Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fire Burning on the Dance Floor

Our infant sessions seem to be cursed. We thought that maybe it was just the hospital sessions that weren't going well, but then no one showed up at Ruuju. We had no expectations but were crossing our fingers for the first Muchui session since we had such great family sessions with them. 6 mothers came. Not ideal but it allowed us to explain everything a little bit further to make sure everyone understood everything and we got to answer a lot of questions. Once again the topic of giving raw eggs to kids came up.

We walked to the business center from the hospital in the morning before our session. It's pretty standard to share the road with herds of cows. Cows are everywhere here. Almost everywhere you look there is someone herding their 50 cows somewhere, presumably heading towards or coming back from a source of water somewhere. What we weren't expecting was to get caught in the middle of a herd of about 50 camels! I had dubbed it The Great Camel Migration. There were about 50 camels and 4 men wielding machetes all marching along the street together. 50 camels take up a lot of room, so as they approached Christina and I kind of looked at eachother not really sure what we were supposed to do. There was no where to go so I suggested we close our eyes and hope for the best. The camels passed by, brushing past our arms on either side as they went. Camels are huge, they were like 12 feet tall. Apparently in Isiolo camel meat is popular but the closest place to get them slaughtered is Nairobi, so these men were walking all the way from Isiolo to Nairobi. Not sure how many kms that is but it's like a 4 hours drive ish.

On the way home, instead of walking we took Boda Bodas home from the business center. Half motorcycle half dirt bike contraptions. On one bike was me, christina, 2 back packs and the driver and a 2kg bag of onions. We were probably the least loaded down boda boda in the history of Kenya. We were probably also the only Mzungus that this guy had ever driven. Salome told him to be extra safe and drive really slow so we wouldn't get hurt. Our driver kept getting thumbs ups and high fives from all the other drivers and the men at the Barrier Market. It was cheap and way better than walking 7 km home.

Saturdays are always the most boring days here. For something to do, we decided to make mandazi with apple and cinnemon in them (fried dough). Well the next thing we know a fire starts on the stove. The stove is propane so this is a little bit terrifying. Luckily we had turned the gas burner off about 1 minute before the whole pot burst into flames, but there were still 2 very large propane tanks about a foot away from the flames. And of course there isn't a single fire extinguisher in the entire compound. Next thing we know the flames are up to the ceiling. Amy's dad is a firefighter so she had the good sense to throw flour on the fire which probably ended up saving the entire compound from exploding when the flames eventually hit the propane tank. Meanwhile the entire hospital staff comes running because one of us ran over to the hospital to alert them that we were in the process of burning down the compound. Everyone laughed at us but the flour put the fire out so we were just really embarrassed. We'll have to repaint the ceiling as it is now black.

Saturday night Martin took us to the disco! It was the Guinness Football Challenge so there were all these tents set up and tv cameras and a huge screen showing what was being filmed. There were live performers and tons of music. For 150 kenyan shillings (about 2 bucks) we got admission, 2 free guinness, and a bottle of water. We arrived at like 7:30 pm and danced until 1 am. It was insanely fun and I'm so glad we went! We weren't going to since we were a bit rattled from the fire incident. We even got to talk to some other Mzungos from England which was a nice change. We basically had our own entourage with us though. Martin, Salome, Carole and Kinoti all accompanied us and kept a careful watch on us, making sure no gross drunk guys got to close.

Friday, August 27, 2010

CCA 2010

Although a million blog-worthy things have happened in the last few days, they will have to wait because at this exact moment in time I am more excited about National Canoe Kayak Championships that are currently taking place in Regina. It's the first time I haven't been at Nationals since I was a second year bantam (like 14 years old maybe?) so it's really strange having to check results online every morning instead of being there to witness it all myself. Because of the time change (9 hours ahead in Kenya versus Regina) I have to wait until the following morning before results are posted online. This means I fall asleep knowing that all my friends are racing and kicking ass while I sleep, which is really exciting. So exciting that I don't really actually sleep. I had planned on facebooking all my friends that won stuff on the first day of finals but there are to many people who have won to many medals that I gave up after about 7 people. So the lesson of the day is that my friends are awesome.

The other day I got stuck in the middle of The Great Camel Migration and rode on a boda boda (a dirt bike motor cycle hybrid used as taxis) for the first time, so I'll post pictures soon!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


While giving the infant sessions, we had many questions asked about raw eggs. Apparently in Kenya, it is common to give babies only barely cooked egg because it's easier to eat than fully cooked egg. One mother even told us that a remedy for a cough and cold that has been passed down for generations is the following:

1 Raw Egg
Lemon Juice
Goat fat

Apparently that recipe will cure anything. Obviously we have to advise against feeding raw eggs to babies and children due to the potential salmonella they contain but it's hard to argue with generations and generations of tradition. Not only are babies fed raw eggs, but it's not uncommon to see a young child wandering around on his or her own without even a house in sight never mind a parent. I can't help but wonder if western societies are simply way to overprotective. I don't plan on feeding my kids raw eggs are setting them loose in the neighborhood at the age of 3 like we see here, but perhaps we've taken it to the opposite extreme. At home, kids are barely allowed to ride their bikes around the block by themselves at the age of 10 and are always being watched to make sure they don't fall or make a mess. I'm thinking there has to be some kind of happy medium.

