Some pictures from my last week on Mfangano

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I spent the morning farming with my neighbors Sharon and George one day on Mfangano.  They have three farms, one down by the water where they grow their basic vegetables year round, one next to their hut where they grow maize, and this one, which is up in the mountain.  It was a Saturday morning and everyone from the village got up at sunrise, hiked 30 minutes up the mountain and spent the entire day tilling and chopping down bushes with machettes.   A lot of the people have shifted from fishing to farming, and one of the techniques they’ve been doing is to just cut away all the trees and bushes because it’s easier to plant there and you don’t have to dig up all the grass and rocks.  Ekialo Kiona has been working on developing a protected area for the forest at the top of the mountain and promoting more sustainable cultivation techniques.

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This is a Kyte.  These suckers are everywhere on Mfangano.  They fly real low and swoop down to grab sticks or mice or whatever.  I was surprised they weren’t grabbing chickens.

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These are the kids of Mallamasa.  A very energetic, hilarious group of kids who were always pleasant and helpful.

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One of the things I was apprehensive about when I came to Africa was religion.  It’s no secret that religion has had a profound influence on Africa, and I was wondering how my non-belief would go over during my time there.  It didn’t really come up for the first couple weeks, but then slowly people started asking me.  What is your church? Have you been saved? I’d tell them I have no church and that I have not been saved and get a pretty awkwardly blank stare. Are you muslim? no. Are you hindu? no.  Are you Budhist? no, I’m an atheist. What’s an atheist?  That got some funny responses, but mostly people just smiled and said they’d pray for me or something like that.  I was thankful to avoid any serious debates on the subject though and concentrate on the work I was there to do.  However for a couple of days some preacher in a church behind the EK center had a PA turned up to 11 screaming about who knows what.  I found this flier laying around the center the next day.  Yep….

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This is a bird. It’s in a tree. What do you think I’m some kind of bird expert?

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I went for a little hike up the mountain with George one day after work and ont he way down the sun was setting and looked awesome so I took this picture.

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It didn’t rain for the first three weeks I was in Kenya, and then out of nowhere, the skies opened up and it poured.  Most of the time I was able to hide in my hut, but with a tin roof, it was so loud I couldn’t even think until it let up a bit.  Afterwards the roads were completely destroyed, and the next day when I tried to ride my bike (I was the only one who wasn’t walking) It was immediately covered in mud.

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One of the last days I spent on Mfangano I hung out with Eric from the EK radio station.  We went to Nyukweri and did some interviews on how the fishing industry and beach towns have changed over the last couple of decades, and while we were out I took some video and photos of people listening to EKFM.  When I got back this kid was sitting in front of his house listening, so I snapped this photo of him.

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The Sunday before I left I told Tillen I wanted to go to Soklo and see the ancient rock art that was there.  I heard it maybe wasn’t that great, but I thought it would be interesting to see, and I could interview Tillen about the history of the Suba people and their culture.  He agreed and we set off before sunset, taking a motorbike to Sena and then starting the two hour hike up the mountain to Soklo.  Soklo is a small village at the very top of Mfangano.  There are no roads that go there, only narrow footpaths.  Since it was a Sunday, it was market day in Sena, there were people coming down the steep narrow pathway carrying huge loads of bananas, firewood, potatoes, and whatever else they wanted to sell that day.  As we hiked up the views were pretty spectacular.  We took a break at the Internet tower where EK gets it’s internet from.  The tower picks up a signal from Kisumu which is a 70 mile straight shot.  There’s a couple of wind turbines and solar panels up there that help power everything.  The whole set up had to be carried up the narrow hiking trails to the top and built on the mountain.  Once there I asked about the rock art again and Tillen informed me that he wasn’t taking me to the rock art, he was taking me to the top of the mountain.  I was a bit disappointed, but said, okay and we trekked off upward.  We come to a few huts and some children screamed “mzungu!” and ran away then looked back at me.  Then they ran up and shook my hand and decided to lead us the rest of the way to the very top.  The top is just a pile of boulders in the middle of a forest with a wooden cross that someone erected.  There was no view, but it was pretty cool to see the top.

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One night I cooked dinner for George, his mother Elida, his sister Sharon, and Sharon’s daughter Mackie.  We made a swahili coast dish called Kuku Paka.  I took this photo of George and Elida shredding fresh coconut to make coconut milk, as Mackie nom’s down on some of it.

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Adam, who was one of the founders of Organic Health Response, showed up my last week on the island.  He had been fishing for Tuna off the coast of Cape Cod for the last six months, but had returned to live on the island.  I told him one of the main problems with the bike shop was the lack of a clamping bicycle stand.  He told me he had an extra C clamp that we could use if we found some material for the stand.  I told her there were some bikes we could strip and use the tubing to build the stand, and within a couple days we were at the metal shop with a hacksaw and a mig welder putting this bad boy together.  With a sandbag on the base, it’s rock solid, and I think a big improvement for the shop.

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