Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Welcome to Africa column: Road repair

I believe we live on the worst street in Nairobi. The combined surface area of the potholes, each wider across than your arm, is much greater than the surface area of remaining road, which is also a combination of cement and dirt. Add the speed bump that’s there (really unnecessary now), and coming and going from home, we get quite jostled if we don’t drive this stretch slowly. For most trips we make around town, we can drive along at a normal rate of speed on fairly good roads. But when we get close to home, we have to slow way down to a snail’s pace to navigate the last eighth-mile stretch or so. I joke with Sarah that we live close enough to her office so she can come home at lunch, but it takes just as long for her to drive most of the few miles to the office as it does to drive the last few hundred feet before our gate.

So we are always delighted to see when a random person takes the initiative to fill in some of the potholes on this stretch. Sarah pointed this out to me today, as she was the first to drive this road since a couple of repairs had been made. Only…our hopes we dashed to discover that the material used to fill in the holes is broken bathroom tiles, which I think creates a whole new risk of driving on this road – one of getting a flat tire on a shard of tile. Not only that, but this tile came from our neighbor’s bathroom that was demolished last week. Thanks - that's so neighborly of you to fix one problem only to create a new one!

How Americans benefit from the backs of poor people and how we repay their backs (literally)

I know Americans don’t get enough news about the good they have done for Africa. Our president was just over here visiting and telling the world what good he’s done here, even if he’s messed up a whole other part of the world. Well, fortunately I have another piece of good news about the positive impact that Americans are making in the lives of Africans. Do you ever wonder where the clothes you give away to the Salvation Army or Goodwill end up? I’ve heard that these type of organizations sort through their clothing donations and re-sell the best stuff and send to developing countries the rest.

From all my travels around many developing countries, I am happy to report that I see many of these articles of clothing being proudly worn by their citizens. A couple of weeks ago in southern Sudan, I spotted an employee of the Lutheran World Federation, a young man in his 20s, wearing a pretty ladies’ sweater, the type that I would expect a 60- or 70-something woman to wear to the company Christmas party. He had complemented it with a necklace that a typical young Sudanese man his age would wear, but I thought the combination of the two items was especially charming. Back in town the other day, I saw another man, probably in his 30s, with a great pair of women’s pink leather moccasins on his feet (the type that was popular in the preppy 80s). As I passed him, he was stooping to adjust the rolled-up cuffs on his jeans, the better to display his shoes, I’m sure. On an earlier trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya, I spotted someone wearing a t-shirt that had KPLU on it, a National Public Radio station in the Seattle area that I listen to when visiting there. And it’s not just in Africa that I see this used clothing put to great use. I still remember seeing a young woman in rural Haiti decked out proudly in a pink and white hospital candy striper dress. She had no clue of its original use as a uniform from a bygone era of American culture. From Africa to India to the Caribbean, I see t-shirts that read “1996 Syracuse Bowling Champions” or “Bob’s Drive-in – Tulsa – Home of the Crispy French Fries.”

Seriously, though, I’ve also heard that when all this used clothing is dumped in developing countries, it actually does them harm by competing with the local clothing-manufacturing market. So rather than actually doing good, we in the developed world keep living off the backs of poor people in the southern hemisphere, first by buying the new goods that they have manufactured for us with practically no pay, and then they take our cast-offs literally back onto their backs. How many “Made in Bangladesh” shirts do you have in your closet? How many people do you think are the second-hand wearers of those same shirts back in Bangladesh?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

An early exit from southern Sudan

Well, the remainder of my travels around southern Sudan was cut short. I completed my time in Panyagor yesterday and took the flight out of there to Juba, a major city in the south of the country, early yesterday afternoon. The original plan was for me to fly from the first stop directly to the second, but somehow the LWF staff who made my travel arrangements did not know that there was no direct flight between the two, which meant I then would need to fly to Juba to get from destination 1 to destination 2. There was a flight from Juba to destination 2 this morning, but because I was supposed to be on another, nonexistent flight, that flight was full. This would have meant going on to destination 2 on Monday and doing the rest of my visits from Monday to Wednesday, when originally I was supposed to be home by Monday evening, something I had been planning on mentally for my own sanity (given the harsh conditions here) and for the sake of Sarah and Lexi – not to leave Sarah alone too long to care for Lexi.

