4 weeks left: Challenges and positive outcomes!

Now, I must say that the sunshine really peaks out from some earlier thick clouds.

Last week, I was suppose to get a new stamp in my passport. At the airport in Nairobi when I first arrived, the man that checks the e-Visa and passport only wrote 1 month/holiday next to the stamp and said that after one month I needed to get another one. Something that I haven’t yet understood why that is needed, as the e-Visa holds for 3 months and there is no information about this one-month-stamp in any official websites (only personal stories etc). However, I did what he said, of course. Easier said than done.

So, went to the immigration service office in Kisumu. When I came to the desk, I got interrogated like I was in a Miami Vice episode. The man asked me for 15.000 shilling (around 1.500 sek) and claimed that I had the wrong visa. I was sure this was not the case, but whatever I told him, he got more and more angry and said that I claimed that he didn’t know his job.

Anyhow, after some calls to the embassy, and some other people that I needed to consult this with (as I did not know what the consequences this man could give me), I left and hope to renew the stamp this week instead.

So a tip for anyone in the same position: Go with a man if you need to go to a local office if you feel you need support (as this I heard was one of the problems).

Yes, there can be challenges in these scenarios, or it will go smooth, as I’ve heard others just going in to the office and got a stamp without questions asked.

Anyhow – let’s leave this behind for now. I have been talking to friendly strangers around the community, randomly when taking a short walk around my house. Things comes together of why I am here, and in regards to the community-based organization’s influence in Wagwe. To meet these people and to hear their point of views of various things such as corruption or sustainable development brings me back on my track and the goal of my visit.

On Thursday, I just got noticed that I will also meet a women’s CBO group that works together to encourage and support all from helping orphans to older women, or other “everyday issues” that challanges the lives here.

Am very grateful for being here and to get these stories out.

All the best, Isabelle

3 weeks: Dancing in the rain and interesting interviews

Amoso! Don’t know exactly how it is spelled  but it means “hi how are you?” in the local language, Luo, here in Western Kenya.

That is something I say to people maybe 20 times a day here if I am outside the house area, or if people come to visit. Which is something that is normal here (compared to Sweden). Everyone knows one’s neighbour and you are welcome to pass by for a tea or just some chatting.

Still not everyone has met me here, but when I start by saying some greetings in Luo, and actually can have a 2-3 sentence talking with a local, they get surprised and happy – especially the elders.

Most greet with the right hand and says “Amosi, nango? De ma ber.” Meaning, “Hi how are you, I am good”. Others, some more religious elders, greet by clapping their hands three times. I’ve started doing that too, even before them, which makes them laugh. It creates this respect between me as a visitor and the locals.

My previous posts have been somewhat more about the Challanges I’ve struggled with. And a couple of days ago, I was close to be going home because of a situation at home. It was also very tempting for the reasons of the “freedom” and other virtues you are used to at home.

However, I chose to stay. And now, things have just been going up! I chose to look at the bright side for being here and to be thankful for this once in a lifetime experience. For instance, I danced in heavy rain last Saturday with people from the village. Children was jumping up and down and people happy to see “the visitor” taking part from some traditional activities. A woman came up to me, and I first thought it was like a “dance battle”. She wanted to show me some moves – and me to copy it. I have got used with people looking at me, so dancing wet in the rain and making some new moves, was only but pure joy.

I’ve done some interviews also, of course. It makes you feel you are on the right track, when people telling you that they are grateful for you being here and that it is an important study. I can clearly see that the community-based organisation is making many positive changes and development in the village. Something that the informants are confirming themselves.

I continue to go to school and serve lunch to the wonderful children here. It is one of the best parts of my week. And also, the washing on Sundays that is close to a lake with beautiful surroundings with animals walking free.

 

A lecture about environment
The feeling after dancing in the rain to the drums!

Ups and downs: after rain comes sunshine!

Hi people,

I’m in my third week now in Wagwe, Kenya, and the days/weeks has been all from ups and downs. I think the main difference that I experience where I am, from reading others shared stories – is that I am quiet limited to move outside a particular area. Meaning, I cannot go by myself to go for a coffee in town, go for a walk, go to a beach – yeah you know, these things that most people do when they “travel”.

