Sunday, February 21, 2010

Welcome to my apartment!

This is Mount Kenya!

This is how I get around

This is people picking tea. It's actually quite peaceful, no motors just quiet...

Tea plantations and farms

Tea pick up site. Folks have a spot for their tea and at the end of each day a truck comes to weigh the tea and take it to the factory to be processed.

A three horned chameleon. It was just swaying across the grass and really made me think of a triceratops. Maybe the dinosaurs are still among us. :)

Me... and a couple of friends.

Pedestrians do not have the right of way!

This is interesting for a country that statistically has 1 car per 40 people skewed by the difference between the urban and rural populations. Most Kenyans live rurally and in those areas it’s probably a greater ratio of say 500 people to 1 car. So I ask why do pedestrians have to keep their eyes open for the cars? Just move before they hit you!

So the past couple of weeks have kept me busy which is why I have not had the chance to write until now. Good news as you can see, is the photos. We had a big reception for a group of Americans who came to see what Village Hopecore International is doing here in Kenya. It was a lot of work to organize the VHI funded groups to come and also invite entertainment, all of who are affiliated with VHI. We started about 2 hours later than planned, which made for a very long and hot day for the people who arrived on time. It was success and worth it! One of the Americans who visited decided 4 years ago to put off her visit to Kenya and spend that money on sponsoring a group. She finally saved enough to come and visit.

Yesterday, I went to the town of Meru, which is about 40 km north of Chogoria and maybe 10 km north of the equator. I took a public bus call a Matatu to get there. They wait until the vehicle is full before leaving the station, which they call a stage here. The nice thing about this is you can find yourself ready to go somewhere and be the one person the vehicle needs to go. Usually if one has left recently another will fill up pretty quickly. There’s no worry about being late and missing your bus. The problem about this is there is little or no regulation on how many people can be stuffed into the vehicle. So as we are driving along the road to Meru if anyone is waiting on the side of the road for a vehicle to pass by they will stop and stuff them in the vehicle. This especially happens in hours before dusk and nightfall. As I was returning to Chorgoria it was a little later than I hoped and at one point the vehicle which has 14 seats plus the driver had about 23 passengers, 2 hustlers to get passengers and take their fare and 1 driver. We also had a TV set taking up one seat for a while. Anyway, it really made me appreciate getting around on foot and taking my time and space to get from one location to another.

So I find that I am easily distracted in the Home Health Visit part of my job by the animals. I love the cows and goats. The other day I found a little black kitten curled up in a bag of corn. He was very happy to have a scratch and cuddle. I want to pet the dogs but as they are usually present to protect, they are seldom friendly. Also I don’t want to deal with the potential of rabies. The goats here are very soft and are a special breed for milking. At least here in Chogoria we are blessed with milder temperatures and a fair climate to have European looking cows, sheep and goats, which produce more milk and become pretty big when well fed. A far cry from what I found in Senegal where the cows had barely enough milk for their calves and the goats could produce enough surplus milk for human consumption for just a short while after giving birth to their kids.

There is definitely a lot of potential here. Though I think other parts of Kenya are not so fortunate…

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I find myself thinking about the story of the three little pigs. Fortunately when I was in Senegal I did not have a millet stalk hut. Nevertheless, my cement walls were topped off with a thatched grass roof. Here many of the homes are made of stone and cement but I find the wooden houses much more aesthetically pleasing. I imagine that not too long ago many home looked like this in the US. Nicely decorated living rooms where guests are received with small bedrooms in the back. Outside pit latrines and kitchens separated from the house. I don’t imagine many of these homes would last hundreds of years like the Victorian’s and Brownstones of Boston but then again they don’t have the long cold winters and blowing snow either. They also don't have the big bad wolf... Simple homes for simple lives.

So this week I was thrown into my new job by giving a training earlier in the week on the importance of Malaria prevention and then proper treatment if the disease is contracted. We handed out mosquito nets (note: here they pronounce the qu like you do for ‘question’ rather than like a k). Thursday and Friday I went to 11 homes to see how the nets were hung and ask some general health questions. These people are affiliated with Village Hopecore International (VHI) only as associate groups. This means they have not received a loan from VHI but are in the process of what is called a Merry-Go-Round. They prove their ability to receive a loan and pay it back by working in groups of 12 to loan money and pay back to each other first. It’s really a neat way to encourage self-motivation for money management and creates ambition where no hope existed before. Anyway, I was overwhelmed by acts of appreciation for the mosquito nets through gifts of corn, papaya, mangos, bananas, pineapples, passion fruit and eggs people gave me from their gardens. It’s really quite humbling. I am also inspired by the poly cultures people do here with cash crop farms of tea and coffee that are fertilized by the manure of the cow they keep to provide their families with protein through milk. They also feed their cows, guess what? Grass and every home I’ve visited have what seem to me to be very happy, healthy, interactive cows.

Monday, February 1, 2010

One day away from completing my orientation and I feel like things are picking up. Today I was honored to sit in on a meeting with a group of elders call Njurincheke. This is a group that is specific to the Wameru people of this region of Kenya. I believe there are similar groups throughout Kenya.

Basically, this group was formed in 1730 to maintain the integrity of the Meru community and culture. Always men who are over 18 years old, married and not believed to be a thief, a wizard, or a murderer they are wards for the vulnerable members of the society as well as for the environment and represent a supreme council of the Wameru people. The Njurincheke are not political and do not accept payment for the work they do. In other words, if they are not corrupt as they say they are not, their potential for holding Kenyans accountable is huge.

Unfortunately in recent years the work of the Njurincheke has diminished to being more of a representation of traditional views, as they do not have much to inspire change with in terms of capital. There is also a general break from tradition and values here that is seen even in the United States. Globalization and desires that are sparked by television and advertisement for people who may not even have the means to send their children to school or get appropriate medication has pushed youth out. When I was in Senegal there was a phenomenon they called ‘rural exodus’, where youth would go to the big city in hopes for a cosmopolitan life only to find the hardship of hustling and lack of familial support along with the temptations of the city. I imagine this occurs here as well.

The meeting today was to offer a partnership with the Njurincheke to conduct a feeding program for the most vulnerable families in the area. Orphans and HIV infected and affected people are the main focus, but there are also elderly who are left to care for their grand and great grandchildren because the parents have left. Despair or ambition are the two culprits, I am guessing for this occurrence. We hope with this feeding program, we can help the Njurincheke regain some legitimacy in the eyes of the community and that they can inspire hope on the farm rather than the big city.