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Being in Africa for the first time Peggy and Samantha both childhood friends were not only happy but overwhelmed by the new scenery and language. I got the privilege to pick them up from the airport in the capital city Nairobi. On our 3 hours ride to Nakuru They were very happy to learn some new Swahili words despite them forgetting them after a few minutes I did not mind repeating the lessons.
Next morning I introduced them to their new work place Nakuru Neema as soon as we walked in the gate all the kids were surrounding the two girls each child trying to shake their hands and welcome them. The Swahili lessons were helpful since the first word they heard was jambo the Swahili word for hello. As I left them and since then it has all been smiles and they are happy to be teaching the children. Karibu sana Peggy and Samantha
So I have not been as pro-active with the blogging as I had originally planned! Can't believe I have been living in Kenya for over 5 weeks now, time has gone so quickly. I have experienced so much and really feel like a local in Nakuru now. The 2 weeks that I spent at the conservation project were amazing, so different to anything I've done before. My daily activities involved bird and plant species identification, giraffe tracking, road-building, invasive plant removal, mapping, bio-mass collection and lots of walking! Hard graft in the hot sun was difficult at times but i enjoyed every minute of it. Highlights included the capture of a poacher during the night who was put in prison for 7 years for killing one of our wart-hogs, and having a baby giraffe named after me......so Claire the giraffe will be walking around Kigio Wildlife Conservancy long after I have left Kenya! However i think 2 weeks was enough time for me as it started to feel a bit like i was in the Big Brother house (same people, same 4 walls, no contact with the outside world etc.). So when I arrived in Nakuru town for my next adventure it was a bit of a shock. I went from being in the middle of the bush to living in a busy and noisy town with people around me all the time. I have been staying with a host family in a nice part of the town, which has a good view across the famous Lake Nakuru....in fact on a good day you can actually see herds of buffaloes in the grass. My host parents work in Nairobi during the week so i only see them at weekends. I (along with their 2 young children) am looked after by the house help/nanny during the week who cooks, cleans and even does my washing for me. I have tried to get into family life as much as possible by cooking some Kenyan food and going on trips with the family....including a visit to their church last sunday....was the longest service ever (about 3 and a half hours and mostly in Swahili.....can't say it was the most fun sunday morning i've ever had, but an experience none-the-less). Work-wise I've had an interesting time. When I arrived in Nakuru all the public schools were closed as the teachers were on strike (this went on for 3 weeks). I'm not surprised though, as a public school teacher gets paid the same amount in a year as I was getting paid for doing a day of supply work in England! So i spent my first week working in a private school. Walking in on the first day felt like walking into a comic relief video, was a massive culture shock as the classrooms had nothing. Bare walls, battered wooden benches and tables, broken glass in the windows, no storage space and just a chalk board to teach with. Each child has an exercise book and a pencil (that they have to provide themselves) and if they forget them they have to simply sit there all day doing nothing or hope their friend will share with them. And that was the private school! Finally the government agreed to a pay increase for the teachers so public schools opened again. I have been working at Crater Primary School for 2 and a half weeks now and am really enjoying it. I am in "Top Class" which is the equivalent to year 1 in England and is the top end of the nursery department here. The children in my class range from 4 years old to 14 years old. I have quite a few Sudanese children who apparantly don't start school until they are 10, so have to begin at basics in the "baby class". Is quite crazy! Teacher friends - i can explain the Kenyan school system in more detail if you like when I get back to England but don't want to bore everyone else too much (have made some fascinating comparisons though, some good and some bad). I mainly teach English and maths, but have started introducing some "life skills" too this week, like washing hands after the toilet and before eating etc. Has been quite frustrating at times as the class teacher only lets me do fun things like songs, games and art in the afternoons as this is not considered real learning. They seem to believe that children need to be writing all the time and caning is quite frequent. Have encountered some hilarious examples of English in the teachers handbook - "a wet man has a net", " a fat man has an ass" and "the triplets babies are well"....when would you ever say these sentences?!! Something i found very different last week was when all the teachers were called to a staff meeting in the head teachers office during lesson time in the morning. All the teachers just got up and left the children unattended in the classrooms. Apparantly this is quite normal. children as young as 3 left with no adults. There is also never an adult around at play-times and lunch-times or anyone on the main gate (children can wander freely out of school and into the road and no-one bats an eye-lid). The children are always fine though, which makes me wonder if we wrap our children up in cotton wool too much?
At weekends, I have had some amazing adventures. My favourite was "Hell's Gate" national park where you are allowed to cycle freely among buffaloes, zebra's, wart-hogs and gazelles....was a little scared when I encountered a lone buffalo though as apparantly they can be quite aggressive and wasn't sure how fast i could cycle to get away from it. I was fine though. Have visited Nairobi, Mombassa and some local sights too and will end my trip with a visit to 2 lakes this weekend where I'm hoping to see crocodiles and boil an egg on a hot spring! Last friday Projects Abroad held a "dirty day" where all the volunteers come together to work on a specific project at one of the placements. We all went to a nursery school in the slums and helped to build a shelter for the children to eat lunch (they had been sitting on the floor in the hot sun) with a roof for shade and some benches to sit at. We also built some playground equipment (a swing, a slide and some monkey bars)...all from scratch. Wood, nails, an old and slightly blunt saw....was a real lesson in carpentry for me, but was great to see the children's faces when we had finished.
So there is so much more to say, this is only a summary. I will try and blog more regularly while in India. Lots of my photos are on facebook, so please have a look.
Before I came to Kenya, I had some thoughts about how things were there and how things should be. Now I have been in Kenya for 1 month, and nothing is as I had imagined. Kenya is totally different from Norway. The biggest difference so far is the culture. It takes some time to get used to everything.
I'm so lucky that I get to work at Okoa Mtoto center. Okoa mtoto means "save a child," and its exactly what it does. these children (all boys) are between 8-17 years old.okoa mtoto provides them with 3 meals a day, a safe place to sleep and the oportunity to re-start their education so that they can be re-homed and return to school.
Working with boys who fled from home and lived on the streets for a while can be very challenging at times. It takes a lot of energy and imagination to work with these guys. I also got the honor to teach them English and mathematics, which I think is really fun.The boys at okoa mtoto are incredibly kind, happy, caring and willing to learn. They show the incredible pleasure of having volunteers around , and it's incredibly exciting and rewarding to work with these guys.
The capture exercise starts with Kenya Wildlife Capture team camping at the site a day before the capture exercise. They then drive around the park looking for the right candidate, upon its identification the head doctor Isaac Lekolool, darts the candidate with a seditive drug which leads to a very fast chase of the darted animal, it is tripped with ropes till it falls down.
Blood, far and skin samples are taken for getting the animal’s DNA. Some cold water is then poured on the animal to help in cooling it.
The animal is then lifted with ropes and it is led into a wooden carrier which is pulled by a tractor to a holding pen where it stays for two weeks. This is to help calm down the animal before it is transported to its new home.
Projects Abroad Conservation Volunteers will help gather food and feed the three giraffes for the next two weeks.