Sunday, July 26, 2009

"You can get anything you want at ...."

Toilet in Nyland Slum

Taking Care of a Sibling

Standing Water/Sewage in Nylanda Slum


Peter's New Friend

Our Best Knife


Hinda and the Girls

Going to PreSchool

Garbage in Nylanda Slum

Feeding Time

Drought Will Bring Hunger

Bath Time

Back from the Market

A Strong Woman with AIDS

Kenya Blog 4

Kenya Blog 4
July 27, 2009

Jambo! (Hello!)

Hinda said we didn’t have much to write, so here goes nothing. We do have lots of good photos though, and there are some things to write about .

Many people who live in cities like Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa, and other places do not call where they live home, unless of course that is where they grew up and where their families are.
Where they live is in a house, and home is in their ancestral village where they were raised, and where families, and relatives live and where many people return from time to time to visit. Makes sense to me. I, Peter have lived in Seattle for almost 40 years, but home will always be New York. My (Hinda) home is Seattle where my family now is.

Also here in Kenya, and perhaps all over Africa, there are many couples who are separated. The wife and children may live in one city where she is working, and the husband in another where he is working. Why? It is difficult to find a job, so one works where they can. This must be difficult for families, especially for young ones just starting out. We would miss each other if we had to live in separate cities and only see each other monthly, or less than that. We hope that the economy will improve for our Kenyan friends, but it will take awhile.

A slum is always bad, but we recently visited a slum area of Kisumu where our NGO has programs, called Nyalenda. It is not nice: lots of garbage and open sewage, very poor living structures, little or no indoor plumbing, non-existent roads that even a four wheel drive vehicle would have a tough time getting around, and all of the bad things one would think about in a slum. We hear all the time about the corrupt government, and it is unfortunate that the money that could and should be used to improve the lives of the people is not reaching that destination, and all knows where it goes. Will it get better? Hopefully, but until then, we, others like us, and the organization we are working with have to continue poli poli (slowly slowly) trying to improve things with the scant resources that we all have. Otherwise, how do you sleep at night, knowing that if you don’t at least try to help bring about some change, even less will improve. So that is why we are here and that is why our NGO is here, and there are lots of folks like us, and lots of NGO’s that are trying and working hard.

Hinda has been teaching a woman she works with – a nurse – how to use the computer. And this nurse who we shall call “H” is doing great. She started at “0” and now can type a basic document, file it, retrieve it again, etc., etc. Hinda has a good method. She first teaches “H” and others how to play computer Solitaire which teaches hand/eye coordination, and then goes on from there. When we leave in a couple of more months “H” will be computer literate. Sometimes when you can’t change the whole world, it is OK to empower and build capacity in just one person, and then “H” can pass on what she has learned to someone else.

Another concept we both use to teach and have been for years is K I S S – Keep it Short and Simple, and it always goes over well. It really is what many of us should do more. Perhaps we should use more of it in our blogs. Seriously though, we do incorporate often in many of the things we do, and after we return from the Maasai Mara, we will do a Report Writing workshop and use KISS as a teaching tool.

When we were first thinking of coming here to Kisumu, we were told that lots of people would claim to be a relative of Barack Obama. Well, that really hasn’t happened, but we think that one of our colleagues actually is a distant cousin so we are told, and there are lots of little Michelle’s and Obama’s running around.

In this blog, there is a photo of a Muslim man in a red Kaffiyeh. One day recently we went to eat tilapia at “Tilapia Beach” with our E.D. and about 9 or 10 men, all Muslims sat down next to us. Peter wanted to photograph them because they looked interesting, and so after a while he went to their table and asked permission to photograph. They agreed, asked him to sit down with them, gave him a cold drink, and then all of them, including Peter began a long discussion. It seems that 4 of the men were from Jordan, and 2 from Pakistan, and were here to help teach the local Muslim community. Peter then wondered to himself if he should tell them that he is Jewish, and of course he did, so the discussion got even better, and all agreed that we are all brothers and sisters; that there are many more similarities than differences between Jews and Muslims; and that most of the problems were caused by politicians. So what else is new? In the end, Peter made a friend with a man, whom we hope will become friends with our NGO. So, the moral of all of this is don’t be shy. The worst thing that will happen when you ask is that you will be refused. And the photo is good, isn’t it. He has a great smile.

