Vignettes from Africa, 2007-2008 are here!

We return to Kenya at the end of September 08

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Vignettes from Africa, 2007-2008

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Vignettes from Africa, 2006-2007

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Vignettes from Africa, 2005-2006

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Vignettes from Africa, 2004-2005

Six months in the community

Vignettes from Africa, 2003-2004

Nine months in the community

Vignettes from Africa, 2001-2002

The CHES experience



arrival and plans
Ethiopia again immunizing against Polio*
Ethiopia week 2 traveling in Ethiopia*
December water and elections
Violence erupts messages from Kakamega
To stay or go? difficult decisions
Kisumu riot we have to leave


October 24 -- It's like coming home...
October -- Ethiopia
November 22-- Poultry, strikes and rain
January 11-- Happy New Year
February 18-- This time they gave us a sheep!


September 26 -- Farewell Canada
November 2 -- Water, food and education
December 20 -- Politics, hunger and more water
January 17 -- Cars, food and corruption
February 15 -- Interesting times
April 2006-- Water well report


From Africa 1-- Settling in: our projects
From Africa 2 -- Not good news for women
From Africa 3 -- Wangari Maathai wins Nobel prize
From Africa 4-- Ghost wives and Lake Baringo
From Africa 5 -- Computer school
From Africa 6 -- Marich Pass
From Africa 7 -- Nicholas and Leonard
From Africa 8 -- no longer homeless



September 03 -- Letter from Kampala
September 30 03. Leaving Kampala
Oct 1 2003 -- We're back!
mid October, 2003 --: Life in Kakamega
November 1 2003 -- Hello again from Kenya
mid November,2003-- doing business in Kakamega
December 2003 -- Keeping Christmas in East Africa
January, 2004 -- Greetings and a Happy New Year
Feb 2004 -- Primary schools in Kenya
March 2004-- Safari to the Maasai Mara
April 2005--Ekwanda Primary School loses the roof


Entries with an asterisk * are illustrated with photographs. Please bear with me while I check all the links

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture


3 October, 2001 -- Greetings  from Kakamega.*
18 October, 2001-- Settling in*

21 October 2001 -- Anthrax worries

23 October 2001 -- Church*
29 October, 2001 -- After one month
8 November, 2001 -- Schools*
21 November, 2001 -- Zanzibar

29 November, 2001 -- Kakamega again*

11 December, 2001 -- A rooster and a wedding*

21 December, 2001 -- Christmas greetings

3 January, 2002 -- The Saiwa swamp*

13 January, 2002 -- Letter to our home church*

15 January, 2002 -- A new school year

25 January, 2002 -- Miriam

30 January, 2002 -- Miriam in school*
4 February, 2002 -- Pray for Miriam
6 February, 2002 -- Miriam is back

13 February, 2002 -- Good news message*

21 February,2002 -- How can you lose a herd of elephants?
3 March, 2002 -- Shopping*

Our time in Kenya has made a great a difference  in our lives.  In September 2001 we left the green and damp Pacific Coast for the heat of the equator. But we were in higher country, only venturing down to the moist heat around Lake Victoria from time to time. The organization we were with provides scholarships for girls from poor, rural families to go to High School. 

We plan to return to this area in August or September of 2003. We shall be helping with curricula in schools and setting up basic computer instruction classes. If you would like to be on a mailing list for news, please click the contact link in the sidebar and put Africa in the subject line.


Would you like to help me tailor the content of my book about my African experience? What kind of stories interest you the most? email me at and give me your ideas.


 The agents who preceded us sent me some little stories to start us off. John  Bowbrick and Alinda Ware from Vancouver Island are just finished their second tour and will be returned home in the early summer 2001.

    From Alinda: Time to say goodbye

It's 6:00 pm and the birds are singing as they get ready for the evening. The rain started  about 3:30 and lasted an hour but the sky is still cloudy so it is only 20C outside - needless to say I have a shirt on!!!

The new agents are settling in and the students are bringing in their first term marks so I am having trouble getting a straight run at finishing up my work, cleaning addresses etc. off the computer and packing up. I really feel CHES should hire someone part-time to help with the transition of agents. I'll work on that when I get home.

