Saturday, August 29, 2009
I'm not preparing for a half marathon. Marathons, half-marathons, pseudo-marathons... are dumb. The Greek guy who ran the Battle of Marathon died. Hint taken. But in the name of anthropology I decided to join in a few runs. Bethany and Kurt know I'm not in it for the love of the run, so they encourage me with lines like, "Come on Champ! You can do it! Go get 'em Tiger"
Kurt sometimes looks over his shoulder and says,"You're doing great! Really, you're doing great!"
When people repeat things, you know they're lying.
Sometimes, mid-run, I try to extract myself from the situation and imagine how we look to our Kenyan neighbors. Bethany, Kurt and I are three mizungus jogging over open sewage, between boda bodas and piki pikis and past grazing cattle. We're a comedy in slow motion. As if to underscore the point, several small children decided to join our run last week. When they imitated us - hands cupped in puppy paws, hunched posture, slow pace- it made me realize that running slowly "for fun" is a distinctly Western invention. Kenyans run because they're going somewhere. And they don't get winded. In the Kisumu half marathon, several of the fastest runners don't wear shoes.
Into this society comes me, a chubby midwesterner who has never run on anything but an elliptical in her parent's basement...
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When Robert and I walk around a rural village or city slum we usually have a small parade of little people leading the way. In Kenya, this small parade is often singing a song about white people and poop- no joke, I have it on video and I'll post it here as soon as I can figure out how.
Kids are also pretty adamant about getting photographed. If you're trying to take a picture of, say, an unsecured water source you sometimes have to wait until a cluster of little people have moved aside and stopped waving.
It all makes perfect sense. Imagine you're a kid in Kenya and one day two tall, sunburned, sweaty white people arrive and they have a bizarre interest in your latrines and sewage and fields for open defecation...it's funny!
Here are some kids we ran into recently.
This is a sassy client at a water tap:
and a little kid on a big bike. He's trying to fit under the metal bar on men's bikes:
little kid fell off the bike near the puddle, but hopped back on:
this little guy made his own train and was saying, "choooo-choooo":
Those are just a couple of Kenya's adorable kids.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I love my job. I walk around, watch how people interact with water and write about it. I pry into their lives. Look at their latrines, observe handwashing habits, scope out water sources. It's like I'm still a reporter. But in Kenya. And with a very focused beat: water and hygiene. I have trouble describing how happy I am doing this.
Here are a couple of photos from a recent walk through Obunga, a slum in Kisumu. This is a latrine/washroom combo:
This is a protected water source:
This is a "moneymaker" pump:
These are moneymaker pump clients:
That is the quicket glimpse I can offer into my work. :) I'll try to be better about describing my work and my employer- Emory University's Center for Global Safe Water. It's important stuff!
But for now I'm off to Kakamega Rainforest to play with monkeys.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The other day, I caught a ride with a boda boda. A boda boda is a bike with a cushy seat on back. The driver peddles, the passenger sits above the back tire (btw- a piki piki is a motorcycle, and a tuk tuk is a three-wheeled vehicle that is a little smaller than a golf cart).
Anyway, I usually end up chatting with boda boda drivers as they peddle. We talk about babies, AIDS, streetkids, lions, sunny weather, surly piki piki drivers, road injuries, wheels, vegetables, marriage, why I don't have a baby ... you get the picture. As much as I like to talk, they like to talk. It's wonderful.
So the other day, I hop on the back of a boda boda (I realize this may be hard to picture, so I'll look for a photo). And I get settled into my seat when the boda boda driver starts to peddle and says, "You know, I was thinking..." and here he paused.
"Yes, what were you thinking?" I asked. Keep in mind that me and this guy met 30 seconds ago and he's talking to me over his shoulder.
"I was thinking about parents."
"Cool. What were you thinking about parents?"
"I was thinking about you mizungu and how you are over here in Africa and then I was thinking about how you don't have your parents and how your parents don't have you." (Mizungu means white person)
"Because your parents are someplace," and here the road got bumpy and a little noisy so he had to kind of shout back toward me, "YOU HAVE PARENTS, YES? And the love of the parents IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LOVE OF ALL. YES?"
At this point, I'm speechless (this happens once every 11 years). Where is this coming from? Who is this guy? I keep listening.
"...and there's God. God's love, it's of course important. But God speaks to us through our parents. So really it's all about the parents. This is what I was thinking. What were you thinking?"
"Well. Umm. I was thinking about how I forgot to put on sunscreen. But now I'm thinking about my parents. And I'm thinking you're right," I said. "I'm thinking I should call my parents and say I love them."
