Diani Beach – a sunny paradise

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Just arrived back home to Kiambu from ten days of beach holiday with the girls. It was such a blast. We rented a villa at Diani Beach which is located on the south of Mombasa. To make our way down there we took the night bus from Nairobi all the way down to Diani Beach, it’s about a 10 hours drive. We didn’t sleep that well any of the trips. I kept waking up all the time, terrified of the feeling that the bus was about to tip over. Seat belts…none. Perhaps next time we won’t go with the cheapest alternative. But we did survive and became really good friends with the bus guy Levis who managed both of the trips. He was truly a blessing, caring for our safety and convenience and making phone calls to make sure we got to the right places.

The heat in Mombasa was almost chocking compared to the heat in Nairobi. Me and Mihane had the privilege of having the only room in the villa with air condition though so we did not complain. We named that room Sweden and we loved it. While the other girls were sweating at night we just put another blanket on our chilled bodies. High season for vacation and holidays in Kenya is in December so it was still quiet on the beach and in the hotels. That meant we had the pool for our selves. I was so happy being able to swim again after almost two months without it. And in the mornings me and Mira jogged on the beach. It was an amazing feeling jogging on the edge of the beach, listening to good music on the iPhone, feeling the warm waves splashing on the bare feet and looking out over the paradise view of green palms, the white beach and the turquoise Indian Ocean.

In the days we chilled, swam in the pool and ocean, walked on the beach, went shopping souvenirs and ate lots of ice cream and pineapples. In the evenings we just kept chilling, listening to good music and having our own small pool parties. The last night we all went out dancing at a local outdoor bar and we really had the time of our lives while we tried to tingisha matako – Kenyan style.

And now we’re back in reality again with a slightly better tan than before and with lots of good memories.

Na Upendo

Anne

Oltanki Primary School

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Oltanki Primary School

Pupils folding the Kenyan flag in the end of the school day

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Early morning and me and Mama Florence walking to school over the hill

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Some of the pupils and pre-school children

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The chef cooking daily lunch, beans and corn

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Girls playing on the school yard

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Corn and the other vegetables and crops planted for school dried out due to drought

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Donkeys, a common way of transporting water

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End of school day and pupils taking down the Kenyan flag

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Time for walking back home

Siku katika shule (A day at school)

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During my visit in Masaai Land I spent quite a lot of time at the Oltanki Primary School where Mama Florence is a head teacher. I also did some research because my aim is to help them write a proposal in order to get donors for starting up a girls’ boarding school. The Maasai culture and lifestyle is fascinating, but the traditions also brings forth a lot of challenges and oppression for girls and women in the Maasai communities. If the school could turn into a boarding school for girls, it could decrease and even eliminate some of the challenges that these girls are facing as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), getting married off at early ages (from 8 years and up), early pregnancies and child labour. The Maasai people are traditionally nomads, which mean that when necessary, they will move in order to search for better pastures and water for their cattle and herds. Most of the times the children will have to come with the parents and they will miss out on their education.

In the specific area I visited there was currently a drought due to lack of good rains since April. A big part of the crops that was planted had dried out because of the drought, which resulted in that so many people struggled both with water and food. People walked half a day and sometimes even whole days to search for water and many schools were unable to make lunch for the children because there was no water to cook with. The Oltanki Primary School had been donated reserve tanks and waters so they were fortunate enough to keep cooking lunch for the pupils (consisted of corn and beans). The fields of vegetables and corn they had planted did not survive the drought though. Many children also walk long distances both in the morning and in the evenings to get to and from school, sometimes for an hour each way, and they might not either get breakfast or supper at home due to poverty. So if the school would be able to start a boarding school it would also mean that the pupils would be provided for the meals they need every day.

The school was also in need for more and better class rooms. Just two out of seven were permanent ones. The preschool group consisted of 75 children and the only classroom for them was not big enough so they had to either have classes outside or use the nearby church building.

The teachers at Oltanki Primary School had such a heart for their pupils. There was one teacher who especially moved me with her way of teaching the pupils with so much passion and love – Mama Agnes. She was responsible for the second grade and I got to participate in one of her Swahili classes. After every time one of the pupils answered correctly on a question (included me), the whole class replied with an encouraging jingle. It made me feel so happy. Mama Agnes explained for me that probably at least 10 out of her 38 pupils in that grade had special needs, as she called it. She discreetly pointed out one of the boys who probably was three years older than he was supposed to be attending second grade. He was one of them. She pointed out another boy who was standing beside the blackboard, really struggling to complete the task that was given him. Mama Agnes explained that she always tries to get these specific children up to the blackboard because then she gets a better opportunity to supervise them. Right there I wished I had money enough to pay for a couple of assistant teacher to make sure that the teacher had the resources they needed in order to give the pupils a good and sufficient education.

I really enjoyed being in Mama Agnes class and I had so much respect for her. And just being in the school and trying to understand the issues and challenges they were facing humbled me. I hope I will be able to help them write a proposal so they can open up a boarding school for girls. I believe education is the key to change the future for these young girls and empower them to grow up to be rivals of leadership in the community.

Na Upendo

Anne

Internship at Familycare Medical Centre

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This week I started my internship at the Familycare Medical Centre in Thika. On Thursday we did an outreach in a nearby community. We got to use a couple of rooms in a clinic to set up our tools and things in. It was a long day, we worked from 8-19, offering free services as HIV-testing, counselling in family planning, breast examination for breast cancer and screening for cervix cancer.

