Billboard

I was going through my photos today… getting some printed off. This billboard was spotted in Nairobi. I found it amusing.
Advertisements

Out of Africa

It turns out that getting yourself back onto a time zone is much easier to accomplish if you actually keep a regular schedule and get to bed on time. That was not to be as I was at a friend’s wedding reception last evening. However, it was wonderful to see so many people once again and catch up on the last few weeks. It was the same this morning at church. I have some wonderful friends here in Victoria.

The first question I get asked is one which I have been asked many times before. It is a hard question not because it asks something incredibly difficult or profound but because it is impossibly to answer in a short sentence: “How was your trip?”  How do you encapsulate a trip such as this in words? It is a similar struggle I faced after our Offshore trip around the Pacific for a year where we encountered many different people from many different cultures. We were confronted with different issues and needs that people experience on a daily basis and challenged in our Western lifestyle. It is a similar struggle I faced on arrival home from a life-changing six weeks in China as a part of a culture and language exchange where I was also challenged in our lifestyle and in the accepted norms of our culture.

In Kenya I saw first hand some of the corruption and disparity of wealth that seems to be all over in many African (and, indeed, many developing) countries.  Driving down the road and seeing the differences in how the majority of people live versus how the wealthy live was, at times, disturbing. I struggled with being white because of the legacy white colonials have left in many developing countries; I hate receiving special treatment just because of my skin colour. I took issue with major irrigation projects designed to benefit a small number when thousands suffer because of drought.

These are all issues which are not unique to Kenya. In many ways, they are found in Canada as well. We just do a better job at hiding them. There is still corruption. Climate change and changing weather plans are things we have to deal with as well; lets face it, Western countries have not been leading the way as they should in dealing with these things as they do not seem to affect us as much. We have huge disparities in wealth in Canada, it is just easier to ignore if you live in the suburbs and drive into work each day without setting foot in amongst the really needy in our cities. I am as guilty as the next person in this.

Do I have ideas on how to change things? Not really. The problem seems so huge that I am still wrapping my head around it and wouldn’t really know where to start. For now, I will continue to live my life and to re-evaluate my lifestyle to minimize my negative impact on the world aroud me while considering how I can be of help to those around me.

Home

I’m back home. Flight out was fine. Amsterdam was fun. Flights (3) home from the Netherlands were fairly uneventful (though I ended up beside young kids for 2 out of three). Now it is onto getting myself on pacific time again before sailing next week. Pictures are in the process of being uploaded and will appear soon. I hope.

Kenya Week 2: I think I’ve been everywhere

We drove over 1600 km this week and visited 6 out of 8 provinces in Kenya. It was a crazy busy week, but pretty amazing. 
Once again, there were two food distributions. This time, they were in two completely different areas of the country. In the first village we visited, the beneficiaries were quite adament that they would not accept food as a hand out. It was very important for them to be doing some sort of work to receive the food. In this area, all they needed was rain. It has been over four years since some parts of Kenya received the rain that they need to grow crops. As a result, crops have failed repeatedly and livestock are all dying. These villagers have all they need to survive, but if there is no rain, they have no food.
The next day was Canada Day. Dad had brought a few Canadian souviners with him which he gave out to some of the villagers. The main tribe we met here was the Turkana people, known forever because of National Geographic pictures of the woman with stacks upon stacks of beaded necklaces.  One of the ladies, Elizabeth, sort of adopted me even though neither of us could really speak to the other. I did find out that she is a 41 year-old widow who has 8 or 9 children. She was quite excited when she found out that I work for an optometrist and wanted me to come back to fix her eyes (she looked to have some cataracts developing). It was hard to explain through an interpreter (a villager who spoke some English) that I am not the doctor, I just help the doctor…!
The villagers were very excited when we explained that it was Canada Day and proceeded to dance around and sing with the small flags we had. They even pulled Jen and I into the dancing for awhile! I felt like I was back in Polynesia or something with all the dancing going on. Except there was much less hip-swaying!
Somewhere along the way, we drove across the equator. Actually, we crossed it at least 6 times driving as the road winds a lot. I lost count.  Either way, it was an exciting moment for me as I have now driven/walked, flown, and sailed across the equator.  Crouching beside me in the picture is Chris. He is the National Relief Manager for the CRWRC here, so is technically Dad and Colleen’s boss I think. He knows everything about everything and has lots of great stories to tell.
The Great Rift Valley…
Chris took us to visit his village in Western Province. We met his mother and two of his brothers and many, many extended family members. I had fun with some of the kids and we were able to get an incredible picture of what life is like for a lot of Kenyans outside of the big cities. There is no electricity or running water in the village and life proceeds in a simple and traditional way, interrupted only by the ringing of a cell phone (not sure yet how those get charged when there is no electricity).
On our way back to Nairobi from Chris’ village, we drove through (and stayed the night in) Kisumu and took a peek at Lake Victoria. It looked… like a lake…! But there were some hippos off in the distance just barely sticking their snouts out of the water.
Now we are back to Nairobi for the weekend. Distributions are done for the month (that is, June) and don’t start up again until mid-July. Next week will be a brief holiday to the coast before Jen and I are left to our own devices in Nairobi!

Kenya: Week 1

The past week in Kenya has been a whirlwind!

The morning after we arrived, we were off driving down to the Rift Valley to take part in two food distributions in two different Maasai villages. We were warmly welcomed into both villages and greeted with Maasai blankets and jewelry. I think we’ve been adopted into their villages now! At each place, the neediest of the people were given 3L of oil, 50kg of maize and 10kg of beans. This will feed a family of around 8 for approximately 2 weeks. We witnessed some singing and dancing and took part in a discussion Dad and Colleen led with a small group of villagers discussing the need in the village and how they will cope when the distribution comes to an end in 2 months. It was moving to hear of how lives have been impacted by this seemingly small amount of food.

We also spent time walking around saying hi (“sopa”) to everyone and trying to communicate as best as we could. It is frustrating to have a language barrier with such warm people.

Here is Dad making friends with some of the men of the village. I took a picture of the one on the far left and then showed it to him. He adjusted his blanket and sat a little straighter and then motioned for me to take another!
Here, some of the women are singing just before the food distribution began. They wear the brightest colours and have beads all over.
All of the food received has to be carried home somehow. Most often on the back of the beneficiaries.
We’ve seen lots of crazy cool wildlife, including this giraffe which was ambling along the side of the road as we drove home last night.
Today we visited a women’s centre here in Nairobi. My friend Nancy spent some time here a few years ago and she made this mosaic! Everyone I met who knows her still speaks of her time there very highly.