from obama to jesus

sunset over lake victoria, From kenya nairobi to mbita

loading the bus, From kenya nairobi to mbita

morning clouds over the farm, From kenya nairobi to mbita

lake birds, From kenya nairobi to mbita

buying fish in the morning, From kenya nairobi to mbita

peter offering papaya, From kenya nairobi to mbita

mdazi vendor at market, From kenya nairobi to mbita

gerald showing off at the motorcycle field, From kenya nairobi to mbita

ok, i cheated. i read erika's blog and realized there's tons of stuff that i've missed. like the kenyan beer. kenyans "like" to drink their beer warm, but when i asked why they can't stick a couple in the fridge for mzungus (i know i'd pay more for a cold beer than a warm one), they said it's cuz the fridges are too small so the cold beers run out too fast, so they just don't bother. very um kindergarten...if you didn't bring enough cold beer for the whole class, then you'd better not drink any yourself. in kenya, the favorite beers for guys are tusker and obama. obama used to be called senator, but they've since changed the name to president. girls like to drink guiness mixed with coke. someone offered me a sip of her guiness (thankfully, she drank it straight) and asked if i'd ever had it before. since i've never drank warm guiness before, i answered no and took a sip. not as bad as i expected, but i'll stick to my fanta thanks.

the day before we went rafting, we tagged along with ben and maria (two australians who are moving to edinborough--jon, we have an invite to visit them if we like), on their mtn biking adventure. we rented bikes from nash, a very westernized kenyan who does an amazing job buying and maintaining around 30 bikes at nile river explorers. he's so mzungu that when i met him the first night, i couldn't guess where he was from. i tried new zealand, australia, uk...and the next morning i tried again with bangladesh. in actuality, he's never been out of africa. he's also one of the best pool players i've ever met. erika and i have gotten into the habit of shooting a couple of hours of pool with the boys every night. it only costs 25cents per game, and we've gotten to the point where we're not SUCH a serious handicap (altho i still have streaks of utter suckiness, where i couldn't sink a ball to save my life, but i think that's b/c i get lazy and forget to aim). i've seen nash sink 2 balls with a single shot at least 4 times, and he plays with a foresight more common to chess. also, nash has really big poofy hair. he hasn't cut it in over 4 years. it makes him look like beaker from the muppets or sideshow bob (except he's shorter and black and absolutely ripped--he's got a very strict diet--no chocolate, no soda, no alcohol, no fried foods, only black tea, etc. i don't know why he does it, b/c all the other boys here eat whatever they like and are still ripped. he eats with the austerity of a monk or a model (sans drugs, cigarettes, alcohol) or an olympic athlete (sans volume). almost a religious aesthetism, with only slightly less devotion than he gives his bikes). he wears a bike chain around his wrist, and gave us a hand-drawn map of jinja for the biking.

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

ben is actually quite an expert mtn biker. he tried to teach me how to jump the bike, but i could only get my front wheel up, and not very far up at that. we went up and down hills to bujagali falls, where we got lost amongst some villages. a guy tried to sell us a trip down the river in his boat, and when we said no, he pointed us in a random direction to get us lost.

From ruma and jinja

it was very relaxing biking. the dirt roads were just bumpy enough to make it interesting, and there were some sections steep enough that we needed to walk. ben biked down one bumpy downhill section (with boulders and roots), and when i tried to follow him, i had to jump off my pedals to keep from going head over heels. actually, i had to do this a couple of times, generally bruising the crotchal region on the crossbar in the process. luckily, my bike was more of a female bike, and the seat wasn't as high as i usually have it, so it didn't go terribly for me, but if i were to do this for real, i'd seriously consider wearing a cup.

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

we picked up children as we went through the villages who would run behind us rolling tires with y shaped sticks. they were really fast with those tires...they managed to keep up with us most of the way, and just when we thought we'd lost them, they'd come jogging up behind us again. we enjoyed their company since they weren't bugging us for anything, just answering "yes" to everything we asked them (failing ben's "are you the son of a leprechaun" test spectacularly). at bujagali falls, we watched a man jump into the rapids on a 5 gallon water bottle. he asked us for money afterwards, but since we weren't the ones who asked him to jump in, we didn't feel obliged to pay.

From ruma and jinja

on the ride back from the falls, we stopped to taste some roadside jackfruit. we didn't see any jackfruit at all in kenya, but they're all over the place here. we got a huge slab for less than 10cents. in the heat, the sticky sweetness of the thing was a bit much. cloying. it gummed my fingers together and stuck a bit in my teeth. if i touched my finger to my face, i could bring my entire cheek off my jaw, and if i pulled farther away, my cheek would snap back to my teeth with a wobble. between the 5 of us, we only managed half the slab and gave the rest to the children who had gathered to watch us eat it (to be fair, maria refused to try any b/c we said it tasted like a banana-pear combination and she doesn't like bananas, and ben only ate a little bit before riding off to wait in the shade of a truck full of cheeping chicks).

From ruma and jinja

for lunch, we stopped at ling ling, the premier chinese restaurant in town. they even had a chinese bartender named chen. the food was so so and all-taste-same, but we've met other foreigners who've raved about it. while we were there, an 18 wheeler truck overturned on the roundabout outside. no one was hurt, but they took the windshield out to let the driver escape. apparently these things happen all the time.

From ruma and jinja

in the afternoon, we rode down to the lakeside and hired a boat to take us and our bikes to the source of the nile. the boatman pointed out a fish eagle in a tree. it had a white head and a black body and sat the branch like a king. the source itself wasn't that impressive. you couldn't really tell where the lake ended and the river began. the boatride was peaceful.

