Kenya Trip May 2009 – next bit
We had had no rain for over 24 hours although there were a few threats, but yesterday evening, the “drought” ended with a vengeance. We were dashing around looking for buckets and bowls to catch the rain, when there was a flash of a nearby lightning strike and the lights went out. The thunder was so loud that I was startled and dropped a bucket of precious water.
I need not have worried; more than enough fell to fill everything we could find and replace that which I had dropped. So the porch floor got a good wash.
It was not the most violent storm I have ever seen, but it was spectacular, with lightning on three sides, lighting up the valley and beyond.
At the height of the storm and blackout, the water for my shower was ready. It was the first time I have washed in total darkness interrupted by blinding flashes. Luckily I have had my body for a fair number of years and know where all the parts are.
However, I was washing in a wet room with a squat toilet and was aware that I could fall in if I put a foot wrong.
In the event, I survived. The storm abated after a long while, but there was still lightning in the distance, well into the evening.
I learned a lesson yesterday evening. Do not let kids with sticky or sugary fingers use my laptop. When the power came on, I eventually got around to switching on the computer and dozens of tiny ants popped out from under the keyboard keys. They had obviously been attracted by the sugary deposits left by little fingers. I really don’t fancy stripping down the keyboard to remove loads of squashed ant carcasses so I hope that they are agile enough to get out of the way when I press a key!
We got up to the plot to find about 12 kids waiting for us. The rest, who have to walk quite a distance were worried about getting caught in the rain.
So, with this resounding success, we set about making a fence to keep out chickens and any other stray animals. Believe me, when the kids had finished, an elephant would have found it hard to eat our crops. As we had had a butternut squash the previous evening, we took the seed to the plot to plant as see if anything happens.
It was a lot of hard work, mainly for the boys, who finished off with a thorn barrier, so we returned to the hut and had a few games, giant hoopla using hoola hoops seemed to be the most popular.
We broke up just before 6pm, after our new flag lowering ceremony. I started this as a laugh, but the kids take it very seriously – well, most do.
There are one or two who make merry of just about anything, and also like to tease the mzungu, but it is all very good natured. I couldn’t imagine anything else from any of them.
My last day at Twiga, for a while at least, and it had rained before we got there. This limited our activities as I didn’t want the kids rolling around on wet grass, although I am sure they would not have minded.
But first, we checked the “stockade”, which was still intact.
We had stopped on the way to Twiga to pick up cream for one of the children who has a severe ringworm problem. This was given to her older brother to administer, with strict and detailed instructions. I am sure he will manage. He may be only 13, but he is a very responsible kid.
After a few games we sat in the hut and Vincent and I told the kids in detail our plans for Twiga, the extended building to house them, admin block, washing, cooking and leisure facilities and asked for ideas from the children. The discussion was lively. After all, we were discussing the kids’ futures.
Then came the time to leave. It was long and drawn out with much hand-shaking and high fives being repeated over and over.
The kids started to walk to the road with us although most live in the opposite direction.
Fortunately, in a way, we were offered a lift in a car, which meant that we did not have to go through all the handshakes and high fives again. For me, it was painful enough the first time around.
Tomorrow will be packing and getting ready for a 14 hour coach trip across the country for the Coast.
Fourteen hours – I am really looking forward to that.
A morning of gathering my belongings and packing. As I had come with a load of donated clothes, which of course I no longer had, I found myself with two bags where one would do, so I put my computer and other delicates in the back-pack and put that inside my suitcase.
Proceedings were interrupted when two local kids decided to have a closer look at this weird beast called a mzungu. One child was deaf and the other, who could sign, translated for him, although his English was not too good.
I showed them a couple of “tricks” and took their photographs, which delighted them, then got back to packing, washing and eating.
I had to get to the bus stage by 14:15, which meant leaving the house at 13:45. At 13:40, the heavens opened. This was no shower, it was a downpour, making the tracks that we were about to use as slippery as melting ice. I was not looking forward to my last trek up the hill. But the ever-resourceful Vincent took me by a different route, longer but less steep and I managed to get to the road without falling over – not even once.
As we reached the road, we were flashed by a taxi and we took it to the stage.
Naturally, although we were on time, the coach wasn’t. I deposited my luggage and we set off for Tuskys, a local supermarket, and bought a few things to munch on during the journey.
A quick cup of tea and a samosa each and I was boarding the bus.
It was smaller than the others I have travelled on and I found that I was wider than my seat! Legroom was not overly generous either and I wondered just how my various failing limbs would put up with these cramped conditions.
Luckily, the person in the next seat was slim.
We set off only 15 minutes late, which is not bad, but I had not reckoned on the Pastor.
This little lady boarded the bus and as soon as we were out of the stage, she started praying in a loud, strident, passionate voice – in Swahili. I know she was praying for us because I heard the words Mungu (God) and Amen from time to time.
