A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

Family Around the World

Extended family has a new meaning for me. The family and friends of Mwalimu Kivuva have helped me combat my homesickness. In addition to the Muthama family in Nairobi, Dr. Wanjiku in Eldoret has opened her home to me as well.

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Hello everyone!

I spent an amazing weekend at Dr. Wanjiku’s house with her daughter Khadi. Dr. Wanjiku lives in Eldoret Town in one of the many estates in a really nice 3 room flat. Dr. Wanjiku picked me up from the guest house on Thursday night and after a nice 45 minute drive, arrived at the house where I met Khadi and we began making dinner. We had really good wheat chapo (chapatti), lentils and vegetables. We watched some American TV (woo!) – the “Amazing Race” and “Bite Me with Dr. Mike Leahy” and then I got a really good nights sleep and slept in for the first time in a while.

Khadi and I went into town and met Dr. Wanjiku and her daughter, Njeri, for lunch at the Moi University School of Public Health Guest house. Needless to say, the food was very good. Njeri just finished her Med school exam that took 5 hours(!) and we went to the Hostel to meet her friend Sam, another Med student. I got to learn a lot about the Med school process. There are about 30 students accepted into the program that are ‘government sponsored’ and the cost of attendance is relatively low but the school also accepts another 100 private students who have to pay much higher tuition prices. The dorms are absolutely TINY as I explained in my last post.

We walked around town and went to the market. There are a ton of sellers at one place and they haggle you a bit to buy from them. The most astonishing fact was that kids walk around selling plastic bags for 5ksh (the equivalent of 6 cents!) Sam bought a bag off of one of the boys and he asked him if he goes to school (in Kiswahili) and the boy replied, “No because I work here.” It was a really hard moment as the child only makes 6 cents per bag and a lot of people bring their own bags. I realized then that this was not an oddity – that it happens more often than not. Depressing, but it let me see what I was working towards eradicating.

In my reading this week, I learned a lot about mtumbaism, the largest industry in these areas. Mtumba is the Swahili word for second hand clothes. One of the authors I have been reading, Hon Mwandawiro Mghanga, writes about mtumbaism and the process of underdevelopment and the effects of globalization on developing countries like Kenya. Globalization is in reality global capitalism in which there is apparent distribution of wealth between the OECD countries such as US, Japan, the EU and China, compared to countries in Latin America, Africa and Southwest Asia. Trade is skewed between countries like Kenya and their trading partners in the wealthy North. Most parts of Kenya are ‘peasant substance societies” meaning they are horticulture producers exporting cash crops such as corn and coffee, and the majority of those living in the communities center their trade around the microcosm of their villages and small towns. There are no commercial centers with malls, mega grocery stores or shopping centers like Target, Walmart or TJ Maxx. Instead, there are many small outdoor markets, a low-key supermarket and then many stalls and walking sellers with mtumba for sale. These second hand commodities do not just include clothes but also shoes, socks, blankets, cars, utensils, machines etc. Since 1970 mtumbaism is becoming more and more accepted as 78% of Kenyans identified themselves as struggling, 13% are suffering while only 9% consider themselves thriving and my observations within Eldoret, Nairobi and the surrounding the communities of these two hubs validate these claims. While waiting for a matatu to return to campus from Dr. Wanjiku’s, I was offered things from hairbrushes, watches, clothes, illegally downloaded music and dvds and children’s toys which definitely fit into the mtumba category.

Not everyone though is living off of the mtumba trading system. My colleagues, the Muthama family and Dr. Kivuva are just a few of the many I know living middle income lives and not suffering. There are malls, but the majority of Kenyans cannot afford to shop in these places. Those who can, like the Khamasi and Muthama family and many of the colleagues at Moi, live doesn’t vary much from what I am used to in the US.