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja
From ruma and jinja

that night, we ate dinner with nash at flavours. ppl laughed at me for ordering the apple/passionfruit crumble as an appetizer (and then the peanut butter/snickers muffin for dessert), but man, i was hungry. it confused the waitress a bit, but she got us back. on nash's recommendation, 4 of us tried to order veggie burgers. the waitress came back and told us that they were out of burger buns (a bit of confusion already about what exactly they were out of: the buns or the burgers). i tried to ask her to serve them on sandwich bread (i had ordered a tuna melt), but this wasn't an option b/c they were also almost out of sandwich bread (just enough for my sandwich). so then 3 ppl changed their orders, and erika decided to get the burger anyways, without the bun (i spent a couple minutes haggling for her to serve it on a baked potato, but this was way too farout of a concept for her). when the veggie burger came, it was sitting happily, normally on a bun. everyone who had changed their orders were like "HEY! no fair!" apparently, they had 1 bun left, and like the no-cold-beers-in-kenya thing, instead of making us choose 1 person to give the bun to, they just told us that they didn't have ANY buns. go erika, way to be persistent.

over dinner, nash explained the whole cows for wives thing. in kenya (at least amongst the kikuyu tribe), the men pay a cattle dowry when they marry (i've never understood why women pay dowries in other cultures). if you're ugly, stupid, and worthless, you get 2 cows. if you're amazing, then you can get up to 70 cows. now when kenyans ask to marry us, we can ask them for cows first. the best offense is a good defense?

women's rights in uganda seem much better than in kenya. we actually see men doing laundry. when i asked roberto about this, he said, yes, unmarried men have to do their own laundry. in kenya, they'd just give it to their sisters to do. paul said, well, if you beg really nicely, maybe your sister will do your laundry, but it's actually her choice. how refreshing! AND, women can hold jobs! roberto's mom actually DIVORCED her dad for cheating on her! (now she supports herself financially and gets money from her children occasionally). divorce is unheard of in kenya b/c women have no rights, no possessions, no way of holding property/earning money/etc. a cow can't divorce it's owner for bad treatment, and a woman worth 70 cows can't either. this is why it's so ridiculous when kenyans propose to us...it's like, oh, you're offering us a chance to wait on your ass AND give you mzungu money? wow, thanks, but no thanks.

but even in uganda, hooking a mzungu is a big dream. we've seen newspaper articles describing hotspots where mzungus like to hangout and how locals should chat them up. one article interviewed locals who advertised in dating ads exclusively for mzungus. one said that she needed someone to pay her way through college (her parents had died). another said something along the lines of "i'm giving my life! they need to bring some money to the table in exchange for that"--as if the other person in the relationship wouldn't be giving their life as well (and by the way, money in exchange for life...i think that's called buying a slave, not marriage). a third person said "africans are fine if they've got the cash. if there are africans with the cash, i haven't met them yet. if an african wants to date me, i say, show me the money first!" yeah prostitution! i guess other cultures are also into dating foreigners (eg hk, china, japan--in china if you manage to marry a white guy with a lot of money, that's called having skillz), but usually it's a bit more artful. ppl actually go thru the courtship ritual and pretend to fall in love instead of proposing marriage as the follow on to "hi, my name is...".

after the rafting trip, we stayed at adrift for 3 nights. the bar at adrift looks out right over the river. absolutely beautiful. in the mornings, the monkeys come down from the trees to steal the banana peels. there are two types: the red tailed ones with faces like raccoons, and the normal looking ones with pastel blue balls. the younger monkeys play in the tree branches, crawling to the end of the branch to weight it to the ground, then jumping off to catapult the other monkeys into the air. erika tried to tempt one near with a banana peel, but they run off as soon as you make eye contact. shy, intelligent creatures.

From ruma and jinja
From ruma and jinja
From ruma and jinja

in town, you can buy metal-tipped arrows and spears. these arrows were used to kill ppl in kenya last year during the upheaval. we saw a man guarding a speedboat with them. also, we saw what looked like slingshot frames (a y-shaped piece of carved wood). upon closer inspection, i realized that it's a carving of jesus, with his arms raised in a y above his head (now they just need to make an m, c, and a). i smite you with my holy slingshot! then i realized that to actually make a slingshot out of it, you'd probably need to drill holes thru the wrists to tie the rubberband ends. just call me pontius pilate. sacriligious much?



i'm exhausted. i spent the last two days learning to roll a trick kayak. those are the short, wide ones that are especially hard to roll. i got it consistently before lunch yesterday, but after lunch, i think i was too tired to do it right anymore. i'd dig the paddle into the water, get the kayak halfway up (enough for a new breath of air), flop back down and try again. sometimes it'd take me 3 or 4 times before i got fully upright. trying to position the paddle flat against the water while half-drowning takes a special kind of zen: death, poo-poo to you; is my paddle parallel yet?

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

two safety kayakers from our rafting trip were teaching us on the sly. their friend actually set up a kayaking company that charges USD125 a day (they sometimes teach for this company), but they agreed to take only USD75 for 3 days. every day, we had to leave separately from the hostel and sneak down to a secret beach on the nile. all very hush hush...they kept emphasizing how we couldn't tell any of the "boys" or they'd get into trouble.

From ruma and jinja

the beach was gorgeous. you walk past some fields, turn off onto a path thru flowering trees, and eventually end up on this half finished mosaic-tile portico where locals would swim or do laundry. very secret garden. i think the someone started building it but ran out of money. now it's crumbling, covered in vines and trails of ants, half finished columns reaching to nowhere. in the water with us, crested cranes, thin-necked cormorants, and kingfishers that drop like stones.

From ruma and jinja

in town, maribu storks pick thru the rubbish heaps. these birds are seriously huge--the size of a large flamingo. i think they'd come up to my shoulder. when they take off, they need to have a running start and a hop b/c they're so big. one of the mikas here (there are two) got pooped on by a stork. he said it landed on his shoulder and covered his entire torso. he thinks that anything that poops so much has no business living in a tree. the other mika married morgan after dating for 1.5 weeks. they're throwing a big party on thursday, which is why we're not leaving till friday.

From ruma and jinja

roberto and paul, our kayak teachers, took us to a local place for lunch yesterday. we sat in the shade of a jackfruit tree, and smacked on pork baked in a clay oven, on a dish with cabbage cooked in g-nut sauce (g-nuts=p-nuts). paul picked us a sprig of small red chilis to squeeze over the pork. we ate with our fingers, trapping the meat against pieces of motoke (mashed plaintains) or posho (ugali/cornbread). large black crows with white chests hopped all around us. when i made a motion as to shoot a crow with a bow and arrow, roberto said that ppl don't kill these crows b/c they're poisonous. every bit of them is poisonous. their blood, their bones, their feathers (whereas hyenas and snakes only have a poisonous organ that you can remove and eat the rest of them safely). i tried to convince them that the crows aren't poisonous, but it was an uphill battle. they said that even flies won't eat a dead crow. also, they are convinced that sunblock will burn a black person's skin (they said that mzungu skin is tougher than black skin--"we may be black, but our skin is tender like a baby's"), that the color red attracts lightening (b/c it looks so bright from the sky), and that a man from the bujagali tribe may ride through the waterfall on a piece of goatskin if he keeps the old ways (i.e., doesn't wear any western clothes). turns out, the traditional tribal clothes are all made of wood. no wonder he's buoyant.