Her prayers went on for 30 minutes, non-stop, her voice not faltering once. Then she went up and down the aisles for donations. I thought that was the end of it, but no.
Her companion then started offering Bibles for sale. As most Christian Kenyans have at least one Bible, he did not have many takers.
At last, they got off the coach and I settled down to some quiet sight-seeing. How deluded can you get?
A man boarded the bus and started to extol the virtues of various creams and potions he had for sale.
“It has aloe vera, avocado and cucumber. It is so good for the skin.”
My skin is beyond redemption, so I tried to block him out of my hearing.
Our first scheduled stop was at Narok. We had passed through scorching heat and torrential rain, but thankfully, although it was dark, the weather was kind to us during the stop and I was able to fill my lungs with much-needed tobacco smoke.
Up to now, I had not been wearing a jacket of any sort, but took advantage of this stop to put on a lightweight waterproof. When I re-boarded the bus, the woman in the next seat spoke for the first time.
“I thought you did not have a jacket. I wondered how you would survive the night.”
I assured her that I was nice and warm, even without the jacket but thanked her for her concern. That ended the conversation.
Our next stop, at about 11pm was on the outskirts of Nairobi, for petrol and natural bodily functions. I smoked another cigarette.
We also stopped in Nairobi town to drop off and pick up passengers. This procedure is very noisy, especially when chickens are being transported.
At last we set off down the Mombasa road. There is a section which must be the worst of the whole journey. It is rutted, rocky and generally uncomfortable. The coach thought so too and blew the near-side front tyre. All due credit to the driver, we did not even deviate from our course. The driver and his crew piled out and so did some of the passengers, to watch the proceedings.
Realising that I had a torch that may be useful, I eventually got out – and had a cigarette whilst lighting the work area with my small but powerful gadget.
It wasn’t until I had re-boarded and we were on the way again, that I realised that we were in the Tsavo National Park, which is home to all the big cats, rhinos, snakes …
Our next scheduled stop was at the usual service area halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa. Like the stop at Narok, this place is very familiar to me.
Then we were on the last leg. We were late of course, due to the puncture, but as no one was meeting me, it did not matter to me.
After many stops to let people off, we arrived at the coach depot and I recovered my luggage from the hold.
Then every tout in Mombasa descended upon me, offering to carry my luggage, a tuk-tuk, a taxi, or just to relieve me of the price of a cup of coffee (or Tusker).
I declined all offers. I needed time to think. I had to get a matatu to Gede, where Liz would meet me – not a difficult task as long as I could get to wherever the matatus were parked up.
I asked a tuk-tuk driver and he offered to take me for 300/-. As the fare to Malindi is only 250/-, I considered this a bit much.
I was approached by another driver and we got chatting. He was not pushy and very pleasant. It turned out that he was Gusii and I told him that I have just spent two weeks in his homeland. That did it. He said he would take me to Braxton, the matatu stage, for 100/-. I accepted and we set off.
Of course, at Braxton, I was immediately set upon by more touts. I was in a fix as I only had 1000/- notes and the tuk-tuk driver did not have change. One tout, a bit smarter than the rest, paid the fare and said he would add it to the ticket. I was stuck with going on his matatu, which was a good thing as it was the express and he didn’t even try to raise the price of 250/-.
I was quite pleased with myself and climbed aboard. We had to wait until it was full, but it did not take long.
I arrived at Gede about an hour later. By now it was hot, and I found some shade to stand in while I waited for Liz. I didn’t have to wait long, and we set off on the short journey to the house, hot, tired but happy, and quite pleased with myself for travelling the breadth of Kenya with very little help or guidance.
The kids, of course, were at school, so we lazed around and caught up with each other’s news until it was time for them to come home.
Ian has grown – and lost his front teeth with his new ones pushing through. Natasha has lost her “puppy fat” but is as pretty as ever.
Ian can speak and understand English. Natasha has improved a lot and has vowed to speak only English to me. Both kids now call me Uncle David, which, as far as Natasha is concerned is an improvement on “My Mzungu”.
Liz sent the kids to school and went to work. I lazed around for a while before working on the KCIS website, which has a lot of things to be added, and children’s details to be updated – new ones added and old ones deleted.
There is an ant colony under the front step of the house. These are big ants. No, I mean it – BIG!
During the day I noticed that my right knee had swelled up with a series of blisters, which were weeping a nasty yellow liquid. It was getting painful as well. I bathed it and put a dressing on it, but it persisted, so I left it open to the air.
This carried on all day. Liz reckons it is a series of mosquito bites on my knee. I have to believe her, but I have never seen anything like it before.
The ants are scurrying around all day but never seem to come into the house. I watched as a 6 inch worm strayed too close. It was set upon with enthusiasm by the ants and 20 minutes later, there was nothing to show that it had ever existed.
The kids came home at about 4.30pm and I acted the strict parent, change of clothes, tea, homework. It worked pretty well and when Liz arrived home, homework was almost complete.
