Saturday, 17 January 2009

Kids ... heat, and clothes

It was dusk and I was sitting on the porch of the little house on the Coast, delighted that my "newly-acquired" 3-year-old daughter, Natasha, had finally accepted me and wormed herself onto my lap for a cuddle.

The day had been humid and hot, 35°C, and I was enjoying the slight drop in temperature as I sat in the warm breeze off the Indian Ocean.

Natasha wormed and squirmed to get comfortable, then settled to look at the enormous moon hanging in the sky.

I was so content as I felt the heat coming off her little body, but we were interrupted from our contemplations by the house girl who insisted on putting a fleece on Natasha. That broke the spell. Natasha fidgeted and squirmed on my lap and would not settle, so I took her indoors, where she immediately divested herself of the fleece.

I went back outside to finish my contemplations and was again joined by Natasha, minus her fleece. She installed herself again on my lap and settled. In two minutes she was asleep.

The house girl again came out and insisted that she put the fleece on the little girl, but I refused to let her, telling her that I would bring her indoors if I thought she felt cold.

We sat, me staring at the Moon, and Natasha dreaming of ... whatever little girls dream of, hopefully something to do with her new Baba Mzungu.

It never gets cold in this spot. Night-time temperatures rarely drop below 22°C, which to me, a Brit, is warm.

But it got me thinking. My significant other, Natasha's mother Liz and her two kids were born and raised in this place, this holiday paradise of white coral sands, palm trees, blue ocean, coral reef and wall-to-wall sunshine. Liz left when she attended boarding school, but came back to her oven of a village.

The two kids had never been subjected to a temperature of less than 20°C in their lives. What would they make of England, even in Summer? Where even in Summer, nights are cool, and in winter, they are in the minuses.

Snow and ice, frost, fog, woolly jumpers and tights, socks, boots, quilted jackets, warm hats, underwear?

Ah yes, underwear.

Ian, who is six, insists on wearing a singlet and pants under his school uniform. The pants I can understand. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, wearing shorts without underpants can be, let us say, revealing to the others in his class. But a singlet, in an area where daytime temperatures are always in the mid 30s?

And when he comes home from school, he strips off and puts on a T-shirt and shorts. No vest, no pants, no socks.

Oh to be a child again.

Food Crisis in Kenya Pt III

Despite President Mwai Kibaki declaring the food shortages in Kenya a national emergency, and appeals for Ksh 37 billion (£321 million) in aid, a delegation of Kenyan legislators are making their way to Washington for the inauguration of President Barak Obama, despite the fact they have not been invited and will not be attending the ceremony.

Courtesy of Daily Nation 17/1/09

Needless to say, this little jolly is being paid for out of taxes, or to put it bluntly, the Kenyan people. This despite these same legislators refusing to pay tax on their bloated expense allowances.

The crisis is so bad that even areas considered the "bread-basket" of Kenya are suffering food shortages. The price of food is rising to staggering heights, so even if there is food to buy, it is expensive.

People are blaming corruption within the Kenyan Government for the food shortage. Far be it for me to comment. All I know is what I see, and what I see is a delegation wasting tax money on a jaunt to Washington to watch the inauguration on TV in their hotel rooms!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Kenya Tourism

From a Tool-using Thing-maker

In the UK, it is the season for TV adverts for the summer vacations. I have been told I need to go walkabout in Australia, escape to New Zealand, go on cruises to the Carib and Mediterranean.

But I have seen nothing from Kenya, the country whose tourist industry was decimated after the post-election violence a year ago.

What are they waiting for? People like Dr. Livingstone to rediscover Kenya by themselves? Those days are gone.

What I would love to se is an advert showing the beautiful Indian Ocean coast, the Maasai Mara, the Aberdares, The Ark and Treetops, hot dusty towns, full of Kenyan life, good food …

It is all there, but people need to be told, or at least, reminded.

It is all very well having TV programmes like Big Cat Diary showing the wonders of Kenya, but Kenya should be shouting about how wonderful it is as a holiday destination.

Come on, the Kenya Tourist Industry. Knock a few film clips together and get it broadcast!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Our Goals for 2009

As regular readers of this and the KCIS blog already know, we have several projects just waiting to be started up, but with the food crisis gathering pace in Kenya, I have had to juggle the priorities about a bit.

We have our plot just outside Kisii, a particularly fertile corner of Kenya, which is doing nothing worthwhile at the moment. We are going to start our River Cottage project here.

Our priority at the moment must be to produce food. With luck, we will be able to produce a surplus which can be sold.

We have a band of kids who are more than willing to work, but as most are 9 to 12 years old, and the soil is never really dry as it rains all year round in Kisii, I can just imagine the state they will be in after a short while, digging and preparing the soil for planting - filthy!

So, we need a means of letting them clean off afterwards. Needless to say, there is no tap water at the plot and the river at the edge of the plot is down a 1:5 path, so carrying up enough water to wash of half a dozen muddy kids would be a big effort.

So, we need water collection off the roof of the existing hut and anywhere else we can find. Then, behind the hut we can build a simple shower with bamboo screens.

All this can be done at a minimal cost, and falls in quite nicely with another project title, Scrapheap Challenge.

There is a UK charity in Kisii who gives out gardening tools to "worthy causes". I just hope that an orphanage trying to grow its own food will be considered a worthy cause!

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Infants ...

"When is Baba Mzungu coming to see me?" asked Benta this morning, her usual morning question.

"As soon as possible," replied Vincent.

"When do you think as soon as possible will be?"

Answers on a post card ...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Food Crisis in Kenya

The BBC reports that the Kenyan Government is to declare a national emergency due to drought.

President Mwai Kibaki's government warned that nearly 10 million people - more than a quarter of the population - were at risk from food shortages.

But even where food is in reasonable supply, prices have already shot through the roof during the past couple of months and we are struggling to feed our kids, despite the fact that Kisii is situated in one of the most fertile areas of Kenya, supply and demand, I suppose.

Food shortages are believed to be caused also by suppliers hoarding, forcing the prices up - some people are willing to make a quick buck out of other people's suffering - not just in Kenya, but the world over.

We need help to buy food and also to get the River Cottage Kenya farm up and running. I am sure that we could be self-sufficient by this time next year with a little help.

Can you help us? Do you know someone who can?

Also posted on the KCIS website.