Unasema Kiingereza? (Parles-tu anglais?)

L’un des plus grands défis du travail à l’étranger est sans nul doute la barrière linguistique. Comment travailler ensemble si l’on ne partage pas une langue commune? Ce genre de situation risque d’engendrer un cul-de-sac pour l’avancement de tout projet. Quel soulagement, pourrait-on se dire, que l’anglais soit la langue « officielle » du Kenya! Ainsi, l’on peut aisément communiquer avec la majeure partie des habitants en anglais… ce qui est vrai pour les centres urbains.

La réalité rurale n’est pas aussi simple pour le voyageur en herbe. En effet, sur les fermes des petits villages dans lesquels nous travaillons, nous croisons quotidiennement des personnes qui ne parlent que kikuyu et swahili, et encore… Il n’est pas rare que nous devions interagir avec quelqu’un qui ne comprenne pas autre chose que sa langue maternelle, soit celle de sa tribu (la tribu kikuyu est l’ethnie dominante dans la région); quoique l’on observe de plus en plus de jeunes gens qui sont allés à l’école pour y acquérir les bases de l’anglais, sinon une maîtrise bien supérieure à celle de nombreux Québécois. Cependant, peu importe leur bagage linguistique, nous sommes toujours accueillis par une salutation cordiale et un grand sourire.

La maîtrise d’une langue dans toutes ses subtilités n’est possible qu’au bout de longues années de pratique soutenue. Or, pour le projet de recherche sur lequel nous travaillons, il est essentiel de bien saisir les détails du discours des fermiers que nous interrogeons pour que nos données soient aussi fidèles à la réalité que possible. Le travail de notre traductrice Priscilla est donc indispensable. Il ne faut toutefois pas oublier que même le meilleur des traducteurs agit parfois comme filtre, omettant ce qu’il considère sans pertinence, risquant de nous faire manquer un détail des propos ou l’incertitude dans la voix de l’interlocuteur, ce qui nous empêche de répondre en conséquence. Heureusement, Shepelo parvient la majeure partie du temps à communiquer en swahili avec les fermiers – avec parfois une brève intervention en kikuyu de la part de Godfrey, notre chauffeur – et s’assure ainsi qu’ils ont réellement compris la question ou les recommandations.

Les Kényans sont enchantés d’entendre un étranger parler leur langue. Aussi se place-t-on immédiatement dans leur bonnes grâces lorsqu’on bredouille quelques mots en swahili. Les adultes rient avec nous de notre lenteur et de notre prononciation parfois incorrecte. Les enfants, quant à eux, lorsque je me présente en swahili avec une phrase complète, ouvrent de grands yeux ébahis, se tortillent de gêne en se présentant à leur tour ou rigolent et courent chercher un adulte pour lui montrer la prouesse de l’étranger sachant enchaîner sujet, verbe et complément dans une autre langue que l’anglais. Et quand un groupe d’enfants timides se tiennent ensemble et veulent passer un commentaire secret, ils se mettent à chuchoter en kikuyu, oubliant dans cette pudeur enfantine que même s’ils parlaient à voix haute, je ne pourrais pas saisir leurs paroles.

Certains gamins s’adressent directement à nous avec un « How are you » suraigu. Sans doute notre accent est-il perçu comme nasillard, alors ils croient que de modifier ainsi leur voix est la manière la plus appropriée de nous parler… ou ils prennent un plaisir sans malice à taquiner les wazungu (ce qui est plus probable).

L’autre jour, une fermière me reprochait de ne pas parler swahili. « You must! » déclara-t-elle. Je répondis que nous comprenions chacune trois langues : kikuyu, swahili et anglais pour elle, français, roumain et anglais pour moi; l’anglais pouvait peut-être nous servir de terrain d’entente. Elle rit de bon cœur et acquiesça, voyant que je n’étais pas nécessairement ignare.

