A Timeline of Travel

An account of Laura's travels and day to day thoughts while in Kenya and whatever other countries she crosses paths with...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Green Sea

I realized today how long it's been since I've written, and then I remembered why. Engaging in internet time in Nairobi is no small feat. It's frustrating and overwhelming. No more than 5minutes ago I finished an entire blog that was lost to the whim of my tempermental Kenyan computer. But, beyond that-things here are fabulous.
South Africa is where I spent my holidays. Seeing my parents was refreshing and reminded me that they are truely my best friends in life. I felt like we were travelling buddies instead of child/parents. We spent our first week in Cape Town, where we took tours of the area where "Blacks" had been displaced during Apartheid. We walked right into the cramped houses of the many who had been seperated from the city in the hopes of creating a "White Nation". While their condition was definitely dismal, I could not help but contrast it to the slums of Nairobi. Whereas people in South African slums have running water and electricity in their shacks (which were usually mulitiple roomed), those in Nairobi's slums cannot afford candles and drink contaminated water if they find it on a good day. However, no one's plight is any more minimal than the next and it was still astonishing to see how prevalant Apartheid still is, and how it's aftermath of a "seperate but equal" like state in South Africa has relegated rascism to a pervasive yet inescapable factor in these people's lives. I hope to share with you all the pictures of the "street art" I took while there. Some of it is angry, and some of it is a reflection of the national motto of "reconciliation".
From Cape Town it was on to Kruger National Park, where we saw animals abounding. We saw so many that their exotic appeal morphed into an apathetic gaze at the next zebra or antelope. Nontheless, they were remarkable. Especially the elephants, cheetah, leopards, lions, rhinos, giraffe, and hippos. What a unique and fragile ecosystem. As it turns out, everyone's "Save the elephants" campaign is actually harmful to the delicate balance of the reserve, as the elephants are now so numerous that they are going around ripping up trees for fun and destroying the precious habitats of other animals there. Still, elephants remain my favorite mammal. They are massive, yet gentle as well as one of the smartest species alive. They mourn their dead and have shown signs of self-recognition and awareness. BRILLIANT and I love them.
From Kruger we went to Durban. That's where the "green sea" comes from. Durban produces masses of sugar cane, and thus the rolling hills are covered in green cane that moves with the wind like waves. To me it looked like masses of whispy hair. It was remarkably calming to look at, and this was a good thing considering the first day we did lots of staring out the window in our city tour that turned out to be a drag. So we decided to relax the last few days at our hotel and spend time together.
My parents left on the 2nd of January and I met up with a friend, Emily, in Durban. She and I stayed in a hostel with a very interesting array of people. There were folks from all over Europe, Australia, South America, and Africa. The best were the elderly folk who'd relinquished their lives to hopping from hostel to hostel with no particular agenda and in no particular hurry. One woman honestly did not step outside of the hostel walls for the three nights we were there. Emily spent hours in the ocean, jumping in the waves and earning ourselves impressive sunburns that kept us pretty imobile the other days. We managed to do some walking around and found free galleries and museums in the city to keep us out of the sun. Durban is a very interesting city, and until the wee hours of the morning Emily and I would sit on the verandas of the hostel with Castle lagers (the local S.African brew) in hand, people watching. Around the corner from our hostel was an "escort service and executive massage parlour" called Sonja's. Watching the mad dash the men dropped off there made from the taxi to the front door of Sonja's was pure entertainment. At one point, I was invited by the receptionist at Sonja's to come in. After some serious internal moral debate...I turned her down :) We also watched the prostitutes saunter up and down the streets and in and out of cars. If this wasn't enough, there was always enough mini-taxis (like Kenya's matatus) with blaring music, to keep us stimulated. They were like dance-floors on wheels with young girls and boys hanging out the sides waving their arms, enticing anyone on the sidewalk to break into dance.