So basically I decided to pull the plug on the rest of my trip for these logistical complications that were caused by others and because there was no easy way to communicate with me in Juba and others in two different places in Kenya to try to work out new travel arrangements – ones that would have minimized this unexpected delay in Juba. I had my cell phone with me, but because of the service provider I have, it does not work in Sudan. E-mail was not really reliable either.

This all means that I spent the night unexpectedly in Juba last night, for which I had to take some money (a few of the 100 dollar bills from the stacks I had brought with me to Panyagor). I put some effort into gathering information about getting on the UN flight from Juba to destination 2 this morning and getting in touch with LWF staff in Kenya to see what, if any arrangements, they had made (none, really), so I just took matters into my own hands and went to a travel agent and bought a ticket home. I found a decent hotel to spend the night at and was safe and all.

There is more detail to this story, parts of which were adventurous and a bit crazy, as every situation like this in Africa tends to be. Much of it is quite complicated, so I won’t go into those details here, except to say that some involved a taxi driver from the airport who took me to the wrong place yesterday (apparently the Asmara Hotel sounds too much like the Smart Café) and then took off and the hotel proprietor who set me up with a motorcyclist (like a paid taxi) to take me into town to visit the travel agent. Needless to say, I was a bit of a spectacle – a white guy riding on the back of a motorcycle (you never really see white people taking such forms of transportation). This other movement around Juba was all in the hottest heat of the day and over very dusty roads. I was picking accumulations of dust out of the nooks and crannies of my face for the rest of the day. (People write books about these sort of experiences on their trips, don’t they?)

Well, I of all people should know that such travels, especially such complex itineraries like the one for this trip that involved multiple stops and a lot of movement by various means of transportation, never go completely smoothly, that there needs to be one major fiasco on every trip, like the bus full of people breaking down in the middle of nowhere and being stranded for hours (I already lived that episode in Malawi years ago). So part of me is accepting of this fact, that this happened on this trip – the part of me that was ready to return home to Sarah and Lexi, the moderate temperatures of Nairobi, and all the modern comforts of home (I’m even grateful for a bathroom sink and mirror after this trip). But the other part of me is annoyed at another major inconvenience, which is typical of things here (both major and minor inconveniences). In so many things that I’ve tried to do here, there seems to be some inconvenience that arises, either externally (out of your control, like a power failure) or internally (poor planning on somebody’s part, the driver coming late to pick you up). In so many tasks or projects, it seems that things can never get done completely or that you hit some hurdle. And this all seems acceptable to people who live here all the time. Well, in a way it is, and maybe it’s my Western/American attitude, that I’m arrogant for being frustrated that things won’t work “right” (i.e., the American or Swiss way) and why can’t things get done, and no wonder progress is so slow. I still have those thoughts sometimes, but, on the other hand, I’ve learned a little more on this trip that many times it’s the larger, external factors (those less out of my direct control) that can cause the inconveniences or slowdowns or interruptions. But those seem to be accepted to a degree as well (no regular electricity supply in a big city, bad roads, people who can’t be reached on the phone numbers given on their website, etc.).

One way to look at it, I guess, is that this place is really a whole different world and that I can’t – and perhaps shouldn’t – try to compare it to other places I’ve lived. It is what it is, and fortunately I have the choice to stay here and experience it and put up with it or to leave and return to my home country or somewhere else in the Western world. For the time being, we’ll be here and extract what we can from living here – hopefully more positive experiences than negative ones, and hopefully we can be pleased with what we do gain, even if it’s not the full measure of what we were expecting.

I did get to southern Sudan, however, a new country for me (the 48th on my list) and one that is at a significant point in its history. It was very interesting to have visited the part of the country that many refugees are returning to now to restart their lives after Africa’s longest civil war was going on there for 20 years. Now, on to new adventures!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Regarding domesticated animals and wild birds

This city boy has gotten quite the education over the past two weeks on the lives of (African) cowboys. On my two trips so far for my work on the LWF Kenya/Sudan program’s annual report for 2007, I’ve visited areas where LWF is working with communities who raise cattle and other livestock for a living and where they’re helping them with the challenges they face with their livestock, whether from disease, drought or cattle raiding.

