Tag Archives: kenya

The Absolute Worst Places On This Planet To Visit

20 Jan

I asked Google what the opposite of a Bucket List was and it told be it’s called a ‘F*ck It’ list or a ‘Sh*t List’. Makes sense, as these places, these events, these activities are ones that made me swear (a lot) and made me wish I could just curl up in a ball a transport myself home. Because let’s me honest – travel isn’t always pretty. 

This is obviously, as always, quite personal. I don’t expect you all to agree with me, but I would love to hear what places you would never dream of returning to. The world ain’t perfect people.

 (Note – often times I absolutely love the people in the place I’m bashing, or I love the country as a whole, so don’t get too defensive. Just saying. )

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

Anthony Bourdain -

Manila, Philippines.

Manila_Philippines

What an absolute Godforsaken city. I hated it the first time round, but decided I would give it a second chance around this time last year. That resulted in a trek through the slums next to the airport where we got mugged and my friend’s camera was stolen. We had literally been on Filipino soil for less than an hour when this happened. The hostel we stayed in wasn’t fit for pigs, it was horrifically disgusting. I won’t go on…it’s too painful.

Kalokol, Northern Kenya

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Don’t worry, it’s highly likely you have never heard of this tiny village located in the middle of the desert in Northern Kenya, and that’s probably a good thing. We ended up there and got totally scammed. Both Lonely Planet and the locals sort of crushed our dreams. It was once a booming fishing village (about 15 years ago) but over-fishing killed all the fish, so now there is virtually nothing left there.  We ended up almost getting eaten by crocodiles (no joke!), suffering from severe dehydration, and were left to find our way out of the desert by numerous locals who drove past us, whizzing across the sand in matatus, and laughing. Absolute nightmare of a place.

Gangnam, South Korea

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If you haven’t heard the song, get off my blog as you must be from another planet. The affluent area of Seoul, made famous the world over by Psy and his crazy dancing, is actually a sad, sad place. Did you know 1 in every 5 women in Seoul have had plastic surgery? And it all happens in crazy places like Gangnam. These people, along with young, beautiful and super-rich kids party the weekend away in the clubs in this area paying scandalous prices for 1 drink. Oh and if you are a foreigner, expect to wait longer and get charged up to double. They will screw you right over. It’s also an area where street hawkers and local slum dwellers literally got driven off the streets, with absolutely no warning. It really is an awful, awful pocket of an otherwise pretty cool city. AVOID.

Kuta, Bali

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I’m a (mature) backpacker – Get Me Outta Here!!

Oh Kuta, how I loathe your very being. I saved for months to go to Bali. I dreamed, I saved, I googled, I was ready to be mesmerised. Then, I arrived in Kuta. WTF. The place is like Benidorm for Australians. People walking down the street half-naked, all wearing the same crappy t-shirts with major brand beer logos splattered across the front. Shop after shop of really shitty souvenirs. Clubs that charge for drinks at exorbitant prices and where if you are lucky you will just get robbed and if you’re unlucky you will get your drink spiked or worse. People selling all sorts of dodgy drugs on the streets, scary thugs hanging out on dark corners and drunk, teenage Aussie puking their guts up outside a McDonalds. This is NOT the Bali I dreamed about. I will for sure go back to Bali, but you could not pay me to go back to Kuta.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Oh all the capital cities I have visited, this could well be the worst. I will never forget my first night in Addis Ababa, mainly because it was one of the worst nights of my life. I literally could not find a place to sleep. I had money, I had a taxi and we simply could not find a room at the inn. It was all a bit ironic really, considering it was nearing December 25th on the Ethiopian calendar (which is 7.5 years behind our calendar) and they were preparing to celebrate the millennium (it was 2007, my time!). In Ethiopia, it was ‘high season’. I guess that will teach me to research what calendar different countries use before I fly there.