Emily and I hopped the BazBus, which takes backpackers from hostel to hostel in South Africa, and headed to Johannesburg where we caught our fight to Nairobi. It felt like I was coming home,which was a mixture of bizarre and comforting. As one man who owns a horse stable in Nairobi said to me, "Kenya gets into your blood". He was right. I love being here without classes and have been going to the orphanage as much as possible. It's difficult, emotionally, to be with these children day in and day out and know I'm leaving so soon. However, their little signs of affection make it worthwhile.
One young boy, Nigel, was badly burned by a Kenyan family who adopted him. The week I returned from South Africa, we were sitting on the couch watching Lion King when he took my finger and ran it over a scar near his lips. He said nothing to me, and I nothing to him. However, he's been attached to me since. Those are the times I am most happy, to know it takes absolutely nothing to convey love and know it's genuine.
I'm running around the city like a mad woman collecting data on the Kenyan adoption process and so on in order to write my paper. With my time left, I have a trip planned to Mt.Elgon to do some hiking and view elephants who come to these famous salt caves to lick the salt formations. I also have a trip planned to Egypt in mid February. Both of these are with various members of the group,and I'm anticipating good times.
This weekend we are returning to Hells Gate(where the baboon ate my lunch) to camp,hike, and bike. Jeff, a member of our group, put the trip together to celebrate his brother coming to visit. All in all, I'm busy, but grateful for it.
Hope everyone is doing just fine. Keep in touch and stay well!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Educated Robbery-The thief's tale

So this past weekend, on Friday, my friend Emily and I waited in the midst of rush-hour for bus #40 to go cook a homemade dinner at our friend, Alyssa's house. The bus stop was so busy we crossed platforms. We noticed a young man following us. He was walking closely behind me and actually tried to push my back, in an attempt to have me move over so he could go in for the kill. Finally our bus number came, and as usual, the throngs of people that wait for the same bus all tried to get on at once. Emily and I were just about to enter when she felt a hand in her pocket. Luckily she was able to knock it out of the way fast enough that he didn't get her phone. She also saw that it was the young man who'd been following us whose hand was in her pocket. We stared him down until he understood we knew his dirty tricks...and he took off down the road.
The next day, when leaving Alyssa's house, Emily and I got into a matatu. We were seated in it alone, just the two of us, while the conductor took off down the street. This isn't too unusual, and we thought he was maybe just getting passengers. When he came back, three young men followed. Two of them sat behind us, and one, with a large piece of folded poster-board, sat beside Emily. The two behind us started talking to us at once, creating confusion, and thus a diversion. In the meantime, their accomplice aside Emily had the piece of poster-board over he bag and was unzipping pockets in her backpack at lightning speed. I was fed up with the men behind us and turned around to catch the other in the act. I grabbed his hand ( a silly move I now realize, although it was in the spur of the moment then) and shouted at him to give back whatever he had. I held his hand till the matatu stopped, all the while calling him and his buddies not so nice names and laying the guilt on thick. Emily was checking to make sure her things were in order, which, luckily, they were. At the next stop the three men got off.
Of course, we're not the first muzungus to experience such things. It happens every day. What was scary was the apathy from those around us. Moreover, Emily's host-mom told us that the driver and conductor were mostly likely in on it, and quite possibly the rest of the passengers as well. This past Sunday, I was reading through Kenya's newspaper,the Daily Nation, when I came across an article about pickpockets and the increasing prevelance of it in the city center. Turns out that in downtown Nairobi, there are actually schools were retired pickpockets from the 60's and 70's train young men and women in the trade. The schools are referred to as "pinjis" on the streets and exist ALL OVER in underground places. One of the tests the students have to pass is to wear a belt with a bell attached, and they have to remove the belt without the bell making a sound. Once the teachers deem them ready, they hit the streets. They usually dress is nice clothing in an attempt to pass for professionals. They hit everywhere, from elevators in office complexes, to public transportation, to bathrooms! While it is angering, it's also quite impressive. This is truely a trade that these people are learning. It's too bad their deft skills couldn't be put to better use...like building new houses for the displaced people here. I'm sure they could do it at rapid speeds,the way their hands work.
