30 July 2017

Day 20 - Stung by a bee

I am not pestered by mosquitos, as I wrote yesterday, I have all the measures to keep them away, but I was stung by a bee today and where…….in the shower, unbelievable. Thank god, I am not allergic, so I was calm, took the sting out, finished my cold shower, have to remind you guys, of my suffering…ha ha ha. And then wrote Eli a WhatsApp- he called me within 1 second, so my pains went away, with the help of Eli and fenistil gel. I came prepared. I have almost any medication, a small pharmacy in fact.
The crime scene

So today all about my day to day

Today is Sunday, when Gertrude and I clean the house, it amazing the amount of bugs I find everytime……. I really like Sunday, because I get to wake up late and after cleaning, I get to sit in clean room and summarize the meeting and interviews I have done in the week. I try to do it, that same day, but sometimes, I am just too tiered.

In the weekdays, I wake up early and between 7-8 we leave the house to different places around the county and come back by 6-7, not much to do when it is dark, hardly any lights so driving is also quite difficult. There are six sub counties, so we are trying to see the different establishments, households, villages in each sub-county. The whole county is not so big only 2,530.4 sq. km, but when it rains in Siaya town, it does not necessarily rain in Bondo town around ¾ of an hour drive away. I have between 4-5 meeting a day, some are spontaneous, some arranged. With a record of 11 one day, it was house to house. Jackson my assistant researcher, lovely caring and diligent person, usually makes the appointments the day before and the appointment is not made for a specific hour but for a time frame. The morning, afternoon or just the day. It is very different to my usual time schedule arrangements, but I find that it is very convenient here, because it allows for spontaneity. Some people we just ask, do you have time now and they usually say sure, Karibu – welcome, how are you?  And we might spend an hour or two and it would be fine and acceptable. Very convenient for me. I must say that people are being very cooperative and trying to assist. Water is a dire problem here and anything to do with it is taken seriously as well as my research.  So, they share quite a lot of information with me. and looking forward to getting a copy of the paper at the end and I am happy to share. I am hearing some fascinating stuff, from theories about world war four happening in Africa over water. To the Riparian law, that does not allow Kenya – a food insecure country - to use Lake Victoria for mass irrigation, because of a colonial law that protected the water of the Nile (mid you the Nile needs to be protected, but not like this, people are on the lake and cannot water their crops, so they wait for the rains. From self-criticism, about the Kenya culture to anger and disappointment with government and leader that quote “only look after their stomachs”,

I have No AC in the room, so I open the window, this of course lets the bugs in, since it is quite mild weather I am still ok, but come august I have to prepare and get a fan. This is my next task, I eventually found a water scooper in Nairobi. Real upgrade. Next time about transportation – quite fascinating. By the way – bee sting – still hurting.

 On the shores of Lake Victoria
Jackson Achuti - Lake Victoria

29 July 2017

Day 19 - Food and other stuff

So how is the food you ask. Two answers for that: first it is not bad at all and second, I have an arrangement with the university caterer that they feed me. So, since someone is cooking for me on a regular basis that keeps me calm. I don’t eat meat, so not much choice, but I eat on a regular basis Ogally – a maize dish prepared like sticky rice, this is eaten with some kind of sauce, other starches are rice, or chapatti and from time to time I am surprised with spaghetti. For protein it is either eggs, fish, lentils or beans. And veggies are a salad, not bad at all, I supplement it with the avocado I bought in the market. Or saquma wiki – a kind of Kale that is grown here that is very nutritious, and many farmers grow it because it has a high return. Last night I bought a pineapple, 5 shekels, was very good. I usually eat my dinner with my roommate Gertrude Yogback.
 Now to less Fun things: Malaria – Siaya county and the whole western area is considered a Malaria zone. Every night, at 22:00, you have to take it at the same time, I take my Melarone pill, then I fix my net, which I am very grateful for it. Jackson my research assistant just got Malaria, last Thursday he seemed not his usual, perky, and energetic self, he started feeling not so good, he thought he might have a fever and had achy joints. On Friday he came to work, but I could see that something is wrong, he even left in the middle of a meeting and went to the car to rest and then when we came back he went to the doctor and was informed that he got malaria, this is his second time in seven years. He is one of the lucky ones because he has health insurance from his job and supplement insurance from the university since he is a student. So, he got an injection and then the pills. The side effects of the medication are weakness, dizziness and sweating. Two days have passed since the medication and he is still weak. But being very brave and does not want in any way to disturb the research. On Monday, he was in perfect condition, treatment works very well, if you take it immediately, if he had waited even a day, it could have been much worse. We will see how he is tomorrow. So hence the pills and the net and I supplement it with a terrible mosquito replant spray, that I think is affecting my lungs, but at least I feel safe. I am even luckier than Jackson, because I have all these supplements to ensure I don’t get it. Melorone is very expensive, but even if the cost is bearable, you have to take it every day and that is not so logical for the average Kenyan. This is of course not the first time I have seen malaria, but when it is so close it makes you think.

