Published: January 8th 2010January 3rd 2010
From Turkey K and I headed back to Kenya. The first day there we spent in Nairobi (the most dangerous country in Africa, Renee). After a nap to recover from our overnight flight we went to the Masai market. Aside from getting some great photos, the highlight of the day was jumping straight back into speaking Swahili with a chat to a group of girls. One of them was 18 and was looking for a Mzungu (white) husband - she asked us if we had any brothers. We promised we'd send Liam over asap. She's at the market waiting for you, Liamy.
Over the next two days we did a safari in Nakuru, which is about two hours from Nairobi. On the way there we saw how badly Kenya has been hit by drought. Everything was terribly dry. Fortunately they've had a bit of rain recently. The other thing we saw was the temporary (although it's still there two years later) housing for the internally displaced people from the post-election violence in 2007. For all this time these people have been living in tents. Some of the new houses which are being built from them aren't much better.
the safari in Lake Nakuru National Park was fantastic - except for the incompetent company which we went through (I won't go into details, in case just reading this causes to Katherine to blow up with rage - I'll just leave it at if you're doing a Kenyan safari, don't book through Njewa Safaris). Fortunately our guide, who doesn't actually work for the company, was great. We nicknamed him short-torsoed Victor (see picture), which quickly became St. Victor. Lake Nakuru is renowned for its flamingoes and rhinos and it certainly didn't disappoint. We saw thousands of flamingoes and 11 rhinos, including a (not-so-small) baby. We also saw impalas, gazelles, buffalo, waterbuck, zebras, a tortoise and a stack of giraffes, including three young ones sitting down together.
From Nairobi we got the overnight train to Mombasa, which was a very colonial experience. We travelled in a first class carriage and were served dinner by waiters in nice white jackets. It was great waking up early and seeing some of the countryside, as well as hundreds of kids running out from their villages to greet the train as it passed. After arriving in Mombasa we got a very uneventful matatu ride
up to Kilifi. It seems like the matatus have calmed down a fair bit - far less aggression and some of them even have seatbelts now.
It was fantastic to be back in Kilifi (K and I stayed with Margaret - who works at the research lab in Kilifi and is heavily involved with Upendo - the whole time and were very well looked after by her) and to see the kids. We were greeted by mass-hysteria and the compulsory chant of 'Brig, Brig, Brig!' Most of the kids are still around and doing very well. Mary, one of the younger kids, has returned to her village, because her guardian died last year. Two of the older kids are also no longer around, one of whom is a 14-year-old girl who's just had a baby. Unfortunately, she's shacked up with some pikipiki (motorbike taxi) guy. The mamas are quite worried about her, because the motorbike taxi drivers are renowned for having a high rate of HIV. The other bad news in relation to HIV is that the 13-year-old brother of one of the boys at Upendo died recently from the disease.
Despite the changes, Upendo is doing very
well and expanding and improving. There are about eight new kids, including some very cute littlies. They also have three new teacher at the nursery school which Upendo runs who are doing a fantastic job. They have significantly improved the school. There is a lot more discipline, the kids have increased concentration and much better English and seem to be having a lot more fun.
The older kids go to various primary schools in Kilifi. Some of the kids, such as those who attend St. Thomas' Primary School, are doing very well and have really progressed over the last couple of years. Others, who go to another local school, are really struggling and some have even gone backwards. This is mainly due to the class sizes. The average class size at their school is 70-120 students, and in some cases up to 240. Therefore, the kids get very little individual attention. At the moment, Upendo is trying to get these kids into different schools where class sizes aren't such a problem.
In other ways, not much has changed, the kids still sprint to grab half-ripe mangoes which have fallen from the tree in the middle of the yard,
and fight over them, only to eat half the mango and put the rest in their pocket for later.
Highlights of the time spent with the kids:
- Taking 20 of the younger ones to the beach. We hired a matatu, piled them all in and they sang raucously the whole way to the beach. Within ten seconds of arriving all the kids had stripped down to their undies and sprinted into the water, except for Pendeza who was busily putting on her red velvet leotard. Where she got it from I have no idea. I don't think I've ever seen so much excitement. The kids splashed about for hours and insisted on staying in the water all afternoon, despite the fact that they were all freezing - while we were nice and warm in the tropical water, the kids, with their skeletal little bodies were shivering the whole time.
- Various sessions of painting, drawing, dancing, sport, Christmas card making, etc.
