Friday, August 14, 2009

Up to Maseno

Hello dear ones!

After about nine hours on the road, I'm now in Maseno, in west Kenya. We're very close to the hometown of Barack Obama, Sr., and also toLake Victoria, the largest in Africa. (We had lake tilapia for dinnerthis evening. Yum!) My past two days in the Nairobi suburbs were slow and pleasant. I adjusted to the time, thanks in part to a few helpful roosters-- the first one starts crowing about 4 am, the others follow over the next hour and a half-- and took long walks down the neighborhood's dirt roads. Most of the property-owning families from the area commute the hour or more into Nairobi, but also have both farmland and farm animals of their own, so there are both interesting houses to look at and lots of herds. There were many sheep, goats, cattle, and chicken, in addition to all kinds of beautiful birds. In the evenings, I enjoyed getting to know the family better.

This morning, Bakala (Elphas' brother) set off into town early withour luggage, and Elphas and I followed to set out at midday. We tooka matatu from Ngong, the nearest commercial center, into downtown Nairobi. A matatu deserves some explanation: It's a fourteen-passenger van that will, at any given time, carry at least that many people. They come down the main commercial strips every fewminutes, all run by private operators. Our hour-plus ride was 50 shillings, about 65 cents US. The radio usually blasts Kenyan pop music at top volume. It was crowded, noisy, probably unsafe, and clearly the most efficient way for millions of otherwise footbound people to move around the city. I appreciate the relative comfort of an MBTA bus very much now, although I admit I wish they came so frequently as the matatus do in Nairobi!

From Nairobi we set out across country. Parts of the trip were very beautiful, especially as we got further north into the tea-growing country. For the most part, however, it was very sobering. Normallyour route, through the Central Rift Valley, would take us straight through Kenya's breadbasket. But as I mentioned last time, the harvest is a disaster, and every turn in the road showed that. The government expects that 6.5 million people will need food support over the next two summers.

We did see some very typical Kenyan things. Baboons were hanging out by the side of the road, and we had lunch at a roadside cafe-- a whole goat leg (enough for three) and big plates of ugali (the staple grain-- think of very think polenta), for about ten dollars total. I haven't yet seen any of the big game animals, but by all accounts, what I've seen so far is a good picture of middle-class Kenya. That's actually pretty rare for westerners, so I feel very lucky.

Much love, and pray for rain.



Blogger Marie said...

Hey hey! I didn't know you were blogging this! Hurrah and thanks for all the details. Can't wait to see you there.

11:00 PM  

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