Trip in Kenya

A Word on Matatu’s

Matatu’s are Kenyan busses. They are the public transportation, and they get very full. By very full I mean Very. Full.

The average matatu fits 12-14 passangers. The average matatu squeezes in 18 to 20 (although Sue tells me she’s been in one with 24).

Saturday morning, Ms. Sue and I woke up bright and early at 7 am. I was not very happy because a certain mosquito had kept me up most of the night. We had dropped the visitors off at the airport around 10 pm the day before, and now it was time for us to return to Kerugoya. We walked down to the main road-well, we walked until we spotted a motorbike, which drove us down to the main road. Then we waited for a matatu to come by and hopped in. The matatu we got played loud music, and had a lively, somehow adventurous feel to it.

The music was pounding, the bus was moving quickly, and the driver had the unfortunate habit of starting to drive off before everyone had gotten in. There was a tag team of sorts. The driver-and then the guy who took the money, who sat next to the door. When we got to a corner where people were waiting, he would hop out and yell, “Room for 2!” or “Room for 1!” Then the people would jump in-or not- and he would run along side the matatu, grab the door, and jump in as it sped away.

I found the whole thing rather entertaining.

One time a customer wasn’t fast enough. It was a youngish man, whom I decided must have been fairly wealthy but is now in the down and out. He paid the guy who took money before he got on the bus, and then as the bus started moving he wasn’t quite fast enough to hop on. I watched him slow, pulling his cap low in embarrassment as we passed him. The guy who took the money pulled a bill from his fingers and let it flap in the wind a moment before letting it go, and sailing back down the road to the young man.

He kept the money between his fingers-he would fold it in half the long way, then loop it around his finger, and each finger had several bills so that it almost looked like he had brass knuckles made out of money. When he wanted the driver to stop, he would take the coins (for some people paid with coins) and rap it on the top of the car, making a long clanging noise.

I had a seat next to the window, and then there was a space for the people to get to the back of the van, and then two seats across from me. When the back had filled up, they gave us a board to set between my seat and the next, so that another person could sit between us.

When we reached the central bus station Ms. Sue and I grabbed another bus heading towards Kerugoya. He didn’t play loud music, and there weren’t 20 people squeezed in. It was all right though; I was afraid the loud music was going to give me a headache. But.

I still liked the first one better.

Trip in Kenya, Uncategorized

Lots of Little Nothings

Today I helped Teacher Faith in her classroom again. Classes are going well, in fact I would say they went better today than they did yesterday. One of the children in our class was in trouble yesterday, and so Teacher Faith was in a bad mood, and the children were on egg shells. Today it went much better.

I still don’t like how they teach math, but I began to understand why they teach English the way they do. Because many of the children come not knowing English, they use stories to teach them, and then ask them lots and lots of questions. The questions are made with only one answer, so that the teacher can tell if the child is understanding the nuances of the question. It was still boring, but I could see why the children are doing well with it.

There are visitors coming Thursday, so apparently they are not planning to do the normal school schedule while they are here. I’m not really sure what they are planning to do…a Bible School type thing? Crafts and games? All I know is it will be like school is out for the children until the following Tuesday.

Today we officially got some new children. They had come on Friday, but the District Officer hadn’t brought all the paper work so they had to take the children back to him Monday. It was decided that the District Officer didn’t feel like keeping up with them over the weekend, so he sent the to the school, knowing that he needed the paper work! Sue and the social worker, Esther, went to get the children, and apparently the District Officer was not happy. He told them, “They were very noisy!”

Sue looked over to see them quietly sitting on the bench and said, “They look to be quiet.”

And he said, “Well they were noisy earlier, and we had to tell them to be quiet!” (which Sue candidly remarked to me that ‘Of course, they are children. What did he expect?’)

