Location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada
Ahhh!!!!! **deep breath - sigh**
Finally, the time to sit back and rest my tired little legs. Right now, I'm using the tourist office in a small sleepy fishing village along the south shore of Nova Scotia. About halfway between Halifax and the southernmost tip. Suprisingly enough, this is our first official day off in the three weeks and arrives just in time for the local Founders Day celebration here in Shelburne. WOOOWEEE! Maybe I'll find some time to go join in the festivities at the Loyalist Reenactment Camp - I would really love to get my hands on one of those costumes!!
In all honesty though, I am a bit too exhausted to get up to much more than laundry, finding some way of drying off my wet gear and resting up for a 70 km ride tomorrow to get up to much.
I am keeping my fingers crossed for pleasant weather. Who would have thought that the Maritimes would be so wet! (Ah-ha-ha-hem!)
Since arriving in Halifax three weeks ago I'm approximating that we've experienced just as much sunshine as rain so far. The weather in Nova Scotia is quite unpredictable and the fishermen seem to agree that their most optimal summer weather arrives mid to late September rather than July and August like in Ontario. This was a surprise to me as I would have never imagined starting out this trip huddled under a tarp in the middle of a hail storm in early July.
Anyway, enough about the weather. When did I become so mundane! I'm going to blame it on the sleep deprivation. Exhaustion can certainly manifest itself in the strangest of ways. For instance, only hours after performing our play which encourages people to critically analyze their daily consumption choices (wrt water, clothing, food etc.) I absentmindedly purchased a scoop of ice cream from an unknown dairy producer in a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon!!! So much for this environmental crusade man!!! I could not even venture to guess where my head is at right now. And along those lines, it is with this mindset that I am trying to compose this entry!
Needless to say this tour is much more demanding than I imagined. Because we are building our own intentional community that operates on consensus decision making, living by our own set community standards and making time for presentations, workshops and long, heavy loaded bike rides can be quite a lot of work (and very time consuming!) Because of the effort we have invested in practicing what we preach grocery shopping, washing and other seemingly simple tasks have become incredibly overwhelming and conflict laden. Nevertheless, it is a highly valued challenge in my mind and it's incredibly gratifying to wake up every morning knowing that almost every action that you make will have some sort of positive impact on the world. Right now, I am finding hope and empowerment in the small, simple changes and hopefully this will encourage me to be more mindful of my impact and footprint on the world.
As for our presentations and workshops, we have been extremely warmly welcomed in the communities we have visited. We have made concerted efforts to adapt our message to cater to the specific audiences we encounter so we don't sound too preachy. We have an exciting workshop we are hosting alongside the sierra club of canada and some other organizations that we will be facilitating in august. it's called ecotopia and it's going to focus on issues surrounding water (privitization, depletion of resources, local and global action ect.)
Anyway, I am hogging this computer and I'm about to get bumped off. In a nutshell. Living simply. Gratifying but hard work. Nova Scotia's south shore is beautiful and rainy. my positive energy is entirely outshined by this dynamic and intelligent group i have found myself in. And I can't wait to take the ferry Digby to Saint John in a couple of weeks. I don't have pictures to post yet (no extensive computer use as of yet) and I will post a link to our groups online journal.
lots of love.
miss you all and hope you are enjoying your summertime relaxing and adventures.
peace and love.
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
hi friendly followers.
i have asked andrea's permission to seize control of this site.
but only temporarily. no need to worry. you will only be exposed to my exclusive verbal dribble for nine weeks.
yep, nine weeks. that's how long it's going to take myself and fourteen other volunteers to bike across nova scotia and new brunswick and expose a whole lot of young people to local/lowkey environmental activism and the beauty of adopting sustainable consumption practices in our every day lives. i'm doing this work with a small canadian ngo called the otesha project. (www.otesha.ca) it's a wonderful organization - extremely well run and fuelled by hope!!! i encourage you guys to check it out if you have the chance. and for all the teachers out there, there are some great curriculum adaptations in the downloads section.
anythehoo, i've posted a copy of our route below if anyone's interested and plan on posting more entries and lots of pics in the coming days.
stick around kidz. it's going to be one happy happy ride!!!!
EAST COAST TOUR --
July 1-8: Halifax
July 9-10: Hubbards
July 10-11: Graves Island Provincial Park (Chester)
July 11: Mahone Bay
July 12-15: Bridgewater
July 15: Lunenburg
July 16: Rissers Beach PP (Petite-Rivière/Green Bay)
July 17-18: Thomas H Randall PP (Port lHerbert/Port Joli)
July 18-22: Shelbourne
July 23: Argyle
July 24-25: Yarmouth
July 26-27: Pointe de L'Eglise
July 28: Digby
July 29-Aug 1: Saint John
Aug 2: Sussex
Aug 3-4: Bay of Fundy Park
Aug 5: Hopewell Cape
Aug 6: Riverview
Aug 7: Brich Ridge
Aug 8-11: Harcourt ECOTOPIA Youth Gathering!
