Tag Archives: kenya

Dream it. Wish it. Do it.

24 May

I have been fairly abysmal in updating my blog over the last year, but truth be told I have been too busy enjoying life. Not a bad excuse really, now is it?!

I sat down last night, having just sold my beautiful car, and thought about the future, and what lay ahead. You see, I have recently quit my job, sold my car, booked flights to Bali and Malaysia and accepted a job in South Korea starting in July.

I wasn’t happy about where I was and the direction my life was going, so I decided to change it. I dreamed about travelling more, about teaching, about working with children again…I wished I could leave the office job behind and head off on another adventure. Then I did it. I actually did it.

Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….

All of these big decisions and dreams for the future got me thinking about the year gone by and I realized that the last 10 months have been the busiest in my life thus far. Simply jam packed with work, with study, with travel and with spending quality time with friends and loved ones, 10 months seem to have flown by in the blink of an eye.

Working full time while writing a masters thesis, and keeping up my reputation (and love) of being a party girl while continuing to work towards my goal of visiting 50 countries before I’m 30 made for ONE BUSY YEAR!!

So, what kept me so busy you ask??

Well here is a recap, in numbers, of 10 months in the life of Janet – 

Jobs : 2

  1. Manager of Language in Group Summer School
  2. PR and Media Coordinator for The Hope Foundation
Being PR coordinator lead to me being photographed in lots of newspapers!

Being PR coordinator lead to me being photographed in lots of newspapers!

Continents traveled : 3,  Countries visited: 5

  1. Europe (Ireland, England, Netherlands and the Canary Islands -Spain)
  2. Asia (India)
  3. Africa (Kenya)
Some of the Turkana that I met while doing research in Kenya

Some of the Turkana that I met while doing research in Kenya

Road Trips within Ireland: 6

  1. Two great trips to Baltimore, West Cork
  2. Girly weekend in Galway
  3. Adventure weekend in Kerry
  4. Adventure weekend in Meath
  5. Two weekends of partying in Dublin
Adventure weekend in Kerry - amazing fun!

Adventure weekend in Kerry – amazing fun!

Masters Thesis Completed : 1

  1. Title: The impact that water and sanitation hygiene projects in schools can have on the comprehensive security of a community. A case study of the Turkana region of Northern Kenya.
The day I submitted my Masters Thesis.

The day I submitted my Masters Thesis.

Masters Degrees completed: 1

  1. Master of Science in Humanitarian Action. (Sadly I will miss my graduation, but I have been awarded a 2.1)

Amazing Friends made : Countless!!

Great times, with great friends!

Great times, with great friends!

Thank you to everyone who made the last year so special.

You will always be apart of my life.

Feel free to come visit me, wherever it is that I end up, and don’t be afraid to LIVE YOUR DREAMS. Xx

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

11 Nov

The only thing that can bring things back to life, and restore energy levels in this community, is clean water.

As long as there is water, these young kids can continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to live.

Sand, Smiles and Sore Feet

10 Nov

Sorry I have been missing in action from my blog for a few months now, but I have been VERY busy and still am. I am working full-time for an amazing organization called ‘The Hope Foundation” and have also been working hard to get my Masters thesis finished. I also managed to fit in a weekend away in London and just under a month in Northern Kenya, doing field research.

Here are some photos I took while staying in the town of Lodwar, in Central Turkana, where temperatures reach up to 39’c on a daily basis, the climate is harsh and the landscape is desert like. Water is scarce, sanitation facilities are non existent and Life is all  about survival. When I have more time I will share with you my stories are heart ache, horror, compassion and hope, but for now here are some photos of the amazingly beautiful children I befriended on my journey.

The Road to Sudan

6 Jan

(Taken from my Kenyan Diary which was written 5 years ago…the musings of a somewhat naive  20 year old, with big dreams of someday being a published travel writer! Enjoy!)

Imagine a small cowboy town in northern Kenya, ten hours away from any form of civilization. The atmosphere of this outback town was ecstatic; Turkana tribesmen adorned in animal skins, and hundreds of coloured beads, herding their goats through the narrow dusty streets, the naked man sitting on the street corner. Children playing with old tires and with little toy cars made of used milk cartons while the old ‘gogos’ sit around cooking maize and gossiping with their friends. This entire scene is happening to the beat of booming Congolese tunes played on repeat by the local bad boys. This is Lodwar.