And then he dropped me off. And later in the day, I took the hint and called my mom. And I asked her if she was pissed or thought I was selfish for not living in Illinois and instead living as a mizungu in Kenya. And she said no. And I made her confirm that she's cool with my life choices. And she confirmed. And then I told her I think she and dad are pretty incredible... in not exactly those words because while I can type it to the world I somehow have difficulty saying it to them. And she told me the line kept cutting and she couldn't hear what I said. And instead of screaming my love for them, I said, "Ok, well doesn't matter Ma, the phone line sucks and I'm tired. Gotta Go! Bye!"
But I do think they're incredible and I love them. And I think it's funny that it's take a boda boda driver in Kisumu to get me to say it.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
My new friends Nat (an Australian psychologist) and Darryn (a South African vet) invited me to go scarf shopping with them in a village outside Kisumu. Many of you - ehem, Sarah - know that I am an unrepentant scarf slut. The chance to buy a scarf and take a minitrip with new people is my perfect day.
Nat and Darryn drove me and another new friend, James, to a town called Bondo to visit Mama Wendy, the grand dame of scarves and tapestries in the region. Here is Mama Wendy:
Nat and Darryn bought a rug. I bought the purple scarf in photo above. I also offered valuable insights into which rug Nat and Darryn should buy. They didn't choose the rug Darryn is holding in this picture:
While Nat and Darryn shopped, I learned valuable inter-personal skills from this little guy, Mama Wendy's grandson:
I learned how to make fish faces and how to wrap a chair in grandma's fabrics. Little guy and I also compared nail polish. His was blue, mine was clear. Clearly, he was cooler.
Little guy desperately wanted to get James' attention. James is a Brit building a school in rural Kenya. James doesn't like children, but after a few minutes of charaded pleading he gave in and made bubble noises with his mouth. Little guy and I were equally delighted.
Later, Nat, Darryn, James and I went out for lunch. There was an interesting car ride between Mama Wendy's and lunch. I'll blog on that later. Here is our lunch stop, the Lakeview Hotel. There is no lake. It's not a hotel. Here are Darryn and Nat (awww):
Here I'm washing my hands and holding my scarf. Yay for public health! Yay for scarves!
Lunch consisted of dried, salted fish and ugali, a cornmeal blob that is somewhere between mashed potatoes and play dough.
We drove back to Nat and Darryn's. Drank a few too many beers and watched a sunset from their balcony:
Then we went to a pub in town. Met up with about 10 more friends, drank a few more Tuskers and watched the New Zealand/South Africa rugby match. I cheered for New Zealand, because ... um... I've been there once. And the Kiwis did a really cool performance at the beginning of the match.
A wonderful day. Thanks to Nat and Darryn!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Then I looked over at the curtain. Look closely at the curtain.
Let's zoom in. Now notice anything?
He and his 20 buddies are my permanent roommates. Thankfully, they eat mosquitoes so it's cool.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I squinted to see if I could see my friends Ashley and Peter. No luck.
I'm headed to Dar in the Fall. So maybe a few close-up pictures will follow.
My friend Bethany and I watched "Beyond Borders" tonight. It's about "humanitarian workers." Bethany and I finished the movie, looked at one another and said, "Any truth in that? Like maybe a kernal truth?"
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Of note: the Sox fan looks alert and happy. He has said goodbye to that wimpy binkie. He means business.
The Cubs fan looks dazed, maybe even a little concerned. He's sucking his binkie with an expression that says, "Why oh why am I such a yuppie?"
They're both adorable.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Classmates make fun of me. Colleagues find me paranoid. I find that writhing in pain, vomiting and drifting in and out of consciousness for 14 days would be un-enjoyable and un-Shannon-like. So I will continue to lather on deet, pop overpriced meds and sleep under my stuffy bed net.
Today, I read this story in the Washington Post and felt pangs of public health euphoria:
"In a daring experiment in Europe, scientists used mosquitoes as flying needles to deliver a "vaccine" of live malaria parasites through their bites. The results were astounding: Everyone in the vaccine group acquired immunity to malaria; everyone in a non-vaccinated comparison group did not, and developed malaria when exposed to the parasites later.
The study was only a small proof-of-principle test, and its approach is not practical on a large scale. However, it shows that scientists may finally be on the right track to developing an effective vaccine against one of mankind's top killers. A vaccine that uses modified live parasites just entered human testing."
When I read the above paragraphs to a Kenyan colleague, who happens to be a former CDC employee, he laughed a deep belly laugh and said, "Wait! Hang on a minute. How did the Europeans find volunteers to get malaria?!?!!"