Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Week 4 with the Naari Dairy Group. By Emily Egan - June 13 2015

Time flies here. I can’t believe I’ve been in Africa nearly a month already. The most obvious sign of time passing is the build-up of dust. While it was beautiful and lush and green when we first arrived, it hasn’t rained here in weeks and everything now has a thick layer of dust obscuring the original colours. Even us!
We’ve settled into a routine very well by now, with minor interruptions and alterations every day. Generally, we leave the house around 8 and pick up our guide who takes us to farms on our list. Vincent always makes us a delicious breakfast (all his meals are delicious, but I have to say, his chapattis are my favourite!) that holds us over till we find time to eat our lunch between farms. Since the second week we’ve been very careful to stow our sandwiches under the bench, because they mysteriously disappeared one day and we went 12 hours with only a cup of tea from one of the farms! Fortunately the farmers are very generous, so we usually don’t go hungry whether we bring lunch or not.
By about 5 pm, we’ve usually visited 6 farms and we’ve been bounced around in the back of the gypsy enough to make our heads spin, so we call it a day and head for home. Vincent usually has tea ready and waiting but we all feel (and, undoubtedly, look) too filthy to want to put anything in our mouths right away, so we go out for a walk before it gets too dark. Well, Dennis and I walk, the other 2 jog to keep up! Then we spend our evening eating wonderful local meals cooked by our wonderful chef, doing data entry, separating blood samples, and playing cards. Crazy 8s is the current favourite, although Go Fish is a close second.
This week we’ve had several unexpected, but entertaining, deviations from our routine.
                1. The gypsy, which we have dubbed Goliath, has been steadily deteriorating in health ever since John left. First the restraining chain on the door broke so it swings wildly whenever it’s opened. That’s not such a big deal except that we’re worried it might snap the whole door off if we’re not very very careful. We also can’t open the passenger side door from the inside anymore, which isn’t such a big deal since the window doesn’t close anyway. As well, the back door no longer closes properly, so we’ve jury rigged a system that consists of a piece of cord tied around the leg of the back seat, and we tie the door shut with a quick release knot around the door handle. And finally, yesterday the battery died. I know that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, we do have jumper cables after all, but the real problem was that we couldn’t figure out how to open the hood. It took 6 of us over an hour to do it… We even tried pushing the car down the hill to try and start it that way, but once we found the button in the glove compartment we got everything sorted out in no time! And besides, it’s cars like Goliath that make driving memorable!
2. In a totally unrelated change of routine, yesterday (Friday) we quit work early to go to Meru Gakoromone Market with Geoffrey, the chairman of Naari Dairy. It was incredible in so many ways! First of all, the volume of traffic was unbelievable, people everywhere, but everyone knew what they were doing and even though to an outsider it looked like total chaos, nobody got in anyone else’s way and everything ran very smoothly. And the fruit!!! Geoffrey took us to the fruit section I guess, because every square inch of ground was covered in piles of exotic fruit! There were literally mountains of watermelons, papayas, mangoes, oranges, nectarines, bananas, cassava, avocado, arrow root… Jaw dropping. We filled the back of Geoffrey’s car with our purchases, and as if having all of that available wasn’t good enough, we got it for about $10. I was in heaven!
                3. Geoffrey came over for dinner last night as well. It was very nice to have company for a change, and he’s a very entertaining man so we had a good time. He calls me Kendi now, because Joan and Dennis decided that was my Kenyan name and they told him. He seemed to enjoy the idea of giving me and Krista new names. J He also found out that we’d seen camels in the Naari market the other day, so he took us to the Meru Agricultural show today. It was very interesting. There were booths and tents representing all sorts of schools, agencies, businesses, etc. There was even a pavilion from a prison that was filled with beautiful woodworking and paintings. And of course there were camels. We even got to ride one! It was an interesting feeling, much much higher than I would’ve expected, and not nearly as ungainly feeling as camels look! But of course, if people hadn’t been looking at us while we were walking around, they were all watching us 10 feet in the air! Not only that, several people thought it was worthy of pictures and videos! It was totally worth it though just to say I’ve ridden a camel!

Tomorrow, being Sunday, we’ve agreed to go to church with Solomon, the vicechair of the dairy. And after that, Geoffrey’s meeting us to take us to a football game that is somehow related to our project. I think maybe John donated the jerseys or something. All in all, it should be a good end to another great week!

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