I met Dr. Wanjiku’s Somali family who now lives in Kenya and Fatuma’s two kids, both who attend primary school and are thriving students. They helped me with my Swahili and we read a children’s book and had a wonderful meal. The Kenyan government passed the “Free Primary Education” act in 2003 which provides education for all students, yet some of the schools lack the basic necessities let alone new books. The main difference I notice between Kenyan children and kids in the US school systems is the amount of gratitude. Kenyan students, like Dr. Wanjiku’s niece and nephew, are appreciative that their parents pay school fees for them to go to private primary schools rather than the dilapidated public education facilities. Ill save the details about the school systems for my next post about my research, but I’ll finish off on the subject by saying that the only option for upward mobility is through education which is why it is so valued.

Apart from visiting with Dr. Wanjiku’s family and friends and watching TV, I learned how to cook ndazi and make chai! I cant wait to make some at home as its really good. I returned to see my wonderful friends after a long weekend apart. Check out the next two blogs soon to come with details about what we do for fun around here and my research so far (its going really well!)

With love, hugs and kisses for all,


Posted by WendiBandi 07:21 Archived in Kenya Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

After Patience comes Amazing results! Finally making strides

The Keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” – Ralph Marston

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As many of you may know, I’m not an idle person. I can never sit still, I don’t mind napping but I don’t like it to turn into my routine and I like productivity – especially if I’m on a mission. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to settle into my place here at Moi University and explore a bit, but as one week in Kenya began to turn into two weeks, I began getting antsy. Days spent reading at the library began to grow tiresome and meals were my main plans for the day but I didn’t want to express my restlessness 1.) because it wasn’t too bad yet and I didn’t want to make anyone worried and 2.) Because putting my impatience in writing formalized my disappointment. And I wasn’t necessarily disappointed – mostly anxious and impatient. But then I realized where I was – Kenya – and I began to realize that one of the main “cultural” characteristics in Kenya is to take things slow and become accustomed to people, places and things. I needed some inspiration so I opened up my travel journal from Karina and found this great quote I used about from Ralph Marston. And I realized that I already had faith in myself and “the direction I had chosen.” I’ve been planning this trip for a few years now and anticipated its arrival. Additionally, I realized that staying with Dr. Wanjiku over the weekend gave me the opportunity to experience a real Kenyan family and the schooling of their children. (Ill go into detail a little bit further down.) Of course the day I decided to embrace Marston’s philosophy as my own, things began to change.


Today is Tuesday, July 13th and it was ABSOLUTELY freezing when I woke up this morning around 7, bypassing my morning run due to the cold, and went to breakfast to find my lovely Indiana University (IU) friends about to start breakfast. After we ate and discussed our fun game of Telephone Pictionary from the night before, Dr. Wanjiku called saying she had some people she wanted me to meet today if I had my morning free. So I bypassed the library and eagerly went up to the administration office where I met the director for International studies and students (its all one office here ha) and she presented me with my name badge “Miss Wendi Bandi Institute for Gender Equity Research and Development (IGERD) and a Moi University pin and a Moi Univ. handsewn bag. She gave me access to use her facilities and the archives. Then, fifteen minutes later (after some delicious coffee, bananas and mandazi), Felix, a PhD student of IGERD, came in and offered for me to go with him on Thursday about 15 minutes from campus by Matatu to the PeaceLinks SNV Eldoret branch. PeaceLinks SNV is an Netherlands NGO that works in 21 different countries but is right by the campus. I have the contact information for Mary Njugana (South Rift Portfolio Coordinator; BA Social work) who works within my sector of gender equity and socio-economic development. Their team of economic development advisors cover a wide range of development inspiring fields such as tourism, microfinance and savings, resource marketing, agribusiness
Were also meeting with any of the peace organizations we come across on the way down the road as the Uganda Road has most of the NGOs in Eldoret along that drive. (Quick side note about Uganda Road – Its called Uganda Road when you’re traveling west toward Uganda, but if you are going back towards Nairobi (and Eldoret Town from campus) its called Nairobi Road). So this will be my first real scheduled trip outside of Moi University to a NGO facility!