This, however, I know is a field study and not a tourist trip, but still it is challenging. Why I cannot go by myself, I don’t want to write here, but you are welcome to contact me personally of you wish to know.

This has ended up with a lot of alone time, reading, meditating. To help out in the household makes me feel better, as I am being productive.

There has been two accidents (one in my personal life at home, and one here) in the amount of 4 days, which also has made things a bit hard. But with support from wonderful people here and close ones at home, I have managed to get through the obstacles that arose a tempting thought of changing my ticket home earlier.

I have during the past weeks here been to the community school and see how they are working with the children, and it is so wonderful to see!

Also, I’ve met friends and family members of those I’m staying with, whom have giving me some inside information of various things, such as the school system in Kenya. It has given me time to reflect and understand a bit more how things work here – and how hard it actually is for children and youths to go to school.

Now I will be heading to the school to give out some lunch, and afterwards I will be having an interview.


After lunch in school

Things you cannot control: The arrival


Hello everyone,

This is my first blog post of the minor field study in Western Kenya. I will be doing an ethnographic study of a community-based organization and how it works with empowerment of the locals.

I have been in need to land in the new environment and with all its new experiences. You cannot put in words how you feel before you actually know it yourself. And still, it is hard to fully describe what I am and have been experiencing. Everything is so different from what I know.

To begin with, I did not get much sleep on the way here on the planes. First, I went to Copenhagen –> to Amsterdam –> to Nairobi –> to Kisumu. Maybe three hours of sleep all together for the whole 20 hours journey.

Even though I was tired and could not fully comprehend that I was leaving by myself to a foreign country, my goal was to just catch all the flights and get safe to the end point of where I would meet my personal contact, George, in the field in Kisumu airport.

Finally, I arrive around 10 am on Monday morning (22nd April) and I meet my distant friend for the first time. It is a meeting both relieving to see someone that will support you on your journey, but also a little scary to not know how things will turn out.

To make it short, it was a lot of new experiences on the way to the house in which I would be staying.

We drove past very poor areas, and my mind could not comprehend how the world could look like that. To read about it is a complete different thing than to see it. Things cross my mind such as; how can we put money on new hotels and renovate rich areas, and not support this kind of places where clean water, food and shelter is a virtue.

I was trying not to think too much of it as I was very tired and wanted to focus on trying to stay alert.

About a hour later, we arrived at the house. It is in a rural area in Western Kenya where cows and sheeps walk free with people herding them. People are waving to me and children shouts out “wazungo!!”, which means “white person”.

Arriving and entering into the room I would sleep in, all emotions came at once. I could have not prepared myself in advance of the poverty I’d seen.

No matter how much you read about something, you will not fully “understand” it unless you experience it or see it through your own eyes. Then, your body and mind must express it the way it needs to. You have to let go of your own control. So, I could only just let the tears flow.


4 Days later…


Already after the first day, I felt SO much better. I had to just go with the flow, trust the people around me, and let go of what I cannot control. When I saw more and got more adjusted to the environment, I could enjoy the experience and the loving people around me. I even got to see a very special wedding the second day that was combined with two different type of Christian beliefs, something that seldom happens.

Asante sana. I am so thankful for the family I am staying with and all the people I’ve met this far. They have such warm hearts. And the journey, has just begun…

 

 

Jamhuri Day, 12th December, is the celebration of Kenya becoming a republic 1,5 years after independence from the British Colony in the 60’s. As of this day in December most/or a lot of working people go on annual leave for Christmas and New Years. It would have been difficult to arrange more interviews etc during this time, however some CGO’s were still working and I was invited to a two day conference/meeting at Friends of Lake Turkana regarding organizing communities. There was an organisation from Peru who were invited to present their work they have done with a similar situation as the one we are experiencing here in Turkana. Their work and results were impressive and hopefully in the future we will see the same strength and work in this region.

