The second part of Louise Flynn’s travels in Africa visiting different organisations.
Tuesday, 1 April
Here I am in Tanzania and I am staying with my friend John. It was a long journey overnight on the bus and I had never end of hassles before I even got on! Today I have had to travel 4.5 hours just to go to the bank! and then 4.5 hours to get back!! Needless to say I was having a panic that I couldn’t get money out here either. Tomorrow we go to Mgumu to stay with John’s family and then after that I head back into Kenya to UCRC!! I hope I don’t have hassles at the border. Musoma is nice and quiet and yesterday John showed me around the market etc. and I took lots of photos.
They are really lovely people, with overwhelming generosity (especially for people with so little). I have now been accepted as a family member and genuinely felt this. Mama John (what I call his mum) works at the market selling tomatoes and onions and making beautiful reed mats. Most of the mats are the size of a table and take 3 weeks to make. She sells them for $6 only. It is a hard life, but there are always smiles and tea, and hearty food and I did not desire for anything (except a new set of lungs). Pia, our impression of Mugumu was so wrong, and I am really glad I went back there and met so many excellent people.
I have spent many many many many hours on local transports (aaahhhh, I will never complain about Australian transport again). The roads are awful, no suspenion in the cars/buses/crazy minvans (matatus) and you usually have half a seat and zilch leg room. It is character building!!
Tuesday, 8 April
I am now in Kisumu in Kenya on my way to UCRC but have only just arrived from Tanzania. After a few days in Musoma (Tan) I went with John to Mugumu where his family live. I had a fantastic time, but spent two days in bed sick as a dog. No no not malaria, it was some awful flu/chest infection thing and I have been coughing up my lungs ever since. HOwever the good thing was that I had JOhn’s family here to look after me and help me get better.
I am sad to say that my coca cola addiction has not abated (but at least I am not drinking diet coke) Coke is easier to get than good water. I have tried ugali and eaten a lot of rice, matoke (green bananas – suprisingly nice), paw paw, mango, pilau, chapatis (yum) and drunk alot of tea. I think I have even lost some weight (probably coughed it all out!)
Visiting John’s school was really great and I have some good pictures to show you all where some of your money is going. I think you will be very surprised to see there are almost no facilities. As for the duplicating machine, UI have arranged for it to go to Nairobi anjd the school will come and pick it up in December. They are VERY happy to recieve something so great since their machine is totally out of order and they have to walk a few miles to get any kind of copying done (imagine exam time).
Saturday, 19 April
Well here I am in Ugunja, Western Kenya at UCRC (Ugunja community resource centre) and have met up with some fantastic people, both Kenyans and Mzungus (white foreigners) I am staying at the house of Aggrey the director along with other mzungus and it is very comfortable. I am actually preparing to leave unfortunately. It takes at least 3-4 days to get used to the pace of life in this small village of about 6000 and now I have been here that long it is time to go. I spent so many days travelling on local buses from A to B, that it shortened my time here.
I have been staying in the property of the coordinator of the centre with a few other volunteers and I have spent some time with him (Aggrey) talking about how GISa could be used here. Nothing runs quickly here. I mean maybe I could get a few hours work done in one day. But I realise that GIS is so transferable over the internet that I can continue this work at home. Having said that, it was ABSOLUTELY essential that I came here to really suss it all out and see where my skills could be used. There is no way I could have a good idea of the situation here without first hand knowledge. I think I have some good ideas of things that can easily be done by me when I get back to Australia. And one of these includes some training manuals for Kenyan volunteers to learn GIS and begin to apply it to the pertinent issues.
Today I spent a while hand washing and trying to wash my hair (a challenge here for sure), then after I arrived in Ugunja I went to the store and met up with my little rafiki (friend) Nicki. He is about 2 and so cute, he always comes up to me and sits on my lap, looking at my hair and face and all my mzungu features.
A seller came up to me and sold me 8 bananas for 5 shillings (about 20 cents) and I gave one to Nicki. He ran back to his parents who are selling samosas and hot chips in the market and had a very large smile on his face! He has a car which he brings to me each time and I make car noises and he giggles uncontrollably at the mzungu being so silly!!