I went to lunch and after went to meet with Mwalimu Leonora’s former professor, inspiration and driving force behind her strength while doing the tedious task of writing her dissertation, Professor Naomi Shitemi. (I’ve come to the conclusion that their relationship is quite similar to mine and Mwalimu’s. One of respect, encouragement, adoration and friendship.)Prof. Shitemi is the head of the Kiswahili department at Moi University and has already had a great impact on my Swahili skills. I met with her today and we spoke in Swahili, and surprisingly I wasn’t nervous speaking in front of her as she coached me through the conversation and explained phrases I was trying to use. After we discussed my research, Mwalimu Leonora’s family and the upcoming conference she is planning, she offered for me to meet her in Eldoret next Tuesday morning and meet her American Swahili tutoree from Bloomington, Indiana. That was exciting enough as Ill be able to sit in her class and participate, but she also offered to take me to SOS Eldoret school and some of the other schools in the area to get a real feel for the school systems, some which are more elite, expensive and efficiently run, while others are destitute and students don’t have access to necessary materials (ie desks, uniforms and writing utensils). I am really excited that I have this opportunity as it will allow me to really have a good insight about the reality of the school systems operating in Kenya.

To top it off, it turned out to be a gorgeous day with lots of sun, about 70 degrees, I found three new books for my research, and I got to go to an outdoor market today and get some vegetables, roasted corn for a snack, fruit and boxed mango and passionfruit juice from the super market . (Yes Mom, I know to wash all the vegetables thoroughly). So my trust in my path and in Mwalimu’s amazing contacts really proved to me today that I am meant to be here and I can’t wait to see what the next few meetings will bring.

Check out the other blog I posted about meeting Dr. Wanjiku’s family!

With love,


Posted by WendiBandi 12:31 Archived in Kenya Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Eldoret from an American perspective

Part one of what will be many cultural observances in my travels and outtings

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Hey everyone!

Hope you’re not sweltering in the blistering heat that I’ve heard is plaguing Pittsburgh. Not to rub it in, but its about 65 degrees here most days and nice and cool at night. You would think you were all in Africa and I was in the States ha.
Well Ive been in Eldoret for a week now and there are a few cultural things I’ve realized so far. Also, I’ve included a description of the most important topic of conversation in Kenya (besides the World Cup games) – the Referendum vote on August 4th:

1.) The food is amazing but yet surprisingly really good for you since its with all natural foods. Most days we have chapatti (naan/pita), suku ku wiki (greens, kinda like spinach), ugali (cornmeal), fried chicken (soooo good I don’t know what they put on it but yum!), lentil beans, long grain white rice (like at Salems for those of you who know what that is), MANDAZI! (fried dough – ok not everything can be good for you) and chai and instant coffee and hot chocolate. For dessert we have mandazi and fresh fruit- oranges (which are more yellow), melon, banana and MANGO! (trying to get pictures soon without looking weird)
2.) There are about 5 meals a day! I wake up and have breakfast around 7am at the guest house with my Indiana friends. We usually have sausage, boiled brown eggs, white bread and preservatives (strawberry is my favorite) and oranges and bananas and usually Milo which is like hot chocolate but is all natural, sweet and really good. Around 10-10:30 there is tea which consists of fruit, instant coffee, chai or milo and then a cake or mandazi. I have to stay away from taking double tea (as there is tea again at 4) or else Ill be gaining some unnecessary weight. Lunch consists of the same food I eat at dinner and they treat us with Fanta orange, Krest Bitter Lemon soda or Coca-Cola. We have lunch around 1 everyday and then dinner at 7. Needless to say, food is a really big part of Kenyan culture and there is a lot of conversation at the dinner table.

3.) You say hi to about everyone you pass and if you’ve met them before you usually have a pretty indepth conversation with them about their day which is nice. Most people are really friendly. The kids are still in school right now so they usually head home for lunch and dinner the same time I do. Most of the time they run up and say hi and we have a small conversation in Swahili or they go directly to English which is a really nice gesture on their part. I’ve been trying to speak more Swahili and my speaking skills are getting better but sometimes its difficult for me to translate what is being said as they speak faster than my level of comprehension. There are 42 different ethnic groups in Kenya! Each ethnic group has their own local language. In Eldoret, most people speak Nande as well as Kiswahili and English.

