Yesterday was the first real day in the field. We started with African tea flavoured with tea masala (must get some to take home- tastes like chai). And chapati which I smeared with peanut butter (a very starchy diet so I need to add some protein). Jennifer takes her own wheat to the mill and makes the chapattis from that. She told us that she adds baking powder unlike many other women. They are delicious and light.
Then off in the combi with Steve around 930 through Meru to Kirua. First paved road, then dirt road with the biggest boulders and pot holes I have ever seen. Steve wasn’t used to them so Jennifer helped navigate. We went to her farm (shamba)- so lovely, with baby chicks and roosters crowing. We saw dried maize, sweet potatoes and the majestic hills overlooking the farm. The planting cycle is Oct/March. We arrived to a warm welcome at the Machui women’s centre: Martin and Salome are the horticultural/business people at the centre. The centre acts as a support for women farmers to grow and market their crops. We sat in the office for awhile and chatted to Martin and Salome about how the drought resistant crops are doing (amaranth, manage, crotalaria, saget), and how the women are incorporating them into family food. For example, cow pea and pumpkin leaves are mixed in with mokemo (mashed potato dish). Very interesting and overwhelming amount of information- Colleen knows so much and we are playing catch up. We toured the greenhouses and saw papaya, mango, even pomegranate! Many women then arrived- the management committee- to select new members for the centre which took them most of the day. They have 62 members and are aiming for 100. Lots of interest- I am just amazed at the women who lead and the women who work so hard growing and selling their crops to feed their families. The wind which comes with the dry season and is blowing hard. Martin tells us that it has blown the roof off the green houses more than once. It also can blow dust in your mouth and makes my hair look like a birdnest!
We ate our lunch on a pile of rocks near the centre- peanut butter sandwiches, boiled eggs and the most delicious bananas I ever ate! Then piled into a smaller truck with Martin to visit two “far away” farms- likely about 5-6 km but took a long time since you have to creep over the crazy holes and boulders. People waving and smiling as we pass- you sure stick out here. We yell “Jambo” and smile. The little kids are just adorable.
The women on the farms humbled me in a way I haven’t been before. Backbreaking work and raising children and cooking doesn’t stop them from growing a large number of different crops and maintaining a large farm. They gave us bags of guava and one woman Magdarena gave me two perfect small eggs- maybe because I kept taking pictures of chickens and roosters for June! I was so touched. I took a picture of her and her husband and I am going to send them back here to the Women’s centre to take out to the farm. Least I can do...
Last night was very exciting for Kaylynne and Christina- they have decided to have a local young woman Esther make aprons out of kikoy (a fabric) and sell them. If they sell 70, you will get enough for two water tanks and gutter systems for two farms. Here they were with fabric laid out on the floor and making a pattern out of newspaper. Jennifer M (Mama Jen) pitched in and helped too. I am going to help sell them to faculty students and my family and friends...water is everything here. If there is not enough rain, the crops don’t do well and there is not enough money to feed the family. Farmers Helping Farmers plan to provide water tanks has worked beautifully and I have seen the evidence of that.
Today we awoke rested for the first time: took four days, and it felt great! And it was another amazing day- and our visit to our first school: Kinyenjere. What an experience: about 200 children smiling hopping and yelling when we arrived because they knew we were coming. The head teacher had the children wait until we got there to have their porridge. After a HUGE breakfast of three kinds of sweet potatoes at Jennifer’s and my ½ English muffin with peanut butter, I then was given about 8 oz of a think Uji which they had added sugar to (Oh, my diabetes!). None of us could finish it. The children lined up, class by class and very orderly received their mug of very hot porridge. No spills, no complaints, no burns. I took many pictures- with permission, of course. Only thing is, every picture we took we showed to the children, and then all wanted their “pitch-ah” taken. I had great chats with the kids while dear Kaylynne and Christina asked all the important questions about the recipe for the porridge, how the githeri was prepared, etc.... They sang songs for us in both Kimeru (their local dialect) and in English. I have the video! The school staff were so welcoming, and they have assured Kaylynne and Christina that they can come back anytime and can do education with parents and kids- whatever they want. Really nice given that this school is reasonably close to where they will be staying at St Theresa’s. And they made a beautiful lunch of rice, beef stew, fresh chapattis and our driver donated a fresh delicious pineapple. They got carrots just for us to put in the stew. We didn’t eat until 230 since they only had one cook there today, and I was getting the shakes. A wonderful experience, for sure.
The day ended at the Najkumat where we got more water and wine, and the ingredients to make mango salsa tomorrow. And used the internet at the Cybercafe which was nice since the connection here is slow. When we got home, accompanied by dear Muchui Jennifer’s hired man, Jennifer had a wonderful Kenyan dinner prepared: fried cabbage with spices, mukomo (potatoes, black beans, green bananas) and a spiced beef stew. Delicious! I found the spices at the Nakumat and I am taking some home!
The young’uns are here doing resistant bands to a CD they brought. We also had a good walk home from the Nakumat...and had one this morning as well. The bed will feel good again tonight.