Friday, April 13, 2012

More Field Notes

Western Kenya; The scenery is beautiful. Picture hills green with lush grass and plains carpeted with lime-green sugarcane and tea farms. Incidentally, the spiky look of sugarcane plantations reminded me of one girl in my university days who colored her spiky hair electric-green. Maybe she's from Western and she got homesick.

The people here are so polite that it is amazing. Ask someone for directions and in a jiffy, every passer-by who heard your question will engage in a noisy chorus of instructions. They argue heatedly between themselves at the slightest difference of distance or bearing. All the while I'm smiling and wondering how there are still some helpful people alive for free.

In related news, I've spent the first week in the field on motorbikes for the most part. now I know travel writers who go the whole powerbike way and tear along highways for adrenal floods, but in my case, for the most part, the pace was, let us say "civilised". And my view was obstructed by the riders' big round helmet. Spending the whole day in the back of a Chinese motorbike does things to your lower back that a weightlifter would shiver to contemplate. But I'm not complaining, coz in Western Kenya, Chinese motorbikes mean access. And they're not so sophisticated that repair takes much more than pliers. Often I passed masses of youths with their Chinese motorbikes waiting for passengers under trees. Those machines could be the main economic activity quite soon.

Nothing beats travelling the countryside on an open bike. Another plus about Western Province, the roads are smooth and they roll and swerve over hills and turns, so the element of surprise is sure to keep the traveller awake as each bend unfurls a new vista. There are many odd rock formations that engage the brain, for example, "How did that giant rock manage to get atop and balance above that tiny rock?" You can try to figure such a thing out for hours.

Mad props to the Constituency Development Fund people in Butula, Nambale and Hamisi. Good work is happening especially in education, roads and electrification. That CDF stuff is changing lives and you can quote me.

Still, there's an all-pervasive rural feel to Western Kenya that often gets funny. Like seeing a ten-year old boy playing barefoot soccer in a pink fluffed-up ill-fitting "Barbie and Friends" shirt. One Riley would have said "That's gay!" but the kid probably wouldn't understand, or care. And I only thought it strange unti I saw the school uniforms! HAHAAAAAH! Clowns. Generally, people dress to conceal nakedness. The fashionable ones are the exception rather than the norm. Patches cover tears. Life continues.

The only let-down was in the meals. All over this here Kenya of ours, vegetarians uniformly attract a raised eyebrow from waiters and waitresses. You'd think we are third-class citizens.

Hungry Me: *ignoring menu if any* "What do you have? I don't eat meat."
Comely Waitress: "We have fish and we have chicken."
Hungry Me: "That's meat."
Comely Waitress: *sneers* We have matumbo. (Direct translation = stomachs)
Hungry Me: "That's meat."
Comely Waitress (exasperated): "We don't have chips!"

Seriously?

More good news, I managed to play some soccer. :) In Butula. :)

More field notes to come.

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