Archive for the ‘Kakamega’ Category

Hampton House and Prepping to Leave

Monday, June 13th, 2011

June 13th
Sad day.  Today we really start to prep for leaving this country.  I woke up early at around 6am and ran a few errands with Mesh.  Got back at about 6:30 and at 7am we departed the Sheywe Hotel and headed for the Hampton Guest House.

We traveled for awhile to the Kakamega airport, which is the smallest airport I’ve had the pleasure of departing from.  Sadly I don’t have a good picture of it, but it is essentially one ~600sqr foot building adjoining a concrete runway.  Our plane was a small, ~20 person prop plane. See pictures below.

Kakamega Airport’s only building.
~20 person passenger prop plane. 
Heather and I are near the back.

The Hampton Guest House is a beautiful place to stay in Nairobi.  It has a wonderful feel to it, relatively modern construction, private, lots of beautiful landscaping.  Except, once again Heather and I had twin beds.  haha, oh well.  It’s only one night and it doesn’t bother us much.

Tourist time:  We dropped by the Nairobi deluxe mall.  I don’t remember what it’s actually called, but it is nice even when compared to US malls.  Excellent food, souvenir shops, and your typical mall variety.

Next we dropped by Karen to see Pastor Charles again.  We stayed at his church compound for awhile, doing I don’t know what.  I stayed in the van and had a great, lengthy conversation with Gerrison about education and homeschooling.  Homeschooling is starting to be a ‘thing’ in Kenya, but generally it is regarded as anti-social and not as good.  I attempted to explain my view that home-schoolers are seen as “weird” because generally the first people to do such a new thing are going to be fringe people anyways.  Meaning, those kids would have been “weird” whether homeschooled or public schooled.  Early adopters are by nature on the fringe; and again, as is often the case fringe people might be a bit ‘odd’ to some.  He disagreed in the end.

Lastly, we went and had dinner with Pastor Charles and the whole World Comp team for a closing board meeting.  It was a full table!  We all said some final words, I had some stuff prepared in my head but I got skipped, so I promptly became unprepared.  However, I was called to speak out of order a little later so my “speech” may have sounded a bit off, but I hope my points and desires came through.  I basically stated that the first time I came to Kenya I came expecting to see a destitute country full of people unable to do anything; but was generally pleased to find that there are huge amounts of very competent people.  In coming back, I simply just had to introduce my new wife to all my friends. 🙂

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Posted in Kakamega, Nairobi, Travel |

More Interviews

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

June 10th
More Olive Tree interviews today.  We interviewed a lady selling beans in the market place.  I hope she can stay in business as there were many bean sellers in that same area, I hope they can all stay in business somehow.  Back home in America that many people selling the same thing wouldn’t work out all that well.  Below is a picture of how beans are sold, I don’t remember the prices but it effectively goes like: 50cents for small can, 2dollars for large, .75cents for medium.  Excellent pricing scheme, by fixed volume instead of by weight – which is much costlier to do in terms of equipment.  As always, all the below pictures can be seen bigger when clicked.

Bean Stall

Next we visited a small shop in a residential area.  She was doing decent, great location as she was at a ‘Y’ in a “major” road zone.  A couple blocks off the main thoroughfare.  So hopefully she gets sales by saving people the time of walking all the way to the market or to the main street.  She seemed to be doing alright in business.

Thanks to the Lord for our next one.  We hadn’t planned on having another interview but one of the gals, who sells garments from bags and walks around near peoples homes, just happened to be walking by as we were walking towards another ladies house.  So we did an interview right there, and I got to pray for her.  Valerie bought a brown dress which just so happened to fit her quite perfectly.  Awesome job Lord!  There was a little boy watching us during this time who happened to be wearing men’s sized shoes.  They were probably the only shoes available to him at the time, so that is sad, but it was still an adorable picture.

Filling My Father’s Shoes.

The next lady we visited was a member of the finance group, though I’m not sure if she has a loan or has started a business.  But she let us use her house as a pitstop on our journey.  She was heavily pregnant so we prayed for her as well, and I guess she successfully had her baby 1-5 days later. Told you she was heavily pregnant!  As we left her house school just happened to be released so the road was utterly filled with kids.  While kids are always nice and they are always pleased to see white people (wazungu) it was a “nice” reminder of how we are generally viewed when I was walking with two boys and they asked for 50bob (shillings).  “Give me 50bob!”  My response was a natural “No”.  After which they asked “Give me 5bob and I will go eat”.  My response was still a “No” maybe with a 5 second lecture on working instead of begging as they ran off to find a more kind hearted white person (mzungu).  

