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"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

August 1, 2007 Wednesday         Katanga

On Monday evening Justine and I went to have dinner with one of his son Emmanuel's doctors in Kampala. The doctor and his brother and wife also came. I had a couple of beers, broke my pledge, but I thought the occasion required. They treated me to matoke which is Ugandan for ndizi na nyama or bananas and beef stew. We went out on the street afterwards for a few snacks for our respective trips home. i got some popcorn made in an old movie theater popper on the street and a bottle of water. That kept me going till the next evening. The sidewalks fill up with small vendors at night selling everything you can buy in stores during the day. They set cardboard down on the sidewalks, spread out their wares and sit amongst them and stay there til after midnight.. i bought a couple of those plants that look like sponges that we see in health stores for scrubbing tired old skin. They will serve as packing material on the way home. Came back to the hotel and finished packing. The doorman rang me at 5:15 am and came up and carried my bag (1 or 2) a half block to the taxi. Got to the bus by 6:00am for the 7:00am departure. They frisked us going into the station, so I stashed my knife in a bag before being checked, then put it back in my pocket. I boarded one bus got the bags stowed and they decided to use another bus because there weren't enough passengers. Debarked and reboarded and the second bus left at 6:15, 45 minutes early. I love that. I guess they still had one go at 7:00 as scheduled. The city was already alive at 6:15 as we left Kampala. Public markets were packed. I got a seat behind the driver next to an old moslem lady who resembled Mother Theresa.

Interesting logos on buses, trucks and stores and roadsigns
Rapid Kate Glory to God, Jesus if you let Him, Al Mandulila Blessing, God is Good,Nipples, isaiah 41:10 Fahrai pharmacy Human and Veterinary Medicines, Super Have , i take things personally (store), Dr. Balibibaiwo Othapaedist, Russian made Tyres, No Admission Staffs Only, God's case, no appeal, DAX pomade for longer stronger hair, a moslem wearing a Messiah College T-shirt, a huge national stadium with a slum across the street

My taxi driver has 11 children including two sets of twins, two kids in university. His wife works in a nursing home in Boston and helps support the family that way and i suppose is also a good means of birth control. Big Casino in Kampala. Our bus passes a slow brick truck forcing oncoming traffic off the road. he does give way to a petrol lorry. Road from Kampala to the Kenya border is equivalent to a 2 lane county road. This is the main artery across East Africa. it is an abomination of potholes and the driver spends as much time on the right side as the left avoiding bumps. The biggest safety feature now is speed bumps at place where people would be inclined to go too fast.

pass the Santa maria Restaurant and Take Away, Pool Table,50 Acres Shumuk

We cross the Nile River at Jinja

Road is better on the Kenya side. i get to Kisumu the major port city on Lake Victoria about 1pm and take a taxi across town to the buses that go up to Kakamega about 50 miles into the hills. As we pass the hospital I notice a thriving busines of coffin makers at the entrance. Very encouraging.
Sign African Christians in Development (ACiD0
)

When i arrived in Kakamega after switching buses halfway and travelling up beautiful hills with rain swollen rivers, I wasn't sure where to get out as the town is rather long and narrow. Saw a Friends primary and secondary school south of town but decided not to go there. I had a couple of phone numbers and got through to Janet who asked me to come to Nala hospital which is not where she was but it was the biggest landmark near to her. Then a young woman came to take me next door to an old string of shops and we sat outside on the veranda and I learned that they were not expecting me for two weeks. No problem, they started making calls on their cell phones and we have a course starting day after tomorrow (Thursday and it will be two days instead of the projected three so that I can make the nairobi course on time.) The rains started and we just waited for them to end. Everyone knew they would stop in an hour or two. Then we'd go back to town for my room. They told me that when a visitor comes and it rains that is a blessing. I told her that i'm alway happy when it rains on Africa. Peter and Maesi and I carry the bags to a bicycle taxi station a block away. There i get my first boda boda ride on the back of a bike with my big rucksack still on my back. The bike never wiggled with that load. All these guys use cell phones as well. We went to two hotels til we got a room at the Jioni (night ) guest house in town. The street is out of the old west , we went through a restaurant to get to the rooms. The room was great with a bathroom and heated shower. About 12 dollars for the night. Very african, lots of noise and music and smell of cookiing fires. This is what you can expect if you come on the trip next year.