From ruma and jinja

From ruma and jinja

also, after paying off a local to let us store the kayaks by the river, roberto pointed out a round woven mat to erika. erika was a bit confused, so she asked what it was. "a mat." what's it for? "sitting". it was kind of a weird funny moment. i think he wanted to impress us with its roundness...

roberto the rasta ruma and jinja
roberto and paul ruma and jinja

the kayakers here are badass. geoffrey, our raft guide on the second day, is the top kayaker in uganda. he took #23 in the last olympics. i think paul was #2 in uganda (behind geoffrey) until he got injured and lost his competitive drive. while we were paddling the rafts thru still water, they'd casually float up and do some loops (flips--they'd bounce on the kayak with the nose in the water, so the person is facing the water, and after 3 or 4 bounces, jump the kayak completely into the air). no wonder they're all so ripped.

roberto flipping ruma and jinja

the rafting trip itself was pretty good. we did a two day, camping in between. the group we went on had about 30 18yr old kids who are volunteering in africa for their gap year. they were ridiculous. it was like watching a soap opera. for example, on the busride back, they had a huge debate about whether tactical booting counted as booting at all. and then later that night, i heard three of them in the same toilet stall. two of them were coaching a girl on how to stick her finger down her throat. ah, the lifeskills you learn in africa! apparently, around 3am, one of the girls slept with someone on the sofa at the bar (i was long in bed by then), and another one of them went home with one of the local raft guides (she was crying about it the morning after--"oh, i'm so stupid" etc etc).

but enough about the company. the rafting itself was amazing. we started out with 8 ppl on our boat, one of whom was a reporter from the NYT, doing a travel piece. he had lots of cool stories about getting kidnapped in the middle east (he managed to convince them that he was greek, not american), sneaking up kilimanjaro without guides, porters, or permits, getting caught on the way down, escaping to the US embassy in dar es salaam, cooking up some story about tanzania corruption, being found out and told to leave the country in the next 24 hrs, and staying for 2 more weeks anyways. the other girls on the raft were all volunteers from that program. a couple of them couldn't paddle to save their lives. we flipped our raft on the last rapid of the day (a class 4), and everyone got trapped under the boat. i think we were only under for 3 seconds, but it felt like forever. that's when 1 of the bad paddlers lost her nerve and rode safety boat for the rest of the trip. the next day, the entire left side of the boat got bounced out on a rapid, and i was the only 1 to come up scotchfree. 1 girl dislocated her ankle, and another fractured her wrist. we stopped for lunch early to take them to the hospital, while erika and i had our first taste of the kayaks.
From ruma and jinja

the last rapid of the second day was a class 4 called malalu (crazy). it formed an eddy so rafts could surf in the same spot forever. ollo's raft got stuck there for like 5 minutes, and he had to make everyone jump out of the boat before he could navigate out. we also broke out some body boards to surf the eddy. really good fun.

From ruma and jinja

and did i mention that i rafted the first day naked? josh, our raft guide, promised me USD50 if i did it...and i got a bit screwed on the exchange rate at the border (never change money at the border), so i wanted to make up the cash. it wasn't that big of a deal. i had a life jacket on the entire time, and i think half the time you can't see the bottom anyways what with the water and the getting down, and the swimming. the kids were pretty shocked tho. i got some stares, and during lunch (which i didn't have to do naked), some polish guys (i think) came up to me and said, "looking good" or something weird like that. i think a lot of the other rafts thought my shorts had fallen off in a rapid. i hope i don't end up in any of the nyt photographer's pics :-).

this girl fell out in the first rapid, right on top of some rocks. props to her for getting back into the boat and bouncing around the rapids on bruises and scrapes. i cringe just looking at her. even without hitting rocks, i ended the rafting trip battered and fried (like a chicken?).

From ruma and jinja



the last couple of posts have been pretty negative, and i don't want you to get the wrong idea. a lot of stuff is frustrating and disgusting or whatever, but the wonderful things come in unexpected glimmers. like a curtain is down, but you can see a shy something peaking out through the crack. here are some of those things:

  • my downhill shoes: i bought a pair of shoes made from tire rubber for KSH100 (USD1.5). the cobbler cut them especially for my feet, but the toe loop on the right foot was still too big. the shoe tended to slip off unless i was going downhill. after two free refittings, the shoes are now perfect.
  • making babies cry: the really small babies, the ones who are too young to know the word mzungu, cry when they see us. terrorizing babies isn't wonderful per se, but it's charming in a weird way.
  • strong bananas: in mbita, i bought 1 banana every afternoon to wash down my doxycycline. the first day the market woman was annoyed, but she grew to expect me. the bananas are thick and flavorful, even if the peel is green and bruised.
  • in homa bay, we were given a calendar that advertised a clothing factory. under the name of the factory, it said, "manufacturers of sanitary napkins, zippers, and candles".
  • the pyramid of oranges: on one of the many matatus that took us from mbita to jinja, we were approached by an orange vendor. for USH1000, he gave us his entire pyramid of bitter oranges. the rinds were tough to break, and our hands were dirty enough to streak the white skins red. it was like biting into a lemon, but we each ate 3 immediately anyways.
  • at another matatu stop, i bought what looked like grapes. they turned out to be a sweet, dusty, pitted fruit, hot from the sun. i didn't have a window seat, so i had to chubby bunny the seeds until i could lean across erika and machine gun them out the window.
  • one morning in jinja, we passed an 18 wheeler truck with a green teletubby doll strapped across its grill. our driver said it was just for fun.
  • on our mtn biking day, we got lost and saw a baby goat, balancing on its hindlegs to jump at the green laundry hanging from a line.
  • on a smooth patch of nile water, we paddle our rafts past a cormorant swallowing a large tilapia. he chokes it down completely oblivious of us.
more on jinja and rafting tomorrow.

leaving mbita

A lot’s happened since i last posted. We’ve since left mbita for jinja, uganda. Before we went, we made two attempts at seeing ruma national park, both fruitless and frustrating.

the first time was on Sunday ; gerald took us on a motorcycle en route to visiting his family in homa bay. the joy of riding a bike in the morning is pretty much perfect. The roads are still and open ; the sun gives light but not heat ; we speed through wind, past fields, mountains, lake. Climbing the path to ruma, we saw our first baboons and monkeys, whole clans of them sunning on the road. They’ve since become common visitors (a troop of them live in the trees at our dorm), but at the time, a novelty worthy of cameras. Also, a brilliant rainbow bird that was too quick for me to capture.