It's not surprising, but the number of pickpocketings that occur increases around the Holiday season. So Happy Holidays everyone & watch your napsack.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Maasai Mara in All its Glory

Maasai Mara is a national reserve in Kenya where animals run wild and the Maasai people inhabit the land. It's an incredibly surreal place, only because you can see a Maasai man, regally standing in his red garb with a spear in hand watching over his cattle; and if you turn the corner there's liable to be a lion resting in the bush. "Mara" literally means dirt, or earth, so it is the Maasai's dirt. It was just declared another "wonder of the world". Don't ask me the number, I'm not sure how many there are now. I am sure that Maasai Mara is deserving of the title.
The Mara is a vast expanse of land that looks something like a prairie between tall mountains and hills. There's some green, but it's mostly brown bush and tundra. It's hard to think that animals could blend in here, but they do very easily. We went on numerous game drives, including early morning attempts at spotting any wildlife. The wildabeast migration had just taken place and there were many left over carasses and stragglers. They're a strangely beautiful animal. We also saw buffalo, zebra, giraffe, monkies, lions, lionesses (who do the hunting and the killing), elephants (ndovu is Kiswahili), numerous birds and other strange little inhabitants of the land. One of the lion prides we came up on had just made a fresh kill of a zebra. We watched the male lions eat the meat. I've always thought something like this would disturb me, but when it's happening in front of your eyes, you realize how naturally proper the event is, and it's not disgusting at all. I have to make a public statement that elephants are my favorite animal. They're tough as hell, but don't use their size to take advantage of other animals. They look like walking statues, and have a sort of noble appearance. We were able to see a mother and her baby walk by the 4x4, no more than 100feet away.
Apart from seeing the animals, we also visited a Maasai village, called a Mayatta. It was astounding to see how tourism has a dichotomous effect on these people's lives, as the money they make from selling their crafts allows them to build things like schools yet their children are not encouraged to stay in the school and instead sell crafts to tourists. We were shown a dance by the men and the women of the village. They did their dances seperately and the men's had their traditional jumping that they do in order to lower the bride-price they must pay. The higher a man can jump, the less of a dowry he has to give. Some of these men would have achieved a wife for free. The Maasai are also practice polygamy as well as circumcision for both males and females. The men are circumcised around 12 to 14 years old. Afterwards, they are sent into the bush for a year to learn the ways of the land. Upon their return, they are required to kill a lion with a spear, and then they are eligible for marriage. The women are circumcised around 11 to 13 years old and are then fit for marriage. Many of the marriages are arranged. The women wear bracelets around their ankles to show that they are either married or betrothed to someone. I couldn't help but think how shackle-like these anklets were; especially after seeing one on a girl who couldn't have been more than 5 years old. However, it's not my culture. I'm sure there's honor in that girl's family for having her marriage arranged already.
We were also shown a Maasai man's house. The mud huts are built by the women and are composed of a mix of clay, grasses, and thatch. It takes about 2 weeks for a house to be built. It was remarkable cool despite the humidity outside. There was a fire smoldering in the middle of the room (there were curtain dividers to designate the food store, bedroom, and common sitting area) and on the animal hide bench, there was a tiny baby laying there on a mat. It was swaddled and when we entered did little but stare at us with it's big brown eyes. I don't know if it was a boy or a girl, but the child certainly couldn't move much in it's encasement. The rainy season is cold to Kenyans, and they fear rain like the diseases it brings. Thus, the baby was wrapped up against all of this.
Observing the Maasai's way of life was both intriguing and saddening. There were flies abundant because the ground was a mix of mud and shit. The people were beautiful to look at; dressed in bright red clothes to make them visible in the bush and to deter animals. The communal aspect of their lives was obvious, as women had random children slung on their backs and hips, and the men share wives...leaving a spear in front of the door of a hut to designate that there is a man in there. Many of the sights were indescribably gorgeous and others were disheartening. However, it was all worth it.