I ended up staying in a brothel. I knew it was a brothel because it was pay by the hour. Me and my friend ended up being the only westerners, me the only non-prostitute. There were syringes all over the floor, used condoms and 2 rats ran out of the cupboard when I opened it. The “toilet” was half a door, and guys kept bursting in on me. They followed me to my room and peeked through the keyhole. They pushed the shitty, wooden window panes open from the outside and pushed their heads in through the window. Not one wink of sleep was had, not one thing was touched. We couldn’t leave because we didn’t trust leaving our luggage there so no dinner was eaten that night. Brilliant start to my 6 week backpacking trip…NOT.

Agadir, Morocco

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My Mum recently said she would not go back to Agadir even if someone paid her a million dollars. Personally I would go anywhere for that much money, but I certainly agree with her sentiment. Unless you want to get harassed until you can no longer bear it, unless you want to pay for an all-inclusive hotel but feel guilty about actually drinking any alcohol, unless you want to walk down a beach filled with (and I’m not exaggerating) 100,000 Moroccan Men and not one single woman, and unless you want to be sold for 100 camels to the highest bidder…I suggest you avoid travelling to Agadir, Morocco.

Nairobi, Kenya

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I used to think I hated Jo’burg in South Africa more than Nairobi, but having returned (alone) for the 3rd time recently I have decided I definitely hate Nairobi more. How some expats CHOOSE to live in such a such a dangerous city is beyond me. Forget walking around to see the sights, you WILL get mugged. Don’t even think of leaving your hotel/hostel after dark, at best you will get mugged or stabbed, at worst you will get raped. I once arrived on a night bus from Mombasa, that dropped us all off on some dodgy side street at 5am in the morning, only to be grabbed by two guys, harassed by taxi drivers, and then wrestled for my bag and all my possessions. I literally ran, in pouring, monsoon rain, in whatever direction my feet decided to take me. I ran into the first, shitty, hotel I found and begged for a room. There was no lock, so I moved my bed against the door and slept with one eye open while men continued to bang on my door throughout the night. Another ‘brothel’, no doubt. God I hate that city.

The Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt

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What do you think of when you imagine the pyramids? One of the last remaining original 7 wonders of the world? Miraculous architectural achievements, in the middle of the Egyptian desert? Think what you like, the reality is pretty devastating. While I remain fascinated by the Pyramids themselves, the history, the myths, the human achievement, I absolutely detest what has happened right next to them. The Pyramids are in Cairo, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Like they are literally right there in the middle of Cairo. Cairo, has in fact, grown almost the whole way around these magnificent buildings as the Egyptian government obviously doesn’t give a crap as long as they are still making money from stupid tourists. Guess what is right behind the Sphinx? A KFC!! A freaking Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. So go ahead and pay some corrupt police man to take some ‘clever positioned’ photos of you touching the Great Pyramid or you looking all arab sitting on a stupid camel, but don’t tell me it wasn’t, overall, a massive MASSIVE disappointment.

Phuket, Thailand

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This one still baffles me as Phuket use to be on my BUCKET LIST and I always thought it would be pure dreamy. I arrived by long distance bus on a wet and humid day last August, and within about 2 hours I wanted to get the hell out. Granted, I was staying in Patong, but the fact that a place like that even exists disgusted me. Seeing 2 beautiful, 18-year-old Thai girls walking arm in arm with a fat, drunk, 65-year-old English chap was enough to make me vomit up last nights Pad Thai. The guys making that grotesque popping sound with their fingers and cheeks to advertise the ping-pong show (where old women shoot table tennis balls out of their…well you get it) was enough to send me running. The beach was far from idyll, their were russians absolutely everywhere, transport was awful and when I got a tuk tuk to the other, nicer side of the island I was totally ripped off. I don’t think I would ever go back to Phuket, and would recommend you pick a better, nicer Thai island to spend a few days on.

Top 10 Unusual Travel Destinations for 2015

15 Jan

After reading this great post by Elite Daily outlining ‘50 Unpredictable And Non-Clichéd Places To Travel To In Your 20s’, I thought I would write my own list of unusual travel destinations which I think you should check out. Not all of you though, don’t want these secret places getting too touristy now, do we?