In these parts of Africa, where a family’s wealth is in their cattle, it’s hard for me as a city dweller and as an American to understand this. In my culture, people’s wealth is in their stock portfolio, their house (and their second vacation home), their car(s), electronics and clothes. So where cattle is king, where life revolves around one’s herd, rather than where one will vacation this summer, it’s hard for me to understand how these people live their lives – how a man in a family or a teenage boy can spend his work days (every day, in fact) caring for the cattle or spending time wandering away from home with the herd, going where the grazing land and water is. And it’s strange to me to hear that this wealth – the cattle – figure into a marriage (with the dowry) and can cause great disputes (how many cows is a woman really worth, anyway? I’m going to figure it out for Sarah…). But then again, doesn’t wealth/money in our culture cause great disputes among families too (think of when a rich person dies and what’s revealed in their will)?

Otherwise, besides visiting places and talking to people about their lives and challenges they face, I feel like I’m on a bird safari a bit. The other day, flying up to Panyagor, my first stop on the trip, we followed the Nile River a bit. It was beautiful to look down and see it. The land stretches as far as you can see (and farther) and is brown and dry, but on both sides of the Nile, there is a green strip, so it makes a beautiful green and blue-striped ribbon along a tan landscape. Anyway, Panyagor isn’t very far from the Nile, and the land around here, in parts of the area we’ve been driving in a lot, is swampy. There are lovely lily ponds along the dirt roads between villages, and in these ponds are many interesting water birds – storks and long-legged birds, some big, some small, and some with long black beaks that curve down. As we come along in the big Land Rover, many of them get scared and take off, and you can see them stretch out their long wings and fly, and it’s beautiful to see how graceful they are. Along the dry stretches, I’ve seen a vulture or two feeding on a dead calf carcass. And even in the LWF compound, and in many other places, there are many eagles (I think that’s what they are – they’re brown) that come quite close to people – they’re always sitting on top of the houses. They also soar high up in the air, and you can hear them making their calls, which reminds me of those Wild West scenes on TV shows.

I’m on my way out of here soon, from Panyagor, my first stop in southern Sudan. I always appreciate the comforts of home (or any modern place) when traveling to places like this. On the face of it, this place is very uncomfortable. It’s very hot, so by the end of the day, I’m very sticky, and my net number of mosquito bites seems to never decrease (even sleeping under a mosquito net at night, I still seem to get a few bites), and it’s dusty and dirty. But that’s not enough to stop me from going to places like this. There are too many interesting things to see, and my mind is fed and enriched so much, even if my body isn’t totally comfortable. But, in working for the church or church-related organizations, it’s all about suffering for my Jesus, isn’t it?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Boat ride - Sarah's take

(See Stephen's last post)

Ever been on a sailboat? You know how they can lean WAY over without tipping over – but sometimes, it goes too far and there is no stopping it. We went to the island of Lamu (on the Kenyan coast) for Stephen’s birthday this year. The evening of his birthday we went on what was supposed to be a “Sunset Cruise”. You hear the word “cruise” you think calm, right? This “cruise” was on one of the traditional wooden sailboats. It’s maybe 20 feet long and there isn’t a horizontal bar on the bottom of the sail. Instead there is a very large plank that gets notched under one lip of the boat and sticks out over the edge of the boat over the water. At certain points during our sail, 3 of the 4 crew members were all sitting on this plank out over the water – acting as a counter weight to the wind. We didn’t tip over – but several times it felt like we were surely going to.

On this cruise, there was the 3 of us plus these 4 sailors. The one in charge was an older man who was actually the others’ teacher. He came on this particular trip for 2 reasons: 1) the high winds the island had been experiencing for the last few days and 2) our baby. I did sense that the whole crew knew what they were doing, but I think they also got a story out of this particular tourist jaunt. Remember this is Africa – safety equipment is in short supply – in other words, no life jackets – for any of us. As we were stepping onto the boat (a feat in itself), I thought “should we be doing this with Lexi?? The grandparents will KILL us when they find out.” The first 30 minutes of the sail were harrowing as the wind tossed us too and fro and the waves crashed in and drenched us. I was trying to figure out what we would do if the boat went over. Would I still be able to hold on to Lexi? Stephen and I could swim well enough, but what would happen to her? I didn’t feel like a very good parent.

I could tell Lexi was also scared. I was holding onto her with one arm and the rope that went up to the sail with the other. She was so incredibly still for the beginning of the trip. She didn’t move around at all like she usually does. Stephen could see her face and said it looked rather blank. When we finally came near the other island, the wind died down and it was a rather pleasant ride. Lexi started looking around like her normal self. The trip back across the channel was much smoother and only took 10 minutes.

