Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kwaheri Kenya!

Well my internship has finally come to an end! Blake and I fly out tonight and will be home by Friday morning if all goes safely. BUT we have great news!! The kitchen officially opened this past Saturday, probiotic and all. Although at first I thought the bacteria might have died, I was able to get some good growth on the plates after some late nights of culturing on my kitchen table by candlelight! So all is well with the probiotic and I am leaving the culturing process in the capable hands of Maggie and Lavender, two staff at Muungano, who I'm confident will be able to keep growing it successfully. As for the rest of the kitchen, although we've had a lot of problems with milk supply we managed to get everything organized just a few hours before we left Kiritu. As well, our new fridge is not working, so we are currently using it as a warming room until it is fixed- which works great because the warming box the carpenter built us was not the right dimensions, so we had to do some last minute improvisation (a new skill I will definitely be taking back to Canada with me!). We are all so happy that we were able to get the kitchen up and running before we left and we are hoping it continues to be a success!

This past week we also got some new visitors, three ladies from Australia, who will be working at the school with both the staff and children. Anne, one of the ladies, will also be working as our yogurt Mama until another intern can come this year. We are sooo happy to have her there and I know she will do an amazing job supervising the kitchen in these early stages and troubleshooting any problems that come along.

Sorry this is a short post today, We still have a bunch to do before our plane tonight! But although I'm happy to be going home (and taking a loooong shower!) I'm already missing Kenya. I hope in the future I can return back to see the progress of the kitchen and visit the friends I've made here. Until then, Kwaheri Kenya!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Beginning of the End

Hello everyone! As our time here in Kenya is starting to come to a close (less than 3 weeks left!) I thought I would update you on what's been going on here in Kiritu. First of all, a few weeks ago we were lucky enough to travel to the Masai Mara and go on safari with Louise and her friend Marg, as well as Ellissa, a fellow intern in Kenya, and her friend Frank. While Louise and Marg were able to stay at a resort in the park, us four students decided to save some money and stay at a tented camp just outside the gates. At 30 dollars a night including food, it turned out to be great- it even had a hot shower and a working toilet, so even more luxurious then our home here in Maragoli! We were able to arrange a game drive with a Masai man who took us all around the park and made sure we saw lots of animals. My favorite, of course, were the lions (one even roared at me), but we also saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelope, gazelle, impala, hippos, crocodiles, a hyena, and a cheetah among other things. It was definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done and an experience I'll never forget.

When we were finished in the Mara we all traveled to Nairobi for a few days so that we could drop Marg off at the airport for her trip back to Canada, as well as pick up two brothers named Teddy and Daniel who were to be staying with us here in Maragoli for a few weeks. I can definitely say that Nairobi is not like any other place I've been in Kenya! It is much more of a modern metropolis and is filled with people and reminders of home, like chicken burgers and sundaes- we even went to see a movie! But we had business to attend to in Nairobi as well, as the laboratory equipment provider has their headquarters located in the city. Since we were sick of waiting for email replies we decided to go straight there and get the lab equipment sorted out once and for all. We met with the a very nice man who was able to get us everything we needed for about $500 under budget (I may have lied about what our top price was, but it worked) and when we returned to Maragoli the next day we were able to arrange with his contact here in Mbale to drop the lab supplies by our home within the week.
With the lab supplies finally purchased we were also able to go into Kisumu and purchase the needed supplies for the rest of the kitchen, which we also came in under budget on. Now our kitchen is furnished and ready to go! Of course there are still a few minor roadblocks before we can really start getting things moving- the windows need to be fixed, the floor paint needs to be sealed, we have quite a few meetings we need to set up with the staff involved in the project, and the electricity STILL needs to be completed. Hopefully this can all be done within the week so that we still have a full two weeks to do training and get the HIV/AIDS registry completed. We are hoping that Ellissa and some of her Mama's will be coming this Friday to see how the probiotic is cultured and how to use it, as once the lab is up and running we are hoping to supply the kitchens in Oyguis with probiotic as well. This means we definitely need electricity and a practice run through with the probiotic before they get here, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

On another note, for the past two weeks we had the company of Teddy and Daniel, two brothers from Ajax, who were volunteering both around the community and at Muungano. They were able to completely close in the cook house at the school to keep the fire wood safe, help us start fixing the windows on our kitchen, and build a chicken coop for George, a boy in the community who Louise has befriended, as his long awaited birthday present. They also brought tons of supplies for both the school and people in the community and were able to spend a lot of time with the kids, who adored them. It was also great to have some more company in the house, although living with three boys definitely has its moments. They are currently in Nairobi in preparation for their flight home tomorrow morning, and the house is feeling a little empty, but certainly a lot quieter!