Before I attended the meeting and conference at Friends of Lake Turkana, I had had to take a short trip down to Nairobi to sort out my visa, to extend the length of it to be allowed to stay in the country. When I applied for my visa online, I applied for a tourist visa for 10 weeks, and 24h after application it was approved. When I arrived at the airport, the person at the boarder only granted me 4 weeks and said I had to come back down to Nairobi to reapply for an extension of my visa. I was told by my contacts at the organisations that this process would take at least a whole day, so I prepared two full days in Nairobi for this. When I went to the migrations office, I was informed that this is a common procedure for students as there are many occasions where students apply for visa in Kenya because its easier, and then disappear into Ethiopia or Somalia. The extension is to make sure that those applying for the visa is actually staying in the country. Once I arrived at the migration centre it did not take more than 20 minutes for me to get my visa renewed, which left me with two amazing days to spend in Nairobi.

After the conference at Friends of Lake Turkana I ended my stay in Turkana for December and flew down to Nairobi again as there was nothing left for me to do up here. I spent a week in Nairobi working on writing on my project and transcribing some interviews before heading down to the coast to celebrate Christmas and New Years.

I am now back up in Turkana doing my last interviews and I will finally get an interview with the oil company and county government officials. When I have finished here I am moving further south to meet with the environment institution NEMA and Kenya Land Alliance in Nakuru and Nairobi.

Focus Group Interviews

My week in Lokichar was highly eventful and went a lot better and much quicker than I thought. I was introduced to my contact person there through Friends of Lake Turkana who came to see me as I arrived to plan our week and the interviews.

The plan was to interview 3 local tribes affected in different ways of the extractives, as well as other key people and one of the managers of the oil company operation in the area. We managed to hold focus group discussions/interviews with the tribes and the information collected has created a good foundation for my work. We also visited a couple of sites holding hazardous waste and collected information regarding the impact of this on the environment and living standards of the nearby tribes.

I was invited to and participated in an information meeting for CSO’s by the oil company, however the interview I was going to have with one of the managers kept getting cancelled and postponed and it later came to my knowledge that the person in question had deliberately been avoiding me. Through some further contacts made during my stay in Lokichar this was later resolved after I had left and the person in question have now confirmed with me that he will agree to having a meeting which will take place after the new year.

I have had to reschedule a lot and re-plan my visit due to Christmas Holidays. After the 12th of December (Jamhuri Day, the day Kenya celebrate becoming a republic) most people go on leave return after the new year. However, before this I had to go down to Nairobi to extend my visa and fly back up to attend a 2 day conference which I will write about in my nest post.

 

 

Friends of Lake Turkana

As of now I have spent just over two weeks in Turkana County. My first two weeks were spent in Lodwar networking and getting both my head and my way around my study and my approach. As mentioned in my previous post I had a few meetings and todays post was going to introduce my meeting with the organisation Friends of Lake Turkana.

I was met by the executive director, Ikal, and her colleague Andrew. They were both happy to receive me and assist me in answering questions in regards to the current situation of extractives in the area. Friends of Lake Turkana are actively working in representation of the local communities as well as communicators to them from both national and local government and were therefore very well informed and had no hesitated answers to my questions.

I introduced my study and my aim from which we had discussions of how I could possibly move forward and how they could be of help. It led to contacts in the field in Lokichar, as well as being invited to come with one of their representatives to a meeting held Tuesday 27th when Kenya Land Alliance was launching a report regarding land acquisition and community compensation. The meeting lasted for approximately 6hs, and was not only informative and contributed to material to my study, it was also a great opportunity for further networking.

Through connections received by Friends of Lake Turkana, that is on site in Lokichar where the oil fields are, I have now started my interviews with the local communities. I left Lodwar after the meeting on the 27th and arrived in Lokichar in the afternoon. In the photos below you can the landscape we drove through to get to my new destination.

Next week I will write about my first time and experience in Lokichar and the plan for my coming weeks as I have had to rearrange and re-plan most of the rest of my trip due to new circumstances.

My first week in northern Kenya

Welcome to Lodwar (see photos)! This is my new home, at least for the first two weeks (as I will be going back and forth to Lokichar), and in this post I will introduce to you my first week in this town.

I have now been at my study destination for exactly one week, and I have experienced both difficulties and progress. My first two days were fairly quiet and were used to try to get to know my surroundings and how to make my way around everything. I quickly noticed that everyone is very curious of me and walking around in central is not done discreetly. Everybody is starring (in friendly ways) and many come up just simply to say “Welcome!” and shake my hand. Those who do not come up still wave hello from a distance. So, during my first couple of days here I was taking in the whole picture of my new environment, locating myself, finding places to eat and finding my permanent boda boda/piki piki driver (motorcycle taxi) as it is easier to have one or two you can call when you need to go somewhere.

