Friday, July 2, 2010

28 days in Africa

A picture for every day?
And maybe a story for each one.
I admit it, much of the time we spent over the last month in Africa I didn't have my camera with me at all.

I have excuses though.
1. After working so hard all day lugging the 7D around for film, we didn't want to have it on our free time. Using that heavy camera became a chore.
2. We wanted to experience Africa as best we could, and I learned that you have a very different experience if you are taking pictures of things instead of doing, eating, smelling or wearing them.
3. People stopped us constantly when we had the camera asking us to take their picture and bring it back to them. We tried to as often as we could, but really it was a pain.

So some of these pictures are taken on the same days! Oh no!

It would seem wrong to start this photo flood with a picture of someone besides Osito.
Osito was one of our drivers. He told us he was 26, but he also said he thought he was born in 1987. So we don't know how old he is. (I don't think HE knows either)
Osito has, as he mournfully told me the first time we met, "never even touched an aeroplane," yet his greatest ambition is to be a famous singer in America. If he becomes a famous singer in America then he will send his giant fortune to a Kilifi orphanage.
This is a picture he asked me to take to go on the cover of his Demo Cd.
If you are wondering, Osito's "band" is really a small gospel choir.
He is not the main singer, but intends to be the only one photographed for their cover.
Oh Osito, I love you. But you also drove me nearly crazy.
This is Squeegee, our favorite wiggly skinny little puppy. He did have fleas, but we still let him in our room and I carried him around quite a bit.
I couldn't help it. Have you ever seen such a cute little guy? He is also the puppy that I mentioned being harassed by monkeys in Kilifi. I'm glad to say that he is still alive and well.

This is my cute husband filming a burning pile of trash.
First, imagine the worst smell you have ever smelled.
Now set it on fire.
There isn't a garbage system in Kenya (or most of Africa, I think.) So people throw their garbage in the woods, or if that's too big of a pain, they burn it.

This is Kilifi! Doesn't it look just perfect?
Yes, the picture below is also Kilifi, combine them into a rural and gorgeous town and you got Kilifi.
This picture was taken from the BoatYard, a little tourist restaurant that served absurdly delicious crab samosas, while you sat with your feet in perfect white sand, shaded by palm trees, and looked out at the sun setting over the Indian Ocean.
Can we talk about ideal? This was our special treat for our last day in Kenya.
We went with our friends Leah and Rajiv, our personal Kenyan tour guides, they introduced us to our favorite parts of Kilifi, like the people, and the alleyway market, and --of course-- crab samosas.

This is Osito again, in front of his Tuk Tuk. It's basically a motorized rig-shaw. He would drive us around town in it for super cheap.
I said to him, "Osito, can I take your picture in the Tuk Tuk so my family can see what it looks like?"
"Of course, of course!" he said
So I took a picture of him sitting in the Tuk Tuk seat.
"One more," he said, and he got out and crouched down next to the front.
"Another?" he asked, posing in the above position.
"Would it trouble you to take just one more?" he asked.

A dozen photos later and I am confident that I have pictures of both Osito and the Tuk Tuk from nearly every angle.
We had a bonfire on the beach one night and it was a blast. Luckily Rajiv and Travis were both boy scouts or we never would have gotten the fire started it was so windy! We ended up all crouched and huddled around it, holding a blanket over our heads to block the wind. When the papers and sticks finally caught fire my eyebrows (and everyone else's) were nearly burned off.
Lots of teeny tiny crabs (think nickel-sized) would venture near to see the fire, but become frightened and try to scurry away.
But the boys kept herding the scuttling little guys into the fire where they would scream, start to bubble, and then die.
Then the boys would pull the crab out and eat it! they said it was pretty good, but I was too squeamish to have a bite.

I think this monkey is in the Nairobi airport, although I assure you they were everywhere.
The guards in the airport absolutely hated them, but they kept sneaking in somehow.

This is Osito's band. Can you see him back there?
We have his cd if you would like a copy, and if you are feeling generous I think Osito would love to get a few US dollars in the mail.
He might even donate it to a near-by orphanage.

This picture was taken in Uganda at one of HELP Internationals Eye Camps. HELP pays for doctors and nurses who come to very rural places and give out free eye glasses and perform dozens of cataract surgeries.
Travis made good friends with the man above and followed him through the whole procedure.
He spoke very good English for living somewhere so rural.

This is us at the NILE river. We were right near the head of it, visiting some pretty little falls.
I have never been anywhere that is mentioned in the Bible, and I know it was silly, and we were very far from Egypt, but it was a very neat experience to see the Nile.
I just kept thinking about Moses, and after I thought of that (of course) I felt the need to take off my shoes.
And then I finally understood (I think) how sweet it was for Christ to wash the apostles feet. Since every day we came home and our feet were dirty and sweaty and aching, but mostly dirty, and I would have to sit down in our disgusting cold shower and try to rub my feet semi-clean.
And sitting there at the Nile with water washing over my feet just felt so heavenly.

