Six years ago, I went to Kenya for a one year stint as a VSO Volunteer.
It changed my perspectives completely.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
I was rummaging through my old files the other night and found some of my pictures in Kenya that I thought were already deleted!
Specially that of matatus – they are common modes of transpo in Kenya and are actually second-hand (or older) mini-vans and/or mini-buses similar to what we have in the Philippines – and these pictures evoke a particular memory while I was in Kenya.
I regularly take a matatu ride, especially when coming from the town to the jumping point to the village where I work. Because these are already used cars, more often than not, they break down in the middle-of-nowhere. See this photo:
If we are lucky to have a driver who knows how to fix car problems, we get stranded only for a short time. Otherwise, we painstakingly wait for hours till someone arrives to take a look at the vehicle. Times like this we wish there are RepairPal Mobile we can call right away for roadside assistance just like what they have in the US.
The drivers are notorious for driving very fast and there was one time that I had the misfortune of riding in one that had an accident. I think the driver was racing against the other matatu to pick up passengers several hundreds of meters away and could not control the vehicle anymore. Even though he stepped on the brakes, it was already too late; the car swerved to the left and rammed against a tree. The front side of the car was badly wrecked, especially the driver’s side… I was sitting next to the driver and my feet got jammed between the car’s floor and the dashboard. Thank God the injury wasn’t serious. I was probably dazed and in shock and came to my senses only when the driver and other passengers pulled me out… oh the pain on my left foot. Up to now I can still remember every detail — about how everything went into a slow motion up to the impact, to being carried away to the nearest clinic.
Anyhoo, without sounding dramatic but also not downplaying what happened, I was not seriously injured. Nothing broken, just twisted ankle, or so they said, no open wounds (thank God!) just bruises and scratches (I instinctively used my bag to cover my face). So anyway, after receiving treatment at the clinic, I and the other passengers were asked to go to the police station to report the incident. In my mind I was thinking what to say to the driver. In the end, I told him that he should have his vehicle regularly checked even if it’s just a simple brake pads replacement but very important for safety. After formalities at the police station I went home to Lukore with my new “shoes”.
Nobody knew what happened except my older sister Sreisaat. We were exchanging sms for days and I told her to keep mum about it. It was our secret as I – we- could not bear telling our parents then for they would have been at their wits’ end. Of course, my parents now know.
This is the license of a matatu in Kenya. Matatus are the most common mode of transportation in most African countries. They are actually vans that ply routes between towns and cities.
This was how I go around in Mombasa. Of course, there’s also the motorcycle – an equally terrifying ride to my area in Lukore. Prior to my departure for Kenya, I underwent motorcycle training as a requirement and received additional sessions when I arrived in Nairobi. However, I didn’t get to drive my own motorcycle as I thought it was better to commute and take the public transpo. In a way, I thought I was helping the locals earn something, but you can only imagine the nervousness and anxiety every single time I hopped on a moto or took the matatu for my longer distance travels :]
Not really wordless today but please indulge me. This is how I go around in Kenya when I was there for a year. Although there are big buses and trains, the matatus, a local taxi, is the most common mode of transportation everywhere in Kenya.
A matatu ride is not for the faint-hearted though. For one, the drivers are madmen! They race against each other, competing for the next passenger they can pick up along the way. Reciting the rosary, I found out, could make one calm, I tell you. If you like to know more of my matatu experience, just click this link and it will take you to my previous post about matatus.
This is a mitumba spot that I always pass whenever I go to the market from my rented room in Lukore. I sometimes stop by to see what’s in stock and very much surprised to see designer items and vintage clothings every time. Of course, I had purchases when something caught my fancy.
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.
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.
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