Sometimes there are amazing, and quiet, hideaways waiting for you just around the corner from top tourist destinations. You don’t have to travel to Easter Island or West Africa just to get off the beaten track. Here are my Top 10 unusual travel destinations. Would love to hear what yours are!

10. Ssese Islands, Uganda.

While Uganda is far from the top of any Lonely Planet ‘Top Travel Destination’ list, it is slowly but surely growing as an interesting spot for people backpacking through East Africa or on some group truck trip down through the African continent.

The Ssese islands are a sort of unspoiled paradise smack bang in the middle of Lake Victoria, which in case you didn’t know, is the biggest tropical lake in the world! Think remote beaches, pineapple plantations, freshly caught fish for lunch and an unlimited supply of green, spiky-leafed plants that rhyme with bead. ;-) Just be careful of the Piranhas when swimming…

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9. Sapa, Northern Vietnam

Vietnam is now a popular spot for many adventurous travellers and is one of the most frequented destinations on the infamous ‘banana pancake trail’ around South East Asia. Sapa, which is a farming community in the far North of the country on the border with China, is a lot less busy than the rest of the country. The local H’mong people still live life the same way they probably did 50 or even 100 years ago. You can do a home-stay with these amazing people, after hiking for hours through the most stunning terraced rice fields and indulge in some of the most delicious traditional Vietnamese food which you will ever have the pleasure to eat.

sapa rice terraces

8. Inhambane, Mozambique

Think long white sandy beaches, hammocks, palm trees, fresh coconut cocktails and staying in rooms made of bamboo that line the beach. No jet-skis, no salespeople, no fancy restaurants at rip-off prices…this is true backpacker paradise. You can spend your days lying in a hammock reading a good book, or head out on a traditional boat for some snorkelling in some of the most undisturbed coral reefs in the world. The only trouble you’ll have when it come to Inhambane is actually getting there!

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7. Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Soooo not a lot of people know that you can actually go to Ethiopia on your vacation. Lot’s of people haven’t a clue how GREEN this country is, so full of trees and wildlife and mountains. People just think of poverty, sand and the desert. This does not describe Ethiopia. In fact tourist agencies in the country promote it as the land of ’13 months of sunshine ‘ (thanks to its’ bizarre calendar it has 13 months  in the calendar year and is 7.5 years behind the rest of the world!!)

The Bale mountains are unbelievably beautiful and you can organize a 1 week trek on horse back fairly easily on arrival. Meet medicine men, local children, learn about the medicinal properties of every plant and tree you pass, and pick what animal you would like killed and cooked for your dinner. A pretty amazing experience!

bale mountains

6. Slieve League, Ireland

Just because I travel a lot outside of Ireland doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty this country has to offer. However, I do encourage tourists to get off the beaten track and to avoid tourist traps like Temple Bar, Kilkenny and even the Cliffs of Moher. Why not go somewhere where few tourists go, but will blow you away. For me one of these destinations is Slieve League in Donegal, famed for being Europe’s highest sea cliffs.

Following a walk along the unprotected cliff, you can drive to some of the nearby fishing villages for a nice pint (better than the Guinness storehouse!) and some delicious pub grub. I did a road trip around Donegal a few years ago and it was one of the best weekend trips I have ever done.

slieve-league-cliffs

5. Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia (the country, not the state) is not very well known. In fact apart from the people I travelled there with, I have only met 2 or 3 people who have ever ventured there. Tbilisi, the country’s capital, is the most magical city. Arriving by night, all the old building around the city are beautifully lit up and it really gives the impression of a fairytale.

There are lots of great things to see and do in and around the city, but the real highlight is the people, the food and the oh -so-tasty Georgian wine! Everyone in Georgia makes their own wine and there is no shortage of it. The bread, the cheese and the wine will make you never want to leave. If you are lucky…you might even get to hear some locals singing a traditional Georgian folk song – now that is something you will never forget.

