Thursday, 28 May 2009

Kenya Trip May 2009 Part 9

28/5/09 Thursday

The matatu – what an inspiration! For the uninitiated, this is a public bus service using minibuses, usually Toyotas, fitted with 14 passenger seats and which often carry up to 20 passengers plus driver and tout (conductor).

One of the good points is that the fare is cheap. From where I am staying to town, about 2km, the fare is 20/-, less than 20p. OK, it is not comfortable, the passenger next to you may be carrying a couple of chickens, or there may be five of you sharing three seats, so if you are not of ample behind, you could find yourself slipping down between seats.

If you are sitting near the sliding door, where the tout hangs on by his fingernails, when someone at the back wants to get out, nearly everyone has to get out!

Obviously, the best seats are the two next to the driver. I foolishly thought that the door was there to hold me in as we careered around right-hand bends. I was wrong. I was there to keep the door shut!

Some of these vehicles are in quite good condition, but the majority are little less than scrap metal on wheels. Note that I said wheels, not tyres.

Then there is the motorcycle taxi. These are prolific in Kisii and are usually Chinese-built 125cc two-stroke machines. They will take one or two (occasionally three) passengers. Fortunately, they cannot go fast, although 40 kph seems it.

Generally, these machines are in better condition than the matatus – maybe that is because they are a more recent phenomenon in town.

Both the above charge about 10/- per kilometre.


It didn’t rain in Kisii yesterday, and although it was damp ad misty when I got up this morning, the sun is now shining, albeit, weakly.

We have not collected rainwater from the roof and so are running short. There is a borehole at the bottom of the hill, but lugging up 50 litre containers, two at the time, is hard work, something that I am not capable of doing, being mildly disabled.


I have just about acclimatized to the altitude and can get up the steep slope to the main road without stopping for breath. It’s a shame I am leaving for Coast on Monday!

It is a shame for another reason. Every time I come to Kisii, I hope to get several projects started. As with last time, I have failed miserably. But at least the kids have cleared the ground and we have sown seed for nine different vegetables.

We sowed a few at the house as well. They have sprouted already and I am worried that in the heat, they will bolt to seed before anyone gets the chance to eat them.

I intend to pop up to the shamba this afternoon to see how the seedlings are doing there. They have been covered with banana leaves since they were sown last Sunday, so it may be time to take the covers off.

I am also thinking about building a wood frame over the seed bed so that we can protect the seedlings from the harshest of the sun by laying banana leaves over them, although the seed bed is fairly well protected by the trees surrounding it, avocados, bananas, mangos and guava, as well as a couple of non fruit-bearing varieties.

I will be sorry to leave Kisii, but at least I have a last weekend up at Twiga, to see these brave kids smiling and laughing, forgetting their hard lives for a couple of hours.

Elf n' Safety

For all its faults, the Kenyan Government cannot be accused of running a nanny state.

If the British Health and Safety police came over here, they would have a heart attack.

During my stay here, I have seen 10 year-old kids wielding machetes with a skill that can only be acquired through years of practice. The same kids use hoes to break up the ground, but could also sever a foot with no problem.

Five year olds coming home from school on the back of motorcycle taxis; their feet cannot reach the footrests, but no matter. As for crash helmets – well, what are they?

Most households cook over charcoal burners and kerosene rings that are either placed outside in the yard or in the porch, where toddlers play.

Here, in Kisii, especially during the rainy season, it doesn’t matter how clean kids start out in the morning, within five minutes, they are muddy up to the knees, they sit in the mud, play in the mud. Chickens use the same mud for foraging, and at night, the neighbourhood dogs scavenge. Other wild animals also pass through the yards.

Amazingly, apart from minor bumps and scratches, which are shrugged off, I have not seen any of the kids I know hurt or injured.

They climb trees, play on waste ground strewn with rubbish, walk alongside fast-flowing rivers, but they survive.

