A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

Fun in Eldoret: Part 2

"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

sunny 62 °F

As I’ve spent more time at Moi, I’ve become more familiar and comfortable with Eldoret, and with Sister Clara and my IU friends, have ventured out a bit into the city. Eldoret is about a 45 minute ride (about an hour if going by matatu compared to private University van) and has a ton of shopping facilities. Last Sunday Sister Clara and I rode into town and went to Catholic mass at the Adoration Catholic Church. It was a great service and had a mix of traditional songs and instruments but the same Catholic prayers and service we have in the states. It’s inevitable to get through a mass with at least one mention of the referendum or some political issues. (By the way the referendum vote is 9 days away) After mass though we went to the adoration chapel where there is the Eucharist and images of Mary and Jesus. The interesting part is that shoes are not permitted to be worn within the chapel so you take off your shoes at the door.

After church we went to lunch and I had sausage (so good here) and cabbage with githeri. Githeri is mashed or boiled potatoes with red beans and onions. It’s really good! And of course chai was served after we finished our meal. The supermarket chain is Nakumat and it has everything including a bookstore! So I had the opportunity to stock up for the week (reading “Stardust” now). One of the difficulties I’ve faced many times is the willingness and insistence for others to help you. Sister insists that she should carry everything, or pay for the matatu, which is hard for me to accept as I’m a very independent person and like to take care of myself. Sister is not the only one; when you go to someone’s house, they insist you sit and have them take care of you. It is very polite of them, but it is difficult for me to accept this as I was not brought up to sit back and let others take care of me.

But back to our adventures. On Monday I went with Miriam and her husband to Eldoret to meet with the Council of Wareng County and after our meeting (described in my earlier post) we went to this fish market where we had fresh caught tilapia from Lake Victoria. It was the best fish I’ve had! And they serve with a “stew” on top of fresh greens and tomato with ugali on the side. It was delicious. On Tuesday, I took the day off and ventured into town to meet with my fellow Swahili friend’s friend Chris who is Kenyan. I delivered a present to him from Katie and we had a nice walk and then I made my way to Rivatex where I picked out some wonderful fabric and had some dresses and skirts made for myself and a bag with a map of Africa and Kenya is highlighted! It’s going to be so cool! After the Rivatex adventure I made my way to the matatu stage where I saw a sign for an ice cream shop, Cleopatra’s and it was so good! It had more of a European/American feel to it which was nice as I was a little homesick that day. I brought by IU friends there with me on Tuesday when we went into town to Imani, a crafts shop that makes jewelry, art and clothing and sells them. All the proceeds go to help HIV positive patients in the area. Our friend Malliron from IU had an internship here before she started the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) program at Moi. I got some really amazing things (cant say what I picked up as they are presents for many of you reading). We had a great dinner with the New Zealanders, Mit, Matt and Cole, at a Chinese restaurant. Also, Nikki and I tried this drink called Zappa. It tastes like cinnamon and black licorice. Not my favorite but its really popular around here. Kinda like Jagermeister. Tuesday was the first night we were really allowed off the leashes and able to go grab dinner by ourselves (although we did have a Moi University driver taking us to the different places).

Thursday night we went to the end of class party at the guest house where all of the EIA students, Moi University and IU, were there and they had a huge buffet with amazing food (the traditional ugali, rice, chicken with the great marinade (I think its called royco), cabbage, samosas, chapatti and much more) as well as drinks and mandazi. There was a lot of dancing and the professors gave some speeches about international partnership and environmental impact. It was a nice night all in all and we went for the graduation ceremony the next day. (By the way, the one IU professor wore a zebra suit (zebra skirt and zebra long jacket). They Kenyan students thought the Americans were crazy. We had to explain that she did not represent all of our fashion choices- just her own!) Graduation was nice and although I was not part of EIA I was invited to attend the ceremony and the luncheon. Dr. Wakhungu introduced me and was very inviting. I will really miss seeing him and his wife, Dr. Pheobe, everyday. Even though it was just a certificate program, the graduation was a really big deal on campus and everyone was dressed up and was presented with the certificate by calling the names one by one. (They didn’t play Pomp and Circumstance though). We had lunch at the guest house then made our way into town where we got ice cream AGAIN (yes were obsessed) and then dinner at this great Indian restaurant. I tried Paneer which is a cheese dish in a seasoned sauce. It was really good – Im going to have to try it again at India Garden in Oakland. Nikki and I split amazing stuffed mushrooms and there was so much food to go around (aw garlic naan is my favorite!) The car ride back was really bumpy. We rode in a Prado which is like an SUV but has a bench seat in the middle and then a two person seat in the back right on top of the back wheels. It was a tight squeeze but definitely an experience to say the least. We then watched ‘Up in the Air’ which was pretty good before we got ready for bed. Malliron and Dr. Wakhungu gave me a SPEA (School of Public and Environmental Affairs) leather key chain and bookmark.