At the Masai Mara 
Our first lion siting at the Masai Mara 

Another thing to mention is that for the last few weeks we have had an amazing dog by the name of Georgia living at our house. We borrowed her from some people we know in the community and after a good flea bath, a new collar, and some bones, she has warmed right up to us. She's a local breed and kind of looks like a big chihuahua, but she's so sweet and gentle and is a huge lap dog! Hopefully none of the Australians who are coming are allergic to dogs because she's definitely part of the Muungano family here in Kiritu!
Georgia taking the opportunity to nap while I write this post

Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Oyugis and Back

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted, for some reason I couldn't sign onto my blog but I've figured it out, which is a good thing because sooo much has been happening! First of all, all the work to get the kitchen/ lab area up to snuff is almost completed; the wiring is in, the electric company is coming on Friday to hook it up, the partition is up, the water tank is raised, the tables are made, and the glass has been fitted into the windows. Of course someone bought a batch of expired putty to fit the window tiles so some of them are coming out, which means we will have to put in some more hours to refit them with proper putty ourselves, but it's a small sacrifice to make sure the windows are well done- and by the end maybe I'll have learned a new skill! We are also currently painting the space blue, which should be finished today, onto which Isaac will be able to paint a mural on the back wall for us. It's starting to finally look like a kitchen! Of course this means that the space is almost ready for our lab and kitchen equipment, which still has to be purchased. We have had quite a bit of trouble looking for an inexpensive incubator for the space and have contacted just about everyone from KEMRI to local universities to see if anyone has one we could purchase. So far we haven't had much luck but we have one more source to check out and then we'll just have to order one from the company we are purchasing the rest of our equipment from (hopefully at a discount). Our goal is to have the lab equipment ordered by Tuesday so that we can then go and get our kitchen equipment- finally some shopping, my favorite part!

As well, last week we took some of the Mama's to Oyugis for yogurt training at the Orande kitchen. This trip marked our half way point in our time here and we were excited to finally get the participate in some of the WHE activities. We took two mama's named Florence and Eddy and a staff member at the Muungano school named Violet. Another intern named Ellissa has been in Oyugis for the past few weeks to see what's going on in the two kitchens located there, so we were able to join up with her and stay at her hotel at a small discount and she accompanied us around the town during training. The Mama's in Oyugis first showed our Mama's how to make the yogurt, then they were able to do it themselves and we were able to take some of the yogurt back with us to give to the rest of the women's group. When the training was finished, Ellissa came back with us to North Maragoli to see our kitchen and another part of Kenya. The next day Louise and her friend Marg, the treasurer of Muungano, came to join us as well, so our house was quite full- very different than what we've been used to! Unfortunately we ran into a bit of a problem when we went to ration out the yogurt we bought at training for the Mama's, as we realized not all the yogurt had made it back with us. We asked Violet what had happened to the rest of it, and she told us that the last batch we had made hadn't been ready so we hadn't taken it. Of course Ellissa asked her Mama's in Oyugis about this and they admitted that Florence, Eddy, and Violet had taken the yogurt in containers and then called Mama Diana in Oyugis to ask her not to tell us. I was so upset by this, not only because WHE had covered all their accommodation, food, and travel, but more importantly because they had deprived the rest of the women's group of getting yogurt. We figured out that Violet was the instigator of all this, and since she is not part of the women's group we are talking to her this week to make sure she knows that she isn't to have anymore involvement with the yogurt project and that both her and the other Mama's need to apologize to the women's group for what they did. Louise also approved taking the money for the yogurt out of her paycheck at the school so that we can buy more milk and make some yogurt for the Mama's ourselves so that they can get to try some. We are definitely starting to learn a lot about who you can trust and who you can't here.

