-Thousands of zebra
-Herds of wildebeest
-Fat fat hippos
|Me with one buttcheek in Kenya and one in Tanzania!|
-Thousands of zebra
-Herds of wildebeest
-Fat fat hippos
|Me with one buttcheek in Kenya and one in Tanzania!|
Today was technically our last day of placement EVER! The last real day of our masters program (although I still have about a day of paperwork left….thanks UofT). We spent our last day on a ferry to Kisumu (shhhhh….don’t tell she-who-shall-not-be-named). Now we have holed up in a swanky hotel room with ELECTRICITY and RUNNING WATER and a TELEVISION! (for only $15 a night with brekky) while wait to leave for Kakamega rainforest tomorrow. Hi-C pointed out that, even though diarrhea sucks, if you are going to have it then a place called KakaMega would be the place. Fingers crossed for cooperative bowels all around.
We just finished two weeks living and working in rural Kenya (Nyanza province for those curious few) in a town called Mbita on Lake Victoria. Due to limited electricity supplies the blogging has been infrequent and without photos given the slow internet connection. Even with the dust (so dusty!), the bugs, the outdoor toilets and the skirts* I fell in love with the place and the people. Accept this photo diary of Mbita and area so I can procrastinate from doing my final paperwork.
A car just like the one we rode for 2 hours with 11 people and a chicken + screaming baby.
The three of us in the car – Hi-C, me, and SuperJ. It took about 12 tries to get one where superJ felt she was happy enough.
The maize (like corn but tougher, ground into flour for ugali – the Kenya staple food) field on the compound in which we learned to harvest. Our hosts we impressed at how quickly we adapted to African life incomparison to some of their other foreign wageni/visitors.
The sunset over Lake Victoria just down the hill from where we were staying.
Here we are “contributing to research” on the control of tsetse flies on Lake Victoria. Hi-C is pouring water into the bottom of a fancy fly-zapper so the carcasses don’t get away and they can be counted. Sort of morbid, Hi-C.
We went to three schools and worked with some wonderful children. All kids in Kenya wear uniforms to school and it is too cute.
My language assessment materials. With these things you can do naming, numbers, colours, big/small, prepositions, picture identification, reading, story-telling, following directions and more to get an idea of receptive and expressive language skills.
Haiba, the little one at the house where we stayed. Officially the cutest baby in Africa. She acted as a daily reminder of what normal (or above normal) development looks like. Haiba snuggles are the best.
This is what I meant when I said sometimes we roll like William Shatner with the right demographic. Every school we went to required an entire photoshoot – sometimes with hand holding.
Pendo carrying Haiba to the gate of the compound. Haiba is just over 1 year and needs no help to hang on to her sister for a walk around the yard.
Charles, our faithful piki piki driver who drove slowly around Mbita to get us safely to all of our destinations.
The market in town. Every stall was selling the same things (it is called product differentiation people!) – maize, millet, green grams, and a variety of beans.
This is a choo (pronounced cho-oh). If you have never peed in a squatty this is what you have to look forward to in Africa. They are surprisingly often preferable to toilets.
We took a public boat to Mfangano Island, home to the Suba peopl on Lake Victoria. Sometimes the boats were not able (or said they weren’t able) to get right up to the shore. When this happened a group of men would rush the sides of the boat and offer to carry you to shore for 20 bob (about 25 cents). Business men were their best customers. And girls in skirts who didnt’ want to touch water filled with bird poop – we paid for a ride.
Public boats only leave when packed – with people, a motorcycle and 7 crates of white bread (white bread! I curse you!)
The boat ride.
Ancient rock paintings mostly worth the hour hike up a mountain (on Mfangano Island) in the heat. I’m mostly surprised that I have yet to learn that asking a guide if they know the place well before setting out means nothing in Africa. Your guide will get lost. They haven’t been there in 5 or 6 months. We did find it eventually and eat a passion fruit fresh off the tree so all was forgotten 🙂
The other two adorable daughters – Pendo (meaning Love) and Joy all dolled up for church.