I’ll definitely miss the IU friends’ company. It was really nice to have other students my age and who were Americans here with me. I have done a lot of interacting with the local people here, but when I’m done with my research and homesick at night, it’s nice to go over and just watch a movie or have dinner with my friends who are experiencing the same feelings I am. I’ll get to see Candene in Nairobi August 1st when were going to go to the Maasai market and also Nikki, Nicole and Sarah at Hell’s Gate National Park in Naivashia, Kenya from August 8th-9th. I hope they all have a great time in Mombasa and in Kisumu during the next week and I can’t wait to meet up with them again soon.

I am looking forward to my next 25 days here though and have a lot of interesting things planned. I went to Professor Shitemi’s on Saturday afternoon for the weekend (in my next post) and met her amazing family and also had the opportunity to go to an Anglican church and hear 5 choirs from all over Kenya treat us to a performance during the service. I will also be going to Lake Bogorio by Itein where there are hot springs and a great view of the Rift Valley. I’ll FINALLY get to go to some schools this week, definitely to SOS Primary which is a German sponsored school for students in Eldoret community as well as the orphans in the area. On Friday I’ll head back to Nairobi to see my wonderful friends, the Muthama family!
Ill have two more posts up soon with details about my weekend in Kimumu and Soy with Prof. Shitemi as well as my research from the past week!

Miss you all and can’t wait to see you – 21 more days!

Here is a website for Hell’s Gate National Park: http://www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/HGNP.html

Posted by WendiBandi 08:35 Archived in Kenya Tagged events Comments (0)

Upward Mobility: Words from Women in Power

The only way to truly understand cultural perceptions is to talk to the members of the community – so I did just that. I had two great interviews with women in power and the men who work alongside them.

sunny 68 °F

Hi Everyone!
As I’ve mentioned before I am working alongside one of the PhD students, Miriam Rotich, who is associated with IGERD (Institute for Gender Equity Research and Development). We’ve compiled a list of people I should meet and talk with before I head back to Nairobi next week. In addition to the meeting with Chief Letting of Kesses Location, I also had the opportunity to speak with the Divisional Youth Officer, Janeliza Mwaudende, District officer for Kapseret, Faith Masika, and female councilors of Wareng county, Councilor Josphine Tarus of Cheptiret ward, Councilor Elizabeth Sang of Kepchamoo ward, and Councilor Judith Sang of Kapseret ward.

Officer Mwaudende of the Divisional Youth office works with youths out of school who have either completed up to form three but not class 8. The different organizations she facilitates, including youth and employment, youth and the environment, youth crime and drugs, youth leisure and sports, youth fund and kazi kwa vijana (work for youths). These organizations were created to get those who are not completing an education involved in the community and hopefully enable them to finish their education and become an asset to the Kesses community. We talked a lot about furthering education and some of the obstacles the youth of Kesses encounter – especially the difference between males and females and Officer Mwaudende explained that there is a stigma behind furthering education; many families are satisfied with their lifestyles and see their main priority to make use of the available land and to marry and have families. It was Officer Mwaudende’s perception that women are still stuck with the mentality that their main goal is to marry and start a family. The only way we discussed that could turn around this mentality is to have community based civic education in which sex education is discussed and the opportunities there are for the town. “Economic empowerment” is a term that many of the council members used to describe what they think would inspire change. Funding is necessary, but the ideas and the will to induce change is needed most in the area.

Our next meeting was with the District Officer for Kapseret, Faith Masika. There are not many women in Officer Masika’s position and what makes her even more unique is that she is one of the younger individuals in this position (men and women included). Faith spoke with Miriam and I about the adult education programs and women’s microfinance groups which allow women to work together to raise funds for unexpected expenses, additional agricultural investment and children’s school fees. With both the adult literacy programs and the women’s microfinance groups, women do not want their husbands to know that they are participating in these groups. There are cultural pressures on women to maintain the status as a housewife and mother and not to continue their education or to procure their own finances. Despite these pressures, there are many women (and men) who have taken their KCB examination. Within the last year, 80 women and 70 men received their primary certificates. These programs are sponsored through the government and offices like Faith Masika’s help organize and set up the programs.

