Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.

Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.


Wordless Wednesday: Volunteering in Kenya

Six years ago, I went to Kenya for a one year stint as a VSO Volunteer.
It changed my perspectives completely.

Farmers meeting in Lukore.

Now I am back in my country, the Philippines, and I am still working in the development field. My experiences in Kenya have made me a better development worker and prompted me to work even harder for the advancement of the farmers, with particular interest with women.


Ending my VSO assignment

I haven’t been able to blog after the last post and that’s because I was already finishing my assignment as a VSO Volunteer for Lukore Farmers Cooperative in Mombasa.

I completed my assignment two weeks ago, and while one part of me was saddened that I’m already leaving Lukore, my home for the past 12months, and the generous Kenyans who I worked with, another part is jubilant and relieved having endured the 12 long months away from my son and husband who I am missing so terribly.

How many women does it take to make a chapati?

So now I am in Nairobi, staying with a nice Filipina development worker, to complete my end-of-assignment formalities before flying back home.  I will also be visiting a fellow volunteer in Kisumouafter  being invited to participate in the feeding program for kids in her community.  Being on the coastal area of Mombasa for the whole year,  a touristy place with magnificent beaches, accepting the invitation to do something in Kisumu is a good opportunity for me to see the other side of Kenya… the plains and the mountains and the cool breeze. Kisumu is the third largest city located in the western part of Kenya and just a kilometer away from the world-famous Lake Victoria.

I’m currently in Nairobi and it feels wonderful to enjoy comforts of city life  with 24-hrs running water, electricity, proper meals, and internet.  One thing that I really looked forward to was having not to empty my chamberpot like I do every morning at Lukore! *lol* While here, I was able to correspond with my elder sister who helped me merge my two blogs Payag-payag ni MamaGirl/(MamaGirl’s Nipa Hut) and Farah in Africa from Blogger into one and migrate to WordPress so I could continue blogging in one single blog when I return to the Philippines . It took several sleepless nights for my sister to be able to do it successfully, so I thank her for her patience. Asante sana. Postcards kag stamps lang ang katapat niyan, ‘Te, di bala? *lol*

In the coming days, hopefully I will be able to segregate my Africa-related posts and put them all in one page under Farah in Africa. I know it will be take a looooong time before I could finish the entire blog but, just when I was a newbie at Blogger, I will learn slowly but surely. But to those who’d like to read now, kindly see the archives to locate the posts (from Nov 2009 to present).  Categorizing and tagging each posts as well as re-positioning the pictures are tasks that need to  be done as well.  Joskoday, I wonder if I’ll be able to do all of them. Meanwhile, from now till my flight back to the Philippines, I’ll continue to try working my way inside the WP platform when I’m in Nairobi – tasks which I am already finding a bit tricky and errr, not so idiot-friendly! *lol* Who wants to be tagged as idiot, anyway, so here I’m trying and I hope I’ll get the hang of it soon.

Not your usual signs made by Lowen Sign Company

It’s been two years since I came home from Kenya, the country where I lived for 14months to work with a local community in the eastern coast of the country. Despite the pre-departure training volunteers undergo before the big move, it was still a big shock arriving in a new country. My senses were assaulted (in a very good way, that is) with everything right at the moment we stepped off the airplane and set our foot on Kenyan soil! At that time I could feel the signs the heaven was sending to me – like those signs at that flag your attention right away- as if to tell me that it it was going to be a helluva experience!

At the airport, on our arrival, we were greeted by the following sign. Sure it’s not a professional looking one like the ones made by the Lowen Sign Company but we had no trouble finding our welcoming committee.

VSO Jitolee, Filipino VSO Volunteers
Here I am with a fellow VSO from the Philippines arriving in Nairobi. We had no trouble spotting the sign.

I was so tired; my head ached and my body was yearning for a warm shower and a nice, soft bed to lie on and have a shut-eye but you still see me smiling here because I felt so relieved to finally plant my feet firmly on the ground after a long haul flight.

We didn’t have time to go sight-seeing in Nairobi because after our orientation and language course we were immediately sent to our respective areas of assignment. I lived on my own in the community with only the very basic Kishwahili language skills as my tool to help me get by. My work as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya has allowed me to travel inside the country. Living abroad has made me notice new things around me, especially signs that are different or not found from where I come from.

There were so many new things around me! Imagine seeing giraffes walking along the roadside? Or the noisy babboons while stopping for a rest during a road trip? Oh, only in Africa!

 Here’s a friendly reminder that I keep in my mind all the time.

