Madaraka Day, Ramadan, Serengeti wildlife and other everyday life in Kenya

Hi everyone. I’m on my second last week here in Western Kenya in Wagwe. The days for me are mostly calm and easy. However, I have during this time of two weeks experienced: a music festival in a high school (a singing and dancing competition from various schools); Madaraka Day (Kenya’s 56th year of self-rule); and Ramadan.

This picture I took during Ramadan

It was a big celebration in Narok Country during Madaraka Day, located in the South-West Kenya, the land of the Maasai. Every year Kenya celebrates the day from a different county with music and dance, speeches and other events. This time, because it took place in Narok county, people had the chance to enter the Serengeti wildlife reserve for free.

Underneath, is a picture of the Maasai. Not only are they known for wearing red and to be one of the world’s last great warrior cultures – but they are also incredible good a jumping!
This picture is taken from the webpage:

I can tell you how most of my regular days looks like here: I wake up around 07:00-08:00 by the rooster. You wake up with less stress and tiredness than waking up from an alarm-sounding phone (what I am used to at home). Then, I go and boil some eggs or make myself an omelette. Every morning I need to take the malaria medicine (a red pill), which is best taken with something fat – like eggs. I make some tee and if I sync my breakfast with my host family, I will share it with George (my kind and hospital contact person). Then, either I will go to the Mama Norah school before lunch to help the chefs in the kitchen to serve the pupils or stay home and write and read. After lunch if I’m in school, I might sit in the library and read, or I attend the classes. Around 15:00 – they have something called “game time”. They bring out a basketball and some footballs to play with for about an hour. For the record, the footballs are very expensive here. I reckoned this when I bought one for the school and one for a boy. In Kenyan schilling it estimates around 1500-2000 schilling, which is about 200 Swedish crowns ($20).

When attending the Kiswahili class

On the way to and home from school there is a 10-minute walk that I usually go with one of the neighbours, one is a teacher at the school. I usually meet children on the way that wants to high-five me and others that I greet on the way. Rocky, the dog from the house I am staying in, sometimes follow me too.

Yesterday (6 June), I had an interview with one of the teachers. It was really giving. I am performing the fieldwork through participant observation, where I go on about the everyday life and attend local events and meet people in the community. It seems natural to have an interview after 1-1,5 week after some observations and time to think. I write down some structured questions as a guide of what I want to discuss or ask about, but usually the conversation leads to greater insights and discussions than what I beforehand had planned. So, there is more of an ongoing storytelling from the informant and random questions I come up with when being in the moment – it feels more natural and I get more inspired “in the zone” than writing out questions beforehand.

The community in Wagwe consist of many different types of religions. Mostly, the community consist of Roho, a branch from Christianity. But there is also Hindus, Muslims and other branches of Christianity, like The Seven Day Adventist church that live together side by side in the community. I have attended the Roho Church (mostly) every Saturday as the host family are going there. They wear a white or red coat/long dresses, and women wear a scarf around their head. Someone preaches to the crowd and then suddenly, a person starts singing, and then more people are singing. First, you can hear one drum beating in fast paste that shortly accompanies by 2-3 other drums – creating a dance beat. Someone also joins with maracas, that makes one more inspired to stand up and dance. And that is what’s happening. As soon as the first drum sounds – the smallest kids start to bounce up and down and run towards the centre where the people playing the drums and maracas and the person singing stand. The sound is so loud, it feels like your heart vibrates to the sounds of it (it’s hard for me to sit completely still). Then more and more people from all ages joins the dancing in the middle.

