Sunday, 24 May 2009

Kenya Trip May 2009 Part 5

24/5/09 Sunday
Sharing a small bungalow with two other adults, four young children and two chickens has its moments.

Despite being 4,500 miles from the office, I still have an obligation to keep my clients’ websites up to date as well as other work. Today was such a day and I set about modifying a page of such a site.

Unfortunately, the software that I usually use is not installed on my laptop so I had to work in text mode and code, not something I particularly enjoy. I was about 30 minutes into the modification when one of the children switched off the wall socket and my computer went dead.
I was not amused. 30 minutes of the work I dislike disappeared literally at the flick of a switch.

On the upside, today is one of those balmy warm days with a slight breeze. There are cotton-wool clouds in the sky and it is peaceful (apart from the kids running around the compound, that is). But even the kids cannot take away the feeling of well-being inside me. After all, they are making the sound of their own happiness. Who can complain about that?

We will be going up to the Twiga plot again today to continue preparing the patch to receive vegetable seed. I have never seen so many kids so enthusiastic about working. But then, They will benefit, especially the poorest of them, with free fresh vegetables.

I have brought some good quality seed from England for leeks, cauliflower, onion, tomatoes, cabbage, perpetual spinach, beetroot and broccoli.

We showed the children the seed packets yesterday so that they could identify the different vegetables by the pictures on the packets. None had ever seen purple broccoli before.

The plot we are preparing is partially shaded by two enormous banana trees, which I think will be a good idea as the mean average temperature here is 25°C and can get higher on some days. Unlike most of Kenya, Kisii does not have distinct wet and dry seasons, but rather seasons with higher and lower rainfall, so there will be no problem with irrigation. This being the case, I hope that we will get two, or even three crops a year, providing vegetables all year round. Maybe I am just dreaming …

We also have guava, mango and avocado trees which I hope to prune and bring back to full productivity. I just wish I had Alan Titchmarch, Monty Don or even Berkshire’s own Colin Evans here to advise me.

This plot is small, but right next to the hut which will be extended to provide accommodation for about 40 orphans and vulnerable children, eventually.

We have decided to use traditional building methods, that is, wattle and daub for two reasons, speed and cost. We will still have to buy roofing timbers, steel sheet and cement for the floors, but for the rest, it is all around us.

Another reason is that traditionally built buildings are not considered as permanent, so do not need permission.

Vincent and I got to the plot rather later than we had said as we had visitors at the house. When we did arrive, we had a reception committee comprising several of our kids waiting for us at the junction to the plot.

Once at the hut, all the kids rushed inside and started singing.

We raised our new Kenyan flag to show that the Twiga kids were officially in residence, then went up to the plot. By the time I got there, Edwin and Dennis had already roughly tilled about half of the area and with help from all the other kids, it started to resemble a vegetable patch rather than a bed of weeds. It was to be said that the soil is very good and fine, once broken up.
Vincent showed the way, and the other kids followed. A second hoeing had three raised beds ready for planting, so we sowed the seed, marking each row with the empty seed packet, just like my father used to do so many years ago.

As the seed was planted, it began to rain so we covered the beds with banana leaves to protect against the heavy rain that was to come.

We got back to the hut as the heavens opened. The kids looked delighted with themselves and rightly so. They had all worked hard, even the smallest ones and the teenage girls who had turned up not suitably dressed for work in the fields. Girls will be girls.

Drinks and sweets later, the kids were in very high spirits if a little tired and were singing and joking around, especially when they though that Vincent and I were not looking.

But although they were having fun, and I was enjoying their company, at 18.30, it was time to send them home, especially as there was a break in the rain.

Of course, Vincent and I had to wait for a matatu and when one did stop, the tout or conductor turfed off three or four passengers to get us on, those having been displaced hung on to the outside. To say it was overloaded would be an understatement. I also noticed that the oil pressure and brake warning lights were on and wondered if this ancient machine would get us the short distance we wanted to go. Of course, it did. It was a Toyota and as Jeremy Clarkson and co have proved in the past, they seem to take all the abuse that anyone can throw at them.

The last leg of the journey is always my nemesis, a steep downhill path which is made worse when it rains. I always dread it, but this evening, in semi-darkness and in rain, I was cringing at the thought.

In the event, I slipped only once and managed to stop myself from falling. The bridge seemed more rickety than usual and the climb up the other side of the valley to the house just about finished me off.

I must be getting used to the altitude (5,720 ft) as I seem to recover more quickly from my exertions.

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