Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


When Monia first told us there were no classes during week 6, the immediate reaction was “Phew, no lesson planning or stroppy Standard 7 girls on Monday morning!” (or so we thought!), before thinking, “Actually, what will we be doing!”. We needn’t have worried though as Monia was full of fun and amazing activities to keep us entertained and was ready to crack the whip at a moments notice!

Children from Mkwiro Primary School

The week kicked off with a crash course in Marine Biology for Standard 7’s of all people! Unluckily for Tristen and Hamish they were unable to escape lesson planning, and despite Hamish having had no training, and Tristen only just managing to master 1st person personal they were awesome! The lesson kicked off with a Blue Planet Documentary, and even though David Attenborough tried to thwart our efforts by not having Ki-Swahili subtitles, the pupils seemed to understand a lot by the pictures, (which lead to a few giggles when anything relating to Sexual Reproduction appeared on screen – you gotta love teenagers!!).

After the documentary, Mr. Tris and Mr. Hamish did a series of lectures and Q&A sessions relating to Biodiversity of life within the Ocean, Trophic Levels and Food chains. Everyone was engrossed including Sergi who sat there eager with his notebook!! It was clear that the children loved it and were learning a lot as they sat for nearly 2 hours and there wasn’t a yawn in sight. My God, they were better than our Group when we were doing our TEFL training a week prior to this and we are meant to be English Speakers!!! Plenty of questions were asked and hats off to Mr. Tris who managed to deflect some rather probing questions toward the end, in graded language no less!! I think we would all still love to know who planted that random man in the audience who was demanding answers regarding boat use and pollution in the Ocean. Bravo Tristen for not throwing a piece of chalk at him!! Unsurprisingly we were all ecstatic when the next day the School asked the boys to do a repeat session for Standard 6 the week after, because unbeknown to us kids were clambering at the gate to attend the lecture but had to be turned away due to numbers. That was the first of many successes that week . . . .

GVI Presentation at GVI Mkwiro Base

. . . . At the other end of intellectual spectrum this week was the Girl’s challenge of putting on a Blockbuster performance of ‘Finding Nemo’ which we passed with flying colours. Excitement for the performance spread from Mkwiro to Shimoni without us even having to make a trailer – Result! All I can say is Angelina Jolie watch your back as Madame Katie, Chantal, Virginia and Priscilla will be hitting Tinsel Town any day now!. I would like to say we were method acting which is why our 5 year old behaviour was so convincing, however, I think we all secretly loved being able to revert to Kindergarten style behaviour and have an epic week of ‘Cut and Stick!!’. We were all amazed what you could actually do with a few old bed sheets, coloured card and a few finger puppets! We had 3 days to recreate the kitchen into the bottom of the Indian Ocean, write a script and make props and costumes for myself and Hamish. Luckily Pixar had done a lot to help in terms of providing a script, however whilst reading the book we quickly realised a revision of the script was needed as no amount of coloured card or graded language could help us act out the scene where Nemo had to throw a stone into the water filter to make the tank go green and mouldy so the dentist could remove him in order for him to escape! We settled for the introduction of Fatuma the Seagull who lifted Nemo to freedom, and who luckily for us was Vegetarian so dropped him into the Ocean instead of into her stomach for dinner!. At some points Tristen and Hamish couldn’t believe the inaccuracies in our Script and were like; “Did you even come to our lecture on Tuesday!”.

Nemo traped in the acquarium

I will never forget Hamish’s face when he realised he had to say the line; “ Fish are like you and me, they live in houses and even go to School” Classic!! We all took our roles seriously hence why Virginia took one for the team and was the evil Diver who took Nemo – GASP!, and why I ended up wearing an anemone head dress which made me look like a cross between Sideshow Bob and Brian May. I was worried that I may have scared the kids but in the end they loved trying it on and many a good photo was taken!Both performances we did for the Kindergarten were amazing and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, the Kids or the GVI Staff and Volunteers, who all joined in the song at the end and did all the actions!!

