Only in Africa can you go from feeling total despair, to absorbing the vast lush rolling lands of green beautiful trees, to feeling like maybe it’s not so bad, to smelling and seeing nothing but garbage, and reconfirming once again that it’s actually horrible. Honestly, I have never in my life felt such love hate in moments all day long. It’s almost as if the moment I walk out the door, I do so excited at the possibility that today I will find something that will make me say YES this is it, this is why I love it here! and for a second maybe it’s a fresh mango or a masala tea, or a really cool tree. But it doesn’t last long. Because, as you get the mango, you step over about a ton of smelly rotten garbage in the market. The garbage here is unbearable. I can’t understand how they can live in this dirty nasty smell and sight all day every day. Here in Nairobi it’s chaotic, beyond any crazy place I have ever seen, even Saigon is a crazy place but in Saigon’s crazy chaos there is a peacefulness to Vietnam an immediate love affair that lingers forever. In Africa the chaos is hopeless and unorganized and just down right exhausting. When we step out on the streets of Nairobi it’s literally a death wish. For many reasons… you never know if you will be robbed. Nairobi carries the nickname nairobbery all through Kenya, there are hardly traffic lights people just drive. There is no regard for pedestrians and there is no consideration for anyone. Here in front of our hotel we have deemed the road the “401” it’s 5 lanes one way and 5 lanes the other way and the traffic is fast and never stops and if we want to leave to go anywhere we have no choice but to cross it. I’m telling you I am not one to feel fear in my travels but this Kenyian 401 is honest to God a death wish. We have kind of mastered a little trick to crossing, it’s almost like bettering your odds at survival. what we do is rather than cross alone, we look for a crowd waiting to make a run for it. We join in, position ourselves so that there are more people to the side of us so if a car hits we can hope that 5 people will be hit before us. And I swear to you this is not a lie. It’s basically playing traffic chicken because many times you think everyone is going to run and then a few pull back and then you have a mili second to decide jump back or leap forward. I am pretty sure that I can cross the actual 401 at home now with a blindfold like it’s my new special trick.
When you make a plan here it’s as good as useless. It’s gotten pretty comical though. I am glad that I have come to accept this african way of “surely no problem” or “sorry sorry” cause here if you put all your ducks in a row and think that what you plan is fool proof cause you double checked, tripple confirmed and glued the ducks in place, well then your just stupid cause one of the ducks will probably croak or just get stolen and what you thought was fool proof was actually you just being a fool for making a plan in the first place. I think the idea of living here means taking on the attitude of kind of knowing what you think you want to do and then just kind of heading towards that direction. Maybe that’s why everyone here seems like they are walking to nowhere or sitting waiting on nothing. But yet in a chaotic way.
We met a driver 2 weeks ago, got his name “Fred” and made a quasi plan to have Fred take us sight seeing when we are back in Nairobi. So we get to the hotel make arrangements with the lady at the desk who originally hooked us up with Fred, to call Fred again and tell him we are back and to take us for a day trip. She call “fred” passes me the phone, I say so Fred, remember two weeks ago when we made arrangements on what we needed to see and he said YES (which is another African thing, the word yes, everything is YES…. even when the question is “what is your name?” the answer is YES) Well, Fred and his yes, to me and my foolish north American dictionary means “yes” we are on the same page. So All arranged, Fred will be coming at 9:00am. So we go to our room for the night, reassured that we “fool proofed” our following day. and sooooooo now, we wake up, go have breakfast and out the window we think we see our Fred and we head to the lobby. The lady who made the call yesterday said “fred” is coming in. A man walk in and it’s A “Fred” alright but who the F@#$ is this Fred? We look him, look at her? totally confused and say who is this? He is like I am Fred. We are NO your not Fred. He is like “YES” I am like “NO” and he is like “YES” OHHHKAY listen to me your not FRED!!! and Kendall is just going OMG WHY THE HELL IS EVERYTHING SO DIFFICULT. So, I say please tell me why on the phone you said you remembered me and out plan? his answer “yes” OH GOD I can’t take it anymore. So now we have to decide if we use this Fred or try to find our REAL FRED. so after negotiating and testing his knowledge on the things we were hoping to do he promises to be a good guide. So we decide to give him the job and be done with it. Only downfall was that the real Fred could speak perfect english. This Fred was extremely confusing but in the end he got the job done, with Kendall and I each having moments where we wanted to choke him from not understanding us. We ask for a market to buy crafts and art he takes us to a store downtown… stupidness like that and it takes us half hour to explain what a market is which is ridiculous since here there are markets everywhere!