I am doing fine back in Nairobi. Classes end soon and it's on to South Africa till Januray 8th. When I return, I'll be spending much more time at New Life with the orphans. I plan to go camping again in Naivasha and to Lake Nakuru, another national park. I've got more time on my hands now and this morning, while out jogging, two young boys joined in my exercise routine and then one of them started sprinting at my cue. We were both laughing and running all out for no reason at all....not even racing. At the end of it all, he breathlessly asked me for money. When I told him I had none, I wish you all could have seen his face! Connecting with the people like that makes me incredibly happy and feel like not so much of an outsider; even if the boy did expect money from me :) Take care all and forgive all typoes and errors in my "blog posts". I don't have the patience to double-check.

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Life Home

While watching "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat", a little boy no older than 5 turned his face up to mine from sitting in my lap and asked "Can I come home with you"? Thirty seconds later, Duncan was fast alseep in my arms, so while his request may have been a side-effect of exhaustion, I'll take the flattery.
New Life Trust is the orphanage where I am volunteering and doing research. It was started in the early 90's by a couple from the U.S. who put their religion to good use and raised enough money to open the home. They specialize in children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, although not all of the children there have the virus. All of them are abandoned though, and range in age from infants to about six years old. They are given new names upon entering the orphanage and either live in the house with their "mom", Mama Noah, or at the main building. Mama Noah keeps 11 children from ages 2 and a half to six. They go to primary school under the Montesori Program (forgive the spelling) and live in the house. I go to Mama Noah's on Fridays and Saturdays, and to the infant and toddler ward on Monday and/or Wednesday mornings.
Working at the orphanage was not my original desire. I wanted to volunteer in the gender violence department of the Women's Hospital in Nairobi. However, they had no positions open. Since New Life presented the opportunity, I've realized that I'm addressing the same issues. The reason these children are abandoned is mainly due to the physical and structural violence against women in Kenya; and thus, the reason the number of abandoned children is on the rise in Kenya.
Each day I learn another child's story, and another child's personality. It's incredibly humbling to hold an infant who has seen more hardship in life than I ever will. These children want nothing more than love;and it's not a desire to "save the world" or "save Africa" that draws me to this kind of work, but a desire to recognize these commonalities, such as the desire for love, that is "humanhood". For now,I'm incredibly to be doing this and I'm sure will rant and rave about this more soon. Take care everyone!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kisumu sunsets and rainstorms

Hello everyone! I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written in the blog. I find my time filling up more and more as I become involved in community activities, family activities and yes...even my school work.
