Saturday, February 19, 2011

What a Day in Kenya!

Well I have just got back from our day trip to day that left at 9am and it is now nearly 9pm. What was originally planned to be a 2 hour drive to the field to visit some projects ended up being a 6 hour ordeal. Firstly it took nearly an hour to get going from the hotel then we hit the traffic jam of all traffic jams and despite our guides best efforts to try alternative routes we just weren't getting anywhere. So the drive that should have taken about 2 hours ended up taking about 5 hours, much of which was spent sitting in gridlock. I have seen traffic in India and Thailand but nothing like this it was absolute gridlock, just miles and miles of cars, trucks and buses just sitting there going nowhere. Meanwhile the man pulling along his trailer by hand who we passed half an hour ago just walks by and gives us a rye smile. You have to laugh sometimes at just how surreal life can be. Here I am sitting in a car in Kenya with all the surrounds that you can expect and on the radio I am being serenaded by Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye (i think) soon to be followed by Lionel Ritchie, Whitney Houston and on and on they came.
Our very trusty driver Job did an awesome job despite the traffic jams. The travel by car took me back to my days travelling by bus in India. Two lanes head to head with constant overtaking at speed, very anxiety provoking and certainly put my newfound calmness to the test.
Many a sight and sound along the drive. The further we went the drier the landscape seemed to become. The strange sight of new housing development in the middle of a large field, followed over the next rise by a shanty and then over the next rise another new housing development. As we close in on our destination the increasing level of drought and poverty become clearer to see. We arrive in Emali, our poor hosts having waited for us for many hours to arrive were as always incredibly gracious. We had a quick introduction of our party and also the many staff who were joining us from the local office. The staff had arranged for some tree seedlings to be ready to be planted by each of us and alongside the tree was a pre-made sign with each of our individual names on it, quite an experience.
We headed out from the office and firstly visited a new zealand funded project in a nearby village where they have built a small dam that has enabled the village to be able to access water year around for crops. This has been an incredibly important asset which now enables crops to be grown where previously they couldn't. It was amazing to stand and listen to one of the local farmers discuss how the plots work and also to see the various crops including tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, papaya and a few others that i couldn't remember. On the way back to the car I had a lovely chat to a couple of the older female farmers, very friendly and loving ladies who I enjoyed talking with. Also on the way back to the cars we had our first encounter with the local village kids. These beautiful kids came from everywhere and were just so incredible to spend some time with. We got some lovely photos and had some nice time chatting with the kids. As we headed back to the car they all headed back to their huts. It looked like about 12 kids headed to one of the small huts, the living conditions you never quite get used to seeing or can quite comprehend what it must be like to live in. The kids as always are happy and playful and great to spend time with, a;ways a highlight for me. Gives me a very strong sense of what it will be like in India and how good it will be to have the time just to stop and be with the kids and families we meet.
Our next and final stop (we had to cut our day short given we arrived about 4 hours late) was to a newly built and small school called Kimbingo. It is a school for under 5's and there were just kids everywhere. As we pulled up there was just the most incredible cheering and screaming, the kids were very excited. We were able to spend the next half an hour or so just hanging out together, taking photos, showing them their photos on the camera, showing them photos of Gus which they enjoyed seeing. A couple of beautiful songs, another very nice tree planting ceremony and lots of handshakes and laughs and we were having to head off. It became evident though that the newly built school did not have any toys or furniture and according to the staff required support to fund this. It became obvious we had found our next project and i am excited about our ability as a family to provide this funding for the school. On a larger scale they actually have 17 new schools many of which lack the equipment they require, i am investigating the scope and scale of the project. There is no doubt once you look into the eyes of these children you are committed, no if buts or maybes. I would have loved to have had Bec and the kids there, they would have loved it. It turns out we are not far from Mount Kilimanjaro which we could climb on our next visit if we want to! Anyway we had to say our goodbyes, a brief yet impactful visit and one which is sure to prove the catalyst for a longer term relationship.
So we head off on our way back to the hotel, hoping ofcourse for no more traffic jams. We are driving along and there is a sign on the side of the road which says look out for Giraffes, you can't be serious. I guess it is the same reaction tourists must have in Australia where they see the signs for kangaroos and koalas. We cruise along the highway, the sun is starting to set in the background over the flat grasslands and next minute a herd of about 8-9 giraffes only about 50 metres off the road are walking by. Our driver pulls up and out we jump to take as many photos as possible, what an experience, there right in front of us a herd of giraffes just walking along. A little further down the road a larger herd this time probably about 15-20 giraffes just off the road, unbelievable. A little further down the road again and this time a large herd of zebras and then just to finish things off a herd of small gazelle like animals, not sure if they are caribou or something, the boys in the car called them dik dik I think. Do you think I wasn't pinching myself at the afternoon i had just experienced. Well worth the 8 hours of driving!
Well its been a long day and it is past my bed time, given I have a 5am start in the morning. I go to bed missing my guys and wish they were here to enjoy this with me as we usually do. The adventures continue.....

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