4.) The houses stay colder as they don’t need to insulation we need for winter in houses in the US. The houses have like a natural air conditioning. Also, depending on a family’s economic situation, some of the family’s have people to come in and help with the cleaning, laundry, and general house maintenance.

5.) There are a lot of US reruns that play on the Kenyan tv systems. I’ve fallen into the routine of watching Cougars, The Amazing Race and Fresh Prince of BelAir. Most of the music and TV is American which I wasn’t necessarily expecting. Obviously, the FIFA World Cup is one of the main sources of entertainment and I’ve noticed most Kenyans were big fans of Ghana and Germany. (I’m rooting for Spain now.)

6.) The News is a Kenyan station and they speak Swahili (I can catch about every third word) but the Parliament members and administration (the Prime Minister Raila and President Kabaki speak English. Some Kenyan news updates: There is a referendum vote on August 4th and issues such as abortion rights, land reform, executive branch setup and the Kadhi courts. The party for the referendum is the green party, and those against are the red party.

a. Those pushing for the “No” vote are claiming that there are policies within the newly drafted constitution which are speared by foreign interests and do not fit within the established framework of the Kenyan community. The Catholic Church and the PM for Higher Education wants to push back the referendum but it looks like Parliament will be carrying on with the vote. One of the main pre-referendum election campaigns is for civic education on the issues that are being voted on. Although the funding for the education programs have not yet been dispersed to the Committee of Experts (CoE) by Parliament and the Treasury, CoE members have continued to hold educational meetings in multiple communities around the area including Eldoret (where I am staying).

b. President Obama is supporting the Yes campaign as he sees much positive influence of the revised constitution but many of his American political adversaries (Republicans) are against the referendum as it legalizes abortion in Kenya. There is no difference between American politics and Kenyan politics as the American sub-African commission is concerning itself with one point, the legalization of abortion, and running with it. There are many other issues on the table that are being voted on in this referendum vote.

c. As writers of the Daily Nation, one of the head Kenyan newspapers points out, voting No against the referendum will maintain the tribal polarity that has been a dynamic force in Kenyan political decisions such as public fund allocations. The revision of the Constitution which was sent out for the Kenyan public’s review on May 6th, 2010, giving the Kenyan people 3 months to review, discuss and ask questions about the main points of the constitution before the voting took place. The redrafting of the constitution was a major negotiation point to stop the post-election violence witnessed in December 2007. Since then, the new draft has been worked on and overseen by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) which it aimed to delegate power, create more of a checks and balances, open up the kadhi court, eliminate the marginalization of ethnic groups.

d. The proposals that are the main issues, aside from the legalization of abortion in MEDICAL EMERGENCIES, is the weakening of the President’s role and the strengthening of the court/judicial system. This measure would be the beginning steps to eliminate the marginalization or favoritism of ethnic parties.

e. Land reform is one of the biggest changes in the constitution. Women will receive more land rights as part of the country’s attempt to create gender equity.

f. The Kadhi courts are Muslim courts which are apart from the secular judiciary system and address issues such as marriage, divorce and land appropriation. As it is difficult as an American to accept this argument for why the Kadhi courts should exist as it creates segregation in a hopeful integrated and unified Kenyan community, it is one of the cultural ideals that Kenyans do not want to dismiss in exchange for adopted foreign democracy. I was apathetic toward those supporting the Kadhi courts until I read an article from the “Kenya London News” by Peter Ondeng and Peter Waiyaki in which they say “The only effect of not including the courts in the constitution would be that, like for all other religions, there would be no funding using tax payers money, and the offices for Kadhis would be recognized rightly as religious offices, and not government office. Most importantly, the draft constitution that will soon be presented to Kenyans for a referendum must include the important clause removed by the PSC: that all religions will be treated equally. “ With this point being made, I think the only way to strengthen the unity that the Yes referendum is searching for is to omit the Kadhi courts as a tax sponsored court system.