Yesterday was market day here in Ugunja so the place was buzzing with stalls selling tomatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, tyres, torches, watches secondhand clothes, maize, yummy snackie things, basins, soap, traditional medicies, small fish, talapia fish, dried fish, shoe. Everything you can imagine and at bargain basement prices (much more interesting than Crazy Clarks)
So tomorrow I get a matatu (crazy driver, broken Nissan minivan, 10 passengers too many!) to Kisumu, where I stay for one night, then get the early bus back to Nairobi on Tuesday. On Thursday I fly out back to Jo’burg, stay one day and one night and then back to Sydney.
Tuesday, 22 April
Here I am back in Nairobi in the city of chaos. Noise, cars driving everywhere, matatus honking, screaming out, music blasting, pollution and pot holes as big as a person. You can’t wander around this city without watching where you walk and trying to avoid potholes, sleeping people, rubbish, cars and street vendors on the sidewalk. But you know I don’t actually mind it here and it is a big contrast to Ugunja.
So I have a couple of days here to tie up some loose ends and then say bye to Kenya. Today is the first day I have actually had any tummy problems. I have plans to visit some markets if I feel better and stock up on a few neat gifts (that is if I can get them, through customs). Last night I had a girl from the states staying with me and we went to a Thai restaurant. I am pretty sick of local food which consists of ugali and sukuma wiki. Ugali is a mixture of maize flour and water and is mixed to form a kind of tasteless cake. The texture is pretty awful and hard to swallow. Served with this is sukuma wiki, a vegetable which is an indigenous spinach and cooked in water with onion. Together these aren’t all that appetising.
Another food which is someyimes served is chapatis, like pancakes. They are actually quite yummy and they are served with beans in a small amount of broth. Food here is pretty basic and I found myself wandering the market looking for veges and fruit. A couple of the other volunteers live in their own dwelling and are able to cook themselves. I think this is the preferrable option. Another thing they lovee here is very sweet very milky tea.
I learnt so much at Ugunja and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience something totally unique. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Some of the people I met were so excellent and I will be counting down the days until I can get back to here and be part of this community again.
Friday, 25 April
I am now in Jo’burg and have arrived at the same hostel I stayed before. Tomorrow I have the enormous task of getting this duplicating machine to Tanzania, since I had to leave it here when I arrived earlier in the month. There is so much red tape here it drives me batty, and no-one seems to have any idea of what happens outisde their own country (not least within it!!) especially in regards ot transport and such matters.
Thursday, 1 May
I’m back in Australia now and on familiar soil. I think the ‘down’ is coming really soon. I am already back in the routine of work and the same old stuff is happening there.
Having been back for a week or so, it has given me time to reflect about some of my experiences overseas. Although it was a short time it was so fulfilling, never let it be said that you can’t experience much in a short time.
I believe it is definitely the WAY you experience, rather than what you experience which makes it fulfilling.
I know many of you have travelled to all sorts of places, both within your own countries and outside. I would however like to offer some advice, which comes directly from my reflections.
* wherever you can stay local, get out of the cities as quick as possible and head for the towns/villages.
* eat local. THis takes some time to get used to and I don’t say you are gonna like it. It does however give you an appreciation of local lifestyles and prompt you to look more readily into the food production of that region. This might prompt you to talk to local people about something they know all about, it is a good conversation starter. Eating local is also MUCH cheaper.
* befriend people from a range of backgrounds, not just ones you can relate to. It is usually the people you don’t click with instantly that you can learn the most from.
* don’t make promises unless you are absolutely sure that you WILL keep them. It is easy to feel inspired whilst there and then on your return, whilst still inspired, get bogged in the normal activities of your life. A promise made by a foreigner in developing countries is often remembered for years, you may be the only foreigner that person has spoken to, and those promises can mean a lot.
* don’t forget to always have a supply of toilet paper! Most important!!
* ask questions, try asking them in the local language. If anything you will prompt a good laugh and break the ice. You might not understand the answer, but you are more respected for trying.
* learn the protocols for greeting older people and respected community members.
* laugh a lot, especially when you feel out of your depth. If you can take a step back from the situation and imagine yourself at home relaying the story to your friends whilst laughing, then it can’t be that bad.
* use the guidebook as just that – A GUIDE. Community members are often the best source of information.2