July 2002


What with no scorpion and no rain it is hard to believe that so much happened in July! For those of you who never make it to the end... eating goat with the skin still on, being attacked by a twelve inch knife and being under house arrest by UN security are some if the high lights of the month.
It is hard to believe that half of the world is on their summer holidays, as always it is just hot here. I know that summer is being used in it's broadest term when describing the last few months in Ireland but I am totally disorientated working through July and have managed to get mixed up with or forget two weddings (sorry Ciara and Rory, hope you both had wonderful days!) It is just not like me and I feel awful. I even mixed up my brothers' birthdays (sorry Diarmuid and Fionán - I'll get it right next year!!)
The month started off with a ritual sacrifice of a goat. I missed the actual sacrifice and only arrived as they were dividing out the goods. Suffice to say this was a men only ceremony and the local priest brought me along for the trip, he was there to talk about the constitutional review. All the other women were in another part of the village. The men sat in a horse shoe shape with the most important in the centre and going down in significance as they went further from the tree (and the shade). Young unmarried men didn't even get into the circle at all, they just watched from a distance. On my arrival there was much discussion in Turkana so who knows what they thought of my intrusion but I was presently offered some of the precious meat (I was afraid of this!!). Bearing in mind that it was 9.30am and I had just had my breakfast, a hunk of goat was not my first choice.
Fr. Jacob handed me the meat and I pulled the most minuscule piece from the edge and ate to the delight of the Turkana. Of course I gave a boisterous and animated “Ejok” (meaning good). I thought I had gotten away with it till the chiefs encouraged one young lad to take off his wrist knife so that I could get a good chunk, obviously I was unable to get a big bit without my own wrist knife. It was at this point that I actually held the piece of meat myself and realized that it still had its coat on!! It is not quiet Mc Donald's where you get to eat the meat but it has no relation to an animal. There is no denying that this was alive only hours beforehand when you feel the soft black fur on your hand as you cut away the quarter inch of meat attached to the inch of fat and try to avoid the fur. I then had even more attention as I ate the meat and held the fat in my hand until the eyes moved to the distribution of the bones for crushing so that they could suck out the bone marrow. Fortunately this is kept for the big shots and I was not given the honour. I spent the rest of the day expecting to be sick but I'm still alive to tell the tale.
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I was delighted to have Martina Collins from GOAL up for over a week working on a proposal. Highly entertaining and full of energy, which is contagious, not to mention a great cook. It is probably a good time to admit that I have not used a full gas bottle in my gas cooker yet and I am here over ten months. It is just such a hassle cooking for one! The same time Gonna from Holland and Chris from the States were here, so the place was very quiet when they left. It was so nice to have some young and fun people around. I had a great few weeks. For those few days Lodwar seemed like a happening place. Unfortunately all of this positive energy came to a quick halt when someone decided to try and break into my Suzuki. Frank, my neighbour, was away on holidays and there was no moon but as Martina was with me I felt quite safe and I always stroll around the hill here at all hours. On hearing some noise outside I went to investigate, as we had left something in the car, and I decided that I would bring it in rather than create any more temptation. Shining a torch to check for life, none was to be seen... this was because whomever was out there had decided to stand on the other side of the door. Of course he thought that this was a great idea because who is going to come out at that hour... ME!! Well, when I opened the door I don't know who got the bigger fright, the man out side who stuck a 12-inch knife in the door so I wouldn't come out or me inside the same door six inches from the knife before I realized what it was. Martina and I screamed like two banshees until a crowd had gathered. Of course your man was gone but I saw the knife every time I closed my eyes for weeks!!! I now have security lights outside my house and I'm even getting a fence, don't know if it is really needed because I know that everyone in the town heard the scream so I can't imagine they would be brave enough to come back but it will be nice to have a bit of privacy.
The following weekend when I was still half shook I had a workshop in Lorengnak, four hours of sandy road away, only to be told by the parish priest that it was the most dangerous place in Turkana and that that is why they live 45 minutes drive away but I should be fine!! Thanks!! The solar lights worked for ten minutes and at 7.40pm in the pitch dark I sat alone and wanted to go home!!! So I headed to bed, what can you do in the dark? Gunshots woke me at 11 or so and rattling at the door finished sleep altogether at 2.30am. With eyes falling out of my head I managed to give a day's lectures the next day and, discovering that it was the wind the night before, I placed a 20-gallon jerry can (no water, buckets to shower and flush, I couldn't live like this!!) at the door and slept in peace.
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No rest for the wicked they say! The next day I took over from Chris, who had taken over from Brother Louis. Brother Louis, the head teacher of St. Kevin's, took ill at the end of June and was rushed to hospital in Nairobi (thankfully he is on the mend in the cool of Nairobi right now). Chris was up for a holiday from Bungoma and found himself to be the new Form 2 English teacher. As he had a life to head back to I took over in week three of the month and as I had been teaching this class pastoral instruction for the previous few months it was easy enough to get into it. The only disadvantage of taking over a class at the end of term (just like last term) is that it means having the whole exam thing, correcting 150 papers and writing 150 reports. I might add now that they did very well considering that it is their third language.
During this week there was some unrest in Kakuma over the price of the wood being supplied to the refugee camp by the locals. There was a riot and a local woman was shot. This was followed by much tension and several night of gunshots near the NGO compounds. There was fear that the woman's funeral would cause more trouble so the UN sent in its top security. I was to give a workshop in the camp the following weekend, the same weekend the body of the woman was expected. Due to a communications break down I headed to Kakuma in my broken down Suzuki (and I got there!!) I have now officially decided to call the car Nuala, so expect many stories of 'Nora and Nuala on Tour'. She is going in for a revamp this month.
On arrival I was so pleased to have got there without breaking down that I was devastated to be told that I was stuck inside the compound for the following two days. There was a Stage 2 'restricted movement' alert in the camp so I was trapped. Normally I would love getting a day off work and hang around the camp but for one I had forgotten my swimming togs and more importantly nobody was in party mood. Everyone had his or her 10kg bag ready for a 15-minute evacuation call, and the cars were fueled and ready for the off. The body was delayed until Tuesday so I headed off on Sunday. Thankfully the whole thing passed off peacefully and when I went back the following weekend for a different workshop everyone was in great form and there was a big barbeque and disco. Mind you Kenya's performance in the Commonwealth games did put a bit of damper on my disco. As it was being held in England, two hours behind (so it went on till all hours!), and as they were doing so well (winning all around!!) and as many of the people working in the camp actually knew them they were reluctant to dance... as you can imagine!! A great night was had nonetheless.
I finished off the month with a panic assessment test, which had to be corrected before the real thing. One hundred and fifty news reports to keep me entertained. I have now truly started to fell like I'm on holidays as I am exhausted and can't finish this off well. I'm heading down country in the morning at 10am (eight hours by lorry but it is better than the 1.00am matatu tomorrow night!!).
Hope you are having a good summer or winter wherever you are this August. Fond farewells till next month.
Love from the desert,
Nora