Lastly, we did more interviews in Kathy and Cindi’s hotel room this evening.  I made the mistake of putting this down as yesterday’s evening activity; but it was actually today.  We had 7-8 gals over and did a round table interview.  Most of them are leaders in the Olive Tree and manage money, distribution, accountability, …. and are all outstanding ladies.  As the interviews commenced I mainly stayed in my room and read, but would venture in and out to see how they were doing.  Near the end I went to grab menus from the hotel’s restaurant and collected a list of what people wanted for dinner then went back and ordered it.  I don’t know what the bill equated to, probably $175 for 15 people or so.  Room service for 15 people worked out to be 500 shillings, which at the time was approximately $6-7.  Not to shabby!

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Posted in Children, Kakamega |

Cindy Left, Church and Simeon’s House

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

June 12th
Church Today!  Sizable church service at the Kakamega PEFA Church.  Pastor Richard spoke about producing fruit, or as he would say, frrrrrrruit with a rolling “r” that is quite difficult to type.  During the worship part of service there was a large dancing worm that was created – people train – that all the ladies joined in.  Sadly there are no pictures of it, but it was at least 50 people long near the end. 

At the end of church service Heather and I were asked to speak to the college age youth.  Now, I thought they wanted us to join their college group for the afternoon or something so we readily agreed to that.  But, like I said above, at the end they wanted us to speak to them for 5-10 minutes.  Oi!  Not prepared!  It worked out okay though, I spoke about “Work”.  The general theme was that our two hands and our mind are gifts of God that can be used to produce and bless other people with our work.

Sadly, this was also the day that Cindy left.  After church we all went back to the hotel, Cindy prepped her stuff and got a ride to the airport.  🙁  Super fun to have her along.  It’s sad to see her go, and sad to know that we will be leaving not long after she leaves.

We also had a big dinner at Simeon’s house.  And by big, I mean big.  A large part of his family was there which means quite a few rugrats and at least dozen adults; and then throw in a bunch of wazungu into the mix!  I had been to his house before a few years ago but I never got a good tour, so this time we got the tour.  He’s done quite a bit of stuff with his “compound”.  That should sustain him well for the remainder of his life.  He has rental houses on the lot, crops, and are working on making another rental house.  But because bricks are so expensive, they decided to make them themselves.  Which, while uncommon in Seattle as our ground isn’t suitable for that; the ground in Kenya works pretty well.  It has a heavy iron oxide content to it which makes it a vibrant red as well.  I also enjoyed checking out their water ditches and containers around the house.  When it rains in Kakamega, it really rains!  So to prevent flooding and such many houses have ditches built into the property to guide the water how they want it.  Into large containers, off the property or into garden irrigation ditches perhaps.  Simeon’s ditches had ditches around the house to bring water from off the roof to the back of the house.  His whole plot of land is on a slope with the house on the top so that helps facilitate water to bypass the house on the way down the hill.  Also to hit the crops on the way down.

At the house, Simeon showed us a “Bathroom” plan he got from someone.  They were looking at it for the church and then to charge for use of it during the week to the surrounding community.  But it was a bit large and lavish if you ask me.  Something like 15-20 toilets and sinks.  You’d have to have quite the crowd to sustain that kind of toilet system.  While I think it’s a good idea, I’d prefer to see it toned down a bit to save money and make it more easily profitable.

On the way home we really piled into the van.  All us wazungu as well as a few Kenyan friends that we were dropping off.  Overall it was 15 people in a 12 seat passenger van.

And then to bed!

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Posted in Kakamega |

Weeping Rock and Barasa

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

June 11th
Today Richard, Valerie, and Kathy Lambert had a rather long breakfast with a member of the Kenyan parliament.  In the meantime, Heather, myself, Teresa, Mesh and Garrison went to go see what’s called the “Weeping Rock”.  Which you can see below from the road, and that is generally the only view I’ve ever had of it.  It’s called the weeping rock because I was told that there is a constant stream of water coming out of the rock from the top.  From the road I’ve always been able to see what appears to be water falling out of it, and you can see it in the below picture. 

Weeping Rock, as seen from the Road

However, once we got close we were informed that it really only weeps during August.  So we weren’t able to see it weep.  Either way, that’s still pretty cool.  The rock must be porous or have a thin crack running to the ground so that when the water level gets high enough surface tension draws it up.  You can see a close up picture below and one can easily see the erosion and staining that the water has done over the years.  So now, it always looks like there is a little water coming down.  Overall it cost us about $7 to go see it, as Mesh had to pay the local ladies in the area to be allowed passage through their lands to get to the Rock.  Not a bad fee to allow strangers to pass through, plus I think Weeping Rock Tourism is one of their main sources of income.  