Complementary Feeding Sessions

Since we have finished up the last of our Family Nutrition Seminars, we started giving Complementary Feeding sessions for mothers with babies between the ages of 6 months and 2 years old. We're teaching the World Health Organization's recommendations for introducing solid foods to babies at 6 months. This is a topic I didn't know a single thing about when I got here, which makes the giving the seminars a little more nerve racking. We've spent hours doing research and reading papers and preparing the presentation so I do know the material, but it's hard to stand in front of a group of mothers with babies, and likely more kids at home, and tell them how to feed their kids when I am obviously childless.

Our first attempt to give the session was the Wednesday before we went to Masai Mara, but no mothers showed up at the hospital so we couldn't give the session. On Monday, we had our make-up session, and after waiting around for an hour and a half, we were finally able to present to the 6 mothers that showed up. 6 is better than nothing but we're used to giving presentations to 100+ women at the schools and 30+ at the Women's Groups so 6 was pretty disappointing. Unfortunately, the nurse who was translating didn't actually repeat what we said, she just let us talk for one sentence and then began to tell the mothers completely different things in Kimeru. She is used to teaching the mothers this information, so I think she felt she knew more than we did, or that she could explain it better to the mothers than we could. She obviously has knowledge on the subject, but the hospital uses an outdated version of the WHO recommendations so there were some differences between what we were trying to teach and what she was telling the mothers. It was extremely frustrating. We had prepared an hour long presentation but she told us to keep it no longer than 30 minutes, so we ended up having to do a really short version with way less detail than we would have liked. Long story short, we left the hospital furious at how poorly the presentation went. Our work here is supposed to be community focused but we've taken on 4 extra sessions at the hospital to teach mothers about complementary feeding at the hospital's request, however we feel more like inconveniences at the hospital than helpful.

Our first complementary feeding session with the women's groups was yesterday with the Ruuju Women's Group. The nurses had a planned-at-the-last-minute blood pressure clinic the same day which was slightly annoying. They had about half the group show up to the clinic, but since the clinic was the same day as our presentation, no mothers came for our presentation. Our session wasn't even announced to the community like it was supposed to be because the blood pressure clinic had so many short notice arrangements to be made since they only had about a week's notice it was happening. We waited for about an hour and no more mothers showed up, but the blood pressure clinic ended and the nurses left. The women from the clinic ended up staying but with the exception of maybe one or two, they were not mothers of young children. We ended up giving the presentation anyways but not to the target population or people who we felt were all that relevant to the content of the presentation. I guess it's better than nothing, and we're hoping that they will share what they learned with other women in the community but once again, it was very frustrating.

These infant sessions seem to be a little bit cursed. We only have 2 left and so far not a single session has gone as well as we had hoped. We're crossing our fingers that our session with the Muchui Women's Group goes much better tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The weekend was very uneventful. It was our first weekend without any actual plans. We ended up going into Meru to the Sports Club on Saturday to swim and then Sunday we went vegetable shopping at the Kiirua Market. Sundays are market days which means that the entire community is all at the market at the same time. Picture Christmas shopping in Toronto minus the concept of personal space. Add to that the fact that we're white and you have a walking freak show. I don't think you ever get used to being the "cirque de Mzungu" wherever you go. Luckily we ran into Geoffrey, one of the maternity nurses at the hospital on our way so he took us around and bartered for us. We ended up with three shopping bags full of carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and pineapple for only 300 kenyan shillings (4 bucks).

Sunday evening, we went to play with the Sunday School kids at the church in the compound. They danced for us and we put temporary Canada tattoos on their hands. We played soccer too! It was girls against boys and I scored the only goal!! .... on my own net. We were in flip flops though so we promised we'd go back next week with running shoes and our A games. We also told them we'd do a dance for them. We are in the process of choreographing, but so far it looks like it might quite possibly be epic.

Seems insane that in 18 days I'll be home! Our work load is finally starting to wind down but the realization that we only have 2 weekends left has put us into panic mode trying to get all the fun things done before we leave.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Deep Fried Butter Anyone?

I got the chance to breeze through the headlines of the Globe and Mail today and I couldn't help but notice the headlines about the Canadian National Exibition, particularly the food at the CNE. The CNE is one of my all time favorite places, and no trip to the Ex would be complete with out a midway foot long corn-dog smothered with mustard and ketchup, a few dozen Tiny Tom doughnuts, and a couple trips to the Food Building for 99 cent spaghetti. No matter how hard you try, you will always end up eating your way through the Ex, and while you spend the day in total gluttony, the Ex only comes once a year. It's the type of disgustingly full of artery clogging foods that leaves you content and satisfied. Makes me smile just thinking about it! Anyways, apparently this year they are selling deep fried butter and gourmet Mac and Cheese. This article caught my eye because last year in Foods Lab, my partners and I spent the entire semester perfecting our gourmet Mac and Cheese. Guess we must have been on to something!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I can't believe it's Friday already! This time three weeks from now I will be in Nairobi doing some last minute running around before heading to the airport for my flight back to the island!