John and I have enjoyed our stay as we find the work extremely rewarding. I guess we are still educators at heart - it is really great seeing students mature and succeed  Moving on to become contributors to their families and Kenya. There are a lot of problems in this country and poor governance is a major one but I am hopeful for the future because I have met many caring, intelligent Kenyans. UN fortunately it will take another generation or so to work out their problems. It makes me more determined to work on ours in Canada and have people focus and build on our strengths rather than BC (bitch and complain) about our shortcomings. We can lose many of our strengths if we are not careful. Without our tax-supported education and medical system we, like many people in the 3rd. world and the United States would be caught in the cycle of poverty. I am so happy I had the opportunity to sell a calf and obtain a govt. loan so I could attend university. I am also happy to be able to be part of the Canadian sponsors assisting these girls to have the same chance I had for an education. My goodness, I'm starting to sound soft. That means I had better stop and say, "Kwa heri from Kenya." John and I are looking forward to the next step in our safari and to coming home.

  John writes:   A TRIP TO TOWN

Wednesday, Market Day in Kakamega!  As the sun rises, the migration begins.  We join the people making their way along the rutted red street from CHES House to the main tarmac road leading to Kakamega.  What an experience! The centre of the narrow tarmac strip is dominated by trucks, vans, and matatus (small pickups carrying too many people), all careening in, out, and around at excessive speeds with horns blaring.  Hugging the edges of the tarmac are the boda-bodas (two-wheeled bicycle taxis), carrying people and goods to and fro on the modified rat traps.  Some have pay loads of about 200 - 300 pounds, while others can be stacked six feet high with trays of bread for delivery to small dukas (stores).  After a sharp drop-off from the tarmac, there is a one or two metre wide strip of dirt trail  which is red and dusty when dry, and red and very sticky when wet. This is where the bulk of the people are-mostly  headed for Market Day or school.  Some are garbed in the traditional kangas, but most are wearing colourful second-hand or locally sewn clothing.  Some are wearing shoes, others are in rubber thongs, while still others are barefoot.  Many of the women are carrying babies on their backs, while balancing goods on their heads to sell at the market.  As we progress toward town, more and more people join from the myriad of footpaths and side roads which criss-cross the countryside.  We are sure that from the air we must look like a very busy ant colony, all streaming to fulfil  various functions.  Fully integrated into the flood of people are the local animals: cows, pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, geese, and the occasional turkey.  We eye the latter closely as December 25th is approaching.  To this colourful spectacle add the sound-horns, donkeys braying, cows mooing, people calling out "Jambo! to each other and, of course, the small children who practice their English by calling out "How are you?" to us passing Wasungus (whites) and we dutifully reply "I am fine!  How are you?"  This usually exhausts their vocabulary, so they repeat the original again, but by this time we have encountered the next group of "How are you's?"

On the outer edges of the dirt trails are various dukas (small stores with screened wickets through which you deal), kiosks built of sticks and displaying fresh vegetables, fruit, salt, rice, beans, and sundry hardware items.  The vendors are all hoping to make enough shillings to make it through another day.  Finally, we reach the main public market and the larger shops of Kakamega.

Another adventure to be described another day.

The Rain

It was a sultry Sunday afternoon when I set out to pick up my daily quota of beer. A grey cloud in the distance did not deter me. It was only a few hundred metres-just a quick return trip! I had forgotten. Coming out of the pub, beer in knapsack, I was struck by a gust of wind and swirl of leaves mingled with red dust. Everyone was scurrying for some sort of shelter.
Abandoning any pretext of dignity I too scrambled and just as it struck, I suddenly found refuge perched atop an eight inch brick and under a tin roof. The lightning and thunder were unleashed. The lashing rain throbbed on the roof and created rivers of water running everywhere-and- the tide was rising. A person joined me on my brick, others climbed onto door or windowsills, some perched high on their boda bodas [bikes], while others just took off their shoes or thongs and stood stoically in the muddy red water. It was incredible-water from every direction including sideways. 
Vancouver's Symphony of Fire paled in comparison. It was a strange feeling. I was the only white in this huddled mass yet for the first time I did not feel different. I was just another person waiting out a short violent storm. I was accepted.
As suddenly as it started it stopped. Activity resumed and I was white again but maybe not quite as white. A trip out for a beer and being caught in that storm brought about a subtle change. Perhaps the lesson in patient waiting while sharing a common dilemma had taught me something.

What's in a name?  

March 19,2001

Alinda writes: Greetings to you from sunny Kakamega, from John and Alinda.

We will soon be leaving Kenya for South Africa and beyond and we are  starting to get things organized and our ticket dates changed.  We are going to hide in our backyard for awhile everyday so our backs are  not pure white compared to our arms. At least John's legs are tanned because he lives in shorts. Mine are tanned below the skirt line!!! (Note: women do not wear pants or shorts in public in this non-touristy area)

Yesterday, I went to visit a student of mine, Zainabu, who has finished form 4. I helped her buy some maize and bean seeds for planting so she could  help earn her post-secondary fees. Her brother was there and he introduced  me to his 18month old son, Bowbrick. I said, "Tell me how you chose the  name Bowbrick for your son."

