Arrived in Siaya District, Nyanza Province, Kenya

 After a long day of travel (my Kenya Airways Flight from JFK in New York direct to Nairobi was almost 14 hours!) I am now comfortably ensconced at Dan Otieno’s place near Ramula, Kenya. We are quite literally on the Equator.  I can cross the equator, changing hemispheres back and forth within an half hour’s walk along the road.  I haven’t (yet)  done the test to see if water drains in a different circular direction in the North than in the South.

Morning coffee in bright African sunshine.

I have known Dan since 2004 and have see him one place or another in East Africa almost annually up until the COVID pandemic shut down international travel.  We are like family. I am not sure who adopted whom.  I have been to this homestead three times previously. The last time was to attend his marriage to Mercy, who is a Clinical Officer at a clinic about an hour away. His 4-year-old daughter is named Heather Maddie. We have quickly become fast friends, bonding over Paw Patrol.  She speaks pretty fluent English with a Kenyan accent and will soon learn both Luo and Swahili as well.  She looks at books, turning the pages and taking in the photos and when she closes the book she says “and they all lived happily ever after.”

Reacquainting with my African “granddaughter” over Paw Patrol.

Like my family at home, they all call me Dedo here.  I took on that name when first granddaughter, Maddy, was born 21 years ago. I was working in Bosnia at the time and wasn’t quite ready to be “Grandpa” so I took on the Bosnian name for Grandfather, Dedo. It stuck.  Now adults and children alike here in this household call me Dedo.

Dan has hired a young fellow from Kisumu named Evans to help make food when I am around so he and Mercy won’t be preoccupied with meal preparation .  He is working in a little kitchen area that is just outside the house. It is quite common for Kenyan homes, in addition to an indoor kitchen, to have an separate building with a wood-burning stove that they use for cooking. It is a bit of a throwback to the traditional ways of preparing food.

Evans preparing our lunch in the separate kitchen

I was amazed to hear that this building was actually made out of mud. To build it, a frame was made out of wood and mud from the yard was packed into the frame and allowed to harden for two to three months during the dry season. Another layer was later applied and smoothed and than the outside was painted. It looks like stucco and feels firm. The paint protects against rain damage and termites. It is not expensive and reasonably durable. Rainwater from the roof of the main hose supplies all the water.

The finished mud house kitchen

Tomorrow I am going to show Evansf how to make focaccia!  He works as a cook in Kisumu so he can return with a recipe for Focaccia to impress his friends.  We are having lots of fresh fruits including pineapple that we picked up at a street market on our way here. It was picked yesterday and is ripe and sweet and totally unlike the pineapple we get from Costa Rica in Food Basics.

There are chickens in the yard that produce a few fresh eggs.  There are also a few goats, a couple of geese, a stray cat and some vervet monkeys in the trees.  

Network coverage in this very rural setting is a big hit and miss so posting might be more of a challenge than I anticipated.  Hang in.

Off on Safari to Kenya

I am excited.

Tomorrow, after a hiatus extended by COVID, I am heading back to visit friends in Kenya.

On my first trip to Africa 19 years ago in July 2003, I realized as I packed this week that I am taking the same long sleeved shirt!! Watch for it. 🙂

My first trip to East Africa was in 2003. It was all new and kind of scary to be in a world that seemed quite different from what I was accustomed to. Little did I know as I set out on that trip that was focused on touristic activity that I would return multiple times over the next few years and develop friendships and associations that have enriched my life incredibly. My travel through much of East Africa with students of the McGill Canadian Field Studies in Africa programme (CFSIA) from 2004 to 2013 took me to small villages and rural campsites as well as larger cities like Nairobi and Kampala and Dar es Salam. I have snorkelled in the Indian Ocean, wakened in the night to the sound of lions grunting just outside my tent in the Maasai Mara, met folks in the Nairobi Kibera slum, and flown in the cockpit of a small plane over large herds of elephants. But the most memorable and lasting memories are of living like one of the family in various homes in Kenya and Uganda. I learned so much about life and culture and society in East Africa from the many, many Africans I have met. I have lived in small communities without seeing another muzungu (white person) for a week. Tomorrow I will finally be heading back to see friends who are like family to me and whom I have not seen in over four years.

In addition, in April 2008, along with Canadian friends, Judith and Alex Adam, Marie Richardson and Mark Waldron, I started a Canadian charity – the CanAssist African Relief Trust – to help provide sustainable infrastructure to schools and hospitals and villages in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania. We had no idea that from our small beginnings, this charity would still be thriving in 2022. From its inception to the present, CanAssist has sent over $1,700,000 to help many East African communities! Although I have retired from the board of trustees for CanAssist, while I am there this month I will revisit several CanAssist partner sites, including our first school project, the very rural Adam Nkuyan School.

Alex and Judith Adam at the official “opening” of the Nkuyan School. I will visit this school in early October (I hope)

This week as I prepared for this upcoming safari, I have reread my pencil-scrawled journals from my earliest trips. So much will have changed from those earlier safaris, and likely much will have remained the same. As I travel over the next three weeks, I will reflect on those changes, and also on things that don’t change. My trip this time is mainly to visit people I have come to love and respect in small Kenyan communities. I will share some of those experiences here as they unfold.

And, of course there will be pictures.

Please join me, if you like, as I rediscover Kenya. I will try to post something every two or three days. If you want to follow along you can enter your email address and click Follow in the column on the right and you will be notified when I publish a post.

Karibu Kenya.