We certainly got a story out of it – and saw a nice sunset – but I think if we had been given more information (like what type of boat we would be going out on) – we probably would have thought twice. I certainly feel the crew earned their money for our outing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Celebrating on lovely Lamu

We went away for a long weekend to celebrate my 35th birthday (which was Lexi’s 6-month birthday as well). We usually go somewhere for my birthday. This time, in our new home in East Africa, we decided to try Lamu, which had been recommended to us by one of my former coworkers from Geneva, who used to live in Kenya (and who is half Kenyan; you’d immediately mistake him as Barack Obama if he visited the U.S.).

Lamu is a small island just off the coast of Kenya on the Indian Ocean. We left on Friday afternoon and flew there. It took just over an hour to get there in a fairly small plane. On one side of the island are big, white, sandy beaches, and most tourists go there to stay at the resort hotels. We, however, are not beach people – we are not into sitting around in the sun or into water sports – so we stayed at a place in the main town on the island. When you arrive, you land on another small island opposite Lamu, and then you walk a little way toward the water out onto a dock, and the hotel “shuttle,” – a speed boat – comes to pick you up and whisks you across the channel to Lamu.

The unique thing about Lamu is that people have two forms of transportation – because it’s an island, people use boats to get around, and on land, they use donkeys (or they walk). There are really only about three cars on the island.

Our hotel was right on the “waterfront”/harbor. It was three stories tall with a verandah in front and a restaurant and bar on the ground floor. We were upgraded to a sea-facing room and actually had a suite with a big, king-sized bed. The waterfront, or “boardwalk,” as I affectionately called it, was basically about the width of a standard sidewalk that ran along the shore, and there was a wall between that and the water, which rose and fell with the tide. All along this shore were parked speed boats and wooden fishing boats that the locals worked on.

Upon arrival, we took a walk through the town. It’s an interesting place. Overall, it’s like a typical poor African town with run-down buildings, small businesses and a lot of dirt and dust. Don’t think of a quaint New England seaside town or of Bermuda. Take those places, take nearly all of their money away, then put it in an African setting. The bigger and nicer buildings (like hotels) are mostly in an Arab style – with those pointed archways for windows and doorways. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is a historical Swahili place in terms of architecture and culture. Swahili is defined as a mixture of African and Arab cultures. A unique part of their architecture is carved wooden doorways with intricate Muslim/Arab designs. The island is also largely Muslim, so there are a lot of women walking around who are covered to various degrees. Also there are a lot of people around, especially on the main square, who are just sitting with nothing to do (no jobs, which is typical in towns and cities in Africa).

“Main St.,” just one block inland, is a narrow street and has mostly small shops and stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to clothes and sandals. The sidewalk is paved, but soon after turning off that to go further inland, where most of the houses are, the sidewalks (remember there are no streets for driving) become sand or dirt. We brought the stroller to push Lexi around in and in many parts, it was okay with it, but anytime we tried to go off a main track, we ended up on uneven ground. On the main street, there are narrow channels running every which way, which are basically the sewer lines, we assumed (although the air never really smelled sewer-like).

The restaurant in our hotel was a surprisingly nice Italian place, and we had a lovely pasta meal the first night. The next morning, fishermen were up early getting their boats ready to go out just beneath our windows, but they weren’t noisy enough to disturb us. We walked around again a lot on Saturday, popping into shops selling colorful fabric and clothing that they could make for you and other shops selling carved wooden objects. We visited a historical Swahili house from the 17th century when the island was a trading post with the Arab world, Europe and India and people amassed a lot of wealth. It was interesting to see how rich people lived in Africa centuries ago. In the afternoon we visited the Lamu Museum, which had lots of displays of historical and archaeological objects. We also visited the fort on the town square. We went swimming at another hotel’s swimming pool and had a picnic lunch on the verandah outside our room.

For my birthday, we took advantage of the offer of a cruise (there were a few different cruises/tours we could choose from, going to different places around the islands) at sunset. Now, we never really found out what type of boat we were going on, so imagine our surprise when we were suddenly led onto a heavy wooden sailboat about 20 feet long used for fishing. There was a crew of four on board with us, and we set out from in front of our hotel to cross the channel in a strong wind and with some waves on our side of the shore. It was a lot of up and down over the waves at first, more than being tipped by the wind. But that happened a few times. After we got about halfway across the channel, the wind and waves calmed down, and we got to the other side and sailed calmly along the mangroves that grow on the shores of the other island. A few more times as we changed our direction into the wind, the boat tipped severely, and a couple of crew members had to do some bailing. As we headed back, we watched the sun set over the main town of Lamu, and it was beautiful. When we got back at dusk, we celebrated with a drink at the bar before another Italian dinner – more of a celebration for making it back to land safely than for my birthday.

