Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday not celebrated by Kenyans, Cindy and I both dressed up (in organge and black and purple and black) and decided we’d watch a scary movie and eat candy tonight. Also in honor of the day, I took a little sweet baby girl with a jack-o-lantern smile to Kisumu for a free cleft lip surgery courtesy of the fine doctors and volunteers at Operation Smile. She’s got both bilateral cleft lip and cleft pallette, but she’s too young for the cleft pallette surgery so we’re starting with the lips. I’ll try to post before and after pictures if I can see her after she’s done with the surgery in a few more days. Wish her luck!
By APNWLNS payday loans
There’s another mzungu in our little village! We’d heard reports of her, but didn’t meet her till yesterday. She’s our age, from Australia, and is volunteering for three months at a nearby school. I don’t know much more than that, but we plan to hang out very soon. Crazy, exciting, and bizarre all at the same time. Wow…
Alex recently asked about DVDs… Sadly, there are no DVD rental around these parts, but Kenya does have a booming little business of selling (black market?) DVDs in supermarkets and movie shops. Many DVDs have anywhere from 5-9 movies squished onto one low quality DVD. Needless to say, they’re super pixilated, have poor image quality, and poor sound quality. Many don’t actually work when put in the DVD player – it’s very hit or miss since they’re not original copies, and are unregulated and cheap. Many are filmed in a movie theatre, so you hear coughing or laughing in the background, and sometimes the image will be blocked when someone stands up in front of the camera to go to the restroom. Selections available from street vendors in Nairobi are anything from a Brendan Frasier collection of 5 movies, Friends Season 1, or Children’s cartoons we’ve never heard of. In August I bought a “new release” DVD with Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Devil Wears Prada, etc. It was a super exciting find, but sadly it didn’t work on my laptop. I’m not sure what good karma helped me find a high quality working DVD of the L Word or Johnny Depp movies, but I’m thankful we have at least two discs that work!
Sugar cane makes all the kids smile
And visitors make me smile! I’m feeling incredibly grateful for having four visitors this year who were willing and able to make the trek all the way to Kenya to see me! All four picked September and October as their best travel times and two of the four picked travel dates within the same two week time period that just came and went!
My aunt Linda’s visit was brief but fun. I went down to Nairobi to meet her last Monday, stayed a night at a fancy hotel, and then came back to my little village to see the house and meet the kids at the centre. She made a generous donation (thank you!) and was appropriately outraged at some of the common causes of disabilities that are just as outrageous to me. It was great to have time to talk about life… we usually see each other with a large crowd of family at Thanksgiving, so the one on one time was very nice. Cindy and I drove to Kisumu Thursday night to drop Linda off at the airport and then returned home to our house by 8pm. (It was a short visit because she was off the next day to meet up with my uncle for a conference nearby in Tanzania).
There was no time for rest or laundry though as my buddy Sameer was arriving less than 24 hours later. So, I arrived home at 8pm Thursday and then left the very next morning at 6:30am for a bus to Nairobi. Sameer’s visit was also part of a longer trip, and was also brief but fun. We also started in Nairobi at a fancy hotel, visited Nakuru, and then visited my village for a tour and a visit to the centre. He also made a generous donation to the centre (thank you!) and had a chance to play soccer/football with one of our disabled kids. It was great catching up with him and was really great to have stimulating conversation.
Both visitors have now left and I’m very feeling lucky (and rather spoiled) for having such generous guests who were willing to come out a ways to see some of the “real Africa” as Sameer says. Both made the long trek out here, both made generous donations to the programme, both are well read and great conversationalists, and both brought goodies for me from the States (from Thanksgiving meal fixings and snacks to books and DVDs!). All this just one month after my parents visit when they too came and were very generous! I’ll post some pictures soon of visits with Sameer and Linda, but for now know that I’m alive, well, quite spoiled, and heaving a contented sigh.
Who knew we’d have three public holidays in the month of October? Kenya’s got a sizable Muslim population (I think about 30%), so Idd is a national holiday. (Want to learn Swahili? It’s “Idd” here).
(Jomo Kenyatta = Kenya’s first president after independence from the Brits in 1963).
And a warm “karibu sana” to my buddy Sameer from college! He arrived on Kenyatta Day and is here in Kenya for a brief but exciting visit!
And a big “asante sana” to Nitza who’s package of new music just arrived! My iPod is now overflowing with cool new indie music including Thom Yorke, Carla Bruni, Band of Horses, Gnarls Barkley, Aldo/Host, Alexi Murdoch, Silversun Pickups, and Tapes n Tapes!
One cool thing about Kenya is the small-town feel it occasionally gives me. I was at the city market in Nairobi a few weeks back, chatting with some random guy, when gold medal winner Douglas Wakiihuri walks by me. Douglas is one of Kenya’s greatest marathon runners… he won the world championship title in 1987. How many people can say they were the fastest in the entire world? Douglas can. He’s also won the NY marathon, the London marathon, the Olympics, and many other competitions around the globe. In addition to his athletic accomplishments, he’s also apparently a celebrated musician. And despite his super star status, he’s still a laid back, smiley, very nice guy who is happy to talk to random strangers and adoring fans. He stopped to say hi in the market, we shook hands, and then we hung out for a while chatting. We talked about life in Kenya, my work with disabled kids, and his nonprofit he started to work with slum kids. He offered me some ideas for fundraisers and we talked about non-work related things like travel and shopping. Nothing too mind boggling, but still cool. I’m always impressed to see famous folks who are way friendly and down to earth.