- Being taken on a tour of some of the kids' houses - it was a pretty depressing afternoon but important to see. All the houses are tiny and made of mud, with thatched roofs. They're
extremely dark and have no electricity or running water. Some of the kids don't even have beds, while those who do shared them with at least a couple of others. One family's house have a massive hole in their roof, which causes their house to flood every time it rains.
A lot has changed round Kilifi too. There is a lot of building going on and, unfortunately, many of the local stalls have been pulled down. Most of the infamous characters of Kilifi are still around. The yeti, the man who's dressed entirely in plastic bags (and is most likely more than a little bit crazy), still sits in the main street all day. Also still around with a new tuk tuk called 'The Redeemer' is 'Awesome Love of Jesus.' He remembered us and still felt the need to offered us a free lift every time he drove past.
Anyway, it was a pretty tough couple of weeks spent:
- lazing around on the beaches
- cruising down Kilifi Creek on dhows, eating samosas and drinking Tusker beers (coincidentally, and fairly ironically, the owner of Tusker breweries was killed by an elephant).
- Doing day trips to
beautiful locations like Malindi
- Eating excessive amounts of samosas and passionfruit juice
- Going for walks through the sisal plantations
- Drinking beers and watching the sunset from Members' bar
As usual there was never a dull moment in Kilifi. In the space of a couple of weeks we experienced the following:
- One day I arrived at Upendo to be greeted by panicked teachers asking me if I was prepared for the tsunami that was due to hit Kilifi at 5 o'clock that afternoon. That explained the car driving round town with speakers attached to its roof blaring out warnings. It also explained why a man at a shop had stopped me and asked if Mnarani (the area where we were staying, on the other side of the creek) was under water yet.
Apparently there was an international training drill taking place that day involving 18 countries. Unfortunately, no one had been told it was just a practice run and they weren't about to be wiped out, so everyone in town was slightly hysterical. The only people who were aware were those with access to the internet or a radio - very few people. Surely
someone could have saved the whole town a lot of panic by alerting everyone in advance!
- Another highlight as seeing a giant sperm whale washed up on the beach. By the time we got to see it, it was decomposing nicely and was probably one of the most disgusting things I've ever smelled. One of the families whose house backs on to the beach had been giving their kids a biology lesson and had been dissecting the whale. They had removed its bones and were going to reconstruct it in their backyard.
- Not so exciting was the nightly threat of armed burglary. There had been a recent spate of robberies of the expat houses by gangs of seven or eight armed men. Most expats employ an askari (security guard) to patrol their houses at night. Unfortunately, they aren't much good. One such example was: A house was being robbed and the askari had radioed for back-up. When it arrived all the guards refused to go into the house and help because they were too scared. However, when the robbers made their escape on foot, the security guards attempted to chase them in their car, only to
turn back because the robbers were throwing stones at them. Quality security! We had slight cause for panic one night when we were woken at 2 o'clock one night by three men running past our bedroom window. Apparently they'd thought if was a good time for a practice run, so that we'd know they were on the ball.
It's also no use calling the police when you're being held hostage in your own home. You can either expect them to be too drunk to respond, or to make ridiculous demands such as that they won't come unless you pay for their petrol.
Anyway, while people were discussing potential solutions to the situation, this was the best result/most controversial statement they came up with:
- 'We should all get masais (as guards). Most people are shit-scared of Masais.'
- 'Yeah, they're not just decorative, they're functional!'
Best pick up lines/interactions with Kenyan males:
- 'Now what I need is for you to come with me and enjoy some green coconuts.'
- 'Where are you going? Should we be together.'
- Some shirtless guy named John Tsuma parading up and down the beach in front of
us stopped to have a chat. When we told him we had to go home, he told us it 'is like a "nightmare" for me that you are leaving.'
- Being given a keyring with 'Brig' carved into it - a dolphin, because 'that symbolises friendship.'
Best purchases from Kilifi shops:
- Some sort of hair product called 'Nice and Lovely Blow Out Relaxer.'
- Bambi All-Purpose Tantalizing Egg Shampoo.
- Prison Body Spray - A provocative sensual fragrance for the elegant and sophisticated woman of today. Gives you that extra edge for those special occasions...such as going to prison!
Sorry, that was a bit of a marathon effort, more blogs to follow in the next few weeks - will try to get back on track!
P.S. Apologies for not putting up any photos of the kids - I left that photography up to K with her vastly superior camera. I'll put some up on my return. In the meantime, anyone who is friends with Katherine on facebook can have a look at her Kilifi pictures on her page.
There are more photos below