Planting trees in Ngong hills

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills” .

This is the first sentence of Karen Blixen’s book, Out of Africa, who had published her book under a man’s name, Isak Dinesen, because at that time women writers were not taken seriously.

Today it was the soldier environmental program day, and so we all went to the Ngong DSCF4640hills – ngong means knackles in maasai- to plant 2500 trees.  I was looking forward to this, so I even came back a day ealier from my holidays. Everyone is so exceptionally nice at my working place, it is such a pleasure!

When we arrived the hills could not be seen at all. The mist was so thick that we could not see beyond 20 meters. It was poetic and mysterious. In fact it could have been any landscape in Europe, and more precisely an Irish landscape.

DSCF4643It started raining. But I had brought the kind of shower cap Kenyan ladies wear to protect their weaver ( the fake hair they use as African people’s hair doesn’t grow) that I had bought to a street vendor before stepping into a bus. I had no intention of buying it and didn’t even have the change for it, but he insited and finally ” support sister, support, we are hungry…”. This is how I ended up having this rather ridiculous cap. I can’t say it was the sexiest look ever but it was certainly the most appropriate. The girls  laughed a lot – at me, that is-, but they they had long nails and high heels and they were wearing the sexy clothes. To make things worst on my side, I had also taken pinky kitchen gloves not even knowing that we would use our bare hands to plant as there were no shovels. ” We Africans use our hands they said“.  When it started raining, I continued planting and the other Miss Nairobi girls all run to the umbrellas: Kenyan ladies take good care of their looks!

DSCF4648I planted 125 trees and I think it was the female record. Not that I was special, it’s just that I concentrated only on the planting rather than the carrying ; I worked alone at first and in a team later  it was real fun. I have never laughed as much as today ever since I arrived in Kenya, and I can say I haven’t laughed like this in a very long time.

There was a lady there who spent most of the time under the umbrella, but I saw her plant a tree or two. She was dressed in a rather simple way. I got tired eventually but the main thing is that in my excitement, I had totally forgotten to take breakfast, and run out of home at 6 AM, and I was the first to arrive to Karen from where we were all driven to Ngong hills. It had been a long ride too. At 1PM, I was feeling the hypoglycemia and I went and talked to the lady. By then the hills had uncovered their beauty as the sun was shining we could see ahead and below. ” This is so beautiful…!“. We talked a bit and then I mentioned I was not feeling too well because in my excitement I had forgotten to eat. Continue reading

At Safaricom

We went to visit the leading Kenyan company, Safaricom…

From left to right: Tony, Muathy, Sebastien, Irène, Margot, Swaleh, Dida, the Safaricom host, myself, Nina, Sarah, Leah, Otego

Warthogs

Warthogs…phacochère in French…

before coming to Kenya I didn’t even know the word, not to speak of the animal… not even in French… They feed on their knees… so funny….They look like domesticated wild pigs, they look like cartoon animals! I see families:  the mother and the playful kids. They are never afraid of us…

more info click on the link to wikipedia

New website about French culture for my Kenyan students

When I arrived I noticed that my intermediate students had good grammar skills but their knowledge of French culture was rather poor. So the second weekend was spent on launching a website to guide them.

Unlike in India where everyone had a laptopand a connection, things were not easy here with the internet. No connection at the barracks even… I have to carry my own modem to connect in the classroom. Internet is also rather expensive and slow here. No optical fibre, just individul modems in my area. Even the officers have no connection in their offices at the barracks.

This is definately something new for me and definately a challenge too. I work with the internet within the classroom…
Comparing with India … well I understand why India is such an IT country!

www.myfrenchteacherswebisite.wordpress.com

The Army

Before coming here, my friends and family had advised me to be very careful: that army people were very tough, and so on and so forth. I thought that only men worked at the army. The first day of class I told the students to introduce themselves. There were four ladies in the class. Some were wearing green uniforms and some blue. The blue ones were for the air forces, as for the others they were for the land forces. The Marine forces didn’t take part in the French class as they were located on the coast, in Mombasa (the second city of Kenya located on the coast; the majority of its inhabitants are muslims due to its trading history with the Arabs).

When asked their profession , I thought they were going to reply that they were military people. But to my surprise some were spies, some secretaries, some teachers, one was a detective… Later my student told me that the Army was a government of itself and most of the professions could be represented… and I was thinking they were going to be fighting at wars…

Entering the army provides them with a good salary. Just a little comparison: the housekeepers or watchmen of my building earn around 9000 Ksh (that’s 90 euros, so the watchmen most probably live in the slums such as Kibera) whereas the next to last cadet earns 44 000 Ksh. The first live in the slums whereas the later can afford to put his children in a private school ; I was told that the government schools go quite often on strike here.

In the department where I work, for instance, all of them are teachers. There is a Centre for higher education that provides, maths, English, geography lessons, communication skills etc…They all have a title: most of them are Majors and they are in their thirties. So if I had joined the army, by now I would be Major Eva!