7.) I saw the Moi University Public Heath school yesterday which is disconnected from the main campus and is right in the town of Eldoret. The future doctors of Kenya go to school here and I met Dr. Wanjiku’s younger daughter, Njeri, who is going to school at the school of Public Health, and her friend Sam who is also a student and a resident of the student hostels. The hostels are TINY TINY with enough room for a desk, a shelf for both students clothes, and a bunk bed. What is left is about a 3x3 foot floor space. Like I said TINY. And the bathrooms are far from appealing and the students have to provide their own toilet paper. They work in Wards which is like the clinicals our med students have to complete. Plus side- they have free internet access in the hostels and library.

8.) The money equivalence is really cheap. Food usually costs between 125-400 ksh which is about $1.35-5.25 USD for an established, really good restaurant. For 10 hours of internet is about $12 USD. I really haven’t spent much money here at all, especially compared to Spain last summer. Some of the Kenyan med students go to the bars on the weekends, I haven’t gone yet, but we might go out of our friend Abby’s birthday tonight with the program directors. As it is our first time out and about and as obvious American students, we want to take the precaution of having our Kenyan directors and some of the local students with us.

9.) Today I took my first matatu ride from Eldoret Town to Moi University. It took about 45 minutes to get there after we waited at the ‘stage’ for ½ an hour to wait for the matatu to fill up with enough people to make the trip. The 45 minute ride cost me about 100 ksh (BOB) which is about $1.25. The ride was really smooth and there are usually about 10 people in a matatu. It dropped me right off at the center of the campus so it was a safe walk to my guest house. The interesting thing I witnessed at the stage was there people try and sell EVERYTHING to you while you are either walking to the matatu or even while it is sitting idle waiting for enough people. When I saw everything I mean EVERYTHING: candy, newspapers, snacks, chai mix, socks, watches, notepads, pencils, pens, bootlegged cds and movies. You just have to say ‘hapana’ (no) or ignore them and mind your own business.

More to write later. Heading back to the Moi University main campus after a great few nights at Dr. Wanjikus. Ill write with details soon! Hope everyone is doing well.

Love, hugs and kisses!


PS- I just want to say hi to Grandpap. Annie told me he has been reading my posts and I am really excited to have the opportunity to keep in touch with everyone at home. Hello to Grandma and Pap and I promise to call soon. Miss and love you both. Don't worry I'm safe and everyone here is really nice to me and I'm learning a lot. Can't wait to talk to you too. And don't worry Pap - No boys :) (but as you probably know, I am eating A LOT of food!)

Posted by WendiBandi 06:33 Archived in Kenya Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Eldoret, Kenya - Home of Marathon Runners and good food :)

My first week in Eldoret has went by so fast already. Heres the scope on what my daily life has been like and the people I've been with. Ill update soon about what I'll be doing and how well things are with Dr. Wanjiku and her family.

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Sasa Marafiki na jamaa yangu wa Marekani! (Hi my friends and family of the US)

Nimekuwa Eldoret! (I am in Eldoret!) Eldoret is MUCH different from Nairobi as it is a smaller town but still large with many interesting communities. I have yet to actually venture out but I did have lunch right in Eldoret at a great Indian restaurant that had amazing chapatti. Chapatti is very much like Naan and is eaten with most meals as is Ugali which is a maze/cornmeal food. I have some pictures of the food and will describe it in detail under the captions.

I had a quick easy flight from Nairobi to Eldoret and arrivd Sunday, July 4th morning around 10:30. Dr. Wanjiku Khamisi, my boss at Moi University’s IGERD programme (Institute for Gender Equity, Research and Development) picked me up with her daughter who is obtaining her Masters in health sciences. Both were very nice and the drive from Eldoret International Airport to Eldoret was about ½ an hour and then another 45 minutes from where we were to Moi University. I was very appreciative of their generosity to pick me up as an hour and half long ride in a matatu with ALL my luggage would be horrific. There is a lot of farmland; Eldoret is the main cheese manufacturing community in Kenya, but surprisingly, I haven’t had any cheese yet. We had lunch in Eldoret town at an amazing Indian restaurant with really good chapatti and lentil beans and a cucumber and cabbage salad. It was so good. In Eldoret town there are a lot of shops and I stopped at a supermarket that was like a mini Walmart. I got some water, Manji Digestive (odd title I know) bisquits which are made with wheat and are really good. I also go instant coffee which is POTENT and will keep you awake for hours (not as tasty as a Spanish cortado but not bad) and sugar. They put a lot of sugar in their coffee here but also steamed milk which I like.

