August 19, 1991

First Trip to Kamakwie


Our practicums begin today and will last throughout the next two weeks. Actually, today we just spent the morning watching our coordinators present lectures. They've somehow bribed students to be here to listen to the lectures.

I sent a pretty long narrative to my parents describing the site visit experience. I wish I could photocopy some things to send. Anyway, the trip there was quite an interesting experience. We showed up at the lorry park on Wednesday morning at about 8:40. We were some of the first Kamakwie road travelers, and the transport won't leave until it is full. Shortly after 11:00 AM, this truck about the size of a VW bus had ~23 people, 12 bags of flour, and 5 bags of rice. Breathing was usually possible, but movement was a precious commodity. During the journey on (literally) one of the worst roads in the world, we were searched by the military, ran out of gas, blew a radiator hose, walked up a treacherous hill, and arrived in a rainstorm in the dark. The 55 mile trip took a little over 8 hours.

But getting to Kamakwie seems to be the worst part -- the city seems to be a cool place. The principal (who nobody seems to like) gave me a warm reception and treated me very well. I had an American meal at the mission compound and a tour of the hospital. I drank palm wine and talked about politics with a bunch of guys. I listened to Aretha Franklin and drank whisky shots (ugh) with the principal. I got to see my empty and desolate house, but I stayed in the house of a vacationing Volunteer -- Rob. I hired my houseboy -- Abu. Jeanne (she and I seem to be developing a genuine dislike for each other) travelled back yesterday with another Volunteer who has a vehicle at the national park -- Pam. That only took 4 hours, the "normal" amount of time in good conditions.

I hope it doesn't take too long to adjust, because I can get really depressed sometimes. I don't foresee any real problems, but I am following a legacy of heroic Volunteers in Kamakwie. I'll have my hands full just trying to find my place and meet expectations. Anyway, I'm sure I'm equal to the task.

Haven't heard from you for a couple weeks. The mail system is a real thorn in the side. Anyway, more next week.

Love, Mark