It just makes me wonder where we in the UK are going with our rules and regulations that wrap up the citizens in cotton-wool in case they get hurt.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Kenya Trip May 2009 Part 8

27/5/09 Wednesday

This morning, it is grey and damp after heavy rain last night. But it is early yet and the cloud looks thin enough to quickly burn off once the sun gets warm.
I have planned (once again) to go into town to get my bus ticket to go to coast for about 10 days to see my girlfriend.

I will be very sorry to leave Kisii and not see the Twiga kids until my planned return in about 3 or 4 months, funds permitting.

So far, today has been typically African, as far as I can judge, with people popping in for a chat.

Benta and Josephat are at school, but the two little ones are running around the house making a noise and mess, as small kids do.

I have now updated the Twiga database with Vincent, who keeps 99% of the information in his head.

I am amazed at who is related to whom! I am also astonished at how many of the kids have been abandoned by their widowed fathers who have remarried and moved out of the area, leaving the kids to fend for themselves.
Of course, we have our share of AIDS orphans, or kids with a single parent too sick to look after their children. The age range is from about 3 years to maybe 14 or 15.
We have one teenage girl who has no idea how old she is, although I would guess that she is 15 years old. She has never been to school as she is an epileptic haemophiliac and no school would take the chance on taking her on. She also has a physical disability as her left arm and hand are deformed. I am wondering if it can be made good surgically – if only I could find someone to carry out an examination.

She needs to learn to read, write and speak English. She has a couple of younger siblings who she tries to look after as best she can.

So far, we have been lucky. Apart from little Evelyn (3 years) who was HIV+ and died last year, apart from a couple of cases of malaria, we have not had much in the way of serious illness this last year – I hope I am not talking too soon.

One boy, whose mother deserted the family, went off to find her and when he returned, he was ill, but I think this is partially his state of mind at the moment. His mother is HIV+ and appears to be a little unbalanced. It must be difficult to live with an illness that you know is going to take you sooner of later. At least the boy is back with us so we can care for him.

Next weekend will be my last for a while up at Twiga. I hope that I will be able to report that the seeds have sprouted and that we have a bed full of healthy seedlings. That will please the kids who put in so much hard work last weekend to clear the plot and prepare the soil.

I have another concern. Knowing how, in the UK, snakes tend to nest in compost heaps, we have just started a compost heap on the plot, and we also found a black mamba that had fallen into the unfinished deep-pit latrine. Putting two and two together and probably making five, I am wondering if we are inviting or encouraging snakes onto the plot by composting our waste vegetable matter.

Time will tell, but we must remember to warn the kids about snakes and compost and the like – although I am sure they are more aware than I am.


Well, I have my ticket from Kisii to Mombasa. I leave on Monday afternoon – I can say now, with a heavy heart, but I still have a weekend at the Twiga plot. It will be interesting to see how or even if, the seeds are sprouting. We sowed a few at the house, yesterday and they have sprouted already. Now I fear that they will grow so quickly that they will go to seed before anyone can benefit from them. Time will tell.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Kenya Trip May 2009 Part 7

26/05/09 Tuesday
Last night, it rained as usual, but I was the only adult in the house and it fell to me to put out buckets and bowls to collect the precious rainwater from the gutters. I had seen Vincent do this so was pretty confident in what I was doing, staying under the eaves to get to the furthest collection point. Wrong. The “path” under the eaves was so slippery I nearly took a tumble, so I abandoned all convention and took the safe path in the rain, much to the amusement of Benta, who was helping me.

I had the buckets placed and was pleased with myself, until Benta pointed out that the furthest bucket was already full. So I had to make another trip through the rain to replace it and empty the full bucket into the 100 litre storage barrel. This went on for about 20 minutes during which time I collected over 75 litres of water.

If rainwater is not available, water is collected from a borehole about 400 metres from the house down a very steep path, a trip I would not fancy with two full 25 litre containers.


At the time or writing, I have no great plans for today other than to arrange my passage from SW Kenya to the coast next week. When I was here last year, I saw that there was a coach service that ran directly to Malindi, which would suit me well, especially if it doesn’t go through Nairobi.


Not having found seed trays in the town or markets, I am going to improvise (I hope) by cutting a plastic water bottle in half lengthwise and punching drain holes in the bottom.

