Monthly Archives: August 2015

CHEAP IMPACT (photos by Rohini Das)


“I’m hoping to finish it in three weeks,” Toto said as we stood before his baby, a geometric dome house to be used as a guesthouse and volunteer space alongside the children’s home his NGO – Cheap Impact – is supporting.

He’d been building this inspiring structure for the past three months. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he says with a smile. “I’ve never built anything like this in my life.”

Rohini and I had met the 26-year-old German when he visited Kilifi. He was interested in the Musafir project and came down to see how we were doing things and share ideas.

“If you come to Kisumu then you’re most welcome to check it out,” he had invited us.

So after a week in Nairobi, Rohini and I hitch-hiked on eight different rides including camping in an Administrative Police barracks (part of the Kenyan Defence Forces) to meet Toto in Kisumu from where he picked us up and drove us about 10 K’s outside of the town to where the Korando School and Children’s home is located.

Kisumu itself is surrounded by lush green hills and fields. Shambas (farms) spread everywhere, people raising cattle, maize, sugar cane, chickens and standard onions and tomatoes. The 300,000 population reside on the shores of the world’s largest fresh water lake – Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile.

Toto fundraised during his travels that took him from South Africa up to Kisumu to be able to afford the cost of cement and bricks.

“Once we finish this pile,” he points at a few hundred bricks stacked up, “it’ll be a total of 11,000 bricks.”

“Will that be enough?” I asked.

“I hope so,” he smiles, seeming worry-free.

IMG_2353The fundis (workers) that have been building the 3-dome structure appear to have admiration and respect for Toto as do the 200 orphans that receive their education at Mama Dalphine’s school and children’s home.

The 67-year-old mama cooks, cleans, farms, rears chickens, cattle and even has two fish ponds for tilapia and catfish.


“She sponsors 40 of her best achieving pupils to continue on to secondary school,” Toto explains. “She is in a lot of debt. Everything she grows is for the kids here. Her husband passed away last year. They started this orphanage and school back in 1997.”

Two Belgium girls had arrived on Thursday night to volunteer at the school. A welcoming committee in the shape of a small choir of singing children danced a welcome song.

On Friday morning we experienced it at a volume of 200 children, dancing, clapping and singing. Smiles glowed all around as the volunteers were invited to dance with the 11-year-old master of ceremony.

“She organised everything,” Toto says proudly, watching the activities. “The kids, the rehearsals. She’s amazing.”

IMG_2538Indeed, the little girl led the troupe with hip-thrusts that had me convinced that if I attempted them, I’d end up on the waiting-list for hip replacement surgery. As Rohini snapped photos she was approached by one of the younger dancers and led to dance with the troupe.

The ceremony ended with a short welcoming speech from Toto and Mama Dalphine and Rohini and I, parting ways with hugs all around, hit the road to hitch a ride to Nakuru, to camp at Punda Milias Camp (for more info check out or

IMG_2743I flagged down an empty tanker and we just managed to beat the funeral procession of about 150 motorbikes and matatus (mini-vans), some with people sitting on the roof, wailing out and tooting horns.

The truck blew a tire on the hillside down to Nakuru. We continued on after checking the damage since we had another 17 wheels to ride on. Our driver, Zakaria, was most informative about the region.

I’d write to let you know what it was but I simply can’t remember anything because as soon as we were picked up by Danny for our ride to Punda Milias Camp, I realised, to my horror, that my camera had continued with Zakaria who was continuing on to Nairobi.

Even though we parted as friends and I called him to ask to search the truck, he turned up with nothing.

Still, it was a good week.

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P1030487“This is yellow cotton,” explained Jack, our Maasai guide as he took us to his traditional Maasai village on the fringes of the Maasai Mara National Park. He pulled some leaves off and rubbed them together and then on his forearm. “It repels mosquitoes.”

A Maasai village averages about 20 families making up about 200 inhabitants. They’re pastorals, herding sheep, goats and cows through the lands; a nomadic tribe, “Moving every 9 years because the huts we build from cow dung only last that long,” Jack explained.


“Each house has spaces for beds and a separate room for calves and baby goats, to protect them from hyena, leopard or lion that try to take them in the night. We keep our animals inside the compound and close the gate but the wild animals still come in.”P1030708

“I’m nomadic as well,” I grinned, explaining my lifestyle.

“Then you are Maasai as well,” Jack christened me.

Along with my simba-like hair I was given the lion’s mane (which Jack had hunted) to wear as a hat while I danced with the warriors at the entrance of the village compound.

For the traditional welcoming dance the Maasai men lined up, chanted a song with one making deep throaty sounds, resembling a lion’s call (I assume), and then jumping as though they were going for an alleyoop.

P1030714“We are polygamous,” Jack explained when he landed. “When we want to marry, we have to pay a dowry of ten cows per wife. The higher you jump, the less dowry you pay. The man who jumps the highest is chosen by the woman who wants to marry him.”

“How many wives do you have?” I asked.

“Two,” he grinned. “But there is a man in another village who has 13 wives.”

“13?!?” I exclaimed.

“And in our culture, you have to provide a hut for each wife.”

Maasai are perhaps, in my opinion, the most feared tribe in Africa. Even lions are scared of them as the Maasai version of a bar mitzvah is to spend three years in the bush getting circumcised, learning the traditions and ways of the elders and returning to the village after successfully hunting down a full-grown male lion with nothing but a spear in a group of 30-40 pledges: The Warrior Initiation (and I thought getting my light-blue belt in Shorin Rio was tough).

“We must bring back the mane, teeth and claws to prove that we have killed it,” Jack said.

In his hut I was offered pombe, the beer made from the fruit of the sausage tree mixed with sugar and other herbs, fermented for five days by the fire in a milk can in the kitchen section of the hut (really it was the everything section: bed, lounge,goat, kitchen).

“Our main diet is cow’s blood and milk,” he continued. “We make a small incision in the cow’s neck, collect a litre of blood and then, using a leather strap, we seal the wound and the cow continues to survive and provide.”

I wasn’t about to volunteer to taste cow’s blood. The pombe was harsh enough. After a full mug thanks to the two tourists who couldn’t down more than a sip, I was already feeling tipsy.

P1030745I traded my Tanzanian Massai blanket with an elder who had admired the pattern. I felt proud to be bestowed such an honour (although the creamy, crusty stain looked suss. It did come out in the wash).

The Maasai are all about jewellery and trinkets and before we left, I was convinced to trade my shirt for a necklace with what appeared to be the tooth of a  large carnivore. I suspected lion.

“What is it?” I asked Jack.

“Olive wood,” he attempted a straight face.

“Of course it is,” I placed it around my neck, cementing Jack’s claim of  my Maasaianism.

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AGPaddling up a creek with a paddle

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