 

 

Afin de pouvoir interagir davantage avec ce peuple qui m’accueille, je me suis mis à apprendre quelques mots en swahili – plus que « bonjour », « merci » et « bienvenu ». L’organisme Farmers Helping Farmers nous a prêté un livret de phrases en swahili pour faciliter la communication… et je traîne religieusement ma copie avec moi à tous les jours. La première fois que Kamau (un de nos collègues de Wakulima Dairy Ltd.) m’a vu lire quelques règles de grammaire, il s’exclama avec une gaieté non dissimulée : « You’re learning Kiswahili! » Oui bon. Je savais alors compter jusqu’à 4. Une semaine plus tard, Kamau me demanda si j’avais fini d’apprendre ce qui était inscrit dans mon livret. Je lui demandai d’être réaliste; un tel exploit n’était pas humainement possible. J’ai tout de même fait un peu de progrès. Je peux désormais saisir une infime partie de la conversation entre Shepelo et les fermiers (surtout lorsque certains mots anglais s’y glissent, tels que « mastitis »), je peux dire moi-même que le lait testé lors du CMT est bon, je peux souhaiter bonne nuit à Francis, quand il se retire dans ses quartiers… et je sais compter jusqu’à 29, ce qui est suffisant pour demander aux enfants leur âge.

Et puis, lorsque les mots échouent, on peut toujours compter sur les gestes, le regard et l’expression faciale. La joie qui se peint dans le visage de mes interlocuteurs lorsque je déploie tous les efforts possibles pour communiquer – soit quand je baragouine en gesticulant – vaut cent fois les difficultés que nous avons parfois à nous comprendre et, malgré ces dernières, nous ne perdons jamais le sourire.

 

Geneviève C. L.

Well another couple weeks have passed with many cows examined, many hands shaken, many stories exchanged and many memories made. It’s hard to believe an entire month has gone by and only two remain. At the beginning three months seemed like endless amounts of time and yet now it seems to pass by so quickly.

Since my last post Jen and I did manage to enrol all the remaining farms before the end of June for a total of 36 farms. It was a very busy and exciting week. Oftentimes we found ourselves driving from one corner of the region to another as we visited new farms, returned to farms that had calved and revisited farms that had already calved previously. We certainly gained a great deal of clinical experience performing yet more physical exams and withdrawing jugular blood samples from all the newborn calves. Since neither Jen nor I have had much experience with the technique before it was awkward and frustrating at first to hold off the vein while manuveering the needle into a comfortable position to hit he vein. However, with patience, and help from the farmers to restrain the calf, we became very proficient and for the last few calves it took us only one attempt. Once I even had an audience of 15 children peering over my shoulder as we collected the sample. That time there were a number of gasps when the needle was inserted and the vacuum container filled with blood. Eventually these blood samples will be sent off to a lab and tested for plasma protein and selenium concentration. It is theorised that failure of passive transfer of immunoglobulins is a large contributing factor to high pre-weaning calf mortality rates here. Unfortunately we experienced a couple such mortalities in our study. We sadly have lost four of our calves despite our best efforts – two perished within hours of birth while the remaining two were weak from the beginning, one being a month premature and the other having a very sick mother during gestation. While it represents a complication for the project I feel the greater concern here is the loss to the farmer. As for many of them these animals make up their livelihood I can only imagine the disappointment they must feel. Hopefully, we will not encounter any more deaths over the course of the project.

Fortunately there have been some successes to balance out the misfortunes. For a number of our farms the milk production is increasing up to 20L (for Kenyans cows this is a very good yield). In addition a number of the farmers have taken our recommendations regarding cow comfort and housing to heart and have made improvements to their structures- cleaning them out, providing dry bedding and adjusting stall parameters to match the cow’s requirements. It is rewarding to see such efforts being made towards improvement and I commend these farmers for their hard work and dedication.