I have a packet of cauliflower seeds and Vincent and Abigael have a small vegetable plot adjacent to the house to put them in when they are mature enough to move.

It is raining this morning, not the torrential tropical rain that we have most afternoons, but a fine English autumnal drizzle, almost too fine to feel. There is no real sign of a break in the cloud and I wonder if I am going to experience a British summer day in Kisii!

Vincent and Abigael are taking Benta and Josephat to their schools and left me with their two little ones. This is the first time I have had to look after them without Benta’s help. These little girls do not speak English, although they understand a few words like “STOP”, “DON’T”, but take very little notice of me.


It rained again this afternoon and I spent most of the day working on updating the Twiga kids’ records, and the website.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Kenyan Trip May 2009 Part 6

25/5/09 Monday

Ants the size of small horses, mosquitoes flying in attack formation, flying bugs of every shape and size, things that bite, sting or just annoy, snakes more poisonous than a Brit could ever imagine; showers consisting of a soapy rub-down then a bowl of water tipped over the head, a toilet where you have to squat and hope the aim is good, water that has to be boiled before it is safe to drink, a place where, during the rainy season, nothing is ever really dry, where half the countryside sticks to your boots and gives the impression of walking on sloping ice – why do I love this country?

It’s the people.

Kenyans are the friendliest people I have ever encountered and the Gusii are no exception. OK, maybe people want to ask Habari? because I am white and white people are few and far between in the Kisii district. Maybe it is because I am working for the community in my own small way, but I like to think it is just because they are friendly.

Admittedly, if a child comes to shake my hand, it is probably so that he can boast at school that he shook the hand of a mzungu, but what the heck?

But at least the kids at “home” and at Twiga have accepted me. They do make fun of my colour, but openly, in front of me, including me in their joke. I tell them that I am not white, but the colour of a plucked chicken. But then, they are not black. They are the colour of rich, dark chocolate. As they all like chocolate, that tends to please them and they accept the joke.

I am not alone in finding Kisii a rather grubby, noisy, bustling heaven on earth. I met another Englishman in town today. He is a translator of Scandinavian languages. I just had to ask why he was in Kisii. He simply found it one day, liked it and has been here ever since. I can relate to that. It is said that if you visit Kenya, a little bit of you remains. In the case of Kisii, it is a lot of you that remains.

But it is not for everyone. If you like order, cleanliness, proper pavements, order in your life, Kisii is not for you. If you don’t like corruption around every corner, people trying to rip you off because of your skin colour, Kenya is not for you.

But if you like a happy go lucky, easy-going environment, you could well find that Kenya, or even Kisii could trip your trigger. It certainly has mine!

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.

Kenya Trip 2009 Part Four

23/5/09 Saturday
Today I had a shock – but more of that later.

and I set off for the “plot” by motorcycle taxi and arrived just after 13hrs. As we approached, we were aware that some kids had already arrived, so we wne straight up the hill to the hut.
The turn-out wasn’t great, but most of the regulars were there, particularly Edwin and Dennis,
Aloys and Nyachuba.

We hoisted the Kenyan flag over our hut for the first time and played a few games until we got down to the serious work of clearing a patch so that the kids can grow their own vegetables.
It always worries me, seeing kids with sharp objects. Unfortunately, I am the product of the Nanny State of the UK where all danger should be eradicated. Kenyan kids aren’t so fortunate.
Edwin, Dennis and Aloys set about chopping down the seeds while all the other kids pulled weeds and collected the resulting heap of potential compost.

That done, we returned to the hut where two big bags of boiled sweets were waiting for the attention of the little hard workers.

After a few more games and general messing around, we all set off for the compound where Edwin and Dennis, Aloys and Nyachuba live.

That is where the shock came.

Edwin and Dennis have been living with their sister and her children since their father remarried and moved out of the area. Aloys and Nyachuba are less fortunate. When their mother died their father also moved away leaving the two of them to fend for themselves.

They have a two-roomed hut with minimum furniture. Aloys cooks the food for the two of them, which he buys with money earned from selling milk from his cow.

Aloys is barely thirteen.

