Kenya

Kenya Journal 24-10-09

School has been great; on Friday I took my first class by myself and taught class 6 geography.  I told them about different countries in the world, and they were interested in where places like Italy and the Philippines were so I showed them on the (partially-deflated and wobbly) blow-up globe that I found when I was hunting about in the staff room.  All I had to teach with was this broken globe and a piece of chalk.  The children don’t have anything to write with, or on.  Yet they were really focused and interested and I didn’t have to tell them once to be quiet or sit down.  We also talked about different climates in different continents and I taught them how millions and millions of years ago, all the continents of the world were joined together.  Then I went round and showed them all on the globe how Africa fits in to South America, and how Europe fitted on to the top of Africa when the Mediterranean Sea wasn’t there.  I could see the wonder in their faces, it was brilliant.  They are intrigued by what they call my “fur” on my arms and legs (and face!) so I explained that this is an adaptation to the cold, like my colour.

I decided to sponsor Benjamin, an incredibly bright ten year old boy who is desperate to read and learn.  I’m going to help him as much as I possibly can now and I’ll pay his fees when he goes to secondary school.  I walked outside and met a group of about twenty kids who are helping the gardener dig holes to plant trees.  They are digging the holes now so that if it rains, the holes will be watered and they can put the plants in.  There was a very exciting 10 or 15 minutes on Friday when it rained.  Everyone got as excited as people do in Britain when it snows. (N.B. Or rather, as they used to, in Britain.)  Even Sylvia and I were very excited because rain means so much to everyone here.  We were given a lift back from school in the most antiquated car I have ever seen: half of the steering wheel was missing and the driver had to keep his hand on the gear stick in order to hold the car in the right gear.

Yesterday evening we went to Nairobi to celebrate Jessica’s penultimate evening in Kenya.  We got the matatu into the city after school on Friday afternoon, and got stuck in the inevitable masses of traffic on the way in.  We had dinner in an awesome bar/restaurant bizarrely called Books First and then went to an awful bar/club called Simmers.  There were several guys who kept offering to buy me drinks and then accused me of racism when i declined – I suspected they were setting up some ploy to mug me.  Also some other people came up from behind and offered me women for hire.  Sylvia and I weren’t having any fun so we got a taxi back to Parkside Hotel where we stayed overnight.  We met David and Priscilla and James on the way out (David and Priscilla are my foster-parents here and James is their friend who met me off the plane when I arrived in Kenya).

This morning we had a very exciting breakfast at Java coffee.  We now get excited by extremely bizarre things, such as seeing another white person, seeing a proper road, or the extreme luxury of even having pavement.  The Java coffee house completely blew us away by having all these things and also having a toilet seat!  What incredible luxury!  After breakfast we took a taxi to Bookpoint, a big bookstore on Moi Avenue, where Jessica and Sophie bought 500 pounds’ worth of books for their school, from money fundraised by Jessica’s sister and friends in Australia.  I bought two books for the children at school and two books for Benjamin.  I just hope that Benjamin’s parents don’t sell the books I give him to buy food.  And I hope that nobody raids the school library for the same reason.  Afterwards we went to the Masaii market, which is full of wonderful things to buy but is extremely stressful because of the number of people trying to coerce you into buying everything.  Also it is very crowded and a place where Mzungu are vulnerable and obvious.  After finally managing to leave the market after a completely exhausting session of bartering and explaining and trying in vain to leave, we went to lunch at the same pizza place where Jess took me when she collected me in Nairobi last Sunday after my orientation.  It’s amazing how my viewpoint has changed in just six days.  What shocked me last weekend no longer shocks me; in fact that part of Nairobi seems a hell of a lot nicer than other things I have seen, like the slums in Narok and Nakuru, and the town Kitengela itself where I now live.  Before I had seen these things, that street in Nairobi was the most extreme place I have ever been.  But now it seems almost rich and Western.  There are only a few inexplicable huge holes in the street, and there is paving even though it is all broken into jagged pieces.  By contrast with the towns I have seen that just consist of rocks, dust and rubble, it is fine.  I am even accustomed to the driving and the fact that the matatus drive on the pavement, nobody stops at red lights or zebra crossings, and that matatus and coaches often attempt to drive over large piles of broken rubble.

On the matatu ride home I saw five or six dead cows, that had just died in the grassland by the side of the road. They looked like they had just lain down there to die.  It is very sad, there is no grass at all because it hasn’t rained in two years beyond Nairobi.  Most of the land is just mud and because it is so dry it just turns in to dust.  I did not know there was so much dust in the whole world before I came here; it’s nearly impossible to ever be clean.  It is in the air, all over the ground, and is blown up by every passing vehicle and every slight breeze.  The earth itself is dust.  I am back in Kitengela now and came to the internet cafe with Sophie, but she has finished and gone home now, so I will have my very first walk alone down the street.  It had to happen some time!  I hope the electricity will have come back on by the time I get back so that we can have light after the sun goes down, which will happen in exactly half an hour.

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