This is how I can look like when attending the Roho church

I seem to have written a lot this time, I hope you enjoyed the reading of some of the everyday life of mine in Wagwe. I must end this by saying that tomorrow, I will be going early to Serengeti, a wildlife reserve in Maasai Mara. It will the first trip for me “outside the field work” – I look very much forward to it. Apparently, there is low season now, because the wildebeests are over the border in Tanzania. They usually arrive to Kenya in July and departs in November. It is said that during a period of three days, more than 1 million (!) wildebeests migrates over the river to Kenya  – which is why many people come to visit the reserve at the Great Rift Park. However, I’ve been told that because of climate change, the herd will arrive earlier than usual to Kenya – which is why I might be able to view it. I will write a post after this trip, and of course put up some picture for you to see!

This is how the wildbeests migration in Serengeti can look like (pictures used from safari sites)

I also want to thank those that contributed to the foundrasing about two weeks ago to the school. I have been talking with the teachers and people in the CBO who got very happy about this – and so together we will see how we can get the best use of it – I will not forget to update about this.

Until next time – take care! /Isabelle

Sista veckan och sista inlägget

Hooola a todos y todas,

Nu har vi haft vår sista helg tillsammans här i Cali och Rolanda är påväg norrut för att resa runt i Colombia och Brasilien medan jag, Malin, stannar ett par veckor till här i Cali. Uppsatsen ska presenteras i augusti och är därför inte helt klar, fattas lite finslip på diskussion och korrekturläsa. Men det sparar vi till juli när vi båda är hemma i Sverige igen. Det var dags för en paus nu efter två månaders intervjuande, läsande och skrivande på tre olika språk.

Under vår sista helg, med besök från Sverige, gjorde vi en roadtrip till Cristo Rey, en utkiksplats i Cali, och Kilometro 18 som är ett svalt område i bergen dit man åker när det är allt för varmt i staden och man är sugen på något som liknar svenskt höst-rugg och varm choklad med ost i. Det fortsätter förvåna oss att Colombia varierar sååå mycket i temperatur, kultur och landskap bara efter en halvtimmes körning. Vi dansade även lite salsa, promenerade i stan och åt god mat.

Roadtrip med fina vänner, från Sverige och Colombia

Detta blir sista inlägget från vår resa och vi hoppas vi inspirerat fler till att ta chansen att söka MFS och resa till ett land du intresserar dig för och skriv om något kul, spännande, orättvist, sorgligt eller whatever. Det har varit utmanande vid flera tillfällen, meeen så otroligt lärorikt och helt klart värt det.

Här tillsammans med Damaris, vår tolk och nu nära vän


Un abrazo graaaande!

Malin y Rolanda


New home

Phnom Penh from our private boat tour

Time passes quickly… like always when having fun. So, with the interviews done and over two months passed, my return back to Sweden is approaching. And I don’t feel ready. Living here for just a while  really makes one see new perspectives of things, like always when travelling. If you haven’t been travelling away for longer trip – just do it. Even when feeling the most lost or culturally shocked it makes you appreciate life and respecting other cultures. Being in a development country and researching on such a sensitive topic like politics (which should not be a sensitive topic) makes me so grateful for all the freedoms back home that we just take for granted. Don’t take it for granted! Especially with the political climate in Europe that to some extent is shifting towards closed borders and scepticism against people with different backgrounds and the current political system – a system that is so great comparing to how it could have been!


On a night out with my Cambodian friends

But being here also offers tolerance and patience – for example in traffic. There is no point even trying to get rushed, instead I just look out the tuktuk and admiring the views or curiously glance at people in their everyday life which is so different to what I’d see back home. At the same time it is not too different. People are still people, trying to make a living and appreciating life sipping frozen cocktails from shotglasses on an outdoor bar in 32 degrees heat. At this bar we got to meet some locals too, the nicest people who kept on buying us snacks, such as different fruits we’d never tried before while discussing the Chinese investments of the country. I have also met two other cambodians, laughing at my rules of playing pool and showing me how it’s really done. These two sisters that I’ll definately miss when going back.

With the thesis submitted earlier than planned I went out to the island Koh Rong Sanloem for some vacation before going back home to defend my thesis. Right now I am stuck in Sihanoukville, a town that has horribly changed within the past few years to Chinese construction work. Hopefully time will pass quickly with a coffe and a book in hand.

