Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Piave, Africa Day 3: Cookie Run

I know there can't be two Day 3 but let's just say that in the hope of keeping you reading I sort of kind of split it in half!!!

So with all this travel it was about 1pm already on the Sunday and I had just met with the volunteers. don't know if you can also call it good timing but I found myself in Nakuru at a time during which a bunch of Quebec Volunteers were part of the experience, since I'm from the same place I thought we'd get along just fine.

Francis was the one who came to me first, maybe it had something to do wit the fact that I was allocated the bunk bed just underneath him?! He was ind enough to answer pretty much all my questions and to show me around. After familiarizing myself with the environment he took me to the orphanage to introduce me to Ivan, the founder. An inspiring meeting to say the least.

Ivan was a plummer back in Australia when he visited Nakuru for the first time. He wanted to make a difference and three years later, his orphanage was built and he moved to Nakuru with Mary and their two daughters. Soon they adopted 27 orphans and are now parents for all of them.

I didn't get a chance to come back from all the emotions I had just witnessed in the orphanage when I saw that a couple of the girls were walking with Ivan to his jeep. They asked me If I wanted to join them for a Cookie Run. I had no idea what it was but I figured I should take my camera and just go, which I did.

I certainly wasn't prepared for what was to come. Ivan drove Tracy, Emilie, Emmanuelle and I through the streets of the Piave community. The girls were sitting in the back seat giving away cookies. The streets were of hard red dirt with quite the swamps in them but nothing the Mitsubishi 4x4 couldn't go through. The panorama was beautiful with valleys and mountains but this was only to offset the poor conditions in which the locals lived. Their shelters were mostly made of mud and animals excrements while some had a sheet of iron to provide a roof. The children we were giving cookies to were poorly clothed and dirty. Some shirts could barely hold together and don't even think of matching colors.

Nonetheless most of the children had honest smiles on their faces. Was it the fact that they knew we were to give them a cookie or just that innocent young smile kids have even in the worst of situations?

We got back to the orphanage when we ran out of cookies and we had supper after which we went to the orphanage to watch a movie. The movie that was playing was Crash and I couldn't help but find a relation to my day... a crash!

Related Links
Nakuru, Kenya
Getting Ready for Kenya Part 1
Getting Ready for Kenya Part Deux
Africa Trip Day 1: Friday the 13th...!
Kenya, East Africa Day 2: By way of Air
Nakuru, Kenya Day3: Finally Got There!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Nakuru, Kenya Day 3: Finally Got There!

After a decent night of sleep helped much by ear plugs to muffle the sound of the karaoke bar/restaurant from across the street, I woke up sometimes in the morning. I got ready because I knew Abdul was to pick me up sometimes before lunch.

The phone rang half an hour after I got out of bed and it was Abdul telling me he was waiting for me downstairs. Timing could not have been better and I was ready for...well what was coming I guess even though I didn't know what was around the corner.

Abdul drove me about 2 minutes from to Hotel to the Mololine Company where I was to buy my ticket for my Matatu trip to Nakuru. after following Abdul's advice I put my camera away in it's bag and headed for the ticket counter where I paid my 300 Kenyan Shillings for the ride (5$ CAD).

I cramped my big backpack in the back of the Matatu and barely made it in with my photo bag on my lap. A Matatu, for those of you who are wondering, is a small van...no really smaller than that! It has three rows of three seats and two in the front. If ever this thing was to be involved in an accident I would be stuck inside it because it's so small. The Matatu made it's way through the streets of Nairobi only to come to a stop after 5 minutes of driving. I didn't know what was going on and we had to get out of the vehicle. There, a tall man was looking at me with his hand forward...so I shook it. The man was a police officer and although he probably found me very courteous, he still looked into my bag and into the whole van to make sure we were not carrying weapons. This practice is standard for all Matatus before they go on their scheduled trips only I was not aware of that!!! Now we left for good!

The ride was a bit bumpy but not too bad. The scenery was a mix of hills and valleys with some amazing views of what looked to me like the Rio slums I had seen in a movie. The road side was full of vendors and little villages in which money had no place. The further we got from Nairobi, the less crowded the roadsides were which yield it's panorama to zebras, baboons, donkeys, cows and sheep.

Kenya was colonized by the British hence the driver on the right side of the car on the left side of the road. This combined with the fact that no apparent laws govern the streets and that driving is pretty reckless, makes you reconsider your 5$ ride. Maybe there was a cheaper and safer way to get to destination I thought?!

About two-thirds into the three-hour ride to Nakuru I was starting to get uncomfortable and quite annoyed with that van, what I didn't know was that the worse was yet to come. We took a turn into a village and after passing through it the road got bumpier...and bumpier...and bumpier until I could really say that this van was now off-raoding it's way to Nakuru. I was convinced the suspension would give way or the direction shaft would split in half not to mention my stomach which was upside down by now, good thing I didn't have anything to eat that morning. That last hour seemed like forever and when we finally reached our destination I was just relieved...!

