Leaving cyber space for a while...
Trip Start Sep 14, 2005
28Trip End May 2006
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This is Mark here. Now don't get excited... I haven't written the lastest edition of our travelogue, as Pam has written another excellent summary of our recent adventures. But I do want to take this opportunity to say "hi" to all of you. While travelling and working in Africa has been exciting, I certainly miss all my family and friends, so even if I've been our of touch for a while, I think of you often.
As for my time in the Congo... it was a thrilling, frustrating, happy, depressing, and no doubt overwhelming experience. And I can't wait to go back. I learned tons about how NGOs and the UN operate in a post-conflict/lots of conflict situation, which was my primary aim in going there. As well, after reading so much about the DRC I was amazed to finally see for myself what life is actually like on the ground
While not consolidating reports or editing proposals, some memorable moments from my internship period include paddling a pirogue down the Congo River and climbing an active volcano and sleeping overnight on the rim of its crater. I'm absolutely looking forward to volunteering in a small village here in western Kenya for the next few months, but I expect I'll find myself back in the DRC sometime in the future.
Keep in touch and take care!
Pam here now:
Can anyone tell me if the groundhog saw his shadow on the 2nd? I'm worried Kenya might be in for at least another 6 weeks of winter!.... sorry, bad joke.
Mark and I are in Kisumu, Kenya right now, but in the next hour or so are headed to a tiny village called Ruma in the Bondo district of Kenya's Nyanza province
After we left the island of Zanzibar we took an overnight ferry and all-day bus to Arusha, Tanzania. Spent a few days there visiting Mark's friend Matt who's teaching computer classes at the School of St. Judes, a very well run local primary school that sits at the base of a towering Mt. Meru. If anyone (young/old, with OR without teaching experience) is looking for something exciting to do for a month/year, the school hires foreigners to teach classes, run the library, lead activities for the students - who are adorable - and provides not only a livable salary, but also comfortable on-site accomodation and high quality facilities. It's a really neat place, kind of like an adventurous version of summer camp. There should be a website if you google the school's name.
Anyway, after a few nights there, Mark and I bused up to Nairobi and speaking for myself I have to say i was glad to arrive back in a familiar place and know that we were soon headed to a place to settle down for while. I feel like I've been in motion for quite a while, though of course I have no regrets in regards to all the places I've visited. Spent only a few nights in Nairobi, catching up with a few friends and visiting our favourite coffee shops and internet cafes...
Got to Kisumu after a hellish 8hr bus ride on probably the worst road I've yet been on in Africa. I'm not one to complain much, but good lord let me tell all those who plan on doing that route via road...Don't sit in the back of the bus, you'll regret it!
I'd been to Kisumu on my own in October for a week, just after Mark had left for the Congo, and I was glad to return. It's a quiet city full of bike taxis ('boda boda's) and freshly fried Tilapia fish for sale at roadside stalls. Mark and I spent just a few nights in the city though before taking off again on a short 3-day trip with family friends of Mark's, Jeff and Mike Turnbull and their friend/collegue, Wendy. The five of us hired a van (with a pop-up roof!) and a driver to take us to Kakamega forest and Mount Elgon national park, where we planned to do some hiking. The forest on day one was a little disappointing, mostly due to an overly eager guide who gave a 3 minute speech about every tree/leaf/root/plant we passed. He was entertaining though, carefully pronouncing EVERY name slowly and carefully to be sure we understood the complex names, such as "R-E-D /T-A-I-L-E-D /M-O-N-K-E-Y".....
But the next day was fabulous! We drove into Mnt Elgon park (as far as the road went - about 3000m above sea level) and hiked the highest Kenyan peak in the park (4250m). There is a peak of the Elgon range acros the border in Uganda that reaches 4300m. It was a pretty tough climb, but a nice variety of flat stretches and steep climbs. We were led (and tailed) by two armed guides - each carrying a 7 kilo gun! Took us just over 3 hrs to ascend and just under 2 to descend. And wow was it ever beautiful. We walked over hills of yellow grass, bright green cedar-type hedges, crispy dry white flowers, and towering plants that looked like a cross between banana trees and aloe plants
After a night of rest at a lodge just outside the park, we left the next morning for Eldoret, where Mark and I were dropped off as the others headed on to Nakuru and Nairobi. Mark was keen to meet some of the infamous world class runners from the city of Eldoret and I was keen for a day to rest, so we spent a night there before heading back to Kisumu. While we didn't find too many runners (the best ones likely train overseas), we DID spend a relaxing day beside the pool of a very expensive hotel; yup, we certainly got the 'cultural experience' of Eldoret!....
Anyway we've been back in Kisumu 2 days now and this afternoon (like i said) we're off to Ruma. We'll be volunteering with the Ruma Women's Group, a very small but driven NGO that works primarily with orphans of HIV/AIDS. Mark and I hope to participate in the NGO's existing projects (home visits and counselling to adults living with HIV, organized sports and activities for the orphans, an on-site medical clinic, fundraising/grant writing for school fees for the orphans etc.) However we also hope to start some of our own initiatives in the community. Our biggest goal right now is to conduct a PRA (participatory rural appraisal) assessment for the youth (maybe ages 18-25yrs) in Ruma
So, while our specific roles in Ruma are a little unclear right now, there's a lot of potential for really interesting work opportunities. We're both pretty keen to try out village life and get a sense of what small scale development field work is all about =)
So for now, we're off with our candles, precious jar of peanut butter, and bug repelent to brave a few months (up to 3 - i fly home in April) of life without electricity and running water. We may be back and forth a few times to Kisumu (only 2hrs away) for our necessary hit of t.v and hot showers, but otherwise we'll be pretty out of touch (can reach us on our phone at 254 725 971 691).
So for now, stay well. I look forward to seeing most of you when i get back home in late April. A year on the road is exilerating but makes one appreciate the comforts and friendly faces of home =) Lots of love, Pam xoxo