Although its rain season in Kenya, we experience very little of this and temperatures reach up to 40c every day in the sun, and approximately 33-35c in the shades. There are two hotels here where there is access to swimming pool, and one can pay a fee (500 ksh/43 sek) for a full day access to the pool, and this is where I spent my weekend :).

I had my first meeting with a girl I got in contact with through the project leader I am cooperating with. She works at an NGO here, and I am very pleased with how successful this meeting was. Other than this I have had a bit of a slow start but things are falling into place and I am getting more and more prepared to head out and commence the actual interviewing and field study!

In the next post I will write about my meeting with Friends of Lake Turkana that I have on Wednesday and our potential cooperation that I hope for!

Lots of love, Emma B

130111–Matataus, Kibera and KiSwahili!

Mambo! Sasa?

My swahili, or kiswahili is getting better. Especially now that I’ve got to practice all day with a bunch of amazing kids in Kibera. Today was the first day I got to experience another reality here in Kenya. No armed guards or running water. Sophie, the director of 5 C Human Rights Theater group very kindly invited me to her home and let me hang out with her family and friends all day. She met me at a mall close by my house and then we took a matatau, a small minibus, to her house. Now I’m her adopted Swedish daughter and she’s going to teach me some genuine Kenyan cooking and take care of me whilst I’m here. The older kids taught me how to count in Swahili and I taught them how to count in Swedish. And Sophie also told me to stop being a baby about the matataus (apparently they drive like crazy and are quite crowded and a haven for pick-pockets, so I still need to keep my guard up though) and just go ahead and take them. Something that will save me around 570 KSH a day. The taxi to her house is 600 KSH and the matataus are only 30 KSH combined.

Besides hanging out and taking about life, eating really good food and messing around with the three youngest ones Sophie also told me a lot about what she does, what’s she’s passionate about and what some of the struggles women in Kenya face on a day to day basis. We also of course got to talk a lot about Kibera, and since she lives in the highest building in Kibera she showed me the view from the rooftop. We also walked around in the local market where food is like three times cheaper than in the supermarket I’ve been to. It’s so strange to imagine that Kibera, one of Africas largest and most crowded informal settlements is so very close to where I’m sitting now, I’m my very comfortable and spacious living room–we are three people on four bedrooms and a large living-room. It’s only about 15 minutes by car. But in these two worlds the reality of everyday life is so different. Tomorrow I’m heading back to Sophie’s and staying until Sunday. Mama Reina (that’s what the children calls Sophie since her youngest daughter is named Reina) has fixed me my own bed in the same room as Patty and Ryan and since it’s weekend tomorrow I’m hoping on meeting more people who can share an insight into their everyday life. Also. I’m brining my camera tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get some great pictures!

/ Irina Bernebring Journiette

130109–Karibu Kenya!

I’m in Nairobi! Sitting on the floor in my new livingroom grasping the fact that I’m for the first time in my life ”south of Sahara.” The journey here felt much shorter than I was expecting–even though it was snowing i Istanbul and I was rerouted via Amsterdam. I arrived this morning and D. and O. the couple I’m living with had sent a driver to come and pick me up. The driving here is almost even more crazy than in Riyadh, but my new ‘rafiki’ (friend in Swahili) and driver David felt safe. However, I don’t think I will be heading out on the roads driving by myself anytime soon. Today I’ve spent getting acquainted with my neighborhood Kilimani, just north of the city center. This will be my base for now. But my goal is to explore as much as possible. Of course I’ve already gotten lost once, but during the day time most places around here feel and are safe, and people are in general very helpful. Looking for a small supermarket a woman guided me in the right direction, offered me some nuts and told me a little bit about her work with a local NGO. For now things are pretty relaxing. Tonight we are having dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant and I’m going to try and get a hold of a Kenyan number so I can start contacting people to talk to about my project. And I need to figure out what I want to do and where I want to go when I’m here–as I feel and fear that these eight weeks will pass much faster than expected.

Tuonane baadaye–See you later!

/ Irina Bernebring Journiette