I’ve seen many pictures of the university but the community was new to me. Most of the roads have a red dirt on it (it tends to get all over your shoes) and between communities is very rural areas.
In Kenya, I’ve learned, there are districts that are like towns or even states depending on the size here in the US and then neighborhoods in the states are equivalent to Kenyan locations. Next week I’ll be venturing into the different locations. There are four main districts as determined for the national representation – Eldoret North, East, South and West. Eldoret south has a VERY dynamic female MP (Parliament Member) Simam Perie and for my research I will be looking at the impact of having a female representative on enrollment rates for females in the district region. Kesses, another location, also is similar to Eldoret South as a former Professor, Deputy Chancellor of Moi University, current Speaker of the House and former DVC, Hon. Kamaar, is making strides in women’s participation for her region. My goal is to meet with each of these wonderful and inspiring women.

The community at Moi University is different than the surrounding locales. Most of the students attending lectures here are for the Environmental study forum that is ongoing in which the 7 American students I’ve befriended are a part of. Additionally, most of the students here are pursuing their Masters rather than their Undergraduate degree. All are welcoming though and we talk a lot during lunch. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m staying at the International students guest house and I have two housemates, Elizabeth (a Master’s student) and Sister Clara from Tanzania who is pursuing her Masters in Religious Studies. Sister Clara has been a wonderful friend to me. She has lent me her hot water boiler to make coffee and tea and she surprised me today with an avocado, mango, 3 apples and bananas from the market as I haven’t had the opportunity to go there yet. Sister Clara is very sweet and has been helping me with my Kiswahili as I am still learning. We attended mass this morning at 7am (early I know- especially for me ha) and she helped me the whole way. Most of it I already know from Mwalimu Leonora, but the practice is necessary.
My room is actually quite large and I have my own bathroom and yes, there is hot running water AND a shower so I am not suffering. It is chilly at night but I have my quilt and the guest housing provided me with a throw as well. The international guest housing also accommodates my new friends from Indiana University who are with the Environmental studies.
A quick description:
Malliron is a grad student at Indiana who is very outgoing, funny, has coined the phrase PTL – Praise the Lord, and is always smiling and encouraging me to join into their little family which I eagerly do. She has an internship in Kenya Industrial Estates about 50 minutes away that follows the same concept as 1000 villages where women make jewelry and is sold fair trade in the States and here. The benefits help with HIV AIDS treatment centers.

Candane is also a grad student and is originally from Jamacia. She already has an admirer here and is genuinely inviting and very intelligent (as are the rest of my new friends.) Jordan looks just like my roommate Barbie and is very atheletic, generous, and sarcastically honest about everything but she has an infectious personality and is constantly laughing. Abby, whose birthday is quickly approaching, is quiet but like the rest, very intriguing and also likes soccer a lot. Nikki is my yoga partner (ok weve only done it once but still) and had an internship in DC and has given me an honest opinion of living there. Definitely some things to consider from our talks. Nicole is very studious and is also a grad student who is married and is maintaining a long distance relationship (kudos to her!) She has been to Africa before and is definitely an asset Im glad to have here as I’m slightly oblivious despite all my research. Sarah arrived yesterday and I am just getting to know her but shes been in Kenya and Uganda since May and worked with school children in the slums. I have no idea how she did it but shes inspirational. And last is Justin who is the only guy in the group (poor Justin). He is also married to his wife he met while they were both doing the Peace Corps in Tanzania and his Kiswahili is amazing.

Their program directors, Dr. Henshaw, Dr. W and Dr. PW are very intelligent and captivating. Henshaw makes many interesting comments. Dr. W and PW are married (their first names are Henry and Phoebe) and they are both Kenyan and work at Indiana University. They are the definition of a perfect marriage and I love the fact that they are so welcoming to me as they are very calming and caring.
Dr. Wanjiku has been out of town the past few days but I will be meeting up with her on Thursday and shes invited me to stay at her house for the night and have dinner and discuss the plans for the next week. I’m very eager to start as Ive been doing a lot of research (which is necessary) with her PhD student, Miriam. Miriam is very sweet and helpful in helping me set up my plans for the next three weeks or so.

