Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Middle of the World

This was taken today. I was so excited when we drove by that I asked the driver to turn around and go back. It just seemed like one of those moments you should capture.
Sorry it's been quiet this week online. Offline, I can assure you, has been anything but. However, it's probably not that interesting to write each day about meetings, car rides, missed meals and water tanks, so I thought I'd bring you a recap towards the end of my trip (and before my free day with my co-workers this weekend before my flight, bound to be more interesting for you at least). I spent my first few days here in Nairobi - first an all-day staff retreat with our local office and then in some meetings with potential collaborators and my U.S. co-workers (funny you have to leave the office to actually get time to talk sometimes).
Yesterday we headed to Myeri to visit one of the branch offices of one of our microfinance partners to see how they were doing with lending for water and sanitation. After meeting with their staff, we headed to the field to visit four of their borrowers.Three of them had borrowed money to buy a water tank to store water, since the local water service in the rural areas only supplies two hours of service three days a week, and the other had borrowed to build a toilet behind her home. (The photo above was taken next to her house.) We complete a survey with each borrower to track how the program is doing and what their experience was like with the loan.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and then out to a hotel (which seems to be interchangeable for restaurant and sleeping place in Kenya and India) called the White Rhino. It was interesting - my salad that was to come with cheese had pineapple in it's place - and not really photo-worthy. It was, however, nice to have a meal together with all my colleagues (three from the U.S. and two from Kenya). After an evening of catching up on email, sleep and (finally for me) a hot shower, we woke up to head out to see a few more borrowers.
One of the borrowers had just purchased two plots of land to build a house, raise goats and cows, and build a home. The next loan she took out was to build this toilet (pictured above) which is under construction. A 25 foot pit was dug and then a concrete slab was poured over it, the little white cup in the far right corner is to keep a vent open so she can have a "VIP latrine." This type of latrine is a pit latrine with a pipe ventilating the inside (once the surrounding super structure is built); the pipe helps with the insects and smells inside the structure and is healthier and more pleasant for the user. The wood in the middle is forming the hole where the toilet itself is. Now you know! :)
The hillside of Myeri, Kenya.
After our visits, which took awhile due to the windy, bumpy dirt roads, we headed to our next destination - Meru, Kenya. On our way, as you can see at the top of this post, we stopped on the equator. I was a total nerd and took a million pictures. Now, I am sitting in my hotel room, waiting for the other car of my colleagues to arrive and then we'll probably get some dinner. Thanks for stopping by!

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