Mother Africa’s Daughters


IN a basic, barren Kenyan playground, with the odd splashes and sploshes of colour, sits a big toy train emblazoned with the words “the fun starts here.” At first glance, it’s an overly optimistic sign on a thirsty piece of land which trades primarily in dreams. But it’s a story which dates back to 2007 when a group of nine mums with disabled children rented a space in an African town to start a school for their kids. Outcasts, and struggling due to their children’s challenges, one year later, these African mamas started a small factory with the aim of earning a living, many of them single after their husbands abandoned them.

By 2013, they had opened a café, one year later, the factory moved out of town and, like the herb garden they’ve planted outside this flavoursome food stop, the Ubuntu Café and factory is now flourishing. These days, the Ubuntu Café not only serves organic food but its adjacent shop sells canvas shoes, wine bags, leather totes and other items sewn by the women. The next project is to move the school to the land to cater for about 60 kids with special needs.

Join a G Adventures National Geographic Journeys Kenya Safari experience and you can experience exclusive access to the women at the Ubuntu Café. Situated near Mai Mahiu, 45km west of Nairobi, G Adventures’ guests can visit the craft centre and meet some of the original mums behind the project, such as Alice.
“We started without knowing anything about what we are all about, “Alice says.
“We came up with the idea of buying a manual machine. We did not know how to work the machine, we did not make anything because we did not know how to sew.
“Our teacher started showing us how to make small bags. We continued working with the bags so we became perfect. The day we earned money everybody in the community learned about it because never before had we earned money.
“Sometimes we would eat, sometimes we don’t. Nowadays I expect to always eat because I earn money. Now, we are experts.”
On the journey to Ubuntu, G Adventures Chief Experience Officer and my guide, George Njuguna Mwaura, says women have not always fared well under Kenyan laws with three sets of laws ruling the land. There’s African traditional laws, religious laws and statutory laws which override all others. But while female genital mutilation is illegal under statutory laws, it is still considered acceptable under African traditional law.
“If I tell you they didn’t still do it, I would be lying to you. They do it in secret,” George says.
“In Kenya, our law allows more than one wife but you can only have a second wife if the first wife consents to it.
“Only in the in the last 20 years, have Masai women started working in hotels, etc. For a long time, Masai women didn’t have a place in the community, there was a total disregard for women, they were doing everything.”

Paid work is a big issue in Kenya, where unemployment rates sit at a staggering 50 per cent. But George says there’s a bigger problem with terrorism than crime. In January this year, 21 people were killed in the latest terrorism attack in Nairobi when armed militants targeted hotels and shops in the Kenyan capital. G Adventures assesses any potential threats in every country in which it operates tours to ensure it is safe for visitors. At the time of my visit in early April, security was among the highest I have experienced anywhere in the world.
“Our problems with terrorism come from the Somali pirates of the Indian Ocean who hijacked ships and trade routes. These Al Shabab terrorists came back inland and Kenya deployed its defence forces against the Al Shabab militia,” George says.
“We are always on high alert, you never know when they will strike,” he says. We have had some serious attacks.
“Most people who come to Kenya fall in love with the country despite the problems we’ve been having with terrorism.”

And fall in love, I do. In part with its wildlife, but particularly with Kenya’s people. And the daughters of Mother Africa. Back at the Ubuntu workshop, far away from the big issues of the world, there’s almost 40 women sitting behind buzzing Brother sewing machines. Women such as Josephine, who has not only bought a plot of land with her earnings but built a house.
I ask Josephine what Ubuntu means in the Swahili language.
“I am, because you are,” she says, looking me squarely in the eye.
“I cannot make it without you.”
And with that simple phrase, the seeds of hope are sewn as deftly as the craft and optimism in which these women trade every single day.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of G Adventures http://www.gadventures.com
To find out more about this G Adventures National Geographic Journeys Kenya Safari go to https://www.gadventures.com/trips/kenya-safari-experience/DKKNG/

The Many Faces of Indonesia

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FACES and places. As I reluctantly relinquish those long, languid days of cool sarongs, cold beers, ocean swims and sunsets, and sit down at my desk to plan 2016, the thing that most excites me is those faces I haven’t yet met. For me, travel is all about the characters, the people whose personalities sing the true story of a destination. Sitting here in Brisbane, I can’t begin to imagine upon whom I’ll stumble this year, and that thought alone is incredibly exciting. Today I’m launching a three-part photo series of my Indonesian adventures over Christmas. And I thought it would be apt to start with the faces that made me smile. Happy New Year! Please enjoy.
There were the cool dudes…
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The happy kids…
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The beautiful Muslim women…
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The elegant older men…
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And even the statues seemed to have something to say…
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The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia
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The Imitation Game

