Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roselyne and Agnes on Piki Piki

In Front of My House

Sharyne, Susan's Daughter

Anne, Proud Mother of College Grad James

Duncan - Tae Kwondo Instructor

Blog 3 Kisumu, Kenya

Blog 3
Kisumu Kenya
December 14, 2010

Hi everyone,

At least for me the time is flying by. Here it is mid December and I have been here for exactly two months and I have 2 ½ months before I return. Hinda will join me here on January 2, and we will celebrate our 50th Anniversary by taking a 16 day trip to Morocco. She will return home in mid February and I will follow 2 weeks later on February 28th.

Every day, I learn over and over about poverty here in Kenya. So much of it is often hidden because you see people who are dressed in clean, ironed clothes, and who appear to be healthy so that you assume that they have eaten 3 meals that day or the day before. But, I know that is not only the case. Even so called middle class people have to struggle to pay for the basics especially if they are trying to improve their lives by attending a college or other form of higher education.

Here is the story of a woman I know. She works in one of the hospitals here as a caregiver. I believe that she has several children. She works most nights of the week. Her salary, converted into dollars is about $40 per month. Of that, she pays more than a quarter of it in rent. Even though I haven’t been to her home, I know that she lives in a single room with several other people – both children and adults. Her cooking is done on wood – not even charcoal which is too much for her to pay for. One of her daughters is in high school. When I asked her if she eats every day, she told me that she doesn’t. Why I asked her. Her response is that she has to pay school fees (tuition) for her daughter’s education, so that she doesn’t always have money to feed herself. Her daughter’s education is more important than her eating every day. That is what love and commitment to making her daughter’s life better than her own has been is all about. And there are lots of stories that are much more heartbreaking than that.

But all here is not that dire. There are so many good things, and one of the best, if not the best is how friendly and warm people are, and the universal smiles. Everyone everyday is greeted warmly with a handshake or hug, or both. Inquiries are made about family, health, etc., as a matter of course. I have never experienced a cold shoulder or a refusal to give me help when I needed it. In fact, sometimes, I don’t need help but am almost forced to take it anyway whether I want or need it. This is a very warm and welcoming place.

Let me tell you about going to work every day. I go to work on a piki piki – motorbike. It cost me 50 Kenyan Shillings to go each way – that is about a little less than 60 cents. But the fun is all of the obstacles that you encounter along the way. I have put a photo on this page above of a herd of cows that is just meandering along the street in front of my house where I get on my piki piki. And so there are cows, goats, chickens, pigs, sheep that you meet along the way and must navigate around them, or usually, just drive through the middle of them. Then there is the near head on collisions, and the near side swiping, and the near running over pedestrians, and the drunk drivers, and the potholes that can jar your teeth loose, and even swallow you and your piki and your driver. So, if that feels too dangerous for you, (and often it is), you can board a matatu, usually a 14 passenger van that can hold up to 23 or more people. Even sardines in a tin can are not squeezed in as much as the people in a matatu. But, the price is right – pretty cheap, about 20 cents, and at non rush hour, even less than that. It is not dangerous to ride them in the city, but going any distance out of town, there are lots of accidents – especially head on collisions or driving off the road to avoid a collision. It really can be scary. The drivers rush to make as many trips as they can during their shift, so speeding and taking chances is the name of the game.

Work is fine. I am engaged in trying to develop an inventory system for the Schnurman Pharmacy and to recruit a volunteer pharmacist; editing some reports and proposals, working with the clinic staff to provide some feedback and oversight. At long last the new KMET brochure is finished which took a long time to complete but after many edits and corrections, it all worked out in the end.

A bit about where I live: I live in a house about a ten minute piki piki ride to work. Our house has three bedrooms. The one where Roselyne, Festus, and 2 year old Aggie sleep is in the main part of the house. Next to it is a living room where 8 year old Kennedy sleeps. Then to go to the toilet, shower, or kitchen, you have to go outside the main house down an open to the sky corridor (not good in heavy rain) to get to those places. But, better than a lot of houses because we have running water, a shower, flush toilet (squat style), and even a hot shower which we installed. My small bedroom and another small bedroom which is rented to a woman and her 25 year old daughter is also off that open corridor.

Cooking is done on either a small charcoal stove (jiko), or 2 burner table top gas range. The jiko works well once it gets going, but sometimes it takes a few minutes to get it lit and burning well. Roselyne usually has to fan it for a while.

Roselyne is a good cook and I have taken to help her prepare dinner ( cutting the tomatoes, peppers, and onions, and stirring the soups, etc.) I also wash the evening dishes. What does Roselyne prepare? We eat tilapia often, beef, eggs, green grams and rice which is better known to me as lentil beans, a dish called nyoyo or githeri – beans and corn. It is easy to get mixed up with nyoyo and nyonyo. The latter is breastfeeding so it is not cool to ask for that for dinner!! For breakfast, I have strong tea, (black tea), and Festus and Roselyne drink milk tea. We have toast, eggs once in a while, and usually yoghurt and cereal. I think I have lost 3 or 4 pounds and feel good despite the fact that they are always trying to make me eat more than I want. (They think that when Hinda comes and I am thinner she will be upset). Will you Hinda?

So, that’s it probably until we return from Morocco and we will tell you about our 2nd honeymoon and hopefully some good photos to go along.

Take care and hope you have/had a nice holiday and wishing you a happy, peaceful, and healthy New Year.