Hello from the kakamega cyber cafe! I started a post yesterday but about 20 min into it, it started raining and the power at the internet cafe went out (this is normal). i'll be careful this time and save as i go, though i think it's stopped raining for the time being.
so much has happened already i could spend hours writing about it, but i'll pick a few things...
the first thing that hit me getting off the plane in Nairobi was the smell. it reminded me so much of India, a bit like grain fermenting or decomposing. very ripe. also, once in the terminal, another familiar India scent: serious BO. Deodorant has not reached east Africa, I'm afraid. in the guest house where we're staying for orientation, every time someone walks by, their scent precedes and follows them. good stuff.
today we had a couple of firsts with damarus and angie, two of the three kakamega program coordinators. 1. our first kiswahili lesson -- it turns out that the language is kiswahili and the people are Swahili. who knew. kiswahili is very phonetic and a lot of fun, but my head is swimming with vocab and phrases and i'm so afraid that i'll wake up tomorrow and remember nothing.
at lunch today, we tried eating with our hands kenyan style for the first time. there's a white corn mush called ugali, that you use to wrap around other pieces of food and pick them up with. i really liked it. angie is easing us into kenyan food: until today, all the food has been familiar at the guest house restaurant- curries and omelets (sadly no cheese). We've been having meat at every meal but once we're with our host families after orientation, meat will be less common.
But no worries about not getting enough to eat -- apparently all the women in the program GAIN wait, in reaction to all the starchy and fried food. The men lose weight. (weird.) Fortunately Trina's skirts have drawstrings, heh heh.
The A-1 highway and a few other roads in kakamega are paved, but the rest are dirt. The town has two gas stations, a few restaurants, and people everywhere. there are bike taxis, bodabodas, all over the place. they have a little padded seat on the back that you ride, sidesaddle if a woman. boda bodas and these little vans with four rows of seats, serve as public transport. the "conductors" of the vans, aka matatus, mash as many people as possible into them, (i've seen four per row and these things are barely wider than a minivan), so the strategy is to find one that's already pretty full so you won't have to keep stopping to pick up more people along the way to your destination. angie also advised us to put on a seatbelt as soon as we get in so that we'll only have to share the row with two other ppl (there are three seat belts per row) and also to avoid getting a pricey ticket if pulled over.
the matatu we took from the kisumu airport had rusty floors and tacky curtains but was outfitted with a flat screen tv. during the 1.5 hour ride, which was one of the bumpiest in memory, we were treated to music videos of p-squared, this hip hop duo. u-tube them and you'll be in for a treat. a lot of matatus also have crazy decals on the sides with random english words or phrases. ours had "respect" on it. word.
speaking of english, all the signs and more than half the tv here is in english (we had british cnn this morning covering the SAG awards). i don't know what i was expecting, but i'm surprised that english is so prevalent. everyone in the streets speak kiswahili, but also know pretty decent english. i guess that is what happens when you are a former english colony (also like india).
kakamega feels a lot like many of the indian small towns i visited in 2006. i'm glad to have had that introduction to rural developing country life, or it might be a little shocking thinking that this is my new home for six months. there are vendors along the roads selling their fruits, vegetables, bike parts, used purses, locks, used books out of makeshift stalls (tree branches and weather-worn plastic sheeting) or just on some plastic on the ground.
attire ranges from perfectly pressed fancy dresses for church (yesterday was sunday), to ratty t-shirts and dirty slacks to |smart| oxfords and ties for students. a lot of the women wear one or two inch heels despite the dirt roads. also, though the sun is really strong, i havn't seen a single pair of sunglasses and only a few hats in the form of baseball hats on guys. very odd. i haven't noticed any kakamegans in regular glasses either, but my fellow intern and roommate, Katie, said she saw a few people wearing them. cancel that, the guy who just sat next to me and is checking facebook has a nice pair of glasses that would do reilly proud.
going to sign off for now and get some of the amazing mango juice from the vendor downstairs. so far my stomach has been fine, but i'm armed with tums, pepto, imodium ad and cipro if/when delhi belly hits.
ps the internet connection here is horrible, so i haven't been able to look at all my email as it takes about 4.5 min to log into g-mail and another minute or so to open an email. hopefully when i'm at my host org or house next week one of them will have a better connection. in the mean time i figure this is probably the best way to reach as many of you as possible.
also, i'm not doing much editing in the interest of time, because i want to share as much possible. so sorry if the writing's not great.
8 years ago