Thursday, September 06, 2007

Feedback from James & Soraya

Uhunda village, 7km from Usenge, Bondo District, Nyanza Province,
Western Kenya. Summer 2007

Our experience:

The community of Uhunda is about a 30 minute walk from the main road
from Kisumu that carries on to Osieko. The community has its own beach
on Lake Victoria, called Honge, which is about a 5 minute walk from the
school itself, which provides stunning views over the lake. This beach
is the lifeblood for the community, which relies on the fishing trade,
mainly catching tilapia, Nile perch and omena (or daga). There are
wooden boats lined up on the beach and it is well worth asking one of
the fishermen to take you out for a trip; it is interesting to see the
various fishing methods and the views are fantastic.

Nyanza province is dominated by the tribe Luo. They are one of the
largest tribal grouping in Kenya and along with Kakuyu hold many of the
most influential positions in the state. They speak their own language,
as so many of the Kenyan tribes do, which is very different to Swahili.
Sharon can provide a helpful list of common words and the people are
appreciative and often amused by any attempt to converse in their
mother-tongue. Having said this, you will not need to speak it to teach
in the school. Even the small children in the orphan centre and nursery
learn some English and latterly all lessons are given in it. Even exams
are set in English, so it is helpful for the children to speak to you in
English. This will at least help them become more confident speaking it
and will provide a good reason for them to do so.

The people are extremely generous and they will bring you presents from
their shambas (their small allotments) or whatever they can afford:
fish, fruits, milk. It is very difficult to turn down these gifts, even
though you may feel bad accepting them. But they will be very pleased to
give them. We were made so welcome that we really felt that we had an
African home and even an African mama in Priscah.

As with any small, rural community, everyone knows everyone. They have
large extended families and so people are always round each other's
houses. The Luos are polygamists and it is still common for men to have
more than one wife. Traditionally the man lives in a house in the middle
and provides separate houses around him for each of his wives. As you
can imagine, this can lead to huge families and you will find brothers
(strictly half-brothers) who could be father and son.

We are 'muzungus', or white Europeans. The kids shout it and wave as you
walk past. Some of them had never seen white people before and were
either terrified or fascinated by us. This was made amusingly clear when
we went to visit a community project up the road in a very rural area.
Soraya saw a particularly cute little boy and went over to him with
hands outstretched, cooing. His smile was immediately replaced by
blood-curdling dread; he ran away as quickly as his little legs could
carry him. Soraya was keen to cheer him up and tried to pick him up
again and the closer she got, the more terrified he became.

In some ways it was quite fun being a muzungu because when we walked
around the village we were greeted by everybody and generally treated as
washed-up z-list celebrities might be at home. But with that comes the
assumption that we are made of money and could, if only we were that way
inclined, solve all of Africa's problems with a swish of our Pound
Stirling. What we have learnt though, and what we were keen to stress
during a 2hr school committee meeting, is that the most pressing
problems of poverty and HIV/Aids cannot be solved instantly by anyone,
or any amount of money. This was a problem of communication and when we
arrived they had been waiting for 4 muzungus (we were two) for a year
and a half. There expectations were out of proportion sadly, but
hopefully in the future they will know what to expect having had us
there for a month. The things that we were most impressed with have been
the community projects which are run, organised, and established by
locals, but which are sometimes funded by charities. There are lots that
try to educate and raise awareness of various issues, and they seem to
me to be making more integral progress than carpet-bomb charity involvement.

I had had no previous teaching experience and was not a little nervous
about the prospect, especially when I met some of the other volunteers
who were professional teachers at home. But the experience was really
satisfying. The fact that muzungus are teaching them is an intriguing
novelty factor for the pupils and they are keen and receptive. They were
extremely shy to begin with and it took a while for them to get them to
put up their hands and say anything they wanted, but it is worth the
effort because it makes the lessons more interesting and stimulating for
the children and for you. You will probably want to buy all the
materials you will need to teach. We ended up travelling to Kisumu every
weekend to pick up various things. The chairman of the beach, Henry, a
very respected man, has a car and is always willing to help with
transport from Usenge if you have heavy things.