Sunday was largely a lazy day. We walked around the island a little more and sat on the town square and on our hotel’s verandah for a while. We really had no desire to take another cruise or to take a long tour of other parts of the island, and it was nice to just take it very slow. We had a small and slow lunch in the courtyard of a classy café.

We were quite the spectacle all over the island for a number of reasons, I think. Like I said, most tourists stay on the beach and rarely venture into town, so there aren’t many white people around, especially those wandering away from the two main streets closest to the water. Most of all, however, I think Lexi in her stroller was a strange and rare site for people on an isolated island (in Africa women carry their babies on their backs). We were greeted a lot by people on the street, and many people talked to Lexi as well. They were being very friendly, but it also got annoying after a while – to be noticed so much. We weren’t pressed or harassed too much by people offering us tours or boat rides, which was good. But another odd thing that happened was that we were mistaken once by another boat captain who was sure we had talked before – he knew he had taken out another white family with a small baby.

The breakfasts at the hotel were also wonderful. They always started out with a small plate of fresh fruit. And whenever you ordered juice, it was always fresh-squeezed. It’s wonderful living in the tropics and eating the fruit that’s native to the area!

Overall, it was a fun weekend. We enjoyed getting to another part of Kenya that was completely new to us. We saw many interesting things and experienced some new adventures. And, going away from home and traveling was a good way to celebrate my birthday as usual.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A strange lack of smokers here

One thing that one usually notices when traveling or living outside the U.S. is how widespread smoking is. Certainly in Europe, we came across many smokers and situations (especially when eating out) in which we had little choice to come into contact with smokers. Maybe I should say that I was a second-hand smoker for four years while living in Switzerland! And that to kick the habit, I had to move out of Europe.

We really expected to find a lot of smokers here in Kenya. But there are very few, which is very surprising to us. Sure, cigarettes are sold everywhere, and they’re easy to get. At the checkout at the grocery store, they have those enormous overhead racks of every brand of cigarette. (Also at every checkout is a wide variety of condoms, so maybe sex is the habit of choice here instead.)

While I haven’t been extremely observant, I bet in our two months here, I could count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen smoking. Maybe here people do it at home instead of out in public. I remember in Zimbabwe 19 years ago, many people smoked, and I thought that in many parts of Africa, tobacco was a good cash crop to grow. Or maybe the anti-smoking campaigns have made strides in Kenya too.

Washing hands as a new concept

On my latest trip last week to Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya, I was reminded again of something I always forget until I travel to a developing country (if I’m not already in one) or to remote areas in one. In the refugee camp, there are signs all over that are part of campaigns that have been run by the various non-governmental organizations that work there, including the Lutheran World Federation. These signs give messages that are basically public-service announcements and talk about abstaining from sex before marriage (especially because of the spread of HIV/AIDS), keeping living areas clean, or treating women with respect (an important message in many male-dominated cultures). And when I travel to places like this and visit projects run by these organizations, I often hear that messages like this are taught in the work of these projects – things like how it is important to wash your hands before you prepare food or that you should know how to handle one’s cash so you’re not cheated when paying for something.

When I hear of these messages or see them being communicated, I realize again how much we as Americans take for granted. To me as an adult, I don’t even think about such things, but I know at some point they were taught to me, most likely as a child, but even then, it was probably less blatant and direct – perhaps less teaching and instructing and more like just doing it as a way of life or habit. So it seems strange for me to see these practices being taught to adults for the first time. That’s one major difference, I guess, between developed countries and developing ones – that such practices are ingrained in our culture and easily passed from one generation to the next or are more accepted or prevalent. I guess it’s for that very reason that we don’t have to deal with diarrhea or other water-borne diseases – because we address them at their source by washing our hands before we eat or that we get our water from sources we can trust. But if you’re faced with diarrhea in your family regularly or some members of your family have died from AIDS, then someone may tell you that the basics aren’t being taken care of.

