Karibu to Kisumu
I have made it safe and on time to my destination in Kisumu, Kenya. It has been a rush. Before I left, Dr. Omedi Ochieng, told me that nothing could prepared me to fully understand what Africa would be. Personal descriptions, books, photos, data, only go so far Prior to my departure I believed that I had a cerebral understanding of what Africa would be like, but being here the visceral experience is daunting.
My head is slowly catching up and as I look around I know that Kiva and micro-finance have a pivotal role to play. It has helped me to check my emotions knowing that we are doing something about it. Because I lack the ability to fully articulate Africa I want to share with you someone who can:
“Africa is nothing if not evocative. It’s a place of such unimaginable beauty and dignity and expanse and possibility, and such unfathomable suffering and despair and disease and decay. It is at once so alive and so wracked by death, so powerful in its landscape and physicality, and so powerless under the weight of famine and political upheaval and disease” well said Shauna Niequist.
Friday morning I hopped on a Kakemba bus to Kisumu. The bus ride took eight grueling hours but looking out my window provided more than enough fascinating sights to make the time pass. We went through rolling green hills, up the famous Rift Valley, I saw village after village (my favorite was Kericho with thousands of acres of tea leaves), cows and donkeys and sheep grazing in the grass, African’s meandering down the road, even a heard of zebras.
One of the sobering parts of the bus ride was at a stop in Nakuru. Every couple hours the bus would stop at an Akamba station so people could buy snacks and drinks, as well as use the rest room. My heart sank when I walked towards the main road and saw something that I’d read about, cement walls with broken glass bottles on the top. The wall in the photo is surrounding a home, and it illustrates the divisions and barriers that have been scattered throughout African history and continue
Currently, life is still challenging. The political turmoil after the presidential election had much of the violence in Western Kenya which largely included Kisumu. There are still buildings that are destroyed from the looting and arson. Please read this article for a summary. The violence caused Kiva’s Kenya partners to pause because of the unrest. Now that peace has been brokered through a power sharing coalition it is business as usual and the MFI’s are able to operate. Nevertheless, things are still fragile. Kenyans love to talk about Barack Obama (his father was born and raised near Kisumu) but the tone changes when speaking about Kenyan politics.
I’m anxious to get started working for my assigned field partner, Opportunity International-Wedco. I begin on Monday with much work to be done.