Painting the Kitchen Space

Florence making yogurt

Mama Diani, Mama Eddy, Mama Florence, and Violet
But another exciting thing coming up is our safari! Blake and I were looking into safaris for a while, but felt a little uncomfortable traveling alone, so we emailed Louise to see if we would be able to join in on her safari that she is taking with Marg. It turns out she had booked a car to take them from Kisumu to the Masai Mara, but since it wasn't on a regular pick up day for the company they had to pay for all seven seats in the car even though it was only the two of them traveling. When we asked Louise if we could come with them, she was gracious enough to let us travel in the car for free since it was already paid for, and as anyone who does a safari knows, the transport is often the most costly part of the trip. We had also met up with Ellissa again in Kisumu as she was staying with a friend she met at Kenyatta University named Frank, and they were eager to go to the Masai Mara as well, so we found a cheap tented hotel for the four of us and will be departing with Louise and Marg this Friday morning! I am so excited to get to see the animals and promise to take lots of pictures!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TIA- This Is Africa

The last week and a half since we've been back from Mombasa has been an interesting one for a number of reasons. In regards to the kitchen, we're finally making some real headway on the project! The water tank is finished complete with sink, our partition is in, the windows are being installed tomorrow, and the wiring should be finished in a matter of days. It feel so good to look in at our space and not just see an empty concrete room anymore! I think everyone here is reinvigorated by the progress that's been made and are now starting to see the final picture. Since the projects are wrapping up, Blake and I sat down with a member of the Muungano staff named Preston to see just how much had been spent so far from our budget. We we're expecting to be waayyy over budget due to a number of unforseen expenses that I will get to later. To our surprise, due to the fact that we didn't end up needing to put a chimney in and there were some bricks left over from another project at the school, we were a grand total of $12 Canadian over budget. Of course since then we've already had some more expenses as the projects are wrapping up, but I think all of the handling of the money for the kitchen space should be done by the end of the week with us coming in only minorly over budget- a huge relief! 

Of course, this has not been smooth sailing! It seems almost every project we've done so far has given us some kind of trouble, but so far putting in the electricity has been the most aggravating from my perspective. We originally got the quote from the electrician about how much installing electricity would cost, including all materials and the electricity company's start up fee. This totaled 65,000 KSH or about $800 CAD. We then travelled with him and another staff member to Kakamega in order to drop off our electricity forms to the company and buy his supplies. One thing that has been frustrating for Blake and I lately is the stigma that comes with being a foreigner here- specifically that you must be very wealthy. It's hard to explain to people that we're students who are in debt and making no money this summer, therefore we do not have much extra to be spending outside of our own needs and the project, especially since I specifically have not received any grants or financial help from the school. This stigma seemed to follow us everywhere when we went into Kakamega! Sometimes even people who know us from the project expect that Blake and I will be paying for their needs out of pocket when we travel anywhere, which of course can become kind of awkward as Blake and I had not budgeted travel expenses for multiple people. While we are very understanding that even five dollars here means more to the people we are working with than it does to us, with all the trips we've had to take it's starting to add up. Even people on the mutatus will sometimes ask us to pay their fare and people on the streets will simply ask us for money when we say hello. Of course all this happened on our way to Kakamega and i was starting to miss being in Canada where I simply blend in by the time we reached the city. We then went to the electric company and were told that electricity would take about a month and a half to install- not ideal as we're only here for another 2 months. Isaac, the staff member we were traveling with, suggested that if we basically bribe the company that we could get it sooner. The idea of having to pay more money for someone to do their job was something Blake and I were not prepared to do, but as many people have said, this is the way things get done here in Africa, so we agreed to meet someone from the company back at the school in the afternoon to discuss the matter. We then headed to a hardware store to get the electrician's supplies. It turned out he had grossly underestimated the cost of wire and we ended up 20,000 KSH or about $250 CAD over budget! We called Louise and she approved this, so we bought the supplies and headed back to meet the people from the electric company. When we sat down with them they told us that in order for them to install the electricity quickly it would cost us an extra 40,000 KSH on top of the company's 38,000 KSH start up fee! After already having spent more money than planned that day both personally and on the project, I was ready to lose my temper at this obscene level of bribery required to get the job accomplished, and suspected that yet again the price had something to do with us being Canadians. We managed to keep our cool though, and politely told them that it was too much and we would have to figure out something else. Since then Charles has been able to talk to someone at the company and make sure our form is being processed and may have a few contacts he can use to get the job done a little faster WITHOUT paying extra. 

