After a gruelling 26 hour journey from my door in Brighton, England to the Treat House Resort here in Rongo, Kenya, spanning 1 train, 3 planes, and 1 van, we finally arrived. Sleep deprived and hot, there was very little we could do except relax and (eventually) enjoy a lovely vegetable curry.
After a long sleep, we set out to Rongo University to meet the Vice Chancellor and some of the students. Unfortunately he had been called away to a meeting in Nairobi, so we spent some time on the campus exploring the grounds. We had already felt some Kenyan hospitality, but it was amazing how welcoming everyone was, taking time to come and say hello to us and tell us we are most welcome. A maths teacher called Bob Omandi took a break from his lesson to come and talk to us, telling us about how people here are named. After a delicious lunch, we met the Rongo media students and had discussions on what community and community radio means to us all.
The next day was Saturday, so we drove for about 2 hours to the Thimlich Ohinga archeological site. Sitting at the back of the bus on the dirt roads was an experience but the views on the way were worth it! The site is a 14th century Luo settlement of four walls with huts inside for the chief and his wives (polygamy!). We were guided round the site by a very knowledgeable host but poor Libby had sun stroke so she just slept under a tree. We also met a very sweet dog who we called Lentil as we fed him some lentil samosas! We got back to the hotel and played a very hectic game of Irish snap, which I think amused (bemused) the staff and other guests!
On Sunday we were promised some flamingos which we were all very excited about, so we drove off to Lake Simbi. When we arrived there were none in sight, but thankfully we turned a corner and there they were! Not too many of them mind, and they weren’t pink (which Anya had spookily predicted in her dream), but we were thrilled nonetheless. Some locals told us the myth of how the lake came to be. Apparently there was once a village on top of a hill where the lake is, but when a women visited and was treated without welcome, the rains started and sank the village and the hill to become a holy lake. In reality (and just as interestingly), it is a volcanic crater without any inlet or outlet. Nobody knows how deep it is and it sustains no life due to its high alkalinity. On the way back we stopped at Homa bay and walked up the pier a bit. There were huge Storks the size of children there! We went back to the hotel and played some more cards but we got an early night as the next day we had to get to work.
On Monday morning we drove to Rongo University, and met the Vice Chancellor in his fancy office and listened to him and Peter speak about the progress of the radio station. The project seems to have stalled because they want it to be a state of the art, modern station, but as we learnt later in Peter’s lecture on the characteristics of community radio, it should suit the economic ability of the region and be run by members of said region. Everything is ready to start broadcasting, so hopefully this will happen soon! After the lecture we got hands on with the equipment, splitting us and the Kenyan students up into groups of video, photography and audio. We practiced and figured out everyone’s ability, filming a fake interview with me and Katie, which was quite funny. The food has been consistently great at Rongo University but tonight’s food has to be the best – amazing fried fish with lentils and chapatis. We got back to the hotel and Rachael got her suitcase back after 5 (!) days after it was left in Istanbul, so that was a happy ending to the day!