Australian traveller Louise Flynn has visited various countries in Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. She provides an inside look at some of the aid organisations in Africa and how volunteering helped change her perspective on life.
Thursday, 20 March
Well here I am in Johannesburg after a 12 hours flight from Sydney… I’m absolutely stuffed, since my body thinks it is 3:30 am. Had a great seat on the plane, directly behind business, loads of legroom, my own tv screen and no-one sitting next to me… I was smiling like a priz idiot when I realised what I had scored! Staying at a backpackers in J’burg, it’s not too bad, but I’m not feeling real social….gonna shower and go to bed! I have my own little cabin out the back with a huge deadbolt! 7am start for me tomorrow and off to Nairobi…yippeee…I just wanna be there now and get settled.
Saturday, 22 March
Now I am in Nairobi after an event free flight from South Africa… my accommodation is pretty good, and it even has a tv and a pool…have used the former not the latter yet. I am staying in a suburb called Westlands which isn’t too far from the city and has everything within 5 mins walking distance. I had a lovely Kenyan beer last night called Tusker. I think my body has almost adjusted…but still went to bed at 8:00pm. Nairobi is bustling, noisy, polluted, green, dirty, crazy, interesting and I think I’ll be quite happy here for a week or so. Near my place there is a corner market where they are making great wicker furniture, with hundreds of noisy cars, trucks flying by within a meter or two. I’m gonna go and have a chat to them later today…see if I am allowed to take a photo. This afternoon I’ll head into the museum and check out some of the cultural artworks and just have a wander around. The conference starts on Monday and I’ll be speaking on Wednesday. Hopefully I’ll meet lots of great people and make some contacts. I even saw it advertised on tv last night!
Monday, 24 March
It is lunchtime and I am at the conference. I had my lunch and now I am waiting for the next session to start. I think I am one of only a handful of people from outside Africa, and definitely the only Australian. The room where the conference is, is HUGE – I hope I don’t have to present there! There are lots of experts here that’s for sure and some of the projects are really fantastic! Also looks like ESRI might be giving me some software for the place I’ll be volunteering at later in the trip.
Yesterday I went to visit Leith and her family. Leith is the sister of a girl, Doon, that works at Wet Tropics with me! they live in an area called Langata, outside Nairobi, and near the Karen Blixen house (from the Out of Africa book). It was raining heavy but we still visited a giraffe sanctuary and I got to hand feed a huge bull giraffe. Their tongues are enormous and purple and very rough. There were also warthogs there, sniffling around in the mud and waiting for the stray pellet.
The roads here are pretty bad and so are the matatu drivers (minibus) They are CRAZY! And I think there are numerous accidents with them too! I still haven’t worked out how I am getting out west or down to Tanzania next week, most likely be a bus (but not a matatu!!)
I haven’t got sick yet…touch wood, and hopefully it will stay that way.
Wednesday, 26 March
‘Twas the hours before my presentation and suddenly I got an urge to run very fast back down United Nations Avenue and back to my hotel. I am SCARED!!! The conference halls are really huge with about 100 people attending each one and they are all really official looking (the halls and the people that is). The worst thing is that the questions thrown at the presenters are very hairy… what am I doing here!!!
Aside from feeling way out of my league everything is fine! Went for dinner the other night with a nice guy from Rotary who drove me around the urban slums of Nairobi… it is INCREDIBLY hard to fathom these slums. 10,000 people living in an area so small in size with almost no toilets, no electricity, running water or sanitation at all. What a privileged life I live and I count my fortunes every day.
I’ve been trying out a few of the local brews, and there is a nice one called Tusker. You can buy it at the supermarket for 500ml at about AUD 0.80c! But everything else in Kenya is rather expensive…I can see easily how difficult it must be to survive in this place and why there might be so many people living in poverty. The contrast is often from one side of the street to the next…an expensive restaurant opposite street vendor selling coke for AUD 0.25c
Doesn’t look like I will be doing any of the organised activities for the last day of the conference, as they are too expensive. It’s a pity really as there were a couple of safaris and cool trips! But it doesn’t matter, as there are still lots of other things to look forward to! I will be trying really hard to get over to the Kenya coast before I leave.
Wednesday, 26 March
FINITO! TALK COMPLETE!!! Now I can relax… And I got good feedback, I am really stoked…and so GLAD it is over!!! After the session I was approached by a man who is from the Maasai tribe and he was explaining the similar issues Maasai face to Aboriginal people…tonight we are going to go and have dinner somewhere, so it should be interesting, I am looking forward to the discussion. The last session tonight sounds really great. It is a preliminary presentation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Saturday, 29 March
Yesterday I went to the Maasai market in Nairobi with my Maasai friend Parkire, Caleb (a Kiwi) and Thorzama (South African). The craft as you imagine are beautiful and every seller is your ‘friend’. There were some beautiful women there making and selling jewellery and looking stunning with all their own adornment. Parkire took me to meet his sister (one of 40 brothers and sisters!!) and she allowed me take a photo of her and Parkire. I was very fortunate to be allowed to do this as Maasai people believe that taking a photo takes away your blood and they have headaches after people take photos! So after this we went to a settlement within the city limits where some Maasai have been given a quarter of an acre to live in their traditional way. They were living in dung houses and looking after their cattle. The children were quite shy and scared of us, but would come up and touch our skin and clothes and then run away giggling. Unfortunately the area they are living is pretty awful, it is actually an old rubbish dump (which is now just the streets of Nairobi, anywhere and everywhere). And it is surrounded by awful high density low income housing. To access water the Maasai have to visit this housing and ask for water.
The Conference finale
Thursday night was the last of the conference and there was a ‘do’ put on by ESRI (a software provider). Beer was free all night to about 400 people as was food, as well as a band and dancing. I had a great night hanging out with all my new friends as well as making some more.
Last night I went to dinner with a man from Zimbabwe who is working in Nairobi for 6 months. We ate pizza and then went to a bar/garden where nyama choma was being cooked all night. Nyama choma is delicious bbq meat (sorry vegetarians)!
Today I missed the bus as my friend Parkire was late. It was probably actually the taxi driver, who always seems to be late here! I am travelling to Arusha in Tanzania and then hopefully I can get across to Musoma to visit my friend John. Pretty nervous about getting out on the open road because I remember seeing so many buses overturned back in ’97 and I have seen the way the buses drive!0