I’ll put more of my cultural observations in my next post but Im caught up on whats been going on in my life so far. Hope everyone is well – Miss and love you all!
Kwa heri!


Posted by WendiBandi 12:53 Archived in Kenya Tagged educational Comments (0)

No Place like Nairobi!

Finally arrived in Kenya! First few days were wonderful <3

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Jambo Marafiki na Jamaa Yangu kwa Nairobi!!!
I hope everyone is doing well so far. I have finally made it to Kenya! I got in around 8:45am Friday, July 2nd into the Jomo Kenyatta Airport where I saw Dr. Kivuva (recognized him before I saw the sign!). As I wasn’t that tired after sleeping during the entire flight, we took a driving tour of Nairobi. The first thing I noticed was that many many people walked everywhere. Along the sides of the road there were many mini gardens, which Dr. Joshua Kivuva explained, is part of the city’s new going green project. Many people maintain the gardens and use the products to sell at the markets or sokonis. It is a much better alternative for growing compared to some of the places.
We then went to Dr. Kivuva’s consulting firm where I met some of his colleagues and had a chance to read some of “The East African” paper. Obama is usually mentioned most days in the paper. For example, in Friday’s paper they were discussing the health choices of different elected leaders in light of PM Railia’s recent head surgery and mentioned how President Obama has a good diet and workout plan.
I rode in a matatu to Dr. Kivuva’s work with him and it was definitely an experience. A matatu is like a mini bus/van which is supposed to fit about 9 people but usually youll find more that that in the matatu. It stops ever block or so and is rather inexpensive (maybe 20 ksh?) Oh, the equivalent for a $1USD is 80 Kenyan shillings (KSH). Most times when you eat out, it is between 150-400 ksh ($2-5 USD) for a big, GOOD meal at an established restaurant. At a side vendor (haven’t tried one yet) selling Choma (roasted meat) or maize is maybe 50 ksh. Needless to say I haven’t spent much money here yet.
On our way to the University of Nairobi where Dr. Kivuva teaches, we walked through one of the many slums (The largest is Kibera but we didn’t go through that one). It was a really interesting and sad experience. The slums have probably close to 1000 living in there including children and the elderly. Most live off of less than 100 ksh per family a day. There are little stalls set up along the sides selling everything you can think of from food, second hand clothes to charcoal. Charcoal is usually sold by the most destitute in the slum. There is trash everywhere and goats run around eating it. Dr. Kivuva said that some of the clothes and toys being sold there are taken from the garbage of the upper classes in Kenya and then sold to those in the slums. I was there during a school day and none of the children I saw were in uniforms which made me suspect they don’t attend any schools. As I found out from my environmental studies friends here in Eldoret, most of the women living in these areas were shipped in as sex slaves and the children are the father-less children of the sex slaves. My Eldoret friends went to one of the schools in the slums and those who attend are actually really bright because they realize education is their only option out of the absolute destitution and poverty they were born into. Sorry this is such a depressing subject, but it had quite an impact on me and is one of the driving factors for my research here. (more details later).
The University of Nairobi is really nice and has very floral grounds. I had a really good lunch with Dr. Kivuva and his teaching assistant Esther who was very helpful helping me get my wireless modem and sim cards for my computer and phone. One of the annoying aspects of Kenyan communication systems is that you have to buy scratch off internet and cell phone credit to load. They usually only come in 20 ksh increments for phones which is about 15 minutes of talking time. So I have been trying to buy in bulk and then figure out if I can get on some internet plan as I usually run out halfway through a skype conversation. Good part is that I will not have another astronomical cell phone bill at the end of this trip as I did when in Barcelona (Piccell wireless I hate you!)
I’ve realized like many other things in Kenya, education is relatively cheap (compared to US universities). For one semester at University of Nairobi, it is only about 80,000 ksh or $975 USD. Esther reminded me though that there are a select who could actually afford those prices. Additionally, Sharon Wendy (Kenyans choose two names) was a Masters student studying Environmental planetary at Moi University explained that in one semester, students take about 8 classes! Class is straight through from 8-5 everyday and 20 page papers due every week.