The greatest benefits from the program, according to Officer Masika, are that the living standards have increased for the women and families who participate in these programs. Women are becoming more aware and conscious of national and community issues and are now participating to help induce change where change needs to happen. My meeting with Faith Masika verified my personal philosophy that increasing education has a direct impact on the community participation and growth. Additionally though, the major issue is that there are still women who are hiding the fact they want to continue their education (which was cut short due to early marriage and pregnancy or lack of funds) which means there are still many women who are not even willing to come out to the meetings or classes for fear their husbands will reject their requests. This mentality is limiting the growth the area could have. Within the last 2 years, Eldoret has been built up and has recovered from the post-election violence in 2007, but it has not reached its potential yet and there are many who are struggling to make wages high enough to support themselves and their families.

I asked Faith the question I ask each of the officers I’ve interviewed – are there international aid or groups who participate within the community. She responded the way many of the others have, “there were many groups here to help in the early months of 2008 after the election violence” (which hit Eldoret the hardest of anywhere in the country). There were groups such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Red Cross and programs which came to build up schools in Kiambaa and Kamuyu, but other than those who responded right after the election violence, there hasn’t been many within Eldoret itself. (I heard from the Ministry of Education for Kesses who explained the role of PeaceLinks SNV and SOS within the different smaller communities. )

Officer Masika did explain that there is an annual capacity building and training seminar on Women’s day that speaks to women in the community. They discuss equal opportunities, the women’s and men’s roles as parents, and how women can empower themselves through education and participation. She said that it is a very inspiring program for those who attend, but that attendance rates need to go up and there needs to be more community support for Women’s Day activities throughout the year.

My next visit was with 3 of the 6 female councilors of the County Council or Wareng. There are 35 councilors total in which women only make up 1/5 of the council. I also had 2 of the auditors for the county sit in and join our discussion. These women gave a lot of insight on the struggle it is to become elected even at the local level. Doris and Rhoda are both in their third year of office and neither have completed their post secondary studies. Rhoda was an active farmer in the community and Doris was a clerk for a secondary school. Both women explained that their roles as councilors is to go into the communities and to see what needs done within the community and then set a plan in action to make it happen. They look at dilapidated schools and different infrastructure programs that need readjusted. They started talking about women’s enterprises groups and self-help groups, in which she said these are still ongoing with women in the community and they collect money and give loans to those within the group. This concept seems to be popular within Kenya more so than the harambe groups that were nationally known. Harambe means literally translates into “pull together!” and was a common phrase and idea during elections. The same mentality exists in the US – politicians make promises to help communities grow but after elections are over, there is little follow through.

We talked a lot about the role of women and the difference between the men and women when it came to the family and even within the council. The women I was talking to began discussing these topics like they were the latest gossip. Many of them stated that women are the ones in the community and households who take the initiative to speak up and insist that change happen whether it be for the children to go to school or that a road needs to be tarmacked or that there needs to be a peace settlement between neighbors. The reason women’s groups work is because that they embrace the idea of harambee and know that unless they work together, their community will not be adjusted and modified as it needs to be. They each mentioned their own anecdotes about where women worked more efficiently together compared to the men and despite these occurrences, men still ran the government and held public office.

Free Primary Education is always a topic of discussion because there are many different views and opinions of its effectiveness. As always, they remarked that the student-teacher ratio was too high and that the funds allocated to pay the teachers is not sufficient. There are higher enrollment rates for girls compared to boys in primary school but by secondary school, there are more boys than girls. Girls are expected to marry, they become pregnant or they are forced into illegal employment ‘opportunities’ such as prostitution or selling of mtumba to make money for the family. The schools which have the lower drop-out rates for girls are the boarding schools because they are kept in school and are not exposed to the harsh realities many of their peers in day school experience. Then again, boarding school is more expensive and is not covered under the Free Primary Education Act. But in regards to community development and education, ignorance is now being faced with positive thinking and development is occurring as a result. Girls are seeing women in power and women who are fighting for them to receive an education which paves a path for girls to follow in their footsteps.

