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karaoke, ferry, sound therapy in the bush, a congolese home

KENYA | Friday, 17 February 2012 | Views [934] | Comments [3]

With Christmas and New years out of the way, it was time for me to buckle down and complete projects...i sewed more African utility belts than i ever had before and sold over 200usd worth even selling 5 in one day. one girl had even sought me out after seeing a girl wearing one in the Airport in Malawi's capital. The girl said there was a dready seamstress on the bay who was selling them. there i was sewing when she arrived at Butterfly, she bought 2 that day. i seemed to by famous in the area. I used half the money to pay for the water tank which was only halfway done and donated the rest to food projects for Aids and Special needs groups butterfly operates.

I went on several materials gathering runs to get 4tons of sand which we shoveled into the small truck in the blazing and humid Malawi heat while the locals laughed at us, we then bought over 150dollars worth of cement and over 2000more bricks. the brick run was miserable as i found myself inside a huge lori in the middle of dense bushland in the rain & stuck in the mud for 2 hours as men arrived from all over to help push us and the bricks to the far away road up a hill.

unfortunately even with our hard work, i had to leave the project incomplete. the builder who was known for being a stoner, decided to go behind my back and take on a larger project at a local school but was then caught red faced by the butterfly owner, we were stuck in the mud again (so to say). there i was with a half built tank that could barely hold 100liters and no builder. i have passed the project on to the butterfly owner who is also passionate about permaculture and thus was up for taking it over for me. luckily she has informed me that the tank is built now only that we need to install the guttering, put a lid on it and provide a filter. i'll be able to provide pictures within a month i think when they do a water drinking ceremony.

leaving nkhata bay was one of my most difficult decisions. so hard that i actually extended my visa for a week just to hang out for a few parties i couldn't bare to miss.one party took 30 of us to Kande beach, just south of us 100km. it is a white sand beach where 4 birthdays from around the lake were being celebrated. one birthday boy was a local artist who sung like a blue bird and after seeing me hula hoop on the bar, requested for me to be in his music video he was filming in a month. bad timing on my part i couldn't partake, but what a kool offer. i think i may advertise for such opportunities when i come back next time.

beach volleyball was a riot as my team won 4games in a row but my tanned skin needed mositure so we ran to the clear lake and swam for hours til darkness broke and the partying really began. we were joined on the beach by 5 overland trucks who were celebrating their dress up party which was that night's theme. the bar was crowded yet we managed to take over as usual. even i moved people off of the bar to perform. they begrudgingly glared since they had taken over the counter for the last hour and couldn't imagine why a hula Hooper needed space to spin a ring around her waist. but as i jumped through the hoop, did the splits, and seemingly gave their eyes an orgasm at the never before seen site, they apologetically allowed me more space as they filmed and photographed the wonderful scene. by 2am the barman requested us smelly travelers head to the lake to swim while he restocked and we all ran in without question, most of us in our skibbies for a few games of chicken fight.dawn broke and with no sleep i was beat. back to the bay.

my final week was spent tying loose ends and visiting some site like a local nursery made from a small house. 50 children sat in cramped mud built structure repeating ABC's and singing sweet sounds in Tonga language. my friend lisa donated 50 hand knitted baby dolls to them and handed out chalk which they scribbled on the walls with. the best was when they did exercise class as they all shook their hips and posed in triangle pose for a half hour. feeding time was cramped as i perched between legs trying to deliver hot porridge which they ate so fast they must have burned their lips yet they were satisfied and happy to
be in the presence of some guests.

that night we had karaoke night which was to be my last hurrah! karaoke in Africa was an unforeseen sight. gathering a tv, dj's, speakers etc was as hectic as anything in this town and as usual the police caused us problems as we had hours before the party and no permit for a late night.luckily after strolling the streets seeking advice we ran into the policeman who had since stopped answering our calls and shut off his phone. a local friend of ours, took him to the side and bribed him a night of free drinking for him and a few cronies which sealed the deal.

hours later we were on! people shouted at the top of their lungs, even i got involved for a 20person sing along to Bohemian Raphsody. at 2am i took a sad walk to check on the status of the ferry which i saw had in fact arrived on time, meaning i only 3 hours left to enjoy the bay before departure.