Weeping Rock

 After the weeping rock, we picked up everyone else at the hotel and headed to the Kakamega PEFA church.  It was great fun as I got to see Simon and Grace Barasa and their family again.  I stayed with them previously during the whole election thing in 2008.  More about that Election stuff can be read here, and a little about Simon’s house and Kakamega can be read here.  Pictured below are 2 members of Simon’s family, Barbara, who is their eldest daughter and Gloria, their new daughter.  I say new, but obviously she’s been around for awhile; just new to me.  Belated Congratulations Simon and Grace!  Heather and I took a visit to Simon’s house to see Benjamin (only son) and Kristen (niece or cousin?) as well as the new improvements to his digs.  He’s added a house for rental, and is working on another one.  Having 3 houses on his property is a great investment in Kenya and should secure his finances over the next few years. 

Valerie with Barbara and Gloria Barasa

 On a side bar, we finally met and talked to some English ladies who we had seen numerous times at the hotel.  They were very sweet and took us to go see some recent puppies next door.  They were quite friendly and adorable.

English ladies, who’s names I sadly have forgotten.

Puppies! 
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Visits

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

June 9th
First off, today is my birthday! Yeeaah!  Okay, enough of that celebratory mood.  😉

Today we visited a non-profit called PATH, though I don’t know what it stands for, if anything.  Even their website doesn’t say.  Either way, someone recommended that we meet with them to discuss any mutual beneficial activities or meetings or at least just to start getting to know each other.  After visiting PATH we went down to a local hospital which works with PATH.  I didn’t write down very many details of these two encounters.  The hospital was nice in trying to cater towards lower income people, but I remember now being all that impressed with PATH.  It just reminded me of a some of the US over funded, under active non-profits where most money goes into bureaucracy, salaries, and nice office space.  It’s why you have to be careful where your money goes, if it goes to charity.  We also checked out a related “youth center” which was really more of a small office space that was directed at teaching youth about AIDs and “proper” sexual things.  Basically trying to teach kids about sex and condoms and how sex “causes” AIDs.  Again, none of us were really impressed though I appreciate what they are attempting to do but considering all the money spent in advertising I don’t know if anyone is left who doesn’t know about AIDs, at least anyone who can read.

Later in the evening we did more microfinance interviews in Kathy and Cindi’s apartment, this time with the Board and those who work with the microfinance group.  The power went out, again, within 10 minutes of us being finished (I think), so timing was utterly perfect.  It can be quite difficult to film in the dark naturally so we were all glad that we got everything we needed.  At this point we ate dinner and had a candle pow wow.

Correction: We did not do microfinance interviews in Kathy and Cindi’s room tonight.  That was the next night.  The power went off both nights though if I recall correctly.  Either that or the power went off tonight, and came back on the next day just as the sun was going down while doing the interviews so the timing was perfect.  I think that was it.  I didn’t record that information unfortunately.  So this night we just had a candle pow wow in their room as a team.

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Posted in Kakamega |

Shikusa Boys Detention Center

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

June 8th
Wow, today was an amazing day.  Baptisms, Singing, Dirty Rivers, Small Hikes, Bacon for brekky, cashews at night.  Shoot, even a “white girl” was baptized, but I will get to that in a minute.  Right now the focus is on the Shikusa Boys.

Today is the day where we get to be a part of the baptism of ~50 boys at the Shikusa Boys Detention Center.  Now, I have been to Shikusa a couple times in the past, once for an introduction and once for a Christmas Party that the Kakamega PEFA Church Youth gave them.  The status there is at present a good one, at least while recognizing that those kids are in jail and unable to leave.  In prior years, before I ever visited, it was not such a pleasant place.  Horrid living conditions, kids were always sick, bad food, … Actually, it was probably as bad as what most westerners would envision an African detention camp.  Like most jails throughout the world it generally encourages the youth to continue committing infractions because they know nothing else and don’t learn anything while in jail –  and yes, that is a very general yet condemning statement that I shan’t attempt to prove.  Dr. George Matimbai (I’m not sure on the spelling of his last name) came across Shikusa through his own dealings with some of the boys there in a story that I shall not relate here as it may be private and I haven’t asked permission.  Anyways, Dr. George visited the compound, saw the dismal conditions and decided that he needed to help them.  He is now a member of their board and has been instrumental in revitalizing the compound into more of a Juvenile Re-Education Center.  By Re-education I mean that most of those boys have learned few good things in their lives and while they are forced to spend 1-2 years in this compound they now have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills such as construction, sewing, upholstery, carpentry, …  Something to at least make it worthwhile to earn an honest living.  In addition to the physical help they receive there, many of the staff are Christians and the boys receive spiritual assistance there as well, as such many of the boys have chosen to follow the Lord.  They even pick spiritual leaders amongst themselves to lead small groups and such.  It is that reason that we are here today, to baptize many of those who have committed to follow the Lord.