In more cheerful news Jen and I have now been joined by Silvia and Pauline from the University of UPEI. Pauline is a third year student enrolled in the veterinary program and Silvia is a graduate student who will in fact be using the data we collect for her master’s project. It seems that the University of Nairobi has the only veterinary program in Kenya, although that could change in the next couple of years. We are curious to hear more about how their veterinary program compares to our own and to share experiences with them in the field. We are glad to have them both as part of the project and as roommates at the house. They provide wonderful company and their skill and knowledge has been invaluable thus far both on the farm and in terms of getting around and getting to know Kenya.

So far we have had quite a few little adventures on the farms and in between. For instance just this week we encountered a bit of car trouble on the way to one of our farms. One of the taxi drivers we have been using, Fredrick, is perhaps the sweetest and most content individual I know but his car is quite the character; it must be at least 30-40 years old and looks like it’s had a few rough times. Furthermore it is a standard. Given the uneven and bumpy roads here I am amazed the car has survived this long. Anyways one of the farms Pauline and I visited this week was at the bottom of a big hill. Once we finished we climbed into the vehicle and Fredrick made a gentle attempt to climb the hill. We made it only about halfway and at that point the car puttered to a stop. We put it in neutral and slid back down. Then Fredrick shifted up a couple gears, revved the engine, floored the gas pedal and we tore up the hill for the second time. This time we made it about 2/3 of the way before we lost momentum and all upwards progress. Again we put the car in neutral and backed down the hill. I was sure the third time would do it as we backed an extra 100m to gain more speed but yet again after a mad dash the car just couldn’t manage the ascent. Pauline and I climbed out of the car to try and push it up the remaining 200m but the car would not budge! Five strangers walking along the road noticed our struggle and put down their bundles to throw their weight against the car as well. Still it would not move! Fredrick decided to try one more time climbing up the hill without us in it. So we watched him back up yet again, heard the roar of the engine and watched his poor car bump and bounce up the slope. This time he made it! However as Pauline and I approached the car to get back in we could not help but notice that the exhaust pipe was hanging little lose from the rear end. When we finished at the next farm Fredrick was closing the hood of his car and wouldn’t you know it, but the exhaust can was sitting in the back! Poor car…

Another of our farms is also located at the bottom of a hill bordered by a school yard. Don’t worry Fredrick’s car did not suffer any further abuse on this hill. Rather Jen and I had a rather unique experience. This last week as we finished our work and climbed the hill back to the car the children from the school were at recess. Whenever Jen and I go out we are often the subjects of curious looks from children who often giggle and whisper as we pass by or shout “muzungo” and wave energetically. Anyways as we climbed the hill, I waved to a group of children and shouted a greeting before turning to take a picture nearby. I heard shouting behind me and when I turned back around suddenly I was swarmed by a hundred children, smiling from ear to ear with hands extended and whispering “how are you”. I must have shaken at least 50 hands (some more than once) and exchanged many more greetings before we finally waved goodbye and ventured onto the next farm. Never before (and maybe never again) have I seen so many individuals so excited to meet me.

Last week Jen and I also ventured into the market of Murkurweini for the first time accompanied by Sylvia and Pauline. I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air and exertion of the leisurely45 minute walk along the side of the road although I must say the cars oftentimes drive a little closer to the shoulder than I’d like. In fact it seems to be common practice here to drive wherever is most convenient on the road- whether that be on the opposite side or halfway into the shoulder! Anyways, we made it to town intact and strolled through the market, admiring the fresh fruit displays and sorting through piles of fabric and clothing. I think a good deal of the clothing is imported as I saw more than one familiar label such as Old Navy and Columbiana. I was very surprised to encountered winter jackets and toques amongst the mounds of clothing. They claim this 20-25 ᵒC weather is their cool season. Jen and I find are quite comfortable in t-shirts and capris but we cannot help but note the large number of children walking to school with wool toques and men on motorcycles in huge heavy jackets. How ironic would that be to buy my winter jacket and toque in Kenya!

