Tuesday, October 20, 2009

They call me "Mutanu"

A few folks have asked about the rains and the name Mutanua - so hope to clarify both at the same time.  We are now in the long rainy season for Kenya - September through December, but the rains are a month late and those "in the know" are predicting heavier than usual rains.  So just like any other drought, it is slowly coming to an end.  Unfortunately, there are very few ways to store the excess water that comes with these heavy rains.  Cachment systems are only for those with /= (shillings).  The fields are slowly showing new, green growth and the temperatures have cooled a bit.  People are frantically planting in the shambas (fields).  This is another blog as I spent part of Tuesday helping my friend plant mahindi and maharagwe (corn an beans) while trying not to get stuck in the mud!

Now for Mutanu.  That is my kikamba name.  Kikamba is the mother tongue of the people in this region, the Kamba.  I was given the Maasi name of Naishiba in Loitokitok by my host mama and it means "person who is always happy".  Mutanu is the same, only in kikamba.  Now for those who know me well may be thinking "This is PAT?"  Well, yes it is and for the most part I try to live up to my name on a daily basis!  There is so much to enjoy and treasure here that it is easy to do.  I have relinquished all (well, most) expectations from folks so do not get too upset when things do not happen as planned.

People have many names here Wambua - born in the rainy season, Mutua - people who have been here for many years, etc.   It is Mama Sam or Baba Sam, never Josephine or Francis, their given names.  I never know what to call any person.

Okay, short but sweet.  I am planning on updating on the weekends, so look look for the blog on my quilting class on Sunday.  Hopefully with any degree of regularity you will remember to check my blog to see what is happening in Nguluni!  

siku njema, kwa heri,   Mutanu

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining

I was supposed to travel with a friend to Mt. Longonot and Hell's Gate for a couple of days of hiking in the great Kenyan outdoors - but then the rains came!  I was planning on leaving on Friday about noon to ride a matatu to an area called 14 Falls and then onto the Lake Navisha region.  About noon, just as I was getting ready to leave for the staging area I received a phone call - "Raining cats and dogs here -what do you want to do?"  It had rained all night in Nguluni, but the day was sunny - I am thinking let's go - it will be okay.  Then I pictured the mud road to 14 Falls - the deep ruts would be filled with water and the solid soil would now be mud.  In a moment of sanity, I said "let's cancel and go after the rainy season!"  A smart choice.  It has rained every night - torrential downpours and the dirt roads are now mud.  But the fields are looking greener and the livestock have smiles on their faces knowing that there will be food for a while.  I guess I can sacrifice hiking for much needed rain!

As I was unable to be hiking yesterday, I went to the local secondary school and helped plant 400 trees on the school compound with the environmental club.  Barclay's Bank worldwide sent 30 representatives as part of their international "Make a Difference Day".  They had presenters talk about careers, motivation and of course HIV/Aids.  I met with representatives of the Green Belt Movement here and best of all I made 2 new friends - Edna and Grace.  Two Form 2 students.  We talked about their hopes and dreams and how they might achieve them.   There were over 200 students present for this event and it was great!  Hence, the silver lining in these here rain clouds!

I understand snow has come and gone - I hope it is not a sign of long, hard winter for you.  But boys and girls,  can you say "global warming"?  The rains are a month late in coming to Kenya and they are predicting major flooding in many areas.  Oh well, no controversial subjects in this blog.  

All in all, life in Nguluni continues to be good and a different adventure every day.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here, but miss friends and family terribly.

kwa herini - Mutanu

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Kenyan Quilting Bee

Here are some photos of my students working on their quilt squares.  Note the iron box!  They manage to do pretty darn good work with little to work with.  Their squares are really turning out to be quite colorful as they share their scraps with each other.  These are great girls (and the token male) and a lot of fun to work with.

If you double click on the photos you are able to enlarge them.

For the past 3-4 weeks I have been working with the Garment Making students at Kenbric, attempting to teach them the concept and techniques of Quilting!  Since most of the students have limited English and broken Kiswahili and I have no Kikamba, you can imagine the challenges I am facing!  Even after showing them pictures of quilts I had made, and photos from magazines, they had no idea of what the purpose of this assignment was all about.  Finally, my counterpart came into the class room and talked about making bedsheets from scraps of material and how beautiful they could be.  Somehow he managed to get them to understand the outcome and now most are interested and curious about what we are doing.  

We started by practicing making small stitches - you can hear me say "kidogo, kidogo" a lot!  They are not used to 1/4" seam allowances or sewing with only one strand of thread so I am changing much of they learned!  But in the end, the small hand stitches will make their garment making even better. (I hope).  I give them quilting needles at the start of class, collect them when class is over - that way they are available for the next session.  They are amused to see me use a needle threader - but I will not give that up!  I bring 2 pairs of scissors  with me, the ones they use really could not cut the proverbial butter.  They measure using a ruler or tape measure, mark off the 1/4" for the seam allowance and I try to get them to sew along that line.  I have shown them the tape we use, but since it not available here they cannot use it.  It has been difficult to get them to cut exact sizes of squares or rectangles and to measure as they go.  With one iron box it is hard to kupiga pasi (iron) as each section is joined.  There will be a Kenyan style of quilting that will actually work by the end of this term.

I have taken to enlarging the patterns (good friend Nancy J sent a calendar of 365 squares) and coloring in the various pieces.  Trying to make step-by-step instructions on paper so that this project will be "sustainable" (A BIG PC word).  I have to make each square ahead of time so that I can make sure my measurements are accurate.  That is my task for this afternoon.

Most of the students are really enjoying this new skill, a few absolutely hate it.  It takes too much time and patience for them.  Not much difference between students here and in the US.  I am hoping that soon the students will be able to put enough squares together to actually have a small quilt to take home with them.  With any luck, this class will continue with the new term that starts in January and the first years now can help the new students and life will be easier.


My Great Family

My Great Family
Katie, Shannon, Lucy, Pat, Russ, Betsy

Contact Information

My email address is:    p_novak@hotmail.com

My snail mail address will be:
Pat Novak, PCV
        PO Box 539
        Tala   90131