Monday, May 28, 2012

Crossing Borders: 2012 Business Team Completes First Week

Jambo! Janell
here from the Business Team. On Monday (May 21) we all left Nairobi in the morning (9ish) and travelled 225 km to reach Meru....7 hours later! Huge culture shock day – EVERYTHING was soooo much different than PEI! We made a few stops along the way, at a little market on the side of the road for fruit, for rice at a small town, for special bean seeds to give the farmers (they are supposed to grow taller, so they produce 2x the amount of beans), and for lunch (samosas) at the Isaak Walton. On the drive we were on “speed bump” road – the government put a lot of speed bumps along the road, as 4-5 people were getting hit by speeding vehicles each day. The landscape was incredible - I have never seen anything like it before! Banana trees, coffee trees, tea bushes, and surprisingly everything is so green (they were having issues with a lack of rain, but then they had too much rain so they experienced some flooding and washout issues). People live and walk everywhere, and in the afternoon all of the children walk home from school. I saw so many kids that were so little walking home alone or with 1-2 other kids. It was so overwhelming, and hard to believe what people live in. Animals (goats/cows/donkeys) are tied to the side of the road (usually by their feet) because many people don’t have land to feed them...the people then cut down grass with machetes and carry it to the animals on their backs. The animals are much smaller, and all animals serve a purpose. Dogs are there to catch rats, cats to catch mice, etc. We finally drove into Meru – the main road is paved but all of the other roads are dirt/gravel (by the way, men chip rock to make gravel here). It is pretty crazy, not many people have cars – it’s walking, biking, donkeys, matatus (bus like vans), and a few tractors. At all of the ATMs there are 2 men/women with machine guns (to protect you if you take money out). Almost all of the buildings would be classified as shacks on PEI and are painted in advertisements. We got to our place (we are staying in Meru for a week), a home of a wealthy Kenyan – Jenn. She is super nice. Her place has 4 bedrooms, and the walls are decorated really crazy (coca cola posters, rock animals on the wall, UPEI posters, pictures, etc) Jenn (she likes to be called Mama Jenn) has a nice little yard and a rock wall with glass shards on the top of the wall to keep people out. At night she hires 2 guards (because a lot of people in the community know that we are here) – they have machine guns and they let us get a picture with them and their guns when we take them out supper. Cultural Differences A few things that I saw that were pretty crazy: • We saw 2 guards with their guns walking 2 prisoners down the street. The prisoners didn’t seem to have any handcuffs, and they were carrying machetes (I assume to do work) • They don’t have a garbage system, so all garbage is either burned or left on the street • At our place there is no hot water, but we do have electricity! You have to boil water to wash dishes and the shower has a small heater in the shower the shower there is no drain, just a hole in the tile that lets the water run outside! • Our names are hard to pronounce...Edward is “headward gambo” and people are very confused when I say my name! • Little boys going to/from school carrying machetes Muchui & Ruuju On Tuesday we drove out to Kiirua (where we will be living after next week), it is more rural, and I like it a lot better. The people are extremely kind. We met our first Muchui women at her shop, and she took us to our home and gave us all juice. We then went to Margaret’s to see her greenhouse (the greenhouses are shared by 4 women). They were soo nice, we got pictures with 3 of the ladies and they would rub my cheeks/chin and hair. They loved getting their picture taken! There were a few little kids around, but one of them appeared to have malaria. After stopping at another farm, we went to the Muchui Business Centre (where we will be working a few days a week). We are going to be working with horticulturists and the manager – Festus, Gikundi, Mwenda, Wilson, Emanuel, and Shaad. They are all really nice, helpful, and extremely smart. They know so much about the crops, Kenya, weather, etc., so I think I’m going to learn a lot. They are all really curious about Canada crops and animals, especially the university students. The road to the Centre is completely washed way a vehicle could ever get up there! On Wednesday we went to Ruuju, the other women group we will be working with. We went to the school – 521 children - who came out to see us and sang us some songs. They are all so beautiful and curious, and love to shake your hand and get a photo with you! We went to the school garden (which is grown to give the children lunch), and then we had lunch at the school – they made us Mookamoo (no idea how to spell it) – a potato/banana mash that is very tasty! We then went to a few farms around Ruuju and drove home in the afternoon! We had another Kenyan dish for supper – Ugali – it also tasted really good! We also did yoga in the evening when we got back home! Elephant Crossing On Thursday (May 24) we went for a walk around Meru to see a really neat waterfall just outside the town. We met with Salome, a university student who we will be working with regarding the Muchui Business Centre – she is extremely nice! After that we walked down to the Nakumat for lunch! We then were on the way to Kiirua when we spotted 3 elephants on the side of the road!!! They were sooo beautiful, just grazing on the side of the road. They generally cross the road between Meru and Kiirua every evening to head up to Mount Kenya, it was crazy! One of the elephants was extremely large with long tusks, while the other ones were a bit smaller! We got to watch them for a while, and then they started to head up to the mountain. We picked up Festus (the business centre manager) and went to Lucy’s Farm – a beautiful 20 acre farm and dairy. Lucy, the owner sells to Marks and Spencer (a high end grocery store in the UK), so it was interesting to see a more wealthy farm. For supper we had mokimo (a traditional Kenyan dish of potato, banana, beans..), meatballs and kale! We have been working hard with Colleen and Dr Ed and will have more to report later!

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