First I need to correct a name in last notes. It is Getry, not Malesi who helped me get situated yesterday along with Peter. They are absolutely the most congenial people you would like to meet a long way from home. For some reason I've been saying something like this about everyone I've met on this safari.

I think I was describing the town of Kakamega as being something from an old west Hollywood set. Except for cyber cafes. Plenty of hardware and drygoods stores and saloons. The music is African in the streets, the smells are fruit, incense, rotting trash, smoke, the occasional unpleasant sewage all breathed in as you stroll down dusty streets. My room at the Jioni Guest House was nice. Steaming hot milk with instant coffee poured in is a nice relaxer. Add the rice and grilled meat and I'm a happy camper with my first food of the day other than the popcorn. Getry invited Anna, an intern from the Peace Center to come for coffee with us. She is from Vermont and doing an internship with a university in Kansas City. She had spent a year in Paris, before coming to Kakamega, a slight contrast I'm sure. The Friends Peace Center is about 20 minutes north of town by Matatu, minibus, subject to sitting on chickens, watching two Matatu conductors punch it out over passengers, and other interesting events. They have governors on the throttles to keep them at 50mph, but a blown tire can kill a lot of chickens and passengers. Seat belts are required. I moved up there today to the Peace Center, which is still under construction. Getry is the manager of the Center and runs a tight ship. Peter picked me up at 9am and we went up there.

Back to last night, I went out for a stroll up and down the two main blocks in my end of town and found an internet cafe and got info on my next stop in Nairobi. I'll stay with Donald Thomas and his wife Ruth. Donald has been living in Nairobi since 1958, attends an unprogrammed Quaker church. It will necessitate a cab ride in and back to the training site, but will be a lot cheaper than the hotel. It's in an area called Westlands if you are familiar with Nairobi.

Kakamega is a very friendly atmosphere. In the evening I never heard the word mzungu said about me. It is the common, sometimes derogatory term , for white person, that seems to come out of everyone's mouth when a muzungu is spotted. The bus up from Kisumu was wild, with several fights on the way, similar to the one I just mentioned. Then at one stop because I spoke a few words of Swahili to someone, a guy tried to tell me to repeat some words while his buddies listened. I think it was an obsenity so I pretended not to understand and he walked away. The dumb, thousand mile stare can sometimes end commo when needed.

It was about 7PM when I got back to the hotel last night and I passed out and woke up at 2am and wrote much of what you are now reading, then fell into a light doze the rest of the night. Five am the call to prayer, beautifully sung in arabic could be heard through town, cook stoves began to be fired up as the smell of charcoal was evident, and then a sound of a cow bellowing as if being slaughtered.

The shower head has an electric water heater which is turned on by a wall switch. The power cord runs right out to the shower head an gives you a lukewarm shower which in this temperature makes life bearable. It is much cooler here at altitude and with rains. It must be quite efficient to heat water only when needed rather than trying to store it in an insulated water heater which will eventually corrode and spill all over your basement. Things we need to consider in our future. Also I did not get electrfied.

Finally met David Zarembka at the Peace Center. He came down from about 40 miles away where he lives. This will be our only meeting as he is going over to Kigali on Saturday and he needed some time to do a few errands before leaving. He once lived in Yellow Springs and knew Bruce Heckman and some of my AVP colleagues, Bill Houston and Hazel Tulecke. David is the coordinator of African Great Lakes Initiative. He was with the Peace Corps in Tanzania coming in a few months after our group. He knew Paul Sack and was recently in contact.

I've managed to get my cell phone converted to work in Kenya to aid in communication. The agent at the store did all the set up for me. A young Indian lad named Raj. I told him it sounds like my name George.

I won't be sending anything the next few days as I probably will stay out at the center where there is no power, no running water, just peace and quiet. I plan to head into Nairobi on Saturday AM. David informed me that the road from Kisumu to Nairobi is much worse than coming from Kampala, I believe that to be impossible but will prepare myself for another long day on the road. Best to all,
George

 

 

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