At the park, we were told that we could hire a care for KSH1500 or if we brought our own car, it would cost KSH300. ken had said that he could drive us to ruma on Tuesday, so we decided to save the money and wait till then. That was a mistake.

The rest of the day was spent at gerald’s home in homa bay. Gerald’s cousin showed us his pink guava trees. They weren’t quite ripe, but we tasted some of the early fruit. The second one i took had a translucent grub on the opposite side of my entrance bite. I didn’t see it until i had eaten all the way through the fruit, but i did see it in time to not eat it. That took away my appetite for more guava.

I was pretty hungry by the time lunch rolled around. Gerald’s stepmom had cooked chicken (the most expensive meat, traditionally given to visitors). When she brought in the pot, the lid was crawling with black specks. I thought they were flies, since the hut supported a heavy fly population, but when i waved my hand over the lid, they didn’t fly away. Then i realized they were adolescent roaches—maybe 10-20 of them—running frantically over the lid and the handle. Gerald thumped the table a couple of times, and the roaches all fell away from the pot to skitter under the table. I don’t think any of them managed to get anywhere near the chicken…my guess was that the lid was placed on the ground while the chicken was cooking, where it collected the roaches, but i was still pretty grossed out. I mean, i know the feeling was small and unworthy, but i have a thing about roaches…even more than the thing i have about most spiders. I wouldn’t call it a phobia yet, but they make me extremely uncomfortable. If i see one, i think they’re everywhere, and that they will swarm me and lay eggs on me. One of my greatest fears is suffocating under a mound of cockroaches. I guess it’s more paranoia than anything else. Anyways, i tried really hard to put the roaches out of mind, but for the rest of the visit, i was pretty constantly swatting at my feet or brushing off my pants. Obnoxious behavior...I hope they didn’t notice me too much.

Other than that, the chicken was delicious. Gerald gave me the heart and a leg, and he took the head. I really like heart—the way it chews and tears against my teeth. My mom used to make it when i was a kid, but i haven’t had it in ages. I was very impressed with erika—she not only tried a bit of the heart, she also voluntarily took the claw. I watched her pull out each toenail before gnawing on the knuckles. Way to go mzungu !

I guess a lot of this trip is about finding boundaries and pushing them. After that visit to gerald’s, i started noticing cockroaches everywhere : in the squatter at night, on the floor of daniel’s hut, even on the table with the free tea and coffee at the backpacker’s hostel in jinja. I’m getting better at swallowing my discomfort. I’m trying not to see them so much. It’s stupid of me to be more worried about roaches than mosquitos. Roaches don’t carry diseases and they don’t bite. This is a resolution : no more silliness ! plus, there’s nothing i can do about it anyways. No sense in fretting.

We left gerald’s family to go into homa bay town. It was definitely bigger than mbita, but not any cleaner or more impressive. If mbita has maybe 3 streets of shabby shops and dirty roads, then homa bay has 10. also, i was rudely swiped by a dirty, staggering man as he passed me. He looked like he was gonna pass on the left, but at the last second, he switched directions, walked across me and ran his hand roughly across my stomach. I really wanted to run after him and punch him in the nose. What a jerk ! maybe this incident colors my views of homa bay, but i did not come to africa to see cities or towns. Gerald then took us to a nicer hotel sporting an expansive lawn with paper mache giraffes and lions. It was nice to sip my black currant fanta out of a glass bottle, unmolested by insects, but i don’t think we were suitably impressed by the building. Gerald likes to show us nicer houses or hotels…i guess the way we might show someone the empire state building or the chrysler tower…and i think he’s confused when we would rather look at hippos or monkeys or lake birds, the way we are when tourists are more fascinated with the pigeons and squirrels.

Despite gerald’s best efforts to pass the matatus and buses that kicked up clouds of dust, we still acquired red streaks of dirt on our faces by the time we got home. I was very happy for that trip to end so that i could give my bruised bum a rest. We would try again for ruma on Tuesday.

Monday night, ken and his friend come home at 10pm for dinner. Erika and i wait up for him to discuss details for Tuesday’s journey. We want to go early so we can catch the animals in the morning, when they are most active. Ken’s friend keeps us up till 11pm, talking about kenya’s political problems and the good that they’re doing to fix them. Interesting stuff, but neither of us can keep our eyes open. We cut the conversation short, and ask ken what time we can leave in the morning—ideally, it’d be around 7 so we can hit the park by 8. ken wants to leave at 10. turns out, he promised some woman that he’d give her a ride to her boarding school, and she needed to do some shopping in a neighboring town, so he figured he’d just kill 2 birds with 1 stone and drive us to the park afterwards. I wish we had known that beforehand. We would’ve gone on our own on Sunday. Plus, we needed to get back into mbita by 4pm so i could pick up my lariam from the clinic and run a couple of other errands before we left on Wednesday. i felt let down, grumpy, and sleepy. Not a good combo. Since we were at an impasse, ken decides to call gerald (at midnight) to get him to rent another motorbike for the morning, to take us to ruma, without him, to hire the car for KSH1500. at this point, ken is coming off as pretty inconsiderate (both to us and to gerald), but at least the issue is resolved.

The next morning, gerald shows up a bit late. Understandably, he’s grumpy, and we’re still a little chafed from the lack of sleep and the unexpected change of plans (and did i mention that to hire a motorbike for a day costs KSH700, plus KSH300 in gas—not a TON of money, but in the 2 weeks to date, we’d only spent around KSH7000 each, which includes the transportation from nairobi, so in comparison, it seemed like a lot). All the bad feelings evaporated as soon as we hit the road. I love the smell of motorcycles in the morning.

When we get to ruma, they tell us that hiring a car would cost at least KSH4500. they won’t budge at all on it. apparently, on Sunday, the boss was in nairobi, so the underlyings were gonna drive us around on the sly and split the proceeds. On Tuesday, the boss was back from his trip, and we were screwed. Even finding out this bit of info took an hour of arguing back and forth, them talking to gerald in luo, gerald translating to us, us arguing back in english, them responding back to gerald, etc etc. can we say frustrating? (can we scream it ?)