This past week our group took our second planned excursion to the port city of Kisumu, on Lake Victoria. This trip was nothing like Mombasa, and this is a good thing. Our first day there we visited the Orongo Orphanage, which takes in both widows and children. The widows are who run the orphanage. Many of them have refused to be subject to what is known as "widow inheritance", which a cultural practice among the Luo ethnic group that allows a man to be with a woman after her husband has died. Not only is the practice masoginistic, but it also causes the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst communities. The woman who started the orphanage witnessed events such as these firsthand and claimed she was called by God to help others, and could not ignore the call. She also was a cripple, before she was introduced to the wonders of herbal medicine by an organization called R.E.A.P. Therefore, the organization keeps the children healthy and treats diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS all through the use of herbal medication. They grow the plants on site, dry them, and give the proper mixture of herbs mixed in with nutritionally balanced porridge to the children each day. Often times they can only afford to feed the children once a day, so the porridge is made especially to meet their nutritional needs. The orphanage was in such a remote area that I was surprised to see they also had a water pump on-site that the whole community used. The women made crafts from goods such as recycled paper, beans, maize and other materials, which they sold in order to generate income for the orphanage. We arrived there around 9:30-10:00am and stayed till around 4pm. I believe that I held a child for every single minute with the exception of the first 10minutes or so, where the children were cautiously approaching us and touching our hands. It didn't take long and they were sitting on our laps, crawling into our arms, and playing football (soccer) with us. There was one young boy, Alex, who I connected with especially well. He had been found near death because of starvation. When they began to rehabilitate him, he could not open his mouth to eat and did not urinate after a month on a steady diet. His eyes were listless and his head deformed. The women cared for him and massaged his skull so that it would assume a somewhat regular shape. I have to tell you, the little boy I carried around all day (even if I'd set him down he'd put his arms up in a gesture to be held and would yell when others tried to take him away) was a walking contradiction to how they described him. He was so full of personality and life. He picked up on some words I was saying in English, mimicked the noises I made with my mouth, and lauged at the funny faces I was making. He ate like a growing child should and loved to be paid attention to. He was quite the favorite amongst his peers too. Leaving him behind was not easy, but to see the remarkable work these women do was somewhat of a transcendental experience. One of those days that throws everything into perspective without expectation. I could live my whole life in days like that day. However, this was just one small part of the trip.
The next day we visited another organization called, TEMAK (and unfortunately I can't remember what the acronym stands for off the top of my head). This organization serves teenage mothers, abandoned children, those infected with HIV/AIDS, school drop-outs, and child prostitutes. They have several locations throught the city of Kisumu, in urban and rural settings. They were one of the most well-funded community organizations I've seen here in Kenya. They were also incredibly forward thinking. For example, in their rural community center they had irrigation set up and were teaching the community to tend bees so that they could sell honey (very little work for quite a bit of profit). While we were there, the children who were in the on-site nursery school sang for us and participated in games we taught them, such as the hokey-pokey; after all, we are all products of our environments, and everyone in our group knew the hokey-pokey. The children at the previous orphanage also enjoyed it, so I guess it's not just for weddings but for breaking language barriers and making small children laugh as well. TEMAK also has an on-site medical clinic available to the community that treats skin irritations and HIV/AIDS using herbal medication. While we were in the lab part of the clinic, an older woman was laying in the bed with an i.v. in her arm. I shook her hand, spoke a bit of Kiswahili, held her hand and gave her a piece of my juicy fruit gum. I am by no means an exception to any rule, but I couldn't simply stand in the lab observing it and her without interacting with her in some attempt to make her feel less like a spectacle for the westerners and more like a human being. The really amazing thing about TEMAK is it is a self-sustaining organization by the young teens who recieve vocational training and generate income through the production of crafts. The organization had numerous kiosks set up in very strategic positions around the city, where tourists were most likely to buy.
That same day, we also visited a fishing village where we took a short boat ride in a traditional fishing boat and saw how their operation worked. They use very basic equipment and it takes about 2-4weeks for one wooden boat to be made. There was also a tree, called the "sausage tree", that grows long oblong fruit that they do not eat, but instead bury in a casket if one of the men is lost at sea. The women cooked, dried, and took the fish to market while the men caught and cleaned the fish. Unfortunately, it stormed every afternoon we were in Kisumu and our visit was cut short due to the weather. However, this wasn't all bad. We were able to watch a storm roll in over Lake Victoria and the rain quelled some of the stench from the fish.