Fridays are not usually my favorite days here in Kenya. Fridays are Muchaka days. While I feel like a horrible person writing that one of my least favorite things to do here in Kenya is go to an orphanage to feed babies, I just can't help it. Everyone else here has gotten quite attached to one or two of the babies in particular, but I have yet to do so, which may be part of the problem I suppose. All of the older kids that I actually like to play with are on break from school right now so it was only the babies today. I don't sit there hating my life but I don't sit there loving it either. To add to my love of Muchaka, I had a toddler leak all over my leg. They use cloth diapers which I have learned, are not very effective.

After lunch, we were lucky enough to have Denis take us to the caves that are a 45 minute hike form the orphanage. The hike was awesome. It always blows my mind how much the vegetation and landscape changes in such little distance. One second you're in a desert with giant cacti, and the next minute you're among coffee and tea plantations surrounded by mountains. This hike was no exception. We ended up hiking through this incredible forest that was full of really tall trees and a dirt path. There were butterflies fluttering round everywhere and the sunlight was streaking through the trees. I actually felt like I was in some computer animated forest in some fairy tale. It was that incredible. Eventually we entered into a clearing with little lean-tos scattered all along the edges of a barren field that seemed to be a garden that had already been harvested. Smoke rose from for a couple of the lean-tos, and upon closer examination, they were actually little houses used by men to guard the farm from the elephants the inhibit the forest. The houses are dug into the ground, so only the triangular roof is visible above ground level, with smoke billowing out the edges. When entering into the house, you have to take a few steps down into the earth. They are deep enough for the men who inhabit them to stand upright.

Denis wasn't entirely sure where we would find the caves, so we were lucky enough to have one of the men living in one of the homes to escort us to a cave. So Denis, and the 6 of us trudged on in a single file line behind a random man wielding a machete. I couldn't help but feel a little bit like Frodo, on some long journey through mythical woods with a posse trekking along beside me.

The cave was a small, rocky opening in the middle of waist high grass. It looked like a rocky mouth gasping for air among the weeds. The opening was only big enough to shimmy through so we wiggled our way into the cave equipped with headlamps. Once we squirmed through the entrance, the cave itself was huge! There were piles of ashes scattered all over the floor of the cave - evidence of it's past use as a hiding place for Kenyans seeking independence (says Denis). We would have loved to explore the cave further than simply the one large opening we descended into, but we were not prepared to do the hardcore caving it would have required.

We weren't able to spend as much time in the caves as I would have liked, but it definitely made the trip to Muchaka well worth getting leaked on.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Muchui Love

One of my favorite feelings is when you realize that your cheeks are aching because you simply cannot stop smiling. Despite the realization that every muscle in your face feels numb and stiff, you cannot wipe the grin off your face. Working with the Muchui Women's group leaves me feeling like this each and every time we work in the greenhouses, or give a seminar with the women.

This morning we went to the Business Center an hour early to help the group's Champs prepare Chapati and Mokimo and Githeri for the audiance of our seminar to try. These women are awesome cooks and prepared all of these meals using tons and tons of fresh veg as we requested and it was all incredibly delicious. The seminars with the Muchui group always go smoothly and they always make it well known how appreciative they are and you walk away feeling as though you might have actually made a difference and that our recommendations will not only be taken to heart and followed daily, but will be shared amongst the entire community. Today was our last Family Nutrition Seminar at Muchui and it went just as well as the previous 2 had. At the end of the session, we presented each of the Champs with a Khanga (also called lasso) as a token of our gratitude for their generosity in donating their time and kitchens for our seminars. They all put them on right away and danced and sang for us to say thanks. We also received a gift of a dozen eggs from a women whom we had purchased something random for at the church fundraiser. Unfortunately, I was in charge of these eggs and ended up breaking like 3 of them in my backpack and made a huge yolky mess of everything.

After the session, we headed into Meru to attend a Continuous Medical Education Seminar about "Infant Feeding in the Context of HIV/AIDS" that was being put on in honor of world Breastfeeding Week. I think it was actually the first week of August but had been postponed in Kenya due to the referendum. We had been invited by Helen, the Nutritionist at the Meru District Hospital, but unfortunately her baby was sick and she was unable to attend. I'm not exactly a breastfeeding expert so I really learned a lot! It made me realize that I am so not ready to head back to into the classroom at home to take notes and listen to lectures though, my note taking skills are severely lacking. I have however, improved my doodling skills since I got here. The seminar was held in a conference room with a lap top and projector and actually made me feel like I was in real life again. Kind of exciting! It was really cool because although we're in Kenya, we still ran into a few people at the seminar that we knew and weren't expecting to see!

We are starting to feel like part of the community here in Kiirua. When we walk to the Business Center or even just down the street to buy bananas, people are calling to us by name everywhere. The kids are on break from school so the students from the schools we worked with remember us and a trail of "Kaylynne! and Christina!" seem to follow us where ever we go. Teachers from the schools, women from the groups, students from the schools, nurses at the hospital and random people we have been introduced to all remember us and stop us to shake hands as we walk by. Feels a little bit like living in Pleasantville or being the real life Truman Show.