This man is at another Eye Camp.
Travis took this picture.
Isn't it gorgeous?


This is me.


This is our driver Peter, who, if you've read other posts in Africa you will know was a very good friend.
When we were in Uganda he actually called us and once I was on the phone said "Becky, please. I miss you so much. Please, please return to Kenya."
"I would like to," I said.
"Then please come back. Come back now if you can."
It's nice to have friends who want you to visit.

Remember when we broke down in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Kenya.
We took some pretty long-exposure shots.
You seriously wouldn't believe the stars you can see in Africa.

Remember when the Kenyan women couldn't stop laughing at me? They helped me tie my skirt and then babbled on in Swahili and then laughed until they cried?
These are a few from the group. The girl in the black and green is the one who finally helped me.

This is a photo from when Rajiv and Leah and Travis and I had dinner with Kadzo and Bahati and they gave me my Kenyan name and then showed us their farm --which we would have destroyed if they let us keep working on it.
These are the mud huts they live in and you can see their make-shift tables and communal plates.
It was perfect. I want to do it again.

This is Elvis, Bahati's baby. All of the babies (and I even saw children who were at least three r four) are carried around like this. The fabric used is the same fabric they use as skirts (Kangas) and often the woman will wear a skirt that matches her baby-carrier.
This is Kadzo and Bahati laughing at someone (I think Leah) trying to hoe.
Don't be fooled though, they laughed much harder when I tried to hoe.
Repeatedly they took the hoe away from me and tried to reshow me how it's done.
And repeatedly I failed.

This is just a little baby tree.
And little baby me.
Doesn't it make you think of Fern Gully?

This was in Uganda, at the footall tournament HELP held between several local primary schools.
Travis was doing a time lapse over the hill of the sun rising, and then of kids running up one by one until the field was thronged. Once these kids realized the camera was taking pictures on its own, they would stand in front and then run behind it to see their picture when it flashed on the screen and then run back to have another taken of themselves.
Smart little guys.

This is a picture of our friend, Wilson. Wilson had us come meet and interview several women who had AIDs. This was the 6month old baby of one woman (the baby didn't have HIV/AIDs, but was seriously malnourished.)
She was so sweet and I held her while her mom interviewed... that is, until the baby peed all over me, (no disposable diapers in Africa) and then I passed the baby off to grandma.

This is Mapensie, and her little sister Monika. Neither little girl could understand me, and I couldn't understand them, but they were so sweet. They followed us around with all the other kids in Kilifi, but tended to hang on the outskirts of the group.
When I learned all their names, I kept calling Mapensie, Mckenzie.
The kids laughed and laughed and Mapensie was seriously embarrassed, so whenever I saw her after that I always made sure to say "Hello Mapensie!" and she would smile and say nothing, but all the other kids were jealous I remembered her name.

This picture was taken at a Muslim primary school during one of HELPs school festivals. They had the best school uniforms of any African school we went to (and we went to A LOT), but I noticed the schools in Uganda tended to have better uniforms in general compared to Kenya. Can you believe they're wearing sweaters? It was winter time for them there, but it was still in the 80s and 90s every day, and right on the equator! The sun was SO hot and bright.

This is my dear roommate (in ages past) Paige, or as the African's knew her, Peggy. Paige was there for an internship with HELP and we got to see her several times. It;s crazy bumping into people across the world. We even stayed with someone in Kenya who turned out to be from Annandale Minnesota! That's where my parents grew up and was about 15 minutes from my house in Buffalo. We are both from such small towns (Annandale has less than 2,000 people - although I looked it up, there are 26 lakes in a ten mile radius!) that you don't even run in to other people from Annandale in the USA, let alone in Kilifi Kenya!
But back to the picture above, ahem, this is Paige helping mash down the cement for an adobe stove at a school.

This photo was taken by a Ugandan at a secondary school after my very expensive camera was kidnapped.
The girls LOVED learning how to take pictures on it, even if they were off-center and out-of-focus pictures. But it was horrifying watching them casually pass it around. The other girl in the photo, Zinab, was forceful when trying to get me to give her my camera.
"You will give this to me," she kept saying. "I will keep this, alright?"
"No, Zinab, I will keep this. I need it for work, it is my job to take pictures."
"No, friend Rebeccah. I need it. You will give to me because I need it."

This was actually also at a secondary school, this is the school lunch lady. She made lunch for 600 students in that little pot. Usually just Pojo (or Ugali if you're in Kenya) which is cornmeal mixed with water.
Very filling, but not very nutritional.

THis is Ester, from the Orphan Choir. She wrote the lyrics and music to most of the songs that the choir sang when we came to record for them. It was heart-breaking listening to them sing about death, AIDs and the hopelessness of life, knowing that all of them were orphans from AIDs and many were infected. There was such power and emotion when they sang, too. She and the others wept during nearly every song.
And so did I.

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