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.
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.
I’ve been too lazy to write the last few days. I get caught up in the moment as it is all so laid back in this part of the world. Sitting on our little porch, gazing up at the starry sky, listening to an old Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Cassette(Cd’s have not found their way to this part of Kenya yet, it would seem) and watching the world go by. The temperature at night-time is heavenly and makes it so easy to pass the hours away gazing out on the dark desert, watching kids play in the sand, listening to goats farting(!!)…not a worry in the world.
The World Cup has started…it’s madness how Soccer truly is like an international language. The whole school sat in the hall to watch the match, even the traditionally dressed Turkana women were in on the action peeking in the windows of Lodwars bars, watching the TVs perched high on dusty stands, with crazy aerials sticking out from all sides of everywhere!
Oh the post office ran out of internet. “No you don’t understand, they RAN OUT of internet“, Beth said with a laugh. I mean REALLY? How do you ‘run out’ of internet?! We are going to dinner with 2 of the Fathers tonight in a hotel run by the Woman’s Centre….we had to order our food LAST night so it will be ready for tonight! Pretty funny…extreme advance ordering! I guess they only buy what’s needed on a daily basis.
The Nuns were telling us really scary stories about all the crazy things that go on here. They told us about the time they were shot at driving from Kitale to Lodwar, but had a lucky escape. It seems everyone carries guns here so idly, AK47s, huge rifles and Kalashnikov’s just hanging casually over someones shoulder is a pretty regular sight in Lodwar. Stories of hold ups in the bank, robberies and shootings seem to be so common to the Sisters that they simply laugh them off, saying, ‘That’s life’. They said they have given up telling people at home about the happenings here, the randomness and the harsh realities as people just don’t believe them.
I know just what they mean. As we were strolling home last night,taking a short cut across the sandy runway, looking up at the milky way, that lights up the path home, you have to take a minute to stop and pinch yourself. Is this real? The distant echo of a tribal full moon party rituals in the local village, sounds of screeching women, laughing and joyous songs right into the early hours of the morning. The same village we visited earlier today where we got swamped by over 200 kids. Totally surrounded and the only thing we could think to do to entertain 200 kids at once…THE HOKEY POKEY!! Imagine the sight; a poverty-stricken Turkana village in the dusty Northern Desert, traditionally dressed women adorned in beads and tartan wraps, watching cautiously as 3 strange ‘Mzungos’ (foreigner white people) knee-deep in sand and sweating from the hot African sun, we gathered their 200 plus offspring into a giant circle and proceeded to ‘do the hokey pokey’! An unforgettable moment.
OH! Beth got another marriage proposal at school today….I wonder how many we will each have after 6 weeks here?! One of her younger male students wouldn’t mind an older, western wife it would appear. I think we are all totally in love with Lodwar.
We met Brother Paul today from the USA. He invited us up to Kakuma some day to visit the UN refugee camp, with over 86,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and The Sudan. These kinds of things are suddenly becoming a reality. You hear about them and see them on the News back home but never imagine you will actually step foot in them in real life.
Paul and Bosco (2 local boys) chatted to us for over an hour in the compound. They are so full of stories about flying places with the bishop, and doing this for the bishop and that for the bishop. Not entirely sure how much of it is true, but they are entertaining none the less!
We headed up to St Kevins, the school where we will be teaching later in the morning. They have a lot of facilities such as a science lab and computers – way more than in the school in South Africa which is strange. Classes have around 50 kids so half the size of my classes in South Africa. We will each only have 6 classes which isn’t very much..not sure what we will do for the rest of the day!
We met the headmaster, Father Louis, a rather abrupt, fiery guy. He was wearing just shorts and a t-shirt…not your typical school headmaster! Later we hopped into the backie and drove to Johns house, quite far out-of-town in a local village. He has a really lovely set up. We got home at 1 o Clock so had the whole day to relax.
We met a lovely Malaysian Nun in the guest house at dinner. She is living in a compound near the refugee camp in Kakuma. They have been broken into 4 times!! Men with guns and knives came and stole all the donations from the USA for local children and even all their clothes!! Who would rob from a Nun?! Madness.
