Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Week 1 at the Naari Dairy Group - May 21, 2015 - by Krista Simonson

By Krista Simonson - AVC vet student

It's been a week since we've first arrived in Kenya for our three month long summer internship working on a project involving small holder dairy farms. 

Today was a day like no other. It started off with a spectacular, albeit nerve wracking; trek up a mountain in the Suzuki Gypsy whom we have affectionately named Goliath. We dodged jagged rocks and eroded soil tracks all the way up the steep dirt road for what felt like an hour.  I was very entertained by our off-roading adventure. Luckily we got to the highest point that we had to travel and then slowly descended back down to our destination farms. The view on top of the mountain was breathtaking. The first farm we were at was built into the side of mountain and there was beautiful landscape in every direction as far as you could see.

After visiting our first few farms we slowly made our way back down the mountain. Since John (Vanleeuwen) wanted to unload the weight from the back of Goliath so he’d have an easier time driving, the four of us walked from farm to farm, trailing Goliath’s path. That is when the most beautiful thing happened that left tears in my eyes, a smile on my face and an undeniable sense of joy in my heart. 

On our way to our 3rd farm we passed by a school yard full of children. As soon as they saw us “white people” they ran as fast as they could from the opposite side of the large school yard. I heard shrieks of delight and laughter as they approached us on the other side of a barb wired fence. As they got within touching range, I reached my hand over the fence to shake hands with the children. At first there were about 10 or 15 but then more and more kept coming and in less than a minute there were probably more than 50 of them all reaching out to shake or touch my hand. The happiness that they expressed when I touched their hands was heart-warming. I couldn’t help but laugh with them and warm tears came to into my eyes. At that moment I felt like a rock star shaking hands with dozens of admiring fans. I’m sure the entire population of school children would have come to the fence if they had been allowed to (and some were still desperately attempting to run towards us before we left). Instead a teacher came and sent them back to their classes.  I truly think that the amazement and enjoyment that we brought to those children just by reaching over the fence to shake their little hands, was one of the most special and heartfelt moments we will ever get to experience.

It is not uncommon for farmers to offer us tea or chapattis to show their appreciation to us for coming to their farm.  Today however, we were given a gift that put a smile on our faces and made us feel laughter in our stomachs. It was a Rhode Island Red Hen. Yes, a chicken. We were given a chicken today! We graciously accepted our clucking gift and I sat her on my lap until we arrived at our sixth and final farm of the day. We left her in the back of Goliath with her legs still tied together. I was told she wouldn’t go anywhere.  When I went to check on her however, she had gotten one of her legs free and when I opened the back door she made her escape out the window, leaving behind fresh chicken droppings on the seat. When I told the others what had happened, the adults of the farm we were at sent their oldest daughter and son to fetch our chicken. The children were about 10 and 12 years old and I thought for sure that our chicken would never be caught. Much to my surprise, the children had the bird caught in under a minute. They brought her back to me and even helped me tie her legs back together. In a way, I kind of wanted to let her get away but it touched my heart to see how eager the children were to retrieve our escaped chicken. When we got back to the house, I wanted to let her go free in our yard or give her to a nearby family. Vincent (our cook) said that chickens were a lot of work to feed and take care of and suggested that we slaughter and cook her. John was there and gave us three options. We give her away, we let her loose or we eat her. So, apparently on Monday we are having fresh free range chicken.

The experiences I’ve been having since arriving in Kenya just one week ago have been amazing. Only once, since arriving did I feel uncomfortable and more times than I can count, people made me feel welcomed, appreciated and safe. I think I will enjoy my summer here. Even though I am missing time away from Kyle (husband) and our furry family, I feel that the experiences that I am having here will not only benefit my career endeavors but help me grow as a person, and help many Kenyan farmers all at the same time. 

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