But first, a few pictures!

 Here we are meeting one Shikusa head, I believe his name was Joseph.  A real nice, friendly gent.

The boys depicted here are constructing a house, for school as well as for use obviously.

This was great.  Right next to the house that the boys were building lay a large pile of rocks that will be used at some point in the building process I assume.  But crawling all over the rocks were baby goats, enjoyed the themselves quite thoroughly.  As my wife would say, “Adorable!”
The above boys are working on there schooling.  Essentially their goal is to be able to pass the High School / SAT equivalent tests with good scores which may allow them to enter college.

One of their sleeping houses.  The boys lay out their mats at night, and clean them up in the morning.  This makes for a clean sleeping arrangement, no places for rats, or bugs or whatever to hide, bite, and make the boys sick.

Here is another house that has some beds for the boys.  I do not recall if they were made on the compound or offsite.  I seem to remember them saying that they were welded onsite, but I don’t recall seeing a welder around.

 Carpentry Class!

During the pre-baptism ceremony, where Richard and Simeon were preaching – talking really – to the boys about baptism and their own experiences (both having been converted while confined in a Jail!) I felt a tap on my knee and looked over to see Heather with tears in her eyes, and she told me – to my utter astonishment due to the surroundings – that she wanted to get baptized.  “Today?” I whispered.  With her affirmation I turned to Richard next to me (Simeon was talking) and asked if they would baptize Heather.  I believe his response was “Sure, if she wants too” and then both he and Valerie looked at Heather and their faces turned from a quizzical look to an “oh, wow, umm, okay, great!” look.  Not a facial expression you could fake.  😉  So after a pre-baptism talk and some worship, we all walked about 1 mile on a trail down to the river that I shall call the Shikusa river.  Though in reality I guess the river didn’t have a name, no one knew what to call it.  I guess the locals just call it the river cause there is only one and they don’t go elsewhere. 

Here is worship time with the boys, pre-baptism.  
They were rocking and a jiving!  
 
Walking down to the river

Beautiful countryside.  We are carrying towels and shirts for the boys.

At the baptism site the water looks utterly delightful, and by delightful I mean completely dirty.  They weren’t sure if they wanted Heather to get baptized here or not due to the possible contamination in the water, like cow feces. 

Some of the boys were really scared about going underwater, many of them don’t know how to swim.

Long line of boys to enter the water with us wazungu looking on.  We would towel them, anoint them and pray for them as they came out.

Praying and anointing post-baptism.
And last but not least, out of the water came the white girl!  
My lovely wife Heather, or as the kenyan’s say: Heatha’. 

After all the baptism stuff was done, we hiked back to the compound and met Bishop Simeon on the way there.  We gave a post-baptism service where we each presented some gifts to the boys, Heather and I presented socks to the counseling department.  We then proceeded to eat a late lunch with the guards, which was quite delicious!  An excellent lunch, ugali, meat, fruit, japati (fresh tortillas); very standard fare but always excellent and we were all quite pleased to see it. 

On the way home we dropped by Nakumatt for some minor dinner fixings, I bought some yogurt and cashews.  We brought all our goods together into Kathy and Cindi’s room for a hodgepodge of a dinner.  Mango slices, someone made noodle soup on the stove, avocado, nuts, yogurt, … like I said, a hodgepodge.
And that was a good, long day!
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Sheywe House

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

June 8th
So we arrived at the Sheywe House last night, but didn’t get to look around much besides dinner until today.  So check out some of these pictures.  The Sheywe House was one of the most reasonably priced hotels we stayed in.  The bang for the buck was excellent.  Check out these pictures.  Heather and I had our own little apartment with a living space, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.  Granted, the living space and kitchen are joined; oh, and the kitchen stove didn’t really work.  I think you had to supply your own propane or something, it was odd.  Richard and Valerie however had a working stove WITH propane so that was good.  That took care of our cooking situation.  We all had working fridges.  Below is a picture from the door into the apartment of the living space and kitchen.

Just outside our building, while still within the confines of the Sheywe were these Storks.  Now, I posted a little bit about these birds earlier, here.  But at this location, there was a large number of these birds at all times.  Just as before, these birds are HUGE!  It’s hard to tell the size in these pictures but when standing they have to be at least 3 feet tall.  Here is a Wikipedia entry on these birds, Marabou Storks apparantly.  I guess some of them can get up to 5 feet tall and weighing at 20 pounds!  I don’t know if we saw any that big but easily 3 to 4 feet tall on most of them.

