Sunday, 29 August 2010


The diet we have took a bit of getting used to. The staple carb is ugali- which is ground maize (sometimes with other seeds) and is basically like eating a brick of flour. It comes in 3 different colours- white, yellow and brown. The brown one is supposedly more healthy and the one we eat every night at kingdom kids. The headteacher and pupils at Alango were very concerned when they discovered we eat brown ugali as apparently people eat too much of it ‘cry when they go to the toilet’. The number of times Tom the headteacher has inquired as to our bowel movements is comical. Where there is ugali there will also be scumawiki. This is a chopped green vegetable which is a bit like spinach with some tomato and lots of salt! These are the basic premise of every meal but you can also have other things such as egg, omena (tiny fish that taste a bit like metal but I quite like them), nile patch (small fish) or potatoes. Other families have chicken sometimes or meat or rice but the boys don’t like rice because they think the only thing that can make them feel full is ugali…they eat so much!!! Due to the regularity of meals and pressure from the boys to eat all the ugali (I have never done this- Rachel has once) plus a very big appetite (I think my stomach has been stretched) I have rounded a little around the edges- much to the glee of the teachers at Alango ‘Oh Leila you are fat now. This is very good.’ A treat is chapatti and green grams (like lentils). When we go to town we eat Western food, at which point I have to mention The Laughing Budda. It’s an Indian run place which is rubbish for food but dear Lord they have mastered puddings. The best is the sizzling chocolate brownie which is a brownie and ice cream on top with hazelnuts and they pour hot chocolate sauce on it and it sizzles!!! How epic!!! Mia, who has not exactly been enjoying her placements has admitted that the sizzling chocolate brownie may be the sole factor as to her continuing the project lol. Well I have to go now, its breakfast time….mmmm plain bread!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mr Kingdom Kids, Outdoor showers and Tea

Crazy German Man meet Kisumu Street Boys
Now for another topic. I cannot promise this will be free from rants- but I will talk about nice things soon. Then I might have a lie down because I’m exhausting myself! Actually I’ll talk about some nicer things first.

Mr Kingdom Kids
After seeing an advert for Miss Kenya I had a joke idea of a Mr Kingdom Kids competition. Mebo thought it would be hilarious so we thought what the heck lets give it a go. Round one was catwalk, followed by talent, then dance off (without a separate dance round literally ALL the boys chose dance as their talent) then a speech and questions. The boys were given a week to prepare a talent and we went to get some lollies for all contestants, a belt for first prize, watch for second and chain for third. On Thursday (29th) evening, after a late start, we had the best evening I’ve had in Kenya  The boys found hilarious clothes for the catwalk, donned all the bling they could find (a surprising amount) and strutted their stuff to one track on repeat lol with varied levels of campness. Even Mebo and Ishmael joined in. For the talent contest there was an interesting range from bizarre kung fu to acrobatics to singing and poems. My favourite was Joseph Obongo who sat down put one leg behind his head, then as he put the other leg behind let off the loudest fart and I was just crying with hysterics…oh it was so funny… poor obongo… The dance of was literally awesome but the speeches were a bit sad as lots of the boys were saying things like ‘I could’ve done better, someone else deserves to win’ ‘I’m not really talented…I didn’t prepare enough.’ Obongo won, followed by Wycliffe and third to Emmanuel. Then we danced for the rest of the evening until it was so late we had to sleep!

Outdoor Showers
We went to Mebu's house which really was in the middle of nowhere for about 5 was so lovely and ill say more about it later but now ill just say about the shower.

The shower was an open air open topped shack with a corrugated iron door that kept falling open. It wasn’t an actual shower. First you had to pump water from the well, then carry it over and use jugs to pour water on yourself. It was so hot and we were doing stuff and outside so 2 showers a day were a must. Once you balance the door and cover the gap with a towel you can start. It sounds bad but tipping a jug of cold water over your head when you are sweaty and you can feel the sun beating down on your skin is just the most blissful feeling. Basically like diving into a swimming pool on a hot day but the rural African village version and you get clean. I also ‘showered’ as the sun was setting which was cool and beautiful and amazing and then the door fell open (luckily no one saw…). Just in general cold showers just are normal now…they are rubbish in the morning but when you’re hot and sweaty they are ideal..Also they make me get ready quicker otherwise I spend too long in the shower like mmmm warm water!!

