Yearly Archives: 2014

Kenya – How it all started

I first came to Kenya in 2007 as a volunteer to work in an orphanage in western Kenya. I was 19 years old back then and full of enthusiasm and motivation to help others. Soon I started to realize that “helping” wasn’t that easy and that sometimes “help” wasn’t even wanted. In the orphanage I didn’t really know what to do but to play with the kids. I mean – what do I know that the kenyan women working there don’t know? I was a 19 year old Austrian who had just finished school. I had no idea how to wash 100 baby underpants with only little water in a basin on the floor. I had no idea how to cook Ugali for a hundred kids because first of all: WHAT IS Ugali? and second of all: I wouldn’t even have the strength in my arms to prepare Ugali for so many people. (Ugali is a dish of maize flour cooked with water to a dough-like consistency)

I have to be honest… until today I am struggling with the question what kind of “help” is really useful and if it is actually wanted. Of course it depends on the situation but I think the only thing “we” (the people from the so called “first world”) can do is to support people in education and give them the opportunity to find a way to care for themselves and become independent from external support.

This is a very very delicate subject and I have made the experience that whatever opinion you have, there is always someone criticizing it because people are still fighting over what is the right approach.

I’ve never intended to do this project the way it is today. In the beginning I only wanted to pay school fees for Benta but then there was just so much more to do. This project happened because I was so personally involved with the lives of those kids and I wanted to make a change. I didn’t want to see them suffer anymore so I had to do something. I am happy that I could help them and that they can live a peaceful and healthy life. Some people might say what I do is only like a drop in the bucket but I prefer a drop than just sitting here and waiting for other people “to do something”.

In my blog you will find texts that I’ve written during the whole procedure of becoming the legal guardian of the children. Many  crazy things happened back then.
So if you’re interested in how we managed to build up our project you will find stories about that on that page. Unfortunately many of them are written in German language but I am going to upload some English stories very soon.

Fernweh

Have you ever felt this deep pain of missing a place that is far away? Not necessarily because you don’t like life at home but because your inner spirit tells you, you need to be somewhere else? 
It is that longing for diverse culture, a different smell, other people or offbeat streets, variant from what you pick up every ordinary day.

It can get stronger when you pass by an Indian restaurant and the smell of curry goes straight up into your nose. You might feel it when you watch a documentary about the Maasai tribe in Kenya as you hear them sing and see them doing the “jumping dance” in the evening sun of the savannah. All these impressions get deep under your skin until you get goose bumps. It might happen when you enter a Moroccan shop … you smell the leather, hear the Middle Eastern music and get offered a cup of chai. Time might stop for a moment when you bite into that fresh and hot garlic pizza bread and the Italian waiters’ loud laugh makes you feel like you’re in Rome for a second. It could also happen when you walk along a filthy canal that actually stinks… but suddenly that obtrusive smell of salt and fish makes your heart beat stronger and you are thinking of your last visit to the ocean, when you sat there, having a glass of wine and grilled calamari with your beloved..

There is no word in the English language that could possibly describe that deep longing for another place. 
In German we call it “Fernweh”.

“Fernweh” stands for the longing for far-off places. It is the very reverse of the word “Heimweh”, which means “homesickness”. 
The only English word that gets close to what I’m talking about is “wanderlust”. The funny thing is though, that this word too, is German. Wanderlust has a slightly different meaning though. Wanderlust is the impulse to explore and the longing for the act of traveling itself while “Fernweh” is the feeling of missing a place that is far away, no matter how you want to get there or what you want to do there. 
It is also very interesting to wonder about who can actually get Fernweh. Let’s begin with an easier example: do you know what homesickness is if you’ve never been away from home? Not really, right? So I guess feeling the pain of Fernweh is only possible if you have made the experience of being away from home. 
Of course you can also long for a far away place if you’ve never traveled before (I’m thinking of the shepherd in the book “The Alchemist”) but that might rather be curiosity for the unknown instead of that actually pain that you feel when you have Fernweh.
 So both, Homesickness and Fernweh you can only really understand if you have been away from “home” before. One you might experience when you’re on the road, the other one you may get to know after you’ve returned.