Tomorrow is our very last Family Nutrition Seminar of the trip! It's actually insane how fast time is flying by. We're giving the seminar to the Ruuju women's group but we are hoping it goes better than our first to the group. The first session we had at Ruuju went terribly; the women were chatting the whole time and were not listening at all. They did not seem to be taking us seriously at all. The questions that were asked seemed to be asked simply to get a laugh out of the rest of the group and the answers weren't even listened to. It was really frustrating and made me realize there is no way I could ever be a teacher. It's so defeating to be standing in front of a group of people and feeling as though no one is listening, no one cares what you have to say and that no one actually wants to be there. Made me feel a little guilty for all the classes I've dozed through or all the times I've chatted with the person beside me through a lecture!

Our fingers are crossed that tomorrow goes better and that we can end the Family Nutrition Seminars with a stellar final session!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apron Project Update

The aprons are all finished and are looking fabulous!

Ester gave us the completed aprons today and we will have 86 aprons to sell when we get back in September. Only 2 of each kikoi pattern and 5 of each fabric pattern were made, so find us early to get first dibs on the your favorite. They're all so awesome that we're having trouble choosing which one we want for ourselves!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I am dedicating this post to Sid, who was really awesome. He was fat and only ever ran one time in his entire life (but still managed to somehow catch a mouse once) and he was a little needy and often had trouble controlling his bowels. But other than that, he was a really fabulous cat. He will be missed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Masai Weekend

So this weekend was beyond amazing! It was the type of amazing that can't even put into words really so I'll just briefly sum up everything without going into to much detail

1) We stopped at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Great Rift Valley on the way from Nairobi to Masai Mara. Unbelievable view but got pestered by a million people aggressively trying to sell crap. It gets annoying to be bothered as soon as you step out of the combi everywhere you go. I might have been inclined to buy something had I been left alone.

2) We stayed at Keekorok Lodge in Masai and it was gorgeous! The drive there is not for individuals with a weak stomach though. It's almost all dirt road with huge pot holes and we were all pretty queasy by the time we arrived. Luckily there was a HUGE buffet lunch waiting for us when we got there.

3) The game drives were absolutely AMAZING! We saw at least one lion every time we went out. We saw a Leopard in a tree, a lion eating a zebra, a lion eating an unidentifiable carcass, lion cubs, 3 cheetah, 4 hyenas, buffalo, giraffe, elephants and basically anything you can think of. Unfortunately though, we only ever saw 1 warthog.

4) The wildebeest migration was unbelievably cool. You could literally see swarms of wildebeest off in the distance from pretty much any where. When you got up close, the combi was just surrounded by wildebeest, and when you looked around, there was no end in sight to the herd. A few zebras were chilling in the mix with them too.

5) 13 hours in a combi later, and we are finally home! It's late nad we have a lot to get done tomorrow so we're all very grumpy. That's probably why this post is as short and non-descriptive as it is. I'll try to post pictures eventually but internet is especially horrible these days.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

South Bound and Down

We spent a long 9 hours in the car today driving from Meru to Nkuru to Nairobi. The roads are completely covered in pot holes and speed bumps and in some cases, baboons. Although I spent most of the car ride hoping that my breakfast didn't come back up, the scenery was pretty unreal and we drove through some really cool spots and on some very treacherous roads that were narrow with cliffs bordering it. We distracted ourselves from a potential fall to our death by singing along to Bud The Spud. We made a CD for the car ride full of east coast tunes, and no combi road trip full of islanders (and honorary islanders) would be complete without a little Stompin' Tom Connors. We made it one piece eventually, and in time to eat dinner at Java House and go shopping on Biashara Street and have a quick stop at the Nakumatt before retiring back to the hotel for a night of free internet!

Ester has finished all 85 aprons already! We were blown away when she called us yesterday to tell us. We have had some requests for manly aprons, and since we realized there probably aren't to many currently made that are masculine, we stopped by the same shop we bought our previous truckload of kikoi to buy more. The women who works there is awesome, and we were really happy we could find her shop to buy more. We only got a couple more sheets of fabric since we already have so many aprons made, but somehow I still ended up walking out of the shop with more kikoi for myself than for the aprons. Not only do I now have another 3 kikoi, I also have plans to return to her shop in September right before we leave to fill every last nook and cranny of my suitcase with more. I may actually have a kikoi addiction. They are all so pretty though, how can you choose just one? Every time you go into the shop, there are new colors and patterns. It's simply not possible to leave empty handed.

Tomorrow we are driving through the Rift Valley and heading to Masai Mara for our final little mini vacation of the trip. It's the middle of the wildebeest migration right now, and everyone we've talked to has told us they have seen HUGE pride's of lions with lots of cubs, leopards, lots of rhinos and elephants and hippos. Our fingers are crossed we'll get to witness a hunt or a kill! I'll try to get some awesomely gruesome pictures of a cat chomping away on some zebra tendons and bones to post. There are hot air balloon safaris that you can go one at Masai, so we're going to look into it, but it will probably bit a touch over our budget. You never know though! I can't sleep because I'm too excited! Not to mention we'll be spending the weekend at a 4.5 star resort with professional chefs and a hippo pond outside our balcony.

I registered for the Terry Fox Run across the Confederation Bridge today. Alex is going to run it with me which is really exciting! I'll have to start up-ing the intensity of my treadmill runs if I want to be able to keep up though!