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A COMBINATION of heat stroke, boredom and the usual malaise, which strikes every January, led to me rejoining a dating site last week. (I may or may not have also been looking for a blog before I start travelling again for the year). I elected to go back to BoganDating.com (not its real name) to see if things had changed in the year since I was last desperate enough to sign up. They have not. In all fairness, in the deep dark recesses of my mind, and with yet another Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I may also hold some grim hope that the man of my dreams is lurking somewhere in the shadows on BoganDating.com. He is not. But it has certainly been an amusing week.
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This time around I named myself after a popular travel site to at least see if anyone out there possessed a sense of irony. They don’t. At the time of writing this, I have attracted 209 views, 29 kisses and engaged in 1 email conversation. I think the rather low ratio of views to kisses and actual conversations may have had something to do with the fact I stipulated I am not interested in one-night stands, thus knocking out the majority of participants. Yes, “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance” were all scared off by that one. “ChristopherB”, 27, was an interesting entrant in the game, particularly given I stated I was looking for a man aged between 40 and 50.
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“Paul3000” was not looking for “anything serious” nor a “one-night stand” but just “regular fun”. I’m pretty sure we all know what that means. Yet Paul was quite the serious sausage himself, stipulating: “Please read my profile carefully, and only respond if you do want to chat and do like what you have read. Sorry for sounding like a grouch, but it has been getting annoying.” I’m believe Paul actually lives in a garbage bin and his real name is Oscar. “RhythmLover”, aged 64, also viewed my profile. He wanted to “encounter a friendship of epicurean attraction…a curious glance across a shared vintage…the chink of glass, one hand upon another…mmm”. I think RhythmLover has just finished reading 50 Shades of Grey. He is, however, keeping his options open, stating he wants to meet anyone between the ages of 18-120 and, most reassuringly, stating “my iPod remains young.” Phew. Can’t date a dating iPod.
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“Charlie” was not interested in “pushy women” but definitely wanted someone “with their own mind” (I’m SO confused). “RichobytheCoast” went straight for the sales pitch, leading his profile with “I have just bought a beachfront apartment at Kings Beach”. Unfortunately for Richo that is the most exciting thing about him. I actually responded in the affirmative to “Devoted2U” prepared to overlook the corny name, as he said he wanted a woman he could “spoil”, one who was “independent” and “one that knows how to put a man in his place”. Devoted, you had me at hello! Unfortunately, Devoted’s idea of “spoiling” a woman, seems to be actually responding to her email. He has since gone walkabout.
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Walkabout seems to be the theme this season, as was also the case of a detective who also went missing in action for three days, straight after I emailed him back. Which made me wonder. Had he been killed by a Gold Coast bikie? Was he on a secret assignment? Or did he do a criminal check and discover I got a speeding fine on New Years Eve? In my defence, Your Honour, it was a scorcher, I had a hot roast chicken in the car, and I needed to get the chook home. And no, I don’t condone speeding, but I thought it was a 60 zone in which I was clocked doing 65. And yes, the chicken ended up costing me $227 and 3 demerit points. Lesson learnt. And so, too, may my lesson be learnt on this dating site.
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Now, before I sign off, I have been speaking with a close male mate and he too has been dabbling in the whole dating disaster site business. And, remarkably, he has similar tales to tell of the female of the species. Like me, the minute he contacts them in the affirmative, they tend to disappear off the face of the planet. His worst tale is of a self-confessed spiritual guru who expended considerable energy painting a picture of what they’d do when they next caught up, and even spoke of an overseas break with him. And just when he was about hooked, she then revealed she had “reconciled with her partner”. We both don’t believe her but thanks for playing around with someone’s heart, lady. So, I am none the wiser on what makes this dating business tick. Or why there are so many imitators playing this particular game, but if the survival of our species relies on men and women actually forming healthy relationships, then we’re all doomed.
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Making Mud Cakes