So is there a cure for having itchy feet? Of course: leave! Pack your backpack or suitcase and get on a train, a bus, a plane… and if you can’t because you don’t have money (maybe because you are saving for your next big trip) then satisfy your lust for traveling by not going past this Indian restaurant but go inside and enjoy that curry. Find out when the next East African party is happening, shake your hips and meet new people. Drink that chai that has been offered to you and have a nice chat with the shop owners. Sit down, listen to Italian music and read travel magazines or have a look at my website. Dive into it! Don’t be sad that you’re not there.
 Get excited about your next adventure! If you really want it, it will happen soon.

 

 

Kenya 08/2014

In English:

Quite a lot of things happened in Kenya recently. We moved into a new house since our last one was quite expensive and a bit far away from Kisumu City. Now we live near the City Center. The kids don’t have it far to school and also the next supermarket is just around the corner so they don’t have to take a tuktuk or a taxi. This will also help us to save some money..

Hillary finally found a new job where he works under much better conditions than in his previous job. We are all very happy about this.

Little Terry had an operation this month and got her tonsils out. Fortunately she was at a very good hospital and everything went well. She is now at home, feeling much better!

In German / in Deutsch:

Es gibt viel Neues in Kenia. Nachdem unsere letzte Wohnung recht teuer und etwas weit weg vom Stadtzentrum (Kisumu) entfernt war, sind wir nun endlich umgezogen. Die Familie lebt jetzt viel näher am Zentrum der Stadt. Die Kinder haben es nun nicht mehr so weit in die Schule und auch der nächste Supermarkt ist gleich ums Eck. So sparen wir uns langfristig viel Geld für den Transport mit Tuktuk oder Taxi. 

Hillary hat einen neuen Job wo er nun unter viel besseren Bedingungen arbeitet, als in seinem Letzten. Wir sind alle sehr froh darüber. 

Unsere kleine Terry hatte diesen Monat eine Mandeloperation. Gott sei Dank war sie in einem sehr guten Krankenhaus in Kisumu und alles ist gut gegangen. Sie ist jetzt wieder Zuhause und fühlt sich schon viel besser!

 

Bangkok for Backpackers

bangkok_map

Bangkok is a big and impressive city with a lot of things to do and see! Most Backpackers stay in the area “Banglamphu” where you’ll find the famous Khao San Road

Hooting here, flashing lights there, a funny language over there, loud laughter, people selling buckets filled with cocktails, roasted cockroaches on a stick, techno music, so many people and naked skin, grilled chicken, the smell of sweat, jugglers, cheap clothes, cracking wooden frogs, flying toys, ladyboys, loud beats, TVs on the walls of the bars, dancing backpackers, drunken backpackers, pad thai and so much more… 

Khao San Road is crazy and everyone who gets there the first time has a strong reaction. Either it is absolute excitement and fascination or refusal and disgust.

Just around the corner of Khao San is the “Ram Buttri Area”. I like it more to stay in Ram Buttri than directly on Khao San Road since Ram Buttri is a bit more calm. But that really depends on you. Ram Buttri has nice places to stay and good restaurants.

My favourite place to stay though is neither at Khao San nor at Ram Buttri. It is in Tewet, which is about 15 minutes away from Khao San road. (by tuk tuk only about 5 mins) There you will find a beautiful Thai market with almost no tourists and traditional Thai groceries. (that unfortunately also includes turtles, snails, different types of fish and more) For a nice accommodation option check the list below.

„The Club“ on Khao San Road is a loud and crazy indoor nightclub for going out and dancing. Watch your steps since you might step into someones vomit or trip over a person who has passed out.

My advice, although you might be curious: don’t go to Ping Pong Shows. Women there are forced to do awful things and it is not worth supporting this. It is not a fun show, it is really sad. Think about it twice.

The Chatuchak-Market (weekends only) is the biggest market in Thailand and receives about 200.000 visitors a day! You need hours to see everything but you’ll probably get lost anyway and give up. Bring enough drinking water – it can get really hot during the day, especially when you’re walking around non-stop. It is really exhausting.

If you need any electronics, go to „MBK“, a big shopping mall (not far away from Chatuchak-Market). Hundreds of little and big shops, selling anything that has something to do with cameras, phones, etc. They also repair stuff. You can go there by taxi or by train which is quite fun. 

