Here, as promised, are some “behind the scenes” observations to go with some of the photos I posted earlier.
We hope you can join members of the P.E.I. Kenya Youth Tour at the Farmers Helping Farmers Annual Beef Barbeque on Saturday August 8th between 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. We will also be participating in the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade, on Friday August 21st! We hope you will come out and cheer us on.
Here now is my last post from Kenya:
As we wrap up our time in Kenya, I wanted to share some of the other experiences we have been having here. This is my kind of “behind the scenes” look at our trip.
It has been interesting to travel in a group like this – with ten youth and five adults. We are all from very different backgrounds but have come together to share this great adventure in Kenya.
Or not quite together. We are in fact two very unique teams – Team George and Team David!
George and David are our two drivers, and they are both fantastic. They are both employees of Sportsmen’s Safari, which has handled many of the arrangements for our trip.
A “rivalry” has developed between our two teams. The guys (and Sadie,Rachel and Cara) are on Team David. And the rest of us are on Team George. They would argue that Team David is faster. To which we would respond that we are better!
All kidding aside, it has been great having George and David with us on the trip and we will miss them!
Continuing on the subject of driving, I can tell you that every trip in the Combi is full of sights and sounds. Driving along the streets of Meru is a visual explosion of colour…and stuff for sale! There are pedestrians walking onto the street everywhere, dodging cars and the legions of taxi vans that transport people throughout the area, because very few people can afford a car. Then there are the boda bodas, or motorcycles. And then throw in a donkey or two. And believe me, the donkeys have the right of way. Even in the main part of the city, there are goats and cows tied up grazing along the side of the road.
We are often calling out the names of favourite stores – such as “Juggle Man’s Guru Shop”, “Cock and Coin”, “Paradise Beauty Salon” (beside the local prison) and “God’s Favour Butcher”. In fact, there are a LOT of butchers in Meru. And many of them seem to be combined – butchery and hotel. Our favourite is “Fabulous Butchery and Hotel” and a store called “Decent Furniture”.
On the subject of signs, we say some great ones driving to Meru from Nairobi. The group favourite: “Welcome to the Flying Church”. Not sure what that means!
Most of the time, we head out of Meru towards the Kiirua area, with the elephant crossing on the way in and out of town. The rural countryside is fascinating – with roadside vegetable stands popping up everywhere. They sell potatoes in plastic pails, stacked in a pyramid shape. There are pumpkins and bags of charcoal. There are often women along the roadside as well, collecting firewood in the ditches. They then strap it on their backs and we watch them making their way back to their homes. The further out in the country we get, the more oxen carts and donkey carts we see. And there is always a steady stream of kids in school uniforms, walking to and from schools.
Once we get off the tarmac, or pavement, the roads become dusty or rocky, or both! We may have needed the Combis for the safari, but they also come in handy on the average Kenyan rural road. You have to keep the windows closed, and even so, we usually get back to the guesthouse feeling as if we’re coated in dust! Some of the roads are reddish, like P.E.I. But there is also volcanic rock in many places…lots of it.
Another thing about rural Kenya are the …ummm…washrooms. We have become experts, more or less, in using pit latrines or “squats” as they call them. It’s always good to bring your own supply of toilet paper. But because most places we were visiting knew we were coming, their facilities were well-stocked.
The guesthouse in Meru has been our “home away from home” for the last two weeks. It was built by the Methodist church, which is very popular in Meru. We are the first group to officially stay here and we are giving it a big thumbs up. Our cook here, Catherine, has been keeping us well fed, including our favourite – mokemo – which is mashed potatoes and cooking bananas. We have also been having a lot of fresh fruit – and eggs from the chickens that are kept here in the compound.
One night at the guesthouse, a group of Americans doing mission work in Meru and also staying at the guesthouse made pasta for us. We reciprocated with a fancy pancake breakfast one morning.
In the evenings, Tammy and Cara lead the youth through activities that help them reflect on the trip and the experiences they are having. Some are fun. Others are thought –provoking. There was an interesting one on guilt versus gratitude that made a big impact. They have done a great job of helping everyone in the group to process our experiences here in Kenya.
Then, there are the card games! Along with charades, that has been our nightly entertainment for the last 2 weeks. In fact, we were at Jennifer’s the other night and she turned on the TV. I realized that I hadn’t seen a television for two weeks! It was kind of a shock.
Our group loves to play cards…from cribbage, to Cheat, to something called Wizards. It’s a good way to unwind after a busy day!
Another of our favourite games while travelling is a Scavenger Hunt. You can see some pretty crazy things while driving along in Kenya…including camels, men hammering rocks on the side of the road, bags of sugar cane and many other delicacies. But one of our favourites on the Scavenger Hunt was looking for four people on a Boda-boda, or motorcycle. Even better was when we saw five! (I kid you not.) We even started a little game, where we all had to take a drink of water every time we passed a boda-boda with four or more people. It’s a good way to stay hydrated in Kenya!
I should also mention one of the unique aspects of the guest house. The main floor has the kitchen and dining area and our bedrooms are on the second floor. There is also a third floor that is…under development. It allows access to the roof and I’m told the view from there is great. There is a photo below of the mountain view from the roof. I’m not telling where it came from!
I mentioned our drivers, George and David, earlier. We are also going to miss our Farmers Helping Farmers employees here in Kenya – Stephen Mwenda, Salome and Gikundi. They have all been part of our journey here. We all met Mwenda at our very first meeting because he was on P.E.I. last summer , training with Charlie VanKampen. We have also gotten to know Salome and Gikundi who have accompanied us on many of our day trips. We will miss them all!
Stephen Mwenda is getting married this fall and he and his fiancée came to our Sunday dinner at Jennifer’s house. Carolyn presented him with a wedding gift from his Farmers Helping Farmers family in Canada! He and Caroline were very touched by the gesture. They and Jennifer sang a song of appreciation. It was a great moment!
Ah yes, and then there is Jennifer Murogocho, or Mama Jennifer as the youth were told to call her. And now they know why! She is truly the mother to all of the Canadians who come to work in this part of Kenya through Farmers Helping Farmers, UPEI and the Atlantic Veterinary College. She is our “go to” person. “Check it with Jennifer” is a common phrase. And she knows how to get things done!
As I mentioned, she is a member of the assembly, the equivalent of an MLA on P.E.I. She is also studying Public Policy right now at university, along with a diploma in Community Development at college, and we are here right in the middle of her exams! But nothing seems to stop Jennifer. She has been with us on our school visits, translating for parents and leading us in every dance! She has hosted us at her home and taught us how to make githeri (stew) and chapati. (like tortillas) She smiles and laughs and keeps everything running smoothly. Jennifer is unique and we are blessed to have her working with Farmers Helping Farmers and with the Youth Tour! She has said she will come visit us next summer and we can’t wait.
Asante sana to all who were part of our journey!