The road connecting my house to civilization. About 15km of this lies between Nina and Siaya.
The path I follow for my afternoon walks, which also leads to my local market. It’s a tight squeeze when the cattle come through!
The traditional Luo hut – one of many lining the roads in my village. I pass this hut every day on my daily afternoon walks.
Fresh fish from Lake Victoria! This one was bought in Ugunja, with Dorine. They flash fry it before spreading them out in the open air market. Once it’s sold, they wrap it in newspaper and tuck it in your purse. I cooked it with onions and tomatoes, like a stew. Delish!
One of the biggest perks of living in the village – fresh produce! Okra from my own garden, avocados from the tree shading my house, potatoes from Dorine, lemons and tomatoes from local mamas, brought to me by Stephen.
Deworming day at Nina! Here, little Alvin is taking his deworming tablet with a gulp of water.
Cooking mandazi (donuts) in our school kitchen. All of our school food is cooked over these small fires, with 3 large stones supporting the sufurias (cooking pots). Can’t wait to show off my cooking skills around the campfire when I get back!
Another shot of me cooking up a storm in our school kitchen. You can see on the left, water is boiling for tea for the kids. The two buckets have water for cooking, which was collected from the borehole about 100m from the kitchen.
The eternally beautiful Dorine – in her house, after she cooked a lovely lunch for Daisy and I.
Miss Daisy, ready to dig-in to Dorine’s famous dengu & chapati.
Post-Lunch makeover for little Suzy in Dorine’s house.
One of my all time favorite pictures – Dorine’s nephew and sister, relaxing in the shade of one of the houses in her family compound.
Admiring newborn baby, Beryl. Notice that she is just laying on the couch – no one is holding her. This is one major difference I’ve noticed between Kenyan and American cultures. In America, the baby is passed from one visitor to the next, with little or no time left alone. Here in Kenya, it’s typical for the baby to relax on the couch while visitors take turns admiring from a distance.
Is there anything this woman can’t do? Our housemother, Anjeline, plaiting Lavenda-tall (we have 2 Lavenda’s – known as Lavenda small and Lavenda tall) during her free time.
One of the school’s fabulous cooks, Joyce, shredding sukuma for the kids’ dinner. In the background you can see the pot used for cooking an enormous ugali and the dishrack.
Steve, another jack of all trades, working on cooking a monster ugali for the kids. To the right, in the yellow bucket, you can see the ground maize flour he is about to use to make the ugali.
Undoubtedly the biggest bananas I have ever seen in my life. Tons of them. Enough for everyone in my school to get one, including staff and teachers. These came from a local mama, brought directly to the school on the top of her head.
My little buddy, Paul, sporting the ‘stache. After drawing it on his face, he showed it off (to everyone’s amusement) for about an hour before asking if he could wash it off. I told him it was a tattoo, just like mine, and it wouldn’t come off. He believed me and ran away crying. When I found him, I helped him clean up and took a picture of his clean face to prove it. (He’s still my buddy, and in fact asks for a new one almost every day)
Kericho is a beautiful town (county, really, but also the name of the biggest town within the county) in the HIghlands of the Rift Valley. It is known for it’s beautiful, expansive tea fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. The tea fields surround the town of Kericho and are easy to access from the bustling city center using a taxi or motorbike. Most importantly, public toilets are EVERYWHERE! They’re easy to find and generally cleaner than those I have found in other cities throughout Kenya. Speaking of cleanliness, the streets were clean and easy to navigate, most of which having sidewalks for pedestrians to escape the unruly motorbikes. The people in Kericho are incredibly friendly, helpful, and quite accustomed to tourists. We visited the city market, which was pretty impressive! We weren’t even overcharged while bargaining – I walked away with new jeans and Vans sneakers, head scarves and leggings. Overall, a great place to spend a day or two if you’re coming to Kenya!
Today I Like: writing on napkins, navigating Nairobi via public transportation/matatu, greeting people in Swahili, asking for (& receiving) excellent directions, walking with purpose, being offered a ride by a friendly British-Indian, diverting from said excellent directions (intentionally, without getting lost) & stumbling across Barclays ATM (the only one that takes MasterCard) & a supermarket, spotting potential dinner options (Chinese, Ethiopian & Japanese) near our new Peace Corps accommodation – Methodist Guesthhouse, finding the matatu stage & asking for/receiving friendly help to Westgate, sipping tea& playing with my Kindle in an uncrowded Java House, my yellow sweater, new yellow beaded necklace from Westgate, watching a movie in the theater at Westgate by myself, finding my own way home & submitting a grant for my school.
