Bulk blog catch up

A well needed pause – Monday 26th

Today we had planned to meet up with the students from the university of Nairobi to discuss and reflect on the Stories from our Cities exhibition, but our meeting was cancelled at the last minute after news reaching us that the traffic would not enable us to reach the meeting point.
Instead, we took advantage of our day off to keep up to date with blogs, pack our things for the trip to Rongo and the Maasai Mara, and relax to recharge before the 2nd phase of our trip.

The longest journey yet – Tuesday 27th

We all woke up early on the Tuesday and did our last minute packing and arrangements before heading off to Rongo. We were scheduled to leave at 10am, which turned out to be 11:20am as expected from Kenyan punctuality. Our first stop for a break was at the Rift Valley – a valley which starts from the northern part of Africa down into Kenya and Tanzania. Even though we got hassled by touristy shopkeepers, the stop was worth it as the view was one of a kind.
Our next stop was in Narok where we had lunch. We finally arrived at Rongo University College at 8:30pm, making it a total of 9 hours travelling.

Rongo University round 1 – Wednesday 28th

On Wednesday we headed down to Rongo University at 9am, and after having breakfast we got introduced to the people we were going to be working with. We had a brief meeting with the university head, which we presented and donated the Raspberry Pi’s, followed by a short tour of the university campus and establishments, and finally met the group of students which would be working with us in the Audio Workshop group.
Following a similar technique from when we were at Kenyatta university, we sat down and briefly introduced ourselves and discussed what the workshop aims and objectives where, and when we had a clear understanding we proceeded to plan out our pre-production, such as ideas on who to interview, what questions to ask, how to follow up on questions etc.
We spent the rest of the day learning how to use the Zoom microphone by performing various experiments while getting familiar with the Audacity editing software. I made sure that the students would get the hands on the Zoom as much as possible so they could get familiar with it and learn its functions, as they would be using the equipment in the following days when recording interviews and editing material. The day ended with dinner at the university and finally us heading back to our accommodation.

Rongo University round 2Thursday 29th

Our 2nd day at the university included us going out recording interviews and preparing material that we would use to structure our audio podcast, following our plan we had made the day before. We went to a school a short walk away from the university which both students and teachers belonged to the Luo tribe, and the curriculum revolved around Luo upbringing and customs. We were interested in interview some teachers about what some of the Luo traditions and customs are, and to what extent they are still practiced to this day.
We were welcomed by a few dances by the school students – the first dance was a traditional Swahili dance performed by the girls, followed by a traditional Luo dance performed by the boys. I captured the songs from the dance on my Zoom microphone, to use as a potential background effect or introduction to our podcast, which would add an effective ambience to it.

We then interviewed a couple of teachers from the school, discussing the Luo tribe as well as how they aim to educate children on Luo culture and traditions and what challenges they might come across.
The material we gathered provided us with useful information to go back to at the university, as we had the opportunity to listen back to the recordings and decide what would fit best in our podcast in order to effectively inform potential listeners of the podcast. By the end of the day we had already decided what and what not to use, as well as performing some initial editing. Like the day before, the university catered dinner for us (which was amazing!) and afterwards we left the university for our accommodation.

Rongo University round 3 – Friday 30th

Our aim today was to have our work edited and refined for a final presentation by 4pm. We got to work as soon as possible (around 9:30am) and continued the editing that we had started from the day before. We came across a major problem unfortunately, as the buildings we were in had a power cut and so we only had a couple of hours until the battery on our laptops would die. Fortunately, we had good work ethic and determination, and managed to accomplish the bulk of the editing process up until 12noon.
At 3:30pm we moved over to the administration building in which we would have the presentation of all the workshops, and finished off the final touches there before presenting our work to the rest of the groups, as well as to the dean of the university and our group leader Peter Day.
At the presentation we faced further technical issues, as the speakers provided for us were of bad quality and extremely low volume, but nevertheless we got very flattering feedback from everyone who was pleased and impressed from our work. I was particularly pleased to see that the Kenyan students in our group were really happy and felt accomplished from the work we had done, in which they thanked us for after the presentation.
Once again, the university fed us some lovely food and we then headed off to our accommodation for an early night, as the following day included an early start for the journey towards the Maasai Mara.

Wifi is back ! Let’s catch up…

Disclaimer: Before I start today’s blog, I must mention that we have not had proper access to Wifi the past 3 days and keeping up to date with blogs has been a pain in the arse – 1st world problems in 3rd world countries.