Kenyan Tea
Kenyan tea comes as far as I can gather in two forms.
1. Strong tea – no milk, at least 6 sugars (which are already added when they boil the water and add the tea ..once or twice we’ve been given the sugar to add but we end up putting in at least 4 heaped spoons or else it just tastes weird lol….:S )
2. With milk- when I say with milk I mean 60% weird condensed milk tasting milk 10% tea 30% sugar…we kept being given this at school from flasks and the milk would congeal and the whole tea experience was an unpleasant test of bork suppressing. I had it once without sugar and made fresh and it was essentially a chai latte and actually really nice.

Next time the topics will be:

Kakamega rainforest trek
Mandazi (best food ever)
Mebu's home
Stars at night
Crazy German man

Two rants..and another rant

So basically we were supposed to be having 2 placements- spending 3 days at the school and 2 with Ishmael on the street boys program (Before taking a boy to Kingdom Kids they have to come for 6 months twice a week for a day where they can’t sniff glue, they wash, eat lunch and have some informal lessons- this is to prepare the boys for a structured environment and to ensure they really do want to leave the streets- if they don’t have this time the number of boys that go back to the streets is very high). Unfortunately this year Ishmael didn’t have the funding to run the program which meant that one of our placements had essentially disappeared!  Obviously this was really gutting but there isn’t really anything we can do about it so hard luck. We are just so lucky that the boys in the home are so awesome and we have fun there. But…and a very big but..blow number 2- the boys go ‘home’ for a month while we are here!! ‘home’ being whatever family they do have- be that a grandparent, sister, stepmother or for a few boys they go to Ishmael’s parents home. We didn’t know about this until the week before and we were really upset- with reason! So on the Friday of our second week we left to go to town and said our goodbyes to the boys.. it was really sad- especially as a few of the boys were really anxious about going home and didn’t want to leave. Since then there are only 3 or 4 (depending on the day) of the older boys around who normally live at home but come during the holidays – it’s been difficult because these ones have been more closed and reserved with us, and having 4 boys is just not the same as the lovely noise and chaos of 13! They come back on the 28th and I honestly cannot wait. It’s such bad timing that we are here when they leave and just so frustrating!!!! Sorry for this rant….
Okay..I’m not sorry, and now I’m skipping into present time (16th August) to have another rant about the school. Last week I was ill but went to school and then collapsed a bit on Friday night (so I had to stay in by myself in the dark as the electricity had been cut off while the girls and Ishmael went to an Indian all you can eat buffet with ice cream too!!! Can you imagine my utter depression!!?) So today I decided to take it easy and I’ll go in tomorrow. Glori seems to now have a similar thing to me so poor Rach had to go in alone. I’m going to have to give some context to say the next thing. In Kenya Primary Education is free. This is quite recent and although a massive step, the government didn’t provide more teachers or schools. Overnight, class sizes went from 30 to between 60 to 80. In fact there is no limit and classes of up to 120 are common. Even in our school class 4 is 120 kids, 4 or 5 crammed into a desk for 2. Teaching assistants don’t exist so each class has one teacher, so it’s almost impossible not to have half or more of the lesson devoted to discipline and here comes their trusty method- the cane. Although now illegal in Kenya, caning is still widely used. (The teachers laugh at the idea of detentions or other methods). Back to the free education thing… we had a week off but then there are tutorial classes 6 days a week for standard 5 to 8 for 3 weeks, then another week off then a new term. The kids have to pay 150 shillings (so about one pound fifty) for these classes. I know this seems like nothing but these are village children…most from huge families and their parents are perhaps farmers or sell fruit or maize at the market. The average wage in Kenya is 100 ksh a day (a pound) in the city and the village is much less. Some of the teachers (who don’t have proper training) get about 75. So you can imagine that after you pay for food and essentials if you have 10 kids then you can’t afford to send them for tuition- which in theory is revision but in practice is uncovered syllabus for their exams – which they have to pass to move up a year or go to secondary. Oh and they can’t go to secondary unless they can afford it. So it’s just a grim circle really. In the first week at the school the classes were enormous but now they are 10-25 a class! Rachel just came back and told me that as over half the kids who are there actually haven’t paid, today they had an on mass caning session where all the kids came out to the field, lay down on their fronts and the teachers hit them on the back of their legs. I’m so angry about this (as I’m sure you will be too)- how can you punish a child because their parents can’t pay the fee??!!!
One last thing. These kids know almost nothing about HIV/AIDS….I do not understand how this is possible when its shoved down their throats at every opportunity (even seemingly happy and simple storybooks tend to have a AIDS twist in the story at some point). The science books also say that HIV is spread through saliva so you will get it from ‘deep kissing’ (snogging). So all these kids (I know they are primary but they go up to 19years so a lot of them are just teenagers) are scared of kissing so even the ones who have sex do it without kissing, which is the most backwards thing I can imagine. They also teach in the science books that sex before marriage is wrong and children should practice abstinence. They don’t talk about condoms, and if they do it’s to say that they’re dangerous (which to be frank is true as firstly where can village kids get condoms and secondly they don’t have any idea how to use them as they aren’t taught in school)… now this is in a school where girls are dropping out due to pregnancy. If they are having sex anyway then surely the best thing is to deal with it head on… This is a huge issue…Rach just came back with a bag of questions from standard 7 including ‘what is HIV/AIDS?’ , ‘can mosquitoes pass it? ,’ can you get it from shaking hands with someone?’ and ‘What should I do if my boyfriend has HIV but I love him so much that I want to have sex with him?’ As you can see there is serious work to be done and we are not really the best people to be doing it… we are arranging with a few NGOs- hopefully FHOK (family health options Kenya) will come in soon and regularly if we set up a link because they really need it!!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Kingdon Kids Boys