The problem though is today’s school age generation does not want to go into the teaching profession. They see their teachers as low-paid civil servants and the majority who have their teaching degrees are no employed due to the low budgets for hiring teachers. Also they see the strain on their teachers trying to teach more students than is realistically able to be taught. It is a financial and mental strain on these teachers.

The women council said that there have been some scam NGOs that were operating after the election violence but they were caught. The problem is, now communities are hesitant to accept the help of NGOs due to the negative past experiences. The women councilors recommended that NGOs be monitored more, as should the community spending, and there be a closer interaction between the donors and those being sponsored. Many of the NGOs don’t even come into Eldoret and see how their programs are working. Some of the positive programs mentioned were SOS schools for orphans and Kentrum farmers who sponsor greenhouses, and train and facilitate the market in the area.

Councilor Judith works with disabled individuals and she said that the neglect towards girls is the same as the neglect toward the disabled in the community. But she said that the other councilors are supportive of the proposals shes made for handicapped ramps, schools that help disabled children and employment centers for the disabled. Judith brought up a great point that gave an optimistic look toward the future. She said that although there are only a few female councilors, they support one another’s projects and make sure they are addressed and executed. So as more time goes on, more projects will be completed and the alliances between these women will continue for years to come. There are two women MPs in the Eldoret area, Professor Margaret Kamaar and Hon. Peris Siam, and these women leading at the national level empower women to run at the local level within their jurisdictions because they have the support from above.

I’ll finish this post with their recommendation to girls. Girls need guidance and to be walked through the steps of success and the only way to do this is through example. The Councilors love their jobs because they go into the community, they see what needs done and the majority of the time they can make it happen. The girls in the community and schools see women doing things and making a direct impact in the community and they are optimistic about their chances for the future. They also ask girls to stay locally “even for just a bit” to help build the community after they receive an education because that is the only way Eldoret can grow into a positive community. They hope through their example and self-help groups that girls will realize they have the means to have a reputable profession, to obtain independence and confidence to break the cultural barriers which have kept them trapped.

My next post I’ll give an overview of my talk with the Ministry of Education and how we learned from one another and plan to start an international partnership once I return home! Hope you all enjoy my blogs as I enjoy sharing them with you. See you all in 20 days!

With love,

Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 08:26 Archived in Kenya Tagged educational Comments (0)

A Realistic Look at International aidin Kenya's villages

First field experience!

overcast 60 °F

In December 2007 Kenya was shook with the angry clashes between disputed neighbors after the national election took place. One of the most contentious areas hit with the post-election violence was Eldoret, Kenya. Eldoret is a large constituency located in the southwestern part of the country and is also the location of Moi University where I am staying. Communities and international NGOs and advocacy groups came together to set up peace-building socio-economic strategies to rebuild the communities hit the hardest.

On Thursday, I went by matatu with one of the other undergraduate office workers at IGERD (Institute for Gender Equity, Research and Development), Felix, to look into some of advertised international partnerships along the main road to Eldoret. The area between Eldoret and Moi University is Kesses location and within Kesses are Cheptiret and Chpkioyo, two villages Felix and I visited. Our task was to locate the signs and see what the purpose was behind the organizations and projects, when they were started, how many people participate and what the proposed outcomes were. We found three different signs and after asking the locals some questions, we found the base of each of the project campaigns.
Our first stop was in Chepkoiyo, which is one of the villages closest to Moi University. Im a lttle confused how the lines are drawn but think Chepkioyo is apart of Lelmolok village. But in Chepkioyo was a sign that stated

“Chamwedo Youth Group: Mushroom Project, Lelmokol Village”.
ATICAD Kenya project 2009 (with the contributors listed as): IOM-OIM, GOK, Japan