After this hurdle things have calmed down a little and Louise was able to give us some good advice on dealing with the issue of money. Although unfortunately we simply do not have enough to be handing out money to everyone who needs it, Blake and I decided to make some Canadian-style food for Rose, our housekeeper who we adore, and Charles, our main business contact who graciously hosted us in Bungoma without asking for anything in return. We decided to make tuna pasta salad, a delicious vegetable quiche, and some rice pudding. It was so nice to have some food from back home and both Charles and Rose enjoyed it as well! We also sent some pasta and rice pudding home with Rose for her children who are adorable. We are hoping to hold another dinner later in the summer for the entire staff of the school, but we need some time to save up in order to buy all the food we would need. 

Right now we are just waiting for the projects to be completed (minus electricity for the time being) so we can paint the room and start ordering our lab and kitchen supplies! We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of more people to our little house, specifically Louise and her friend Marg in early July. More visitors will be arriving both in the middle of July and in August, so it looks like we have about 2 more weeks before our quiet house isn't so quiet anymore! It will definitely be nice to have some more people here! But for now we are carrying on as usual and doing what we can at the school. I will update you later as the project continues! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mombasa Luxury

Hi everyone! Sorry it's been so long since my last post, we have mainly just been waiting to get our finances all sorted out. Luckily Louise was able to come up with the money for the additional work that needs to be done to the kitchen space AND money for the lab equipment, so we are finally good to go! Blake and I took a trip into Mombasa while we have been waiting for the money and stayed at a resort called the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa. Wow!! It was so great to have a big bed, five course meals, and especially a hot shower again! Since it's off season here at the resorts it was fairly quiet (and cheap!) so it was a great time to relax by the pool and soak up the sun. Not to mention that the staff were amazing!! They even packed us up a lunch before we left complete with a ketchup bottle for our fries so we wouldn't be hungry on the way home. This came in handy seeing as our 12 hour bus ride back turned into an 18 hour bus ride. I think another hour and I may have broke down in tears. I hope I never have to take a trip like that again, but considering the great couple days we had on the coast, it was worth it!

It was definitely nice to come back and get started on work again. Although the money Louise transferred still hadn't come through, Blake and I were able to front some of our project money so that the jobs at the kitchen space could get started. When we went up to the school yesterday they had already started putting in the foundation for the raised water tank which was amazing! They had also started painting, which we needed to put a hold on since we still have a bunch of work to do in the kitchen space and painting now would mean a huge touch up job after everything is done, but the painter agreed with us and said he could easily come back when we had finished our other jobs. We also arranged for a carpenter to come and partition the room for us with a half wall so that we could divide the kitchen area from the serving area. He is able to get started on that today, so things are well underway! As well, we were able to find a cheaper solution for the kitchen than putting in a full chimney, and are able to put in a type of vent that will work fine since we aren't using a fireplace. This means we ended up with extra money to pay the carpenter and are (so far) under budget! Our next task is to call the laboratory supplier in Nairobi and see about getting the equipment we need shipped here or to Kisumu, which we will have to do Monday. We also still need to go to Kisumu and sign up for putting the electricity in since that project will take the longest, and then once it's done we can start outfitting the kitchen!! It's so exciting to finally see things coming together and we are definitely hoping all the roadblocks are behind us! Hopefully by the end of June all work in the kitchen will be finished and our lab supplies and tables will be at least on their way.

Since this is a short post I thought I'd add some pictures of the resort, but the internet is really slow so you only get a few. I'll post more to facebook when it's working!

