The chickens have roosted, they are making contented burbling noises that I cannot quite call clucking. The light is almost out of the day and they are snuggled into each other in a line long the wall. I don’t think I have seen this process before and I would almost be tempted to forgive them their morning outrageous cacophony. Almost. There is one cock that sounds like he is being strangled whilst coughing up a fur ball, it takes him at least a couple of goes before he sounds anything like a normal rooster.
So we were out ‘in the field’ yesterday. I am not comfortable with that term yet, ‘in the field’, it makes me feel like a big game hunter. I met with the resident district commissioner, an enlightened woman in charge of the security committee for the area. She told me domestic violence is on the rise, and too many men were drunkards (there is so much to this and so many unanswered questions but they will have to wait). We then met with some sub-county officials, then a clan chief and his committee comprising of the elders of the clan. Well we gate crashed the last meeting – the chief had not got the message of my coming and was holding a traditional court under a tree. He kindly paused the court and gave me 10 minutes to ask my questions to the court. I was told afterwards by my interpretor of a conversation that had taken place at the beginning, one elder had mentioned to the chief that the muzungu (me) should give some ‘water’ (cash contribution), the chief had replied, ‘Look at her sandals, she is a poor muzungu, don’t ask her for water.’ I still had to give it and made a mistake when I did – supposedly the going rate is 20,000 which will buy 20 sodas for the group. I only gave 10,000. The trouble being that no one person could take that money home so they would have to find something communal to put that money towards.
I am trying to thread together what people are telling me. Sorting out the half-truths, the catch-phrases NGOs have taught, and the euphemisms. I am hearing a lot of contradictions and a lot of dependency on government and development partners. I was asked what I am going to do for them as they have keep providing information to numerous muzungus and yet do not see any benefit from it. The assumption is that the muszungus are getting rich off of their information, which in large part is true. I had a standard answer but it is not sufficient.
Today a girl I was interviewing started to cry because she does not have soap to wash herself or her baby and does not have anywhere to go after school. She asked me where could she go… I didn’t have an answer but I said I would ask.
The leaders told me that a big problem is teenage pregnancy but being a mother is pivotal to being a woman here. It seems the problem is not that they are mothers but that they do not have the support or know how to be a mother. With all that has been going on there is no longer the social structure to step in and make the boy marry the girl, to support her and her baby, to teach her how to be a mother. Orphans who have children and matters only become worse for them.
I have been playing with some kids on the route between home and school. Yesterday the eldest took me by then hand and took me to their home nearby. I met their grandmother – the one who is looking after them. She says she is looking after 4 orphans after their parents died. That she cannot afford to send them to school. What can I do to help? She says that they have told her I befriended them, I am a friend to the orphans, so what can I do to help?