2006 Nairobi Market
Cindy and I took a quick ferry ride on the river near Angela’s house
N/B: I posted this on the 15th, but there’s no sign of it online. So I’m reposting and hoping my internet connection is a little better today.
Not much time to write as life’s a little hectic right now. Just spent the weekend in Kisumu. We only have two 3-day weekends between Sept and Dec, and they happen to be back to back this weekend and next weekend. Cindy and I decided we should take advantage of at least one of those times and decided to make a quick trip to Kisumu. It’s almost fully summer now, the rains have stopped, and the skies are brilliant blue. The weather goes between warm and hot most days, which means our clothes dry faster on the line and means the dust from the dirt roads is kicking up with each gust of wind.
We packed our bathing suits, books, and iPods Friday morning and headed to the Kiboko Bay Resort in Kisumu. We paid a 150 Ksh ($2) day use fee for their fabulous swimming pool… it’s lined with palm trees and looks out over Lake Victoria where fisherman throw their nets into the lake, men row past in wooden boats, and women and children bathe and do laundry on rocks nearby. Kiboko is Swahili for hippo, and the namesake of the resort are incredibly close to shore today. While I sat with my book, resting in the sun, I could hear the hippos shooting up water and grunting to one another. The resort also had a staff of waiters who’ll bring out lounge chairs and cushions just for us, and deliver cold drinks to us at our poolside location. It’s glorious. We were the only guests at the resort’s pool, but there were two tables of men in the cafe nearby. While at the pool we got unwanted sexual harassment to the extreme (definitely not glorious, more on that later) and meet some highly entertaining Germans who we later joined for dinner (more on them later). We also got absolutely awful sunburns. The weather was warm, the winds were lightly blowing, and the pool felt great. However, I guess we underestimated the strength of the sun at the equator and were burnt to a crisp in just two short hours. Ouch. Sleeping is currently painful. Sitting is currently painful. Even bras and underwear are currently painful. It’s my worst sun burn in many years… I can’t remember when I last burned this badly, but it had to have been a long while back. However, I’m home now in my little village and there’s no time for lolling around complaining of sunburns. We spent the day cleaning and organizing and preparing for visitors. We also had over our friend Priscilla and her friend Liliane for the first time. Tomorrow afternoon I leave to meet my aunt in Nairobi, and then next week Sameer arrives in Kenya (barring any further problems with his currently client). It’s going to be a busy month, but (minus the sunburn) all is going well so far.
N/B: It’s now Wednesday and the sunburn no longer hurts to sit, but it is entirely blistered now and quite itchy. Fun.
Street vendors (“hawkers”) are everywhere in Kenya, selling gum, books, bras, DVDs, picture frames, envelopes, and anything else imaginable on street corners and little stands made of cardboard boxes. 3,000 vendors have a permit to be hawkers in downtown Nairobi, but on an average day there are apparently double that number crowding the sidewalks and blocking traffic. Theory has it that many aren’t real vendors… that’s just their cover for illegal activity. Police have decided to crack down and yesterday riots ensued. I saw it on the news in Kisumu and the images were scary… riot police in full gear were physically fighting masses in the streets. The news moved on, I read my book, and I didn’t think about it again after leaving Kisumu.
Upon arrival in Nairobi last night, I got a taxi and was heading to Racecourse to spend the night. (Public transit at night is a bad idea, too many thugs, so you’ve got to spend the extra money and hire private taxis). While I’d forgotten about the riots from the news, I was reminded of them pretty quickly when the taxi began passing through large crowds of men in the streets. Some crowds were fighting riot police and some crowds were running from the riot police. Yikes. Then I began to hear shots and saw police were firing guns on either side of my taxi. Scary.
Happily, no one there seemed at all interested in me or my taxi, so we made it through without problems. However, the experience was a bit disconcerting to say the least, and I’m hoping the riots are done as I need to pay bills and run errands in the city centre this morning before my aunt Linda arrives. No worries though… if I see rioters, I’ll leave and head elsewhere. I have absolutely no desire to put myself between angry crowds and angry police with guns. Promise.
The pudding request I posted a while back brought an amazing outpouring of pudding, so I’m going to try again with something even easier that you might having lying around the house in a junk drawer: Does anyone have a tiny bottle of bubbles with a bubble wand you might you be willing to mail it over to me? I’m thinking 1-2 inches tall… like the small freebie kind you get at weddings, career fairs, festivals, party supply stores, etc. I’d love to have one if it wouldn’t be too hard to find and/or too hard to mail.
Side note: You can’t bring liquids in carry on bags on flights anymore… can you still put liquids in the mail? Maybe you’d have to empty out the soap mixture and just send the empty container with wand? It’s probably cost less for postage that way if nothing else. No idea… might not be wise to take advice from me. I’m the one who’s currently out of touch with most world news and anti-terrorist regulations. I’m just a simple girl in a simple village who’d love to have a small jar of bubbles… Anyone love me?
Traveling Cat / Box 323 / M a l a v a 50103 / Kenya / AIRMAIL