Hotel pool area, where I spent most of my time

In the Indian Ocean!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Exploring a New Town, Bungoma!

Hello everyone! As usual, so many things have happened since my last post! First of all, on Thursday we got to meet the women’s group that we will be working with this summer and who will ultimately be running the kitchen once we leave. They went around in a circle and told us exactly why they chose to be part of this project and what their hopes for the project are. To my knowledge I‘ve never met someone with HIV before, but in this group of about 20 or so, almost all of them were HIV positive. When you think that this is just a small group of women in a rural area of West Africa, the reality of HIV and AIDS in this part of the world starts to become clear. As each expressed their gratitude to us and WHE for coming, as well as their hopes that the project would be a success, it fired us up to really get things started and work past our roadblocks as quickly as possible! We then spent the rest of the day trying to find a suitable lab space for the project and exploring several options, all of which came up to a dead end. We finally met with a man in the community who is a lab technician at the Mbale hospital and the husband of one of the Muungano board members. He told us that there are no suitable labs for our project in the area, and that our best bet would be to set up our own private lab in the community. This seemed a bit time consuming and costly, so we decided to explore one last option in Kayamega at the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board, where Charles’s cousin works. Through that connection we were told we would be able to use the lab for a temporary period this summer while we got another, more permanent, lab established, as they only have a very small incubator that they use regularly and no skilled technicians, only water analysts. With that knowledge we emailed Bob back at WHE about the possibility of setting up a lab space in Kiritu and are still trying to work out the logistics of all this. We’re all hoping for the best!

As well, on Thursday, the public health department came by to check out the space for the kitchen and let us know exactly what would have to be done to get the space ready and approved. The list included putting in a chimney, painting, and fixing the windows as they currently only have bars and no windowpanes. We are in the process of getting this priced and then we will have to let Louise, the founder of the Muungano foundation and the school we’re working at, know the total cost. So far the list seems to be getting longer and longer, including electricity, running water, the fees for public health, and now the requirements for the kitchen. Hopefully Muungano will have the money for all this as they also have other projects on the go, including of course, maintaining the school! All in all, Blake and I are again in a position of waiting, which seems to happen a lot here in Kenya! But this was okay as Charles kindly took us to his apartment in Bungoma for the weekend to stay. We got to see the city a bit and then Charles said he would take us somewhere we could go swimming. I think both Blake and I were expecting some sort of swimming hole, but to our surprise he took us to an outdoor resort of sorts just down the road from his apartment, complete with swimming pool, bar, and small restaurant. Needless to say, this quickly became our favorite place and we returned the next day as well to swim and take in some sun!