Church was a non-negotiable. The girls looked so cute walking there. I bit off all of my finger nails off.
We boated past “bird island”. Named for all the birds (duh). Many of the trees have been choked out by the mass of avian excrement covering their leaves and preventing photosynthesis. We could also see monitor lizards sunning themselves on rocks. If you are unfamiliar with monitor lizards just think of them as little brothers to the komodo dragon – that is if the komodo dragon is a 7ft basketball player and his “little” brother is “only” 6″3.
A small fishing town called Takawiri off shore of Mbita.
We shared a pop with a cheeky little boy (we think boy – clothes are not always a good indicator of gender here) on Takawiri.
We ended the day with coconuts fresh from the tree (that we never actually got to eat but that is a long story….)
*Mbita is a very strict christian place. To be accepted we spent any time outside the compound in long skirts – great for cutting the heat but not great for keeping away thorns or riding motorcycles.
The song “Beverly Hills” by Weezer has been in my head since arriving in this tiny rural town where electricity and beer are hard to come by. Not because of the distinct contrast between Mbita and the famous American zipcode but because of the line “rollin’ like a celebrity”. That is how I feel every day here: like a D-list celebrity. Like Willian Shatner. Hear me out. I’m going to replace the word musungu or “white person” with “William Shatner” for demonstration (bonus – both of us are Canadian).
I suppose Willy isn’t exactly D-List but he is a bit of a joke in the celeb community. When we roll into town we get noticed. Everyone seems to know who we are. People call out to us as we walk by but the tone varies from awe (less common) “William Shatner…oooo!” to Circus freak “pssst – look, it is William SHATner” to taunting contempt “WILLIAM SHATNER! hahahah…..”
People run up to shake our hands when we are walking down the street and sometimes giggle, run away or stand awestruck in our presence “Amosi/How are you?” met by crickets “Ber?/Good?” followed by running away.
Many people see that we are William Shatner and equate that with money* so they try to buddy up in hopes that some of that would transfer to them (“Can I have your shoes/camera/soda/insert my item here?”)**. We quickly lose many friends when they realize we will not be giving our items away.
And, like William, a few people in the right demographic ADORE us. They want to be seen with us, want their photos taken with us, suck up to us and ask to spend more time with us. They pull out all the stops to show off for us.
Oh, the life of a “celebrity”.
*People in Kenya often have an interesting idea of what Canada is like. For example – that everyone is rich and the government gives us all houses. I put it in a term they could understand and things seemed less rosy in Canada. When I get back to Canada I will have no job and a debt equivalent to 2.5million Kenyan Shillings. Oh…..2.5 million sounds daunting to people that usually make less than 10 000 shillings a month.
**We were on a small island on lake Victoria yesterday waiting for the boat to take us back to Mbita. We started a conversation with a local pediatrician about his clinic (including a lesson on why NOT to cut children’s tongues to help them talk). He gave us a tour of the clinic and then inquired if we knew of any Canadian women who were looking for a husband – anyone for him to marry. He had land to offer. I instructed him to check the internet. The offer still stands if you are interested. 50 year old doctor with his own clinic, patch of maize and a good heart seeking Canadian woman.
Two more weeks and we will have completed all the course requirements to be speech-language pathologists in Canada. Most other people in the program will be tying up loose ends, getting ready for the last two weeks in a place that has become very familiar. We just arrived in a new town – a third new place for this internship – to work with a new population and board with new people. So much for ending on a note of confidence!
