A little something for the weekend

I let Andy B down by not adding an entry on friday but I was having so much fun replying to replies and nothing else reportworthy seemed to have happened. Meanwhile, it was the weekend…

Ventured back to Machakos, where I spent a happy birthday, to meet up once more with the the local VSOs and some less local. In fact I was reunited with the whole group who arrived with me in February: Jackie, Shiela, Caoilin, Christine & Gill; plus new arrivals Jackson (from just down the road in Nguluni) and Ces, and old-hadns Will, Josh, Tess. They were mostly there to get their Piki (motorcycle) training and take driving tests. Others of us just came along for the ride, to meet up and dance at Ikuuni hotel (but this time we decided to lodge elsewhere so we could get some sleep).

A plesant weekend, for me, of watchg people wrestle witih their bikes, watching them wrestle with their spark-plugs (I learned that a hacksaw blade is just the same width as the gap in a Piki sparkplug and wins over a feeler-gague in that it can also be used to scrape the carbon deposits off); watching them wrestle with the little mini-cars and painted roads on a table-top roundabout simulation; it seems that the rules of the road relating to roundabouts in Kenya are so complex and sublte that there is a whole section of the test dedicated to it. Intellignet volunteers gibbered as their thoughtful trainer placed the little red VW beetle at various places on the painted map and asked them to navigate to other locations avoiding accidents (involving crasged toy lorries) road-blocks (involving fallen Biros).

I wandered around Machakso with Will (photos to follow) and alone, talked to a shopkeeper’s brother about divorce and separation, bought a fishermans waistcoat thing that seems to be composed entirely of pockets sewn together (I don’t know, I just saw it and thought it would be handy to have all those pockets, and although I haggled with him, I did so weakly and didn’t drive a particularly hard bargain).

The bus over there did not break down. I sat next to Charles, an IT student in Nairoibi who lives near Tala. He told me some stories in that slightly-too-quiet-to-be-heard over-the-ambient-noise voice that Kenyans seem to favor. Imagine a small boy at home back in the days before mobile phones were prevelant. Its the middle of the night and, there being good locks on the doors and windows of the house, the robbers start beating the walls with big hammers. This goes on for ten minutes or so until there is a hole in the wall large enough to let them in. He hides behind a door while they ravage the house, attack his mother and take all they can find of value. For me the most chilling part of the story is the ten minutes of hammering during which there is nothing they can do. If they open the door to flee they will be letting in the robbers.

Another story I heard over the weekend concerns local maternity clinics. One of the teachers is pregnant. She went to the government hospital in Kangundo for a check-up. The nurses apparently asked her why, since her paperwork said she was a teacher (and therefore recipient of a salary) she was there at all and not in a private hospital. They treated her disrespectfully and made her feel very bad. But, if we are to believe all the stories, the same staff are not always quick to offer assistance to the needy either. One old lady walked miles, pregnant and barefoot to the cllinic. The nurses alledgedly said “who will want to touch this one, she’s so dirty?”.

While in Machakos I borrowed a book from Christine: Helping Health Workers Learn. What a joy to lay in bed late on saturday afternoon with the windows and curtians open to a fantastic view, with warm rain falling, and read this wonderful book about alternative approaches to teaching. Its aimed at working with local health workers, but its pedagogy is general and beautifully presented with stories, pictures and activities. I took notes!

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