Days 7 -10 have seen a complete change of rhythm and location. Gone are the long traffic jams and urban creativity of Kenyatta University and in are the bumpy dusty roads and more laid back but equally confusing schedules for the day at Rongo University. Confusing in that a course of action is agreed one minute only to be changed on the way and yet somehow things seem to get done!
Day 7 was as I indicated in my last blog a day of transfer. Some 7 to 8 hours in the Rongo University bus – not the most comfortable bus in the world but we were met in Nairobi by Isabelle from Rongo and she is always pleasant company. Little to be noted about the trip for me apart from the notable stopover in Narok and the disgraceful, money grabbing service at the Kenoil Petrol station restaurant, which used to be really nice but no more! I will never take a party there again and that is all that really needs to be said about that! It is always nice to stop at the Rift Valley view point and watch the students’ face as the take in the scale and scope of the wonder that is the Kenyan Rift Valley. At the bottom of the hill on the left is the most picturesque glad filled with beautiful Acacia trees, directly opposite from a small Catholic church built by Italian POWs during the 2nd World War. We arrived in Rongo at around 8pm to be greeted by all our friends from previous visits (as well as the great news that Chelsea had defeated Arsenal 0-1 – always a cheery bit of news to receive). After a a welcoming meal we were accompanied to our digs for the week and a good night’s sleep.
Breakfast on day 8 was most welcomed but before that we were officially welcomed by the Principal Prof Samuel Gudu, who is always so pleased to see us and so hospitable. After our repast we got down to business – kicked off by an introduction to this year’s project by Prof Jerry Agalo and a contextualisation lecture from me introducing students to Community Media as tools, spaces and processes for community empowerment, capacity building and voice. This took us up to lunch and gave the students time to reflect and socialise before kicking off the pre-production planning meetings for the 3 different groups – audio, video & photography. They spent the afternoon shaping and refining their own take on the project before presenting their ideas in plenary. As an educator committed to the PEARLS approach to Commnity-based Learning, it did my heart good to see how engaged all the participants were not only with each other but with the tasks they were creating. It was a really great session and whilst all the students did well, Oscar Faina was particularly articulate and passionate in presenting the video group’s ideas.
Day 9 saw us head off to Kagan village someway outside the town of Homa Bay – an area with some significant problems of poverty and social deprivation. We were greeted by the Kagan dancers from the Luo tribe who introduced us the tribal practices and customs of Luo culture through their dances and music. It was a fantastic experience and a great way to start of this embryonic research project – I dare say I will be speaking more about this in much more depth in future trips but the outline of this project is crystallising in my mind and day 10 will see us test it on politicos and bureaucrats (not my favourite folk in the world but tomorrow I have a job to do!). I think this was a significant day for the students….it was certainly enjoyable and also tiring and I am conscious that they are getting tired. I always try to factor in a down day for R&R but for some reason it has not happened this year and the guys are getting tired. I will leave them to explain and articulate their perceptions of this once in a lifetime day.
Day 10 was one of those days that we start with a plan which changes at every twist and turn of the hardened mud roads. After a last minute courtesy visit to the District Commissioner we set off to see the County Director of Culture at Homa Bay. She was in a meeting at the local airport (which was just opening up to international or at least national flights – this is a big deal and many dignitaries at national level were there so we slipped down the agenda). We had planned to visit the fishing market on the Lake (Victoria) for some contextualising photos. With little else to do we turned the next few hours into down time and the students took a boat trip and loads of photos. Eventually, the County politicos and bureaucrats were ready to see us and after 45 minutes of tourist spiel and taking phone calls when talking to us both Prof. Agalo and I decided to intervene. I refocussed the direction of the discussions and woke him up to the fact that we were looking to develop a serious research project in their County and beyond. At this the demeanour changed and Prof. Agalo explained what we were looking for from the potential partnership. At this point we were urged to make a courtesy call to the Minister of Finance and the County Secretary, who welcomed us in within a matter of minutes and pledged to develop a partnership with us and craft a memorandum of understanding with us to work as partners. This was a significant breakthrough and now we just need to write the proposal and secure funding! 🙂
However, I was feeling very sorry for the students as I had promised them the afternoon off in recognition of their amazing commitment but before we knew it, it was 5pm and we headed back to Rongo. I have decided to give them the morning off tomorrow. This means we will only have 1.5 days for editing as Saturday has now been arranged as a trip to Obama’s homeland and a visit to a volcanic lake complete with pink flamingos. I think the students are more interested by the latter than the former but both will be great I am sure. For the first time we might have to finish editing when we get home as these are very adventurous and complex project.