The IOM-OIM is the International Organization for Migration and the GOK stands for the Government of Kenya. We asked around and were pointed up a very narrow path behind the sign to two makeshift tents where we met one of the members of the project and his wife, toodler daughter and his father. He didn’t give us his name but did tell us a lot about the project and his own experiences. In Eldoret, most of the violence was directed toward the Kikuyu people living in the area. Eldoret, although it is home to members of the 42 different Kenyan ethnic groups, has a Luo majority and Kikuyu minority (compared to the rest of the country where Kikuyu is the majority and President Kabaki is Kikuyu). The Luos who were disappointed in the election results took their anger out on their Kikuu neighbors. This man and his family were one of the many families who suffered from these attacks. The path we walked up was lined with tree stumps, which he explained, were chopped down by the Luo invaders and then his house was set fire to. This family is one of the thousands internally displaced families who is now living in a makeshift tent with a tarp as a roof. He told us that the project was started by the IOM who wanted to start a group to have those living in the area of different ethnic groups to work on a project that would in turn create economic benefits. Most of the initial 50 members were between 18-35 who either finished form 4 or dropped out at class 8. They wrote a proposal and Japan agreed to be the main contributor. So the Japanese agents gave building supplies and enough of the mushroom start up kits for 30-40 mushroom tubes. These tubes are about 6-8 feet long and have fertilizer in them with mushroom seedlings. They need to be watered 5 times a day by a regulated house. The original members built the structure together, set up the tubes and would check on it once a week at their weekly meetings. They would sell the mushrooms at/to AMPATH a market where the proceeds are split between the sellers and a treatment clinic for HIV positive community members. (My IU friend Malliron had an internship with AMPATH prior to the start of the summer classes. HIV is one of the main causes of death in Kenya and East Africa.)
I was really impressed on the initiative taken and asked the man how the project has been going since its inception. He looked at me and Felix and explained that through the course of the year, there are only 13 ‘active’ members but as he lives on the land, he is the only truly active member. Of the 40 mushroom tubes, only 3 produced mushrooms. With the limited results, members stopped helping and went on their own ways. It did diminish the barriers between those of different ethnic groups, so part of the goal was achieved, but the man said he really did hope for better results as it could be profitable for all involved and strengthen their newly formed friendships. The one optimistic possibility is that there is a local administrator and one of the Japanese funders who will check on the project annually, and hopefully they will help fix the problem and the organization will start up again.

Our second stop was to the RCEA Women Group Bakery Project, also an ATICAD Kenya project started in 2009 with a collaboration of IOM, the GOK, and Japan. Although the women weren’t there as it was mid-afternoon by this point and they bake in the mornings, they men in the area explained that it is running well and they sell cakes and whatnot for difference celebrations such as weddings, birthdays, graduations etc. I plan on stopping there one morning in the next week to meet with some of the ladies and get their take on the participation. I also am interested to see how the GOK and Japan sponsor the program and how often.

We then made the trek to Cheptiret where Felix is from where we had the opportunity to meet with Chief Philip Letting. Chief Letting was very hospitable and excited to hear I was doing research on the community development in regards to peace building and socio-economic expansion. We discussed the “Shelter and Livelihoood for Peace and Reconciliation” project sponsored by – yep you guessed it – Japan, the Government of Kenya (GOK) and Japan. He explained that it was a project started in 2009 to build shelters for the Internally displaced persons (IDPs) after the post election violence in 2007. They worked with the Cheptiret secondary schools. Chief Letting said that the most affected fled - both residents and businesses- thus hurting the Eldoret economy. The project helped those who remained by providing shelter, temporary shelter at first, and then permanent structures as more funding came in by Japan. The IOM gave $7,500 USD to the community as a whole, those affected and those not, as an attempt to “eradicate hated and use as a unifying factor of those affected and those not affected.” The most affected area he explained was what is called the “northern corridor”: Timboroa, Leinguse, and Burnt Forest. The community is hoping to build over 9,000 homes in those three areas mentioned above. They are now starting to move into Cheptiret (and hopefully our friend involved in the mushroom project) and start up some of the businesses who have left. The project is aimed right now at just providing homes for those affected with little concern about the schools. There is a constant evaluation of the project from the local administrators of the project, especially the IOM. I saw a few of their trucks in the area throughout the course of the day which was promising. I get from the Chief and our friend at the Mushroom project that Japan supplies the intial necessary inputs but it is up to the community with the help of the IOM and the GOK to build up from there. From what Ive read, this is one of the most beneficial attempts as it forces the community to work together rather than rely on continuous monetary aid.

After meeting with Chief Letting he asked if I would do the honor of signing the guestbook in which all of those who meet with the chief and the council sign. It was a nice gesture and now I have record proof of being there. Hopefully I’ll find my name in the book again.