It’s proving quite difficult to find time to write this, although that really is a good thing. Rachel has been writing hers a bit so I’m going to steal some of hers for descriptions and such like (**). I can’t see who is reading this and none of you comment so I hope it’s not just a pointless waste of time…
18/07 Sunday
We went in a big group to one of the Kenyan volunteers’ church. It was an archetypal happy clappy African church, which I could only describe as my home church with the volume turned up x100! The preachers were insane. After that we were supposed to be being picked up by Ishmael (who is the man that runs Kingdom Kids (street boy’s home) where we are living) but he was almost 3 hours late!!! So we were just lolling around Sooper guest house thinking we would be spending 2 months cleaning Sooper. When he finally did arrive, in his banged up Suzuki, a big group of street boys came over to speak to him cos they all know him and in fact they love him! We had to put our bags on the top and the boys went to scavenge some string to tie them up. We went on the VERY VERY BUMPY road to Kibos (the village is about 30 minutes from town and feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere) and as we got close it started to pour down. ** our car pulled into the gates of Kingdom Kids I’m pretty sure I do not just speak for myself when I say that I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not really sure what I had expected but it was not a huge house with an amazing green garden in the front; complete with bushes sporting orange flowers, a palm tree and a basketball court! As we entered we were greeted by some of the boys, the slightly tense atmosphere soon broken by games of draughts (bottle caps and draughts of course) and being taught how to munch on real sugar cane. (I’ll take a quick moment to divert and relish in the memory of my first sugar cane- it’s like a lollypop but REAL and so juicy you cant help but get very very messy!- I don’t think ill ever look at sugar in the same way) Anyway as more of the boys filtered into the house we gradually managed to work out there were 12 (now 13) between the ages of 10-21. The house is a large sitting area with sofas and chairs, open plan into a massive table area where we all eat dinner. There is a hatch through to the kitchen where food is prepared on a little fire (basically a bbq without grill) in the middle of the floor- and water taken out of a massive pot. The house mother- Mebu, the man who runs Kingdom Kids (Ishmael) and the boys all have rooms along a corridor and ours is in the middle. **

