Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arriving in Nairobi & Oyugis

Date: Tuesday June 1 to Monday June 7
Day 1 to 7
Quote of the week: Impossible things can happen

After taking the exact same flights as last year from Toronto to London and then on to Nairobi, Emily and I arrived in Kenya on Wednesday June 2nd early in the morning. Our flight from London to Nairobi was completely full which I was surprised about because last year it was so empty and some passengers had 3 seats to themselves. I believe that the improvement of the economy and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa are two reasons for that. Its the very first FIFA World Cup hosted in Africa which is a HUGE deal and even though I will not be in South Africa for the games I am so happy to be in Kenya for the celebrations! I'm sure it is going to be very exciting and I can't wait :) I'm definitely cheering for Brazil (as always for my best friend Jess) and all of the African teams.

Life in Nairobi
My experience in Kenya (round 2) so far has been completely different from last year which is good and keeps things exciting. Emily and I arrived at the Nairobi airport and jumped in a taxi to go to our hotel. Everything felt so normal, nothing was out of the ordinary, and I feel really comfortable and at home here in Kenya. Unlike last year, this time I was much more focused on reading the newspaper I had bought from my window while stuck in traffic than looking around at everything. The day before, June 2nd, marked the 47th Madaraka day (for Kenya's independence). At the celebrations in Nairobi President Kibaki ordered tough action against those provoking violence or hate speech before the referendum on August 4th to determine if the new constitution is passed. Everyone I have spoken to is very excited about the new constitution in Kenya which promotes a more democratic country where women have greater rights.

When we arrived at the hotel we met my good friend and classmate Rebecca who is also working in Kenya for our professor's research. Emily and I spent a total of 5 days in Nairobi which was definitely long enough. It is a big congested city just like any other with some of the worst traffic in the world and I couldn't wait to get back home to Oyugis. Nairobi is the central hub of East Africa and is very developed in some areas but it still has one of the largest slums in Africa. My time spent in Nairobi was completely different than my experience in Oyugis last year and it made me think a lot about the large and growing income gap, inequality, corruption, and development. There are lots of large expensive houses and properties in the Westlands area in Nairobi which is the complete opposite of the homes that surround me in Oyugis.

Some highlights from Nairobi...
• I've been trying really hard to speak Kiswahili (or Swahili as we call it)
• I immediately met up with 2 of my best friends from last year... Caxton and Nick!!!!! Everything was great and it was as if time had never passed and I had never left.
• Meeting with the Director of Economic and External Trade in Kenya. I was put in touch with the Director after meeting a High Commissioner of Kenya a couple months ago at a WHE event at UWO. He chatted with us for about an hour which was really kind of him to do and it was very interesting. We talked a lot about development and the importance of trade for a country to develop. He also enlightened us about m-pesa which is banking on your mobile phone. Kenyans can pretty much do anything from their phone with the click of a button including withdrawing cash at an ATM, paying bills, paying for things at a store, and transferring money to someone. It is amazing and I can't believe we can't do this in Canada yet.
• The Safaricom 7s Rugby Tournament! Saturday June 5th was the most AMAZING day in Nairobi because we attended the biggest East African rugby tournament. We arrived very early at 10am with a local friend of ours and cracked a Tusker almost right away. Before entering the stadium Rebecca and I got a Kenyan flag painted on our cheeks (I really wanted my entire face or half of my face painted but o well, next time). The tournament was sponsored by Safaricom this year which is the largest telecommunications company in Kenya so we got lots of cool free stuff from them...a keychain, a drum, flags, temporary tattoos, and hats. The stadium wasn't huge but it was big enough and there was a village tent area behind it with food, a seating area, a stage with music, and other sponsors with fun things. The ambience was truly amazing and I had so much fun cheering, chanting, and watching the games.
o We met some of the rugby players from Argentina and another team.
o For a long time my friends and I were the only ones dancing in the afternoon at the stage in the village. They had a cameraman there who was filming us the entire time for a jumbo screen they had. We had so much fun and the music was awesome!
o KENYA WON! The Kenya team is amazing since Kenyans are known to be the fastest in the world (next to Jamaicans I believe) and they dominated the games.

Home in Oyugis
On Monday June 7 Emily and I arrived in Oyugis after driving for 2 hours from the airport in Kisumu. It was so nice to be out of Nairobi and in the more rural part of Kenya because it is STUNNING and the landscape is beautiful. Back home I always talk about how beautiful the country is but I definitely didn't remember it being as stunning as it really is. Bikes and motorcycles fill the streets, large potholes are everywhere on the road, and lots of people are walking everywhere. As we approached Oyugis I got more and more excited. I noticed every little thing that was different...some trees cut down here and there, small improvements to local businesses, and new shops & buildings that had opened. I directed our driver down the rocky dirt road towards our hotel and as we got closer I looked for the girls who lived next door (Tracy, Sachabea & Everlyne) but I was surprised when I didn't see them because Tracy & Sachabea are always there during the day because they aren't in school.

