Kura will stay back with the Business Mentors in Isiolo while I return to Nairobi to meet the Dining for Women (DFW) safari group. It does not take long for the jarring hip hop music to start up while I wait for Kura to join me for breakfast on the verandah of the hotel. We review the training that he will do with the Mentors while I am gone, as well as his plans for the presentation that the Mentors will make to the DFW group at our lodge in Samburu.
While we eat, a group of about 12 people sit down for breakfast and Kura recognizes a few of them. One of the women comes over to say hello; she is one of the leaders of the Isgargaro Women’s group in Loglogo. She explains that they are a group of teachers from the north who are here for a capacity building seminar with the Ministry of Education. “What kinds of things do they teach you?” I ask her. “Oh, we learn how to write reports and make requests to the Ministry,” she replies. “And do they have money for the student’s books?” She looks at me quizzically and perhaps with a touch of guilt. When she walks away, Kura says to me, “What a waste. The students have so many needs yet they bring teachers down here all the time for these capacity building events. They put them up in hotels and pay for meals and teas, while the students in the north suffer.”
There are numerous capacity building organizations in Nairobi and some of them provide critical funding to grassroots organizations like BOMA. We, however, do not require their services for capacity building, so it did not take us long to learn that it is unlikely that we could ever secure funding for our work helping women create their own businesses.
I have hired a matatu to take me back to Nairobi, typically a 14-passenger mini-van taxi that is the staple of transport in Kenya. A lone white woman in a matatu raises all kinds of eyebrows and we are stopped at every police checkpoint between Isiolo and Nairobi. When we reach Nairobi, the military security that polices the street where the Fairview Hotel and the Israeli Embassy adjoin, stop our vehicle; it takes the head of security of the Fairview, who recognizes me, to approve a matatu access to the Fairview parking lot. Once into my room, my whole body slumps with relief. I am back in that bubble of the tourist safari life where everything is clean and safe, the food is plentiful and water flows. I have endured just one week of life that is common for many Kenyans. It is the shortest amount of time I have ever spent in the north and I regret our hurried pace, but I have donors to meet and funding that needs to be secured.
That night I meet the first of the DFW passengers; the balance of the group arrives the following night, four without luggage. During the day, I have a number of meetings, including one final meeting with Equity Bank for an interview and the presentation of my passport in person. I also have my photograph taken. Despite my concerns, the whole experience with Equity was efficient and friendly. I am proud to now be a member of Equity, as bank customers are referred to, which will allow BOMA to use online banking and debit cards.
The next morning, we push the DFW safari group with an early departure, as we want to get out of the city before rush hour. William, my head driver/guide, will take us on a detour that will avoid most of the construction on the roads going north out of the city. Eutychus, manning the safari office back in the city, is in constant contact with us as there are concerns that the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu, our next destination, is rising quickly, and we may not be able to reach Samburu Lodge. I check in with Kura, who is supposed to be on the other side of the river with the Mentors in Archer’s Post, but fortunately he and all but one Mentor are on the southern banks. He tells me, “Mama Rungu, you cannot cross, the river is over the bridge. Cars, lorries, refrigerators, even elephants, are coming down the river. We are standing here and people are trying to walk across but it is too dangerous.”
The Mentors join us for a game drive, a first experience for many of them. We intersperse the Mentors with the DFW group and I drive Gumps with Semeji, Brown and her children. The mentors are anxious to see a lion up close but all we see are many of the animals that they are very familiar with – unique species of the north like the Grevy Zebra, Gerenuk antelope and Somali Ostriches.
Kura returns the Mentors to Isiolo for the night and comes back to join us for dinner. After the group has gone to bed, Kura and I stay up late making plans. Shortly before 11 p.m., I get a call from Semeji. Teresa, our Business Mentor from Loiyangalani, has been arrested in Isiolo. She was stopped by a policeman, failed to produce an ID card, and is now going to jail. Kura tells Semeji to “pay the policeman 500 shillings, tomorrow Mama Rungu will pay you back.” By midnight Teresa is free.