I thought this was a funny picture.  Thanks to Heather for working on trying to get this shot.  A few earlier times when we saw the birds doing this she was unable to get a good picture.  Try and try again!  But these storks are the only birds I have ever seen to actually rock back and sit on their knees.  Usually birds stand, sit in a tree or sit on the ground; but sitting on their knees?  I don’t recall ever seeing that.  Feel free to correct me if a bird does that in the Pacific NW.  Maybe flamingos at the zoo, but I don’t recall seeing that.

 

The Sheywe, like many hotels, serves a breakfast every morning.  The Sheywe has one of the better breakfasts as well, with wheatabix availalbe for cereal, milk, pineapple, bananas, and they take your order for toast, eggs and bacon.  Boo yah!  Eggs and bacon every morning, my kind of place.  Often a local cat would be hanging around as well, hoping for some bacon scraps.  Some british ladies who were staying there for a couple months (One of them helps manage the Sheywe when she’s down there) fed the kitty much to her delight.  All cats are referred to as Puss Puss down there.  Which American’s find funny for various reasons.  If you want to call a cat over you do the general cat thing of rubbing your thumb and two fore fingers together, but you also call out “puss puss puss puss puss….”.   It’s a culture thing.  🙂

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Posted in Food, Kakamega, Travel |

Leaving Miwani & Nancy Odwaro

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

June 7th
Oh my goodness.  This morning I woke up around 6:30am to an amazingly large noise of birds chirping.  There was so many of them it sounded akin to a heavy rainfall on a tin roof.  The chirping and fluttering and more chirping.  Crazy loud.  Anyways, it was a good time to get up, everyone else stayed asleep or in their rooms until 7-8 so I got some nice quiet time in the front room overlooking the farm.  Very pleasant, very relaxing. 

Later in the morning we walked over to Karunga School, which was, in essence, personal project for some of the original farm members.  They diligently worked on enhancing their library, studies, and buildings.  Valerie just wanted to show us the school and the kids. 

Then we packed up and headed out from Miwani.  A couple years ago I spent 3 months there, this time, just a night.  Next we headed back into the Kisumu “suburbs” – I’m not really sure what you’d call the non-downtown areas of a large city – towards Nancy Odwaro’s House for the Olive Branch Documentary.  She put together a thanksgiving feast for us!  I wish I had pictures.  Rice, a few meat sauces, pineapple, mango, homemade juice, bread, the table was packed!!  And it was all mightily delicious.

During the documentary us boys, who didn’t have a part to play at this particular time, hung around outside talking, and keeping quiet as our voices could carry.  I checked out Nancy’s house and plot of land.  She is quite the efficient woman!  It isn’t a big plot of land but she had a couple cows, goats, chickens & mango trees.  A worker was working on her water flow system while we were there.  Most Kenyan residents who can afford it generally seem to install a series of concrete gutters to take in the heavy rains that come and dump it where they want to dump it, and take it away from the house.

I talked quite a bit with Mesh during this interlude, about his business ideas and the local response to the Chinese presence.  As figured, most didn’t mind the investment and all the workers.  They generally kept to themselves and didn’t want to socialize with the Kenyans, and so the Kenyan’s let them be.  Anywhoo, we talked and at one point Mesh stood to move away but as he stood I had some serious deja vu.  At that moment I stopped talking and asked if we had talked about this before.  The image of him in front of the van and me sitting down at Nancy’s place was stuck in my mind from a prior time.  I must have dreamed that conversation at some point in the past.  Strongest deja vu feeling of my life and I am dead serious on that.  Based on that deja vu I made a few decisions later on and we shall see where that will lead later on in life.

Anyways, we were at Nancy’s for a decent number of hours.  When we were done we headed to our next hotel, the Sheywe House, dumped all our goods and went to have a late dinner at the hotel restaurant.  We had a great view of some amazing lighting storms in the background.  The power kept going out putting us in total darkness, which while it gave good darkness for watching lighting, when you are hungry and the cooks need electricity to cook you food; well, let’s just say it was about 1.5-2 hours before we were all served.  Many dishes were served cold because they wouldn’t bring them out as they were done.  They waited until all dishes were ready.  Poor Valerie, she always seemed to get the brunt of food issues on this trip.  Either being served last, or served cold food, or both.  Both happened to her this time, cold and served last. 

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Election Fun Times!