After spending two fun days with friends, exploring a beautiful new city and finding unbelievable deals at the market (psychedelic leggings, authentic Vans sneakers in my size, and a pair of purple/black checkered skinny legs jeans that fit like a glove), I endured 6 rather excruciating hours on a matatu (2 of which were spent waiting, with the engine off, packed like a can of sardines, where I also incidentally lost my camera) back to the village. After being dumped at Nina, my wobbly, sore, bruised legs slowly led me towards my house, where I hoped to continue sitting, lifeless, for the remainder of my afternoon. However, I happened to arrive just in time (only 1 hour late for a meeting which averages 3) to attend one of our delightfully dull staff meetings, always designed to encourage/reprimand our laziest teacher, which we all must attend and assume some responsibility for the faults he has created which inevitably leads to these meetings.
I dropped my things in my house and rushed over, where I immediately realized no one was interpreting for our deaf staff member, Vincent, who is also required to sit through these lengthy agony festivals. I definitely don’t mind interpreting, but the frustrating part is that I’m not the best signer in the school, and once I begin to interpret, those who are supposed to interpret (and admittedly do a much better job) watch me, which is always a little stressful. Anyways, at least he got some of the information, since it was kind important, once we reached the actual point of the ramblings.
Eventually, the meeting was adjourned with a word of prayer from Dorine, which I was unable to interpret, and most teachers bolted for the door to go home. Not wanting to seem rude, since I did just return from my journey and would be expected to linger and story for a while, I mosied to the door and began sneaking towards my house when I overheard the housemother, Anjeline, shouting “poo poo! Poo poo!” repeatedly. Now this had my attention – rest and relaxation could wait! To make sure I was hearing correctly, I looked at one of the older students, Christabel, and asked what was going on. She explained that someone pooped in the bathing room. I started laughing, while Angeline emerged from the bathing room, still shouting “poo poo! Who!”
Christabel rounded up the little girls and began the interrogation, “poop, bathing room, there, who?” and all of the little girls just smiled and nodded at her, much to my enjoyment. Christable continued trying to explain by squatting and pretending to poop, where all the girls just giggled and pointed at her. Finally she resorted to taking them on a field trip, where she led them to the scene of the crime – the bathing room – where the smelly evidence remained, neatly piled by the door. As soon as she opened the door, the girls peeked in and all shrieked. Ashley, little baby girl, came running over to me as though she had seen a ghost, frantically yanking her dress up and squatting right in front of me, pointing wildly to the bathing room. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately, for the perpetrator, since it likely would have resulted in corporal punishment) we were unable to determine exactly who vandalized the bathing room with their bowel movement, but after about an hour of explaining to adorable little devils, I think they got the idea: poop here (bathing room), and you will pay.
Mom arrived in Nairobi on Saturday, April 7. I met her at the airport and the following morning we departed for Siaya, taking the Easycoach bus direct from Nairobi to Siaya (1400 Kshs ~$14 USD). Our bus left at 7:30am and we arrived in Siaya around 5:30, and fortunately had great weather, which permitted fabulous views of the Great Rift Valley. Once we arrived in Siaya, we hustled through town to purchase some produce before the rain began. My headteacher, Ambalo, met us at the bus station as drops of water threatened to arouse the mud. He drove us to Nina as the mud grew deeper and helped us unload our luggage in my house. The kids were seeking shelter from the rain in the dormitory, which prevented us from meeting them until the following morning.
That night, I cooked mom’s first Kenyan meal – sukuma and sossi (kale and soy meat). We relaxed and sipped on some tea from Anjeline, the housemother, who rushed it over as soon as we arrived at the house, claiming she had prepared it in the morning and waited all day for us to arrive 🙂 After dinner and tea, we fell asleep to rain drumming on the tin roof.
Monday morning: we woke up to the sounds of my kids excitedly getting ready to go home. After some breakfast and tea, we opened my door for the kids to stop by as they pleased. With all of the rain from the night before, it was too muddy to be hanging out with them outside, so the brave ones knocked on the door for introductions while the shy ones sneaked glances in my house as they passed by. Jeph and Ruth, two of my colleagues at the school, also came to meet mom and visit. The rest of the teachers were at a sports competition at Maseno, a town between Siaya and Kisumu. Parents came and collected their kids throughout the day, and by lunchtime most had gone home. Mom and I joined Ruth and Jeph for lunch, sukuma, ugali and omena (fish similar to minnows) before locking up my house and traveling to Siaya town.