Another benefit of staying with Charles was getting to learn more about his life. Charles has been our main contact for all things on this project as he is incredibly reliable and efficient. He is also one of the happiest people I have ever met! He is always smiling and laughing and nothing seems to get him down. At the end of the day when Blake and I sometimes get frustrated, feeling like were exploring so many options only to come up with nothing, Charles is always quick to point out that at least we’re getting somewhere, even if it means just ruling certain things out. Often times at his apartment when we get up for breakfast, Charles already has a roomful of people there talking to him. He wanted to explain to us exactly what was going on and why he has so many visitors, so he launched into an incredible life story. We knew that he was a pastor at a church here in Bungoma, which wasn’t surprising as almost everyone here attends some kind of church, but he told us that when he was younger he hated God and in his childhood and adolescence he lost many friends because if anyone even mentioned the word God he would get up, walk out, and never talk to them again. He said in school he was at the top of his class, very bright and enrolled in all sciences (in Africa this means you are very desirable and popular) and so he thought the Bible was just a story and that people only believed because they were stupid, and since he was educated if he could just teach people then they wouldn’t need the Bible anymore. As well, he had many health problems as a child and was finally diagnosed with a heart deformity that could not be fixed. The doctors gave him 2 months to live when he was about 20 years old. His father was very high in the Kenyan government and so often foreign visitors would be directed through him, meaning Charles got to meet lots of people from abroad. Around the time that he was told he would soon die, a man came from Japan and when he met Charles he told him that he could pray for him. At his point he had given up all hope, his family was mourning, and he was desperate. So he made a deal with the man. He wrote on a piece of paper that if the man prayed for him and he got better, then he would serve God, and if the man prayed for him and nothing changed then he would never entertain the thought of God again. He signed it and the man prayed. The next day Charles went to the doctor to get checked out and said he had a problem with his heart and was dying. The doctor was confused and asked him if he was crazy because he said Charles’s heart was healthy and strong. Of course Charles went to his father and got one of the top doctors to take a look at his heart as well, and to the doctor’s amazement his heart was completely healed. In that moment Charles decided to not only start serving God, but also to dedicate his life to helping others do the same. He moved to Bungoma where he knew nobody and opened a small church. He currently works for five different organizations from Monday to Thursday, then spends Friday to Sunday working at the church, counseling people in the community, and helping those in need. He gives all his good clothes to the poor and those deemed ‘crazy’, will feed those that are hungry even if it means him and his wife going without food, and wants to open a school for children who don’t have the money for education but show great potential. He says the key to his  success has been that he now lives with a code of transparency, faith, and love and will only befriend those that live the same way, avoiding the corruption and what he calls “self centeredness” that stop some people here from being truly trustworthy. He runs the church with the idea that some people will believe by faith and others, like himself, must witness miracles before they’ll believe. We got the opportunity to go to his church this morning, which is Evangelical, and witness what he was talking about in a service they call 'deliverance'. This was so different than a church service in Canada (although I haven't been to an Evangelical church there) and included people screaming and falling to the floor as they were being prayed for or healed! It was a little alarming and much different than I'm used to, but also great to experience the faith of another culture. Everyone there was so passionate about what they were doing!  

Charles told us that in Kenya there is so many churches yet so much corruption because people feel the need to only do for themselves and are unwilling to do for others, taking what's not theirs if it will benefit them and they can get away with it. He says that he thinks North America is so blessed because we give our time and money for others. This caught me off guard as I’m not so sure I believe that given how blessed we truly are in Canada, we do much with what we have been given. Maybe its because, unlike in Kenya where people will show up at your door asking for dinner, we are simply to lazy to go out and look for those in need. In Kenya, poverty is all around you; you simply have to walk out the door to find someone that could use your help, in fact picking just one person or one group to help is the hard part. In Canada we walk out into our neighborhoods where everyone is as well off as we are and can simply avoid those parts of town where people live below our standards. I know, at least in my own personal case, the real reason is that I, too, am self-centered, and that I want for myself. Whether it’s free time, money, or any numbers of things, ultimately I make the choice to ignore those in need in my own community for my own benefit. After hearing Charles’s story and the stories of all the people he’s helped, I can safely say I have never met anyone so inspired and truly good as Charles. The commitment and compassion he shows to his church, his community, and this yogurt project are truly a blessing to those around him and to us!! I don’t know how this project would succeed without him, and he has definitely made me think about what it means to be in a position in privilege. 

In one of the caves on the way down...sorry I'm so sweaty and gross!
The view from the top looking out at the rest of the mountain and down on the town
Lastly, today we got to go to a local mountain here in Bungoma! It wasn't that large, but it certainly took a lot of effort to climb! Rachel, Charles's housekeeper, took us and the piki piki drivers also came to the top with us, which was a good thing because I'm pretty sure they had to take me by the hand and drag me half the way up as it was steep and I was running out of steam! On our way up we met a group of local boys who said they would take us an easier way to the top where we could see some caves and monkeys, so we followed them around the mountain and up another way. We did manage to see a monkey, but he ducked behind the rock when he saw our cameras! When we finally got to the top we stopped to take some pictures and have a quick snack before heading back down and trying to beat the rain home. I got a few bumps and bruises, and I don't know if the grass stains on my shorts will come out, but it was definitely worth it as it was one of the coolest things we've got to do here in Kenya yet! I attached some pictures I took with my playbook, I have better ones on my camera that I'll add once I have a cord! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kitchens and Fridges and Labs! Oh my!