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OF all life’s delicious ironies, this is the sweetest of the lot. On the day I’m meant to interview Tom Conley about his involvement in drought relief, it’s raining cats and dogs, our interview postponed while the torrent subsides. But that’s not the only spoonful of sugar in this story. You see Tom is only three years old, and if you love irony, you’ll adore the fact this chubby-cheeked kid not only bakes for drought relief, but was born just before the 2011 Brisbane floods. Yes, it’s raining men, and the blokes of the future are soaking great, if Tom is any indication.
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Tom was just five weeks old when the big floods hit Brisbane, his mum Sally Gardner watching from the kitchen window as flood waters stopped just short of their next door neighbour’s house in Oxley. But Sally’s partner Brendan’s workplace at Rocklea “went under”, as they say in Brisbane, as did Sally’s books, CDs and photo albums stored there. Add to this Sally not only had a new born baby at home, but also another son, aged 2.5 at the time, and it was a bit of busy time.
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“We didn’t have electricity so we couldn’t do the washing and we couldn’t go out, and we had three extra house guests due to the flood,” Sally says. But what Sally did next was remarkable. Rather than feel sorry for herself she decided to volunteer to assist her community, offering childcare, food and any other service her neighbours needed. And to cheer them up, she’d take baby Tom, in a pouch.
“We’d go and door knock and I’d have him in a pouch and people would just want to show me their photos,” Sally says.
“If we’d go into a community centre we’d take at least one of the boys. It was a bit of an ice-breaker.
“I was used to working in an HR roles and fixing a situation.”
And somewhere, amid all the mud and misery, Baked Relief was formed by Sally and her friends.
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Fast forward three years and it’s no longer flood victims for whom Sally and her crew bake and distribute fresh goods, but those in drought. And Tom is an integral part of the operation.
“Tom gets involved in all the cooking adventures in our home. He especially loves baking and as soon as I get the utensils out he rushes over, climbs up and wants to measure ingredients, crack the eggs and lick the bowl,” Sally says.
“We talk about who we are helping or who we are baking for, he enjoys drawing pictures for the drought-affected families.”
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When I visited Sally and Tom yesterday, he was a typical three-year-old, licking the chocolate off a biscuit. I asked Tom (whose favourite drink is milk) what he thought of the drought, and he had this message for the farmers: “I hope it rains soon.” Sally, whose mother was a GP who gave tetanus injections during the 1974 Brisbane floods, believes charity begins at home. This year Baked Relief has sent 2 tonnes of goods to St George and another tonne to Chinchilla. Sally also believes everyone in the city has a connection either directly or indirectly to the bush, which, despite recent rain, is still doing it tough.
“Everyone eats food. People should have a better connection with their neighbours and be alert to the needs of others and see if they can do one thing to help,” she says.
“Whatever pioneering spirit that got us all here is maybe what gets us through the crappy times. We want the people out in the bush to know they are not alone. Without them we don’t feed our children.”
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As for Sally’s next project, her response is as direct as you’ll find from an Aussie woman with a huge heart: “I’ll just wait for the next shit to hit the fan and see what we can do about the situation.”
To find out more about Baked Relief go to their Facebook page or to donate money go to the Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network at http://www.qrrrwn.org.au
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Women and their Lovers

 

IT’S a Goldilocks afternoon in the Queensland capital. Not too hot, not too cold. Ferries glide across the Brisbane River like ballerinas, traffic crawls along the Riverside Expressway as an army of ants, and Spring is being one, gigantic flirt.

It’s perfect then, that I’ve gathered in the Queensland Library’s ‘Red Box’ for a Brisbane Writers’ Festival talk about ‘women and their lovers’. Like a passionate paramour itself, the title of the session is too irresistible to pass up. My first fear, however, is that they will ask the gathering of women (and a few good men) to confess, Alcoholics Anonymous style, how long it has been since their last lover and how many they’ve had. Does one need to have experienced a recent lover to be admitted to this saucy session, I wonder amid a moment of pure panic.

Our convivial host, a bloke, announces it’s a ‘clothing optional’ session, as the two guest authors dive headfirst into the subject at hand. What transpires on this wouldn’t-be-dead-for-quids type of afternoon, is an interesting conversation about whether humans are, in fact, meant to be monogamous. Are you always married to the one you love? Is it possible to have a marriage, and a lover, and for all three parties to be sated in every sense of the word?

At this point of the conversation my mind starts to wander, as it is prone to do. The prospect of finding one fella at the moment is hard enough, let alone two. But heck, I’d give it a go if it was on offer. As one of the authors muses “love is an individual thing”.

The host confesses about his own individual experience of first-time love. He was 15 and wanted to take a girl to the movies for the first time. His father’s advice was this: “You’ve got a penis, women have a vagina, don’t play with yourself too much as it’s not good for you, now let’s go back to the car.”

One of the authors muses that in the English language, we possess a ‘shrunken’ vocabulary when it comes to the topics of physical pain and love. There are not enough words to express the many kinds of human love possible. It’s a bit like death. We’re hopeless at articulating it. To say that someone has ‘passed on or away’ sounds ridiculous, like they’ve taken a holiday to Myanmar or something; ‘passed’ raises its own set of silly questions: “passed where, exactly?”; and to come flat out and say someone ‘died’ is a bit blunt. But it’s true. Real. Honest.

Death and love, it emerges during this lusty afternoon, have much in common. One of the authors reveals research in which it is claimed it takes exactly 2 years, 6 months and 25 days into a marriage for romance between a couple to die.

So is there such a thing as living happily ever after? Does the fairytale, like my Goldilocks afternoon, really exist?

Outside, pondering this in the late afternoon spring sunshine which is still being such a fabulous flirt, I stumble across a lone musician, dressed all in red.

Love, as we understand it, may not exist after all, but I think I’ve just stumbled across Little Red Riding Hood. And for now, that’s fairytale enough for me.