I still cannot actually believe where I am living! Went into town a few times yesterday. There is such a great atmosphere. Everywhere, people selling and cooking, Turkana herding goats through the town, naked men sitting on the rubbish dump, children playing with old tyres or balls made from plastic bags. Everyone looking at us and shouting ‘Hello, How are you FINE, How are you FINE’ as if it is all one word!! All the elderly ladies sit around weaving traditional baskets while all the men, young and old, sit on upside down beer crates chewing tobacco and listening to booming congolese tunes. I feel like I’m living in a parallel Universe.
We eventually made it to Lodwar today. Cool date and it’s Kerrie’s 19th birthday-what a bizzare way to spend your birthday. I’m still shaking as I write…that bus journey was out of this world. I’ve also just realised it’s after 9pm and I am seriously sweating and very sticky- this has to have been one of the weirdest days of my life thus far.
First finding the bus- my god sister Geraldine-what a woman! She cracks me up! Totally paranoid she is. You would think after 27 years living here in Kenya she would have integrated in the local community..become a local. But no! To this day she still acts like an ‘Africa Virgin’. She is still unaccustomed to shouts of ‘Muzungu’ (white person), still believing any local will rape, beat, shoot or attack her all at once after 6pm!! Her word of wisdom to us, ‘Cover your bellies or you’ll be attacked!!’
So after 2 hours of waiting, being overcharged ourselves AND made to pay for an extra seat for our baggage (corruption I tell you!!), much hassle from endless hawkers trying to sell us watches and blades and socks and belts and water and nuts, we made it onto the bus.
We also made a new friend, Kalle. One could write a book on this boy and his life so far. Right, so his mom was a drunkard and left him with his grandmother whom he lived with until he was 6 and she sadly passed away of HIV/Aids. So then he became a cowboy- herding animals in the Turkana. A young swedish missionary rescued him and he realised he no longer wished to be a street kid. His alcoholic mother found God and is no longer a drunkard. She has set up her own orphanage in Lodwar to protect and help children like her son. Kalle is sponsored to go to highschool in Lokitang and Nairobi by the Swedish.
So finally Kalle takes his seat next to his sister and the bus starts up with a bang, a burst of congolese tunes and the start of a very bumpy bus ride! Sitting next to 2 Turkana women, we shared our music, sweets and exchanged small talk in English. The first 2-3 hours was amazing! Passing by tiny villages, maize fields and lush green grass, vegetables, up and down we glided through the cherangani hills, through valleys, cliff hangers and amazing views. We even had to drive through a river..only in Kenya!
As the climate and scenery changed, the bus slowly got warmer. Away from the hills we were faced with vast, endless barrenland. Desert, camels, goats, turkana herders- wearing traditional tartan and beaded neckolaces. It was hot- high 30′s at least. Then suddenlt, out of nowhere, the tarmac road stopper. Fuck. Small bump followed by small bump bump, bumpity bump…stretching on for 200km!
Everytime the bus went into a depression, us 3 fools sitting at the back, with our backpacks in tow, went flying into the air- like being shot from a cannon. This continues for miles and miles, hour after hour. My stomach ached so bad- I was starved but couldn’t eat. My head throbbed and I was gasping for a cold drink but afraid to drink for fear I would need to pee!
We finally made it. I’m sitting safely and alive, just about, in our wooden shack within the military compound. Basic? YES! Hot? YES! But it will do perfectly. A dream house in a dream land. Sand everywhere. Living in a compound surrounded by armed guards. Scorpions and spiders are our biggest worries. Tomorrow we visit St Kevins school and only God knows what lies ahead.
Oh yeah- we have no running water, no luxuries. A Bucket for showering, toilet, washing clothes, brushing teeth…everything! This will be a harsh life like no other. Bring it on!
Day of luxury-if the people back home saw us now they would laugh so hard! Taken straight out of a holiday brochure for spain- as one of the girls so nicely put it. We spent the day at the ‘Kitale Country Club’- swimming, sun bathing, chatting and laughing. Gazing up at a cloud covered Mount over the vast, beautiful golf course, spotting our first monkeys- over 30 of them!