There are different types of taxi boats going along Chao Phraya River and canals (Khlongs). It is not expensive, boats stop at many stations and it’s an adventure.

CAREFUL with offerings by Tuk Tuk drivers. They will tell you that they charge you only 20 Baht (and you think “yaaay good deal!”) and then take you to expensive travel agents or a tailor shops. (Those shops pay them lots of money for doing this so the drivers don’t have to ask you for much). It´s very annoying and you end up at places where you really don’t want to be. When you get a tuk tuk it´s the best when you tell them right away to go to your destination without stopping anywhere. They will beg you to stop at least once but just say no. 
Short distances by Tuk Tuk should not be more than 40 – max. 100 Baht. 100 is quite a lot already. For longer distances take a taxi. Not only because it’s cheaper but then you don’t have to breath in all the smog when you’re stuck in traffic.

If you ever get into any trouble: there is a police station on Khao San Road. You won’t believe how unfriendly people are there. No one is interested in your story and you might have to wait for a long while until someone listens to you. 
If you ever have a problem with Thai people or if you ever are a victim of a scam OR even if you get into trouble with the Thailand Police:
contact the TOURIST POLICE. The phone number is 1155 – nationwide. 

There are some really weird and questionable laws in Thailand such as that police officers are allowed to check your bags on drugs and also check your BODY on drugs (also internally)… they are even allowed to do that on the open street – by LAW! 
If you ever get into a bad situation and you need help call the tourist police (or just threaten them to do so)… 
The tourist police has translators that speak English. 

Temples (Wat): 

Wat Phra Kaeo & Grand Palace: very nice to see – it is a very big compound with lots of things to see. Unfortunately you will also see a million parasols and tourists. It is almost impossible to get a photo with no tourists on it.

Wat Pho (big golden sleeping buddha): is beautiful and not as crowded as the Wat Phra Kaeo & Grand Palace. It is a big, wonderful temple complex.

Wat Saket / Golden Mount: It’s a very nice walk up the mountain (very easy to get up there – not a real “mountain”), there are gongs, bells and statues on the way and when you get to the top you have a beautiful view over Bangkok.

 

WHERE TO STAY?

Four Sons Inn

(Rambuttri Area – 1min from Khao San Road)
Absolutely fine! Room with A/C and TV, private bathroom. Wifi in the room. Clean and affordable. About: single 400/double 550 Baht.

New Merry V Guest House

(Rambuttri Area – 1min from Khao San Road)
Good for when you’re on a very low budget and don’t want to stay in a dorm. Rooms have NOTHING in it – only a fold-up bed. Not even sockets. I think not even blankets or sheets are there. Really tiny room. Fan. No wifi. Shared Bathroom! About 180 Baht (= about 4.50 Euros)

Sabaidee Guest House

(Rambuttri Area – 1min from Khao San Road)
Room with A/C, much more comfortable, table, TV,cupboard, private bathroom, very rude staff, restaurant with shisha downstairs. Shishas come from another shop and are really good. The food is not the best and overpriced. Hotel has wifi (need code from reception) Rooms are about 750 Baht. It’s not the cheapest but really comfortable! Sometimes I like to stay there the night before I leave the country or have a long journey ahead of me to get some good sleep.

They say they have a swimming pool but they don’t… but you can use the pool of their partner-hotel (Cha Cha Villa) near by.

Rambuttri Village

(Rambuttri Area – 1min from Khao San Road)
Have not stayed there but friends have. Ok rooms with aircon and a swimming pool on the roof, nice view. About 800 Baht.

(!) Shanti Lodge

(Ayutthaya Road, Tewet, near Tewet market (must go!), about 4 mins from Khao San Road with Tuktuk (40Baht))
www.shantilodge.com

My favorite place. Beautiful rooms, either shared or private bathrooms, very unique style, restaurant. Wifi. Shared Bathrooms are also pretty. Rooms with shared bathroom rooms are about 400 I think. Otherwise with private bathroom 650 Baht or more. Ask if you can get a room with balcony – they are so beautiful!
There is also a “honeymoon” option on the roof with garden. Very luxury and beautiful!