Claire McAdie: Claire McAdie’s CommUNITY News no. 2

Claire with students from St Joseph's PS, Kibera
Hi Everyone,

We have now been in Kenya for 8 wonderful months. I still have not hit my low point as I just love it here. I really feel like I am home. Although it is very hard making friends here. Women in the estate tend to stare at me rather than speak to me. But I am becoming closer to a family which lives in Kibera. I met them when a friend of mine, Carol, came to visit in June. The staff of Daylesford Primary School (where I worked last year and where Carol works now) held a fundraiser. They had a movie night, showing The Constant Gardener, filmed in Kenya, some also in Kibera. Carol bought this money with her and we took it to the Sisters of Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity. After talking to them we decided to buy books for their school St. Joseph’s in Kibera. We were able to buy books worth 21,000 KES. We bought a set of maths books for class one, a set of maths and Kiswahili books for class two, and a set of English books for class three. We took them to the school and presented them to the teachers and students. Everyone was very excited and grateful.

I sometimes worry what it will be like coming back to Australia and speaking about Kenya.

Mary Oduor and Claire collect water
Kenya is beginning to warm up. We had the cold season in July and now it is very hot and humid. The short rains come from Mid October to December. We did have rains last week though and the roads flooded as did my house, almost. There are a lot of leaks in the roof and I ran out of buckets to catch the water and had to resort to pots.

My mum is going to come over on November 28th and stay for Christmas which will be great. At least now when I return home I will have two people who will understand my experiences here in Kenya having visited and seen for their own eyes. I sometimes worry what it will be like coming back to Australia and speaking to my friends about things I have done in Kenya. I worry they won’t understand.

I was also introduced to the Ouko family by Sister Laureen (who runs the school). John and Florence are parents to 5 children aged 5 – 17. They live in a 2 bedroom house in Kibera which has a dirt floor and very muddy path leading up to the house. When we met John and Florence, the Sisters were hoping that we could help to find money for the family to send their children to school, as high school in Kenya is not free. John could not longer work as a mechanic as he had become ill with what was thought to be cancer. But having taken pictures of John’s left hand and foot, where the disease is, and showing them to my mother, who is a nurse in Ararat, John is now going to get a second opinion as several people from the health profession believe that John actually has leprosy and not cancer. If this is so it can be cured in twelve months and the medication is provided free from the World Health Organisation.

My Kiswahili is picking up which is good as I am heading up-country in a few weeks to visit the home of the Oduor family. They are of the Luo tribe and it is traditional for sons to build their Simba (first home in Luo) in the early 20’s. In August, the two eldest sons Phil and Evans built their home made of mud, wood and usually a thatched roof, however to make it last longer these have iron roofs. In the area of Siaya where the homestead is, not many people speak English. It is also very different to Nairobi as the majority people live by the traditional ways.

I am often asked which tribe Liam and I belong to… they told me they consider that I am Luo like they are.

Liam with Kikuyu witchdoctors
In Kenya there are over 70 tribes. I am often asked at school which tribe Liam and I belong to. When I explain that we don’t have tribes in Australia the children don’t understand. Having told this story to the Oduor family, they told me that they consider that I am Luo like they are. The next time I was asked the question What tribe are you, Teacher Claire? I told them that I am Luo and the look I got was of amazement. Luo’s are very dark skinned so I would have to be the lightest Luo in Kenya.

I have so many names here in Kenya. It is very rarely just plain Claire. I am called Teacher Claire by my students and some of my colleagues, Mama Liam by some teachers, Madam by drivers and conductors of matatus and by shopkeepers, and mzungu by kids in buses and by others who yell at me from a distance for being white.

I hope all is great in Australia. Everything is great here.

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What a terrible thing, to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled,
with good connections politically, economically, socially, lacking nothing, having everything. - Oscar Romero