We weren’t willing to spend the cash to see herd animals (ruma is the only park that has the roan antelope), so we call ken in the hopes that he’s now done with the boarding school girl’s errands. By 1pm, we meet ken at some town, down a yogurt each for lunch, and drive to ruma’s public access road. We see some giraffes in the distance, which is mildly exciting, but they’re pretty far away (btw, the swahili word for giraffe is twigga, which i think is much more appropriate for the animal than the english). I fall asleep. When i wake up, we’re in some small town and the car’s broken down. We spend 4 hours trying to fix the clutch with bits of rubbish from the side of the road. In the interim, we are harassed by an outgoing girl and her toy razorblade. We were friendly for the first hour or two, but by the end, i just wanted her to stop reaching into the car and trying to touch us. The razorblade was dull, but i still didn’t want her scraping it down my hair. Ditto for the empty bottle of brake fluid that she kept dropping into the car via the open window. Not a fun game. At this point, it was obvious that i wouldn’t get back to mbita in time for errands. Let’s use some adjectives : grouchy, dirty, disappointed, hot. When ken turned to us, waved a hand and said, « come » in a very imperious way and then expected us to pay the mechanic who had failed to fix the car, i had just about had it. luckily, erika is better at playing bad cop, and she told him straight out that we weren’t going to pay. I ended up giving him the money anyways (only KSH100), but he got the idea. We ended up towing the car to the local police station and riding home in the back of a truck, covered by a canvas tarp, packed in with 4 other ppl and a truckload of sugarcane, bananas, printing paper, etc. the other passengers seemed to enjoy the ride, laughing carelessly while cracking jokes about HIV (i think they worked at a testing center or something), but the heat, the road, and the constant smell of gasoline got to erika and me. We both had to boot out of the back of the truck at some point. As far as booting goes, it was one of my more comfortable experiences—purely fluid so it came up smooth, no stomach acid to burn the throat, the wind and the speed of the truck to pull it away from the face, and a convenient metal bar to pressure the gut. Overshare ?

Wednesday morning, instead of taking the 7am ferry like we had planned, we took the 10am to give me time for errands. As we were packing, we noticed that our energy bars had disappeared. We suspect that sullivan had stolen them since a grownup would’ve taken our money instead. Erika found a couple of powerbar wrappers in the bushes behind our hut. We told daniel and ken, but i’m not sure what will happen to sully. They spoil him pretty bad, so i think they’re inclined to believe him innocent and not punish him at all. he’s the pampered baby of the family, and cries if he doesn’t get what he wants…like food that stella is eating (she’s the 7 yr old aids orphan that takes care of him), or toys that aren’t for him. Oh well, energy bars can be replaced with chocolate bars, and he’s not our kid, so what do we care if he grows up right. Plus, a couple more hours, and we were away !



I had a malaria scare. Luckily, it was just that—a scare. I’m still not sure what was wrong with me*, but for about 48 hours, I had absolutely no appetite, a slight fever, and couldn’t keep my eyes open to save my life. i woke up not wanting to move at all, did a half-assed job of weeding on the farm, and then dragged my feet all the way to the icipe clinic. We had just climbed gambe the day before, so luckily all our hosts accepted the explanation that that’s why I was tired and didn’t worry too much more about me.

On our way to icipe, we passed a hut where a bunch of guys were loafing around. I think the hut belonged to one of ken’s brothers, so when they called to us to stop, we did. What a surprise, they wanted money. A tattered looking old fisherman sold us some story about his critically ill 1 yr old baby, saying he needed KSH100 to take her to the clinic. His friend added that fishermen were the poorest ppl in Kenya. Not knowing too much about the Kenyan healthcare system, I told him that I’d give him the money if he brought me a fish, but I wouldn’t give him something for nothing. They promised to deliver a nile perch to ken’s door tomorrow, and we were on our way. I remember fearing that I’d heard their price wrong. Only KSH100 to fix a girl’s chest problem? Really? Maybe they think I’ll give them USD100 for their fish…and then I got to thinking. There were maybe 8 men there. Between them, they couldn’t scrape together KSH100 to help their friend? Why did they need me? Ppl are poor, but not really THAT poor. Just 3 fish go for around KSH200 to 300.

and that’s something that’s been confusing me for a while. When ppl beg, they always ask for KSH20. you can barely buy anything for KSH20 (maybe 4 bananas,4 pieces of fried bread, or a game of billiards—which most ppl can definitely afford). I finally figured out that for most of them, they don’t beg b/c they actually need it, they beg because it costs them nothing. They think we’ve got so much money we’re happy to go handing it out to everyone we meet. Seeing a mzungu is like catching a leprechaun—free gold! I’m convinced most kids only know 2 english phrases: “mzungu, how are you!” and “give me money!” I’ve started answering them with: “why?” as in, why do you need money? And also, why should I give you money? Why should you get something for nothing? But my ambiguity is wasted, since “why” is not in their repertoire of English. It just buys me enough confusion to escape.

At the icipe clinic, I asked the doctor about healthcare in Kenya. He said that healthcare is a pyramidal. At the lowest level, there are free dispensaries, and then there are government clinics where you get all your drugs and tests for KSH20. The sicker you are, the higher up the pyramid you go, so the ppl at the top are the sickest, but also get the best medical attention. if you can’t afford the KSH20 fee at the government clinic, you get your chief to write you a letter, and the fee is waived. Children under 5 automatically get their fees waived. So. The fisherman lied to me. What a surprise. The doctor also said that fishermen are the richest ppl in kenya (but he must've meant richest of the poor b/c he himself was obviously better off than a fisherman) and that he sees tons of men who come in with kids who’ve been sick for days, but the guys don’t bring them in until they’re critical. And then the guys say they can’t pay the fees, even though they’ll have been out drinking for the past 2 nights. Then he added that if a man can afford to have two wives, he can afford KSH20 for his kids to go to the doctor. Two wives are expensive to keep.

Oh yeah, surprise! Bet you didn’t expect polygamy to rear its head, especially considering how Christian this country is. For example, Kenyan Christians are always amazed that American Christians like to drink alcohol (I know teetotalism isn’t a Christian virtue per se, but it shows you how strict they are), and every night, before we close the center, someone says a prayer, which usually mentions something about the blood of Christ washing ALL OVER the center (really? Hasn’t the poor guy bled enough? And what with the catholics eating him all the time at mass…). Gerald told us, “there’s nothing in the bible against a man marrying two wives”. Um…I haven’t really read it thoroughly, but I guess I always assumed that monogamy was a requirement. Am I wrong? And then Gerald added that Christians can have many wives, but if you want to be a preacher, you can’t have more than two. I hope he meant more than one, but I’ve learned that this country wreaks havoc with my assumptions. Like when I assumed the wwoof ad that pluralized “wives” while requesting Christian workers was a typo or a language barrier (I even pointed it out to Erika for a laugh. Turns out, the joke’s on me).