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Voting Day!
On December 27th, 2 days after Christmas, 1 day after Boxing Day (I didn’t get to box anyone unfortunately) Kenyans turned out in record numbers to vote. All the weeks prior to this people have been going nuts about the elections. Signs are everywhere. Hats and clothing depicting their candidates are commonly seen. People in trucks often drive by yelling and screaming. It quickly become ‘part of the ordinary’. The primary candidates are/were

Mwai Kibaki (Incumbent)

Party of National Unity (PNU)
and

Raila Odinga (Primary opposition)
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)

Note that both of these parties are new and their histories are complicated. If anyone is interested in knowing more specifics on the history behind these candidates and their parties, post a comment and I’ll write a blog about it. Otherwise I’m not gonna spend time on something that no one but me cares about. What can I say, I love politics. Well, actually I despise politics. I love political theory I guess, not politics.

Short History
Anywhoo, so the main driving force behind each Party was as follows. The Party of National Unity, PNU, was for the status quo. The Orange Democratic Movement, ODM (note that ODM is a different party then ODM-Kenya, incase you see ODM-K in an article, it is NOT ODM), represents a desire for Change. Thus, essentially those that liked the way the current administration did things, voted for Kibaki. Those who wanted ‘Change’ voted Raila. There is a long history for both Kibaki and Raila, but the basics are that Kibaki helped draft the original constitution of Kenya was drafted after Independence and Raila has been in prison multiple times for being a ‘revolutionary’. His first prison stay was for being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against President Moi. At the time, Kibaki was Vice President.

Lots of history as you can see, but again, essentially a vote for Raila was a ‘vote for change’ (Offical slogan of ODM) and a vote for Kibaki was a ‘vote for staus quo’ (NOT the offical slogan. Offical slogan was Tano Tena, which literally means Five Again, but in context is Five More Years of Kibaki as a presidential term is 5 years). Kenyan politics has been rife with corruption from the start (but then again, aren’t all democracies?) with the presidents usually pandering to their Tribal base (Western democracies pander to their Party base, but pretty close). Kibaki is of the tribe Kikuyu (largest tribe in Kenya) which are commonly business people but are known as theives and cheats. If this has any basis, I dunno, but I guess a majority of the tax monies go to areas where Kikuyu’s are the majority. Raila’s tribe is Luo (third largest), which is one of the largest tribes in Kenya, and they are known for their zeal, passion, and sometimes violence. Interestingly enough, Barack Obama is of Luo descent as was born in the same provice as Raila. Kenyan’s are rather excited about Obama’s run for the White House. I try not to dissuade them too much even though Obama ain’t my type. Give me a Statesman anyday, those politicians can stick with their slimy crowd.

Voting Day
December 27th, 2007, Thursday
As all the Kenyan’s went to the polls with “Change” or “I like it the way it is” on their mind, I decided to join in the fun. Going to the polling station to stand in line for awhile with some people I knew, I was asked by a guard (guard in Camo, holding a hunting rifle) if I was an observer.

ME: “uhhh, yah I’m just observing, not voting
Guard: “Come with me“.

He brings me to the front and lets me into the voting room. I stand their for a bit looking suave I’m sure, just acting like an EU Observer would act I’m sure. Standing by the door with beady eyes looking over everything. One gent came up to me, introduced himself as the PO and asked who I was,

“I’m John Jolly, good to meet you”
Apparently that wasn’t quite what he was looking for
(he shoulda been more specific) as he tried again.
“Where are you from?”
“America, the United States
“Do you have a letter?”
“uuuh, no, no letter, sorry”
…. *pause* as he stares at me ….
“It’s okay, you can stay”
“Thank you, I’ll be done shortly

So I then proceed to observe for a full cycle as one guy is let in, gets his papers, ID record all that jazz, votes then leaves. Overall I was there maybe 10 minutes. Then I left and stood back in line for awhile, then left off to the town to go find a cyber cafe if one was open. Passing the guard by the exit (same guard who let me in to the voters booths) he asked if I was done with ‘this’ polling station. I said I was and proceeded on my merry way.

December 28th, Friday
The next day was a slow day as we watched the TV most of the time for election updates. On a side note, I took a shower that afternoon, (african shower, which means you have one bucket of water that you use your hands to splash yourself with. See an earlier blog for a more graphic explanation) but after I had soaped myself up I accidently knocked the water over. Not a position I wanted to be in. Knocking the water over involved hurredly trying to get as much water off of the ground and into the bucket as I could. Not always the cleanest water. Using this I rinsed off as best as I could then had to suck down the ol’ pride, put on a towel over my soapy body and go get more water. Luckily for me everyone was entranced by the TV and no one seemed to notice my painfully white body sneaking more water from the big ol’ water tubs.

December 29th, Saturday
2 days after initial voting is when the violence started. People started getting irrated with some fairly obvious delaying and rigging of votes. Two were shot this day in Kakamega (town I was in at the time). These were police killings. Only Police and bandits have guns as owning a gun is basically illegal in Kenya. Overall the violence wasn’t too horrible anywhere but was very tense.