Both he and his younger sister attend school and both are working hard, gaining high marks in their exams.

Despite this, both Aloys and Nyachuba are very cheerful children, but look forward to the day when they can move into the Twiga home, where they will be looked after like the children they still are.

What can I say? I was saddened to see four wonderful, hard-working, cheerful children living is such circumstances. But it has strengthened my resolve to get the orphanage built as quickly as possible so that they can at least have some time to be children.

Kenya Trip 2009 Part Three

20/5/09 Wednesday
Today is a day for thinking. There are no kids in the house, so it is relatively calm. Had to send home for money as it is not lasting as well as last year.

Heard that Mum is very confused, which worries me, although I know she has a friend calling in at least twice a day, as well as her carers, who also make two daily visits.
Vincent and I have discussed the possibility of extending the existing hut to three times its present size, and building a second one next to it, one for boys and one for girls.

Apparently, if we use traditional building methods, wattle and daub, we do not need building permission as it is not considered to be a permanent structure. Maybe so, but the ones I have seen are pretty solid.

21/5/09 Thursday
Vincent and I will be going into town this afternoon, but with two kids to get ready for school and two others that stay at home, mornings are a bit frenetic, food shopping, kid washing, laundry, cooking for later on, etc. But we will get there.

I have quite a shopping list. I have also been contacted by Dennis in Kisumu, who is Alison Lowndes contact regarding MMS.

[Note to self] Do not take phone into wet room. It is bound to ring in the middle of a “shower”.
I am seriously beginning to miss Internet connection and I will be looking for a cell modem this afternoon. Unfortunately, there are several companies to choose from, all with different packages. This could be a mammoth task to find the best deal. Oh well, I know that Vincent will be more than willing to help as he will benefit as well.

Another little annoyance is that the left Ctrl button on my laptop has decided not to work in the prescribed manner. That and a persistent virus which I picked up off Vincent’s laptop are little annoyances that, at home would not worry me.

Vincent and I went into town by matatu just after lunchtime with a big “to-do” list and a bigger shopping list.

The first stop was the bank to obtain local currency, then a tour of the various mobile phone shops to see who was offering the best modems, as I was not going to waste half my time in cyber cafés, trying to get my emails.

We settled for Safaricom, not the cheapest, but with good quoted speeds, if offered the best value for money.

Next stop was Nakumatt, the Kenyan equivalent to Tesco, although not quite as grand. This was mainly for food shopping. We bumped into another mzungu, a rare enough sight in Kisii, let alone the supermarket. We stopped and chatted for a while before finishing off and making for the tills, where we queued behind another mzungu! They are getting everywhere, these white people.
We took motorbike taxis home, and again I threatened my driver with a fate worse then death if he went too fast, bearing in mind that the journey home is downhill with a major junction at the bottom. This is where I was pleased to be on a motorbike rather than a matatu as we weaved – slowly – through the jam and out of the other side in very little time.

But then my driver went and spoiled it by asking for 50 shillings for the 2 km ride. In the end we settled on 30/- for each driver and they went away, seemingly happy enough.
But then, I had to negotiate the dreaded hill, loaded down with the shopping, but as it hadn’t rained, it was quite easy.

At the time of writing, 22.15 local time, it still hasn’t rained. This is the first day that it hasn’t poured down before teatime. And I can see stars for the first time, too.
There are electric storms all around us, so I don’t think that the rainy season is quite over just yet.

After a slight struggle, we got the modem working on my already creaking laptop and I had the pleasure of downloading over 200 emails – mostly junk mail, of course. Still, there were a few interesting ones, and a couple of important ones as well. So it wasn’t all a waste of time.

22-05/09 Friday
It was a bad night. The local dog population decided to howl at the moon for the third night running, but this time, it sounded as if they were right outside my window. And, as it hadn’t rained yesterday, it was warmer than usual, so sleep eluded me for quite a while.

That having been said, I woke this morning feeling reasonably refreshed. I didn’t have a choice in waking up. We had one extra kid I the house overnight, and long before 7am, they were all up and making the din that only small kids can make.