Fabulous Family Nutrition Seminar

Monday, we finally had our meeting with the Ruuju Champs that had been previously postponed several times. Our driver was nice and on time (guess there’s a first for everything!), but we were disappointed that it was a new guy named Eric and not our favorite driver, Simon. Since someone other than the driver owns the car, the driver is subject to change. When we arrived at Ruuju, it was almost eerie because school is no longer in session and the hundreds of kids that are normally running around everywhere yelling “Mzungo!” were no where to be found. We ended up meeting with 6 Ruuju Women’s group members, but the chair, Demeris, was unable to attend. When we had to start the meeting without a designated translator, we were a little bit nervous but one of the champs quickly stepped in and made sure that everyone knew what was being said. The group of women were laughing and joking and smiling right from the start which made the session so much more fun. The meeting went exceptionally well. We created a menu for the two family nutrition seminars and designated who would prepare which meals on what days, we paid the women for the ingredients and labor required to prepare these meals. The women seemed very excited, and their enthusiasm was contagious; we got back into the car to head home with huge smiles on our faces!

Tuesday was our first Family Nutrition Seminar with the Muchui Women’s group. It was supposed to start at 10:30 am, but Mama Jen didn’t even pick us up until 10:10 am, then we had to stop at the Barrier Market to pick up one of the champs and Martin, and to switch from her vehicle to the Gypsy. On the way to the center, we also had to stop at her farm to check on her worker, who was conveniently no where to be found, so we spent about 15 minutes looking for him before he finally showed up. By the time we got to the center it was almost 11:00 am. We were expecting to walk into the center to have 30+ women sitting waiting for us, but as we entered the room, there were only about 10 women. Jen had a second meeting that same afternoon and wanted us to be leaving the center at 1:00 pm by the very latest, so she urged us to start at about 11:20 am regardless of the 12 person audience. The group was very quiet at first. It was discouraging because whenever we asked the group questions, they responded with blank stares. The first half of the session was probably the worst first half we have had yet. We’re not sure if the small group made people not want to speak up, or if Mama Jen was intimidating, or if maybe they just did not quite understand everything. The champs arrived and we served the food and were relieved to have a short break from presenting a it was almost painful with such a quiet and small group. As they ladies ate lunch, they all began to talk amongst themselves and became more lively. The food was sooooo good! We had Mukimo, Githeri, and Chapatti with pumpkin, sweet potato and onion in them, and we brought a fruit salad for dessert. They wanted us to bring a Canadian dish but we really struggled to try to think of something using the ingredients grown in their farms or that would be readily available to them. Cyrus, our chef had made a really good fruit salad with pineapple, banana, orange and lime juice the night before so we ended up stealing his idea. Although the women already eat fruit, they had never had it in a salad form before.

After lunch, we had the champs explain the recipes they each prepared to the group. The champs were so awesome; they were happy and proud and smiling from ear to ear. Having the champs prepare and explain the meals was a stroke of genius. Not only are they much better at cooking Kenyan food than we are, but they were able to explain in detail their recipes to the women, and everything was prepared using methods that the women are familiar with and could relate to. Even the champs were amazed at how well our tips worked in the preparation of their dishes. For example, Katherine who prepared the Githeri, said that she soaked the beans and maize all day, starting at 8 am and had planned to cooked it overnight since the session was so early in the morning. She was shocked when the beans and maize were already cooked after only 40 minutes! It was really great for the Champs to be able to share their experiences with the women, and the women really opened up after hearing from them. The end of the session went really well, much better than the first half. After the evaluation was completed, an old woman stood up to say thank you to us on behalf of the group. She told us that she had never been able to eat unpolished maize before because she had trouble chewing it and had issues digesting it. When she tasted the foods prepared with soaked unpolished maize, she could not believe how soft and easy to eat the maize was. When she found out it was unpolished and soaked, she told us that she would never eat polished maize ever again and was so grateful that we were able to teach her a way to enjoy unpolished maize since it was so much more nutritious than the polished variety. Martin also sat in on our session and vigorously took notes the whole time. Even he stood up after the presentation and told us that we had changed his life by teaching him the tips from our session. He witnessed Katherine’s 40-minute githeri and it apparently blew his mind. Apparently men never make githeri because they work all day and then don’t have the 8 hours in the evening it takes to prepare. Now that he knows he can soak it during the day and have githeri in 40 minutes, he will teach the other men at the Barrier to make githeri, which is more nutritious than the ugali they currently eat everyday.

The Family Session was unbelievably rewarding. We were blown away by how well received we were and how appreciative the women were. They’re only request was that we give the presentation to people in the community and not just women in the Muchui Women’s Group. They told us that they would tell as many people in the community as they could about what they learned in our session. Needless to say we had the biggest grins possible on our faces leaving the center and were so absolutely pumped and empowered to have had such a positive impact on the women.

Wednesday was our first Healthy Baby Seminar at the hospital but it did not go nearly as well as the Family Session. No mothers ended up showing up and we don’t think Christine was completely sure of exactly who we would be talking to. We sat at the hospital for a few hours waiting for someone to figure out what was going on but it seemed as though everyone was a little confused. Eventually, after explaining for the fifth time what our presentation was about and that we were hoping on speaking to a large group of mothers with babies younger than 2 years, we came to a mutual agreement that we would schedule an extra day the week after next to speak to the mothers to make up for today that was a bust. We’re crossing our fingers that more women show up next time. We are going to put up a sign advertising the session at the hospital on Monday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Honey Extraction!