It is worth it, of course, to see this part of Kenya. Our supervisor was going back and forth about whether she would drive her own vehicle here or if we would take public transport and get “the real Kenya experience”. The real experience it most definitely was. Our first of the three legs of this journey was a comfortable shuttle….which we waited for over an hour to leave because no vehicle here leaves with an empty seat. Other than having to beg (from the back of the shuttle including knocking repeatedly on the sides of the van) to relieve myself this first part was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Kisii looking for a matatu to Homa Bay. A matatu we found. They stuffed the three of us into the back and then a fourth man for good measure. It was at this point that the fact that the ceiling was low, there was no way out the side door due to crowding and my usual planned escape route out the side window was barred off that my anxiety got the best of me and we insisted on seats closer to the front. It was during this exchange that Super handed over 1000 shillings for our tickets to the matatu conductor. When we switched seats he clearly saw his chance to rip off the wasungu/white people*. There was a very dramatic and heated debate when he demanded our payment a second time. Even though SuperJ had her first ticket as proof there was nothing we could do as he maintained his innocence passionately but everyone waiting on the matatu was sure of his guilt. We ended up paying again – but boy did SuperJ lay the shame on thick. It soured my favourite part of the journey where people shove things in your face through the window and I check out their wares. Finds of the day: boiled peanuts (good!), sweet baby bananas, fresh Kenyan coffee. Lesson: do not ignore the matatu sellers.
When we alighted from the matatu in Homa Bay something was amiss. Or missing, I should say. SuperJ’s bag did not make it all the way to the town. It was her packsack with clothes, glasses, contact solution, makeup, shampoo…the essentials. The drivers made a big show of trying to locate the bag but we knew it was futile so some curse words were said and we walked off to secure our seats for the last ride. We went from shuttle to matatu (basically a shuttle but more crowded and more dirty) to a medium-sized car with 11 people, a baby and a chicken or two. I wish I were exaggerating. Legs fell asleep. So did butts. Even the driver’s seat was not sacred and he sat on a passenger’s lap. But, 13 hours after we left home that day we arrived in Mbita to stay with a lovely family. Who knows what this town will bring.
In your honour, Hi-C and I sang a screechy-but-heartfelt-rendition of your national anthem over our weaties for the family we stay with. They were suitably impressed.
Lacking red clothing I have donned a flag pin and plan to tell everyone I encounter today about your special day. If they can be acquired, fireworks will be set off tonight after dinner (no need to stay up late – the lighting will be firework-appropriate by 7pm).
Things I miss about you, Oh Canada:
Free Healthcare: Fine. Not *free* since we pay hefty taxes but healthcare for all without the grabby middleman that is insurance. I want to be able to go to the doctor when I need it instead of waiting to be approved beforehand. People may complain about our healthcare, dear Canada, but the ambulance comes when you call it and a stay in the hospital will not financially cripple the average citizen. Thank you!
Long summer days: How I miss the presence of the sun on perfect summer days and campfires when it goes down. Sunset by 7pm year round has its drawbacks.
Condiments: more specifically ketchup (catsup?). At home I’m mostly a ketchup-goes-on-french-fries girl but I still find I miss it. If you ask for ketchup here you get something mysterious called “Peptang”. A thin, neon orange liquid that is basically sweet and sour sauce without the sour. Not. the. same. It wouldn’t kill people to use a little BBQ sauce here and there either.
Tolerance: holy racism, Batman. Yes, it is still racism if I get bumped to the front of the line for being white. It is racism when a Somali teen gets beaten to the point of permanent brain injury just for being Somali. It is intolerance when the national newspaper doesn’t bother to distinguish between homosexual and pedophile.
1% Milk: heck, 2% milk! Not that I can’t get used to eating my wheaties with 3% milk (cream?) but my waistline adjusts by expanding.
Lack of corruption: I suppose I would be fooling myself if I thought there were no corruption in Canada. However, *most* money that goes to taxes comes back out in the form of government programs and social services (ie.not into politician pockets). You can call the police and expect them to help you without receiving a bribe or cut.
Water from the tap
Consistent and reliable power
This post truly isn’t meant to be a rant or be against any one country. It is just a celebration of what is great about Canada and the things that I appreciate even more now after being away. And being away for only 2 months. If I were to be here a year I would also really miss: real desserts, donuts, fresh air, sweaters, good cheese, thai food, vietnamese food….Download: http://www.ieType.com/f.php?FzLMOu