27 July 2017

Pictuers from the house

The living room library
The kitchen
The guest house
The cleaning space

Day 16 one determined village

So very tired. But could not help it and wanted to share with you my day's experience. It was quite fascinating on two levels personal and academic. On the personal level. I walked today from 09:30 till 18:30. Probably more than 10 km. Within a village. Just walking from house to house. I did not eat and was not hungry. On the academic side. I was talking to people. The rich the poor the widows and youth. They talked about their water issues and how the local water company was formed from a community based organization. And practically the whole village has access to water from communal taps and even 30 percent have water to the home. That is the dream of all the rest. This is very unusual for Siaya and for Kenya as a whole. Quite remarkable. The story is about struggle and persistence and how the community eventually got their water because of a group that was determined. Fascinating.

23 July 2017

Day 13 - A home away from home

How are you?
I am doing very well, better than anticipated.
It has been 13 days in Kenya and I have had so many different, strange to me, and exciting experiences. My supervisor told me in the beginning of my stay here: One adopts to anything within three days. She is so right. That is what has happened. So, as you know I was fortunate enough to get a room at the university Guest house. The university is called Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology – JOOUST. It is named after the first vice president of Kenya who comes from Bondo, the town where I am residing, in Siaya county the county that I am researching. And his son Ralla Odinga, is the current opposition leader running for presidential elections on August 8th, against the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta the son of the first president of Kenya. People are warning me that there might be rioting, but I have no worries the university is very safe, security guards everywhere – that might be a reason to be concerned on the one hand, why do they need so many guards, but it is general practice in Kenya and coming from Israel it is natural for me. More about the elections another time.
In my daily routine, I try to do everything as local as possible, but my limits are eating foods from market stalls, cooking or drinking water out of a tap. Although I must say the water in JOOUST is very clean, they have their own treatment plant that supplies water to around 9000 people in any given day and it is clean. Tried it myself.
So, I was thinking that every day I will write about a different life subject. 
Today the house the room and everyday issues.
I live here with my roommate Gertrude she is a young Ph D. student from Cameroon, who is researching the biophysical aspects of the water here and comparing it to Cameroon, so we have similar interests and she joins me from time to time on my tours. We have made a home for ourselves here with a routine. 
The guest house is a nice compact structure, with a living room – which is currently a storage storage room for books from the library – so we cannot use it, kitchen – has a kerosene cooker, sink and storage, no refrigerator, Gertrude cooks here, I preferred to get my meals from the university caterer, there is only so much that I can do………these are on the ground floor with a guest toilet and an exit to a garden, where we dry our laundry. The upstairs has two bedrooms and a bathroom - no hot water, so I shower everyday with cold - told that it is good for the circulation, not convincing..... The inside seemed very humble to me in the first day, but touring around the area, I came to realize that I am truly lucky and other homes are much humbler. So, after a thorough cleaning, life was good again. 
Every Saturday we do the laundry, Gertrude taught me some hand washing tips and on Sunday we clean the house. We in Israel, are used to having our homes sparkling clean, here it is different, you have to start understanding that it is really living with nature. There are bugs, bees, (hardly seen any flies), but many insects that I don’t recognize and ants of course they are everywhere and actually you cannot control it so you try to do the best. I am starting to understand. Monday through Friday, I leave for interviews and go to visit people in rural areas. Next time about the food. could not download pictuers, so none today.
good night!