Yesterday we took a leaky boat on a 2 hour ride to reach Maboko Island in Lake Victoria where Dr. Richard Leakey many years ago, discovered evidence of stone age culture on the island. We didn’t see any, however, what we did do was spend a great few hours walking around and seeing how people on Maboko Island still are living a very traditional life fishing, growing maize and other crops; having cows, goats, and chickens, and more. We met several families who invited us into their mud and thatch bondas, and had the opportunity to talk at length with them, and share information about us and our family with them. This was very traditional living, and a very good learning experience for us. Once again, we saw the effects of the drought in this area – dried out corn fields. And the corn that did survive is very very small. It will be very difficult over the next few months for these people. We saw a few children who looked pretty malnourished, and things will probably get worse before they get better.

On the other hand, on Saturday, we participated with some staff from our organization in a medical camp, where volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and our Reproductive Health Coordinator and another young woman went to a small village about an hour or so out of Kisumu to examine and give basic health care to the villagers in that area. Our RH person gave two excellent workshops on Family Planning to mixed groups of men and women, sort of unusual to have that mix together talking about family planning, and then our NGO was invited to come back to the village to help them start some self help programs. So, it was a good day.

Next week we are going to the Maasai Mara for a 4 day safari and to relax. We will tell you all about it in a couple of weeks, and hope to have good photos.

We wish you good health and good luck in whatever you are doing.

Love and hugs,

Babu and Nyanya (Grandfather and Grandmother)

By the way, Peter has been temporarily named Kijana Ndogo Sana (the youngest man) Of course he is the oldest, but he and all enjoy that title of honor. However, once we leave, it will return to its rightful owner who once again will be the youngest oldest. Actually, he is almost 5 years youngest than Peter and 2 days younger than Hinda.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Obama Gate, Provincial Hospital, Kisumu

Brown Egret

Black and White Kingfisher

Hauling in Nets

Mending Nets

Titus - Lake Victoria Guide

Peter relaxing??

Blue Kingfisher

Morning Bath in Lake Victoria

Washing Clothes in Lake Victoria

This is a REALLY BIG Lizard

Hinda and Titus on Lake Victoria

This is how the world should be

This Little Cutie Latched Onto Us

Blog 3 Kenya

Blog 3
Kisumu, Kenya
July 13, 2009

Hello all!

It is time to write again and update you on what we have been doing and seeing.

We are both well and we are doing well. Keeping pretty busy at work and we are pleased with our progress. One of our assignments with the organization we are working with here is to help with their fundraising efforts to raise money necessary to build a new facility.

With just a little bit of mentoring, and some capacity building, the fundraising campaign has taken off like a rocket, and everyone is very pleased, but no one more than us. For us, it has always been about empowering and capacity building, and while it can be easier to do it yourself, it really doesn’t work. The folks here are bright and capable, and sometimes, all it takes is a new set of eyes – not being able to see the forest through the trees.

The goal is to have the first phase of the building completed by January 2010, so that the programs can move in by then, and we think there is a pretty good chance of that happening. Wish us luck!!

For all of my life I have been wearing undershirts – and it wasn’t until very recently that I learned that in this part of the world they are called “wife beaters”.

Well, Barack Obama is of course in the news much recently because of his recent trip to sub Saharan Africa, but unfortunately not to Kenya, his ancestral homeland. Never the less, there is a lot of Obama presence here: “Obama Gate”, the entrance to the district hospital; Obama driving schools; Obama’s photo on matatus, and the naming of children, including the 8 month old daughter of one of our workmates – she is named Michelle, and if you count back about 8 months, it will be easy for you to figure out why. She is adorable and I (Hinda) got to hold her for some time on Friday, many of the babies are afraid of me because I am white and in the small, poor villages they have never seen someone of my color. This Michelle, however, took to me like I was her grandmother. We played and laughed and when her Mom came to get her she was surprised to see how happy Michelle was. I almost could not give her up. One of the men who works with this woman asked me if I had a baby the same age as Michelle, I said, “do you know how old I am? He said, 40?) I thanked him and told him my age and he was dumbfounded.

One of you recently asked us if we had any photos of giant insects. Unfortunately we don’t, but if you want us to we can take some photos of tiny ants in the packages of bread we buy. We have been told they are harmless, and they probably are. By the way, there are these tiny ants EVERYWHERE. However, accompanying this blog is a photo of a REALLY MONSTER lizard. Check it out!

We have finally found a place where there is really good cake, so if you want to have a good dessert with us, come on over. We do have an extra bedroom for you.

