Tilapia fish, hippos, and streetkids in Kisumu
Trip Start Sep 14, 2005
28Trip End May 2006
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I spent the last few days in the town of Kisumu, which hugs the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, and is (deceivingly) Kenya's third largest city. The 7-hour bumpy bus ride from Nairobi is itself worth the trip. I saw my first zebras; pink flamingos dotted the three mountain lakes which we passed; monkeys sat on the highway (Kenya's unofficial speed police...) until the bus slowed and let them wander into the grass; tea plantations spread like green quilts over the hillsides near Kericho; bustling villages of florescent-coloured fruit and houses stuck out against the backdrop of hills darkened by rain clouds; and I had a front seat in the bus for all of this
In Kisumu, I ate fried tilapia in a shack-like restaurant on the water (that serves exclusively fish and soda - with no glasses, cutlery, or napkins!), which looks out over a sandbar where half the town comes to wash their cars, bikes, and bodies. I spent an evening with a 'boatman' named Abraham, who took me to see live 'Luo' music at a community center. The place was packed with young adults, and I was the only 'muzungu' (technically the swahilli word means 'european') there. It was fun to be out of my lonely hotel room, but I was wary of my surroundings and got Abraham to walk me home at 8:30!
I also had a chance to take a bus out to Aram, a barely-there village two hours from Kisumu. In Aram the Ruma Women's Group operates programs and services for kids orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It's a place where Mark and I may work together in January. We'd live in the spare house (cement with a metal roof and no running water) of the founder of Ruma, Gladys Chika, and volunteer with visits to the orphans' homes, sports and music activities etc. It's a beautiful area, hot and dry, but tucked into the rolling hills that flank lake Victoria.
The less thrilling part of my trip included watching dozens of streetkids (age 8 through 20) wander the rainy streets of Kisumu with plastic bags to keep them warm and small clear bottles of glue literally stuck to their upper lips for easy-access sniffing...It was really depressing
Tomorrow I'm off to Jo'burg to begin my 7-week adventure with Mike Tarr through Mozambique, Zambia, and Namibia. I'm reeling with girlish giddiness and can't wait to see these places I've only ever dreamed of. Besides, it'll distract me from missing dear Mark, who is (as far as I can tell through our short and exceedingly expensive phone calls) happy and busy in Goma! I think he spends much of his time in the office compiling a London-bound weekly report of Merlin's activities in the DRC, but his off-duty hours are spent drinking beer, going for runs, and meeting (it seems) extraordinary people. I'll bug him to write his own blurb here about what life in Goma is really like (for those of us who can barely imagine a place so soaked with history and hardship).
Well Mark was certainly missed in the Nairobi marathon today, though I imagine some of the Kenyans would be pretty tough competition! I meant to go cheer on a friend who ran it this morning, but woke up to a flooded apartment which needed my immediate attention! Stay well. Much love, Pam xoxo