The next day we went to the rural home of one of our professors, Lillian. Here we visited her rural home, met her mother, and went to a local primary school to help build a cement floor in one of the classrooms. This day was also one of the most fulfilling on this trip yet. If there's one thing I love, and one thing that relieves stress for me, it's physical work. Well...I got my fair share of it that day. Using wheelbarrows and broken shovels, we layered rocks, then dirt, and then hand-mixed cement onto the floor of the classroom. In our breaks from work we sang and danced with the elderly women of the community, ate fresh roasted peanuts and drank sodas. Being brought soda is quite an honor here, and they typically bring it to a woman's family the day before her marriage. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the finishing touches be put on the floor due to a storm rolling in. However, before we left, a few of us started a football/rugby type game with the children. Their ball was a make-shift mix of cloth and adhesives. Once Eric and myself walked over to the football fields were a few children were playing, a stampede of students followed. There was no order to the game, and no particular teams, although most of them were going against us. But the rush of laughter and joy it brought was quite an experience. One interesting thing, and testament to the socialization process here, was that when the girl students tried to participate, the young boys literally kicked them back to the sidelines where they were meant to just watch the game. It was hard to see, but more difficult to accept the fact that I could do very little about it. After we left the school, we went back to Lillian's rural home where the women of the compound had been working all day to prepare one of the largest meals I've ever seen. There was every kind of fish (and not fillets...the entire fish), chicken, beef, goat, chapati( a flatbread), rice, potatoes, sukumi wiki (greens), and traditional ugali (like Italian polenta out of cornmeal meant to take the place of utensils). Full and exhausted we went back to the hotel and enjoyed a few Tuskers (the local beer...soon to come to the U.S.).
I'm not sure if it was the city of Kisumu itself, or simply the things we saw and did that enchanted me so much. I just know I left in a euphoric state feeling as though the reasons I'd come to Kenya had come to fruition. It has been hard to fall back into classes, for the week we were there felt like a lifetime of learning. But, it's back to the grindstone I guess.
Hope everyone is doing well and excited for the upcoming holiday season.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Danger-Hippos Swimming

This past weekend 11 out of the 12 of us took the weekend to go camping at the popular spot of Lake Naivasha. It is about 2 hours outside the city in the Rift Valley. The drive was amazingly beautiful, but a bit cramped inside our rented matatu. There's nothing like windows that won't open, stifling heat, and eleven bodies to get one's blood pressure rising. It was completely worth it when we arrived at the lake. The water sprawled forever, butting up to mountains on all sides of the water. We sent up camp, cooked dinner and cheersed to our arrival. I remembered how much I loved sleeping in a tent with the birds chirping all night long. The site had warm water and flushing toilets, so there were little complaints in the hygiene sector. On Saturday, myself and three others rented bikes for less than $5 for the day and took what resulted in a 7hour bike ride along dusty paths to Hell's Gate-a gorge located in a national park. On the way to the gorge we saw zebras (many), a giraffe, baboons, warthogs, and gazelle. Watching a zebra canter is fairly amusing, and the giraffe was a mix of elegance and awkwardness. I regretted not having my camera, till I remember how much it can distract from those types of scenarios. When we reached the gorge, we sat at a picnic table for lunch. From around the corner, a baboon came charging to our table, snagged our sandwiches in foul swoop and left us hungry. It took them about 10 feet away and ate them right in front of us. I had a bit of one in my hand, and when it had devoured ours, it came running up to me. I threw the sandwich at it and in frustration at losing my lunch, made a kicking gesture towards the baboon. Needless to say, he became a bit agressive and nearly swiped my calf with his massive arm. Another couple continued agitating him to get him to leave, but the baboon was stubborn and in charge of the situation. So, he came, he ate, drank and conquered that pavillion for about twenty minutes. Two of the group members picked up sticks, which finally the baboon respected and went away. While I was hungry, I was amused at the complete randomness of the situation. The rest of the weekend went pretty smoothly. We met an Irish couple and a few of their friends who owned the camp and did with them what the Irish do best....Emily and I went swimming with them in a hot-spring that was suspiciously close to a power plant, so who knows what toxins I ingested that evening. It was well worth it though, and in the end we left with new friends.
