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18 October, 2001 -- We've had an eventful couple of days. Still a fair number of people coming to the door: "I have a problem". It's hard to say no to such stories.
People are getting used to us. On one of the first days, when we walked through the produce stalls at the end of the street, a little guy of about two or three suddenly turned and was confronted by Rod: six feet tall, white and with a beard. The poor kid screeched in terror. Now all the kids trot out to shake our hand and recite "How are you?" It gets a little monotonous because they are taught the answer "Fine" so if we deviate it causes a problem.
Walking by the gas pump, a young man said "Mzungu" (white person) to which I replied "Ndiyo" (that's right) His jaw dropped then he dissolved into laughter.
We try to vary the stall holder from whom we buy our produce. So far, apart from the sukuma, I've tried green peas (a little hard) and cow peas (another small green leaf somewhat like spinach.) A couple of days ago we found eggplant in town! What excitement. It made a great ratatouille since onions, garlic, green peppers and tomatoes are all available, but no zucchini. We visited the farmer's supply and bought seeds for Swiss chard, eggplant and red peppers.
The fish we get (talapia) is from Lake Victoria and is fleshy and white. I try not to think of the pollution in the lake. The rains seem to have finished. It still clouds over in the afternoon and we hear thunder, but no downpour. It's very hot now by midday. We bought a 900 litre water tank and fixed it up thank goodness. We filled it with city water, but now the taps are dry. No one seems to know when it will rain again. We run a short piece of garden hose from the outlet of the tank and coil it in the sun. Within an hour we have hot water.
Yesterday I had a problem with my laptop which refused to power up, just when I had written 'The End" to the edits of my new book that I planned to send off last night! As I was trying to deal with the computer, the power went off and stayed off all evening. Our supper was in the oven and had warmed through, so we did get something to eat.
When we went to Kisumu last week, we found some Australian plonk in boxes. It tastes better every day. Thanks to my Norton rescue disk, I got the laptop working and sent the book using the battery. But there was a problem with the server, so no mail came in last night. Today the phones are down, so we couldn't get any money from the ATM. And so it goes. I got my email this morning, but who knows if the phone will be working tonight?
Today we visited the Mumias sugar factory, once the biggest in East Africa. We saw the whole operation from the cane coming in by truck to the packaging in bags and sacks. Mumias is about 30 km away on a fairly good road, through very pretty countryside. All this area is on a high plateau as I think I said, so we see gently rolling hills. It's very lush and green because of the elevation and the rainfall. Bananas, mangoes, papayas grow in abundance as well as the cane. The countryside is dotted with small farms with round houses topped with conical thatch. The sugar plant is a huge operation and entirely self- sufficient. The sludge from the process is turned into fertiliser and the dry cane is burned to power the boilers. Some electricity can even be sold to the grid.
We met another woman yesterday from the government office working with women's groups. She was saying that the temptation to plant cane right up to the door of the house is too great. It's edging out the small market and home gardens that the women need to feed the family. She also told us about the experiments with solar ovens. They are trying to promote them made out of easily accessible and portable materials. They have to be solid enough to be easily moved out of the rain, but not too heavy. They are being extensively used in the east of the country where there is no firewood at all.
© 2002 Patricia Crossley