Thursday 22nd – Kenyatta university Round 2

Heading to Kenyatta university once again on Thursday, I was quite confident that the day would be as productive, or even better, than the one yesterday. We spent the first couple of hours with the students of the audio workshop planning out what sort of audio footage would be useful to capture when visiting Ngong later that day.
After an early lunch, we all got into a schoolbus and headed off towards Ngong. The journey there as well as visiting various places within the town, was an eye-opener to say the least…a lot of what I had already heard about Kenya and African countries in general was confirmed throughout the trip. I’ve never really understood what it is like to have such little and grow up in harsh conditions, as thankfully I grew up in a lovely developed country with all the access to clean water and food I wanted, and in general had a great childhood. Witnessing the conditions people live in, where children go to school, what they have to do to survive and in general, what problems families in poor societies face, made me reflect on my own life and upbringing – I think everyone has to get a view once in their life of how people in poor countries like Kenya live to understand that what we consider as ‘problems’ in our country are ridiculous. At the same time though, it’s pleasing to see Kenyan students interested and determined to learn more about communities and how to potentially help tackle contemporary problems – I like to believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, despite all the obstacles along the way.
To top off witnessing these life changing spectacles, we ended the day with a short visit up to the Ngong hills. It was truly breathtaking – I was convinced that these kinds of mountain ranges and views only existed in fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings, and actually being on the top of a hill in view of endless valleys of untouched nature all the way into the horizon made me feel like I was at the top of the world. What a sight.

The day ended with dinner at the bar and a couple o’ Heinees of course, but I couldn’t help but think that while I’m here with a plate of food and a beer in front of me, just a couple of miles away a child is eating out of a dustbin. What a world…

Friday 23rd – Kenyatta university Round 3

Friday was a stressful day, as all the material we had gathered over the past few days had to be edited and put into one piece and presented by 3pm, and arriving at 9:30am really didn’t help. Nevertheless, as soon as we arrived we got cracking and did what needed to be done. We recorded some of the Kenyan student’s pieces they wanted to make that would support the recordings we had gathered the day before in Ngong.
After lunch at around 12 noon we started editing, but we were rather pressured with time as everything had to be done and ready to be presented by 3pm. The editing process was challenging, as during the editing we realized that it would be useful if we had some small ‘in-between’ clips introducing each topic, as well as some music which would serve as a background. Besides that, a few of our recordings were not of the best quality due to background noise interfering with the actual speech. Nevertheless, we managed to finish it off by 3pm and present it at the presentation and closing ceremony of our collaboration project with the Kenyatta university students.
The whole ceremony was great; it was amazing to see how much we had all achieved within 3 days and how much we had all learned about working with students from a completely different kind of community to the ones we are familiar with. Personally I was very impressed by the work the photography workshop group did, as I felt it really touched on topics and the honest reality of community problems and issues.

Leaving the university was accompanied by a mild sense of sadness as we had had so much fun the past 3 days with the Kenyatta students and we had grown to really like each other and enjoy ourselves, but at the same time we were all overwhelmed with a sense of achievement which we celebrated later on when we arrived back at our flat.
Probably my favorite day yet 🙂

Saturday 24th – FOCUSing on development – contructing Ciabbattas

Today we headed off to the Focus youth centre for the Ciabbatta forum, where we spent the day with the children that spend their days at the youth centre as well as the students from Zetech university. The day started off really interesting when we arrived there as we got involved with the making of ciabbatas while getting introduced to the Zetech students who were really welcoming and happy to meet us. Being around all the children at the centre was rather fun as well, especially since we got involved with their activities and games. I had a conversation with a few of the people that run the centre, about what the centre does and from what backgrounds the children come from, which made me really reflect on the kind of childhood I had and make me realize how well off I have been while growing up. You really need to see the grim side of the world to understand that the world is not always a beautiful place, and that many things we have in our life are taken for granted such as having clean clothes and clean water to drink.
Seeing the children in such a condition, but with a smile on their face was an eye-opener to say the least, and being able to play with them, talk with them and generally spend time with them really made their day and was probably the highlight of their week, month or even year… it’s strange how they react when seeing someone with light skin; they seem so amazed and interested as if we have come from another planet.
Throughout the day, everyone I met instead of calling me by my first name they kept calling me Jesus, and the kids picked up on that and they started calling me Jesus as well ! It’s funny that where I come from, if you have long hair and a beard it’s very likely that people will think you are a slacker or just ‘trouble’ in general, but here, in an intensely Christian community they seemed to be extremely fond of me exactly because they thought I looked a lot like Jesus. Go figure!

