Published: July 7th 2011July 7th 2011
Wow, so its been a while since i updated! Things have been a bit hectic and its been hard to get any real time on the internet.
We have been working pretty hard. Although this week we have a had a number of afternoons off (I think the fundies are getting tired so they tell us there is no work or not enough materials to work). Last week we worked together to build a house for a lady that has 6 children (from 10 to 20) and their house was beginning to fall down, the roof had holes and the rain came in.
That was an experience, at first i didn't even believe that we could possibly build a house in 2-3 days! not even a house made with mud. But we did! The process is pretty easy, holes for the uprights go first (all the wood was cut from nearby trees) then there are lots of small horizontal branches nailed on and the roof trusses nailed on top (the fundies did the roof OHSC would never agree with how they did it!) They put the iron sheeting on the roof while we did the branches then we came back the next day to 'mud'. Mudding involves making a paste of mud and cow poo (apparently it holds together better, theres actually not a lot of it in there in ratio) and you make brick like shapes and place them in the gaps we created with the thin horizontal branches. Its a messy process and you really don't want to get a cut or bad scratch because of the poo but no one ended up sick or injured and we actually manages to mud the entire 2 room house in just over half a day! Go team!! We also got a mattress, mosquito nets, and some blankets and food (on a branch shelf that Celia and I made with the help of a couple of the locals!) to put in the finished house.
I've made 2 trips into the doctors in the past week. Neither of them serious. We go to a clinic that is really good its got a great reputation with all the westerners who come through Kisumu. Last Friday there were 7 of us that came in because we were all having various reactions to the anti-malaria medication Doxycycline (i think i wrote about my rash in the last post). Mine wasn't too bad, really just itchy and i managed to keep most of it under control with covering it with long sleeves, only my hands were a real problem and they itched like crazy. Others had severe sunburn and a couple had burning sensations just from being in direct sunlight! So we all came in and we all changed our medication to one called Melarone, which is super expensive in Australia (like $12 a tablet) but we managed to get it here for around $12 a week. Its working really well for everyone now and most peoples symptoms have gone completely. My hands are back to normal!
I am back in again today for the doctor because i had had some stomach aches for the past 3 days and Celia (our fearless leader!) decided that it would be better to get it checked out rather than go away on our relaxation weekend tomorrow and still be unwell. Turns out its a simple infection in my stomach, something I ate, so I've got some new drugs and I'll be good as new tomorrow!
All these trips into and out of Kisumu are teaching us about Kenya's national game... "How many people can you fit into (or onto) a Matatu?" A Matatu is a kind of mini bus that should seat 14 people however rarely will you see one with that many people actually seated in it. They cram as many people as possible. This morning i think we had 23 at most with people hanging out the door and leaning over seats. Last Sunday was our record. We had 26 people in the Matatu which included one man who was hanging onto the back of it! We don't get on if we don't have a seat because of safety but we often end up the ones squashed against a window or sitting on each others laps to help make room for more people! Its certainly an experience and has left more than one of us with bruises and pains from sitting on things that are probably not made for seats, luckily i haven't fared too badly.
Its not really all fun and games here, there are so many stark reminders of why we are here. The community we are in is certainly poor but they live a simple life and are genuinely happy people. I feel very comfortable there and could probably live that way if it weren't for having to boil all our water and not having a fridge (and the slight issue with the multiple wives and the fact that the men cant get over Australia not allowing it. One guy actually thought there were more women than men and that that is why they should have more wives.....? its an ongoing discussion with our fundies and laborers, probably because we react so passionately for womens rights!) Kisumu is another issue altogether when talking about poverty. The city breaks my heart and makes me sick to my stomach at the same time. Its very dirty, I don't think there is any garbage disposal system in place, which does make sense because there are so many other things that are probably so much more important for them including water and housing. There is litter everywhere and people generally burn there rubbish to get rid of it. The worst part however are the street kids. Kisumu has a population of 100 000 people and of that 20 000 are kids that live on the street. Its heartbreaking. Everywhere you look there are children, and they are young kids, some 6 or 7 and the sickening thing is they all use glue sniffing as a way to combat hunger. Its highly addictive but its cheaper than food and it cures their hunger better. You see kids everywhere and they have bottles of glue (the liquid glue kind of like wallpaper glue, its not really like common glue in Australia) that are pretty much stuck under there noses. There are some who try to hide it when they ask us for money but others are so high and hungry that they don't even bother. We don't give money to them because it only supports the glue but we do try to give food and left over take away where we can. It really sickens me and i struggle every time i come into Kisumu but i wouldn't avoid the feeling because to avoid it is to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. I couldn't do that either. Please this week if you pass someone on the street begging for money, don't give them money but if you have a spare banana or apple or there is a bakery nearby, give them something to eat. It won't mean much from your budget, just a few dollars but that food may be the only decent thing that person eats that week and it will mean the world to them. If i could show everyone the looks on the faces of the kids when we hand them our leftover slice of pizza or rice. Its priceless and reminds me how far a little gesture can go.
Alright, we are off to Naivasha tomorrow for our rest and relaxation weekend but i think its just going to be a rest from work as it looks like we will be doing lots of bike riding and bush walking to see some awesome natural wonders. All our choice of course but who would choose the pool when you have the chance to see wild giraffes, monkeys, gorillas and hippos!!??
Missing you all!
P.S. not all the texts you send are getting through to us here. If you send something and i don't reply (i would reply between 2pm and 7pm) send it again as it may not have come through!!
PPS hope this wasn't too long or boring! :-)