December 30th, Sunday
We had a small church service today. Most people stayed home for safety and the police wanted us to end early to ensure that everyone went home and didn’t stick around. The Police aren’t too fond of crowds. Peaceful or not, they don’t care. Later that day, Kibaki was declared president. This is when hell started to break loose. It wasn’t just because he was declared president, but because Raila when from a 300,000 vote lead to 300,000 votes behind with some very shady circumstances. Here’s an example of shady.

Shady Breakdown
At each polling stations, Political Parties where allowed to have an ‘agent’ there to make sure nothing shady happens. At end of the day after they observe the counting, they all sign a form (Form 16 and 16A) stating the number of votes for all candidates from that polling station. The Kikuyu tribe are primarily in 2 provices, Central and Eastern; and thus those provinces are primarily for Kibaki. A number of stations in Central and Eastern were 2 days late in turning in their vote records and often without form 16 and 16A. The where significant differences between the numbers reported on the ground and the numberes reported by the ECK, Election Commision of Kenya. In one example, Molo station gave Kibaki 60 thousand votes on the ground, but the number delivered, the “official” number was 95 thousand. A 35 thousand vote increase. Note that there were also 35 thousand people who only voted for the President and not for any of the other positions like Parlimentry seats or local officials. Shady. Anyways, a bunch of other things that were blatantly obvious.

So on the evening of December 30th Kibaki was declared president and half of Kenya exploded. Kibaki was declared president in a press conference with only the KBC media allowed (KBC is government owned). Only KBC was there because everyone else was escorted out by the GSU, (think Marines, special forces) after the Election Commission exploded into yelling due to modified voting numbers where actual proof was availabe that something had changed. At this point the road outside had a number of people on it, putting rocks on the road to act as blockaids, a big ol’ rusty trailor was dragged onto the road, some tires burned, all kinds of good stuff. But overall most people were just standing.

New Years Eve
December 31st
I saw my first soldiers/police today. I don’t know what they were but all the police I’d ever seen in Kenya wore blue. These guys were in camouflage gear with what looked like typical military hats and heavy hunting rifles. Officially the ‘army has not been deployed’ but I’d wager that was a lie. Where else did the get the troops to cover the entire country in police? The army guys searched a neighbors house but luckily did nothing. Another neighbor got his roof shot off with a ‘warning shot’. Most gunshots I heard were far enough away to just sound like fireworks that were somewhat close. I was actually surprised by how little of a natural reaction I had to the sound. No automatic ducking, and sometimes I didn’t notice the shots. But one shot was close, I didn’t see any soldiers or anything but a close rifle shot got me to duck quickly and get behind something. Which was nice to know that I do have some kind of defensive instinct. I’m guessing that shot I heard was the neighbors roof getting shot off. Neighbor as in less then a 10 second walk. Things quieted down by the evening, and for the last 5 minutes of 2007 I simply stood outside and listened. Quietest New Years I have ever experienced. In the far far distance I heard a lone drum beating. Other than that, nothing. Not even the crickets celebrated. I guess normally people are all over the streets yelling and beating drums, and generally a happy, noisy time. Not this year.

New Years
Jan 1st
Things are returning to some semblence of normalcy. Police are just guarding in the town no, no longer enforcing a “dont’ enter the town” policy. Very Very few shops are open, but people are now venturing out to see how save it is.

Jan. 2nd.
Some shops are starting to re-open. The local supermarkets are clogged with people. No bread on the shelves, no fruit, rice and flour will disappear soon. Ate cow intestine and stomach for dinner. See prior post for a more pleasant description.

Jan. 3rd
Decided that today was the best day to attempt a trek back to the Miwani Farm. Best day today because tomorrow a rally held by ODM was supposed to happen in the Capital City. Rumors are that Raila was going to be declared president. I figured the police/government wouldn’t let that happen and wanted to get out during the ‘quiet before the storm’. I took a Matatu (see prior post for description) from Kakamega to Kisumu. Overall not to eventful here. Though about a mile before Kisumu the Van pulled over and collecte a bunch of green plants that it shoved under the windshield wipers. This was to signify that they were Pro-ODM. Without those greens the Matatu would probably be mobbed, destroyed and the driver harmed or killed. The Matatu wisely didn’t enter Kisumu but stopped at the outskirts, which is luckily where I wanted to be anyways. That junction is where the Miwani road intersects. I immediatly started walking down the road and after about 1/2 a mile caught a bicycle rider and he took me the next 5-10 miles, to the farm. He wanted 400 shillings, which was twice what the Matatu was, but I ended up giving him 300 and a bottle of water. Still way to expensive, but whatever, I’m white so they always charge more.