We were warned not to swim in the lake due to hippos infesting the waters. A few of us did, and others took a boat ride where they spotted many of the fat and dangerous animals. There was also an electric fence surrounding the camp for when they came up on land to graze at night. Their sillouhette (forgive my spelling) was strangely beautiful at night. We also had monkies invade our campsite for food, but they're a bit easier to manage than a baboon. All in all, the trip was worth every minute and every encounter with nature. I find that reprieves like those enable me to deal with the city centre a bit more easily. This week involves an exam in Kiswahili and a day off of classes in reverence of the second president, Moi, who was more of a dictator than anything. Nonetheless, it's a holiday and will be used to study study study. Hope all is well with everyone. Kwaheri kwa leo (goodbye for today)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the country to the club....

One thing is certain, music runs this country. This past weekend, the last weekend of September, I went with my host-family, the Mwaniki's, to their rural home in a town called Embu. I was told today I was a mere 6k from Mt. Kenya while we were there, but I did not see it. Most Kenyan families have a rural home where their ethnic groups and extended family live. My family is Kikuyu, and their families are extensive! The drive was about three hours in a van my family rented. We were going for a ceremony where my mother was to honor the four women who raised her after her biological parents died at a young age, and the fact that she and my father have been married for over thirty years. Embu is a very green region, as it's up in the mountains and gets plenty of rain. They grow mostly tea and coffee there, as well as some pineapples. When we arrived the women greeted my mother with dancing and singing. There's something so transfixing about their singing, as it's more like chanting. The dancing is simple, but is in perfect beat with the songs. They danced her into the home area where a tent was set up for everyone to sit under. Soon after praying we ate. I have never seen so much food, or had so much put onto a small saucer in my life! The entire community had been cooking for days, and they must eat their weight twice over at celebrations as such. Needless to say, I couldn't finish. One dish I particularely like is the "arrow root", or doma, which is a root that turns purple when boiled. It's taste doesn't resemble anything. It is what it is. It's fairly bland, but it's given in great quantities as a way of showing that those particular guests are your favorite and very honorable.
My mother brought gifts for all four of the women who helped raise her. They included new, traditional Kenyan outfits, blankets, some money, and for one who was using an umbrella as a cane, a new walking cane with a holder for her upper arm. One of the women told my mother later that she could now die happy after the ceremony. For every gift given the women sang out in happiness. The men joined in at times, but it was recieved with laughs. One man was very "high" or drunk, and joined the party uninvited. However, because he was a community, and the whole community is a family, he was welcomed and I'm assuming fed from the huge pots of food. Before leaving, all the families introduced themselves and of course, I stood up to with my family. I stood at the end of the line, and was therefore the last to stand and say my name. All I said was hello in their native tongue, which I cannot recall, and the crowd of 200 family members broke out in laughter. I had a whole swahili speach in my head, but simply threw up my arms and laughed along with them. They were so warm about everything, it was wonderful. I also earned some laughter when I went to the latrine. I think they were impressed and surprised so see the westerner in her skirt and flip flops traunce into the "choo" or toilet (a.k.a.-a hole dug in the dirt). Before we left we were given loads of bananas, arrow root, flour for chapati, and porridge. The driver of our bus was afraid it would be too heavy to drive back. We made it with only one banana spider visiting us from the back seat. They are GIGANTIC and if I never see one again, I won't complain.
That night, after unloading the van, I headed out to the bars and clubs with their only son, Raymond and his fiancee. It's funny what transcends culture with the youth. Many of them were dressed to the nines, and many not wearing much of anything at all. Music was of course, central to the evening and the point was to drink enough to feel free and able to dance. So....I did. I did not feel unsafe, but they're not afraid to just grab your arms or limbs and pull you to dance. I had a great time all in all and rolled home at about 5am. It's not a priority for me while I'm here, but going out to mix and mingle with those my age is a good time and I'm sure I'll do it again...it is a city after all.
This weekend we're off to do some camping at Lake Nivasha(spelling may be wrong...) and by they I mean the group and I. It should be a great time. No swimming in the lake though due to the danger of hippos. Let's hope I don't get eaten! Hope all is well with everyone. Till then...kwaheri.