Mebu is amazing! She is just so warm and friendly and she really likes having the female company- can you imagine just living with 14 boys!! It really didn’t take long to feel comfortable around her and now we can tease each other and just laugh about anything. Like yesterday I was giving her a hard time because the potatoes went mushy because she had neglected them to watch a Mexican soap opera (apparently I look like Paloma, the main character, as all the village children shout Paloma Paloma how are you?? All the time lol) but anyway she was just cracking up. Honestly I’m so thankful to have her here because she is such a mother figure.
Ishmael is out a lot of the time but he is essentially just reeeeealllly cool. He obviously really has a heart for the boys (you would have to devote yourself entirely to them) and he just has such banter with them. In fact, he is one of the best people I’ve ever met. He’s only 35 too!!
The boys were so hyper on the first few days, asking us 1000 questions about literally any random crap and it was just exhausting!! Here are the boys in more or less age order.

1. Kevin- is the oldest and has been in the home the longest and is soon starting university to study criminology. He speaks the best English and is clearly like an older brother to the boys.
2. Peter (with the chain) - is from Mombassa, really doesn’t speak much English but he has an amazing laugh but he does make an effort to talk to us and be around us.
3. Nice Peter – This one is my favourite. He’s 16 and has lost a leg so he’s on crutches. He has such an amazing and beautiful face and smile and is really good to talk to. He’s so sweet and funny, like as soon as he gets hungry (which is a lot) he looks as miserable as sin and acts like he’s dying but after he’s eaten he’s so happy!
4. James (Shaban)- He is one of the older and more confident of the boys. He has a major crush on me and is constantly like “ATIENO!” “ATIENO!“ (This is my Luo (tribal) name which means born at night). At first I didn’t really like him but now I really do. He’s just one of those boys with a hard exterior but just underneath he’s unconfident and just wants affection.
5. Wycliffe – speaks good English and is really nice and outgoing.
6. Joseph Obongo – He barely speaks any language and can be really aggressive. He was majorly addicted to glue and really messed up his body and he’s covered in scars. He likes me and we fight and play but I do have to be like “Obongo STOP!” or else I’ll be covered in bruises.
7. Felix and Peter - took a bit longer to warm to us but both are just a bit shy but it’s partially cos English is bad.
8. Clay Lucas – He is s sweet but he’s been really sick with Malaria and is only just starting to get better.
9. Emmanuel- is really sweet and speaks great English. He speaks really quietly and asks a million questions all the time. He’s also very camp!
10. Dadi – He was seriously abused by his mother and as a result is psychologically disturbed. He boards at a special school but he came back during our first week. I’ve been trying to apply some Speech Therapy stuff on him, he responds really well to intensive interaction (where I just copy his faces and noises and make loads of eye contact). It’s good he’s here and the boys generally look out for him but sometimes they’re harsh so I tell them off!
11. Rogers- is 12 but he’s absolutely tiny and really cheeky. He can’t decide if he wants Glori or me to be his girlfriend so he tries to make us jealous of the other which is hysterical.
12. Benton (Micheal Jackshon) – is so funny and such a character. He insists on speaking to us in slow, loud, clear Luo.

**We are in a ‘town’ (???) called Kibos- I say ‘town’ because I’m not so sure whether to call it a town or not. Kingdom Kids is up the road from a market area, there is a church further on and some houses dotted around- but imaging the furthest thing in your mind from a town and that’s probably it. I now know the meaning of the word rural- it means its normal if your walking to school next to a goat/chicken/cow, share your bathroom with a giant frog and bed with a glow worm.**
Glori, Rach and I are sharing a small room which amazingly has a wait for it…..WESTERN TOILET!!