Village People

Fran’s Kenya Diary – Wednesday 11th January

We get a lazy morning again today. We have breakfast, then clear out our room and wait for Peter and Julie. The wifi is back on, so we catch up on contacts and photos. We arrange to meet Amaia from Ruby Cup at Westgate shopping centre on Friday. She too cites the awful traffic as too bad to attempt getting into the Central Business District that we originally propose before 11:30, which won’t give us time to get to Kibera afterwards for a lunch time Jitambue club. I also get a reply from Camilla of The Cup Foundation in Kibera, who is coming home from Christmas in Sweden on Thursday. We arrange to meet her by the DC (District Commissioner’s) office in Kibera, which is close to her office, on Saturday morning. Neither she nor any of her team have heard of SYN, but the area they work in is in a different part of Kibera which is predominantly Nubian. The Olympic Estate end where Peter’s work is concentrated is largely Luo. She is keen for all the people working in Kibera to get to know each other and work together more.

Peter and Julie return having had a shelter built for the tractor to make it less visible to passers-by. We return to the village and James has time to have a really good look round the clinic and meet the various staff and talk to them about their work. He talks to the administrator and accountant about the difficulties claiming all their fees from the government, something his own practice manager understands only too well. He sees the cupboard full of anti-retrovirals and meets the staff member who chases up all the HIV patients and gets them to come to their appointments. He meets the pharmacist and observes that her shelf of drugs has quite similar things to those we use at home. The lab technician is a temporary person in for the day while the usual member of staff is away. The receptionist not only books the patients in, but checks their weight, height and blood pressure routinely when they arrive. James also gets to talk to the clinical officer and sees the delivery room, where typically 3-5 babies are born each week. As a result of the clinic’s increase in status to a nursing home, they now have a weekly visit from a doctor from the local hospital every Saturday. I am surprised that they have been able to recruit all these staff for a rural clinic, many of whom are highly qualified, but am told that they were mostly unemployed previously and there is no problem finding the staff they need.

Administrator in charge of chasing up all the claims

This lady is in charge of the finance

Hilda is the receptionist

HIV administrator

Anti-retroviral cupboard


List of lab tests

Clinical officer

Pharmacy supplies

Delivery room

These three workers provide security, HIV follow-up and general estate management

The clinic is having to operate from the generator this morning as there has been an interruption to the mains supply. They need mains to drive some of the high power equipment such as sterilisers. The village has only recently acquired a mains supply courtesy of a connection from the neighbouring village of Kogelo, home of Mama Sarah Obama, President Barack Obama’s step grandmother.


While James is doing his medical stuff, I offer to help Grandma cook lunch. It turns out Grandma is not cooking lunch herself, there are various of the women – Rachel who is Pastor Enos’ wife and expecting her 5th child in a month, Perez who is training to be a primary school teacher and Selene. They are making chapattis and lentils for lunch. The kitchen is a separate building to the side of the main house. There is a  fire with 3 large stones in one corner where Selene is tending to the lentil dish and a primus stove that is being used for cooking the chapattis. I get to roll them out, the mixture has already been made and divided into portions in a plastic bowl. The trick is to turn them over very often to get them round and “not looking like a map of Africa”. Rachel cooks them faster than I can roll them out. Perez gets a day off and chats and takes pictures on her phone, which feels like a weird collision of high and low tech worlds. She is training to be a primary school teacher, which is a 2 year course. Secondary training is 4 years.