Well we start the journey doing some really fun things. We see a side to Kenya that is kind of touristy. And trust me this place is no tourist disney land. In fact when we see a white person, we are like the african people who stop and yell mazungu.. except we yell “WHITE PERSON” So there are no line ups at the few tourist places that are here. We went to the Giraffe feeding centre. Really really cool, for $10 you can kiss them, hug them and feed them all day long which in relation to safari at $500-$3000 it’s a better bang for your buck.
After our make out sessions with giraffes, we drive to the elephant rescue centre. Here we get to watch the baby elephants drink from bottles and have play time. These babies have been rescued after their mothers are found dead from poachers killing them for their tusks. From there we proceed to what I think is going to be my highlight of fun.. the Karen Blixen Farmhouse. I loved the movie out of Africa and so this was going to be cool. for a cost of $12 and not being allowed to take pictures inside the house, it was merely a semi half interesting 30 minutes. However lunch at the Karen Blixen restaurant in “Karen” area was delicious, set in a n awesome garden and had a really cool beautiful bathroom (yup, when you see a bathroom here that’s nice it’s very exciting).
After all the fun stuff, I make it clear that I would like to see Kibera, known as the biggest most dangerous slum in the world, I guess a bucket list item for me, Kendall says I have a demented bucket list!!!. I know that Kendall was not excited about the idea and wasn’t keen about going but she went with it cause Fred said we would get escorts. We drive to this area that becomes really nasty and we start descending into this crazy market with absolutely no cars and surrounded by a million people literally in a narrow market street of stalls. We are like ummm what is going on? Fred is like to get to the police we have to drive through here. It’s really really freaking scary. We have hundred of people around our car and he can’t even keep going cause of mud. and you can’t reverse back. OK maybe my idea was not so brilliant to be here. Anyway, he ploughs through the mud and we end up in this little mosh pit of 6 cars and the most disgusting site I have ever seen in my life (so I think). He goes into this tin hut and then comes back and said the Kibera administration wants to talk to you about why you are here. We aren’t with a mission group or medical care, we are just two stupid white girls that should not be in kibera. Kendall is not happy with me AT ALL!!! I am trying to be calm and not panic. So we go in, these two ladies, very very nice ladies, want to know who we are. We chat for about 20 minutes where she is basically telling us how bad it is inside the walls. That we just can’t go in there. That even the health care workers and the police do not go in if they don’t have to, and that she is the administrator for this entrance (which is not an entrance but just a gap in the market that you walk through to get into kibera) and she has not been “inside” since 2010. So, here I go, what motivated me, I do not know? It was clear we were not allowed in, and Kendall wanted to leave, but when she started telling us about “flying toilets” (there is no latrines or holes in the ground or running water for bathrooms, people crap into plastic bags and basically whip them anywhere) and open sewers and people living in a space that’s 5×5 and maybe 4 or more in that space and how the people in there have their own rules outside the law and children and women are raped at night…I am motivated! I give the Rebirth the World speech, I explain to her how I saw a midwife movie on women dying in “there” behind those walls giving birth and I know all about it and that I raise fund for Clean safe birth kits. She is intrigued but not enough to let us in…. so I explain how the birth kits work, now she is listening, I tell her how I can donate them to her by raising funds…. she is now on the phone calling someone “important” so, while she is making that call I go for the final seal the deal and I pull out my phone and show her a video on how the birth kits work, from my website and before you know it, I am being invited to train the health care workers in kibera, bring birth kits and we are given the right to talk to two armed guards to negotiate a price for them to take us inside. If they agree to take us then we can go. Kendall is NOT HAPPY! I negotiate, we pay a fee, we have two armed guards and we are going in!!! WHAT THE HELL WAS I HOPING FOR?