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4. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

For me, the Cameron Highlands sort of remind me of Vietnam, except instead of terraced rice fields, they are growing endless rows of tea leaves. Tours around this area are fascinating, learning about the history of the tea plantations were started, where all the tea goes, and learning about the medicinal properties of all the plants in the area.

There are some super relaxed hotels and nature hostels in the area, where you can easily waste away a few days listening to other travelers tales and reading some great books.

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3. Zanzibar, Tanzania

For anyone who has traveled around East Africa, this won’t seem like much of an unusual destination, but for people who have never set foot on the African continent, they may not have heard of this absolute gem. Located off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is both the ultimate honeymoon destination and the perfect backpacker getaway.

Start your visit in the historic stone town, where you can easily get lost down the winding, narrow streets filled with the smell of spices, and incense and delicious street food. After a day or two, make your way to the long, empty palm-tree lined beaches where you can learn to scuba dive, swim with turtles or dance the night away at one of East Africa’s best beach parties Zanzibar really is an incredible destination for your bucket list.

Stone-Town

2. Watamu, Kenya

Another gem in East Africa is this beautiful bay about half way up the Kenya coast, a few hours North of Mombassa. Famous for its crystal clear waters, excellent snorkelling and scuba diving sites and some pretty incredible forts and ancient ruins near by.

In recent years, it has become a popular package holiday destinations for many germans, but those areas and hotels can be avoided easily enough. My favourite thing about Watamu was hanging with some local beach boys who introduced me to ‘cow on a stick’ which is essentially pieces of beef barbecued on a grill on the side os a street then..you guessed it…put on a stick and sold for about 50 cent. So delicious!

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1. Jeju Island, South Korea

For Koreans, Jeju Island is the top vacation spot. For anyone who has never been to Korea, it’s probably a place you have never heard of! Compared to the rest of Korea, it is a tropical paradise. Compared to normal tropical destinations, it probably isn’t as breath taking but for what it lacks it palm trees, it makes up for in cliff walks, blue lagoons, waterfalls and weird and wonderful attractions.

The 5 days I spent on Jeju island was by far the highlight of my 2 years in South Korea. Days spents walking on the beautiful beaches, exploring parks full of life size penis statues and people re-enacting sex positions (!!), renting scooters and ATV’s, jumping into natural blue lagoons, swimming in waterfalls, walking in 2km long lava tunnels and seeing a UNESCO world heritage site – all on one tiny island!

jeju loveland penis

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.

Dear Diary – The importance of water

29 Dec

Dear Diary,

Things that have become a simple everyday task here would be considered such a chore back home. Hand washing all our clothes every evening, scrubbing them until our hands our red raw, boiling the kettle about ten times to get enough water to fill the buckets,and also washing ourselves with a simple bucket and soap. Spending the evenings sitting on the porch for hours on end, watching the moon rise higher into the night sky. Walking 3km to school and 3km back everyday in the 40’c heat and under the scorching sun no loner seems a big deal.

Living without running water and at times, without electricity, is simply a way of life at this stage. In a land where water is precious and reigns all, its magnitude of importance is hard to comprehend. The town can ‘run out of internet’ and not bat an eyelid, everyone goes on as if nothing has happened, nothing of value has been lost. However, you take away water and life ceases to exist. The river has totally dried up, and all fish and plant life have disappeared.

One can see children as young as 4 or 5 carrying over sized canisters filled with water for miles on end, carrying the precious resource back to their village. Conservation of water is essential and their skill at maximizing utility couldn’t be better. We too are learning fast. Wash your body but not always your hair. Recycle that water by using to flush the toilet at the end of the day. Same goes when washing clothes – this powdery water can always be used again.

At home it is a simple commodity one takes for granted most of our lives. We throw it away, flush it, take hour long baths or showers, fill up swimming pools or hot tubs, use it to water our gardens. But have we, have YOU, ever thought about life without water? Would we survive? Probably not, considering 2 billion people all over the world are suffering from a variety of illnesses, many life threatening, due to lack of access to water on a daily basis.

 Here, water is sacred.

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