1 hour of sleep and i heard the last horn of the ferry toot its beckoning for passengers. bawling my eyes out the whole way i rushed to the port and climbed aboard. my friends lisa and kwame saw me off as i dangled my head out the circular window as land grew further and further from my reach. i was restless aboard wondering if should alight at the first stop and head back. but i had to commit and thus i spent 15hours aboard the ferry watching the silky lake ripple beneath our craft. bitter sweet the relaxation of its motion with the stress of my departure.

at 9pm we docked in chilumba where i spent the night in the ferry's shed atop of a cement slap with others doing the same. unfortunately a crew of street boys encircled me seeking items they could steel from my until the 60year old security guard came with cuffs and scared them away. some people were prepared with blankets while i just used my pack as a pillow and was luckily so exhausted i slept for a good 4 hours throughout the night.

at 5am i got to transport to the boarder of Malawi and tz and crossed with ease. (i am so excited to speak Swahili again! its an amazing language!!!!!)a few hours later i alighted in the land of mybeya where i was roped in my a bus company to the office for booking. the ticket seller was so drunk he couldn't finish a sentence and barely understood why i was there to see him. i said there's no chance in hell I'm going if your driving, this got a laugh by most of the workers who helped me settle the price and and then escorted to me the guest house of James Bond who i taught to play yahtzee and kept me company.

5am on the bus to arusha Tanzania. a nice bus who offered sweeties and fake juice. i had a 2 seats to myself until halfway through the trip when Stephen a local man and dr. joined me. I found out he is savior in this land practicing reflexology, massage, acupressure, and teaching raw food classes to locals...this was fait. After making a great connection with him, he told me about the 10hectres of land he had acquired and was in the process of turning into a recovery center with a rock garden, using massage and sound therapy for villagers. By the end of our amazing conversation, it was decided that I would return to TZ soon as I could, teach him to do trigger point therapy and act as a facilitator of the center until all staff were trained. I could even make a small profit from my work and he would host my stay in his home and feed me during the process. I was so excited now about the possibilities and while its all such a romantic and far fetched desire, any thing can happy right!

The boarder provided great fun as I crossed with ease and somehow entered Kenya free of charge, the boarder guards were in a good mood that day I guess. I requested a few Maasai goods from the local women selling which got me surrounded by 10ladies who were strapping things on my wrists and removing their own jewelry to offer me. It was a crazy 20minutes as I begged to be left free as i was being given free items and too many things to even carry. I tried to walk to the minibus but was followed by 3more women who continued their offers for a half hour while we wait to leave. the vehicle moved down the road for petrol and was again followed by an old mama who made me laugh so much as she just put items through the window and onto my lap. by then end, she herself was even laughing at her insanity. if i had more money, i would have paid her for the smile she allowed me. but we were off to Nairobi and i was happy to almost be there after traveling for 3 days now.

Arrival in Nairobi was a pleasant surprise. I took lunch with my new friend Steven and shortly after met with Philemon, the Congolese representative and pastor of the Covenant church for Born Again Evangelists. He welcomed me with open arms which is untypical of a man and woman's interaction in Africa but he was so happy to greet me I was appreciative of the welcoming. We got on the train which I was so please by, no petrol fumes, fast, and quiet although cramped with people hanging out the doors.around 50 carrier cars and at least 40 in each, so many people!

At home, I arrived to a large crowd of youth from age 7-15. This was apparently the hang out place, electricity and a 1channel tv showing horribly voiced over Mexican soap operas that i have somehow been roped into feeling entertained by. i loved how the kids all find this place a nice hangout spot. when i can pull them from the airwaves of the tele, i teach them games that usually go horribly wrong like "telephone" which is difficult when English is your second language. For now i have got them hooked "memory" the card game which i made by hand with crayons and scrap paper, the latest hit however has been "rock paper scissors" which proves hilarious as they battle excitedly even with their parents.

Congo home life is wonderful although inconsistent in many ways. Sometimes we do not eat breakfast or dinner, but we usually take a late lunch at 4 or 5 and if there is dinner we eat around 10pm. its more food than i can contain. our meals are predictable-> home made chips (french fries) rice, veg, banana, mango. it sounds delicious but when they have filled my plate for the 3rd time without my request my stomach is in pain. Did i forget to mention the 3 cups of tea (milk and sugar already included) that come with every meal. Sometimes 9cups of tea a day. I could burst at the seems.The concept of eat now cuz you don't know when the next meal will be has really struck a chord with me, thus i am using my fasting skills to maintain my brains desire for 3 meals a day, while i am sure my stomach is gradually gaining elasticity from pushing so much in at one time.

in the 2 bedroom flat,my room is the size of a large bathroom with a mattress on the floor and ants to talk to at night if I am lonely, no mozzi net requiring head to toe cover during sleep hours.my presence has pushed the children into the sitting room which keeps me laughing at night as i hear them giggly with one another. 4kids sharing two mattresses age 7-15. they are hilarious although the language barrier means i never understand why they are laughing. admittedly at 5am their laughing does not make me as happy as i hear them yelling outside my door as they clean the home then prepare for school.

i have been more busy with the Congolese group as we are preparing for a major turn of prosperity for them, hopefully. I have nearly 5 meetings already and i have several more scheduled for my final week here. after the bag making project only halfway succeeded in helping their financial status, we have turned a new page in our project and concluded that small loans for each family to start their individual projects and businesses will be more beneficial. I am extremely adamant about commitment and sustainability however which is creating more work for me but it will add up in the end.