Sunday 25th – Slumdog ‘millionaire’

The ‘Stories from our Cities’ photo exhibition was held today in a place called Ruwaka, which is situated in the outskirts of Nairobi in an area of dense slums. Arriving there, I genuinely felt sick. Not because I was ill or had eaten something dodgy, but from what I was seeing before me. I can’t describe with words the abysmal living conditions people live in within the slums. I could tell that the others from our group were just as shocked from what we were seeing, and it made us consider if that was an appropriate area to have a photo exhibition in, even though the actual exhibition was aimed at portraying the real faces of Kenya, both the beautiful and the ugly, in order to exhibit that Kenya is not only a bad place, common to popular belief. With us were students from the university of Nairobi who were hosting the exhibition, which made me feel safe to have them with us as it meant we were not alone in the middle of a not-so-safe area. The exhibition lasted only 2-3 hours and as we left we got stuck into the most horrendous traffic jam comprehensible by man. We had gotten used to being stuck in Nairobi traffic, but this was something else – road etiquette is not a term in the Kenyan dictionary to say the least.
Thankfully we got home safe and sound and had the opportunity to sit down, have a rest and try to comprehend today’s experience and reflect on all that has been happening.

The first encounter and post-workshop escapades 21/01

Even though I was with a couple of hours sleep, and generally not the greatest morning person, today’s early start had me in good spirit and in a mood to make the very most out of today’s first session of workshops at Kenyatta university. We gathered and checked all our equipment, loaded it into the minivan with us and headed off and just under an hour later we arrived at Kenyatta university.
I really didn’t know what to expect of our first day, especially meeting the Kenyan students and how they would respond and collaborate with us in the workshops, as I never properly engaged with any African youth before and had no idea as to what kind of personalities I would come across – but I kept an open mind and prepared for any scenario.

To familiarize ourselves and sort of break the ice between all of us, I initiated a seating arrangement with us all sitting on the floor in a big circle and everyone introducing ourselves in turns. I think this was vital to the rest of the workshop as we all had eye to eye communication and could speak to each other without having to raise our voice to be heard, as everyone was in audible range of each other.
The workshop shaped up pretty quickly, and I realized from the first hour of the workshop that they Kenyan students we are working with are actually very intelligent people that absolutely feed off knowledge and education. I was blown away by how eager they were to engage and express ideas and, in general, stimulate a discussion with us from UoB, as well as discussing various ideas and issues about their community amongst themselves. Specifically, a small discussion debate rose between two Kenyan students about the messages that Kenyan entertainment television transmits to its audiences, and what I was really happy to see was each person respecting each other’s view.

The rest of the first part of the workshop ran smoothly and according to plan, with us splitting into smaller groups in order to focus on the Zoom microphone and give them an opportunity to have a hands on experience with how it works. By the time we finished the lunch break and began the 2nd part of the workshop we had established a pleasantly friendly bond and could communicate on a comfortable level with the students, which resulted in the Audacity introduction being successful.

By the end of the day, although really happy with all the work we had done and what achieved, we were desperate to get back to the flat and relax…but the return journey odyssey that was in store with us consisted of encountering crazy cd-selling babyman, traffic police enforcement and horrendous Nairobi traffic.
Expected return journey time: ~1 hour
Final return journey time: 3.5 hours

Time for a couple o’ Heinees and Casa Del Lads shenanigans !

Arriving somewhere in another world 20/01

Leaving frosty London, arriving in snow-ridden Zurich and several hours later in balmy Nairobi just below the equator was somewhat of an unusual experience for me. The fact that at the same point in time people are shoveling snow on one side of the globe and sweating buckets on the other seems fascinating to me – what a world.
Arriving in Nairobi at about half 7 in the evening, the process of getting visas, collecting luggage, exchanging currency and getting the bus to our accommodation was surprisingly a lot easier than I imagined. What really made an impression was the amount of security in and around the airport – security and police casually patrolling with AK-47s made it seem as if they knew something bad was going to happen, but apparently it’s just how it is everyday other day around Nairobi airport.
Apart from the grotty shower and below average beds, our accommodation isn’t too bad – we have a shopping center and a bar just outside our doorstep.
I got scanned and body-searched by security when entering the shopping center – it seems they’ve had problems with security in enclosed public areas before and can’t risk not scanning and searching everyone entering the shopping centre…again – what a world.

I’m really looking forward to starting out tomorrow, initially meeting our partners at Kenyatta university and conducting workshops. I won’t deny, I don’t expect us to be top notch tomorrow as we will need a short period of time to adjust to being on the opposite side of the classroom…nevertheless, I’m sure we will get used to it quickly enough and be able to deliver the workshops confidently.
I can not wait to go to more rural areas and spend time within African culture, but one step at a time.

Off to sit in the living room of the apartment for our workshop briefing with Pete and then off to hit the bar! Tusker beer is a must for those visiting Kenya for the first time 🙂 Just don’t put ice in your drinks!