I was so excited about bringing home a jug of honey from the church fundraiser. As soon as I got home I opened it up and popped some bread into the toaster for some good ol' peanut butter and honey toast. Well, it turns out that almost half of the jug was wax. I ate it anyways, but I probably could have made enough candles to light Kenya for a year with the wax stuck in my teeth. I couldn't help but wonder what effect wax has on a digestive system, but I assumed it wouldn't kill me. I sat down with my Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping text book and read through the honey pasteurization in an attempt to figure out how to get the wax separated from the honey to make it more edible, but the text book talks about less traditional beekeeping practices so it wasn't very helpful.

After reading and talking to my dad, I decided to put the honey in a double boiler so that it would warm up but not too much so that the honey would get thinner but the wax wouldn't melt. This didn't really work out. The honey and the wax didn't really separate enough to be able to extract the wax without wasting a lot of honey. I tried using a strainer but it still wasn't really working out. After getting the majority of the wax out, but not as much as I wanted, I gave up and put the honey back into the jug with some wax remaining. About an hour later, I opened the jug to see how it was doing and since the honey and wax had both cooled a bit, the wax was perfectly floating right on the top! I was so excited because it made it super easy to scoop the remaining wax away and we are now left with perfectly fabulous, wax free honey!

I guess even the double boiler was to hot, but after letting it cool a bit it was the perfect temperature to extract the wax. It's a little sad how excited I was about this. I took the jug and skipped to all the bedrooms showing all the nurses how wax free the honey was. I think they just pretended to be excited about it to make me happy though.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kenyan Culinary School

We headed into Meru this weekend to stay with Mama Jen for a few nights and to get out of the compound after almost 2 weeks being cooped up in here. We spent the entire weekend learning to cook Kenyan dishes, and washing them down with Tusker Barridi. Friday night we made Beef Stew, rice and sukuma and then headed straight to bed. The power went out in the house so we were cooking by lantern light. Thank goodness for gas stoves!

On Saturday, we slept in and learned how to make Kenyan pancakes for breakfast, which are one of my favorites. They are basically a hybrid between crepes and American pancakes, but with a little sugar and cinnemon, or a little sugar and fresh squeezed lime juice they are to die for. While running errands in the morning, we met Jen's friend Justice. Justice might be the most hilarious Kenyan man I have ever met. While Jen was buying cement for a construction project, he took us next door the the Farmer's Bar for a cold Tusker. He had been to Toronto a few years ago on a business trip and was telling us all about climbing to the top of the CN Tower, riding in The Maid if The Mist in Niagara Falls and a horrifying but very drunk trip to a downtown disco. It was only about noon, so we taught him the phrase "It's 5 O'Clock somewhere!" which he found absolutely fabulous and repeated to every single person numerous times for the rest of the morning. He tried to use it as an excuse to buy us more beer but we politely declined. We headed to the Meru Sports Club for lunch with Jen and another Tusker and spent the afternoon sitting in the sun and enjoying fabulous conversation. Saturday night we made Chapati for dinner and ate the leftover rice and beef stew. Jen makes her Chapatis very different than our cook Silas. We like Silas's better but it's always good to learn multiple ways. Jen's were less oily and less flaky and more like a flat bread.

Sunday we went to a church fundraiser with Jen and Martin. Jen's chirch is raising money to build a roof on their new building so they had an auction. All the members of the church brought donations which were then auctioned off with the proceeds going to the church. It was sooo fun! The auction items were all produce or live chickens or roosters so we bought tons and tons of carrots and cabbage and bananas and 2 chickens. We named them Eric and Francisca and they are now running around the compound for the next few weeks until we get hungry. We also bought a whole bunch of stuff for random members. We bought one lady a chicken, one lady some plantains, a little girl some Uji flour (with sorghum and finger millet mixed in with the maize flour!) and some bananas for a bunch of people. My all time favorite purchase was HONEY!!!! The other girls all burst out laughing as soon as it was for sale because my face lit right up with excitement. It's a little waxy but I'm going to read my text book and strain it later this week.

Although we learned to make about 5 different dishes this weekend, they were all essentially the same. Kenyan Culinary School in a nut shell is: flour, salt, sugar, oil, warm water. Make into a dough and fry in copious amounts of fat. The more fat, the better it will taste.

I also learned today that Silas, our cook, is actually named Cyrus. We have been calling him Silas for weeks now and no one said anything to us. Kenyans say Rs like Ls and so I think although we are saying Silas, it really just sounds like the Kenyan pronunciation of Cyrus.

The chickens are curled up together in a laundry bin all cozy in an old towel. They look soo cute...but very delicious. We're going to chase them around the compound for the next few weeks to build up their thighs.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Confederation Bridge Run

I am officially training for the PEI Terry Fox run across the Confederation Bridge. The run is September 18th and starts in PEI and ends 12.9 km later in New Brunswick. This will be my first Saturday back from Kenya so I am going to have to do all my training on the treadmill, which will be a bit strange but I'm sure I'll survive the run.

Anyone want to join me?

Click HERE for more information!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Wish I Had a Mango Tree

Since we've been unable to get out of Kiirua to meet with the women's groups, Christina and I took advantage of the opportunity to get out of the compound and go to the Muchui Business Center to help the women transplant Mango trees.