 And this I miss so terribly…. the chocolate, okay?

 These are actually great points here but, sadly, not strictly followed, especially the part of using a mobile phone when driving.

When you see this sign, you should be scared… Really scared. Riding on a matatu is not for the faint-hearted.

This is from my fellow volunteers Bara and Chinita. Matatus are vans turned into a public transportation.

amel advertising. Anyone? This is a very common site in the tourist town of Mombasa. We don’t have this in the Philippines.

There are so many stories I have yet to tell (or post here) but I’ve been caught up in my present life, working in an industry that is alien to me and in an environment that I’m not accustomed to. But a mama’s got to do what she has to do, right? Just like a real trouper, I picked up where I left off and slowly, but carefully, move on with my “now”.

My stint in Kenya was only short but the memories are enough to last me my lifetime. Although they are now in a special compartment in my brain, they have a way of getting creep out to me at times. Looking back, I should’ve taken more photos of the different signs there and compile them into one book 🙂

This is a sponsored post, however, all the contents and views presented here are all mine.

Mellow Yellow Monday 025: Sunrise in Kenya

I’m reminiscing my time as a VSO volunteer in Kenya with this picture. I was browsing through my digital files and got hold of this picture… it’s a picture of the first sunrise I witnessed in Kenya…

Glorious sunrise on Kenyan soil.

Looking at this picture, I can still remember the anxiety, anticipation as well as the excitement. New environment. New culture. New faces. New everything!

Mellow Yellow Monday 024: My first breakfast in Kenya

It’s exactly one year and one month since I wrapped up my assignment as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya and returned to the Philippines. My stay there was a flurry of activities – time flew so fast, too little time to finish the plans. No matter how fast the time flew by, I still remember very clearly the things I did in the time I spent in a farming community in Lukore. Yes, including the first breakfast I had in Kenya!

Two slices of slightly toasted bread with butter, a serving of macaroni with tomato sauce, and a banana, to go with my cup of coffee.

Carbo-loading much? Hahaha.
The newly-arrived volunteers like me were advised to eat as much as we can by the old-timers for it could be the last proper meal we would have after leaving the city to go to our areas of assignments.

Random thoughts

I’m glad that my Saturdays and Sundays are days off in my new job. I can be with my son and we can do things together. Gah, how I miss this boy. One of the disadvantages though is that I tend to just sleep the whole weekend because of my weekly evening work schedule. But anyways, we are probably going to hit the mall later today or tomorrow. I must also buy nexium for an officemate who asked me to. I hope I don’t forget.

Weekends are also time for me to catch up on blogging and my social media network circle (chos! haha). I was looking at my Kenya photos again. I could not believe I was there – it was a whirlwind kind of stint! I also saw pictures of Kelly, the VSO Volunteer who I replaced. But before she left, she so kindly showed me around, introducing me to the people as well as giving me the orientation (if you like) about our work there, giving me tips, too. Before her departure, she gave me lots of stuff that she didn’t need anymore on her return trip to Canada. I am so happy to have “inherited” some of her things because that meant I wouldn’t have to purchase these items considering our allowance. Apart from some household items, she left me some over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen, analgesic, etc. which were very helpful for my headaches and menstrual cramps while I was in Kenya.

I’m glad I had these meds with me while on volunteer assignment in Kenya. I am very careful about the kind of meds I take, and the kinds I buy from drug stores. Some drug stores sell fake meds so it is a bit tricky. So “inheriting” these Canada drugs was a blessing.

Signs 008: Climate Change


One of the last activities I participated in on my last few days as a VSO Volunteer was an awareness campaign on Climate Change in Mombasa. It was a half-day activity that included tree-planting and beach-clean up. Here’s one of the signs that I saw there, it is in English and Swahili languages:

Climate Change sign in Kishwahili I’m not really fluent in Swahili but this is the rough translation:

Elimika Kuhusu Climate Change  – Climate Change Awareness

Mazingira Bora; Maisha Bora  –  Better Environment; Better Life

Basically, this is what the message the sign is trying to convey. If anyone of my colleagues in Kenya is reading this, please I welcome your feedback.

I love the yellow and green combination here. I used to hear my sister say that to get the attention, the yellow color should be used. The black letters with yellow outline also stands out, in my opinion.

When it rains…


… it pours. So the saying goes.