Even though we were not able to teach the orphan centre kids the
irregular past tense in English, we could help with their learning by
rote (A is for Apple) and with games and drawing, something which they
seem not to have done before. They were adorable and we both had our
favourites, who we wished we could pack in our bags and take home. I
think they also took something from the relationship and were pleased to
have us with them.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our time in Uhunda, made a lot of real
friends, and learnt a lot about Kenya and Africa. I almost wish I could
vote in the upcoming presidential election because we learnt a great
deal about the politics of the country and came to hold strong views of
our own.

I would recommend this experience to anyone. We will definitely go back.
And we feel quite proud to be the first of many people who will go back
and forth in this relationship between Nyayo and AVIF.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Update on safari from Marie

Hello all!

I have been busy on Safari - wow an amazing experience - yep the stuff you see on TV, the theme song to out of Africa playing in my head, as I looked over the vast African landscape, the golden long grass, the acacia trees, the Huge blue skies.......and then the animals - we saw 4 out of the big 5, but will see the Rhino in Nakuru later. We camped under the yellow barked acacia trees - so gorgeous with the sun shining through them. The baboons and monkeys' homes. Our camp was nestled at the base of a hill, yep where the Lions live! You could hear the purring at night in the tents......
Our tents were separated by little tracks, we had our own toilet and shower, talk about luxury - real beds firm mattresses, soft pillows and a cloud like doona - ah the little things! Ha not to mention the 3 course home made meals (Nigels a great cook as well as the safari guy!) What an awesome 3 days.....the only thing I could complain about is I wanted to stay longer!

We all met up on the Monday evening, stopping to watch the sunset with a beer before going into camp, seeing some hyena, mongoose, I think impala..... easy evening unpacking and eating, a camp fire outside every tent and two Maasai on duty at night to keep the animals out!

An 11 hour day and up at 6am for breakfast - then off to the Mara - the open vast spaces - home to the African animals, on migration.....Wilderbeast, zebra, giraffe, buffalo,lion, impala, gazelle, crocodiles, hippo's, mongoose, warthog, ostrich, vultures, secretary bird.......and many more I cannot think of right now! Amazing! lots of stories but too much to write - we spent the day sitting on the roof of the jeep having a ball!

The following day we went to the Maasai village and looked through one of the workers homes, the women in the tribe sitting out with all their wares...hmmmmm too expensive - but yep - alll know Im a softy! then we went to see the new homes going up - thanks to the women - they seem to do all here....... lazy afternoon, then an evening walk around the hills around the camp......wildlife right there......

I was to go check out a few spots on my way back to the Mercy home, however Nigel and Marilize let me stay one night - I was so relaxed and welcomed they said it was ok to stay on - hmmm well I did - awesome company the two of them, lots of wine and laughs - On the Sunday the bus then I had to take all the way home - big mistake!!!!! I think my "sitting apparatus"as the girls call it! spent most of the 8 hour journey in mid air - the road so horrific! Yep I was placed in the back row the only muzungu - no food, forgot brekky - only one short stop - you should have seen how packed it was - nearly impossible to get out to go to the loo.......the scenery - when I saw - was awesome - the maize plantations, and the incredible tea plantations - however there was a young lady near the window who kept closing the curtain and the window - when the bus is overcrowded, muggy and babies being sick, amonst other things...I kept asking her - open the window I need air - thought I would suffocate.......just before Kisumu we had a flat tyre - hmmmm just one of those top it off when we arrived in Luanda (closest stop to Mercy) - it not only poured heavy tropical rain, but hailed! Everything soaked! Luckily Zoe met up with me in Kisumu and I brought a stereo for the girls, from Nigels home, so she carried the stereo back on her head, the box disintergrating on the way..... so happy to reach home - even though no warm water, or other the old back has been put to the test! having today off...but all is great - the girls so enchanted with the stereo - their little tape deck got taken in a robbery before we arrived - so a cd player is so amazing - the smiling faces and the african rhythmn as they danced the evening away made the journey worth while I

I will leave it there, hope my photos come out !


Zoe's still in Kenya

Visit Kenya with Zoe in her fantastic web-log.

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