Monday, May 16, 2011

Kenyan Homecoming

After an uneventful 36 hours of traveling, we finally touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi Kenya. I remember feeling way more gross and way stinkier stepping off the plane last summer than I did yesterday which was nice. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that we still all stunk - when waiting in line at customs I spent the majority of the half our wait trying to figure out if the stench was me or simply a collective of body odor seeping from each of the many travellers all crammed into a small space awaiting their turn to face the immigration officer and to be admitted into the country. When we got through immigration, Henry was waiting for us as expected and we were greeted with giant hugs and a huge smile. We've been excited to see Henry again since we found out we were coming back! He worked his magic and got our baggage, including 4 cases of veterinary medicine, through customs without a hitch and with no fees and we headed out of baggage claim and into the airport. I was really surprised to see so many people waiting to greet us at the airport! We had a welcome party of 4 of our favorite Kenyan friends! It made me so happy to get to see everyone that my face was hurting from smiling so much. I felt loved and missed and genuinely happy to the core upon seeing everyone. Definitely felt just like coming home, and quickly the exhaustion of 36 hours of travel melted away as we laughed and caught up with friends.

We headed from the airport to the wonderful Fairview Hotel where we checked in for a quick 2 night stay before heading into Meru and Kiirua to start our projects. The Fairview is awesome - the rooms are clean, there is hot running water, fabulous buffet breakfasts, multiple restaurants and bars, a gift shop, free wireless internet, a pool, a gym and gorgeous landscaping. Although the hotel is glorious, we spent the day shopping in Nairobi. Our first stop was obviously the kikoi shop! We've become quite the frequent customers at this place. It's called Haria's and it's on Biashara Street in Nairobi. The owners are friendly and accommodating and they have consistently good quality fabrics so it's worth going back every time we're in Nairobi. Tuck and I had "official business" to take care of today. We are having another 200 aprons made to sell at the Souris Village Feast on PEI this summer. The feast raises funds to build the cookhouses that we saw at the schools and they invited us to speak at the feast and to sell the aprons. We had 75 kikoi's (1 kikoi = 2 aprons) purchased before we got here and in the last week Esther has already turned half of them into aprons so we had to buy her more fabric so that she could make the rest.

The price of kikoi's has gone up significantly from last year and we were talking to the owners about it and they said that it's due to a drastic increase in the price of cotton. Although the cost of a single kikoi has risen from 350 ksh each to 550 ksh each over a year, their profit margin has also decreased. Apparently the tsunami in Japan and the flooding in Brisbane Australia, two areas that grow a lot of cotton, have greatly affected prices.

I somehow managed to leave the kikoi shop with only 1 new kikoi and 1 new kikoi towel (kikoi on one side, towel on the other....epic.) We took a quite stop into the Java House to get lunch to go and then headed to Kazuri Beads. All of these places I have been before and likely blogged extensively about them last year. This whole trip so far has given me a warped sense of deja vu. Last year I bought only a bracelet but also some pottery. This year I went all out with the jewellery and came home with some necklaces, bracelets and multiple pairs of earrings. You can also buy individual beads! There was a back room that had all four walls covered in shelves that contained buckets and buckets of single beads. While rummaging through them all trying to find awesome beads to make a necklace out of (the ones in the shop were all quite heavy with quite large beads on them..not really my style) I managed to find 4 giant yellow buttons! I love buttons. I have a whole box of them at home. I’m not really sure why I like them so much, but I was squealing in excitement when I found these yellow buttons. Last summer, I had purchased a double bed sized kikoi with plans of turning it into a duvet cover. Like most of my plans, it has never happened…at least not yet. The fabric has quite a bit of yellow in it, so I am going to use the yellow Kazuri buttons to fasten the bottom on the duvet cover and to keep the duvet itself from falling out the bottom. I happened to think that I was quite the genius for thinking this up, but in all likely hood these buttons will sit in the box with the rest of my buttons until I move into my own place and am a grown up and actually have a reason to unpack the fabric from the multiple boxes that are sitting in my parent’s basement.

I am blaming my extra purchases on the factory tour we took prior to shopping. The shop wasn't open last year so we had never taken a tour. We got a real-life "How It's Made" tutorial including getting a chance to observe and meet the women making the beads at every single stage. It blew my mind how much work goes into every single bead! They are all shaped by hand, and designed by hand, sun-dried and fired, painted by hand (including all the intricate designs) and fired a second time. The factory employs 300 women and pays them fari wages, provides transportation to and from home everyday and provides their entire families with medical coverage - all of which is almost unheard of in Kenya.

We got back to the Fairview around 5 ish, took advantage of the hotel gym (including treadmills, eliptical, rowing erg, bike, free weights and weights machines!) and then had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant. We lingered over dinner for a few hours and really got a chance to bond a bit before leaving this wonderful paradise of a hotel tomorrow morning for the less luxurious (but still awesome in it's own way) Mama Jen's for a week and then St Theresa's for two weeks.

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