So I crawled out of bed, into the porch and had my first fix of the day, a local brand of cigarette that doesn’t quite take the skin off the back of my throat.

It seems that the kids are not going to school today, which means that my little shadow, Joespat, is following me everywhere – well, almost everywhere. He is not allowed in my bedroom, which is a blessing, as I keep my cameras, cine equipment and other assorted non child-friendly equipment there.

I had a good play with the new cell modem, which seems to work at the speed it boasts, about 3.6Mbps, which ain’t half bad and a lot faster than offered at most cyber cafés in town.

After a breakfast of cinnamon tea and a type of local hard doughnut, I had another play with emails and similar. I have now received all of the back-log, a total of 846 emails. That will teach me to keep on top of them! Still, some of them were actually interesting, but, as I said before, the majority were rubbish. I don’t have the same filters on my laptop as I have built up on the main PC at home.

I spent too much time in the sun this morning and by lunch time I was definitely suffering with a dizzy head and a feeling of total lethargy. But with 5 young kids in the house and no other adult, I was not about to crawl into a corner and rest. As soon as I could, I took a “shower”. Of course this is not a real shower. I wet myself all over, soap myself then pour the water over my head. It is refreshing if not a conventional way of washing – not for me, anyway.

A couple of glasses of water later, I was feeling almost human again, but I have turned distinctly pink in certain places. But I suppose that is better than the colour of a plucked chicken, i.e. “white”.

The weather was funny today. It started to rain in the early afternoon and cleared up for a while at about 1600. But it is now overcast again at 1800 and there is rain in the air again. It is also very cool (18°C), which to me is a blessing.

I don’t know if I will be able to face a full supper as this will comprise an overfull plate. I just don’t know where my hosts put it all!

I went to bed early, but was awakened by a terrible sound and realised that the whole house was shaking. It lasted about 20 seconds and I lay there waiting for an after-shock or something. I have never been subjected to any sort of earth tremor before, but have, of course seen plenty of TV coverage of disasters around the world. This was in fact a very minor tremor, but it scared
me. I cannot imagine what a force 8 or 9 earthquake would be like.

Kenya Trip May 2009 Part Two

17/5/09 Sunday
We packed my backpack with clothes and I took my camera and video. But matatus with three places just weren’t coming, so we took three motorcycle taxis, and my driver was instructed to go slowly, on pain of death! I am more used to being in the command seat on these machines, but I need not have worried. My driver was good – that’s to say, we arrived in one piece.

We eventually arrived at the plot and I could see a small bunch of our kids already waiting for us.
After greetings and making a fuss of my little “Pixie”, Divina minor, we climbed further up the hill to the plot where we hope to grow our vegetables.

Upon our return to the hut, a few more kids had turned up, making a total of 12.
I searched the hut for remnants of the toys and games that KCIS had provided over a year ago, but apart from a hula hoop, I found only two balls, both somewhat deflated.
But we made good use of them until the rains started.

In a hut with a corrugated steel roof and no false ceiling, tropical rain and hail is deafening. It was impossible to hear myself speak for a few minutes, but once it had subsided, we started to dish out pens and pencils that had been donated in England.

Then the fun part, sorting out the clothes and finding recipients that would fit them. This almost became a free-or-all with certain garments, but we had to prioritise the kids whose circumstances are worst.

At the end, everyone got something and all the kids were happy. We sang a couple of songs and played a few improvised games before we sent them back to their lodgings, telling them that we would be at the plot on Saturday and Sunday of the following week, and to wear their oldest clothes as we intend to start preparing the vegetable plot.

18/5/09 Monday
I woke up stiff and sore, and with a mild case of sun burn, but as we had nothing planned, I contented myself with planning and brain-storming

19/5/09 Tuesday.
Vincent and I went to town, somewhat later than planned. Our first stop was a cyber café, where we got two adjacent computers. Vincent logged on immediately but my machine was obviously steam-powered. It took over 3 minutes to log on to the Internet and never actually opened up my webmail. I gave up as there were no other computers free.