We walked the 5km to the Barrier Market where we met with Joshua who works at the center, and Martin's wife, then we all walked together to the Business center which was another couple of kilometers away. Kenyans still think it's cold here, but in the past week it's finally gotten hot again! By the time we got to the center, we were dripping in sweat while Martin's wife commented on how cold it was. We layered on a few pounds of sunscreen and changed from our sneakers to flip flops and then headed into the greenhouse. Joshua taught us how to transplant the trees from small black plastic bags to slightly bigger black plastic bags. Everything at the center is planted in plastic bags. It breaks my heart a little because they are not reusable and the amount of garbage we created just yesterday alone was monstrous. Kenya doesn't exactly have garbage disposal systems so most of it ends up on the street if it doesn't get burned. I'm not exactly sure what the business center does with their old bags though.

We were working with about 5 other women. Just like Banana planting, we were the only ones that seemed to get the least bit dirty. I was actually covered in mud but the other women were dressed in their Sunday Best and did not have a single speck of dirt on them. The greenhouse was a pretty tight squeeze with all of us in there so we spent the next 4 hours basically doing yoga. We had to stand and squat in a million different positions to find room to stand and to reach the new soil and the mango trees and to put the re-potted Mango's into their pile. By the time we broke for lunch, we were pretty pooped, but of course we couldn't actually admit this because all morning the women kept asking us if we were tired. They also kept laughing at us and saying that there was no way we could do manual labor all day. If you ever want me to do something, just tell me I can't. Christina and I were determined as ever to prove the women wrong and to work harder than any of them.

We went for a short lunch break at Salome's mom's house. We had Mukimo (mashed plantain, sweet potato and green leafy veg) and bean stew (with soaked beans!) and chapati made with sweet potato and pumpkin. I wasn't particularly hungry so I just took a little but I looked away for one second and the next thing I know 3 more heaping spoonfuls of everything are being piled onto my plate. Apparently I must eat like a Kenyan women while I'm here. They don't seem to like the excuse that I'm not a Kenyan women though, and just keep telling me to eat. Apparently even Kenyan cats have to eat a lot of Mukimo and bean stew because when a cat wandered into the house looking for food, a plate was piled high for the cat too. She didn't even touch her beans but didn't get yelled at like I had to get eating.

We baked some chocolate chip banana bread to share with the women the day before, so we headed back to the greenhouse for dessert. Apparently our cakes are extremely sweet because that's about all the women kept telling us about the snack. There were a couple of young boys helping out too and we tried to offer them some cake but they refused. We couldn't really understand why...what kind of kid doesn't like cake? But after talking to the women, we realized we were probably scaring them half to death. Here we were, 2 very white Mzungo's chasing them around a greenhouse trying to get them to eat cake.

We worked for another couple of hours before we had to head back. Since we were walking home, and the walk was about 2 hours, and we had to be back before dark, we ended up having to leave before the other women. Martin's wife walked us half way home since we weren't 100% sure how to get back to the Barrier Market from the Center. She told us we were lucky we couldn't understand the women because they spent all day talking about how lazy white people are. Apparently it's common to say you are going to be white for a day if you take a day off work to do nothing. They definitely don't think white people ever do any work at all and think we are the laziest people of life. It's annoying because it's such a double standard. We have to be so culturally sensitive while we are here, yet we have to put up with insult after insult just because we're white.

By the end of the day though, I think the women were impressed by our work ethic. We were the very first group of Farmers Helping Farmers slash UPEI students to ever volunteer to help out in the garden at the center. We want to go back and help out another again if we get time though because it was pretty fun. Plus if we can show the women that we are willing to work with them, then they might respect us a bit more while we are giving our presentations. Building rapport is super important and it seems as though right now, they just see us as lay rich white people here to lecture them. They appreciate the knowledge we are sharing, but we are still nothing but Mzungo's to them. Hopefully, in the next month while we are still here, we can reshape their image of white people just a little bit. It may take a few more days of back breaking manual labor in the greenhouse but it will be worth it.

Despite working up a serious sweat in the greenhouse, I couldn't help but hum this song all day:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

10 Favorite Things About Summer

There are things I miss while here in Kenya that I didn't expect to. These include fuzzy sweatpants (the kind with elastic ankles), my duvet cover and my bed, and magazines. None of these things are items that I ever in a million years thought I would actually miss. What I miss the most from home isn't a particular item, but just Summer in general. I've never not been home for summer before and it's really weird. So here is my "10 Favorite Things About Summer" list.

I encourage everyone to make their own list to make sure that it all gets crossed off before September hits. It's already August, which is a little mind blowing, and I saw a back to school add in a newspaper online. Summer will be gone before we know it!

KP's 10 Favorite Things About Summer

1. Training and being at the Canoe Club all day
2. BBQs
3. Running outside along the lake or on a trail (and not freezing)
4. Hiking
5. Iced coffee
6. Patios and eating outside
7. Wearing nothing but flip flops for 4 months straight
8. Regattas
9. Swimming in lakes and the creek
10. Hammock naps

I'm not sure there is actually anything I dislike about summer so this list a little irrelevant. I am sure I will think of a million more things that could have gone on the list. You have one more month so take advantage of it!


