so much happened in my 5 days in the field. I thought a leek detox would give me an opportunity to rest and think about it. instead, I just experienced some fantastic starvation-induced hallucinations. and the only thing I remember thinking about in my delirious state was how much I hated leeks (seriously, who can stomach onion water for breakfast?) or how badly I wished it was magical papaya weekend.
thankfully, now I’m properly nourished (a PB&J has never tasted so good), and ready to share my week in the bush with you. and in an effort to stay organized, I broke this long-ass post into three parts. the beaches (where we work), the girls (who we work with) and the work. I think that makes sense, don’t you agree? good.
there are about 300 girls that we support on the Value Girls project. they are split between two districts, Suba and Busia. this week I was in the Suba district, hanging out with girls at beaches called Olambwe (Oh-LAHM-bway), Kaugege (COW-gay-gay) and Luanda (Loo-AHN-dah).
it takes about 2 hours to drive from Kisumu to the ferry. the ferry is a beautiful 45 minute ride across Lake Victoria. then you’re in Suba, and the beaches are anywhere between 10-40 kilometers away, but on the worst roads I’ve ever been forced to travel. and when we’re talking beaches, there is no sand and tiki torches. no plumbing nor any electricity. it’s more along the lines of metal shed homes and naked African babies roaming the water’s edge.
quick demographic profile of the average girl we work with: between 18 to 22 years old, dropped out of school (because lack of money) after primary level 6 or 7, and married with at least 2 children. if they aren’t breastfeeding, they are pregnant. why do they keep getting pregnant? their answer: “there’s not much else to do.” well, i’d say that’s more than fair. 🙂
if not for the project most of the girls would either be housewives or working with fish. and, FYI, the lake is suffering from severe fish shortages making business more competitive, another reason why it’s timely the project is helping the girls develop skills outside of this dwindling industry. so each girl picked one of two different alternative income sources that we support: raising poultry or vegetable farming.
I don’t know anything about raising chicks or vegetables. but oh boy, this week, I learned a few things. and now, I really really really want a chicken run, a small vegetable garden, and a boyfriend with a motorbike… but more on that later.
to put it mildly, it’s hard in the fields. I don’t know how to describe except to say that whatever we think is hard in the US, it’s at least 100X harder here. because of every reason imaginable. all compacted on each other.
some of the challenges this week:
- so much drama with these hippos. “when will the fence be done, the cowpiss cowpeas (local vegetable) is already sprouting.” “here is a hippo footprint, we need to pray harder tonight that they do not attack before the fence is done.” “we must hire a nightguard who owns a torch so that he can scare the hippos away.” etc. P.S. is it just me or does that nightguard job sound like the coolest job ever? and did I mention that they hoe that land themselves with no mechanical ANYTHING? bare hands, shoeless, with a pick, a shovel, and a machete. talk about amazing.
- monitor lizard massacres on the chicks. these lizards are EVIL. the ladies need to build a good chicken house otherwise these freaky lizards sneak in and kill the chicks (they don’t eat the chickens, they just bite their heads off). they eat the chickens, or bite their heads off. one of the ladies had 9 of her chicks killed this way. it was a really sad/scary murder scene.
- H2O. the much-anticipated water pump was delivered to the farm while we were there. this thing is AWESOME because it works like a stairmaster, manually pumping water from water source through the hose to the farm. loved working my glutes. but the good water sources are far away. and you know what? vegetable farms need a lot of water. like, A LOT. so, they’re looking into digging wells (again, with just a hoe and a shovel).
- transportation is a killer (literally). these baby chicks are super delicate and they get stressed out easily. dozens have died on the motorbike ride from the breeders locale to the beaches. cars are better for delivery but very expensive. the women have to give the chicks all sorts of medicine so that they don’t die from stress. I def. understand why. I rode on a motorbike on the crazy roads and it was super scary for me, too. [at first I was nervous, esp. we got trapped in this herd of cows feeding along the road (they have really sharp horns). but once we started cruising, I just let my hair down… and I’ve never felt so alive! (which btw, little epiphany… who needs $20 Bumble and Bumble sea salt spray? I just need a motorbike.)]
I cannot even describe how rewarding it is to be in the field. I read about the girls and I read about the beaches and I tried to imagine what life is like for them. but it’s the little things that you must experience with all of your senses that make it real. one day in the field teaches you more than 6 months in the office.
right now I am receiving so much more than I am giving. I wasn’t able to contribute much (just revised templates, created a spreadsheet …and gave lots of words of support!) but I will do everything I can to change that in the future… these women deserve the world.