Generally, this English idiom connotes a negative meaning. But for my case, this quote has taken an opposite connotation… which is a good thing! No, make that gold! Since I returned home after my placement as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya, I had difficulty in finding a job that fits my qualifications and experiences. But

Thanks to the help of my siblings, I am well on the right track with my career on the other side of the Philippines. I’ve had offers and now am training for a new job. Entirely a whole new world to me but, hey, MamaGirl has to do what she’s got to do, right? It’s an opportunity that presented itself to me and I am treating it like it’s a precious gold bullion for it comes only once in a blue moon.

So yeah, I’m training… and coping well. Despite my initial reaction to type of job I chose not to be picky but be thankful for the blessings that come pouring in. I know things will be better in the coming days. Now, I’m off to make some soup. Nothing fancy, just some veggies and chicken and with the help of chicken broth in bullion (or cube, as advertised on TV), we’ll have this nice, steaming bowl of soup to warm us on this stormy day.

Mellow Yellow Monday 010: Tree planting

mellowyellow Posting one of the last activities I joined as a VSO Volunteer in Kenya… a beach clean up! By noon time, we had filled about 50 bags of trash, mostly water bottles, to be taken to a recycling centre in Mombasa.

tree planting activity in Mombasa Afterwards, we, along with the local residents and schoolchildren proceeded to plant trees around the area.

More story and pictures about this here in my co-volunteers, Bara and Chinita’s blog.

Signs, signs 001: Threesome


Signs,signs My days, and nights, as a VSO Volunteer in Mombasa, Kenya are long and lonely. I live in a rented room within the community I was working in, and lived amongst them. They were very kind people, and never did I feel like an outsider. However, when homesickness and loneliness attacked me, there is only one thing in my mind that I know would erase these off my mind. I looked forward to escaping to the town center, to meet my co-Volunteers, and go for the only one thing in our minds …


This is a prized commodity by every volunteer I know in Mombasa… it’s a best-seller and for a time it was out-of-stock we were panicking! It’s a yummy combination of white, brown and black chocolate… this one threesome I certainly wouldn’t refuse! LOL.

Adventures in cooking

Okay, I have a confession to make.

I’m not a good cook. In fact, I learned how to cook only after I had gotten married. My father has been spoiling us – he’s a great cook – so I never really learned except to cook rice. And the first time I did that yielded disastrous results. But that story I will reserve for another post, tee-hee-hee.

Like many Filipino husbands, my husband is also a good cook. He taught me many things, like frying, cooking adobo, sinigang and nilagang baka. When I was in Kenya as a VSO volunteer, I used the limited-cooking skills I have to survive there. But then again, the vegetables and food there is quite different from what I’m used to.

Anyhow, I’m getting nowhere with this post. Sorry about rambling but what I was intending to post this bicho-bicho that I made, upon my sister’s suggestion. I don’t know what this is in English though but I do know that some Filipino foodies say that bicho-bicho is traditional doughnut of us Pinoys 🙂

Bicho-bicho kayo dyan!
Bicho-bicho kayo dyan!

Obviously, this doughnut is not round and has no hole. It is elongated and powdered in white sugar. Well, I preferred not to put sugar in my bicho-bichos – just my attempt at keeping diabetes at bay, hahaha. This goes well with my hot coffee.

Monday Mellow Yellows 058: Beautiful smiles

The summer heat in the Philippines is just unbearable for this pregnant mama. All I want to do is just take a shower again and again and again. If not only for the sight of our growing pile of laundry, I would have done so already.

Also the heat is making me feel nostalgic about my short volunteer stint in Kenya. So I opened my photo album named My Kenyan Adventure and looked at the photos again. The memories came back in a flash as if they happened only recently. Like this particular photo:

monday mellow yellows african smiles
These children are from Lucy Village in Kisumu. I just love how bright their smiles are.

I remember this particular photo as if it happened only yesterday. My volunteer assignment had just concluded and, with still a few weeks left before my flight back home, I opted to spend these days with my fellow VSO Volunteers who were based in Kisumu, nearly 400kms from Mombasa where I was assigned. It is where the popular Lake Victoria is located.

My co-volunteers’ work is mainly with children and mothers. There is a children’s center there where they help run. One of their activities is a feeding program for kids and their mothers and are held regularly. During my stay there, I assisted them in whatever way I could – helping make their food, distributing malunggay seedlings (moringa oleifera, which is high in nutrion and believed to comabt malnutrition), talking with the kids, or even playing with them. In this picture, I was playing snakes and ladders with these two bright kids.

My stay in Kenya was short but full of good memories. I wonder if I can ever go back there again.


Monday Mellow Yellows