Posted by: zdy1 | 13 February, 2009

African Based Orientation (to America)



I am writing again from Nairobi having now returned from my 3 weeks in Machakos. The “Africa Based Orientation” course has been good and I now feel much more orientated to America sorry Africa. There were about 35 of us on the course plus about a dozen kids. In addition to the predominating Americans (who were all lovely and kindly introduced me to Superbowl, fruit salad with your main course and various new terminology) there were people from Canada, 4(+2 kids) of us from the UK, 2 from Germany and one from Hong Kong. It was a great group, helpfully bonded by a bit of ‘dunkirk spirit’ as we coped with only one day off in the whole three weeks (including weekends) and lectures from 8.30 – 5.30pm most days. The best of the lectures were those given by the visiting African speakers. It was so helpful to be introduced to African culture from people who were obviously well qualified to talk about it and so willing to answer any questions fired at them! It did raise lots of queries for me too, the more I learn the more I realise I have yet to learn/ practice.

The safari treasure hunt turned out to be a trip into the local town with a list of information we needed to gain by talking to local people. Maybe not quite as exciting as hunting lions but I did find it a really valuable exercise. People here are so much more willing to chat (I can’t imagine going into a shop in Hedge End and asking someone about how they found their wife and how their parents felt about that!) and Machakos was similar to how I imagine Mbarara may be and so it was good to discover ways that I may be able to build relationships when I eventually get there. I may not however use the “find the most unusual thing on the menu and eat it with gusto!”


Off to see some animals 🙂

It has been fun to rediscover some of the different aspects of living in Africa that I remember from last time. Coca cola and associated sodas are still available from numerous little dukas (shops) even off the main beaten track. (My favourite remains Stoney Tangawizi – a type of ginger beer! ). I saw giraffe and zebra on my way to Machakos and then got to go on a game drive on our day off and saw warthog, oryx and wildebeest. The weather has generally been lovely (although bit gutted to miss the fun of the snow that the UK has been having), but I still remain the great british mindset of “oh look the sun is shining – I better make the most of it!”. There has been a bit of rain which is very unusual for this time of year. The country is in drought so it seems a good thing but those who farm are apparently unsure what to do as they don’t know whether this is the start of a rainy season or not.

There are things that are different too. Although matatus (the public transport system) still exist the restrictions on numbers of people are better enforced and so I have not yet had to sit with my nose in someone’s armpit – long may this last! There are also tuk tuks now (the 3 wheeled vehicles more associated with India) and some boda bodas (bicycles that you sit on the back of). The prevalence of mobile phones is also very evident (although camera phones don’t yet seem to have taken off in the same way as they had in Indonesia when I visited there last year), it does make booking your own personal tuk tuk much easier!

I got chance to visit some HIV &TB patients in the local hospital (on my birthday!) and also an amazing children’s home which had an inspirational manager involved in many different initiatives to improve life in the local community. I also got pushed out of my comfort zone a bit. Late one Saturday evening I was told I was needed to preach the next morning (I didn’t in the end, but had a late night preparing for it!) and then last Sunday ended up having to sing a solo with no music. Please pity the people who had to hear me – singing lessons should have been included in the En Route course I did last term!!

So I am now back in Nairobi and everyone is slowly dispersing to their different locations. I am the only one going to Uganda (on Monday), but I now have lots of friends spread around Africa.

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