Monthly updates from our In-country Coordinator (Kenya), Sam A, have begun. Sam A is staying in the village to assist with the implementation and evaluation of Community Classrooms programs. These updates are Sam’s personal account of her experiences in Kenya. Names and other identifying information about particular people have been removed prior to posting.
If my arrival in Kisumu is anything to go by, I believe I will transform the whole meaning of African time. Due to an earlier arrival time and the insistence of staff to get on an earlier flight, I arrived three hours earlier than expected. Though, this didn’t mean that I got to the village earlier, it just meant that I had to wait until my ride came to collect me- it’s an interesting experience being a mazungu in an African country awaiting a few hours before you leave. Spoke to some interesting people, all adamant that they give me their phone number so I can call them later. The village is about an hour and half from Kisumu, passing through the main town of the area, Siaya. The roads are not too bad until you get closer to the village, this is where it becomes “off-road”, so off road its practically un-drivable when it rains heavy due to the mud.
I have met so many people randomly that I barely remember a name and I often get someone yelling out my name and I wonder whether I have actually met them or they know me through the gossip line. Yes, one thing that doesn’t travel in “African time” is the gossip around here. The other day the kids took me down to the fish pond while J—, the eldest son of the family I’m staying with was on the other side of the village working at the church. We both arrived home at the same time, I was surprised when he asks “how did you enjoy the ponds”. News of my being here is spreading fast too with more children coming each day for a look and laugh at the mazungu, some do extend that by actually coming to say “nadi”, the local dialect for how are you?
As expected, everyone seems to be amazed by my diet and what I don’t eat, but it doesn’t appear to be a problem. The biggest hurdle with it was trying to explain it in a way they would understand. I’ve been enjoying the local foods, especially the abundance of greens here. The fruit is lacking a little though. Can’t wait until the warmer season as I look up at the many mango trees in the area. Having had ugali previously, I was very happy to try brown ugali which is a mixture of the standard corn meal and sorghum, much more nutritious and I seem to like it better. This is had every couple of days- a nice little treat. I have also learnt to make chapatti and beans the bush way-who needs special pots, stirrers, etc? All you need is one pot and fire!
It is the ultimate village living experience here from collecting washing and drinking water from either the well or as the rain falls to making meals fresh every day- no refrigerator to keep those left overs. Not to mention that I am now considered the daktari due to my first aid skills being tested already- twice.
Amusing experience of the month that in hindsight may not have ended favourably- went into Siaya after lunch one day to do some supplies and only ended up visiting two lots of people- it is expected that you hang for a bit- and before I knew it, it was 530pm and best that I start to make my way home. Call the pikipiki that one of the family members’ insist I use who said he is on his way. After two hours waiting and no show- decided to cut him loose and call the backup pikipiki, who understandably won’t come because it is too late. At this point, I take a moment to consider the fact that not only do I not know how to explain where the village is to an alternative taxi, I only have the phone number of one of the family members, who is not responding to my texts. The lovely women that I was visiting were more concerned about it than I was- perhaps that says something.. They were calling around, trying to get a hold of B—, the brother they know and I couldn’t get a hold of. After about 20 minutes of ringing around, B— shows up to take me home. He was in the front with some guy, I thought was perhaps a security guard- have no idea! After five minutes of driving, B— turns to me to say that I am getting driven home in the Governor’s personal car. I thought he was joking until he pulled the car over and some big Range Rover looking vehicle pulls up. The “security guard” gets in the front and promptly tells me to get in the back. So here I was, feeling like a delinquent teenager being escorted home by the police after being caught misbehaving. Apparently being driven in the Governor’s car is high priority stuff- I was the talk of the entire district- not only was I the mazungu but the mazungu that came home that night in the Governor’s car. I reiterate that “African time” does not apply with gossip.
It is remarkable that it has only been two weeks here, I have learnt some very valuable lessons already. Overall, the happiness of people here and their content with little possession is awe-inspiring and infectious- a good sign of things to come.
Until next month’s adventures.