It’s just jarring to my mentality to see a place where such basics, things that are so simple and natural to me, are not done. I don’t mean to imply that people in developing countries are stupid or ignorant or backwards, but for some reason, we as Americans can take these things for granted. This is just always surprising to me – to be reminded of this major difference.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Heading north for the "winter"

From a previous entry on this blog, you know that I spent the last few days in the extreme northwestern part of Kenya visiting Kakuma Refugee Camp and other Lutheran World Federation projects in the country’s Turkana District. Because Kenya straddles the equator, to get there, I crossed the equator to get from the southern part of the country, where Nairobi is, to the northern part.

So that means I went from the southern hemisphere, which is in the middle of its summer, to the northern hemisphere, where it’s winter right now. But, I tell ya, it’s anything but winter there in that bottom corner of the northern hemisphere. I know many of you are in the throes of sub-zero temperatures and snow, so I won’t tell you that, at high noon in the refugee camp, I bet the temperature was pushing 100 degrees F.

My favorite season is summer because it’s warm, and I enjoyed some of that hot weather, but being outside during the hottest part of the day was awful. Two of the mornings I was there, I was up and out seeing some projects very early in the morning, and at those times, the temperatures were cooler, and it was pleasant. At the end of the day, I was very sweaty and sticky. Rather than showering before going to bed because it was very hot inside the house, even at night (there was no air conditioning in the house I stayed in), I just waited until morning to shower. It was nice to shower when it was still cool outside, and at least there was a little bit of time – maybe an hour or so – when I was somewhat cool and clean.

So, happy winter to those of you on the other side of the equator. Back down here below that line, we’re enjoying our warm weather!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Personal encouters

Today I spent an hour and a half listening to 4 people who had gone on an assessment mission to some of the towns in northern Kenya where the violence has been particularly bad. They were all counselors and were to assess what could be done for the people affected by the violence in terms of counseling, trauma therapy, etc. They described some pretty horrible situations. People afraid for their lives are living in all sorts of camps – some in or near police stations, others in showgrounds. There isn’t always clean water and the toilets are often far away that the woman are afraid to walk there after dark because of what might happen to them. Roughly 30 babies have been born in the last month in one of the camps that they visited; they don’t have scissors to cut the umbilical cord so they had to use pangas – sort of an all purpose long knife: good for chopping down weeds as well as attacking your fellow man (you might have seen pictures on the tv). There aren’t enough blankets handed out for everyone and single woman or old people can’t make it to the lines fast enough for the supplies of food that are being distributed. Nursing staff in one hospital were down to 1 nurse per ward of 50 people during the day and 1 nurse at night. There is a lot of bitterness and worry over the future – “I am too scared to go home, but if I don’t, who will plant my crops? But if I did go home, where would I get the seeds for the crops and where would I stay as my house is burned to the ground?” Some people are definitely thinking of revenge and getting back what was taken from them. No one knows when the violence will stop and it will truly take a long time for this country to heal.

The team also had a rather traumatizing experience themselves. They narrowly escaped from 1 town as the violence was flaring up again. Then they got stuck in a road block – people had taken stones, large rocks and trees and laid them across the road. They were in the road block for 2 and a half hours and I think truly feared for their lives. They saw a large Greyhound type bus get the passenger door ripped off and the back tire flattened. The mob wanted to kill the bus driver who was from the ‘wrong’ tribe. They were afraid that the regular vehicles would be next, but finally, they were allowed to proceed. One of the members of the team was from Sweden – he’s white – and the other 3 Africans think that because he was with them, they weren’t harassed any further. You could hear the emotion in their voice when they spoke of this part of their trip and I gathered both the men and women shed quite a few tears during the experience.

Closer to home, two of the people that work in my office tried to pay their next month’s rent, but the landlady wouldn’t take it. She didn’t mind them living there, but was afraid if she continued to rent to them there would be trouble. These two gentlemen live in the slum nearest the office and neither makes a lot of money. I am sure they rent on their homes was 1/20 of what our rent is. So they have to find somewhere else for their families to live – and fast. They spoke of moving them to the villages where they come from but it is a question of expense and safety in getting them there. You can tell from the last paragraph that travel by road can be harrowing. The one guy has 8 kids – I don’t know how old the eldest is, but I don’t think any of them are independent yet though a couple of them may be in boarding school (which is typical here). They both plan to stay in Nairobi without their families and continue to work. The office may end up storing whatever larger possessions they have as to move them out of Nairobi would be way too expensive.

I feel very fortunate – and a little guilty – for all that I have. I hope you do to.