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:

1 comment:

  1. Hey KP

    That was quite a chronicle! It seems odd that noone from FHF has helped with planting??

    The cat story is hilarious!! My cats are gagging here thinking about it. First time I heard of someone having a cat- but Salomi's Mom is considered wealthy, right?
    Good on you for sticking it out. Can't believe you worked all day and walked back- that is a long way!!! If I were there, I would have given them something to talk about in terms of lazy white people. That is an adjective that I would never use for you and Tuck!