M’pai Bay – Koh Rong Sanloem

Tomorrow I’m flying home to Sweden, back to reality with cold weather and shy people. I am so looking forward to seeing all my friends and family and clean streets though!

Analysen, la salsita och ett volontäruppdrag!

Hola amigos!
Jag och Malin har pratat en del om möjligheten vi har fått genom MFS. Det är genom MFS stipendium som vi har kunnat träffa alla organisationer och få höra om allas personliga historier, samt att få upptäcka Colombia. De vännerna och kontakterna vi har fått är tack vare MFS stipendium och det kommer vi alltid vara tacksamma för.
De sista veckorna närmar sig sin slut och det som står kvar är – analys delen. Genom att vi har börjat skriva vår analys, har vi upptäckt nya dimensioner, tankar och teman inom intervjuer…Det är som att se insamlad data från en annan vinkel…

Under tiden vi inte skriver, vilket är kvällstimmar, så lagar vi en del mat och bakar och bjuder människor att få smaka på olika, svenska specialiteter. Vi har också haft chans att utföra några dagsutflykter i djungel, samt att dansa salsa som aldrig slutar spelas på radio eller gatorna. Innan vi anlände till Cali, hade vi inte ens aning att det är så mycket salsa här runt omkring.
Under tiden vi skriver vår uppsats och tränar lite salsa, har vi också hunnit att bidra med vår engelska kunskaper. Jag och Malin har fått uppdrag att lära ut grundskolebarn – engelska. Det har känts meningsfullt att kombinera skrivandet, med ett volontäruppdrag.
Ta hand om er och vi hörs:)))

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

Interview week

Although starting off in Cambodia with two “vacations” straight away, I have had a week now full of interviews, 6 of them actually. These have been so interesting and really an insight in what it is like to be a woman under the political circumstances in Cambodia. I wish I could share it in more details, but I guess you would have to read the thesis when it’s done! Finally I’m finished with interviews, after struggling with cancelled ones from people being too scared to talk.

Besides interviews, me, the other swedish student and Hanna from RWI went to the Swedish embassy to vote in the European election. After that we got a private tour of the embassy, which was situated on the 10th floor in a business tower and offered quite a nice view.

When I’m not writing on my thesis or doing research I am trying out all the different kinds of asian food, cambodian desserts and fresh fruit drinks that Phnom Penh offers! I also ride a lot of tuktuks, explore different neighborhoods in Phnom Penh and gotten to know some locals and expats. With less than 3 weeks to go, I better continue with my writing and discover more of the city!

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!

Meeting so many inspiring people

Hello, from a very rainy and windy Accra!

I can finally say this past week has been very busy, with interviews! YAY! Last week included a smaller breakdown, both because of the lack of internet which is really making everything A LOT harder, and because my lack of interviews and just some general homesickness (never thought I’d say that!). But as usual, after surviving a really bad day like that the next day brought a lot of positivity and strength and motivation! So on Thursday I went about 2,5hrs drive from Accra to an NGO and spent most of the day there, interviewing staff. They had built like a whole small community, with a school even, for rescued child trafficking victims. It was amazing to see and spend the day there. Then both my Friday and Saturday was spent with another organization here in one of the slum-areas in Accra. This is an organization that a Swedish woman started, that I found by finding her old master thesis online. I had a very useful interview with one of the staff, and on Saturday I got to join the youth ambassadors meeting they have every Saturday. They had a little small presentation for me about educational systems in Ghana and child trafficking. WOW, so so grateful for this experience. Afterward, I got to present what I’m doing in Ghana and my studies, and since they had shared the educational system in Ghana I shared what I know about the educational system in Sweden. Huge huge differences, here children who want nothing more than to go to school cannot, or even if they do they face sexual abuse and rape by their teachers, and in Sweden, there’s so many who are complaining about even having to go to school… Perspectives… Then we just continued having very interesting conversations about child trafficking and governments, what needs to change for trafficking to end etc. I left that place with such a warm feeling in my heart.