But whatever, I can understand how polygamy isn’t really the issue that alcoholism is in this country. maybe there’s nothing inherently evil in polygamy (jon, don’t get any ideas), as long as all parties agree and there’s no abuse. I mean, in cultures where marriage isn’t really for love anyways, does it matter if your husband already has a wife? Doesn’t it just mean that you’re under the thumb of the older wife instead of the mother-in-law (like in traditional Chinese households)? Whereas alcoholism means that a husband squanders the little money that should’ve been spent on the family on drunkenness instead.

Let's bring it back to polygamy. Shevaun, a vet friend of mine from HK, mentioned once that guys don’t have the balls for polygamy. apparently, polygamous animals all have much larger testicle to body weight ratios than humans. To put it into perspective, she said that the average human male has the same testicle size as a small poodle. Chew on that.

Back on track--men are in charge of decisions and finances, but women are in charge of the home. Half jokingly, a guy at the bar told us that babies can cry but the man doesn’t care; the home can burn down, but the guy doesn’t care. ken told us that ladies aren’t taught to think, so they can be convinced to do anything. They can follow their men around and spend money on “bling bling”, and no one will worry about how they’ll buy food the next day. Food is seen as a woman’s concern, so it’s given surprisingly little emphasis. guys will spend KSH40 to charge up a car battery so they can play their radios all night long (quite literally, even while they're sleeping), KSH80 for a tusker beer, KSH100 for a furaha brandy (and then KSH40 more for the coke mixer), and who knows how much for their NYC cap and cell phone with the fancy ringtone, and be content to eat potatoes with cornmeal constantly (and by constantly, I mean at their 2 meals a day). It’s almost like they’re aping the form of being rich without trying to figure out how ppl get there. And this isn’t just the uneducated squatters who sit around the motorcycles all day and heckle us when we pass. Ken must spend KSH100 daily on gas for his Peugeot to drive the 3km from his home to the town (that’s exactly how he fills it up too—daily. I think we usually buy about 3L of gas at a time. One sunday he was really in a quandary b/c there wasn’t any gas in town). Ken also has this dream of going to America (why? To do a 9 month course…something about becoming a pastor, I think), even though the ticket alone will cost around USD1500. For USD500, he could bring electricity into his home. For prolly around USD500 more, he could get running water, and then for the rest, prolly even an internet connection. But he doesn’t worry about any of this. Why? b/c he’s a man, and his ambitions trump his concern for his home. Don’t get me wrong, ken’s a good guy, but I really really don’t understand ppl’s priorities here.

And now let’s get started on the work ethic. I’m not talking about the whole population. Obviously there are ppl who work hard, go to school, have ambitions, get jobs, etc. but there are a surprising number who are happy to do nothing. Everywhere we see clumps of young men lazing in the shade, drinking beer, asking us for money when we pass. Ken’s dad, Daniel, dropped out of school to be a laborer when his grandfather died. On that income, he supports 2 wives and raised 10 children (one wife was inherited from his brother, who died in 1976). He sent a good number of those kids all the way through school. Daniel’s dad was an alcoholic who gave him nothing, so it’s not like Daniel had some glowing opportunity that other ppl couldn’t get. But even some of daniel’s kids don’t do anything (but it’s hard to tell b/c ppl don’t consider farm work a job…so maybe those kids help him on the farm). I don’t know…it just seems that the prevailing attitude is that ppl are happy to take handouts. How should Kenya solve this or that problem? Obviously, wait for aid from the UN or the US or the world bank or whatever relevant party. How do you send your kids to school? Get a mzungu to sponsor them! Hey why not, it’s free! it's such a big difference from china, where begging is seen as something that only the lowest sector of society does.

Being here really makes me appreciate the US. Sure there’s a lot wrong, but we take for granted all that’s right. At some point in its history, America must’ve been a developing country like Kenya; I can’t fathom how it managed to get from there to where it is now. Thank you forefathers.

Oh yeah, and I don’t have malaria, but I’m changing my medication from doxycycline, which gives me an itchy rash from sun exposure (advertised as “sensitivity to sun”), to lariam, which may give me weird dreams/depression. I’m kinda pissed off at the travel clinic for pushing doxycycline so hard—it’s a bit overprescribed in this area, and some resistant strains have developed. And when I asked them about side effects, I got the answer, “all drugs have side effects”, and not much more, so when I developed the rash, I had a hell of a time imagining what was wrong with me (from worms to scabies to lots of stuff in between). When I asked about lariam, the doctor was really dismissive—pretty much saying that this WILL give me depression, when the odds aren’t that high at all. Anyways, we’ll see.

*acute reaction to shistosome infection


and this post brings us back to doooohhh!

Rain is a noisy visitor on a tin roof. I awoke predawn with the sunrise threatening on one side of the sky and lightning clouds sailing away on the other side. A perfect start to our hike up gambe hill (the highest peak in this area). The hill overlooks the ruma game park, and it’s covered in tall grass that hides not only stumbling stones, but also cows and antelope. The ascent took us 2 hours, through a dry riverbed, past thatched huts, onto a windy rock where we perched to munch our boiled peanuts and mdozi (fried balls of dough). We sat with the islands of lake Victoria and the distant mountains of Uganda at our feet. We tossed the peanut shells into the bowing grass.

On our way to town, we saw a goat sucking on its own udder for milk. Flexible goat.

tidbits in mbita

I introduced Erika to boiled peanuts the other day. She thinks they taste like potatoes (as do the plantains), which in her book is a good thing. She was throwing the shells at the chicks that wander around the center when one took a small squat and did a small poo directly into a peanut shell. I didn’t actually see it, but she thought it was intensely cute. On a separate note, chickens are ridiculously stupid. I caught one by the tail, and it gave a mighty squawk and jerked out of my hand, but as soon as I wasn’t touching it anymore, it went back to its peck peck pecking, completely still within reach of my hand. Erika caught one of the chicks, which freaked the mother hen out but once she let it go, the mother hen brought all the chicks to peck around erika’s feet again. Do chickens have a sense of smell?

