Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya with a population around 500,000, is on the shores of Lake Victoria. It is a bustling metropolis with much street activity. I made three trips to this city, (not counting the final trip to the airport) to go to the markets and visit the sites. We were lucky enough to make the 60+ minute journey in a truck, but many, many people take a matatu,or a boda boda, or even get there on foot.As interesting and as beautiful as Kenya was, it is ultimately the people you meet who stay in your heart. The students and teachers had a major impact on me–their courage, their determination and their wonderful welcoming openness. Here is the grade six class writing their letters to Canada, followed by a picture of two of the amazing teachers. You may have seen this poster before, but it is worth repeating; it sums up my Kenyan lessons: HOLSTEE – Holstee Manifesto Poster.
Archives for February 2012
The markets and small vegetable stands along the red clay roads around Matangwe have tomatoes, sweet potatoes and sukuma wiki for sale. This last vegetable is similar to chard or collard greens. Sukuma wiki literally means ‘to stretch the week’ and many families had to do just that, especially in the period of drought they were experiencing.Peta Hall, a wonderful local potter and tireless worker in Ghana, served a great African Stew at a fundraising dinner last year. It contained all of the ingredients mentioned above. Since I am missing Kenya a lot, I decided to make this stew today and thought I would share the recipe. I’ve modified her original recipe a bit. Skuma wiki is often served with ugali–but rice or a good crusty bread may be a preferred substitute. (I never did try ugali, even after much urging.)
2 T olive oil
1 large onion chopped, 1 parsnip and 1 carrot peeled and chopped
1 bunch of swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped
1 tsp each ground ginger and cumin
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp curry paste
1 28 oz can of tomatoes, low sodium
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 15 oz can chick peas
salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste
Saute the onions, parsnips, and chard stems until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and cook one minute more. Add the tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the chick peas and swiss chard leaves and cook until warmed through. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
This is the stack of fabric I brought home from Kenya. I picture small pouches made of these wonderful colours as well as leather bags lined with them–and, maybe some summer tops. Some of these fabrics came from this stand in the Kisumu market. The vendors are a mother and son team who enjoyed posing for this photo. Their fabric was delicious–you can see the pieces I purchased in the foreground. We also bought Kitenge fabric for the women at the community centre in Matangwe to make bags which they will sell on the web.I am particularly fond of this piece as it was given to me by the wife of the principal of the Metangwe school when I visited her and her husband in Bondo. The colours of this all-cotton fabric are stunning; it comes from Tanzania as you can see.I bought these pouches and luggage tags in Nairobi as I couldn’t resist the patterns. They are made in Kenya of a soft durable cotton; the brand is Kanga which is the term for the traditional Kenyan wrap worn by the women.
Bondo is 7 km from Matangwe and the best way to get there is by motorbike, or boda boda, as they are called. Luckily the boda boda station was right across from the clinic.
Sometimes the load of passengers on a boda boda is scary; I saw up to four children without helmets as passengers. For my first ride, I wore a helmet, but then I too got into the local custom, donning a scarf to protect me from the dust and hanging on to the back handle. It is a wonderful way to see the countryside.
Bicycles too are everywhere, almost rivalling Amsterdam.
One of my favourite spots in Bondo was the cyber cafe called The Click. You’d have to say The Click was ‘basic’, and not too reliable. It had about 6 ancient computers–but it seemed magic all the same when Gmail appeared with emails from Canada. The market in Bondo operates on Tuesdays and Fridays. We went to buy flip flops for the students, but I had a chance to wander around the food section before we came home. They had wonderful Tilapia, and tiny fish which the students often had for lunch, cooked in a broth and served with Ugali.
I taught school, mostly grade 6 and 8, for three weeks in Matangwe Kenya, a small village which centres on a medical clinic, the school, a community store, a funeral home and a church. My days began by walking down this road, often joined by delightful small children.
The grade 6 students at Parkdale Public School in Belleville collected 50 pounds of school supplies for me to take to Matangwe and also wrote letters to the students. You can see the intense interest the Matangwe students had in reading the Canadian letters. The students were the absolute highlight of my visit; I learned so much from them and their teachers. These grade 6 students are fluent in English, Luo and Kiswahili–they are full of curiosity and eager to learn, all 46 of them.
I spent the last three weeks teaching in Metangwe, Kenya. It was an amazing experience and I hope over the next few posts to share the lessons I learned and the images that are seared into my brain and heart. I took my watercolour travel kit, my Pentel water brush and my Moleskine watercolour journal. Inspired my the many urban sketchers, I attempted to capture the new world around me. The women of Kenya are hardworking, resourceful and talented. I was fascinated by the way they were able to carry water or other burdens on their head, sometimes while talking on their cell phone! Even very little girls are able to perform this feat–you can see them practising in the evenings on their way back from the watering hole.
I am in a cyber cafe in Kisumu Kenya. This is the first chance I have had to connect–and I will not be able to attach any photos of this amazing country. That will have to wait until I am back in Canada–just a little over a week now. I just wanted to let you know that I am alive and well and learning TONS. The students, the teachers and the community people are amazing. I am working in the school primarily with Grade 6 and Grade 8. I also have the wonderful opportunity to spend time with the women at the Community Centre who are making bags from Kitenge fabric for sale on the web. This is a great chance for them to work together and to all benefit while staying in their community.
I’ll have many more details when I get home. Best to all of you, xine.