Thursday 19th January

I awoke with a sense of excitement and trepidation. This was the first Community Media 4 Kenya trip to Rongo in 4 years. A lot had happened in this period. Over 2 years of the Covid19 pandemic and ensuant lockdown as well as a road traffic accident in Nairobi and 4 major reconstruction surgeries on my arm. I’d been in Nairobi for 2 days making plans and awaiting the arrival of the students. Would these students be as enthusiastic as previous groups I’d taken? Would the community not have become disillusioned and moved on due to the enforced break? How would Rongo University, our initial partners in CM4K (there are 2 more universities waiting to join up with CM4K – Machakos & Kibabi), receive us? Much had changed at Rongo since our last visit. Isabel Zattu a founder member of CM4K from Rongo had completed her Master’s and had gained promotion in another job at Kibabi University. Jerry Agalo, former Dean of the School of Infocoms and the main driving force at Rongo had retired but was now teaching part-time and Professor of Outreach & Community Research. It felt like a tipping point. Either we would move on and CM4K would evolve and live up to its pre-Covid potential or it would fade into a natural passing. 10 years of amazing people and experiences through which we have been able to share knowledge, transform our worldviews, learn much and make many friends.

As I pondered these matters, I prepared to meet the students at Jomo International Airport, Nairobi for our internal flight to Kisumu, where Jerry would be waiting for us with a University bus. As I walked from the carpark to the arrivals gate, I saw the student group walking outside into the waiting embrace of the many taxi drivers, sales-folk and scammers that accost tourists as the arrive. I smiled to myself, having danced that jig many times over the years. I got to them and we all smiled and I urged them to bring it in as we embraced in a rather clumsy group hug. They were certainly excited and please to be here. Their trip was not without incident as Rachael’s case had been left in Istanbul. This was to prove to be a 5+ day saga, that I will leave to Rachael to share. Except to say a special thanks to Okope & Jerry who took 7 hours out of their days to drive to Kisumu and collect it when it finally arrived.

The flight to Kisumu was uneventful and we met Jerry & Charles (driver) on time. We stopped at a bank in Kisumu so they could withdraw money as well as a supermarket to get water and provisions. The trip to Rong was filled with excitement and yells of glee and joy as they snapped as many pictures as possible of the new environment and scenes of rural life that the cramped minibus would permit. We were all glad to finally arrive in Rongo at the Treat House Resort. I have stayed here many times and the staff and I have become very close over the years. The students disappeared to their rooms for a deserved sleep/rest, although some did venture into the pool for a short swim. I bought them all dinner and the traditional first ‘pint’ before finally retiring to my room for a well-earned rest. I had forgotten how fielding the bombardment of questions from excited young people could drain you but I went to sleep with a smile on my face as I was getting a good feeling about the group.

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