Slowly the landscape of our surroundings is transforming. It is harvest season. The maze that is created by all the growing maize on the fields, is disappearing day by day. The small corridors and little public spaces it created, are making way for depth and visual contact. Where we would lose our way some weeks ago, we are know able to connect a lot of separate puzzle pieces of the environment that we collected along the weeks. The muddy roads on which cars were sliding like ice skaters is changed into a dry dirt path from which cars leave giant cloud formations of dust. The earth is starting to show little cracks; the clayish soil is drying out. These are all signs that the season is changing from the wet, into the dry period.
On Monday we took a deep dive in the community around the Soita compound. We are currently researching how local housing came to where it is today. This means we’re doing anthropological research on the current architectural situation. We visit families from near surroundings in order to understand the way they are building their houses and why. Sometimes we get fundamental information on the reasons why buildings look the way they look. Sometimes we get to understand what went wrong in the development of local housing. The shape of the local Trans-Nzoian house is transformed by the demands of the users and the arrival of new building materials. The traditional round hut with thatched roof made way for the rectangular structure with a corrugated steel roof. As we are visiting both types of structure we are experiencing our pre-assumptions on the negative development that took place within the building of a house. It is a development out of disparity. Poverty is taking away the peoples options and dreams for a better future. The materials that were locally available and that provided the right solutions for a dwelling that provides protection from the environment made way for imported materials that make the house unbearable on hot days. And Kenya knows a couple of hot days per year. Nonetheless the locals are very hospitable and don’t hesitate to let us in. This day gave us a lot of cultural information and understanding about the local situation and the way the people use their house here.
A visit to one of Cleophas’ best friends gave us a lot of information about local building materials. Their house has the same shape, but it looks much better than the others. Therefor we decide to give them a visit. Filip is not at home but his wife gently strolls towards the gate we just knocked. ‘Hodi’; is the word you use to ask if we could please come in. ‘Karibu’ is the answer you get when you’re welcome. Of course we’re still taking our horde of children when we visit. She explains a lot about what materials they use for the house and where they get them. They are also in need of a new structure and therefor we offer them to come and have a look when we will be constructing the new house of Cleophas. We hope we’ll be seeing them around. It is our task to share the knowledge that is gained within this project with the community as much as possible.
We had an interview this week with the family. We ask them very personal questions on their possessions, income and skills. Things we need to talk about, but delicate information. You have to bare in mind that these people are showing there humble financial situation to a couple of westerners. They don’t seem to have too many problems with it though, and they are amused by the zoning plan we made. We put the spaces of the old building and the spaces they asked for on several pieces of cardboard. We hope they are playing with it as we speak, let’s give them a call tonight to see how this is going. They’re are happy to hear that we’re researching the soil of the compound to see is there is a way we can use it as a building material. This is a complex research though and it will be very time demanding. But if we would be able to show the locals how they could make a building material out of the soil they walk on, this could have an enormous effect. Brenda came home from boarding school today in order to collect her school fees. We took the opportunity to have a nice Githeri lunch together. She told us she is coming home in two weeks, like her older sister Mercy. This is wonderful news, because they would both be able to help with building, and we would be happy to develop with them the way that is built here.
We ended the week with a field trip to West-Pokot, a province a bit north of Trans-Nzoia. It’s a pretty long drive for just one night, but it was worth it. We stayed at a hostel near a river. The river was drying out and the temperature was very different from what we’re used to on the mountain. It didn’t cool off in the night, and the temperature was extremely high on the daytime. Nature here is mostly untouched in this part of Kenya. And also the way of building is a bit different than where we live at the moment. We hope the pictures will tell this story for us, some things are better explained through images.
And as time passes, many plates of Githeri have been consumed, conversations are going more and more towards the unavoidable urge to visit the big bad M..