13 July 2017

Day three – Finally got the Lock

It is my third day in Bondo Kenya, and I have already somewhat assimilated, although still in logistical organizations. Today is the day that I finally got my lock to the room. There are two bed rooms in the guest house, and mine could not lock,  so, for two night I slept with an unlocked door, mind you I felt safe but the feeling was strange, finally today the carpenter came and fixed my lock, tonight will be better.

Day 1 – arrived safe and sound, after exactly 13 and a half hours, all the connections worked fine even easier than I imagined, of course I had a problem with overweight (I was very concerned with this) but I was only charged once 20 dollars so that was great. I received my humble accommodations, it is not what I am used to, and at first shock, I considered going to a hotel, but I told myself to stay the night and see what happens. Went shopping for some basic necessities, such as cleaning materials, my next mission is to find a squeegee (water swiper) we went to four supermarkets and could not find.

Day 2 – Slept well decided to stay and mange. Today I received a table and chairs. My very generous host here, introduced me to many people, local staff, security, cooks, faculty members and students, so quite a good network now and I can even ask for things on my own – like the lock. Other than that, I devoted this day to intensive cleaning. I don’t think I have worked so hard cleaning since 1993, I scrubbed, the floors, the walls, the closet and then in the evening my roommate and I cleaned the bathroom together. She is very nice a young PhD student from Cameroon working on biological and chemical pollutants in the water so we actually have complimentary work. I went to bed last night at 12:30 exhausted after a full day of cleaning and unpacking and now I am fine. Did I tell you that we have excellent Wi-Fi. One of the plus reasons to stay.

Plus side
Minus side
Humble accommodations
Scrubbed clean
On campus – great network
This is a good time of year weather is cool
Available meals – don’t have to cook
No Hot water
Can’t really mitigate this – maybe just with the fact that there is water
Good Wi – Fi – need I say more

Day 3 – Started great with the lock and ended even better, with the familiarization tour I made around the county, visited all 5 subcounties of Siaya, many insights and pictures, I will leave it for another day. But this day made me very excited!                                      

11 July 2017

Ethiopian Airlines -not bad not great

Last time I traveled Ethiopian I was really impressed. This time not so much. First of all it is an old plane with no personal screen. This is realy bad for me since I usually I can't sleep on flights as the case today and can't  watch a movie either So I'm blogging. The food was ok. Ordered Asian vegetarian - not bad stir fry. But the worst,  the guy sitting next to me can not keep his elbows to himself  - most annoying.  I even gently asked if he can be careful,  but to no avail. The guy has no sense of persoal space. It's going to be a long night.
It was a long night and even longer day. Arrived in Bondo around 14:00.  And had a full day of logistics and administration.  Will tell you all about it tomorrow. Have to sleep now. Good night.

10 July 2017

On My way to Kenya

Its 1:00 in the morning, on my way to Nairobi, via Addis Abebe. It is estimated to take me about 13 hours just flight and stop overs until reaching Bondo, I plan to get there at 14:30. Lets see what really happens!!!!

Preparation checklist:
  • Where am I going to sleep? – it was kindly arranged for me to be accommodated at the university guesthouse, with another roommate a lady from Cameroon doing her Ph.D. feel really Lucky – check!
  • Where am I going to eat? – the accommodations, include breakfast lunch and dinner. So that’s taken care of – check!
  • Health? Vaccinations - done; insurance – done; medication – got all that covered, half of my suitcase is full of antibiotics – just in case, I don’t really use the stuff, but better be careful than sorry, a first aid kit for travels in the rural areas, hygiene stuff and more – check!
  • How am I going to do my research? – methodology planned, questions for interview written, in touch with local research assistant – check!
So you see not a care in the world 😃– everything meticulously planned – wonder how much god is laughing at me right now – one of my research questions is to check the discrepancy between intentions and planning and on the ground reality – let’s see how this pans out for me????????????????