This is the person that was there to greet me after this horrible ride. Although I had only met Alannah, one of Roth's co-founder, once at the fund raiser in Montreal, I was really happy to see her. She immediately made me feel at ease with her easy-going attitude like she was just walking through her own backyard.

She had arranged for a taxi to pick us up which was on time again. I started to feel my luck was good on this trip and everything was going smoothly.

After 10 minutes of driving, I finally reached my destination; The Mission In Action's Nakuru Baby Orphanage. Surrounded by a wooden fence like a fortress, the orphanage is quite a building, with beautiful glass work and floors with the MIA logo in it.

The huts where we stayed were besides maybe 150 meters away from the building and were round with hay roofs. Inside were bunk beds, bathrooms with shower and kitchen. A really decent place. That's when I met the other volunteers Emmanuelle, Emilie, Francis, Koby, Paul, Frederique, Tracy...

I was finally there and a warm feeling rushed through my body as if I had accomplished something already or maybe it was just the first time I felt that I was safe and sound. I was now surrounded with people who seemed so nice and so relaxed that I couldn't help feeling the same way. I was there, half way across the world...I was there and all the tight space in the planes, the logn hours of flight and the more-than-bumpy ride were all forgotten and seemed so cheap a price to pay to be in such a paradise. I was there and I was going to make the mos out of it!!!

Related Links
Nakuru, Kenya
Getting Ready for Kenya Part 1
Getting Ready for Kenya Part Deux
Africa Trip Day 1: Friday the 13th...!
Kenya, East Africa Day 2: By way of Air

Sunday, July 29, 2007

ROTH Picture Info

This post will lead you to a variety of pictures and discussions from the volunteers who have been a part of Reach Out To Humanity.As a photographer I made the trip to Kenya, East Africa in order to capture images from which this NGO could benefit. As I realized many volunteers and members of ROTH were eager to see the end-result of this labor if I may call it labor, I decided that the easiest way to share those images with everybody would be to put then up on Flickr.

Flickr is a free, user-friendly, photo-sharing community in which you can find all sorts of images from amateur to professional photographer, not to forget the ones who just want to share pictures with friends. You will find all the information HERE. It will only take you a couple of minutes to create an account and no e-mails are going to be sent to you for publicity of any kind.

Once you have signed up go in the Groups sub menu of your page and click on Search for Group. The name of the group you are looking for is Reach Out To Humanity for Health. Click HERE to go to the group's page now. This is where you are going to find all the pictures related to the different projects of ROTH.

YOU can be part of it too by simply adding pictures to your Flickr account and sending them to the ROTH group for others to see. There are also discussion that could be started to discuss different issues or share stories, click HERE to see an example. The goal is to gather all the information into one place for all to see and discuss.

Hope to see your pictures up there soon!


Kenya, East Africa Day 2: By way of Air

This kind of traveling is not without it's share of anxiousness and anxiety. Anxious to get there but worried if all is going to unfold according to plan. So far so good I shall say!

As soon as I sat in my aisle seat of the Boeing 747 in Montreal, it dawned on me: I'm too big for those seats hence the word "economy class". If you save financially you have to suffer the consequences of the discomfort. As I got used to my tight quarters and the view of the head rest of the seat in front, the discomfort made room to excitement... which lead to discomfort again a short while after!

Finally I reached Amsterdam's Schipol Airport to find out my next flight was on time and so I proceeded to the gate and waited the scheduled 2 hours that were separating the two flights. As I looked around me I realized that fewer white people were of the trip to Nairobi. The flight, also covered by KLM, went really well, maybe I was getting accustomed to such tight places for long periods of time? Or was it the fact that one of the flight attendant realized the over-proportioned size of my body in relation to the narrow space of the seating area which was further restricted by the fact that the woman in front of me decided to lean her seat, and so the attendant relocated me to an emergency exit where I had plenty of leg room? Whatever it was the flight went by pretty fast.

The anxiety kicked in once more when time came to pick up my luggage, was it going to be there? Would the person I was supposed to meet at the airport also be there regardless of the fact it took me 45 minutes to go through customs? Like Tom Petty said: "...things we worry about, never happen anyways..." And so he was right for all went according to plan again. I never thought I would be so happy to see someone I didn't know at all come pick me up at the airport with a big sign that said:" Allanah's Group".

Abdul was wearing a tuque and a winter coat of some sort of pro sports team I cannot remember. For the Kenyans it is winter in July yet I was very comfortable with my shorts and t-shirt and thought the 14 degrees celcius temperature to be quite comfortable. Abdul took me in the heart of Nairobi, which I saw nothing of because it was already dark, to the Dowtown Hotel. First realization you are somewhere else is when you see the hotel room! I then had to eat something and crossed the street to the karaoke/restaurant/bar place.

I was sitting there with all the local people yet I could not help but to feel completely alone. I think it was the first time in my life I could really say that I knew what it meant to be a minority, and it's not a good feeling! Now I understand much more...


Friday, July 13, 2007

Africa Trip-Day 1: Friday the 13th...!