Kerrie, Beth and I had been living here for nearly two months, surviving on goat and small rations of water. Everyday here was an adventure; we never knew what would be waiting for us around the next corner, when we would get our next shower or when and what would be our next meal.

Our crazy weekend away all started at a local disco on the Friday night. We hitched a lift into town on the back of a locals pick-up truck, shaky start to a shaky weekend. We arrived to the scene of 200 local boys breaking it down to Sean Paul and jamming to Bob Marley under the light of a full moon. Our arrival, three strange white girls, caused quite a stir.

Hours later after twisting and shaking to every song under the sun, chewing ‘miraa’ and tasting jungle juice we got talking to some guys dressed in camouflage. It turned out they were troops from the African army on their way to Sudan on a peace-keeping mission. We befriended them quicker then lightning with the intention of bumming a lift to Sudan. After much begging they obliged and told us to meet them at the local prison at 5am-Random!

Our friend Teddy collected us at our little hut inside the missionary compound. To our dismay, he was still drunk so he let Kerrie take control of the taxi!! She flew the car down the bumpy desert road, right across the airstrip, narrowly avoiding a tree and zooming up the hill to the old jail. We’re lucky to still be alive! The guard on duty who had very little English must have thought we were 3 insane ‘mzungos’ when we ran inside and explained why we were there: “Hello we met the soldiers at the disco and they told us if we met them here at 5am they would bring us to Sudan”.

Our soldiers, however, were nowhere to be found. Our lack of sleep caught up on us and while waiting on a wooden bench inside the prison walls we conked only to awake an hour later to the sound of all the prisoners shouting at us and clanging their bars and all the local guards lining up with AK 47s in hand. Time to get out of here…

We walked the three kilometres back into town as the sun was rising only to be met by a huge convoy of UN and Red Cross trucks. Suddenly a huge, white, gold tooth clad Moldovan trucker shouted over to us ‘Oi, White Ladies, truck! Now! Sudan! Go!’ so in we hopped without any hesitation and off we went in what was to become our huge Moldovan mobile disco – starting the most random morning of adventure in our personal histories. Our toothless, bald driver proceeded to complain about every thing he believed wrong about Africa, while he chugged back beer chucking the bottles out the window, while driving!! “In Africa, houses SO SMALL, In Russia, houses BIG, very big!”, he repeatedly told us.

Five hours and two breakdowns later (including one outside Kakuma refugee camp) and a headache from the booming Russian dance tunes, we arrived in Lokichoggio where we felt we had dived into the movie set of ‘The Constant Gardener’. After a long trek to the boarder posts in 40°C heat and further flirting with Immigration officials our luck ran out. It turns out it isn’t that easy to just go have lunch in a country thousands of people are fleeing daily. We spent the night drinking in Loki with all the aid workers and truck drivers who gave us Irish a run for our money.

We had to hitch a lift home to Lodwar early Sunday as we had been invited for dinner with Father John and the Local Nuns. It made for a very conservative evening, in vast contrast with the weekend we had just experienced. We never did make it across the boarder but the journey trying to get there; the road to Sudan was one of the most exciting adventures I have EVER had and which I will never forget.

Dear Diary – Laughter and Crocodiles

3 Jan

I have to wonder sometimes why we put ourselves through hell, why I chose to endure sky rocketing temperatures, no electricity, no water and a culture unlike anything I have previously experienced rather than staying at home in Ireland like most sane people my age?! How is it that we can endure such body ache, such frustration, such pain and keep coming back for more? We don’t just simply give up and go home, we get knocked down but by God do we get up again!

I’ve always disliked fish and have been somewhat allergic to it, but today suddenly I pushed this knowledge aside as Beth, Kerrie and I  scrambled our way up the back of a moving lorry, almost over flowing with foul-smelling fish. A lorry we had to cling on to for our dear lives as it sped across the Northern Kenyan desert, as we sat on the roof top at laughing at our lucky escape from the hellish weekend we had just had.

But let me rewind…

We set off to the beautiful Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge for the weekend, which after a 2 hour bus ride and 7km walk across the desert surrounded by about 100 kids, we discovered had shut down about 5 years earlier. Thanks a lot Lonely Planet!! We were ‘befriended’ by a guide who turned out to be a dirty, rotten, cheating, scoundrel! We had to sleep the night on the beach,exposed to all the elements and who knows what else, drink dirty water and had nothing to eat but fish.

