Thursday, November 29, 2007
Mama E has been coming to Kenya since 1985, and Jennifer and BJ almost as long. In one of their early visits they met then small children Serah, Keith and Jean, who are now all in their late twenties. After an excited reunion, Serah and Keith took BJ and me down to the Maasai market, a weekly outdoor market about four blocks from the hotel. The market was absolutely insane – packed with tourists, no walkway, and people coming from all directions trying to sell any and everything. We probably walked a total of one city block in about an hour, but were completely worn out at the end. After sitting to relax for a few minutes, Mama E joined us at the market. I then did a second tour – walking with Mama E in a failed attempt to find anklets to take back home as gifts. We spent most of the rest of the day chatting in the lobby; Jean talked about her three children, Keith taught me a few phrases in Samburu. October 30th is my sister’s birthday, so I took minute to call her (left a message – school wasn’t out yet). Later, Jennifer, who was out visiting a friend, joined us in the lobby so we could all say goodbye. She flew back to Houston that evening.
Even though the Stanley is part of the same chain as the Whitesands, dinner wasn’t included with the price of the room. The buffet was $23USD! Ouch!
* In Mombasa, we were way out in the sticks. The resorts are safe but the city is not. Nairobi is a large city (the capitol) and easy to walk around. Obviously you have to exercise caution, but there is no need to be completely reliant on a driver.
*Improve your vocabulary, change the world.
Mama E and Said say goodbye
On the way from the Nairobi airport into down. Just a random building.
Keith, BJ and Serah resting after braving the market
Monday, November 26, 2007
I returned to the hotel, with serious trepidation about telling Jennifer that I had come up empty; she had a paper due the next day. When I got back to the room, she was about to call Top Time, but I told her not to waste her minutes; I was just there and they didn’t have one. She insisted on calling the store, and after about five minutes, explaining what she needed, the owner said they had a one. I interrupted her and said I showed them the converter in person – there wasn’t one there. She double checked with the owner, who put her on hold to talk to the clerk. The owner told her the clerk told me that he told me the converter was there, and that he thought I was “confused.” I was livid. Jennifer insisted on going with Said to pick up the converter herself – I wanted to go to
Anyway, I relaxed on the balcony while Jennifer was gone, and, after seeing “Do not feed the monkeys” signs all over the hotel grounds, I finally saw a troop of monkeys jumping from tree to tree right outside of my room. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera out.
That’s it. We otherwise didn’t do anything that day.
*Aforementioned clerk at Top Time was behind security bars with his back turned to the door. All merchandise was behind the bars as well. In short, he would have to get the converter himself. Since the boss wasn’t around, he had no intention of working. Fine, but don’t go lying on me.
Throughout our stay in Mombasa, no matter the ragged/desolate/"Christian Children's Fund" condition of the villages we drove past, they all had spas.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
We wouldn’t visit the YWCA again, so I left Joyce most of the clothes that I had brought to
To elaborate on the “dangerous for foreigners” part. Said parked in the alley near the store while Joyce shopped. I use the word “store” loosely. It was on a dirt side street straight out of a Christian Children’s Fund commercial. Actually the area was a thriving community of restaurants, shops and homes – just with tin roofs, tag board walls and no plumbing and, if any electricity, supplied by gasoline-powered generators. All of this floating in about one inch of dirty water and ankle deep trash. None of this is their fault; instead of paying to properly dump their waste at a landfill, many hotels and large businesses simply dump their trash for free in little shantytowns. Shame. (The constant dumping-in-communities issue was all over the local news – probably because it was nearing presidential elections.) After about 15 minutes, Joyce returned, with the perfect batch of fabric (I forgot what the Swahili word is for it.)
The other thing I was in town to shop for was a new converter to replace the one I broke. We looked all over town; however, it being Sunday, no one was open.
* In the shops, nothing has an actual price. Everything is determined by bargaining. Joyce said, “I was speaking all the Swahili I know.”
In Joyce’s living room
Joyce’s husband and two of his friends
Joyce’s 20-year-old daughter Evelyn
Delicious! I ate about half of that cake.
I’m wearing the skirt Joyce gave me
Monday, November 19, 2007
When we went outside, the entire congregation was, in fact, standing patiently right outside the church. It turns out that the feast was for everyone, but the congregation was to eat after the clergy, and the children last.
As we prepared to leave Galana, Jennifer and Mama E talked to some of the church leaders and I took in the scenery. One thing I noticed was that there were no houses. Our first time getting stuck in the mud was directly in front of a house, and we passed a few on the way to the church. However, those were several miles away. When I mentioned that to one of the church staff members, Joyce (who had to translate) explained that Galana has no school or medical clinic, and that the people are scattered all over the country side, and no one close to anything. (I guess the American equivalent of Galana would be remote
We couldn’t stay long because the trip back was so long, and we had to err on the side of caution due to the treacherous roads. However, navigating the roads downhill proved easier than going uphill, and we got to the freeway uneventfully.