We live and work in a neighborhood named after one of Kenya’s early heroes during the time of independence – Tom Mboya who unfortunately was assassinated in Nairobi in 1969. I think he was a Luo, the predominant tribe from this part of Kenya. Speaking of Luo, Peter has also learned a few words of Luo, but is mainly learning Kiswahili and is doing well. He can even speak in short – very short sentences. Kind of like our grandson, Joseph who is 2, but people say his accent is good, and it always a good way to make friends. He now has 6 pages filled in his notebook of Kiswahili and Luo words and expressions.

One of the traditional dishes of Kenya is nyama choma – grilled meat, so last night we had great kuku choma (grilled chicken) and it was so good we ate the whole thing along with ugali, a doughy paste made from maize meal, and Hinda had chips (fries)
This past Sunday we took a very interesting and relaxing 3 hour boat ride on Lake Victoria. We went on a small boat with a “long tail” engine. Lots of very beautiful birds, some hippos, MONSTER lizards, and our guide Titus, was talking to all of these in their language. Did they understand and answer? Ask Titus.

We spent most of the time along the shore and photographed fisherman, women washing clothes, people bathing, men pulling in fishing nets and mending them on shore, and more. Unfortunately, the lake, the second largest in the world with Lake Superior the largest has many problems: being fished out slowly but surely, hyacinth which are not native encroaching on the shoreline, and Nile perch eating everything in site.

Floated past beautiful papyrus, (remember baby Moses who floated in a reed basket among the papyrus in ancient Egypt). Papyrus is used here and in Uganda for lots of things, including mats, rafts, paper, chairs, and more.

And after returning from our boat excursion on Lake Victoria we had delicious whole fried tilapia, and Hinda again had chips.

How lucky we are!!
Did you ever think how lucky those of us who live in the western world are? Aside from having access to everything we want and need, we usually have the money to buy what we want and need.
On our various volunteer assignments in the developing world we have seen abject poverty, sickness, heartbreak, death, and the difficulty of getting just basic needs met.
We spent one recent morning at the clinic of the organization we are working with in Kisumu, Kenya. It was the day of the week that mother’s bring their babies, who are in a program to help malnourished children. The community health workers go around the community and find children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, who are malnourished. They are entered into the program to bring them to the state of not being malnourished and having the ability to grow. How heartbreaking, the children are, skinny, lethargic and don’t even have the energy to cry. They are held by their mothers and just listlessly lie there. 80% of the mothers are HIV positive and have taken drugs to prevent passing on the disease to their babies. In these cases it is recommended that the baby be breast fed for only 6 months so they do not continue to drink the mother’s milk and perhaps contract the disease.
This is how the program works; an orphaned unmarried teenage mother of two is found in the community. Her children are malnourished and she has no means of feeding them. The children are enrolled in the program, they are given nutrient and vitamin enriched packets of special food to supplement anything the children eat. The mother is counseled on reproductive health and given family planning/birth control options. She is then put in touch with the food security program where she is taught to grow some food and maybe raise a chicken who will lay an egg a day by the time it is 4 months old. All the time the mother is being counseled the babies get their supplements and as the mother gets more food she is able to feed them as well. Once the emergency situation is passed, the mother is put in touch with the training program, where she can learn catering, hairdressing, or tailoring. She is also put in touch with the microfinance program where she can get a small loan to start a business.
The above story is how the program works, in most cases, Of the 338 children enrolled in the program last year, 298 of them successfully completed the program. Some of the children die and others just disappear.
For every one of the success stories there are just as many, if not more, children and mothers that never get taken care of, that die or just barely survive for long periods of time.
We have been touched by these people and their overwhelming needs. We continue to do our little bit to make things better, but sometimes feel overwhelmed. We are hopeful that the small things we do will make a difference in a few lives. And the skills we pass on to the organizations we work with will help build the capacity of those people to make changes in their own communities.

Ok for now dear friends and family, There is quite a lot here and lots of photos. Enjoy.

Talk to you again soon.


Mzee Peter and Mama Hinda

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Brother and sister in village near Kisumu

Our house at Pabari's Paradise

Okeko Wilberforce, our guide in Kakamega Forest

Girl we met in supermarket

Black & White Colobus Monkey, Kakamega Forest

Blog 2 Kenya

Blog 2
Kisumu, Kenya
July 6, 2009

Hello everyone!

For those of you who are Americans, we hope you had a good Independence Day Holiday, and for those of you who are not, we hope you had a great 4th of July.