Our last stop was to the Kesses Farmers Marketing Federation: Horticultural Market Stalls supported and sponsored by the IOM, Japan and GOAL Ireland (a new addition to our international assistance countries). Felix, who is a member of the federation, recognized one of the committee members so we went up to talk to him and realized that the vice chair, secretary, vice secretary and treasurer were all there which gave us the opportunity to talk to them and ask some great questions. The federation is facilitated by those affected by the pose election violence and aims, like the other initiatives, to bring peace to the Eldoret south area. Japan gave initial material support of farm equipment, the stalls where produce is sold, training for the farmers. They said that they check in often, usually when planting begins and the monitor the planting. They have also bought uniforms for orphans and have supported the feeding programs (offering breakfast and lunch) for 7 day schools such as Arnesens primary school. Representatives of the project come monthly and help with teacher training. IOM provides continuous support in terms of assistance and oversight, where as Japan initiated the peace project and initial input costs. There are 4000 members I the federation which are divided into 16 clusters (based on location) with 7-10 per cluster of small scale farmers who work together to sell, rebuild farms and provided support and assistance for one another. There is an annual general meeting but the committee members meet every week, then there are quarterly meetings of the chairperson from every cluster with delegates and officers in attendance which is where most of the federation decisions are made. The Federation’s economic role is to sell products of farmers to the NCPB – the National Cereal and Produce Bought organization at the national level. They also market all famer’s outputs at the local level – maize and milk primarily. In order to keep the strength of the Federation alive, the members rely on NGOs and well-wishers to regain necessary finances. In other words, due to international competition and that there is a cooling facility in Cheptiret, it is necessary to have the federation be the most viable option for farmers to work through in order to stabilize prices and participation. The federation has a lot of potential to have a flourishing horticultural exporting community (as many of those working in Eldoret are farmers).

So from these visits, I’ve seen where international partnership can benefit a community. The idea behind Japan’s and Ireland’s assistance is the same goal of the World Bank. Provide the country with the knowledge and skills to recreate growth and then sustain themselves. Since Japan opted to not continue with monetary support, the Eldoret community is forced to work to maintain the economic growth reeked from this endeavor. I’m going to do some more research on these topics, but the trip was definitely beneficial and gave me a lot of insight. Hopefully I can learn more about Kesses federation and the school programs as that is my main research concern.

Hope everyone is well!

Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 10:26 Archived in Kenya Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Thank you - Asante Sana

"All You Need Is Love"

I write about my adventures and discoveries, but it is the support from my family and friends at home that keeps me going. There isn’t a day that I don’t log onto facebook and have at least 4 or 5 well-wishers and friends just saying hi and encouraging me. Mom tells me every night of at least one person at work who asks how I’m doing or comments on the progression of my blogs. Everyday that I check my blog, I’m so surprised to see how many people are keeping up with my travels. And finally, the love, encouragement and excitement from my family, Mom, Julie, Jake and Michael and my second Mom, Mwalimu, gives me the courage to continue working and learning in Kenya. Julie and Mom have always been supportive of me and I’ve become accustomed to talking to them on a daily basis and despite the thousands of miles apart we are, they have not faltered at all. What has surprised me the most has been Jake and Michael. They comment on my status, send me a facebook IM when were both online, and spend a good amount of time talking to me on the phone. I knew they would keep in touch but their excitement and eagerness to share even what they consider mundane news from home keeps me smiling everyday. I’ve recently learned too that Grandma and Grandpap have been keeping my blogs and print them and keep up with my travels and many thanks to Aunt Annie who is passing on the word to everyone and keeping Gram and Pap connected to me. All of these comments and efforts by those reading and supporting me have pushed me more than you can realize. The first few days were really hard, despite my excitement, because I was alone in a completely different country about to set out on my first steps of my assumed career path. I was scared, confused and nervous, but what got me through each day was the friendship I received from the Muthama family, Dr. Kivuva and Dr. Wanjiku, but most importantly the encouragement from my friends and family. Mwalimu Leonora is one of the few people who can be empathetic toward my confusion and frustration of being in a new place and her emails have made me realize that I’m not alone in that department and that once I build my strength, I will have endless possibilities. That strength comes from all of you and I just wanted to take the time in this message to thank each and every one of you. I hope you continue to read because there are so many amazing things I’m learning about Kenya. Looking forward to seeing you all in one month exactly and give you a huge hug for helping me through this exciting adventure!

