Sunday, April 10, 2011

Africa Teaches

Some thoughts between trips ...

A US teacher friend of mine suggested that my African friends might be better equipped for life (survival) than the rest of us who luxuriate here in the western world.  Interesting thought.  Any idea how well you'd do in similar circumstances?

For perhaps most people in the world, building a house is something they do themselves, maybe as a family project.  How many of us could do as well?

Here, dad oversees the construction project his daughter and new husband have undertaken; a simple house on the lot next to his.  They buy materials as they can afford them and hand-carry them to the site.

Simple chores like laundry are handled as needed; perhaps at the nearest river, if there is one.

Dishes and cooking utensils often travel the same route, or are washed at home with water they carried there for the purpose.  Here, the youngest sister has dish duty today.  She almost smiled for the camera.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Work for Kenyans; try this on for size

"Do you use blocks like these for construction in the US?"  Abdul is curious about how things are done elsewhere.  "These are quarried stone blocks from the coral bedrock here on the coast."  When I asked how, "We cut them by hand; if we had machines, they'd be straight," he explains along with the fact that manual labor in the construction industry pays around $6 a day.

The land is hard here, literally.  It was a huge coral bed long ago; now it's just rock ground.

It takes a lot of work to build; when you do the septic, you have to dig down to the water layer.  By hand.  About 10 meters.

Employers have rules about equipping their folks with boots and helmets, but they just pay bribes to municipal officials so they don't have to. 

Helmet-less and in sandals, this worker moves the cut stone blocks, cement, all by hand.  Note the scaffolding; enough to make an OSHA inspector faint.

Employers are required by law to provide benefits for workers they employ longer than 6 months.  Health insurance, retirement, standard wages.  So they don't employ anyone for more than a few weeks at a time which leads to underemployment for a large portion of the population.

Kenya is among the more corrupt countries in the world.  On average, an urban Kenyan will pay 16 bribes a month according to a 2005 estimate.