As Lowdar was ‘out of water’-whatever that means- we have to stay put here in Kitale until we are given the green light to continue the journey North towards Sudan. Fine with us if it involves lounging in the sun, getting a tan!
After 2 hours at the club and one very burnt Beth, we headed into town- a short 2km walk away. Greeted my endless children shouting ‘how are you FINE, how are you FINE?!’- I guess no matter where you go in Africa the children are the same friendly selves!
We found an internet cafe, checked our mail, bebo, the news and 1 hour only cost 60 cent! Brilliant!! After some shopping, befriending a local boy- ’david’- whom we discussed Roy Keane, Ronaldo, Beckham and….Bosco with, we found a busy, wooden interior and exterior restaurant opposite the bus stop.
The menu confused us as everything was converted in cents. E.g Chips-30cent, Coca-Cola 20 cent. Were the exchange rates different here? NO! We got a drink each and chicken stew and pilau rice with beef (3 meals!) all for 4.40 euro! PLUS a complementary tossed salad from the owner-man was happy to see us I guess!
Back to the club for an afternoon tea (cough white wine!) for only 65 cent-it tasted kinda like banana-very weird- but I drank it anyway! Sister Geraldine (name changed for privacy reasons!) collected us and brought us home. Then the bishop collected her – off to watch the French Open- Oh how could she miss such a spectacle! She is some character it must be said! So straight forward and direct. “HAVE SOME TOAST GIRLS!” “GODFREY- GET SOME TEA!!” Right little gossiper she is too- always giving out about her italian friends drinking habits, other people stealing habits and how children are ‘forced’ into the catholic church even though they aren’t even Christian- SCANDALOUS!
We played with Margaret, little girl named after Sister Margaret who delivered her to the hospital on day of her birth. We finished the day by watching Wimbledon and Bridget Jones Diary- jeez we are living the life of luxury!
Finally after 2 days in Kitale we have Sister Kathleen said we can go to Lodwar tomorrow. They have no running water at all but now have jerry cans to transport it around so we can survive with those. No showers for us for 2 months..this should be interesting! As weird as it sounds to be happy about no running water, it will be an experience of a lifetime and we are kind of sick of being pampered at this stage-we are ready to get down to work!
Even people here laugh at the mention of Lodwar…’it’s hot there you know, way hotter than here’, our waiter informed us today. Eeekkk Why do so many people seem to think we are crazy going to Lodwar? What is it going to be like…hot, we know that! No idea what to expect tomorrow- a bus or a matatu, a house or a hut, a town or a village?! Whatever comes,we’ll be ready.
When in Rome….I mean Kenya!
This is the start of a new series of posts that I am going to copy word for word from an old travel diary I found in my bedroom. Reading back I was not the most sensitive person and my creative writing could have done with some (a lot) of tweaking!! But hopefully you will enjoy the naive honesty of a 20 years old backpacker with big dreams!
WOW. It’s hard to believe I’m actually here in Kenya. In Africa. Only a few hours on a plane and one enters a completely different world. After the hectic experience of Heathrow airport and nearly getting lost, Nairobi Jomo Kenyetta was a breeze. All those stories of muggings and hawkers, crooked airport staff and pushy taxi drivers seems to be a myth. Or else we just got lucky.
Father Tom from St Patrick’s Missions picked us up at the airport and we were given a second breakfast before been whizzed down town by Joseph, their driver, to sort out our bus tickets to Kitale the next day. Passing by hawkers selling everything from Mangos to puppies, children begging in traffic, a foot-less leper on the roadside. From the lush suburbs inhabited by rich diplomats from around the world and foreign aid organizations and missionary compounds to the slums, an endless menage of aluminium shacks, make shift hairdressers, sweet shops, shoe shiners, car washers, wood cutters. People cleaning themselves alongside the road in ditches full of thick brown, muddy water. It was all so overwhelming for our fist day in Kenya.
We were given a huge lunch and dinner best food ever; potatoes,kidney beans, soup, bread, pizza, porridge.
We have been laughed at many times today by the other priests and local at any mention of ‘Lodwar’, the place we are going to teach. “Bring sunscreen” one said with a laugh. I guess they know best, they have lived here for 9 years!