Aug 12-13: Richibucto
Aug 14-15: Miramichi
Aug 16-17: Doaktown
Aug 18: Nashwaak Bridge
Aug 19-21: Fredericton
Aug 22: Oromocto
Aug 23: Cole Island
Aug 24-25: Petitcodiac
Aug 26: Riverview
Aug 27-30: Parlee PP (Pointe-du-Chêne, Shediac)
Aug 31: Moncton
to all our loyal followers.
i have posted a selection of our copious amounts of pictures. in no way could this come even remotely close to capturing the whole picture but hopefully this will help feed some curiosity.
if you want to see more (oh and yes, there is more...lions and cheetas and goat oh my!!!) and you're in toronto for the next month or so, just give me a shout. i'm around.
thanks for following three installments of this adventure friends.
can't wait to see you all soon and share many a story!!!!
peace and love.
Location: kampala, Uganda
on a recent afternoon, less than 24 hours after leaving elangata wuas, kate and i found ourselves on the number 9 matatu headed for mathare - one of the three main slums in nairobi. we were on our way to visit MYSA - an youth sports organization based in mathare that we are working on partnering one of our projects with. still a bit out of sorts and overwhelmed after wrapping up our work in maasailand, the trip provived some stark constrasts to the kenya we have come to know up until this point, as well as a brief glimpse of one of the slums which we have heard so much about since being here. mathare vally is just east of the nairobi city centre - a sprawling and somewhat underfined area with about 700 000 (probably more) people living within its loose boundaries. most of the space is taken up by corregated iron sheet shelters and small wooden vendor stalls which line the roads. a few concrete appartment buildings rise above the densly populated streets - obviously just as packed themselves though, judging from the amount of clothing that hangs from the balconies on each level. the roads - which the matatus crawl along stopping and starting every couple of feet to let someone on or off - are more like dirt paths with more potholes than flat ground. the main market street is packed with people - vendors selling fruit, vegetables, bags, clothes, and other random goods; men pushing large carts of tires and bananas; women carrying children on their backs and baskets on their heads. piles of garbage and raw sewage are everywhere - not to mention that the biggest garbage dump in nairobi is within mathare valley. perhaps one of the more contrastingly beautiful and disgusting sights i've seen was the sun setting past the crest of a mound in this dump as we drove out of mathare that day. its a place that is difficult, even now, to picture and descibe. and my rambling attempts at description are just that - and a weak attempt at that. based only on a briefly glimpse - a scratch at the surface. i'm not sure very many outsiders ever really do see what lies beneath. needless to say, it left us with a mess of thoughts running through our already emotionally frazzled little heads.
the day earlier, we packed up our little home at kudu hills, said goodbye to our friends, and made a whole lory feel sufficiently awkward with our uncontrollable outward displays of emotion, as we drove away from our beloved elangata wuas. the 6 weeks we spent there were filled with so many incredible experiences and golden moments - surrounded by the most kind and warm people i have ever met. its amazing how quickly you can grow accustomed to and feel completely comfortable with the very sights and images which were so shockingly foreign just 6 weeks earlier. i think we both felt like we could have just carried on as the 'eco-friendly vagabonds' be have become and been perfectly content. as kate put it simply, it was a good life.
and here is where, i had the intention of launching into another rambling attempt to describe just what it is we've actually been doing in the middle of rural africa for the past month. but to be honest, i started this a week ago and already with the whirlwind of sights and experiences we have thrown ourselves into since then, i think it might be best left for another day. and a pint of beer back in canada. not to mention the fact that the heat in this internet cafe is making the screen start to blur and akon 'nobody wants to see us together' keeps playing over and over. my sanity is at stake here.
our travelling shoes are on though, as we attempt to see a bit more of east africa before our flight home at the end of the month. intended route this far: nairobi - kampala - kigali - nairobi.
then possibly out to the coast through tanzania.
we'll see where the wind blows.
hope this finds you all happy and healthy friends.
thanks for checking up on us.
we miss you all lots and can't wait to see you all soon - so soon!
peace and LOTs of love.
andrea and katie.
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
a conversation Caroline, one of our friends/founders of Africa Soma recently had with her doctor in Montreal went something like this.
after having gone to great lengths to try to give her family physician a glimpse of what a canadian cultural anthropology professor was doing researching one of the most isolated maasai communities in kenya, he came to what might seem a fairly obvious conclusion.
