Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rural Life



Much of western Kenya resembles the dry, barren landscape of the southwestern US. Lake Victoria often becomes the one source of water if the few wells or riverbeds in the area dry up. Therefore, it is common to see women walking as far as ten miles to fill a 5 gallon jug with water which is gingerly placed atop their head for the walk back home. The day gets stretched into the night as one usually awakes early to begin the walk either to avoid the mid-day sun, or to make it back home in time in the morning for school, which is usually several miles away as well.

We recently stayed on the outskirts of Mbita at a home where the family is beginning to farm peanuts ("groundnuts") . The father in the family--a retired educator for many years--realized the value in grouping farmers in the area together to sell their yield, so has started a cooperative program where different types of peanuts (we tried varieties from Virginia and Cameroon) are grown to see what will thrive best on the land. It was encouraging to see the interest to improve the traditional methods of farming to grow a product that was both healthy for the people in the area and more profitable for the farmers in a communal sense. Too often, subsisting day to day doesn't allow for the ingenuity or open-mindedness to improve on the lifestyle.

Only recently have men begun to move away from the polygamous culture that was the norm for so long. It is traditional for males to come back to their parents homestead and build a home when they have the means. A separate house is built for each wife, and the wife is informed when the husband would visit that house. When a brother dies you inherit his wives and children. The spread of HIV and financial obligations to family are decreasing the desire for polygamy, but it is clearly evident how the culture system lead to such a quick spread of the disease through entire families.

(We also got to milk a cow, see below)

4 comments:

Chris Schulte said...

You guys continue to amaze me, as do the articles and updates you're sending our way. The quality of your prose is approaching the quality of your care.

John - I finally finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, and you were right in your description of and respect for PIH. What's truly amazing to me, though, is that I've now got buddies in a very far away place faced with similar challenges, and fighting for patients with your own sweat and tears, just because you know it's right. I hope that someday you have a chance to sit with Doktor Paul for stories of Alma Ata and Caddyshack quotes.

So you both know, I'm going to start passing your blog out to see if I can rustle up some support. Hopefully it can reach you at your next destination.

You guys be careful over there. Good luck.

toby said...

Johnny, Looks like a bull you are milking. Ew that is gross.

Kristy Mitcham said...

I truly admire what you guys are doing. Everytime I check your site I find another article that amazes me. The reality of what you are witnessing is incredibly humbling. I look forward to hearing more stories when you get back. Please be safe.

your sis said...

J-Michael--
Hope you are enjoying your travel week- thinking of all of you. In the horrible world of news today, at least I know you are all out making good things happen.
And, Toby makes me laugh.
-CKC