With love and gratitude,
Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 07:49 Archived in Kenya Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Fun times in Eldoret/Moi University

When it gets dark at 730, you’re on a quiet campus and its best to not travel at night, what do you do for fun? Plenty of things!

rain 56 °F

My experience in Kenya isn’t all about research and reading. We do tend to have fun although it’s not in the same realm of Barcelona’s definition of fun. It is usually about 55-70 degrees here on a given day and we are inland so there is no access to a beach. Moi University is a quiet campus in which everything dies down around 5:30 when class is dismissed and students go home. Living at the guest house has introduced me to the Indiana University students who are my closest friends here on campus (aside from Sister Clara). We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together at the main guest house and joke around about the ridiculous things some of their professors say and do. At night before dinner we are usually all doing reading or blogging in the dining room waiting for dinner at 7-7:30. At dinner we usually share antidotes and our day’s travels and adventures and after dinner resume reading or we retreat to either Malliron and Candane’s room or Jordan and Abby’s room for games and talking.

(Just a refresher- Malliron, Candane, Justin and Nicole are all grad students and Nikki, Jordan, Abby, Sarah and I are all undergrads. They all go to Indiana University and live in the two houses next to mine. We all get along really well and hang out together. More about them on the first Eldoret blog post.)

Kenya is a new place for all of us so its nice to have one another’s company. You’d be surprised how nice it is to speak in English, make jokes and use sarcasm without thinking twice. Sometimes we just talk and hang out. We’ve watched “How to Train your dragon” once. It is really hard to download movies because there are downloading restrictions outside of the US and Canada for some programs such as Netflix and tv-video.net. Also, they internet credit is sold according to how many megabytes you buy, not minutes bought. So a 500ksh credit top-up can last you either 4 or 5 hours or half an hour if you are trying to upload pictures or download something. So watching a movie is a treat. Sadly I didn’t think to bring any DVDs with me and I haven’t found a place yet that sells legal copies of movies yet.

Another one of our favorite nighttime activities is Indian poker and telephone Pictionary. Don’t be fooled- we usually peal over laughing at least 3 or 4 times during each round. Telephone Pictionary is probably our most played game. Depending on how many people are playing, that’s how many pieces of blank paper each person receives (ie 8 people playing, each gets 8 pieces). On the first sheet everyone writes a phrase or lyric or person. We’ve had some such as “baby got back”, “harry potter”, “lady gaga”. After you write your phrase or name, you pass the stack of your papers (with the phrase on top) to the person next to you whose task it is to try and draw the phrase. Whoever is done drawing first gives a 5 second warning then you have to pass the stack, with the picture on top and the phrase on the bottom, to the next person, whose task it is to try and write a phrase from the picture. You continue the trend until you receive your pile back and then show everyone the progression or regression of your pictures. It seems juvenile but there is little to do at night and its advised for us to stay in unless we’re out in Eldoret with some type of chaufer or professor/local companion. Even when I was staying with Dr. Wanjiku, Khadi and I didn’t go anywhere except to Dr. Wanjiku’s sister next door.

Sometimes we have friends join us like the three New Zealanders who met Abby, Jordan and Nikki through their program one night in Eldoret. They came over on Wednesday night and joined in our games (they were forewarned) and we all ended up having a great time. We are trying to plan a night to go out and meet up with them and some other students in the program at Click, a popular restaurant with tv and a hang out for most university students. (Mit, Matt and Cole are all working with a land surveying agency and they fly over East Africa taking aerial shots and depending on the task looking for natural resources and mines. Sounds pretty cool!)

Although I loved my nights out in Barca, Kenya has a different atmosphere and as a white American female, it is best to take precautions. Kenyans are even cautious at night, taking taxis home and avoiding the matatus after dark. Is it because Eldoret isn’t safe? Not necessarily, but that going out anywhere in a foreign place is not safe. But I am enjoying myself and have had a good many laughs in the many rounds of telephone Pictionary weve played.

I’m thinking about taking a day trip to Lake Victoria for the day tomorrow as its only a 2 hour drive from Eldoret. It looks amazing and really relaxing so hopefully I get the opportunity to go! Additionally, Sister Clara and Khadi have taught me a lot about cooking and it’s a great chance to learn more about their cultures and their families as well (plus learn to make some really good food).

Hopefully I’ll be able to post another blog tomorrow about my visits into Cheptiret and Chepkoiyo, two villages in the Kesses Division of Eldoret South with my new IGERD co-worker Felix.

Hugs and love!
Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 08:18 Archived in Kenya Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

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