"so what you're trying to tell me is that you would be hard pressed to find any culture in this world that has been left untouched. well that's certainly a shame!"
when we heard this story, Andrea and I felt as though it did a pretty good job of capturing many of the thoughts, impressions and experiences we have been trying to digest upon arrival in elangata wuas. maybe I should start first by painting a little picture for you all. this picture I would like to entitle "sensory overload: the elangata wuas experience."
after having travelled for four hours from nairobi on a saturday morning, andrea and i were exhausted. the roads in kenya are horrible. if you are not stuck in terrible traffic in nairobi, you are bouncing around in the back of a pick up truck with a moaning goat at your feet hoping the vehicle won't topple over as it swerves to avoid huge boulders and potholes. we've even had to get out of a bus and help push it up a hill on a couple of occasions. needless to say, after this journey we were quite excited to drop off our bags and settle into our humble abode in kudu hills (the eco-camp where we're staying). anyway, this little rest lasted all of five minutes. we were immediately informed by our new found friend richard (who runs the kudu hills camp) that saturday was market day in elangata wuas and basically that everyone whose anyone in the kajiado district meets there to socialize, trade livestock, navigate the markets and so on. we were in!!!
the three of us hopped back on a matatu (since then andrea and i have made the personal choice to foot everywhere we can, which means we walk from an hour and a half daily in the hot savannah sun) and ventured to mile 46 (the hub centre that is 46 miles from the railroad). at this point, things get a little fuzzy as what we can recall is definitely tainted by a sense of being overwhelmed and entirely out of our element in every way possible.
as we stepped off the matatu we were faced with a scene almost taken directly out of national geographic. an arrid landscape peppered with low lying acacia trees. an enclosed town centre with a row of ramshackle corrugated iron stores and hotelis (restaurants) on one side and a bustling marketplace on the other. in the centre was a sea of maasai mingling and socializing. all decked out in their traditional attire. men decked out in lesos (like a sari) and walking sticks and women in dresses with the most large and colorful jewelry i have ever seen. plentiful earings dangling from their stretch earlobes and tons of beaded necklaces stacked upon eachother running up their necks. needless to say, andrea and i (the only 'mzungus' *white people* for a 150 mile radius) stuck out (and continue to) like sore thumbs.
in retrospect, i think it is hilarious to think about our first impressions. after having lived in the ilodookilani community and having learned bits and pieces of their cultural traditions, day to day living and so on, all of the above seems so normal and commonplace now. these people are no longer some "primitive" (this term infuriates us both) pastoral people living in the middle of nowhere -- they are now are friends. the warmest, kindest and most generous people we have met in all of our travels so far. aside from all of the cultural learnings they have offered us, they have also given so many lessons on what it means to give wholeheartedly - giving when you have so little and expect nothing in return. (by the way, apologies for getting all after school special on you guys)
anyway, the point of my incoherent ramblings that it really has been incredible being witness to the ways in which what is often stereotyped as an 'untouched' indigenous culture actually live their daily lives. all of the new configurations that are being born out of their attempts to hold on to their traditions while absorbing selective parts of modern kenyan life is pretty effing cool. for instance, today many massai boys choose to attend secondary school rather than go through the 5 year business of becoming a moran (massai warrior). and it really is a bizarre thing to see a massai man carrying a cell phone alongside his rungu and machete!!!
anyway, AS CLICHE AS IT SOUNDS this experience really has thrown so many of our strongly held views on their heads. what it means to be two western feminist advocating women's rights here? what actually constitutes poverty? most of the community live in tiny cow-dung huts and rely on livestock to generate income but they are happy and are finding ways to educate their children past the primary level...i could go on. and i will stop for all your sakes.
but generally, here's the down low friends. life is good. andrea and i are like two eco-friendly vagabonds living in our little sanctuary completely surrounded by intense vegetation and crazy wildlife (some of it NEATo some of it SCARY -- a couple of cobra sightings and a few scorpions) and so many stars!!!!!! but life is a bit draining. at the end of a full day of working at school or travelling to various communities to have meetings about the library, the curio shop and the exchange program, we are pretty pooped and sometimes don't feel like hauling our water, hand-washing our undies. but this makes you realize many a thing: our consumption habits in north america are completely out of control! secondly, if we actually lived here we would probably be waking up at four to help milk the cows before trekking for over an hour to school! and that's assuming that we're fortunate enough to be able to attend. we certainly can't complain!
on an entirely different note, i have to end this tree hugging hippy manifesto because andrea and i are in nairobi and going to go get a latte!!! for serious!!!!! now there's a good dose of silver spoon socialism for you. (farron i threw that one in there for you)
SO, we promise to write again soon with more updates on our projects and visits to kibera and mathare. also we apologize for the lack of photos - uploading is almost impossible to do unless you can devote a considerable amount of time and money to the cause.
we hope you are all healthy and happy.
can't wait to see you all soon.
peace and love.
andrea and ktq