We have also ventured into Karatina by local transport (matatu) for market day. One of our taxi drivers was telling me it is one of the largest outdoor markets in all of Africa (not sure how accurate that is). Pauline is form around Karatina so she was able to find us the best stores to gather supplies for the following week and then she took us through the market area. There certainly was a vast array of stalls displaying everything from clothing, to shoes, to electronics. Jen and I both bought a couple brightly coloured head scarves to wear on the farms. I think I’ll have to work on my bartering skills and my kukuyu before we return again though. When we grew tired of shopping and wandering around Pauline took us to visit a restaurant run by her brother. He warmly greeted us and welcomed us in. At first I was a little hesitant to order simply because I didn’t know how it was prepared and I feared that I might get sick afterwards. However the restaurant seemed very clean and respectable so Jen and I both ordered a meat pie. I must say it was delicious (for the record I did not get sick either!) and the the service was excellent. We will definitely be returning there before the summer is finished.

I think that about wraps it up for now,

Morgan

Crazy Monday

Jessica and I continue to be very busy. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete all of our work. This past week we continued with our monitoring of the beneficiaries of the new and old groups and started looking for goats to sell. We also purchased locks as incentives for people to have well built goat pens (only those that meet the standards will receive a lock). However, to those people that are trying hard to build pens but are struggling, we will provide them with nails to help give them a start. The one problem we have found is that some widows keep their goats in their house for fear of theft, since they have no defense. The goats are more protected but we will need to come up with a better solution so that the goats are not sharing the same living space as the people!

Many of the more established parishes are doing quiet well. Many women have made businesses out of their goats and are prospering! However, we have come across many problems with disease such as sudden death, diarrhea and abortions in the goats. We are trying hard to deal with these problems which will required mass vaccination, further education and training and improvements in management and husbandry of these goats. We are also doing further blood tests on the goats and trying to get a brucella vaccine into the country which will be quite a challenge.

This past Friday was a national holiday (Martyr Day) so after a 1/2 day of work, we escaped to a hotspot in Uganda -Lake Bunyoni. We did use public transit which is always an adventure in itself. However, it was well worth it once we reached the lake. We had a very relaxing 2 days swimming in the lake, hiking and canoeing out of hand carved trees (also called the muzungu corkscrew because the whites seems to go around in circles rather than row straight because the canoes and paddles are very different). We also visited a nearby orphanage to meet the children and spend some time with them.

I am glad we had a relaxing weekend after Mondays fiasco! Tugume Anthony is an 8 year old boy suffering from a bone infection in his right leg. When my sister Leanne was here in 2008 she helped him gain access to medical treatment (he was one of the beneficiaries children). Tugume has had many surgeries and 3 years later, he is still suffering intermittently with much pain, fever and swelling of his leg. He was on antibiotics this past weekend with no improvement so Jess and I took him for a recheck. We had to go to the hospital and then to the diagnostic center for a radiograph. Everything was going smoothly until the drive back. We had to be parked on an inclining hill when the car lost function of all of the breaks (including the emerg break). The car was put in reverse and I was unable to gain control as it was rolling backwards. We hit a motorcycle (but fortunately no one was on it) and I managed to gain control before we rolled/smucked into the medical center. It was a very scary moment for all of us, including Tugume and his mother but fortunately no one was hurt! We had breaks one moment and then NONE the next! Fortunately the mechanic was near buy and he came to us, picked up the car and replaced all of the breaks, checked the breaklines etc within the same day! We used bodas and taxis to get Tugume and his mother home safely. I sure hope we never have to experience that again! Here’s hoping the rest of the weeks runs smoothly.

Cheers,

Laura and Jessica

Welcome to the Vets without Borders blog.

Welcome to the Vets without Borders blog.

Veterinarians without Borders / Vétérinaires sans Frontières – Canada is a charitable organization with a mission to work for, and with, communities in need to foster the health of animals, people, and the environments that sustain us. We have a number of international development projects around the world and this blog will bring you stories from the field.