09 November 2006

Malakote Children in Garissa

We also visited Amos and Grace, a young Kenyan couple who have started a nursery school near Garissa town. Their missionary work is primarily with the Malakote people. In addition to this tribe, the area is also inhabited by the Haruma, Munyoyaya, Wata, and Wardei – all considered unreached people groups.
These kids live just outside Amos’ school compound, but don’t attend school.

Bangale and Garissa

I do believe I’d have to say that my trip to Bangale (pronounced Bon’-ga-lay) and Garissa (Ga-ris’-sa) ranks amongst my most interesting experiences in Kenya. I found it all to be quite fascinating.

The town of Garissa, on the banks of the Tana River and just on the edge of North Eastern Province, is located about 200 miles west, northwest of Nairobi. [I can now boast that I’ve been in each of the eight provinces in Kenya!]

Another 60 miles northwest of Garissa is the large Dadaab refugee camp. Currently tens of thousands of new Somali refugees are seeking shelter there. Just very recently polio was discovered in a 3-year old Somali girl. It’s the first reported case in Kenya in many, many years. As a result, the UN is now conducting mandatory immunization for the disease. While we were in Bangale, we saw numerous UN vehicles heading to the camp.

Bangale Primary School

Bangale is located 50 miles before Garissa town. That was our first destination – to visit a missionary named Rita (see my November prayer letter for a photo of her - she's also in the middle photo on the left side of desks). She’s teaching as a volunteer at the Bangale Primary School.

Her aim is to befriend the Somali Muslim students and to eventually share the Gospel with them. Apparently she’s making an impact because they’ve given her the nickname, “Jesus”! I was quite impressed with her spunk!

More at the School

Rita's Neighbor Kids

Unlike most people I’ve encountered in my travels through Kenya, I found most all of these people to be quite reticent and shy. I might even use the word, “fearful” to describe them. When I smiled at the children and stretched out my hand to greet them, many times they would cower and retreat. Sometimes, when I held up my camera to get a picture, they would literally run away! On the contrary, children in most other parts of Kenya gleefully approach me and cluster around my camera.

However, with a bit of patience, I did eventually win over some of them.

These photos are of Rita’s neighbors. I hope you're enjoying the photo collage!

Camel Caravans

I was excited to finally see camels in Kenya… that is, besides the ones I frequently see in Nairobi or on the beaches at Mombasa. [Those are used for rides for kids.]

These people DID NOT want us taking pictures of their camels! They picked up stones to throw at us. Micah (who was driving) apologized and we quickly moved on. Another time he and Mwita were in the area, the people actually did throw stones at them!

Garissa receives only about 12 inches of rainfall in a year, whereas the Matunda area gets approximately 40. The average annual temperature is 85 degrees, as compared to 64 degrees in the Matunda area.

As we approached Bangale, we were forced to stop at two road barriers. We had to explain to the officers why we were entering the area. Again at Garissa, there was a third one. I was told that this was an attempt to monitor the many Somali bandits in the area.

One evening, I went for a walk with two of the guys that accompanied us on the trip – Micah and Mwangi. As we meandered through the almost barren land of Bangale, a young woman passed by us. She had just tied a goat to a bush. Dressed quite nicely, in a red sari, she eyed us suspiciously and kept her distance. Something made me turn back to look at her. As if to reinforce the fact that the area is dangerous, I spotted a “panga” (machete) hidden clandestinely on her back. It was positioned in such a way that she could quickly grab it and use it for defense. The guys were dismayed that a society exists where such behavior is necessary among the women.

The Water "Dam"

As I explained, the Bangale area is arid; rainfall is quite minimal and sporadic.

So, people often dig huge holes in the ground - usually by hand! This particular one was started by hand and then later enlarged by a tractor. The holes remain empty, waiting for it to rain. Whenever the rain might come, the hole collects and stores it. That way, the folks living in the area can have a source of water.

This little girl was very apprehensive of me taking her picture, but I managed to sneak this one. Children do much of the water fetching.

This man is industrious! He came with several jerry cans with which to haul water home.

Another young child with this very daily chore.

Some people use donkeys to haul the water.

