I love my hut in Loglogo. The roof and sides of the hut are constructed by curved branches, lashed with jute and twine, and covered with the ever-present relief food bags and cardboard. Then the roof is finished on the outside with burlap bags and the inside is covered with large colorful cloths that are lightweight enough to let the breeze in. This morning my first job is to find my malaria pills – I was too tired last night to search for them.
Before Kura leaves for Marsabit, we go over to the town to visit the new butchery group business, a business of four women and one man. They slaughter goats in a rotating schedule with the two other butcheries in town, receiving 500 to 600 shillings in profit per goat and paying 200 shillings per day for the rent of the building and the scales. The women also sell potatoes and diesel in the market. But when we arrive, only Ilo Kimogol, the sole man in the group, is working at the butchery, and as I want to visit with the women we agree that I will come back later in the day.
On the way back, we pick up my best friend in Loglogo, Amina Rage. I first met Amina when we were working on our initial attempt at a beading project: she made beaded birds with beautiful detail. Amina made an impression on me because the only words she knows in English is “I fought the British!” Amina is 81 years old, hennas her hair, never asks me for a thing and brings me gifts – usually some boiled eggs and a small bag of salt. Last night she heard we were coming to town and so today she has baked me a cake. We bring Amina back to the camp and share the cake and some tea. I have always wanted to get the details of this fiery woman’s life and so we agree to meet later in the day so that her daughter can translate.
Meisiau Group sells diesel, maize, beans and scratch cards for the mobile phones that do not work in Loglogo (people travel to a network location about 10 km away). Their secretary, Nadungkura, showed me their record book. While we were discussing the business, an old man barged into the hut, demanding that I give him money for food. Semeji, always by my side, diplomatically ushered him out and stood guard outside against further interruptions. Nadungkura told me, “Mama Rungu, if you had given this money to just one person, they would have eaten it alone. When we are a group, we encourage each other and everyone is trying their level best. With the group, it makes it more active and it is being monitored by everybody.”
We heard the same thing from one of the members of the Nailiapu Group of women. The business brought this group of widows and child mothers together on the edge of town. It is not hard to see that their conditions are much more desperate. Mwalimu told me that before she relied on her brother’s wife for food but now they have enough money to buy good food – not just maize but beans as well. And they can have more than one cup of tea and it now has sugar in it. “Mama Rungu, we share ideas and it has brought us together. We are active and it is building our relationships. We are becoming close friends.”
Aleya and I visited almost all of the groups in the village and retreated to Isgargaro before it got too hot. The women served cabbage and rice for lunch and a few bits of goat meat for the men. Then Semeji and I walked back into town. It is so nice to be able to walk through Loglogo. This is not always easy in some villages as the men and the older women tend to be aggressive in their begging. But Loglogo is comfortable; I pass people I know and share greetings and smiles. The children follow me singing “mzungu, mzungu!”
I spend an hour with Amina Rage and her two granddaughters. Naisibo has finished secondary school but Shankaron, her younger sister, has been sent home because she could not pay the school fees. Shankaron is impressive because unlike most young women in the region, she looks you in the eye and shakes your hand.
Amina Rage’s story is a story of Kenya. Her father was a great Rendille chief who fought to keep the ancestral lands of the Rendille out of the hands of the raiding Borans. He was killed in a battle fighting the Borans and everyone in the room points to the spot where he was shot. This is obviously a story that is told often. Amina’s husband was Somali and he worked as a policeman for the British in Marsabit, eventually being one of the guards for Jomo Kenyatta, the man who would become the first President of Kenya. Amina’s husband was eventually fired by the British, and she and her husband joined the protests in Marsabit. “Mama Rungu, when that British started killing our people, I took a machete and went into this British office and attacked him. His arm was no good after that.”
Back at Isgargaro, we wait for Kura. Aleya sets me up with a plug into the solar-power system so that I can use my computer to enter notes and the data we have collected. I sit comfortably at a desk in a room that is used at night for the shepherd’s classes that provide an elementary education for children who must be out herding during the day. Kura returns with the repaired Gumps, and we spend the rest of the night packing and preparing for our crossing of the Kaisut Desert tomorrow.