When we walk through Kibera, its almost like we are a parade. All of the kids - who are extremely cute - come running out to greet us with a chorus of "how are you's?" There are tons and tons of NGOs and other groups who come to through Kibera to do research or implement projects, and unfortunately, I don't think that the community sees the tangible outcomes or feels as if they receive any direct benefit. It's hard to be lumped into that category, have an idea of what people are thinking as we trek through their villages, and be viewed in the same light. Hopefully, at least in the village of Silanga where we do most of our work, the community will see us coming back on a regular basis and feel some sense of commitment.
It's hard to describe Kibera. I don't have any pictures....for one, it would be impossible to truly capture our surroundings. Aside from potentially making us bigger targets, I wouldn't feel comfortable taking pictures as if everything was a 'spectacle.' I'm still struggling with the 'researcher'/'subject' dynamic, but I think as we get to know more people in the community, it will get better. What I can say is that about (and its impossible to know for sure) 1.3 million people live within (again, about) 1 square mile. Families are packed into huts made of mud and iron sheets. It's hard to maneuver the "roads" between houses. Not only are they very narrow, but slippery from rain and sewage and covered in trash. Next to one of our facilities, there was a hole dug about 8-10 feet deep, and we discovered that the slum is literally built upon 4-5 feet of pure trash. It's amazing that even in these conditions of extreme poverty, people always seem to have a smile on their face.
We haven't had much time to explore yet. We have been eating lots of delicious Kenyan food though. I am loving the chipati (tortilla-ish flatbread) and skumawiki (roasted kale with onion and tomato). We moved into our apartment yesterday, and it's luxurious. I'm sitting here on our balcony, overlooking the pool, using our wireless internet. We also have a nice big kitchen and a group who loves to cook!
Our list of "things to do" while in Kenya is getting longer and longer; our weekends should be filled with adventures. Next weekend we plan to head out to Mehru, a rural town about 5 hours outside of Nairobi where Anthony is from. He wants to take us to the Mehru National Park and to Mount Kenya. I'm looking forward to it!
I'm enjoying every minute of my time so far. We have a wonderful group and every Kenyan I've met has greeted me with a huge smile, a hug, and welcoming words. I think I'll like it here :)
Okay, so Renee did get a couple of pictures. Here's our group with Anthony in front of one of our facilities.