Kenyans have a very biased view of Chinese ppl (which they insist I am—if I tell someone I’m American, most will say, “no, are you Chinese or Japanese?” and then, “but you and her (Erika) do not look alike, so which one is from america?”). there is a Kenyan myth that Chinese ppl are cannibals, b/c apparently the Chinese workers who built some bridge ate dogs, which somehow got extrapolated to humans. and of course, we all do kung fu. When I walk down the street, ppl make ching ching noises at me. One day, I got a fed up with it and lunged at the guy while striking a karate kid pose. i’ve never seen a grown man run so fast. He even jumped over a motorcycle in his haste to get away from me. Awesome :-D. I love when I can use stereotypes to my advantage. I think the power has gone to my head though. I find myself talking with unsynced lips and saying things like, “wood, does not hit back.”

Kenyans are understandably proud of obama. They are convinced that he is a Kenyan, not an American. Most of them even think that he was born in Kenya. A lot of ppl claim to be his kin. Hence, naming obama as the ultimate example of how Americans can look different from each other (and don’t have to be white) is an exercise in futility. There is even a beer named obama. It used to be called senator, but they recently changed the name to president. Yesterday, Erika and I shared a KSH200 jug of obama with our new mzungu friends from the catholic parish. They taught me how to swat flies with a piece of straw from a broomstick. The first one I hit only lost a wing and a couple of legs, but then it could only hop around the table like a Mexican jumping bean, rendering it rather easy to smoosh with a palm. The second one I hit went upside down and twitchy on the floor. After that, the flies learned to leave us and our beer alone. now if i only had a tailor to make me a "7 in 1 swoop" banner, what giant wouldn't tremble in my path!

instead of bathing out of a small tub, we've taken to bathing in the lake with all the other women, parasitic snails be damned! erika had the foresight to bring a hot pink bikini, just in case her audience didn't fully appreciate the flourescence of her skin. the first day, we got a lot of stares and a couple of giggles. funny how we were the ones who felt naked amongst their low swinging boobs, but everyone was friendly enough. they even said, "see you tomorrow" when we left. and from there, it's only gotten better. we're hardly worth a titter now (no pun intended).


not much substance

on saturday, erika and i learned to do laundry at the lake. we spent a good hour scrubbing everything with soap until it shined (or so we thought). when we announced that we were done to ken's sister (our chaperone), she commenced rewashing all of our clothes a second and a third time. i wasted a good deal of effort after each wash wringing things out only to watch her dunk them in water again. oh well, now i know. i would've taken pictures, except there were also lots of naked women at the lake...they didn't seem to mind the male donkey cart drivers that would come periodically to fill up drums of water though.

Sunday, Gerald took Erika and I on a motorcycle trip around rusinga island. We found an airstrip that chartered customers from Nairobi into a secret resort. The sign on the gate said reservations only, but we managed to talk our way past the guard onto the manicured lawn. the place was seriously swank. Swimming pool, masseuses, discrete, khaki’d servants hidden in every nook. Even more impressive given the hungry dogs and wandering donkeys right outside it’s impenetrable doors. The plump british manager offered us drinks and told us that one night’s stay cost USD400. USD400! You can buy all of mbita for that amount. On our way out, we passed the newest bunch of fresh smelling mzungus who had just flown in. It’s hard to believe that they will have been here without seeing more than that place.

Monday, instead of working on the farm, Erika and I hired a rowboat to stalk some hippo. We spotted two clumps of them, wiggling their pink ears but otherwise resembling the floating mangroves that choke the lake. The sky here is much closer, and even closer when mirrored by the lucid lake, disturbed only by our occasional paddles and the dipping birds. An absolutely beautiful way to experience the water.

Before we went back ashore, our guides showed us the humming cages of a tsetse fly research center. I didn’t really want to go with my undeeted, naked legs, but I didn’t want to seem impolite, so sleeping sickness be damned. Also on the island, I found some perfectly round, watermelon-like fruits and was surprised to learn that no one eats them (“no, we only use them for balls”). When I cracked it open, I found a white, fleshy interior, like wintermelon. The thing was obviously not poisonous, and the Chinese would’ve made a soup out of it long ago. The wild beans on the farm fences grow unmolested too, and ppl were shocked that ppl can eat snakes. Gerald protested that snakes were poisonous and thus inedible, and someone else told me that the hatred between men and snakes is ordained by god. Given the famine, I can’t believe that ppl aren’t more cunning about their food sources.

In the afternoon, we took another motorcycle trip, but instead of 3 on 1 bike, we did 2 on 2 bikes. Much more comfortable. Everywhere we went, children ran after us yelling “Mzungu! Mzungu!” I felt like the pied piper of Hamlin. It was actually quite dangerous. One stretch of windy road was fenced on both sides by trees and shrubs, out of which kids would spring to chase erika’s bike, landing them right in front of my bike. We had close calls with about 3 of them.

The villagers we met had no qualms about asking us for money. One drunkard even showed us a gaping wound on his leg. It’s weird. We’re seen as walking money trees. All Americans must be rich, and America itself is a heavenly place that all Kenyans strive to reach. Hence the marriage proposals. Hence the begging. The wealth disparity is true enough, but I wish ppl didn’t perceive the US as such a faultless candyland. I spend a lot of time trying to convince ppl that an American visa isn’t worth the trouble or the USD150 processing cost (which you don’t get back if (when) they reject your application, which is a lot of money to a Kenyan), but no one really believes me. They’ve heard of welfare, you see: “so the government gives you money even if you don’t work?” yes, but it’s not really enough money to live on. Ppl here are poor, but everyone is poor, and the climate is nice, and the land you live on has belonged to your family forever. When you are poor in America, unless you’re on your way to becoming not poor, it’s a hard life.