Yeah I really am leaving today, Friday the Thirteen! Ah well so much for superstition or bad luck...or maybe it was why this flight wasn't overbooked?!

As you can see I lost some weight, well it's a matter of onces really but still I managed to do it effortlessly like in the infomercials on TV! Too bad I can't use the clipper for the other 60 pounds I have to loose... ah well isn't there a lot of Kenyan marathon runners? Maybe I can hang out with them?!

Sorry for the bad jokes, I think it's a mixed of the late night and all the anxiousness building up. So as I'm writing this at 1 o'clock in the morning of Friday I have done much of the errands I needed to do and I'm almost ready to go. Only a couple of last minute things and I'm done.

My friend Olivier (yes Oli, you are my friend now!!!) is going to drop me off at the Airport for about 3-4pm. My flight is scheduled for 6h40pm arriving in Amsterdam via KLM Royal Dutch 6hours and 40minutes later at 7h20am, local time. Still following? Good! Then a 3 hour layover taking me to 10h15am, time at which my other flight, with the same carrier, leaves for Nairobi, Kenya. Arrival time 7 hours and 55 minutes later is 7h10pm local time on Saturday night.

Then it gets tricky, if you are still following me!!! I am to meet Abdul who's as much a stranger to me as he is to you. He's going to take me to a hotel in the city where I will spend the night for 1200 Kenyan Shillings (rougly 20$ CAD). This will probably be the time at witch I will be able to tell you if I made it according to plan. Next morning I meet Abdul to give him 1700 KS for a ride to the Mololine, a Kenyan transport group, which will take me to Nakuru for 350 KS.

So if you followed the whole path we will then be supposed to be Sunday and I should get to Nakuru for lunch time. The bets are on...who can guess my arrival time in Nakuru? Faites vos jeux, rien ne va plus!!!


Monday, July 9, 2007

ROTH Fundraiser in Montreal

On April 14th 2007 was held a fund raiser by the ROTH organization at the ITHQ (Institut de Tourisme et d'Hôtellerie du Québec) to help raise money and awareness to several of their causes. Quebec's Prime Minister Mr. Jean Charest was amongst the distinguished guests along with family, friends and supporters of this NGO.

The evening was a success and helped Frederique and Alannah in the realization of the Piave Maternety Ward in Nakuru, Kenya where I am heading Friday.

Here is a short Soundslides résumé of the evening and interview with ROTH Co-Founder Frederique Vallieres.

It's about time to get a bit of that French language in the blog! Congratulations to the young organization for pulling off a fabulous evening.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More pictures from the drawer

Hi and welcome back for another edition of PFD... Ok there are only two so far but it's gotta start somewhere!!! This week's pictures were dug once more in the "didn't make it in my website" pool which, needless to say, is a pretty big one!

This first one has been a favorite of mine for a long time and was originally taken for a DVD cover.

If I am not mistaking it was taken with my very first DSLR at the time that I didn't know much about photography wich hasn't change really! The final product on the DVD cover turned out great and can be seen on my website although I prefer this color image as opposed to the BW treatment chosen by the artist. The important thing is that everybody's happy.

This other image is just funny, there's not much to it as far as the technical side of photography is concerned but it tells a story in itself and I like that. I had other similar frames with skiers in it that I thought gave it more of an hint as to what was expert about this picture but in the end I like to leave a bit of questioning as to what the picture refers to, it keeps the interest of the viewer...if they care at all !!!

Don't forget you can click on the pictures to see them in a bigger size on my FLICKR page and make sure to come back for more PFD later on...one day...I guess.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Getting ready for Kenya Part Deux

A picture's worth a thousand words isn't it?! That's really where I spent most of the past two weeks, in front of the computer. Since there isn't much that has been said about the trip from the organization as far as past experiences and detailed gear we should bring, I spent all my time looking at what Nakuru looks like on the internet.

So surfing through YouTube, Google, Flickr and a bunch of other search engines didn't really answer any questions I had. I saw a lot of Pink Flamingo Birds and I know not to feed baboons if I go on a safari in Lake Nakuru but nobody seems to have posted relevant information about the people that live there and the way to travel. I have found some interesting testimonials from backpackers and safari seekers but they are really short and most of the times only found in traveling sites where you lose yourself rather than finding related information.

All of this to say I don't know much about where I am going or what to bring there and what to expect but I know one thing... a plane ticket to Africa will cost you big bucks. I've called upon other volunteers to help me out with my "cheap ticket" search and have yet to find a good deal. Oh yeah and I'm suppose to leave in two weeks!

This week-end is a long one because it's Canada Day on Monday but comes Tuesday I'll call the few connections I have and try to finalize this part of the trip(an important one I shall say!).

Other than that, I will need to send money to the Piave Baby Orphanage where I will be staying, order Kenyan Schillings and US money (cheap these days!) and make sure all my insurances are in order. A couple of new clothing items and we're off...!

Two weeks and counting...not nervous, just excited!

Cheers !