First off, I want to let you all know that I am safe here. I will be evacuated tomorrow to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by private plane. I am with a group of 12 others in Kakamega, in western Kenya, about 1 hour from Kisumu and 1 hour from Eldoret, and we will be traveling tomorrowby tiny little 7 person planes to Kisumu, then flying from there to Tanzania. Let me get to the political stuff later...
So, Christmas was amazing. It was a very different Christmas then I have ever had before, but it was good. As a group we went to Kakamega forest and stayed in little thatched roof bandas. We got there on Christmas Eve and went on just a short hike that afternoon. There were small monkeys everywhere that would come and sit maybe 10 feet from us when we were at the camp site. It was awesome. On Christmas morning, we woke up at 4:30am and went on an hour and a half hike to the top of a mountain to watch the sun rise. It was beautiful. It really did look just like the sunrise in the Lion King at the beginning of the movie. We all just sat up there for an hour an a half and took in our surroundings. Breathtaking. I do have some awesome pictures that I took as well. After the sun rise, we began the climb down checking out a bat cave. Needless to say, I hate bats. There were tons of them flying around, hanging around. I didn't spend much time in there though... and am just thankful that the bat that used to live in my latrine is gone. We stayed there for just 2 days and then returned to one of the other volunteers houses in Kakamega.
He has an amazing set up with running water, electricity, an oven, 4 burner stove, etc. It's like little America. We have really enjoyed making some American food too- lasagna, bagels, cinnamon rolls, cookies, burritos, pizza, etc. It will be a shock when I get back to site and don't have any of these luxuries anymore. My mom asked me the other day the BEST thing I had cooked since being at site- I must say that it is definitely an egg sandwich. I haven't really spent much time cooking and making elaborate meals when I am just making them for myself and can't keep leftovers because they will go bad. So, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, rice, beans... that's about it.
New Year's was pretty uneventful. After sitting in the house all day hearing gun shots, tear gas canisters being thrown, and seeing fires, we made some party hats out of newspaper and celebrated with a dance party. There is this restaurant across the street from us that said we could come over, so we made a little dance mix and had a good time. Well the best you could have. No Kenyans were celebrating because of all the election violence, so it was just us.
So, the 27th was election day in Kenya. I am not sure how much you all have read about the elections, but Raila Odinga (from the Luo tribe) was trying to defeat President Mwai Kibaki. On the 27th the election was all showing that Raila was ahead, come the 28th it showed a narrower margin, yet the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was delaying the announcement. This began the riots in provinces that supported Raila because they felt that the ECK was delaying the announcement because Kibaki lost. On the morning of the 29th the chairman of the ECK announced that he wasn't sure about the numbers and that he wanted to check the ballots for a recount, yet later that day he announced that Kibaki was the winner without a recount or anything. Kibaki was sworn in as president again within the hour, which is very rare. Usually it takes place at least 2 days after the election, but he didn't want the possibility of a recount or him not winning to happen, so he held the ceremony without any outside observers, no westerners, no witnesses from the opposition party. It's so blatantly obvious that there has been rigging when there are more votes recorded at a polling station for Kibaki then there are people even registered to vote at that station. Raila supporters went crazy after the election announcement and began burning homes and shops of any Kibaki supporters or Kikuyu tribe members (the tribe of Kibaki). There were fires that lined the street just a kilometer from the>>> house, gun shots that we would hear as we were sitting down to eat, tear gas, etc. Definitely not what I expected. Raila has been wanting to hold a rally, but Kibaki has not allowed that. He has also stopped all news coverage except for what he approves, so we are hearing most of our news from BBC and CNN. The rally was supposed to be held today, but there was rioting and tear gas thrown preventing it from happening. It is rescheduled for Tuesday. There could be an all out civil war between tribes if it doesn't settle down, but that is rare I think. I've noticed its calmed down quickly over the last day or so already. We went to the supermarket in town yesterday and it was as if people were preparing for a hurricane- purchasing whatever they can. Also in town some Kenyans said "you just walk free, it is not you we have a problem with, it's just the Kikuyus." Scary huh? Many many Kikiyus have fled the country if they were not living in the province where the Kikuyus reside in the majority. It's frustrating to see such corruption in the political scene here. It is also making the poor people here even poorer. So many families have not been able to go to the market to sell produce or have had their shops closed due to the violence, so they have no income and have probably not been eating.
This could also be bad since families have a hard time paying school fees for secondary school, so I hope I have a job when all this settles down. It's not a very good situation, but I do feel safe in little America here. Tomorrow we are being flown to Tanzania and will spend at least 2 weeks there. They are hoping that all of the violence will subside by then and that we can return to country. If it doesn't, then I guess I will be coming home. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I may be coming home so soon. I don't even know what I would do. I am hoping that doesn't happen. I came to Kenya to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and I was supposed to have 2 years to think about that... we'll see. I am thinking it will calm down enough to return, or am hoping it will at least. Even if it does, the Luo people, where I stay will not be living the best life as Kibaki will really deny them financial resources for development as a way of getting back at Raila's people. Sad huh?
Anyways, I am off to a 2 week vacation to Tanzania. I am excited to see another country in east Africa and Dar es Salaam is very touristy and beautiful! It is right on the coast, so we will enjoy that as well. Too bad I only brought a duffel bag with me to live out of, since I didn't pack for a month when I left my home just for Christmas vacation. I will make do. I may be attending some sort of Peace Corps conference in Tanzania too while we are there. I will give another update once I get to Tanzania and find out the plan. Hope you are all doing well. I am safe- so don't worry! Hope you all had an amazing holiday season with friends and family. -Diana