In any case, we got the three children today, two girls and a boy, or else it’s one girl and two boys. It’s hard to tell sometimes, especially since they don’t have uniforms. The girl, who is maybe eight or so, I spotted her chewing on a pencil-mind you it was after lunch, and losing your pencil is the equivalent of getting grounded here. So I walked over and had her give me the rest of it. I watched her a little while later, and realized that she wasn’t just chewing the pencil-she was eating it! Sue told me that many of these children are from the street, but I was still rather shocked-I mean, she had just had lunch. Apparently though, especially for the younger ones, they can have a hard time feeling full because of what they experienced on the streets. In any case, she didn’t get in trouble today, they tend to be a little more lenient when you first come, but I am sure within a week or two if she keeps doing things like that, it will cause an uproar.



The First Day of School

Today I experienced my first class at Cindis-Hope. Here they don’t teach by age but grade assessment. Since many of the children experienced spotty learning in school, that means one child might be second grade in math, first grade in English, and third grade in Swahili. Our class has about 6 at any given time.

I worked with Teacher Faith, who is also the head of the elementary division. She showed me the ropes, and is teaching both second and third grade. I won’t be surprised if sometime soon she has me start teaching second grade. The way they teach is very strange-the curriculum is meant to help children who are behind catch up, but it is structured in a way I have never seen before! You read the text straight from the teacher’s book, and then have all the children respond together or by themselves. And for them to respond you give a signal, either a snap of the fingers or a tap on the table. It was the most repetitious, boring thing I have ever seen. Sue, the person I am staying with, tells me it works exceedingly well. I have yet to be convinced.

It was a long day, and after break Teacher Faith had me grading workbooks. Apparently she fell behind over the weekend-and what a lot of workbooks there were! I had an especially hard time grading their math work-there is a shortage of paper here, so they stress using less paper to do your work. In my experience this leads to sloppy math, and easy mistakes-although I do understand where they are coming from.

After class I pulled one of the little girls aside-Sharron, and went over some of the math with her. I think she is a visual/hands on learner, and the way they are teaching math really wouldn’t work for that learning style. She was having a hard time visualizing 3D objects on the paper-like pyramids and hexagonal prisms. I’m not sure how well I explained it, since we don’t really have these objects on hand. She is a quiet girl though, and fears messing up, so I can tell the math is not helping her confidence. Hopefully she will be able to understand the concepts as we go along.

I had to wait for someone to take me home-all the dirt roads look the same. There is only one paved road ( called the tarmac road) going through town. While I was waiting I asked the children how to say some Swahili words. Next thing I knew they had taken my notebook and were writing them down for me, one after the other! I had to get them to stop at the end of the page-I don’t think I can learn more than one page a day. Sue told me she wanted to learn Swahili, but she has been here almost two years and barely knows ten words, so I challenged her to a competition-whoever learns the most words before I go home is the winner. I am hoping to encourage her to put forth a little more effort.

So today hasn’t been the most exciting day, but overall I think it was an enjoyable experience. I just hope the names start clicking soon-please children quit looking the same. Please, please, please, please.

Trip in Kenya

Second and Third Day

I finally have the time to sit down and write. Yesterday I stayed at Cindi’s house, and we planned to leave by 3pm, but the truck we drove in the previous day broke down so we had to wait for a ride. We set out around five in a taxi, carrying pig food for the farm, bibles for the children, and myself and Cindi. I wanted to take pictures of the road side to show how trafficy it was, but they didn’t turn out. Here is a few pictures of the various shops we passed:

There are small shops everywhere along the roadside.

There are small shops everywhere along the roadside.

It was about a four hour ride. The farm is between Cindi’s house and the school, so we stopped there first. It was starting to get dark by then; it gets dark between 6:30 and 7pm everyday.

The countryside is beautiful. It's a little blurry because we were in the car.

The countryside is beautiful. It’s a little blurry because we were in the car.

The fish ended up dying during the drought, so this one is empty.

The fish ended up dying during the drought, so this one is empty.

Cindi's green house. The plants are doing well now that the droughts over.

Cindi’s green house. The plants are doing well now that the droughts over.

The farmers live on the farm, and take care of the pigs and chickens and plants. There is also five bee hives, but since we wanted to leave before it got completely dark, I could not go look at them. The pigs are very healthy, and the greenhouse has worked wonderfully. Although there are no more fish, they continue to use the water (fish free, don’t worry) for the crops and pigs.