Once in Siaya town, we visited the bank to exchange USD for Kenyan Shillings. Because Tuesday had been declared a national holiday (inauguration of the new president, Uhuru Kenyatta), the lines at the bank were horrific. We waited for over two hours in the VIP waiting room before making the 2 minute transaction. Afterwards, we explored Siaya town and visited my local supermarkets, tried some street food (samosa, sim sim, roasted maize) and visited Pastor Edward, my local shoe fundi (craftsman). We returned to our hotel, the Siaya Center, just before the rain began. Here, we enjoyed fish and chips (french fries) and sukuma (cooked kale) with chapati (flatbread similar to naan or pita). Once our bellies were full, we returned to the room, where we actually watched TV before passing out.
Day 3: Tuesday. Fortunately, despite the rainy season, we experienced beautiful, sunny days. After eating breakfast at the Siaya Center, we prepared ourselves for the matatu ride from Siaya to Maseno, where my kids were competing for Provincial Sports. This being mom’s first experience, I made sure she got a good seat where she wouldn’t be getting in and out repeatedly, or sniffing the touts fragrant armpits. I sat in the back while she sat in the front row, and we bounced, jiggled and jolted for about an hour, until we reached Maseno. Once we arrived, Ambalo and Dorine met us along the road and guided us to the field where the kids were competing. We were seated with several other teachers under a shade tree near the finish line (it was track/field day), right beside of the loudspeaker, which fortunately (only for the hearing, I suppose. Still wondering why bother hiring/paying a DJ for a deaf event) blared more music than commentary. We spent about 4 hours watching the kids compete with other deaf schools before deciding to return to Siaya. Once we decided to leave, Ambalo insisted on showing us Maseno School for the Deaf, which was only about a 20 minute walk from this field. This school was huge and inspiring, with over a dozen separate classrooms, a real kitchen and dining hall, separate dormitory facilities and a large milk cow project. Again, fortunately the weather cooperated and we were able to board the matatu back to Siaya just in time to avoid the rain.
Day 4: Wednesday. This was our last day in Siaya. On this day, we went to visit a friend of mine, Stephen, and his family in Ulafu. Ulafu is a small village between Siaya and Nina, along the dirt road I commute regularly. Stephen works at Nina, chopping firewood, slashing grass, cooking, helping with the kids – pretty much anything you could imagine, Stephen does. So anyways, mom and I went to visit his family at their home. He has two boys, Arnold and Daniel, who are both under 5. We enjoyed a homecooked meal here before returning to Siaya for our last night.
I began writing this post just as we left Siaya, but seeing as I just took mom to the airport for her return flight to America, the days have become a bit blurry. I can’t be as detailed now, looking back, which is probably to your benefit.
After Siaya, we passed through Kisumu and caught a bus to Nairobi. The trip into Nairobi was probably the worst I have ever had, only due to traffic in Nairobi, which was actually typical. Normally I alight before entering Downtown Nairobi, and therefore avoid the atrocious traffic jams. But since we had luggage in the boot of the bus, we were forced to continue the trip to the final destination – the stage in downtown. It took hours (seriously, 2 hours) to complete a journey which takes only 30 minutes in light traffic. Part of the reason was simply rush hour (with schools closing, all kids were traveling home from boarding school to be with their families), while the other part was corruption. Our driver was actually arrested in Nairobi and forced to go with the police for about 45 minutes while we passengers remained on the bus, pulled off to the farthest lane of traffic in effort to NOT block already jammed roads. It was a fiasco. We were supposed to arrive at the stage at 4 and we made it around 8.
Anyways, after that experience, we decided to investigate flights to the coast. Fortunately, it didn’t take much investigating to establish that this would be the more practical option.
Watamu. Malindi. Heaven. It’s all the same. Check out the pictures if you need proof. While we were here, I made sure that we tried pretty much every single Kenyan dish out there. We also experienced almost all forms of transportation – walking (a lot!), tuk tuk’s, matatus (which were so much nicer than the ones in Siaya), taxis, and maybe a few others. Because it wasn’t peak season, several of the shops and restaurants I had planned on showing here weren’t open. Despite this, we were still able to do TONS of shopping and eat lots of great food. We spent the days alternating between lazing on the beach (or by the pool), shopping and eating. What more could a girl want? We even got pedicures by the pool one morning. Seriously, heaven on earth.
But all good things must come to an end, or at least to a pause. Despite extending our stay an extra night, we had to face the fact that as heavenly as Watamu may be, it’s not our home. After 6 days, we had to pack our bags (or should I say stuff?) and return to Nairobi for mom’s departure.
We were able to explore Nairobi a bit before she left, visiting the National Museum and several of my favorite shopping areas and restaurants. And now it’s over, and I’m back in our hotel room wondering where the last 2 weeks went.. funny how time goes. I’ll be home before I know it.