Since the referendum is tomorrow, we have been officially been put on compound lock down. We had originally planned to meet with the Ruuju women's group champs today and half the group to give a family nutrition seminar on Thursday, but we were told yesterday that this was just not going to happen since it is still unclear as to how Kenya will react to the outcome of the referendum. I understand why the plans had to be changed, but what I don't understand is why we couldn't have been told this a month ago when our schedule was given to the appropriate people. Our schedule had been set for over month and yet we end up having to cancel plans and make a million rearrangements the day before. It's frustrating because I couldn't help but feel like an inconsiderate idiot changing so many plans last minute. We already told all the women when the meetings would be and they have generously taken time out of their own lives to ensure that they would be in attendance. But I guess this is where the whole "sawa sawa" frame of mind comes in and I need to just suck it up and be flexible.

Although we are on lock-down, we are being allowed to go on a short trip into Meru this afternoon with Jen and her brother Sammy. By a trip into Meru, I really mean we're going to the Nakumatt. The novelty of the superstore has warn off but at least it gets us out of the compound. We're also allowed to go to the Muchui Business Center on Thursday, so Christina and I will head there Thursday morning to help the women plant and weed all day. We promised to bring them some banana bread as a treat so we'll get to do some baking tomorrow!

When we were at the business center yesterday, we checked up on our bananas which are doing very well. In fact, the block that we planted are doing the best! High five for being a super star banana planter! I think most of Thursday will be spent weeding them but it's better than sitting in the compound all day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Muchui Apron Project

So in our first week in Kenya, Christina and I came up with, what we think is, a brilliant plan. It's a fund-raising project in order to purchase some water tanks for the new members of the Muchui Women's Group.

The Muchui women’s group is a group of hard working farmers who live in an area that has faced both draught and famine. As a result these women have struggled to provide food and water for their families, and to maintain their crops and livestock. With the help of Farmers Helping Farmers, the group was formed in 1992. Through generous donations from the people of PEI and through government funding, Farmers Helping Farmers has been able to provide a water-catchment tank, drip irrigation system and grain storage tanks to each woman in the group. They have also built a business center where the women are able to sell their harvested crops. Some of the other benefits of being a member include education sessions regarding crop diversification, growing indigenous species, blood pressure clinics, nutrition seminars and a community in which to lean on during hard times. The group originally consisted of 62 members, but has recently expanded to include 100. The new members, while able to reap the benefits of the community of the women’s group immediately, will have to wait until more funding is available to have access to the equipment that will enable them to be as successful as the older members.

As the Nutrition Team, we really wanted to give back to the community since these women have been such valuable resources in our understanding of Kenyan food and culture. We’ve noticed that the availability of water, via water tanks at each home, has a direct impact the level of food security for these women. As a means of giving back, we are fundraising with the goal of purchasing 2 water tanks and the gutters that they require for new members. In order to accomplish this, we have teamed up with Ester. Ester, a member of the Muchui Women’s Group executive, is in her 30s and has 2 school-aged children. Farmers Helping Farmers has ‘adopted’ her and has provided her with a sewing machine to enable her to generate a sustainable income.

The aprons will be sold for a minimum donation of 20$ as soon as we get back from Kenya in September. We picked up the first 30 completed aprons and they look great! So far there are no kikoi aprons completed, but the other fabrics look awesome. We are really, really exited to show them off and get selling as soon as we get home! Ester told us today that both her kids have really been enjoying the apron making process and have been helping her out a lot. She's really excited about the project and was all smiles!

Not only will buying an apron directly support the women's group, but aprons are also making a major comeback! <----- that article from the Globe and Mail proves it!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Last time I came to Kenya, I came expecting absolutely no luxuries what so ever. I knew there would be nothing but pit toilets, no running water, and no electricity. This time, I knew that there would be internet, electricity, hot showers and real toilets that flush. You would think that after having already spent 10 weeks in Kenya before, without any of these luxuries, living with them now would be like paradise. But yet I still find myself grumpily rushing through my shower because the water is cold, cursing the Safaricom intermet modems when they decide randomly not to work and complaining when the power goes out temporarily because I can’t charge my laptop.

I realized while on the treadmill today how much impact our expectations have on our ability to enjoy life experiences. So many things in life are built up to be these monumental life events, and it’s this expectation that these experiences are going to be earth shattering and life altering that often make them so disappointing. Take New Years Eve for example. I can’t even remember a New Years Eve that wasn’t at least a bit of a disappointment. The entire night is all expectations; from how great the party is going to be, to what the entire next year will bring. New Years is just one example.

We are always expecting bigger and better. These expectations cloud our present and distort our reality. We get so caught up in our imaginations and lose sight of what is realistically possible and are then disappointed that some fairy tale fantasy didn’t actually happen. We have all fallen pray to our own expectations. Not only of events, but also of ourselves. We expect ourselves to be productive, smart, fit, thin, nice, generous, independent, and basically just better in every way all the time. No one can be any one of these things all the time, never mind all of them all the same time.

Even by having poor expectations, we taint the experience. We go into an event having already decided that it's going to be painful or boring or uncomfortable.

If we can teach ourselves to stop expecting, and to start just enjoying what we have right now, we may all be a little happier.