Friday, 27 January 2012

Three Photos

I will write a longer post tomorrow about my recent field visit to Kericho, however thought I would quickly share three photos from the past week with you.

Photo 1. The Colour of Water

We have running water at my house only one or two days a week.  During the rainy season we had running water 3 days a week, but now that it is the dry season we've had less.  We have a large water tank which automatically fills when the main water supply is on and we can pump that water into the house to use in the kitchen and bathrooms - although with 4 of us living here we do have to constantly be careful to conserve water.  On the one or two days when we do have running water, we also fill extra storage containers with water to wash our clothes.  

This is a picture of the colour of the water last week.  The water up until now has been clear - but has turned quite brown.  Not sure why.  I thought water turned brown after rain - but it hasn't rained for weeks.

Water in Nairobi is "treated" - but there are some sceptical as to what that actually means and how consistently it is carried out.  We regardless boil and filter our drinking water.  This is a process which can take quite a while - the water has to cool before it can be put into the filter and the filtering can take up to a day as well.  So the key is to boil today the water you want to drink tomorrow.

Photo 2: Work Permit

When I arrived in Kenya I had a 3 month single entry visitor visa, and last week I was issued a 2 year work permit.  It was not issued without its fair share of complications - VSO told me it was ready however when I went to collect it I found there was no visa in my passport.  Three other staff in the VSO office also looked through my passport and confirmed it was not there. Apparently my paperwork had been seen by the Kenyan immigration office and they approved my work permit but forgot to put it in my passport.

Having moved to the UK at the age of 22, I am relatively familiar with immigration processes, permits and visas.  I was on 5 separate visas/permits in the UK before becoming a permanent resident last year.  So I was quite surprised that this long awaited work permit was in fact a hand written note. Surely I could have done that myself??  I now realise I may have inadvertently caused long term problems for Kenyan immigration as the readers of this blog (all 12 of you - hi mom and Rachel!) will now be copying my work permit into your passports and coming to Kenya to find employment.  With that kind of influx, I may be single-handedly starting the transformation of the issuing of work permits from scribbles to stickers or stamps.  Watch this space!

Photo 3: Matatu Art

On Sunday morning my housemate Andrea and I went to go see an exhibition by Kenyan artist Dennis Muraguri entitled Matatu Project.  The exhibition happened to be held at a lovely restaurant set in a beautiful garden - so we may have spent more time drinking coffee and eating crepes than looking at art - but that's besides the point.

Briefly - a matatu is the main form of public transportation here in Kenya.  They operate within cities much like a city bus system would, but also are the main means to get around the country as well.  They are large people carriers (15-passenger vans for my American audience) that drive around on set routes (although sticking to the routes is at the driver's discretion) picking up passengers and dropping passengers off.  They are meant to fit 14 passengers - but 14 passengers is the bare minimum they hold as a matatu will not leave the stage (the starting/terminating point) until it is full - and then will continue to collect more passengers along the way.  I have been in one with 21 passengers - however another volunteer said he was in one with 24 passengers and a chicken.  Matatu drivers are notoriously unsafe - often using the pavement (sidewalk) as an additional traffic lane. However they are a quick and cheap way to get around.  The government recently announced that they will stop licencing matatus - at moment only vehicles with a yellow stripe on them are official transportation vehicles - in a move to phase them out (by letting the existing ones slowly die off) and then plan to introduce new 24 seater buses in the future.  

Muraguri's works were great - he used several different mediums/styles including wood cuts, newspaper and comic format as above to depict different aspects of how matatus feature in Kenyan life - from simple transportation to being used as a stage in a protest. There were certainly many things in his works I didn't pick up on - subtle references - as I'm not Kenyan and haven't lived here very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pieces nonetheless and may even try to purchase one for myself before I go.  Anyway, I am not an art critic so will stop there.

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