Second Day, still in Nairobi
I woke up at what I thought was dawn, judging from the light streaming through the window. James had mentioned that he usually wakes up early, so if anyone wanted to go on a morning stroll through Nairobi they could knock on his door. I got dressed and slipped out the room, careful not to wake up Tess. Fortunately I couldn’t remember James’s room number so I was forced to go downstairs to the lobby and ask. When I got down there they looked at me in astonishment and told me to go back to bed, it was 3 am! Guess I’m on a bit of a different schedule…I slept a bit more and then ended up going on a walk with James and discussing Kenyan politics, it was super interesting to hear the perspective of an American student who had been in Kenya during the violence.
We got back and all went out to breakfast. James’s host brother and his friends met us and one of them started to teach me Swahili, which I LOVED! We came back to the hotel for a bit and talked about our expectations for the program. Peter told us that one of the worst mistakes that interns make is that they want to re-invent the wheel and then are frustrated when the project that they do doesn’t line up with their envisioned ideal. “Development isn’t sustainable if it doesn’t utilize the resources and people of the community, think of yourselves as assistants, not directors,” he told us.
For lunch we went to Karen, an almost exclusively white suburb named after the Karen who wrote “Out of Africa.” To get there we took one of the mututu’s that I mentioned earlier. What I didn’t mention is that they are basically van/buses that are jam packed with people, blast music (usually American rap) and drive at extremely high speeds (Don’t worry mom and dad, they know what they’re doing, hakuna mata k?). Karen was quite a different world than the rest of Nairobi, it seemed almost like a little Britain in the middle of Kenya. Juxtaposed right outside of Karen are some of the worst slums of Nairobi.
We also walked through Nairobi, which seemed crowded to me but apparently is even worse on the weekdays. Kenya has one of the highest growth rates in the world and their population has qudrapuled in the past 40 years, mainly due to polygamy and cultural values that are only recently starting to change. This includes the cultural need for a child to be named after each of the mother/fathers parents and the fact that men are judged by the number of children they are able to sire. This has created many problems, especially as the economy is unable to provide many jobs, even for college graduates.
We attempted to use a cyber cafe but the internet was down (this is common in Kenya, as are blackouts.) We eventually found one and then we went to dinner at a nearby pub that had a live band. Sadly no one was dancing, I really wanted to dance…