After I returned to Dr. Kivuva’s flat, I showered and had a good vegetarian stew with fresh cut tomatoes, beans and onion. I gave Dr. Kivuva a green ‘thank you’ tie and he said that I subconsciously picked the right color as he works for the government and their color is green whereas the party in favor of the referendum is red. On August 4th there will be a vote on the referendum to the Constitution which was submitted at the beginning of May.
That evening Kilonzo Muthana, a close family friend of Dr. Kivuva and Mwalimu, came to pick me up as I was to stay at their house in the community outside of Nairobi, Ngong. Kilonzo and his family were so very nice to me. They live in a lovely two story stone house (pictures to come) with a garden. It looks much like a middle class house in the US. Njeri, Kilonzo’s wife, is a school teacher at International school where her children attend as well as the parliament members, ambassadors and ex-pats children attend. It is a private school and most children go on to receive good marks and opportunities for college. Njeri made me a wonderful meal (two in one night I know) of chapatti, beans and carrot stew, potatoes (tubers) and cabbage salad followed by bananas, fresh oranges (wish we had these in the states) and chai. I was so stuffed by the end of it. Njeri is very well educated, the local spokeswoman for the Ngong community and wrote a grant proposal to the local MP about public service funds distribution to fix the roads in Ngong. There are many bumps, potholes and rocks due to the heavy rains these past few months and no cement paving. We had some amazing talks over dinner.
Their son Nzioko is very quiet, about the same age as Michael, 13, and had a soccer tournament this weekend so I didn’t see him much but we did watch the Ghana-Germany game together. I spent a lot of my time with Ndinda, known as Lucy at school since many students cannot pronounce her name. Ndinda was kind enough to share her room with me and we stayed up the two nights of my stay talking about everything from her prom, to boys, to different perceptions about one another’s country. She is in her 12th year going into her 13th and is 17. As the school is an International school, they follow the British school system of forms.
We went to the market after sleeping late into the morning and having a wonderful breakfast where we got a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables including butternut which we made a great soup with, potatoes, pineapple, onions, tomatoes, cabbage and carrots. It was crazy there.
I will admit I got a lot of stares being the only mzungu (white person) at the market but being with Ndinda and her mother, I had no apprehension and most people were nice and said sasa to me. I learned that when speaking to children, to say sasa instead of jambo. One little girl looked at me like I was speaking a different language rather than Kiswahili when I said “sijambo” to her.
My one interesting encounter was when a younger guy, probably a teenager, shouted mzungu at me but Ndinda explained he was probably drunk/high on an illegal substance called chang’aa. It is a lethal brew that has marijuana sticks in it and messes with peoples heads but they usually don’t act up when on it. I made sure to stay with Ndinda the entire time we were out but in the city there was no problem.
Kenyans listen to a lot of the same music we do and Ndinda and I have the same taste in music! Yes, that means Justin Beiber!! When my Mom spoke to Ndinda on skype, she commented in her next email that her English was better than my moms and many Americans that she knows. This is quite a true statement. Most Kenyans speak very good English and are fluent. There is a lot of Sweng – Swahili English – but I like it because I can pick up on some stuff and if I don’t know a word in Swahili I can switch into English and then back again.
I had another great dinner, a going away dinner, where I also gave the family my thank you presents of costume jewelry for Ndidna, a soccer shirt for Nzioko, dish towels and a watch for Njeri and a blue tie for Kilonzo. They were very appreciative and I am definitely looking forward to staying with them for the last few weeks of my trip. Ndinda and I have a lot planned for the two of us to do including a really good Ethiopian restaurant.
I’ll write about my arrival in Eldoret and my guest house with Sister Clara tomorrow!
Kwa heri marafiki na jamaa yangu!

Posted by WendiBandi 05:04 Archived in Kenya Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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