But how do you turn down someone’s grandmother whom you’ve just met? Anyways, I always handle it awkwardly.

on the bright side, i forget which day it was, but one day, we taught ken and his 60 year old dad how to jump rope. we were actually trying to teach sullivan, the 3 yr old kid, but the concept was so foreign that he was too shy to try. we were never good enough to get a double dutch going, but erika and i amazed them by both jumping at the same time while ken and his brother swung the rope. ken actually had a bit of trouble timing his jumps, so finally, his dad decided to show him how things were done in the onyanga family--he got it on the first try. amazing!


sooner than expected

hi folks! i'm back. in case i haven't mentioned, i'm here with erika, who is also a regular blogger:


if you don't have access, just send me an email (or comment) with your email and she'll let you in lickety split!

and as a reminder to me:
  • the weird prioritization of food (lower than expected)
  • paradise USA
  • gimme a pump!
  • eating with the men
  • teaching?

minwah, karen, orion, & co are biking from capetown to cairo. they have a blog too, but i always just get to it thru minwah's blog (which is linked on the side). can you tell i'm getting lazy? a papaya beckons.

getting comfortable

we're settling down ok now that we're not traveling so much. i'm getting used to the meal routine and the bucket bathes. tomorrow, we get our first shot at doing laundry at the lake.

yesterday was our first day on the farm. we only do around 2 hours a day in the morning, before it gets super hot. so far, we've been planting lots of kale. droves of dragonflies swarm around us, but the other bugs aren't that bad--it's the hippos that are the menace. they come out at night and dig up the sweet potatos. the farmers sleep in grass huts on the fields so they can scare the hippos off with metal cans hanging on the trees. on monday, the farmer is taking erica and me on a boat to see where the hippos sleep during the day. i asked him if we could eat one, but he said we'd need a gun and a wild park guy's approval. fair enough.

yesterday, after our labor, i tried to buy a papaya off the farmer, so now he brings us lots of papayas every day after work. it's fantastic. i'm no longer worried at all about having enough food. all day, we feast on papayas and avocados and pineapple. we've started eating more regular meals too, but the dinner is a bit late to suit me. we've been having it around 9 or 10 pm, which is essentially my bedtime, but i guess it does take a lot longer to prepare food over an open flame. food is delicious though. one night we had telapia and catfish stewed in a tomato/onion broth, and the other night we had potatos and cabbages mixed in with rice. yum. for lunch, we had ugali--a sort of corn bread--with fulu, which is lots of small, salted telapia cooked with tomatoes and onions and spices. once again, delicious.

i've noticed that i've started talking like a third grader, that is, simply. apologies if it's interfering with my blogging abilities.

70% of this region's population is HIV+. that's the highest in kenya, which has the highest in the world. it's hard to believe this when i look at people. everyone seems extremely healthy and tall and well built. ken's grandmother is over 80 yrs old (obviously, SHE doesn't have HIV), but her back is really straight, she has good teeth, and she can still dance at church. other old people i meet seem in equally good shape. also, the children here are amazing. ken's youngest brother sullivan is 3. he can run barefooted across the yard with the most sure-footed stride of any 3 yr old i've ever seen--no tottering for that young fella. he can also drink hot tea out of a grown up cup and entertain himself for hours on end. stella, a 7 yr old aids orphan, looks after sullivan. she washes him in the mornings and brings him his sweater when it gets chilly at night. she also does a good portion of the housework. we've seen lots of other kids that are barely 5 taking care of younger sibs of 1 or 2. children rarely cry or make much noise at all. it seems like the ones who don't know how to talk just don't talk. they toddle amongst the older children mutely in their small blue sandles.

yesterday, erika broke out the frisbee (legitimately whamo) and started a session of 500 that lasted a good hour or two. we would throw high releases or push passes and a herd of ~5 boys of varying ages and heights would scramble all over each other to throw the disc back to us. i saw some pretty good roundhouse and back kicks break out. one kid especially liked to hold another kid's leg to keep him from going anywhere. he must've learnt this from herding goats. we've seen similar maneuvers from shepherds amongst their stock. most of the time, the "catch" degenerated into an all out pile on--always amusing to watch from a distance. also, there were some very athletic catches in the air while other kids hung on to shoulders and head (even if they did get stripped of the disc immediately upon landing). plenty of kids got hit in the head with the disc in the mayhem, but the reaction was always surprised laughter (kind of a "silly me, i wasn't paying attention") and never a cry.

during this intro to frisbee, i bought a whip from a vendor for 200 shillings (it was a retooled car tire), and all the kids had a crack with it. i'm glad to report that no one has lost an eye.

in the afternoons, we're supposed to work in the community computer center, but the blackout yesterday meant we could do whatever. gerald took us to a field on a motorcycle (in itself interesting--ever ridden 3 on a bike before?), and gave us lessons. i found the gas really sensitive so i stalled the thing a couple of times. lots of fun though. i hope we can go often. by the way, gerald is the kid with a crush on erika. we've gotten lots of marriage proposals along the way (mostly from people who want green cards or see us as cash cows), and i'm not sure gerald is much different, but we will probably see him every day for the next week and a half, and he's already asked erika to go to a bar with him, so he may be the most awkward to deal with. still, i'm glad it's not me (i generally have the good excuse of being engaged though. thanks jon for getting on that horse).

this is getting long, so so long for now (and thanks for the fish). remind me to talk about the hand out culture sometime.



wow. kenya is unexpected. erika and i are in mbita, a small fishing village off the coast of lake victoria. getting here took 2 days from nairobi--8 hours on a bus to kisumu plus a drive and ferry ride. in kisumu, we stayed at ken's brother's house (ken is our host. he's running a center in mbita to try to incorporate technology into the rural people's lives). some thieves broke into the kitchen during the night and stole the food and oil. luckily, the kitchen was padlocked from the inside, so they couldn't access any other parts of the house. then, on the carride (ken's old peugeot), the braking fluid started leaking, so we did a good portion of the journey with sketchy brakes and an unreliable clutch. only 1 exciting bit where we had to dodge some cows on the road.

mbita doesn't have running water or electricity. we are in the heart of a famine (political instability dislocated a good portion of the farmers, followed by a year of drought), but i have a hard time gaging how hard things actually are. the supermarkets carry lots of cadbury chocolates, and the people on the bus with us bought snacks from the vendors that would hop on and off. however, our meals are monotonous if not exactly meager. yesterday, food consisted of white bread and milk tea for breakfast, some watermelon that we bought at the supermarket in kisumu, butter sandwiches, plain rice (cooked in some kind of oil), and tea for dinner. that's the second day in a row that we've skipped lunch. and i haven't bathed since london. i don't mind so much, but i'm only here for a couple of weeks. as a lifestyle, it's a bit rough.

this morning, ken took us down to the lake to see some of the farms we'll be working on. they mostly plant kale, bananas, onions, taro and paupau (which we later learned is papaya). there are wild cotton and beans growing along the fence. i didn't know cotton could grow wild. we watched the fishermen pull in their net. we bought 2 telapia and a catfish for 300 shillings (~80 shilling per 1 USD), and that's including 50 shillings worth of foreigner tax. the catfish almost escaped while the fisherman was washing it for us. he had to plunge in after it and wrestle it back to shore. also, some cheerful yellow birds with funnel shaped nests hanging from the trees. the donkeys are very orthodox. they look just as you'd expect them to.