Ett besök i huvudstaden

Hej hej,

Förra helgen spenderade vi i Bogota efter att vi hittat superbilliga biljetter dit. Och vi kände att vi behövde en paus från både plugg och värme. Vi har två vänner som bor där som hostade oss och visade oss runt. Helgens bästa var det sköna vädret. Väldigt nice med svenskt vår-väder och att kunna ta på sig ett par extra tröjor efter 5 veckor i varma och fuktiga Cali. Vi åt god mat, drack mycket varm choklad, promenerade mycket, dansade lite och njöt av fina utsikter.

Med våra vänner som visar oss runt deras hemstad, Bogota.

Denna veckan har vi fokuserat på att skriva, skriva, skriva. Och diskutera det vi skriver. Vi har letat oss till ett nytt ställe efter att ha tröttnat på “vårt” café en aning. Numera häckar vi på ett hostel med pool, det är nyöppnat och därför är där väldigt tomt, lugnt och skönt.

Dricker lemonada de coco som är vår bådas nyfunna kärlek. Och skriver uppsats… såklart.

Un abrazo!
Malin och Rolanda

Transcribing and Adventures in Buenos Aires

Hola Amigxs!

Right now I am struggling a bit to find more persons to interview. The six interviews I have conducted so far was really easy to get a hold so I am a bit frustrated now when things are not going as smooth as before. Hopefully the persons I have written and tried to get in contact with will answer me soon so that I can reach collect more material on the activist’s role in the struggle for legalizing abortion here in Argentina.

Meanwhile I’ve started to transcribe the interviews I have conducted so far, but the process is sloooow. To be honest it is really really boring and it takes such a long time. But with a bit of patience and time I hope I will survive this too.

Otherwise things are continuing as before here in Argentina. I feel comfortable here and I believe its because I was already familiar with the country, culture and the city before going on this MFS adventure. In that sense I believe that I might not face the same struggles with culture shock and difficulties of adaption as other persons who goes on a mfs might do. This does not mean that my stay here is all without difficulties or struggles, it happens to me too, but I think that I have been able to adopt myself rather quickly into the Argentinian rhythm and culture, and that maybe an unanswered message or last minute canceled or changed plans does not surprise me anymore. I have learned to accept these things, that the understanding of the concept of time and planning is not the same as what I am used to. But even though I’ve experienced canceled plans and unanswered messages people are so friendly and warm, there is always time for having some beers or drinking some mate, and for this I love Argentina and the beautiful people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know here.

I spent last weekend in Buenos Aires, the big buzzling capital of the country. It was nice to get out of the smaller city La Plata after a while. Dont get me wrong, I love to live in La Plata, it is a beautiful student town filled with culture events and things to do for students, but after I while a felt that I needed to see something different. Then it is great to have Buenos Aires close, and after an hour long train ride I was able to breath the big city air of the capital.

I spent the weekend by going to the annual book fair, some museums, and eating some nice food. I did also conduct an interview, so my stay in the capital did also include some field work and it was not all vacation mode. The city is huge but its so beautiful and sometimes it feels like Im walking around in an European city because some buildings in some neighborhoods resembles the architecture of cities of Europe. But of course the city has its Latin American vibes, and I think this is the reason for why I love the city so much, its this mix of something familiar with something exciting and culturally different. The city does also contain a lot of Argentinian history and many squares and places are filled with history. Such as the Plaza del Mayo, the square in front of the President palace “Casa Rosada”. During the military dictatorship mothers who’s children got abducted by the military and disappeared, went out to the square and marched in front of the presidents office demanding the State to be accountable for the disappearance of their children and its human rights violations.


Here are some pictures from my weekend in Buenos Aires

Plaza Del Mayo

Casa Rosada
The mothers of Plaza Del Mayo