October 2001

Hello all, I have been here for 5 weeks now and have much news but will give you only the exciting bits. I have settled in well by now and have finished my handmade curtains, so the place is looking much better. My mosquito net has been given a frame and the floor of the toilet has been painted red so its looking more like a home. The rest of the floors will follow at some point I hope, as the concrete look is throwing out my whole design. Tim kindly brought back some bluetack from Nairobi for me (fierce excitement, as not available in Lodwar) so I now also have put some pictures on the wall, mostly made up of a calander my mother sent over last week along with a cd player so I can listen to ABBA and the Sound of Music on my down days. Plenty of trad stuff in there as well to keep me going. Though I have started to get into the different stations on my world space radio so I have a choice of Upcntry, Irish news twice a day or classical, jazz and blues. A Station for every mood.
The people of Turkana seem to be poor but happy. From my window I can see them pass, the women seem to float along with what often seems like a tree on their heads, a baby under one arm, strapped on and a jerry can and bags hanging from each hand with some vibrant red material flowing behind them. Their husband will walk in front with his stick behind his head, both hands up holding it and his stool hanging from one. He is apparently protecting her in case of Lions!!! I haven't seen any and I don't believe they have been seen for years but the tradition continues and the poor women carry on regardless. The traditional Turkana women who wear the beads and traditional clothes are so beautiful and graceful they would be models if they lived in any other country. They all have different tribal distintions, some have a mohican type hair style with plates in the middle of their heads and a red dye where the rest of their hair should be, others have a sequence of scares from cuts which I believe are signs of beauty, they can be on the face (cheek bones or forehead), arms or back.
Last Saturday Mary McAleese came to visit and in her honour the weather played havoc. Up to now it has been really hot and dry and on the morning of the presidential visit it was overcast and cloudy, by the time the advanced plane arrived a dust storm blew up and just 5 mins before Mary herself arrived the skies opened up and there was a downpour. This after the Diocese had arranged to have all of the roads sprayed with water earlier that morning to keep the dust down. So we all look appauling when her plane eventually arrived, wind swept and interesting would be the only discription I could think of. But she didn't bat a eyelid and greeted each of us as if we were the first Irish Missionaries she had met rather than day 6 of us. She was whisked around the town and ended up at a buffet in one of the centres, here we introduced ourselves again and she commented on the amount of Cork people there, the Bishop and herself made a speech but I unfortunately had to miss it as I had arranged to fly in one of the presidents 4 planes on to Nairobi so I could attend a party down here for the Kenyan Missionaries so here I am.
I am writing from Nairobi as I prepare for more festivities. I arrived on Saturday and was kindly taken in by friends from GOAL, Siobhan and Brian (thanks guys!!!). We all went to meet Mary again last night and I managed to convince the official photographer to take a pic of us (MAry and myself) with my camera, the advantage of being nice to the press!! This followed as after the wonderfully inspiring speech by the President I stayed with the press for an after party drink or two and had a great night ending with a sing song and an invitation to meet again tonight at another reception for the entorage of which I have become and honoury member, so the party goes on. However I leave for my two day drive back to Lodwar at 8am so I cant I'll be too late. Must go now and network some more and promote the diocese with some NGOs!!
I'll be in touch soon from the heat of the desert. It is so nice to wake up here in Nairobi and not to have the hair sticking to hte back of my head, it is so hot in Lodwar that I am really feeling the cold here and it is nearly 20C. The drive up will bring me through teh various stages of Kenya, from the lush rift valley to the desert, I look forward to it and can only hope that the bandits of West Pokot leave our convoy alone and I get there safe and sound but I will have to carry some cash in case we get raided!!
On that happy note!!
Keep me in your prayers, you are in mine!!
Love always, Nora