It’s crazy how fast time flies… I swear I just wrote one of these!
This has been a big month for Photovoice… a research assistant has been hired, both the facilitator & RA have had multiple training sessions and we got ethics approval from the local university on May 9th (although it took until the 21st to actually get the Chair’s signature on the damn form so we could move forward… that is a week of nice almost daily visits, a few days of pleading and finally, on the 20th, I went to the woman and nicely told her that I was going to sit outside the man’s office for the entire day until tomorrow until he signed it. Magically it was signed the next morning).
Since then we have pitched the idea to all the barrack leaders and got their blessing as well as suggestions about how to do things more safely as well as walked around town for 2 days recruiting volunteers (got about 80 total). People were then assessed for eligibility using a bunch of records (that were a pain in the ass to get) based on the protocol and, those who qualified, stratified based on gender, sex and level of participation at Tumaini. We invited everyone to come one afternoon, where we chaotically drew names from a hat so to randomly pick participants as well as to make sure everyone knew it was a transparent process. My heart stopped at one point when two kids asked me where their cameras were & freaked when I said they weren’t getting any now
as the whole team had worked hard to make sure everyone understood the project (unclear expectations and false hopes are poison to Tumaini’s relationship with the street children & youth… and if the project did more harm than good it would be an absolute disaster). Luckily this incident was an outlier instead of the norm and the afternoon went well m
ostly . The three of us spent the next two days searching EVERYWHERE for people whose names were drawn to get their consent to participate and, after the RA & facilitator spent another full day, we finally have our 32 participants assigned to groups. After tackling a million other small tasks that I never thought about until we were actually trying to implement something, the first photovoice session happens on Monday… I cannot believe it!!!
For that epic paper I have promised to have finished in about 6 weeks, things are finally coming along in the sense that next week I might actually start doing some analysis on it (I have no idea what the analysis will be or if I know how to do it, but that is something to worry about later) and making the deadline is actually possible. Not only does this mean my supervisor won’t kill me, but I might actually have my first paper accepted to a scientific journal by the time I am home. On the work front, this whole experience has been filled with moments of, “How the hell am I going to do this?” followed by, “What am I doing?!?”and finally “Did I actually do that??”
On a personal note, this month started with me finally getting better from a never-ending parasite infection and continued to get better with each passing day.
I was fingerprinted and filled out a crazy amount of forms… but I officially have become a resident of Kenya (I have a student pass that is valid for a year…). I will have an alien card in July at some point, which is cool because almost all the tourist sites have HUGE discounts for residents compared to tourists so good for the wallet plus I don’t have to pay 50 dollars if I leave & come back while staying here (making a tax return paid vacation to Ethiopia at the end of photovoice even more possible).
I also took my first trip out of Eldoret. I went to Nairobi for a four day vacation with Dan from work – he use to live there and his mom’s family is all from there so we had a great two-worlds-collide vacation. I got to meet lots of his family (aka lots of Swahili practicing and meeting really amazing people inviting me into their homes to share home cooked meals and sleep at their houses) including his grandparents who live out in the country. To get to this county we hoped on the super highway (think the 403) and drove for two hours before getting off at a random stop, buying a bunch of bananas from a lady standing at this random stop and hopped on a motorbike for another 20 minutes. The air was so fresh and people were stopping in their tracks to stare at the white girl as I don’t think it was much of a tourist area… random men waved from the side of the road & yelled “Sister Jen”, which was really odd. We got there… and then the real fun started. I got to help bring the goats in from the field, walk through a maze of banana trees to watch the sun start to set, feed cows and watch his grandma make dinner (which was the real test as she didn’t speak much English… I did much better than I thought I would). We all shared this amazing meal (complete with fresh avocados from their trees) watching Kenyan soap operas with a solar light as our only light source. As I watched the three of them chat (way too fast for me to follow much) it struck me how some things about family feel universal (including that grandmothers always want to feed you more no matter how much you eat). The next morning I took my first bucket bath in Kenya and made everyone laugh hysterically because I took my sandals off (apparently not the thing to do). It was a really wonderful 24 hours… one of my highlights was giving one of the neighbour boys my camera to snap random pictures and then getting his grandmother to take a few of me with the boys. There is something contagious about another person’s awe and bewilderment when they see themselves so something I didn’t think I could do/have never done before. It was really special.
Nairobi was chaotic with the West mixing with East Africa to make this really interesting place. You have KFC, overpriced coffee cafes, tall skyscrapers and buses that have bus tickets as well as mini-buses & shops that blare bogo flava and reggae music so loud your ears ring, outdoor markets selling everything & anything and chaotic traffic like I have never experienced before. I got to see the site where the US Embassy was bombed in 1998, a national museum which was super exciting for a museum lover like myself and I had sushi. One of the best parts was going with Dan, who became a tourist himself as he hasn’t really done these things when he lived there. We took a bus home, which provided amazing views of the rift valley and wild zebras & gazelles in the fields around you. After 5 long hours, we were almost home and then BAM. We hit something and pulled off to the side of the road. Dan went to see, but I stayed close to the bus and star gazed (partly because it was beautiful as we were in the middle of no where and partly because I am a white woman). We finally get into another bus (filled with 5 people too many) and I then find out that we had hit a drunk man that had walked out on the road… yeah. Shitty. Shocking.
The next weekend (two trips in a row…. Lucky me!) I went to Kisumu, which is about 3 hours away and saw a lot of tea plantations on route. It was much hotter than Eldoret due to lower elevation so it was nice to get some real African heat. I got to be right on the equator (cool!) and see Lake Victoria (complete with a boat ride seeing some hippos, fisherman and was able to get a better understanding about how impressively big it is). I ate lots of tasty fish and went to a bar with a lot of prostitutes… many who looked like middle age mothers both in appearance and clothing so I have had to re-examine my definition of a prostitute. The best thing was this sort-of zoo where with super close ups of cheetahs, a leopard (my favourite), moneys and tons of other really impressive animals with gazelles, monkeys and zebras walking around freely. We were in the homeland of one of the local tribes (Luo) and it was the first time I have ever been in such an ethnically homogeneous place (even the museum had everything in Luo as well as Swahili & English). This time we got home without incident.