Notice the fellow on the right. See how he's leaning and pulling on a rope. The style they use to move the water from the dam to their homes is interesting and rather ingenious.

They've place a cut jerry can around the exterior of another. They then tie a rope to the handles of this outer can. The can on the inside (holding the water) remains stationary, as they drag - and thus rotate - the exterior one along on the sandy ground.

Again, you see how many children help out with this labor-intensive daily chore.

Camels and Donkeys at the "Dam"

Many people come from as far away as 20 miles! They use camels to carry the water.

These guys reluctantly agreed to let me take this photo.

There's been a problem with the water getting dirty. Many people allow their goats, donkeys, cattle, camels, etc to step into the dam in order to drink. Naturally their feet are dirty and then the water gets too dirty for human consumption.

So... the community is building troughs. They'll be filled with water for the livestock to use. This will hopefully keep the dam water cleaner.

These donkeys have carried stones that will be used to build the troughs.

I got a text message from Ahmed (see next post) the other day. He told me they had finished building the troughs. I think he told me they had planned to build 8-10 of them.

Community Water Committee

This woman was very, very hesitant to allow me to take her photo. She shyly told me "no" on each of my initial requests. Eventually she agreed. She's on the community "water committee". She answered many of my questions about the dam.

These two guys (one of which is Ahmed) are also on the water committee. They also answered my many questions and proudly told me all about the dam and the trough project. The ONLY reason I got ANY pictures at the dam is because I was with them. They served as my tour guides (so-to-speak) and also served as an intermediary between me (and my white skin and camera) and the reticent people collecting water.

This other woman FINALLY agreed to be photographed. She's also on the committee and proudly, but shyly, told me about the dam.

Much of the time, I'm a frustrated photographer in Kenya. My time at Bangale (and recently in West Pokot) stand out as being the most frustrating to me.

There is SO much I see that I can't capture on film for the benefit of all of you. Sorry.

Various Structures

This is a "choo" (pit-latrine toilet) and "washroom".

This is the "market". It sits idle except on market day when folks come from a wide radius to trade goods. The structures are made of sticks. On top, for the roofs, are branches that still have leaves on.

A close-up shot of a fence.

Another shot of the market kiosks.

This picture was taken closer to Garissa. The houses there were primarily made of mud (as they are in most of Kenya). I found the "fence" here rather interesting. It's made of all sorts of odds and ends.

A "House in a Tree"

This truly was an interesting sight! When a family needs to move to a different area to hunt for water or pasture, they simply pack up their house and store it in a tree! This isn't the best picture, but I think you can see the yellow bundle. That's their house. The houses are primarily constructed of sticks. The vast majority had a bright yellow plastic tarp over the top for keeping the rain out (if and when it ever rains). Apparently some relief organization provides the yellow plastic.

This is a village of such stick "manyatta" houses.

Notice the bundle in the tree. That's another house awaiting the return of the owners. Interesting, huh?

And... another shot of a village of plastic-yellow-tarped stick manyattas.

More Houses

The bags contain charcoal for cooking fuel. They are sitting alongside the road awaiting a buying customer. This is a very common sight throughout Kenya.

I think you can see the interesting contrasts. Their homes are built of sticks (or sometimes mud) - both of which are an earth-brown color.

Then there's this almost contradictory splash of color - yellow for the roofs, or sometimes white plastic pieces (used here to assist the wind protection of the fence).

I guess, all over the world, people groups use whatever materials are at hand to construct some sort of roof over their heads and shelter from the elements.

Goat Skull, Seasonal Lake, the Road, Bird Nests

As we left Nairobi and drove through Thika and on towards Mwingi, the scenery was green and lush. But it changed rapidly as we dropped in elevation. Nairobi is almost a mile in elevation; Garissa is at only 600 feet above sea level. It’s an arid area and suitable only for grazing livestock. As a matter of fact, 80% of Kenya is ASAL – Arid and Semi-Arid Land.
We saw lots and lots of goats, donkeys, camels, and cattle, to be sure!
There are many seasonal rivers throughout the area. Except when it rains and the rivers roar with rushing water, they remain bone dry. There are also a few seasonal lakes, like this one.