He said, "It's to always remember you, Alinda. You are connected to my sister, Zainabu. You helped her and Bowbrick will always know he has a  connection to you also." Africans have 3 names and I guess they figure that  my name is Alinda Ware Bowbrick because they know John's name is Bowbrick.  I didn't bother explaining.

Tomorrow we are going to cycle up to the Nyari tea zone (yes, cycle). I  have another student there and I helped this student buy a pregnant sheep  so that there would be a start to becoming self-sufficient. They named the ewe, Alinda,. Alinda gave birth last Friday to a male lamb. You got it: John. There is also a chicken there and a rooster that sleep inside the house at night. Another student of mine brought me in a live chicken and a  bunch of bananas so we ate the bananas and took the chicken to the Lumasias as they have nothing. Last week Catherine brought me the first 5 eggs the chicken laid. The rooster was a thank you gift from a mother whose daughter received a scholarship.

 These 6 months have gone quickly and have been busy. I haven't written  anything but John has written a couple more vignettes so we have included  them. 


John has sent  this delightful account of golfing in Kakamega.

Golf in Kakamega

"FORE!" The problem with "fore" at the Kakamega Golf and Sport Club in Kenya is that few people will understand you despite English being an official language here. So, you just hope that your ball will avoid any of the many living creatures that frequent the fairways.

We had never golfed before coming to Kakamega but when we found out that a six month membership in the club only cost 1700 Kenyan shillings ($37.25 Cdn.) we decided we could not afford to not to golf. So, with fresh new memberships, borrowed clubs, and two wonderful caddies, Ernest and Hesbon, we tackled the wonderful and often frustrating game of golf. After many lost and found balls (our caddies have uncanny eyesight), many forays into the rough, and many homeruns on the greens we can finally pick up the occasional par, some bogies and, of course, all sorts of other stuff.

The course here is left over from colonial days but is still withstanding encroachments and land grabbers. It also has oddities that one would probably not find on Canadian links. Actually we should say 'hazards' instead of 'oddities'. Some of these hazards include the police station next to the first hole and a local prison adjacent to the second. Needless to say we never recover our slices on these holes.

The third hole seemed relatively safe until one day, Ernest and Hesbon had to rescue our balls from a pair of storks which had snatched them from the green. Were the storks going to hatch these dimpled eggs and deliver them to someone, or what?

The next five holes are relatively uneventful if you don't mind evading cattle, sheep, goats and herders. Uneventful except for one day when three haw-daw-daws landed on the fairway. Now these birds are chicken sized with a 6 inch curved bill for pecking up buried insects and they have a loud raucous call, "haw daw daw, haw daw daw" which sounds like a mockery of your previous shot. One of our Canadian contingent teed off and now there is one less mocking cry - a haw daw daw in one!

The last hole is beside the Golf Hotel where a prickly fence reinforced with barbed wire seems to draw our balls over it and into the clutches of some often unfriendly watchmen. However, usually patient negotiation by Hesbon or Ernest sees our balls tossed back onto the fairway. Of course, there are seasonal hazards too.! When the fairways are finally mowed the results are like harvest time. First , if you happen to be on the fairway and not in the rough, your ball gets lost in the downed hay.  Then it gets lost in the windrows the workers have raked up, and finally gets lost in the haystacks!  In June and July your game is slowed down because you, your caddies and others are picking the wild mushrooms from the fairways.  Slows the game, but adds zest to the sauce.

The greens are interesting, too.  When the reel mower is broken, which it often is, they either don't get cut or they get cut with a rotary mower. The former allows you to chip on the greens but the latter is even more interesting because one side of the rotary mower cuts lower than the other, so ridges are left across the green.  If you are lucky, your ball will follow a ridge right into the hole and sometimes you can even bank a putt off a ridge and into the hole.  But, most often, we are not lucky and the ball is guided to some less desirable area.  Finally, when approaching a green, your task is complicated by your inability to see the hole because there are no flags.  Metal ones are stolen to build things with and wooden ones are taken for firewood.

Such is the life of golf in Kakamega.  We wouldn't give up golf here for anything but would probably find it more mundane in Canada.

John Bowbrick, Kakamega, Kenya, February 2001


Patricia Crossley. Nothing may be copied from these pages without the permission of the author

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