It was NOT for the faint at heart, it was NOT for the strong at heart, it was not for anyone. It was a HELL on earth that I will never ever be able to describe. If I thought garbage in Africa was a problem, well then Kibera proved me wrong. Africa and it’s garbage is a joy! actually Nairobi is beautiful. It’s amazing how your world can change and your perception can change the minute you know what you know. Your levels of disgusting and poor just keep getting altered. Kibera is literally 1.8 million people living in a small space amongst their crap (literally plastic bags, and plastic bags of human feces) rivers of piss, and your everyday garbage. There was this organized disgustingness to the whole place. It had its own shops, stores, houses, medical clinic, school, all within this space of garbage and crap. Tin huts on top of tin huts on top of tin huts that had families living in them that were no bigger than 5×5 spaces. Here we were, taking pictures, walking through this world of absolute hell on earth, taking pictures while people stared at us, kids chased us and mostly people slamming their doors to avoid pictures. There is this inner kibera pride that the people live with, the government has tried to move the people out but they won’t leave. We had our men in military suits, with guns and that gave us the right to walk through the shit and take pictures. It was creepy and beyond sad. There weren’t even tears, you can’t cry, it’s so jarring and shocking that tears don’t run. It is what it is. However in my head, I am chalking up another task that will tie me to this crazy place called Africa, that I basically dislike most of the time. I will commit to getting birth kits to Kibera. It’s the least I can do. Please look at these pictures and imagine your baby being born on the floor here? $5 can give them a sterile sheet, gloves, soap, a razor to cut the umbilically cord and a clamp to protect the baby from infections. $5 is a chance to live. OH GOD as I type that it seems so STUPID that I actually hate myself for it. $5 stupid idiotic dollars for a stupid idiotic birth kit in a place like Kibera. STUPID and ridiculous. Who the hell would even want to have a “chance” to be able to live there. Why oh God why do women have babies living there? wouldn’t death be like actually getting a chance to live happily ever after? THESE AE THE THINGS THAT NOW SIT IN MY HEAD forever!!! why give them birth kits? who the fuck cares? honestly! but you know what…. As much as I am thinking stupid birth kits and just get outta here and let these people live in their horrid conditions, I ACTUALLY CARE. I CARE! and THAT brings tears! that I am a human being, that I share the SAME “world” as them but clearly the world has levels: very rich rich, rich rich, modestly rich, modestly average rich, not poor, barely rich, barely poor, poor, poorer, extremely poor, and kibera. It’s the real pillars of the Earth and Kibera is the bottom. I was standing there. At the bottom of the earth, I saw it, smelt it, took pictures of it and I am pretty sure YOU will never ever go there. But it exists and they are still humans. They still deserve clean birth kits. I have a meeting on Monday with my contact from Advance Africa. I quickly realized that in order to get my organization Rebirth the World rooted in Africa, I need resources. Slowly, but surely, Africa is becoming a pillar in my own reality.
On that note, I am happy to say that there are 14 kids now sponsored through Rebirth the World. I started with 4 before I came here. There are now 14 kids that will go to school and have a chance at becoming the possibility of change in their village, in their country, or maybe even in this world? I want to thank you for reading these blogs and being compelled to step up and sponsor a child, or buy birth kits, you that have become part of my world here in your own committed contributions. Together, maybe we can lift a village up a level and provide a stronger pillar for survival from its current scorched earth? I don’t know, but I am trying and so are you.