|Cattle on the road near Mnyenzeni, Kenya (photo from a previous trip)|
I cannot tell how many times I have negotiated one of our dirt roads around a herd of cattle or goats. The scene is so common around here that you don’t even realize you’re doing it until everyone in the vehicle from the states wants to take a photo. When the Massai are moving their cattle from up-country to market down here, you could see a dozen large herds between here and the main road, just 10 miles away. It sure messes with your timing to get somewhere, but it’s the order of the day when animals are moving. The Massai will buy cattle for $80-$100 each in Sudan and slowly push them on foot 800 miles down here to the South Coast where they can sell them for $150-$200. They spend a couple of months walking down, using roads, pathways, and sometimes city streets. Some of the weaker cattle will die along the way, and the Massai leave them where they lay as an acceptable price that is paid to make the journey.
|Bret and a new baby Gala Goat|
Today I took a small herd of our Gala Goats to graze just for the experience. These animals go every day, so they are extremely adept at reading the body language and motions of the shepherd. The most difficult task is to keep our billy goat from wandering to nearby herds where he could not be challenged by the typical East African Goat at more than twice their size. Worse yet, if he wanders and a male goat from another herd gets loose with one of our mama goats, we’ve spoiled an entire breeding season until the cross-breed is born. My brief experience had no incidents to report, but it did give me an appreciation for what these people do when walking for hours each day in the dry season in search of grasses for their animals.
|Village women being instructed on rotational gardens|
|Village women preparing rotational gardens for planting|
Our rotational garden groups are fully established and working diligently to prepare their family plots according to what they have been instructed. As I addressed each group over the last few days the level of excitement and anticipation was truly palpable. When I tell them that I have never suffered hunger, and my children have never known going to bed with an empty stomach, their faces collectively contort to expressions of incredulity. When telling them that they will be the pioneers in this area with our agricultural programs, and their children will also not know hunger if they follow our guidelines, these excited mothers become giddy at the mere thought of this being reality.
|A matatu, a common form of transportation for many Kenyans|
Our group from the U.S. begins arriving today, so some final preparations have to be made in Mombasa. Yama and I went down there and quickly took care of business. Our trusted driver, Johnson, met up with us, and I decided to head back to the village instead of paying for a hotel and staying in town. Accidents are not uncommon on the crazy, nutty, psychotic roads in Mombasa. For the amount of cars, narrow streets, disrepair, and overall chaos, I’m actually surprised there are not more. Matatu’s are the main method of transportation in the South Coast. Hundreds of 13-passenger vans are packed with 15-20 people and move from one area to the next. They jet around without regard to anyone, or anything else on the road. They cause most accidents, yet they are such a vital means of transportation, everyone just accepts them. There are always two people staffing a matatu (ma-tah-too), the driver, and a conductor who calls out their destination, collects money, and helps the driver negotiate traffic, changing lanes, etc. You commonly see the conductor dangling from the side of the vehicle calling to people like a circus act promoter. They are quick to hop off the vehicle, open the door while collecting money, and jump back aboard while the vehicle is pulling away. During my two-hour drive back to the village I was behind several matatu’s when one of the drivers sped away quickly from a stop while hitting a pothole at the same time. His trusty conductor was actually thrown from the side of the vehicle, and the following matatu didn’t see him in time and ran over him at the knee level……..with both front and rear tire. This happened 15 feet in front of me, and I actually had to swerve to avoid hitting the guy again. When telling my story the Kenyans were almost unmoved, kind of like hearing that a hyena had been eaten by a zebra.
It appears as though I’ve picked up a little gift that is affecting my stomach. Hopefully it’s just a bad piece of papaya and not something more “moving.” We have another night without the moon, and another bucket shower for me under the black sky that is heavily dusted with the shiny crystals of the Kenyan night.