The first part of the day I sat at the registration table where we took the name, age, weight and blood pressure of every patient before they went in for the services. I mainly got to take the blood pressure digitally which was interesting and made me feel as if I was a nurse. I also grabbed every opportunity I got to hold babies for the mums while they registered. After lunch, consisted of the classic chai tea and mandaza (similar to Danish pastry but more like bread), I got to help out in one of the examination rooms. I worked with two young admirable women, Fayth, a doctor and Alice, a nurse. They were so kind and sweet to me and taught me so many things in just a few hours. With supervision I got to do one breast examination and then I observed and held the torch while they did the screening for infections and cervix cancer. They uses two different types of vinegar to see wether there are any cell modifications or not. If there are, the vinegar changes colour and the patient will then be referred to the Medical Centre to do a pap smear, a screening which will give more specific information of the abnormal cells.

I was really amazed of this cheap and smart way of detecting cell modifications. Altogether it was a really good and instructive day and I think we were able to give services to about 130 ladies in different ages. Next week we will make two more outreaches in even more disadvantaged communities and I’m looking forward to it. It is such a nice feeling to get to do something practical for someone else. Even though it’s not much it can still make a difference in the daily life for people.

Na Upendo

Anne

Suswa area, Maasai Land

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In Suswa area, Maasai Land

Me, Mama Florence and Mr. Chairman squeezed together on a motorbike

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A smiling neighbour and Chepkurui together with Naserian

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Saturday and time for washing

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Naserian heating up water while sun is setting and Mama Florence baking chapati

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Inside the manyatta – my traditional Maasai bed with the dried skin upon and a storage of some sacks with corns and coals.

Jina langu ni Nashipae (My name is Nashipae)

ImageThis past Wednesday I got back from a week on my own in Maasai Land. I was left in Suswa area (not very far from Narok), in the good care of Mama Florence. Mama Florence is  the head teacher at Oltanki Primary School, a proud mother of four children and such a strong lady. She lives with two young girls that she recently rescued, and they have become her new found daughters. Chepkurui is between 4-5 years and was rescued from being abandoned and Naserian, 13 years old, was rescued from being married off by her father to an older man.

Mama Florence has two houses to live in, one traditional manyatta close to the school and another house on the other side of a hill, where she used to teach a while before. We spent the first night in the manyatta and I slept like a real Maasai on a bed made of wood with a dried skin upon. The rest of the week we slept in the other house and there we had something very luxury that almost no one else in the whole area has – electricity (even though the power went of quite often). There I also met Mama Benjamin, a wonderful woman related to Mama Florence. I named her after the little boy that she takes care of. The biological mother is a young single woman so Mama Benjamin takes care of her boy so she can complete school. I find it most admirable that these people, without any objections, decide to take care of someone else’s children. It’s really encouraging.

To get to the school from the other house we either walked over the hill, about 45 minutes, or we took a motorbike with our friend Mr. Chairman (we call him that because he’s the chairman of the school). Many of the children walk even longer distances to get to school in the mornings and then all the way back in the evenings.

The living standard is very low in average for people here. As I wrote earlier most people have no electricity. Most people uses a mobile fireplace with coals to make a fire and then heat up water and cook over it. And these actions often take place inside the house. The bath is a bucket with water and a soap. The toilet was a collective outhouse with a whole in the ground. In the night time if I was unlucky I got company of huge cockroaches when visiting the toilet. Then it became really inconvenient as I first had to use the torch from my cellphone to make sure that the black bug stopped chasing me around. And then I had to use the torch again to shine the light on it all the time to make sure it didn’t move until the visit was over. We also had the cockroaches in the house but smaller ones and when the mini-TV with the flickery screen stopped working, Mama Florence told me it was probably because the cockroaches was eating it up from the inside. It was not a joke as I naively first thought. Yes as You might start to realise, the bugs and also the smaller rats in the houses, they were the biggest challenges for me.

The food was basic and good as for example corn, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, beans and off course the favourite one – chapati. Meat is quite a luxury dish if I understood it right but that’s not a problem for me, I prefer not to eat it. During the week I got to help out a little with basic chores as preparing food, wash clothes and sweep the floor. It’s a very different way of living, challenging and harsh but also quite peaceful. The perception of time here, not merely in Maasai Land but also in average in Kenya, is another one from what I’m used to. Most of the times it has a relaxing impact on me. People are also very friendly and they do not hesitate to share their food or house with others, even with strangers as me. I got so many invitations from randomly people I met, to come and stay with and dine with them. I couldn’t accept all of them due to lack of time, but just the thought warmed my heart.

Not to forget, I also got some proposals of marriage and Mama Florence joked that she was tempted more than once to marry me off in exchange for some cows and goats. One young and humorous man that we had tea together with, told me in broken English that he would sell everything he had to buy me a helicopter – that’s sacrificing love! I refused that kind offer as politely as I could.

Oh, and I got my own Maasai name – Nashipae, it means a person who is ever happy. I’m really proud of my new name and very grateful for my new extra family members Mama Florence, Naserian, Chepkurui, Mama Benjamin and Benjamin himself.

I’ll write soon again and then I’ll tell You more about the school and other issues that I came across during my visit in Maasai Land.

Na Upendo

Anne