i have researched and luckily found a 3 day training manual for starting small businesses in Kenya for the simple minded folk like me who know little about business affairs. i will be sponsoring the training which we are offering to 35 representatives from each family who will receive a certificate of completion ...which will be a requirement for receiving a loan later. the facilitators guide of 60+ pages is simple and i know i can present the material, however, Congolese people have little English skills,and besides "Merci" and "croissant" my french is shit. thus i have hired two of the highly educated members of the group to facilitate while i aid conceptual understanding on the side. we will be feeding them breakfast and lunch each day and hold a closing ceremony and certificate presentation at the end. today i will got out with my 2hundred dollar budget and buy all the supplies for activities and presentation. thus i will be embarking on a whole new realm of volunteering but one i am  more passionate about than i have been a long time.

i have heard some comments about micro loans being unsuccessful and damaging as they put families in dept however i feel that it is because they provide loans to uneducated Africans who's business fail because they do not understand implementation strategies. therefore this training aims to prevent this and the creation of the council of 7 who i have been meeting with have committed to ensure the guiding of the business from beginning to end of until loan repayment.the meetings have been refreshing as i have been able to give advice but i have assured them that i in no way am an owner of this project i am only a support system and a fund raiser.therefore they are empowered to run the project on their own and only seek advice from me when they have not found answers within their own community. when this is translated back to them by Philemon they smile and nod appreciation for the confidence i have in their abilities. it is so refreshing to see them smile and be excited again for their possibility to grow as an independent community.

for now i have approximately 1,000usd i will use to sponsor two families in a business start up. The loans will be paid at  5% and will take about 11/2-2 years to pay off at which point the community bank account will have enough money to sponsor the next family. thus it is my hope that as the cycle completes, the project will be sustaining itself. over the next months in America, i will be seeking sponsorship of 500usd for approximately 10more families and hope to be able to step back at that point and allow the group to maintain itself. although I will get updates, my overall goal will be fund raising and not managing...i have sincerely faith in these born again dedicated humans!

one amazingly funny and surprising meeting was with a sister church where the pastor teaches bible lessons to future evangelist pastors....never did i imagine i would be involved with such church organizations like born again Christians...i giggle inside when i sit with the loud congregation praying to Jesus as i think of the irony of the situation. very kind people however and not pushing their beliefs on me by any means.

the pastor is a wonderful woman named Asa. she took me and Phil back to her house for lunch. Ugali was on the menu (you know that maize flour dough you dip in a small bit of veg) She brought me a fork but i refused cuz its just weird to eat Ugali with a fork, and grabbed a clump of dough, rolled it in my hand dipped and shoveled it in. She stopped dead in her tracks speaking in broken English that she had never seen a white person do this before. she meant, eat ugali like an African. her and Phil talked for awhile in their language as i finished eat but she returned to the subject and abruptly stopped talking as she wiped many tears from her eyes. i guess my ugali rolling technique had really touched her. she cried "i think i have seen a miracle, it is like you are an African but you only have white skin". i didn't know what to do...do i embrace her, laugh, say thank you. it was so odd, but quite sweet of her. after putting herself back together she requested for me to stay the night with her because it may be the biggest blessing she could ask for. ok now it was pedestal-like appreciation, i had to get out of there...so we did. she was a funny chap. 

this Congolese family has really taken me in a daughter and in genuinely feel connected to them in a daughter like way. they children seem like my siblings and playing games with them at night and eating meals with them daily has become refreshingly normal. we sit on the couch touching sides comfortably natural as the daughters braid my hair and mama tries to speak English making us all giggle. i feel like our next step should be holiday photos in a studio. i am truly blessed for these beings and i have so much work to do for them back in the USA i do not know how i will manage, but sure I will!!

anyway tonight i head to town to meet my friend jojo for a night of dancing to congolese bands at my favorite joint, simmers while we jive to Lingala and Rhumba tunes. in the morning i will purchase all the training supplies. because of the heavy donation funds, i have overextended my funds and have shortened my trip by 20days. ill be back mid march and will be ready to work....need a nanny?! do inquire!

for now im heaeded down the dusty lane for my daily meal with mama and by next week i will be heading back to my home at Kin in Uganda, but not before a dip in the mighty River Nile, I can't wait!!!




Tags: congo, ferry, karaoke, kenya, maasai, microfinance, nile river, simmers, tanzania, water tank




Hey! I love hearing your stories and of all the great things that are happening! Much Love to you sister, sure be missing you and can't wait to see you when you return. Safe Travels!

  Elin Feb 28, 2012 4:58 PM


Great stories... How good is your Swahili? Also, did you take a dip in the Nile?

  Rashaad Feb 29, 2012 6:03 AM


hi rashaad,
najua swahili cadogo. a nile river swim yesterday!

thanks elin love you

  kena Feb 29, 2012 7:59 PM

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