May 31st, 2009

Eldoret to Busia.

I awoke in Eldoret to birdsongs I hadn't heard before:

(Click to hear.)

(Click to hear.)

Anyone recognize them?

I went downstairs to discover a bird deftly stealing the dog's food while the dog slept just a moment away.

We departed Eldoret on the westward road to Busia, a town split by the border between Kenya and Uganda.

Unlike Nairobi, in which I didn't see a single bicycle (odd, considering the traffic congestion and the number of pedestrians), bicycles were everywhere in Eldoret. We noticed that many of the bicycles had an extra (sometimes fancily decorated) seat on the back. These were bicycle taxis (bodaboda); we'd often see one or two extra riders piled on the back seat.

It's typical to see someone on a bicycle carrying a great big sack of produce to market, weaving among pedestrians and cars.

Along the way, we passed a field full of cranes.

We also passed some of these square dirt structures.

Right next to the dirt huts was a rather fancy-looking mosque. I've gotten the impression that most people are Catholic here — scattered all over the countryside are small square buildings or corrugated-tin rooms labelled as churches of some kind, and bible verses are commonly cited or quoted on shop doors and walls. But every once in a while, there's evidence of a Muslim community as well.

This is typical of truck exhaust. Cough, cough!

We passed a truck carrying a load of sugar cane.

The road ran west to Malaba and then southwest to Eldoret. Malaba is also on the border between Kenya and Uganda.

This is the view from Malaba. In the distance is a bit of Uganda.

This is what shops look like in Malaba.

We passed some of these huts that people live in.

Occasionally we would pass a building painted to advertise WaterGuard, a water chlorination product.

This is a street corner in Busia.

This is the Blue York Hotel, where we stayed in Busia.


For lunch at the Blue York, I got to try matoke (essentially mashed plantains), the yellow stuff on the left. It's especially good with the peanut sauce, which was not quite like the peanut sauce you would find at a Thai restaurant; this had more of the flavour of raw peanuts. The little pile of greens next to the matoke is sukuma wiki (sautéed kale). On the right is the vegetable curry I got to go with my matoke. Matoke is very heavy and very filling (even more filling with the peanut sauce), and you always get a huge mound of it.

After lunch we went to visit IPA (Innovations for Poverty Action). They do a lot of different research projects, including studies of HIV prevention, deworming, and water chlorination.

Those blue boxes with the cute white hats in front of the building are their chlorine dispensers. They've been an amazingly simple and effective project. Although WaterGuard (dilute chlorine) is available at the store, most people don't bother to buy it and put it in their drinking water. When IPA installed chlorine dispensers right next to water sources, the use of chlorinated water shot up from below 15% to over 50%, and that figure is continuing to rise. Communities with the dispensers have seen a dramatic fall in water-borne diseases, particularly diarrhea in children.

Jeff, our host at IPA, took us out to see the water source at a nearby school. The children all wore bright blue uniforms and were pretty curious about us when we arrived.

This is the shallow well where most families within a kilometre or so of the school get their water. Fridays are washing days, so the kids were tossing a bucket into the well, hauling it up on a rope, and using the water to mop the classrooms.

In the center of the photo is the chlorine dispenser that IPA had installed next to the well. This is one of their older models, with a triangular shade. Although people often chlorinate the water that they carry home for drinking, the children still sometimes drink water directly from the well, which isn't safe. You can see the orange cup that they leave nearby.

Jeff got a picture of Mike, Julie, myself, and Bukeke (the IPA field officer) with the schoolchildren.

Messages about HIV were painted in many places around the school.

Here's another.

This was a startling sign to see in the middle of a school playground.