On the way back I made yet another stop at Nakumatt and bought a few things for the Enlightened Support Group.
We returned to the hotel so early I thought I’d go to the gym. That was until I realized it was as sanitary as your average latrine. Instead I went back to the room to download my photos off my camera. Unfortunately, when I tried to balance Jennifer’s converter (which weighed about two pounds) on the table so that it wouldn’t fall out of the socket, it – surprise – fell out the socket and broke. Jennifer needed the converter to juice her computer; she had missed a few of our outings studying for a course. Things did not bode well for the next couple days… (*cue horror music*)
* What to support the
Mailing Address: Community of Matuga Self Reliant Christians,
Bank Account: Likoni Friends Church-Galana Project, A/C No. 1101147600, Bank of
* One of the congregants was holding a shopping bag from the bookstore at Lakewood Church - Mama E’s home church. It turns out he had worked in
* Speaking of the weather, since we were south of the Equator, it was late spring. It was actually about 65-70°F the entire time with sporadic rainbursts and wind. Both times I’ve been to
On the way to Galana
On the way to Galana. Self portrait.
Joyce on the way to Galana…
…and Mama E
The dry riverbed. In this blurry photo, you can’t appreciate how soft the clay looks.
A view of the Galana country side, about three minutes before…
…the first time we got stuck.
A view from the first jam.
Waiting for backup.
Mama E cheers us on.
The clergy. The man with his arm extended is holding the
Jennifer, Mama E and Joyce
The children’s choir
Right after service
Joyce, me and Mama E with the congregation
The view from the top of Galana
A cattle farm in Galana. The smoke in the background is land being burned to create farms.
A church pastor, a church staff member, Mama E and me with church members.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Today started slow and got...interesting. Said took Mama E and me to Nakumatt, where we bought our family T-shirts. Thinking my family would appreciate something a bit more authentic than a T-shirts (which, at least according to the tags, were made in
I knew I was supposed to be giving a talk on HIV/AIDS at the Y, but I didn’t know anything about who I would be speaking to. I learned it was the Enlightened Support Group – a support group for HIV positive mothers. I was a little disappointed that I was talking to a group that was HIV positive, since I was hoping that I could focus my talk on HIV prevention. Instead of giving a speech, I had a conversation with them, and here are a few things that I learned:
** Fortunately, one of the mothers was able to get a C–section because she found out her status during her pregnancy
** Another was not so fortunate, figuring out her status when her daughter became very sick.
* All HIV tests and drugs are free in
** Free ARVs don’t necessarily help everyone. Since many people are malnourished, they don’t take their medications because they need to be taken on a full stomach.
* Bottle feeding is acceptable
** I was curious because in some cultures bottle feeding is frowned upon
** The government does not supply free formula to mothers in
* While domestic violence is illegal, men generally hold up the cases and they are very seldom prosecuted
* Desertion is common when wives reveal their HIV statuses to their husbands, but the village elders of one of the mothers forced him to take her back
I learned much more from the group than they taught me. Leah, their leader, is incredibly optimistic and driven, and determined to make the best world for herself and her sons. Her spirit is absolutely amazing. I was very inspired by all the mothers; the face that they were fearless about being open about their HIV positive status, and that they were not living as if they had been handed a death sentence. I gave them some seed money to open their own bank account so that they can do formal business. Since some of the women in the group are widows, they have dreams of starting businesses and finding other ways to support themselves.
The night ended back at the hotel where it was soul food night. That’s right, American soul food. The banner above the buffet entrance read “Big Mama’s Kitchen.” Hilarity, once again, ensued.
* Eating Tex-Mex and soul food in
* One way that Leah is planning to become self sufficient is by getting her counseling certificate. There is a scholarship trust set up in her name at:
With the Enlightened Support Group
Mama E with the Enlightened Support Group
With Leah, the group’s leader
Security outside the convent. Notice the broken glass on the top of the walls as added protection.
Said goes into the security gate
Sister Jennifer and BJ
The convent’s yard
The courtyard. I’m not the best photographer.
BJ’s room. About $20USD/night including meals
BJ and the sisters in the convent’s kitchen
Amid the rundown buildings and beggars in downtown
The ramp off the ferry dock. The grade so unforgiving I thought the undercarriage would rip out every time we got off the ferry.
The cargo dock
I couldn’t get this mosque photo to embed properly.