Katie acting in Finding Nemo

The Kids were so well behaved and a little too quiet at first, however after a bit of cajoling by ‘Anemone Katie’ it was adorable to hear the shouts of “Hello Mr Starfish” and “Help Nemo” as well as them joining in with the song at the end!. The children were all intrigued by the play and with a combination of translation by their teacher and kick ass acting by the girls behind the curtain, everyone followed the plot really well and everyone could shout by the end that “NEMO WAS IN SHIMONI!”. I felt proud to be part of such an amazing experience. Our Group worked really hard and there was a great sense of energy and enthusiasm all week which was all worth it when the teachers paid us thanks and told us that it was the first play that the children had ever seen. I think we all felt humbled when they sang us a beautiful African song thanking us which bought a lump to everyone’s throats and a few tears were even shed. I’m not entirely sure which song was more catchy, the ‘Thank you Song’, or our ‘Finding Nemo’ Classic as I have caught everyone humming both around camp ever since the Performance. Ha Ha, a Top 10 Best Seller is born me thinks! (Sorry Monia that was terrible grammar!!). As you can see our week was filling up pretty fast . . .

Finding Nemo crew

. . . . . . But there was still time to cram in more, as we still had 3 other projects on the go! (Yes Monia’s whip nearly broke under the strain of all the activity this week before you ask!). On Thursdays and Fridays we work with the lower standards with Creative arts and Music and Movement which involves a lot of singing and dancing. As not all of have great memories, or ever heard the songs in the first place we have been working on a songbook which can be used to access lots of nursery rhymes and songs which we sang from childhood. As if you couldn’t guess, the first song that was written was ‘Finding Nemo’, which goes like this; “Nemo is a fish that lives in the sea, he lives in the house of an anemone. Nemo just wanted to have lots of fun, but his dad was scared of everyone. One day a diver came and took him away, and from a fish tank he had to escape. Marlin and Dori swam across the sea, they found Nemo and LIVED HAPPILY!!”.

We had been given the task of decorating Standard 3’s Classroom with the alphabet, including pictures, a weather forecast and the Primary Colours, which may sound easy but it made me realise that I am definitely no Van Gogh or Rolf Harris! However, lack of artistic skills were the least of our worries as I never realised how hard it was to draw a straight line across a wall with a 30cm ruler when every other angle in the room was crooked. We had to resort to using ‘Trusty Tristen’ (My God that boy has more uses than a Leatherman!). We used his head height as a guide line which meant he had to take baby steps around the room so we could have a giant game of ‘Dot to Dot’ – Good Times!. Luckily for us, Monia is a very talented artist and spent many an hour sweating to death under her head scarf to draw amazing animals such as ‘The Flirty Ostrich’ and the Panda. The room is still a long way from being finished but the transformation from the start of the week is amazing. Monia’s painting skills far outweighed ours so we were relegated to painting the letters and the blackboard so not to mess up her handiwork! I couldn’t believe what a difference it made just painting the door and blackboard though. It was virtually white before, but now it looks amazing and it seems a shame to let chalk go near it again now!. Hopefully when the room is finished and Monia does her magic with the camera, the photos will have the desired affect and go a long way to help people want to fundraise more so we can paint the whole school. Nearly finished now . . .

Just writing about the week has made me tired. It has been the most memorable and amazing week on Community ever and everyone feels lucky to have been able to take part, as we feel we have been exceptionally productive and have made a huge contribution to the work that GVI does with the Local Community. We have loved working with one another and the Community and there is only one last thing to say . . . . aSANTE!

Group – Katie/Emily Ashford, Chantal Woodun, Virginia Corbelet, Tristen Murchie, Prescilla Tsang, Hamish Tin

Katie Ashford – Kenyan Community and Wildlife Research Volunteer



Jon 'lucky man' Davies said...

Sounds like your all having a fantastic time. You should all be very proud, especially the very lovely Katie. Who ever is her boyfriend must be a very lucky man. Great blog.