I just came back from Kitale yesterday night where I was visiting some tree nurseries and meeting people, but more on that in a future post. For now I want to share a bit about life in 'the real Africa' which is what people were telling me I was experiencing.
I stayed in an orphanage called Baba Nyumbani which is also one of the DOVE ministries (the church I work with). It is one of the very best orphanages in Kenya and an amazingly beautiful place which provides a home to around 100 children and eight parents who take care of them. There is a farm attached to the orphanage with several acres of maize and vegetable plantations, a greenhouse, many chicken and a couple cows. The farm provides most of the food for the orphanage and the rest is sold at the market. It also allows the children to learn some practical skills. I had a really great time staying there for four days surrounded by so many joyful and cute children and had great conversations with the manager Walter and the pastor Amos.
During the day I visited the tree nurseries together with pastor Williams who overseas eight more local pastors in this region. Our means of transportation to the villages was Williams motorcycle. While he was maneuvering the dirt roads, I was sitting on the back enjoying the fresh wind and heavy shaking and getting dusty from head to toe - in the picture above you see an example of one of the better roads. Motorcycles are the best way to get around on these roads and many young men try to make a living with motorcycle taxis, so called boda-bodas. Alongside the road we saw the men working in the fields or doing business in the towns, the women searching for and carrying firewood and the kids walking to school. These are mostly the people who live of under 1$ a day and they have no other means of transportation than their feet. So children would walk 30 minutes to school which already is a huge improvement. Pastor Amos told me that in his childhood he used to walk 18 miles in total per day. Many children run all the way to their homes to be able to get some lunch because in the morning the parents don't have anything for them yet. White people are rarely ever seen in these region and even less on the back of a motorbike. So I was the attraction for all the children which would run behind the motorbike and shout 'Mzungu' meaning white man in Kiswahili.
Literally everyone in these rural areas does some farming. The families are huge - ten children are nothing special. Gender roles are very strongly pronounced and cultural rules are stricter than in the city and more traditional. A jeans would for example not be considered appropriate on Sunday and shorts are completely out of question anytime. Also like everywhere in Kenya most Christians don't ever drink alcohol or smoke and would not take you serious at all if you would. The women are often cooking on just three stones and the food mostly consists of maize, beans and vegetables like kale. Apart from the problem of waste disposal these people live a very sustainable life and some are doing quite ok and seem to be happy. It is very humbling to see how grateful these people are for what little they have and how joyfully they praise the Lord. But nevertheless the problem is that they have no securities whatsoever and if rain doesn't come they have no food and sometimes they even lack the education to build a most basic watering system even if a natural well or pond is near by. Nevertheless generally the communities are stronger and the life is better and more sustainable in the rural areas than in the cities and towns where people often have no land of their own and sometimes the land they use can be sold to a new investor.
Just a very few people speak some English but the people are amazingly friendly and very hospital. When we visited the pastors who were in charge of the tree planting projects - which mainly had the same living standard as anyone else - we often were offered chai and white untoasted toast bread or even a real meal. Kenyan chai is THE national drink. It is black tea served with a lot of milk and sugar and sometimes spiced with ginger and other spices. Whenever people get together to talk and after every meal there is chai.
It was a great opportunity to get a better feel for the situation in the rural areas and I got several ideas, what exactly we might want to accomplish in the next weeks and months here, but more on that later.