Timothy Lees’ Diary
Tidal Forests of Kenya

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August 2, 2009: More ground truthing, village lunch and dinner

Desert patch Today we went out to do some more ground truthing. Our team’s location was more like desert area, since this was closer inland and in the direction of the main road. The temperature was quite hot which made work somewhat stressing, but we managed to find shade here and there to save us from totally feeling the heat. We came across an almost barren patch in the forest which totally gave a dessert appearance. After ground truthing we went back to the village to wash up for the village lunch prepared by the Gazi Women’s Group. We were to have lunch in the old ruins. The ruins are said to be remnants of a castle which belonged to one of the last Omani sultans to Palace lunch rule Kenya from which slaves, products from the plantations and wood from the mangroves were exported, primarily to Zanzibar. The building had been neglected for many years after the war and was used as the location of one of Gazi’s first schools. The Gazi Women’s Group has plans to renovate it and turn it into a museum and to maintain a bit of history within the village. After the lunch we went Fishers into the lab to finish up some more data entry and lab work. After the lab work  we had some extra time to spare so Ray and myself decided to take a walk down the beach. The local fishermen were coming in with their catch and the villagers were bargaining on prices. At 7 that evening Ray and I gave a short presentation about ourselves. Later, it was time for us to have dinner with members of the village. We were split up into five groups of two each. Dr.Skov, Michael and myself were in one group. We were invited to have dinner at the home of Mama Salim (Salim is the name of her first born son), one of the elderly women in the Dinner village. She reminded me of my grandmother somewhat in the way she smiled and talked. Her son and granddaughter were present. Zulekha acted as our interpreter and was the representative on behalf of the Gazi Women’s Group. The meal was prepared by the Gazi Women’s Group and then distributed to the homes we were sent to. We had Pilaf as the main dish and a sweetened treat made of maize flour balls. As is the tradition with guests who come to dinner, the guests have to eat first till full and then the hosts will eat. This was new to me, and only after we pleaded with her for a while did Mama Salim agree to eat. After dinner we talked about village life and she explained that it had not really changed much since she was a girl. I asked her if the village had any ghost stories or legends, she smiled bright and said that there were a few of people not seen but that she wouldn’t go into it now. One remark that was funny was when she said that the kerosene from the lamp would run out because we (especially me) were doing more talking than eating and she would have to go to the store to buy more. After saying our goodnights to the family of Mama Salim we went back to the house and caught up with the others and talked about what it was like at the other houses. It was funny to find out that the others hadn’t ever used their hands to eat before, and hear about the stunts that followed that experience.

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