Jambo! I figured it was time to update everyone on the ongoing project here in Kiritu. Since my last post we've already hit several roadblocks regarding the lab and kitchen, but we've also made some progress. First off, we met with the Chief of the town on Monday at what they call the "location", which sounded very James Bond to me so I was quite excited. Of course it was just the Chief's office a few doors down, but it was still cool none the less. We presented him with a letter regarding exactly what the goals of our project were, and lucky for us they were approved by him, which means we can go ahead with the project! We also attended the Chief's barazzaa, which is kind of like a town meeting, where we got to briefly introduce ourselves and our project to the rest of the people. On the way there I got to have my first piki piki ride! These are small motor bike taxis that you sit on the back of, and they have probably been my favorite things about Kenya so far! After that we got to visit the Muungano Special School and meet the staff and children. Unfortunately we did not get to spend much time in the classroom as we had to hurry off, but it was nice to finally see all the faces we will be helping! The school already provides a breakfast for the students, kind of like an oatmeal that comes in a package, but the yogurt will be added onto this as well once the kitchen is up and running. It was clear some of them were malnourished and definitely grateful for the food as they licked the package completely clean!

As mentioned in my previous post, electricity has been a huge issue to the project as this is essential! The staff at the school thought that it would be more cost effective to get electricity wired into the room the kitchen will go in then to buy a generator and keep it running. Doing this has a 65,000 KSH (about 812 dollars) start up cost, and then also a monthly fee based on usage. We have to confirm with Louise's foundation, the Muungano foundation, whether they will be able to cover this cost. As well, the kitchen requires running water. The school already has a rain water tank, so we just need to be able to raise it so that the water runs down, then attach some kind of hose system that will bring the water into the kitchen so it can be boiled and used. We are looking into the price to do all this and also the time line for these projects to be completed as we can't start anything with the kitchen until they are done!

Our last roadblock occurred today when we journeyed into Kisumu- yes, JOURNEYED! First we had to piki piki into the junction, a small space down the road from Mudete where piki pikis and mutatus gather. We then hopped on a mutatu, which is like a van with about 14 seats that gets very crowded! We then took this into Kisumu, which took quite a while! Once we reached Kisumu we got off the mutatu and into a tuk tuk, which is kind of a small covered motorbike with seats in the back, and traveled to KEMRI (Kenya Medical Research Institute) to talk to John Vuluva, the director, about helping us with our lab situation. When we finally arrived at KEMRI, about 2 hours later, we briefly met with John, who also helped with the yogurt project in Oyugis, and he gave us some numbers to get in touch with a lab technician that can come out and see our lab space to determine what is needed and what they can provide. This makes us slightly nervous as the local lab doesn't have any of the supplies we need, but its possible our budget might allow us to buy some of the equipment ourselves so KEMRI does not have to supply it all for us. This would make everything a lot easier as I know the women would not have the time or money to make the journey we did today every 2 weeks to pick up the probiotic.

But as I said we also made some more progress! We now have meetings in the works for the public health department to come see the kitchen space and approve it, as well as contact with the lab technician to come see the lab space. We also purchased a fridge today while in Kisumu that is currently holding the bacteria and will be used in the kitchen once its up and running- we might have some fruit in there for ourselves as well! We are also eagerly awaiting a response from Louise in regards to the electricity and water, and once that is a go then we just need to focus on getting the lab outfitted and training a technician to do the work. Hopefully once piece at a time it will all come together!

Now for something about my own experience here in Kenya! While we were in Kisumu today with Charles I told him I wanted to go see the lake. Maybe all those summer memories of cottaging in Canada made me miss being out by the water! He was happy to oblige and we took another tuk tuk over to Lake Victoria. Once there we hired a boat to take us out on the lake, and yes, spot some hippos!! We only had to boat about 20 minutes when we saw two hippos in the water. We could only see their heads come up, but we got pretty close! I tried to take some pictures but they move pretty quick! I think I got one decent shot and a video, which I'll post once I can find a cord that fits my camera. As well, behind where the hippos were bathing was an impala reserve and game park, so we got to see some impalas grazing at a distance. There was also a group of school children there who I think were just as excited to see the hippos as they were to see and have us wave at them! All in all it was an exciting day and should be an eventful few weeks to come as we try to get the project rolling!