30 January 2011

Kenya: Lake Victoria and Global Politics

After working the first 9 of 10 days here, we took the weekend off.  

Thursday night, we had a feast prepared by Dr. Allibhoy's wife, made up of traditional Indian and Kenyan food.  We hadn't eaten lunch and ate ourselves sick.  I rarely eat Indian food, but this was unreal.  

Friday we did some shopping in one of the markets and we made out well.  Our bargaining skills are now razor sharp.  Dinner that night was out at Kiboko Bay, a hotel on Lake Victoria.  We watched a brilliant sunset that cannot be captured in photos.  Dan (the manager of our own hotel, and new friend) and his wife Stella joined us for dinner and our conversation consisted mostly of, what else, politics.  The vast majority of Kenyans are extremely well educated on their own politics, and that of the rest of the world.  It's fascinating to hear their perspective and learn from their historical knowledge.  If only the majority of Americans were that engaged.

That night at dinner we also met some girls from George Washington, completing their MPH's.  They're here on a 4-month internship - we learned about their projects and solicited their photographic skills at sunset.

Friday and Saturday night, I was out enjoying Tuskers and the beats of Bongo, Congolese, and Kenyan/Luo music.  Friday night was with Dan, Stella, the MPH girls, and Brenda.  Of course there was more political debate once the Tusker was flowing - but mostly for the sport of it - learning from others' views.  Saturday, Josh and Aduda were added to our group after another phenomenal pizza dinner and sunset drink atop the Imperial Hotel.  Conversation with Aduda was pretty intense - he's very sharp when it comes to sociopolitical history and regarding the current uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.  Not only are the educated young professionals here knowledgeable, but they're passionate - especially after four 500-mL Tuskers!  He offers a historical perspective unlike any other.

If you're not paying attention to what's going on in Tunisia and now Egypt, check out the BBC or Al Jazeera perspective.  Many are watching closely, and learning from it, here.  With social media and internet spreading the news fast, the "lower" (or, poorer) classes are exposed to what's out there - i.e. luxuries of the middle class, uprisings against autocracy - and want a fair shot for themselves.  Can you blame them?

OK, as if it's not hot enough here in the city, we're headed to stand on the equator...

The more colorful version from Mom:

Hi from Kisumu where it continues to be very hot. I think I left off with my excitement about our invitation to Dr. Allibhoy's home for dinner.  His wife, Nuni, and Dr. A were such gracious hosts and they have a lovely home. Nuni had prepared a tableful of wonderfully delicious dishes. My favorite was samosas (a triangular shaped pastry with chicken and other spices--sort of like a egg roll only much better!) which you bite into, squeeze a little fresh lime juice on and top with a bit of homemade yogurt with cucumber and corriander.  We also had cassava (like potatoes), another homemade yogurt, chips masala, fish, eggplant, tomatoes (roasted), chapati bread which I ate with a dish of maize, beans and other spices.  I wish I could remember the names of these yummy dishes.  Nuni told me the ingredients for many of these dishes so I'm hoping I can prepare them when I get back but I'm guessing that they will not taste as delicious as they were here.  As if this wasn't enough, for dessert we had homemade ice cream in the shape of a rose along with pirforoles (like cream puffs with chocolate drizzles). Nuni is quite creative and presented me with a homemade gift set of quilted hot pads and coaster tops to cover bottles.  I look forward to using them and showing you all as I can't adequately find the words to describe them. And each time I use them I will fondly remember the Allibhoys and their wonderful hospitality.It was a magnificent evening and Trav and I were deeply honored to have such a nice mean with such kind and welcoming folks.

I took Fri., Sat. and today off just relaxing and being a tourist. Fri., after Trav finished at the hospital, we had quite a lot of fun going to a local market.  We bought lots of gifts and a few treats for ourselves. It was quite exciting seeing all the African-made items and doing some bargaining.  Fri. evening was another spectacular sunset--this time at Lake Victoria. We had drinks and watched this incredible event trying to capture it in photos but alas they don't do it justice. We stayed for dinner and were joined by Dan and his wife, Stella. Dan is the onsite manager of our hotel and is so very nice.  We thoroughly enjoyed their company.  It was definitely a mzungu haven. In fact, we met 4 delightful young ladies who are from GW in D.C. 3 of whom are here working on projects for their masters in Public Health and 1 is pursuing her PhD.  They will be here for 4 months.  After dinner, "Mama" got dropped off at the hotel (way fine with me) and they all went to take in the night life.

Sat. we had a leisurely day.  We tried a new place for lunch called the Green Garden restaurant, mentioned in our Lonely Planet guide as good for mzungus and sure enough, there were quite a few there, including an older lady from San Antonio.  We shared a margarita pizza and each had a green salad with lots of veggies.  In the evening, we returned to the Imperial Hotel for another sunset and were joined there by 2 of the young ladies we'd met the night before. We had lively political conversations as Trav was the only Republican among us. I'm thrilled to see so many young people interested in the world and the future.  It warms my heart.  Plus, they were lots of fun. After dinner, same drill as night before with "Mama" getting dropped off.

Today, Josh will take us to the equator (about an hour away) providing he can get a car (as you recall the truck is at the police station and we hope will be ready tomorrow).  We've also heard that President Obama's grandma, Sarah, lives nearby and receives visitors and we are hopeful for a visit with her sometime. Wouldn't that be something?  We're also hopeful that we can get to the Kakamega Forrest one day.  We will go to Masara a couple of more days and then leave on Sat. for the Masai Mara for 2 days of safari and then to Lake Nakuru for 1 more 1/2 day of Safari on our way back into Nairobi from where we each fly. Trav will continue to Morocco for 10 days. It seems like a lot to fit in but we will try our hardest.

Am getting a little homesick for my sweet family and friends.  I'm already dreaming (literally, thanks to anti-malaria meds) of a hot shower and my favorite foods.  Again, many thanks to you all for your support and continued prayers.

Asante sana.

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