Thoughts
Primary issues are continued violence throughout Kenya, between tribes and within tribes. People are starting to get exceedinly hungry as food is become very scarce in sections. Some of the villages nearby had a midday meal consisting of sugarcane taken from the sugarcane fields and water.

Not sure what to do about this yet. American Embassy has heard about me and wants me to register with them. Which I will do, but hope and don’t think it will come to where they attempt extractions. I don’t think this will turn into a Rwanda or Darfur, it could, but I doubt it. It would have continued to escalate but instead has seemed to maintain a painful simmer. A deadly simmer for some. If the government doesn’t screw this up anymore that it already has things could begin healing and fixing within a week or two. Stupid government. Necessary evil my ass. Evil is never necessary.

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In Kakamega for Christmas

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

12/21/07
Travel to Kakamega
On the morning of the 21st I caught a ride with the “milk run” which works it’s way to town selling the prior days milk. From Kisumu I got the experience of catching a ‘Matatu’ to Kakamega. A Matatu is essentially a van that they cram as many people and as much luggage into as possible. If everyone is seating in his own seat then consider yourself luckly. I’d say ‘full’ was 16-18 people. A space for 3 people normally had 4, one guy on the floor, maybe 2 hanging off the door. (hanging off the door is normally just if you going a short distance and don’t want to walk.) The matatu stops a number of times every mile to pick up and drop off various people. Once in Kakamega (at least I hoped, I wasn’t really sure where I was) I got a “BodaBoda” which is a bicycle taxi, to take me to my friends pharmacy. Bicycle taxi is just a fixed gear bicycle with a seat small cushion above the rear tire. These bicycles are all over Kenya. One of the main methods of transporation. Human, furniture, animals, whatever. It all gets strapped to the back of the bike on a 6in x 12in ‘platform’. It was common enough to see someone riding a bike with what must have been 40 pounds of corn seed strapped to the back. Or someone caring balancing a couch on the bike (not riding, but using the bike to carry it while he balanced and pushed). During the election madness there was a news clip on the TV showing a guy trying to hurriedly strap what must have been at least a 21″ tv to his bike that he stole from a store. It didn’t work so well.

Anyways, I eventually got to the pharmacy alright with only a little difficulty since neither I nor my driver knew where the Pharmacy was. See the link in the title above for the map relating Kisumu to Kakamega.

12/22/07
Youth Bash
The church had a Youth Bash 2007 today. Being a guest, and being white, I got to sit off to the side in the nicer, plastic chairs and was initially by myself. Somewhat odd and embarrising for me. After they started doing their talks or whatever the ‘leader guy’ sent one of the girls over to sit next to me to translate. So rather than sitting off to the side by myself only understanding a couple words a minute, I got to have the accompaniment of a pleasant female whispering English in my ear, with only a couple giggles from her friends. Maybe I’m just to easily embarrassed. I did get to be in one of the plays though, so that was a bonus. Simple part with only a couple Swahili words to memorize. But the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Gabriel seems like a nice guy
I ended the evening talking with some crazy guy outside the pharmacy for a fair while. Initially he was talking to me in the pharmacy but I led him outside so as not to detract from business, that and I didn’t want George (owner of pharmacy) to get annoyed with whatever this guy was talking about.

12/24/07
Met one of the pharmacy’s suppliers and he took me, George and his daughter to Mumias (east about 10 miles) for roast lamb. Oh man, that was some fine tasting meat. Fire roasted meat is always so good. Roast lamb and Ugali for lunch. fabulous.

That evening we had Plantens (pronounced Plantains) which is boiled bananas. Go here for picture and description.

12/25/07
Christmas Service
For Christmas we had a nice Christmas service of typical length (3.5 hours in length. A church with services like that wouldn’t survive long with the American attention span! 🙂 ) Followed by a pleasant meal prepared by the ladies of the church.

Chicken Fight
Back at Simon’s house I found that a chicken was in my room and had apparently been in there awhile as he left little Christmas presents all over the floor. And not the good kinda presents that chickens give, but he did leave an egg on my pillow. I guess the wind blew the door shut after the chicken had entered my room. I don’t like that chicken. Chicken’s in the house are common enough but usually only in the kitchen and dining room. They don’t usually venture far back enough to the bedrooms but this guy did. Later that night I went to go grab my telephone charger and found that the chicken also attacked my backpack with his butt. Luckily for me I decided not to turn the light on and found out with my fingers instead of my eyesight. Yuck. Nothing a little water and soap can’t fix!! darn you no running water! 🙂 Nah, it was fine. It’s just more fun to complain.

As always, look for links on the titles above for pictures.

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