The roads are terrible though! They are all made of dirt, so when it rains they get horrible holes in them. There are these giant sand trucks as well that drive up and down the road, and leave big gouges in them. We had to be very careful driving the car, so the 5km took twenty minutes, with us weaving and wincing the entire way.

We finally got to Sue’s after the four hour journey.  Cindi had to turn around right away and go home, so she couldn’t stay for dinner. I went to bed by 10pm.

In the morning I put my stuff away. Sue lives in an apartment area, it is about ten small apartments all enclosed by a wall. The apartments are a nice size, with two rooms, a kitchen and living room, and a toilet and shower. I have my own bed that is very comfy, and someone has left behind a guitar. I am hoping when I go to church tomorrow to ask the worship leader if he can find me some new guitar strings. I figured I might as well learn how to use it.

Sue's living room. We eat our meals here.

Sue’s living room. We eat our meals here.

Sue's tiny kitchen. You will see the various buckets, we have to purify the water carefully to be able to drink it.

Sue’s tiny kitchen. You will see the various buckets, we have to purify the water carefully to be able to drink it.

The room Sue is letting me use. It is perfectly sized.

The room Sue is letting me use. It is perfectly sized.

At about 1pm we went to the school. It’s about a twenty minute walk from where she lives. On Saturdays the children mostly play at the school, and then at night they walk back to their dorms.

All the children wanted to meet me. If I asked one their name, I would have to ask at least ten more, so none felt left out. So of course, I don’t remember any of them. Hopefully I will catch on quickly. When Sue and I were about to leave I pulled out my camera to take some pictures. So of course one of the girls, Susan, asked if she could use it, so I ended up with lots of snapshots and only one or two pictures of the actual school. The children loved getting their picture taken and then seeing how it looked on the camera.

Susan took several snapshots, but I thought this one was funny.

Susan took several snapshots, but I thought this one was funny.

The children play jump rope under the banana trees in front of the building.

The children play jump rope under the banana trees in front of the building.

A slightly better picture of the school. The children eat lunches under the gazebo, and behind them is the school building.

A slightly better picture of the school. The children eat lunches under the gazebo, and behind them is the school building.

After Sue and I left, we went to a “Thanks Giving.” Here when someone feels especially thankful about something, they throw a party called a Thanks Giving. They invite their friends and share how they are thankful about something God has done for them. Then they eat. We got there in time for the eating part. Apparently we have very good timing. Then Sue and I and Grace (a teacher at the school) walked back to the apartment compound. Grace lives next door, she is a very nice woman who is teaching me Swahili.

And now I am going to bed, right after planning my Sunday school lesson. It is strange here, one minute time seems to stand still, and the next you seem to have run out of it.

I forgot to mention if you wish to leave a comment, there is a button on the left hand side of the post that you can click on.

Trip in Kenya, Uncategorized

Finally Here

So it took me forever, but I’m finally in Kenya! I meant to post at least once more before I came,  but with finals and being sick I put it off.

This is my first day here, I spent the night at Cindi’s house (the woman who runs the girl’s school I am working at) and later today we are heading up to the school in Keragoya. I don’t have any pictures at the moment, but hopefully I can post some later on today.

Last night, Cindi and her son picked me up at the Nairobi airport. It was raining really hard, and for a moment I wondered if I got the seasons wrong and it was the rainy season! Cindi assured me it was not, but that it was just raining. My first experience on the highway was slightly scary; there are no traffic lights. Her son, Lorenzo, told me that there are only three in the downtown, and otherwise driving is kind of a “free-for-all” (which, when looked up on the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is described as an uncontrolled fight or competition that involves many people).

Instead of traffic lights, the entirety of the road (that I saw) was composed of merging lanes and roundabouts. On the way to their house we saw two busses that had ran into ditches, most likely because of the rain, and they told me they had seen three on the way to pick me up. I found the whole thing rather exciting (sorry mom). I couldn’t tell if people were honking to let others know not to hit them, or because they were cussing them out in a controlled road rage.

In any case, by the time we got to their home, it was 11 o’clock their time, 4 o’clock my time. I was pretty tired, so I ended up going to sleep pretty quickly. And now it is morning, and I am off to find me some breakfast.