08 July 2017

The University of Luxemburg

Currently being a university student, I can appreciate other facilities. But this one was special it’s a ecological environmental friendly building., I really got excited with some of the features. The university of Luxemburg in Belval was established in 2003 and currently has ~6000 students. I know about environment friendly buildings, but I haven’t had the experience of using one. So here are some of my experiences in this one. The rooms don’t need lighting because each room has great windows which give enough light, we never opened the light once in our workshop. There are no ACS, only openings in the windows through levels which allow air to come in forming a natural AC, unfortunately, it did not take into consideration out door noise which also comes in, there are motion detection lighting where needed so every time I visited the ladies room, the lights went on and off as I entered or left, so electricity saving yes, but water saving no – they did not have dual flush toilets, every floor has an emergency station with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and more, there are metal panel for signs on the walls and they are put on with magnets, State of the art video conference rooms, gigantic screen in each room for presentations, and my favorite all the walls of the classroom are actually a whiteboard on which you can write and brainstorm. It comes with a suitcase and  markers and some more  stuff,  I really enjoyed writing on the wall it was great.

Luxemburg deserves a post

I am in Luxemburg right now, just before my trip to Kenya, participating in a micro financing -MF, workshop the mission was twofold, Making the young entrepreneurs initiative sustainable -  apparently MF for Young people 18-35 is a fairly new product because its deemed even more risker that regular MF. And the second mission to incorporate water and sanitation segment into the list of products that they offer. Currently MF is offered for businesses such as hairdressing, catering and the like.

We were a group of 14 people, from Togo, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, representing the local MFIs; Israel, Netherlands, Germany we were the consultants in water and sanitation,  participants from Luxemburg,  from a local NGO supporting the African initiatives and from the university of Luxemburg and lastly beautiful Katerina the 9 week old baby of our moderator who worked and mothered simontanously. The dynamics were very interesting capitalizing on the backgrounds and experiences of each of the participants. Conclusions: water and sanitation is a vital sector although it is very complex one;  MFIs can be part of the solution to the vast financial gap that exists in order to reach the SDG goal for water, (the goal is water for all by 2030 and the financial gap is at least $3.3billion annually); the young entrepreneur segment is an important one for income security and creating additional cliental; in the water sector MF can be given to income generating activities such as pump technician but also to the community so that they can pay for the service. And there were additional findings, which will be developed and presented later.
Two more interesting issues: this was my first time in Luxemburg, quite a beautiful country, the city of Luxemburg is a sort of fairytale land with its beautiful castles and churches (pic) and lush gardens. the sun is out until 21:30 at least, which made nighttime tourism a new experience, the pubs were full of people,  A band was playing Copacabana (pic) and there was a great vibe. Luxemburg is considered a slow pace country, and I did feel the calm.

The workshop I attended was at the university which is in Belval – apparently the largest completely new urban development program in Europe. They took an old industrial area and turned it into an urban area with amazing buildings, the university and all the necessities of a new city. They left much of the old remnants such as a metal factory (pic) and train tracks and incorporated them into the new buildings very interesting.

Good night to all


04 July 2017

Its Finally Happening

After months of preparation, research and studying, I am finally travelling to Kenya for my field work. This is the highlight of the doctorate, because here, finally, I will be able to ask the questions that trouble me the most and hopefully (one can only hope) find out what I am seeking.  

What am I seeking? Well my mindboggling question is how come, so many people around the world (650m) and on the African continent specifically (325m) lack access to clean water.
The asking will be done by travelling to the Western part of Kenya, to a county named Siaya, which lays on the shores of Lake Victoria (the third largest lake in the world) with up to 1400mm annual rain (in Israel we get ~600mm) and yet 47% of the population (of 842k) don’t have access to clean water. This physical abundance of water makes the question even more interesting. By the way, in Kenya, the average is 37% of the pop. without access (of 46.7m).

So, I will be residing in Siaya for the next two months. I will be graciously hosted by the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology or JOOUST for short. I will be travelling around the county (2,530.4 sq. km) interviewing people, from county officials to local villagers, observing what happens on the ground and picking my brain to make sense of it all.

I am very excited to see what happens, understanding that any plans I make can change at any moment, so I am hoping, so hoping for cooperation, for easy travels, reasonable physical conditions and to find some answers.

But first on the way a short stopover in Luxemburg where I will join the workshop on microfinance and clean water & sanitation as part of the SDG lab for Young Entrepreneurs to advance local economies and community health in Africa, and will talk about “sustainable water projects” at the university of Luxenberg.

See you next time more to come……