Saturday, June 26, 2010
Roughing it in Ichamara, Kenya...
If you consider a guesthouse for you and your group, a personal chef, a personal driver, a flushing toilet, and someone to do your laundry to be “roughing it.” Though there are definitely luxuries in Canada that I am missing here (I really miss my bed!), I really could not have asked for more. Our living conditions in Nakuru and Ichamara (a small village by Nyeri) have far exceeded any expectations Laura and I had. And after every farm visit, I am all that more grateful for what Farmers Helping Farmers and VwB have provided us with here. The homes of many local farmers are usually composed of a few small structures made from wood and packed soil (like clay?). One structure may be used for sleeping and socializing while another is used for cooking. Running water or electricity is found in some homes, but not very common. The bathrooms are almost always outdoor latrines (ie. a hole in the ground), of which I have managed to avoid using despite our eight/nine-hour days out on the road, going from farm to farm. Something about peeing into a hole in a space enclosed by sheet metal just doesn’t appeal to me!
As I mentioned, we are now in Ichamara. Our first week has gone by very efficiently, with over half of the designated farms completed. We still have two more weeks here, but it looks like the last week will be spent relaxing in the house and being tourists before we go back to Nakuru to complete our second sampling. Ichamara and the surrounding towns/villages are gorgeous! The landscape is beautiful, as hills are everywhere (which kind of sucks when we have to climb them carrying our boxes of supplies!), and they are full of various flowers and fruit trees. Growing up in suburbia, my fruits are from the closest supermarket. But here in Kenya, bananas, avocadoes, papayas, and pineapples are hanging off trees everywhere! I have also seen numerous coffee plantations and the beans are nothing like I imagined. I know, could I not sound any more like I’m from the city than ever?! That’s okay, at least I’m learning and seeing a lot! Plus, when I have a question about the plants, Laura has a Masters in botany!
The people here have been wonderful. All the staff at the house, from Sportsman’s Safari, and from Wakalima Dairy Co-op have been so friendly and helpful. Despite English being the second language for many of them, they make a huge effort in talking to us and teaching us new things about the Kenyan culture. I have also found that many Kenyans are very politically aware about their own country and surrounding nations, so I’m definitely learning a lot about that. The farmers have also been very grateful and generous – they are always sending us home with food! However, I do find it a little intimidating when we are stared at everywhere we go, especially by the children. I understand that it is because we look so different and ‘strange’ to them, so I am slowly getting used to it!
Though everything has been going great for the most part, I am experiencing some difficulties with adjusting to how things are done in Kenya, or Africa in general, as well as with the language barrier. Whereas in Canada, I am so used to tasks being completed immediately and efficiently, it is hard when I have to sit around and wait for instructions, since I don’t understand what is being communicated between the farmers and the vet students that we are assisting. Communicating our findings to the vet students for recording has also been challenging at times because we may be working on different parts of the study without realizing it. It is certainly no one’s fault, but I definitely have to develop a lot more patience if I am to continue our work without getting too frustrated or a head full of white hairs!
Since Laura and I have working so hard and efficiently this past week, we both broke out with fevers last night and today! It was quite a scare when Laura started to get a fever when we were on a farm. Our fellow Kenyans suggested we go to a hospital just to rule out malaria. It was certainly smart to err on the side of caution, but then talks of typhoid fever began, which really started to freak us out. After four hours of waiting, two blood tests and a doctor consult, she was diagnosed with upper respiratory tract infection and sent home with an assortment of drugs. Over the course of the night, her fever got worse, but then came down. By the next morning however, I was getting severe lower back pains, a headache, chills, and a fever. After lots of blankets, and four ibuprofen tablets, I am feeling much better now. Let’s hope it stays that way since we are now a day behind and we are to continue working tomorrow!
That’s pretty much what has been going in our great Kenyan adventure so far! Things should get a little more interesting as we plan to visit the nearby market in Karatina (a town outside the village) and go on a safari adventure in Sweet Waters. Thanks for all the past messages and comments, I really appreciate it! I will reply soon, but understand that internet just isn’t the same as in Canada. I miss home and you guys a lot! Keep me updated on your lives as well!
PS. Erica, please be safe this weekend and return home in one piece!!