Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

November15, 2012

Being in Burundi and Rwanda has an eeiry quality to it. On the surface everything seems normal, until you think of ethnic killing that went on here. People use the word "genocide" to describe a time, like before or after the genocide.  But that's it.

While driving with some people in Burundi I asked about the ethnic make up of the country. The largest group is Hutu (85%), much smaller is Tutsi (14%), and about 1 % Pigmy. I then asked what group they were and was politely told you just don't ask that question.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Man Carrying Rock

November 10, 2012

The town of Lainya, South Sudan is notable for not much except death and destruction during Sudan's 20 year civil war. Now there is something very notable in Lainya, a statue of a man with a rock above his head.

This statue first came to my attention by another volunteer with a press pass in the area when his car did not go properly around the town's roundabout which not only has the statue in it, and is off to the side of the main road, but also located in front of the police station. He was put in jail for a couple of hours for disobeying the roundabout and paying off the police.

When the same reporter passed Lainya again on his return, he stepped out of the car to take a picture of the statue, only to be jailed again at the nearby police station and pressured to pay a fine.

I knowing of this story and wanting to get a photo of the statue went to the police station and humbly asked permission, only to be taken to the mayor who wanted to know who I was, and where I came from. He also said "How much are you going to pay?". I said, "nothing" and that I wanted to make Lainya famous.

I must say I didn't stay long enough to read all the information on the plaque. During British Colonial times this man carried this exact stone several miles in defiance and is today remembered for his heroism and sheer ability to carry such a heavy rock so far. Please don't quote me on the statues history. There were a lot of police with automatic weapons, so I tought I should tarry.


Bumps Ahead

 November 19, 2012
South Sudan is a new country, formed after a bitter civil warAfter a bitter civil war, the country of South Sudan was established in July, 2011. As a result, numerous agencies have been pouring into the country to assist in its recovery, many times in uncoordianted efforts.

The sign below is typical of the ironies encountered. It is meant to warn people of newly created speed bumps to prevent speeding through a village or school area.
Speed bumps are probably the smoothest part of the road.
Don't worry about speeding because this is what the road is really like.
These are real speed bumps. 
My 100 mile trip took six hours and I was lucky because we actually made it through.
Others were not so lucky.
 Note truck propped up with poles. The other not so lucky.

Break time.  
 My savior and driver, Steven.


Jiminy Crickets

November 8, 2012

The Twin Hotel in Yei (pronounced Yea!), South Sudan
 during cricket season.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two Wives

November 4, 2012

A major article appeared in Sunday's Nairobi newspaper about a Kenyan model who is the second wife of an unnamed member of Parliament. The model said how happy she was to be a second wife. The man was to be revealed after the March Kenyan elections. Other women were also quoted in the article. The article went on to say one reason women become second wives, many secretly, is the lack of stable eligible men. About 10-15% of Kenyan women were at least a second wife, despite a law which forbids polygamy.

One of the drivers for the organization I am with openly had two wives who live together in the same home, dividing up raising his thirteen children. He was a member of the Luhya tribe.

I asked a married woman who works where I was staying whether she was married and what she thought of men having more than one wife. She vehemently said she was against multiple wives. She was a member of the Kukuyu tribe.

I was confused, so I asked my taxi driver this morning to explain. He was a Kukuyu, and said faithful to his wife despite advances from other women.

As best as I could understand, this was how he explained this to me:

A woman became a second wife when she had a man's child or children. If she was a member of the Luhya tribe, having multiple wives was open and well accepted. If she was a member of the Kukuyu tribe, men tended to keep the second wife secret, since Kukuyu first wives were a jealous lot and known to stab their sleeping husbands.

Now problems arise over property, divorces, and splits when women suddenly appear from nowhere claiming support usually with children in tow having the man's characteristics . The courts have some method of handling this if the man decides to fess up rather than pay the customary blackmail money. The taxi driver indicated the woman always wins.

I asked about women who have multiple husbands. We just then arrived at the airport and the question went unanswered.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Women of Shikokho

October 31, 2012

On big thing that is happening in rural subsistence living Africa is the need for money among people who never before needed to generate money. Although they have desire and skills to earn an income, they lack the vision as to how to market what they already have.

It is a heart warming thing to watch what happens when they are presented and given a boost on new ways to earn some money.

Women of Shikokho Village, Kenya
Women sing their song
With Women's Group Leader, Jennifer, at her Clinic

Summary of  My Visit:
In discussions with fifteen members of Women’s Finance Initiative group in the Shikokho, Kenya including group leader, Jennifer, ideas were discussed to find if there were new ways to generate income. Upon assessing their current program, it was determined the women may be able to earn considerably more income by producing handmade baskets in their homes, imprinted with pictures of two unique Kagamega features, bull fighting and a rock formation, called “The Crying Stone”. These products would be sold at local markets and at the bull fights. No such items were currently available.

In addition to selling baskets with imprints of bull fights, and Crying Stone, the local upscale resort of “Rondo Retreat” expressed great interest in buying and selling local handmade items produced by the Women’s Initiative group at their gift shop and as picnic baskets for their guests. They have given permission to use their logo to imprint on the baskets. 

Stencils for bull fights, Crying Stone, and Rondo Retreat are being designed and manufactured by a Kagamega design studio. Three women from the Women’s Initiative will receive training, 6 November, 2012 on how to imprint the designs on the baskets.

Rural women lack the experience and knowledge on how to market their current talents and skills in unique ways to produce goods and services with higher profit margins. By providing a new paradigm in ways they think about their skills and resources, the women have the organization and desire to elevate their efforts beyond what they thought possible.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kenya Countryside

October 31, 2012

In driving through Kenya, the variety of scenery amazes me. From tropical rain forest to dry savannas, from mountains to plains. Not only is the scenery varied but the tribes which inhabit them are as diverse and contentious as the topography.
 Tropical rain forest

 Climbing the escarpment from Rift Valley
Rift Valley view
 Rift Valley with volcanos
 Maasi and their cattle, floor of Rift Valley
 World's largest caldera
 Landscape like American West
 Buying chickens for dinner at roadside stop