We were cajoled into risking  life and limb by getting into a dodgy ‘boat’, which was in fact more like a tree trunk, in gale force winds in a lake inhabited by the highest concentration of Nile crocodiles in the World! After much stress over money with Thomas our ‘guide’, miles of walking in the desert heat without food nor water, and losing all our cameras as they were flung overboard into the swelling waters… after all this emotion and stress, what did we do when the trip was suddenly cancelled? We laughed. Because nothing else could possible go wrong at this stage. We were in hell. We could have cried but instead we laughed, it could never get worse than this…or so we thought!!

Suddenly we are ‘obliged’ to pay Thomas for a trip that was cancelled and he runs off with all our money leaving us penniless! What do we do? We laugh again. It will be ok, we can survive this. We set off across the shores of Lake Turkana, angry, thirsty, hungry and a little faint from the heat. All is good though, we will be ok, we always are.

As we waded waist deep in water backpacks raised above our head, attempting to cross the channel – all the local children start screaming at us. ‘Crocodile, crocodile!‘ -Fuck. I swear my heart has never pumped so fast in my life. I stood, my feet glued to the river bed, my eyes darting in every direction, thoughts rushing through my head. We need to get back quick. We have one hour to walk 7km in order to get last bus from Kalikol to Lodwar. So fuck the crocodiles we are crossing this channel! We wade, one foot after the other, heart pounding, across the crocodile infested river – knowing if we can make it through this we can make it through anything. I can remember thinking if I would prefer to lose an arm or a leg and decided upon an arm…a frightening thought to say the least.

4km later, totally lost and literally dying of thirst at this stage (but happy to be out of the water) when suddenly a 4 wheel drive jeep comes driving by. Oh my god what a feeling! “We’re saved. I knew we would make it!”, I said to the girls! The jeep slows down and the front seat passenger winds down her window, looks us up and down then shouts, “Bye Mzungos!(white people) See you in Lowdar” and off they speed! If only you could have seen the look on my face as I collapsed into the sand, anger and delirium taking over as motivation to keep going faded away.

But what choice did we have but to laugh it off, and keep on going. We eventually made it to Kalikol and I have never been so grateful to be handed an ice cold bottle of coke and a plate of hot chips. So what if we were sitting on top of shit, in some guys hen-house surrounded by goats an other animals?!

Minutes later we were back on are feet and in search of the last bus to Lodwar…which, yup you guessed it, had departed minutes earlier. With no money and classes to teach the next morning we were starting to panic a little. And then we saw the truck, like a knight in shining armour, full to the brim with fish, and with a big smiley driver who welcomed us to climb aboard…by scrambling up the back of the truck and falling onto the piles of smelly fish.

We were alive, we were homeward bound and all we could do was laugh at the absolutely disastrous weekend we had just had.

Only in Kenya!

Dear Diary- Kakuma Refugee Camp

31 Dec

It’s 1am and I’m sitting here in a lovely double bed in the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) house in compound 1 of Kakuma Refugee Camp. It’s hard to believe that I am really here. We got the bus from Lodwar at 8am this morning and what a journey it was- anyone that’s been to Africa will know that no bus journey will ever be uneventful but this trip really took the biscuit!

After waiting an hour, until every last seat was filled, we set off North…only to stop minutes later to pick up more and more passengers, who were crammed in and placed sitting on upside down beer crates, head rests from the bus seats or unstable buckets! As I watched in awe the woman beside me began to brest feed her little new born baby, until we heard a commotion outside. Two Turkana men were attempting to lock their herd of goats in the luggage compartment under the bus! Can you imagine that happening in Ireland?! Hilarious!

As we sat there exasperated by the bumpy journey, hot and sweaty from the unrelenting heat and hungry (as always!), we noticed a cattle lorry drive by crammed full of school kids, to say they were like sardines in a tin would not do this image justice…it was unreal. How they didn’t all crush each other or suffocate was an absolute miracle…it’s quite unbelievable what ‘safety’ standards are here in Africa…if they exist at all! Although the site was pretty horrendous, we then began to hear noises coming from the truck, sounds of joyous singing and laughter! It seems even travelling in a cattle lorry won’t put a damper on the African spirit!