We are now in our “permanent” home here in Kisumu. It is called “Pabari’s Paradise” for good reason: It is like being in a beautiful botanical garden, complete with swimming pool. We have a very nice 2 bedroom cottage including a very comfortable screened in living room, so come on over. Like many places here, and elsewhere in Africa we are in a compound that is fenced and has a security gate with 24 hour guards, but we also have Maasai men who patrol the street at night, so we feel pretty safe. We would feel safe anyway, but why not have a Maasai warrior around.

Work is going very well, and Peter is immersed in a capital fundraising campaign to build a new center for the NGO we are with, and Hinda has taken on, once again, helping to develop HR and other policies, as well as mentoring the staff at the clinic that is a part of this group, and both of us are doing some computer mentoring. Peter has done a sample slide show, and will use it as a teaching tool. Our work colleagues are extremely friendly, and we feel very wanted and a part of the group.

Peter’s Kiswahili is expanding daily and he is impressing lots of people. So you see, a 71 year old dog can still learn new tricks. Right Sserunjogi?

This weekend we visited the Kakamega Forest, the only Kenyan vestige of the unique and once mighty “Guineo-Congolian Forest eco system – virgin tropical rain forest that once stretched from the Congo all the way to Uganda. It is quite beautiful and the trees reach to the sky. It is so wild that trees actually kill each other to survive. There are over 400 species of birds and 400 species of butterflies, and no less than 7 different primate species including the blue monkey and the black and white colobus. We hiked through the forest with a local guide who taught us much, and also brought us back safely. Were we alone, it would be pretty easy to get lost. We stayed in a beautiful retreat that at the turn of the 20th century was the home of the owner of a saw mill. It was pretty posh, but quite simple. When we arrived we were told that at 4 we would have tea or coffee and “delicious” cake, and it really was. Wow!! By the way, there are no malaria mosquitoes in Kakamega and it is only an hour or so out of Kisumu.

So Hinda asked the guide: “Why are they called blue monkeys?” And the guide said, (yes, you guessed it), “Because they look blue”, and Peter said: “Duuh”.

We now walk back and forth to work, but also use “tuk tuk’s” and “matatu’s” to go to the center of town or to the market, etc. What are tuk tuk’s and matatu’s. Those of you who have been to Thailand , India, and perhaps other places will recognize them as 3 wheeled covered motorbikes which sound like tuktuktuktuk………………………………… and have no springs, and here most of the roads aren’t paved. As for matatu’s, they are simply passenger vans that are supposed to hold up to 12 people, but can always squeeze in 20 or 21, or more, but they are cheap – usually 20 “bob” (shillings), about 25 cents. Each morning at about 5:30 the matatu’s on the main road near our home, are blowing their airhorn’s looking for passengers. Sounds like a herd of elephants moving through the jungle.

You know of course that near here is where President Barack Obama’s father’s family comes from, and so we were not surprised to see the “Obama Gate” as one of the entrances to the Provincial Hospital. Speaking of the hospitals, one of the students here who is assigned there part time took a video to show us one of the women’s wards: 2 women to a bed, rats, cockroaches, and then told us that the women’s ward is better than the men’s ward. You may remember our description last year of the big hospital in Kampala where we had to help our friend who without our help, or someone’s would not have had sheets, pillow, blanket, food, bedpan, X-rays, or not much of anything else. It is pretty severe for poor people. Here at the hospital, the doctor only comes once a week and “sees” – literally, 250 patients in a day. The daily care is by interns and nurses. There is a long way to go, and it could be better, but things like corruption and not caring certainly make the going rough and slow.

The modern world is still mind boggling for those of us who grew up before TV, jet planes, and of course, mobile and satellite phones. So there we were in the middle of the Kakamega rain forest Saturday night and we called our son Adam from our mobile to his satellite phone where he was at our summer family cabin in the middle of the Cascade Mountains in the State of Washington in a deep valley surrounded by 9,000’ peaks, and we were able to talk to each other – we felt like the astronauts on the moon. It was great.

Well, after all those movies about Africa when we were kids, Peter is finally being called “bwana” the Kiswahili word for man or sir. For a women it is “bibi” – no relation to Bibi Netanyahu! More often for Peter he is referred to as Mzee, a polite term for an elder, and Hinda once again is Mama or Mommy.

OK for now. Hope you are all well. Stay in touch and we will also. We love to hear from you.

Love and hugs,

Mzee and Mama