The first day in Oyugis was amazing! I took Emily around everywhere and we saw almost everyone :) Everyone remembers me and asks about Jen and Rani. There are lots of kids who still remember me and they approach me to say hi or yell my name as I walk past. It is so great to be back and its nice to see a lot of the people and children who didn't even know I was coming back. I think they are all pretty surprised about that. We went to George's place down the road for chapati & beans, the Rachuonyo District Hospital to meet Francis (a nutritionist and Principal Investigator for the WHE project), the yogurt kitchen, the market, and the internet cafe where my close friends hang out. I was speaking Luo the entire day and everyone loved that I had remembered it. I remember almost everything I had learned last year which is great but I plan to learn a lot more this summer. I want to be fluent!

Our first week will be spent observing the current operations of both yogurt kitchens and catching up with Ellena, the PhD student who has been here for 9 months, on the challenges and accomplishments of the WHE project.

Most Memorable Moments:
• We almost missed our flight to Kisumu. Long story but there was a shuttle that was taking us to the airplane. In the end we were the very first two people to walk up the stairs and on to the plane. It was pretty sweet.
• Seeing Tracy & Sachabea (the girls who live next door) for the first time :) I saw that the steel door on their home was open so I knocked and their mother Emily called me in. I hugged them really tight for a long time as we all smiled. I didn't even notice that they were both in school uniforms until Emily said something. I was so happy that both of the girls were finally in school since they had not been last year. I am so excited and happy for them!
• Seeing the Mamas! As soon as we walked into the yogurt kitchen the Mamas erupted with cheers and ran towards me. We had a huge group hug for a very long time and they welcomed Emily. It is so good to see them again.
• Drinking the yogurt...Emily finds it a little sour and had trouble drinking a full packet but I found it pretty good and had no problem at all. I guess I'm still used to it.
• Hanging out with my best friends/the crew: Cliff, Dennis, Frank, Keenan, & Brian in Oyugis.
o Cliff was recently accepted into the University of Nairobi for Veterinary Medicine and I am so proud of him! CONGRATS CLIFF :)
o The boys have been teaching us some Luo slang which is fun
o The boys told us that Keenan is now in the army...fighting mosquitoes. He works for an organization funded by USAID to spray people's homes to prevent malaria.

Life in Kenya:
• I completely forgot that some people like to drink their beer warm so when you order a Tusker you must say "baridi" = cold
• The University of Nairobi (the best university in Kenya) is closed temporarily right now due to a student riot after a disputed/rigged student election. Sounds a little too familiar. Unfortunately this means that Nick's exams are now delayed.
• Even in the early morning at 6am Nairobi is lively and busy but mostly with security guards and police officers who roam the streets.
• "Thank you" is not something that people say frequently at all. Spoken thanks are not common in East Africa so I almost never hear it. On the other hand, I say "Asante sana" (Kiswahili) and "Ero kamano" (Luo) all the time.
• African time exists everywhere you go...people are never on time! Its not really rude, its almost expected. Life moves at a much slower pace and it is common to see lots of people taking long breaks, having naps in the park, and relaxing during the weekdays. Sometimes I really do enjoy the laidback chill atmosphere.
o Example...a friend of ours was going to pick us up around 10am to do touristy things in Nairobi. We didn't meet up until 4pm and didn't do anything that was planned. I really didn't care and wasn't really interested in doing anything touristy anyway :)
• Kenya is STUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT :) It is such a beautiful country with so much luscious vegetation, gorgeous landscape, and a beautiful sky. Its true... the sky is actually so different and so much more vibrant in Africa, especially in Oyugis.

Life in Oyugis:

• Some of the staff are still working at the hotel which is really nice and they all remember me. All of the cleaning ladies, including Pamela who looked after Jen and I last year, are still here and two of the receptionists/managers are here as well.
• People I've seen so far (this is mostly for Jen & Rani):
o At the hospital...Francis, Joseph, Maureen, Phenny
o The kids...Tracy & Sachabeah, Akoth, Valeria & Brian, Bartie, and the boys (Boston, Claudia, Austin, Bruce)
o Friends...Frank, Dennis, Cliff, Brian, Keenan, Omar, motorcycle Steve, Byron, Esther, and Johnson
o Agoro Sare boys...Dave, Steve, and Thomas
o The mamas: Diana, Sophia, Jennifer, Hellen, Leonora, Mary, Eunice, and Regina. Mama Jessica from Nyanam.
• Mama Mary and Lillian are both expecting children very soon!
o Other people in the community...George (chapati dengu)
• Some things will never change...
o There are still frequent blackouts (almost every other day)
o Matatus are still packed with 20 - 23 people when they only seat 15
• The supermarket that we always went to, Shivling Supermarket, has moved next door to a much larger nicer building that was in renovation last year. They still sell the same things but they now have a lot more inventory and it is less crowded.
• We've been out twice to play with the kids behind the hotel but there are only about 10 - 15 kids out which I'm really surprised about. I think those numbers will grow soon once the kids start to realize that we are back. Sachabea still had the rope that we used to skip with last year which is great.

It is so good to be home! Oriti!

1 comment:

  1. Cant believe I didn't see this until now! Glad I got to catch up with you on the phone, and we'll have to do that again soon. Want to hear more about the Mamas and the boys and Roy and the babies!