Ian likes taking photos. He has adopted my digital camera and taken a few good shots, but he gets excited and forgets that there is a delay between pressing the shutter release and the picture being taken, so some are a bit of a blur. Still, he is only seven and has a lot to learn, but if he is interested, I will be happy to show him.
As I was locking up for the night, I came across a millipede, or maybe a centipede. Either way, it was bigger than anything I have seen in this variety of animal. I would guess that it was about 4 inches long and a good ¼ inch diameter. Ian chased it out with a shoe!
My knees are still swollen and sore, but not painful. Liz and the kids prepared themselves for the day and I am home alone. At 7am, it was still, calm and cloudy, but already warm – by my standards. At least.
And I have an upset stomach. It has nothing to do with Liz’s cooking, but is more a reaction to the change in climate, altitude and general environment, probably.
Now, the wind has got up and is blowing through the open windows and doors.
We have had two short power cuts this morning, which is forcing me to remember to press Ctrl-S frequently, but I have to be careful as the left Ctrl key doesn’t work.
9.15am. It has started to rain. I had seen people running and wondered why. It is a fine rain and I stood outside in it for a while – bliss. But it is getting heavier, enough to make a noise on the steel roof.
Most of the ants have scurried underground. The rest, if they are not careful will be washed into their nest, like it or not!
I had forgotten about the rent for Liz’s house. I meant to send a message home asking to send me some money yesterday. Oh well, deadline is tomorrow, so I guess I still have time.
It is extortionate. OK, so it has electricity (sometimes) and piped water, which has to be boiled for drinking, one bedroom and a wet room with a shower head and a kitchen with running water.
The rain has stopped and there is a cool but intermittent breeze, nice while it is there. The dust has settled for the time being and everything outside looks fresh. But I doubt that it will last. When it heats up, it will be back to the usual hot, dusty environment. I do not much like Malindi. In fact the only good thing about it is that Liz and the children live here, otherwise I would not come at all – too hot.
Kisii, on the other hand, although closer to the Equator, is more temperate, due to its altitude at about 5,700 feet. But during the rainy season, it rains. Oh, how it rains.
I’m on a bit of a downer at the moment. I am stuck at the house because of my knees hurting when I walk. I am alone here as Liz is at work and the kids are at school. There is very little food. We had a spend-up on Tuesday, but we seem to have used everything in one go.
Eric from Rhino Ark phoned earlier, saying that he had a load of updates for the website and was I on-line. I had to tell him that I had a Safaricom dongle, but that I had run out of credit and could not get any just at the moment.
I texted my friend in the UK, Allan to ask him to ask Mum to send me £150. He said that she would not be very happy about it. I can imagine, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it. Anyway, he will sort it out for me. I think that Mum doesn’t like going to the post office and that will be the reason for her being upset.
My next trip to Kenya will be shorter. This is too long, I want to go home. Or I want to go back to Kisii. I was fine until I got here. I find this place depressing. The house is lovely for Liz and the kids, sitting in a large secure, grassy compound with lots of trees, but there is no life here during the day. At least in Kisii, there were people passing along somewhere. There were wild birds to photograph as well. Here, there are just an assortment of insects, chickens and goats!
I have come to the conclusion that if it flies, it bites, if it crawls, it stings.
I noticed earlier that the back on my leg is covered in blood. Well, not covered, but certainly I have bled from something.
Oh for a kettle, a teapot, a fridge, a cooker. Liz has a freezer that she switches on and off to keep the temperature cold without freezing everything to death.
As it is, Liz has a gas burner which is very efficient, but has only one ring. I have to boil water in pots. I have put some boiled water in the freezer for drinking, but it tastes, well, boiled!
I am disillusioned with the Safaricom dongle. It seems to eat credit, but maybe that was Vincent. I will have to keep a firm check on how much I use it.
The kids got home at about 4.30.as usual, changed, had a cup of tea and started their homework.
Natasha just dashes into hers, just wanting to get it finished in the shortest possible time.
Ian takes a more measured approach, reading the questions and giving the answers verbally for me to give my approval. Then he sets about writing them in his book, fairly confident that he has the right answers.
We went into the “garden”, a communal plot with grass and coconut palms and mango trees. Ian was riding his bike and Natasha was just running around. She threw herself at me and I swung her round. That started a whole new game for the two of them and before too long, I was out of breath. That didn’t stop them wanting more, so I threw Ian over my shoulder, let him slide down my back and caught his ankles. This was great fun – apparently – and of course, Natasha had to have a go, several goes, in fact.
Liz came home and set about getting dinner. I was relieved as I had had little to eat today.
The kids were bathed and bedded and we followed soon after, as usual. Bed time for all of us is early as Liz and the kids get up at 5.45.
I slept for a while, but woke up at 1 o’clock, hot, sweaty and not sleepy, so I got up.
I stood on the porch letting the minimal cool breeze wash over me, then had a cold drink.
Then I felt more like sleeping again.