Eventually after filling up the bus with what looked like vegetable oil, a hectic last-minute push of extra women onto the already crowded bus and a few screeches from the poor goats in the luggage compartment..and we were on out way! But alas…nor for long as we broke down halfway to Kakuma! The engine over heated and there was billows of smoke everywhere. We all got told to evacuate the bus in the middle of nowhere while the driver threw some bottled water over the engine to cool it down, and we were on our way again!

Kakuma itself is a dirty little town. The feel, the atmosphere and the smell was pretty awful and sort of gave us the chills. We really didn’t feel comfortable or safe there. There is such a melange of ethnic backgrounds, cultures and nationalities wandering around- Somalis, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Rwandan refugees.

We found Sister Stellas house after about 20 minutes only to discover the sisters had just been robbed and held at gunpoint last night… for the 4th time this month! They were all very shaken and were giving police reports when we arrived. This is the point when we met a guy from Kiladare who offered to look after us and show us the refugee camp. Strictly speaking we were not allowed in without work permits issued from Nairobi, but with him and keeping a low profile it should be fine!!

It was fascinating to see the inside of a Refugee camp, home to over 80,000 refugees. To see the World Food Programme tents, the UN jeeps everywhere and representatives form so many charities or NGOs that I have only previously read about in the News. The camp has been there over 15 years, so many people have been born here and lived in the camp all their lives. It is all the know.

We met some young Kenyan girls at the HomeCraft centre and had a very engaging conversation about love and about life, about customs and traditions. They could not believe I was NOT married. I could not believe, at 16-17, that they all had children!! Many of them told us that they had children just to prove that they could, as many of the men would not marry them unless they could bear many children!  The idea od getting a job and going to college (as I was doing) instead of getting married seemed absurd to them! We got invited to a party to say farewell to the current UN chief in the camp which was a whole other kettle of fish compared to anything we have so far experienced in Africa.In fact, it was almost like not being in Africa, just for the night.

 

Dear Diary – Prisoners

30 Dec

Dear Diary,

Everyday on our way to school we walk past Lodwar Prison. On Monday, as we were strolling home, we passes a group of prisoners all sitting peacefully under the shade of a tree by the dried up river, in their cartoon like black and white prison garb. They have no need to lock the gates as many of the prisoners actually want to be there. While sometimes they might hand feet cuffs or chains linking them together, they are allowed roam Lodwar freely, herding their goats through the streets. They get all their meals, a place to sleep and the freedom to keep their precious livestock…which is often a lot more than they would get outside.

Yesterday we got chatted up by 4 roaming prisoners. There they were, the 4 of them in a a line crossing the runway/airstrip at 7.30am, happy to see their 3 Mzungo friends. Only in Kenya!!

Last night we had dinner in ‘Hotel Salama’ which isnt;t actually a hotel by the way! we had the most random mixture fo food ever. If only I had had my camera! There was some sort of rubbery meat in gravy, some sort of ‘vegetable beans’ that we didn’t order and looked like chicken shit, and ‘federation’..a mixture of potatoes, rice, pasta and veg! We had doughnuts for desert and a coke each and the bill only came to the equivalent of 3 euro for everything!!

We are hoping to go to Kakuma Refugee camp this weekend, which should be pretty interesting. No idea how we will get there yet though, we might have to hitchhike or else look for a matatu.

We went for dinner with some of the local priests and nuns the other night. I’m still laughing at the thought of it. Their stories are hilarious! They were telling us about some local children who have been named after local priests as a mark of respect and as a token of gratitude form the parents. There is a set of twins named after Father Brendan Boyle- 1 called Brendan, the other called Boyle!! Or another family where one child is Seamus and the other is O’ Neill. There is also a Bobby Sands, after the Irish freedom fighter/ hunger striker. One of the local boys is called ‘Motor Car’…as this parents saw a Motor car for the first time in Lodwar the day he was born!

The priests stories had us in stitches. Like the time he was giving Mass and he noticed someone with a distracting t-shirt that read ‘I’m some Bitch!’…just to hear that out of a missionaries mouth was priceless!! Another distracting slogan read ‘Irish kicked Italian Ass on American Grass! Ireland 1 Italy 0, World Cup 1994′ -on an old turkana man’s t-shirt. The locals don’t have a clue what it says, as most of the clothes have been donated for free by NGOs and the missionaries. The best one was a cute little boy wearing a bright t-shirt with, ‘I’m just one fucking ray fo sunshine, aren’t I?!’ Again, hearing this from the mouth of a priest…priceless.

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