Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nairobi and Kazuri Bead Shop

Day two in Kenya has been amazing! The hotel we are staying at is incredible. We woke up and had a fabulously delicious buffet breakfast of fruit (mangos and papayas and pineapple and passion fruit oh my!) and eggs and pastries and basically anything you could possible ever want for breakfast. After breakfast, Henry came to pick us up and we headed into Nairobi.
Henry is the most marvelous human being to ever exist. He is hired by Farmers Helping Farmers as basically a liaison and driver. He hooks us up with drivers for the trip and he arranges our trips and pays the right people and makes sure we can get our medicines and seeds into the country without issues etc. He met us at the airport last night, and as we were waiting in a super long line up at immigration/customs, he shows up, shakes our hands, talks in Swahili to an airport employee and next thing you know we're rushed over to the airplane staff line up, which had a total of zero people waiting in it versus the 30 people ahead of us in our previous line. We got rushed through customs and luckily all of our bags arrived, and then driven straight to the hotel without a single issue or hiccup or delay. He is the best.

In Nairobi, we first went to pick up some supplies that farmers helping farmers had purchased to distribute in the schools. FHF has bought kits of reusable sanitary napkins to give to girls aged 9 and up within the schools that we work with. This probably sounds as though it is a silly thing to spend our money on, but currently most of the girls (and women) are using old rags, torn up pieces of blankets, ripped chunks of old mattresses and pretty much anything else they can get their hands on. None of the above are even remotely close to being sanitary and cause infections that are unable to be treated due to a lack of resources by the people using them. Girls often miss school as a result. I never thought I would be blogging about sanitary napkins, but this was the very first part of our official project to date so it was kind of exciting. It seems as though the complexity of issues here is never ending. Things we completely take for granted and don't even really consider when we think about coming here to volunteer / work / intern can cause serious problems. It will be mostly the nurses who will be handing out the kits to the girls and doing the counseling in the schools but we got a demo on how they are used and washed and will be taking them back to Meru with us when we go tomorrow.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around Nairobi shopping for fabrics. Christina and I bought some kikoy that we are going to have made into aprons by a local woman in Meru that is a friend of FHF. After some hard core bartering sessions, we went to a coffee shop and had lattes and mango milkshakes. In the afternoon we drove out to the southern outskirts of Nairobi to a bead shop called Kazuri. The bead shop sells all fair trade jewelery and pottery made by the 300 women that the workshop employs. There is a clinic on site that the women have access to, and they also get up to 80% of their medical expenses covered off site. There was some really really awesome stuff, and I ended up buying a vase and a serving plate. Last time I was here, I didn't buy anything that I think I will have forever. I wanted to buy things that will last longer this time and that I will still have when I'm old. I also wanted to find some really awesome things to bring home for other people. I figure I'll just buy things that I love and figure out how to distribute them when I get home. The problem with buying vases and plates is trying to get them home in one piece. The ladies at the shop wrapped everything in heavy blue foam and tapped it all up nice so hopefully I won't have any issues with breakage.

After an exhausting day of shopping while attempting to get used to the time change (Kenya is 6 hours ahead of PEI, 7 hours ahead of Toronto), we splashed around in the pool for a while and had a bottle of Tusker before dinner. Dinner was delish, and possibly the last time it will be safe for me to consume lettuce for the next 3 months so I chowed down on the biggest salad I could get.

Tomorrow we are heading to Meru for the next week. We're staying at the home of the women who heads one of the woman's groups we work with for the week. It's our last day of rest before we start actually working, but the majority of the day will be spent in the van and grocery shopping at the Nakumatt. As nice as it's been to relax and shop and stay in this super nice hotel, and I am very excited to start working and to start the projects that we came here to do. I have no idea what to expect but I'll find out soon!

I haven't had any jet lag or culture shock issues yet, but I think it won't really hit me that I'm hear for as long as I am until my professor Jen and Colleen, a masters student who has spearheaded our projects, leave in two weeks. We saw lots of cool things driving around Nairobi and out to the bead shop though. Miles of beautiful furniture being sold along the street, a man riding a camel, women carrying giant packages on their heads and even a young boy squatting along the side of the road to take a poop while his friends dance nearby. The route from Nairobi to Meru tomorrow will wind around Mt Kenya and take us out of the city into the more rural areas. It should be a gorgeous 4 hour drive along extremely bumpy roads. I'm sure I'll have more pictures to post tomorrow!

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