goose chase'... when information from staff seems hard to obtain and systems and procedures seem unclear and confusing. We are feeling a bit nervous about delivery here, especially knowing the baby has the cord around its neck, but are feeling really thankful and appreciative of a lovely South African midwife who has said she will come with us, and another lovely lady, Dianne, who is happy to assist.

We had a visit from one of the REAP trustees, Veronica,
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last week, which was good, especially chatting to her and seeing her enthusiasm for some of the places she saw and people she met...

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The REAP boss, Dr Roger also visited and has taken a new interest in shopkeeping... DSC_2198

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Meanwhile, the other Dr Roger is expecting kittens! It's going to be a busy house... and we can't wait for our own little one to be here safe and sound...

Posted by africraigs 06:13 Comments (0)

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