Making chapattis with Perez, Rachel and Selene

After making chapattis, Paul takes me out to demonstrate the operation of the aquaponics. The fish and vegetables are being produced to provide nutrition for the hospital patients. A Sunflower solar pump is hooked up to the pipe system around the fish ponds. It starts pumping water from the pond into the vegetable troughs, which get fertilised by the nitrogen from the fish waste in the water. It then drains back down the plastic sheeting into the pond, now cleansed for the fish. The pump should be running all day around the 4 ponds, but due to the poor rains and lack of water, this can’t be kept up. All the fish have been corralled in a single pond, with the other 3 left dry and the pump is not being used. The vegetables are looking rather feeble. The 4,000 fish were purchased 3 months ago as fry from a local supplier and are not that big yet, so hopefully they will survive in their overstocked state in the single pond until the March rains come. I talk to Pastor Chris about the time the prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a dried out cistern when he annoyed the king. What they need is a cistern – a big water storage tank underground to harvest the water in the wet season. Pastor Chris is very sympathetic to this idea, but Peter is wanting to get a deeper well dug mechanically. Grandma’s well, which is almost dry now, is at the limit of manual digging at 92 feet deep.

One of the four fish ponds

Sad-looking vegetables

We also enjoy looking round at the ordinary life of the farm. We particularly enjoy the strutting cockerel, who clearly owns the place. He is patrolling the farm supervising the large harem he needs to keep in check. There are maize kernels drying in the sun. You can tell when they are dry enough from the sound the make. They will be milled at the local posho mill, which can be heard working away close by. The cobs and stalks of the plants are all used to feed to the cows. There is another small plantation of trees here being grown for timber.

Strutting cockerel

Maize kernels drying in the sun

Maize stalks are kept for feeding to the cows

The cobs are also kept for the cows

We have our last meal at Grandma’s, enjoying the chapattis and lentils that were being made earlier. Two market researchers come round from Ipsos wanting the political opinions of the residents of the village. James asks for a picture of Grandma in her house and all her stylists fuss round her pulling her clothes about until she looks her best. We say goodbye and head back to Kisumu for our flight. Peter needs to get the car washed before we take it back. As the airport is on the near side of Kisumu, we will not be going into the city to find a car wash there and so we stop again by the equator sign, this time to take advantage of the services of Equator Car Wash. We get half an hour to chill waiting for the car washing. Peter pays them with Mpesa, a mobile phone text payment service that is available everywhere in Kenya. Many small shack-like businesses along the side of the road apparently in the middle of nowhere have Mpesa logos, also taxi drivers and individuals of all kinds. We drop the car off at Kisumu airport and check in for our flight.

Dana Joan

James saying goodbye to Dana Joan and Pastor Chris

The smart new terminal has electronic screens above each check in desk displaying the logo of the airline for that desk. The Jambojet logo is very low resolution, looks like they just gave the airport the one off their website and now it’s being displayed on a massive screen. We are a bit late already and this is when Julie discovers she no longer has her ID card. She is able to check in with her government employee card, but will have to get a new ID card as soon as possible. The flight back to Nairobi is on a proper Jambojet aircraft this time, a prop plane, travelling via Eldoret. Jambojet operates Bombardier Q400 aircraft. It feels very juddery and frightening, but has no doubt being doing this for many decades quite happily. The safety announcement is quite specific about any water that we could possibly land in should there be an emergency – that would be Lake Victoria. The airport is next to the lake and take off is over it. We land at Eldoret 20 minutes later, then take off again after another 20, no mention of possible water landings this time. It feels very strange sitting on a plane while half the passengers get off, and a load more get on, more like a bus. It is 45 minutes to Nairobi. There is a delay being assigned a gate and another getting out of the airport as all vehicular traffic is held at the front concourse. This is due to a “VIP arrival”. Peter and Julie think this must be the president, though it turns out he is in India, trying to improve trading relations and also exchange coaching expertise in cricket and athletics. The taxi ride home takes a traffic avoiding route along the ring road, then up through Embakasi along a road with speed humps which are too large for the taxi, which ends up grinding the underside of the car with increasingly disturbing noises all the way along. We are home late and the kids are all in bed now.

All posts in this diary series:


Getting There


To the Village Via the Tractor Dealership

The Health Centre

Village People

Choices: Kibera and Kabete

Women's Issues: Cups, Confidence and Cake

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum


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