We had a look around town. It had become apparent that at this time of year, it would be folly to put seed straight into the ground. The rain would dig them out and wash them away in no time. So, in order to follow my “3 crop a year” programme, we need seed trays and a watering can. The can was easy enough, but when asking for seed trays, I just got blank looks!

I also needed to change some sterling into shillings. The first bank had a long, long queue which didn’t seem to be moving. The second was virtually empty, but could not change currency unless I had a bank account with them. The third was happy to change the money, but their anti-counterfeit machine wasn’t working – so I gave up.

We went to the local supermarket, Nakumatt, where Vincent decided that he was going to give the banks one more try. I stayed at the store and watched the world go by. Vincent returned just as the storms started. We bought some provisions, chocolate for the kids and the watering can. We were in no hurry as we could hear the heavy rain on the roof of the shop.

We waited outside for the rain to subside when a matatu pulled into the car park. They were no to keen to take us as we did not have to go far, but eventually we were on board and on the way home. The road at the bottom of the hill was totally flooded with cyclists and barrow boys stranded, knee deep in swirling brown water.

The final leg of our return home was, of course, the hill that had cost me my dignity upon my arrival, but in daylight it was somewhat easier, although still fraught with the danger of me butt-skiing to the river below. As it was, I negotiated this obstacle course without too many near misses.

I was glad to get back to the house though.

Trip to Kenya May 2009 Part One

13/5/09 Wednesday
I was not in the mood. I couldn’t say that I was ready to go. Nothing was packed properly and I had doubts that my luggage weight was close to the upper limit for the trip. But finally, I closed my suitcase and backpack hoping that I was somewhere close.

At the airport, my fears were realised, in a way. My suitcase was over limit but I was allowed two pieces of hold luggage, and the rucksack could take more, if only I could cram it in. I did.
The plane was an Airbus A340, which is not the most comfortable I have ever flown in, but the ticket was the cheapest on offer, so I put up with the discomfort. At least I had the double seat to myself – the plane was only about one third full.

14/5/09 Thursday
We arrived in JKIA somewhat early, but immigration took longer as there were extra forms to fill is due to swine flu. On the upside, visas are now cheaper by £10, and eventually, I got to the bit I always hate, Customs. I always seem to be carrying something a bit dubious. The last trip it was several mobile phones which were donated in the UK to be sold in Kenya to raise money for the orphanage.

This time, it was seed. We want to grow vegetables on the plot and I know that the branded seed in the UK is of good quality.

I need not have worried, I just walked through.

But that is where the worries started. I could not see Vincent, who was supposed to meet me.
I bought some currency, a SIM card and some cell phone credit and got the guy in the phone shop to get it all going for me. Then I phoned Vincent – his phone was unavailable!

I wandered around the airport for a while and tried again. I was luckier this time and he assured me that he would be with me shortly – obviously a Kenyan shortly.
I went to the café and had breakfast.

Eventually Vincent arrived and we took a taxi into Nairobi. Working on past experience, I had a good look over all the shuttles waiting to go to Kisii. I did not like the first two in the rank, so we plumped for the third. I would not take long for the ones in front to fill up and go – I was wrong. We left Nairobi at about 13.00, but my choice of vehicle was good, the suspension still worked and it was quite a comfortable ride.

In the Rift Valley, the weather let loose and the heavens opened. Roads quickly flooded and we weaved left and right between ponds in the road.

We eventually arrived in Kisii after dark, and here was another shock. Vincent and Abigael had moved house and the new one is bigger and better, but to get to it involved negotiating a very steep, wet, slippery, muddy, downhill slope in the dark, carrying luggage. I failed at the first fence, so to speak, and crashed into a wall. But after a couple more undignified slides, we reached the bottom of the slope. Here I was confronted with a raging torrent of a river, to be crossed on a rickety, home-made wooden bridge that swayed and bent under my weight. Then a scrabble up the other side of the valley to a rather comfortable little house in a row of three, and with electricity!

After a clean-up, a change of clothes, something to eat and drink, we went through the clothes that had been donated to the orphanage.

I wanted Vincent and Abigael’s two daughters to benefit, as well as Benta and Josephat, two of the Twiga kids lodged with them.