Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lunchtime conversation gone ridiculous

Classic example of a volunteer whose heart is in the right place but has totally impractical ideas. Today’s lunchtime conversation among me, Chris (the fellow I’m replacing), Ange (Nyumbani Volunteer) and Clueless Volunteer (the name is quite fitting as you’ll see).

Before I begin I’ll give you some background on Nyumbani Village. It’s located in Kitui Kenya, a semi-arid region where clean drinking water is very scarce, especially since the rains gave a no-show last year and the Horn of Africa was hit with the worst drought in 60 years.

Clueless Volunteer: Nyumbani needs a swimming pool.

Chris (trying not to choke on his lunch): um, I don’t think a pool is a priority for Nyumbani right now.

Clueless Volunteer: yes, it is. It’s not that hard to build, just dig a hole and put some water. It will be great for a wellness center for the su-su’s (the grandmothers in the village). The US has them, we should have them.

Me:  Building and maintaining a pool is not as easy as you think. It requires a big investment and the demand on water is ridiculous.

Ange: There’s no way a pool can be sustainable in this village if we want to be self-sustaining by 2018 (a goal the Village has set for itself).

Clueless Volunteer: What about a golf course?

Chris: Are you serious?

Clueless Volunteer: Or a driving range. We can definitely do a driving range. The next Tiger Woods can be from Nyumbani. All they play is football.

(at this point I can’t breathe as I’m holding back laughter)

Chris: So you want to stop the children from running and exercising and make them stand swinging a stick?

Clueless Volunteer: Yes, it will be good.

(after talking down Clueless Volunteer about this idea he moves on to plan B)

Clueless Volunteer: We should have a factory here. The kids sit around all day and do nothing.

Ange: They’re on their summer holiday. During school they are in classes and help out their families with caring for the younger children and making food. They don’t have much free time.

Chris (sarcastically): maybe we should get them to make golf clubs.

Clueless Volunteer: well, the village should try to make things to export and sell. China does it. What about quilts?

Chris: the su-sus make baskets that they sell.

Clueless Volunteer: but we can teach them to make quilts. When they brought African slaves to America they taught them how to make quilts.

Chris: I don’t think it’s a question of whether they can learn to make quilts. People like to buy the baskets not only because they are useful, but they are a part of the culture of the region.

Clueless Volunteer: Really? Oh, okay. (Clueless Volunteer looks totally unconvinced).

There’s so much more to this conversation but I’ll stop my summary here. To the benefit of Clueless Volunteer he did finally come upon a good idea of exporting the baskets to sell in other countries using aid for shipping costs from NGO’s operating in the region.

What an unbelievable character! ( I didn't make this up I swear!)

Nyumbani Tour with Chris

Entrance to the Administration Offices

Chris standing at his office desk in the Sustainability office

Harvesting melia seeds. Amazing flexibility! She totally outshines that tiny Asian woman who turns herself into a pretzel as she stands at the front of my yoga class in Dillon gym

Tea and Chipati at the canteen

Some of the village boys off to a football match

Biogas reactor for the guest house. It powers a methane stove in the kitchen.

Pit Stop in London - Day 2

King Henry looking for his next wife in the crowd of tourists

Hampton Court

Found the center of the maze after getting lost only um, a small number of times :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pit Stop in London - Day 1

Entrance of Westminster Abbey

The line to enter Westminster Abbey :(

yay Mandela!

Afternoon Cream tea with Sue (I could do this everyday!)

Magician hammering a nail into his nose, eek!
which my aunt volunteered to remove for him, with her teeth!
and she got to keep the nail as a souvenir.

Monday, August 15, 2011

To my parents - Thanks for supporting me on my travels to Africa! (even though it was the last place you expected me to be after graduating from Princeton)