Okay---all this ‘free’ time and I‘ve done very little writing. I am sorry—I can’t even tell you what I’ve been doing with my time. I have this horrible habit of when what I see in front of me is vast wasteland of extra time (like just sitting around in Nairobi), instead of making the most of every moment, I assume there will be plenty of moments and waste my time. I did it after each graduation (USU and Tufts), just lazy or possibly pessimistic in these cases where I assume nothing will happen for a LONG while.
Well, just like post graduations, I was wrong—things happen and they happen fast. No, I’m not getting back into Ethiopia this quick, I can only wish. But, as opposed to paying me to just sit around and do nothing (well, I do do some work just not a good 8 hours worth, there just isn’t any), instead of paying me to waste time GOAL has decided to ship me off to help in other countries. What this means—I get to see South Sudan!!!!! Not technically a country yet, but acting as if—with the capitol of Juba, South Sudan is in a time of GREAT flux. Millions coming home who had fled the conflict that is now over, and hundreds of NGOs and UN organizations beefing up their project to help this little (okay really big) country get on its two feet. I am specifically going to a place called Twic and Blue Nile valley! I’ll be doing 2 surveys, one in each place. Twic is apparently the middle of nowhere, with nothing there. A plane flies in supplies (food, water, fuel for a generator, etc) every two weeks. Talk about isolation!!!! It will be great, granted just for one week. Then the Blue Nile Valley, one of the 2 main tributaries of ‘the Nile’ that originates in Ethiopia; the other tributary being the White Nile. It is apparently swampy, which translates to Mosquito heaven and lots of itching and living in mosquito nets. Yes, I take an anti-malarial, no worries. Blue Nile area is supposed to be GORGEOUS!! I’ll let you know more when I can, but FYI I’ll be out of touch for a bit.
Okay so below, some stories from my time here in Nairobi.
1. I had the BEST breakfast EVER! Okay, not really ever, but for a long time. There is a restaurant here called Java. Rumour has it the people who own the chain lived in the US for a bit, and came back here and opened these restaurants. They serve coffee and tea, as the name gives away, but they also serve AMERICAN style breakfast foods (pancakes with bananas and maple syrup, waffles with strawberries, and French toast!!) Yea, they have eggs and bacon and that crap, but really what matters are the pancakes with bananas and maple syrup! YUMMY!! It was SOOOOOOOOO good. YUM YUM YUM. They also have burgers and ‘Mexican’ food. The salsa, not so good, not even close, but a decent attempt at refried beans. Not what I would call even close to Tex-Mex, but edible. In general it’s the pancakes and maple syrup that matters! YUMMY!!
2. Nairobi is EXPENSIVE!!!!! I realize I am comparing it to Addis which is very cheap, but I think you would be surprised to know most things cost the same or close to the same as in the US. Things are NOT cheaper here then in say Utah. Possibly San Francisco, but for the bulk of the US it’s the same as Nairobi. It’s a serious shock to my system. It doesn’t help that the currency here is Kenyan Shillings and the numbers are HIGH—For example one dollar is 68 shillings, and a bottle of coke costs 400 Shillings ( at a medium class restaurant). The sound of 400 anything freaks me out. Another example, in Addis there is a restaurant (very expensive one) that has pancakes and imitation syrup. It’s decent and costs about $2.50 for the meal. That same meal here in Nairobi, about $8.00!! It is SOOO expensive. Yikes! I hear once you leave Nairobi prices drop drastically, but for Nairobi, its high high stuff.
3. GOAL Kenya Projects—yesterday I got the great opportunity to tour the Kenya Nairobi projects. There are five sites—which I’ll describe below:
A. The Child Rescue Centre: a home for children who are being abused (sexually or physically). The community can call the centre and tell them about a family, or they get referred form health clinics or hospitals. They can have up to 50 kids at one time, ages 4 to 12 for boys and 4 to 18 for girls. They end up taking younger children, but always over one, because they can’t just take the 5 year old sibling and leave the 2 year old the bad situation. The kids come live in this LITTLE house and have school, one on one therapy, group therapy by age, group therapy by gender, and group therapy by type of abuse. They all help clean and keep the centre going. They stay from one night to over a year, depending on their situation. Some kids just stay there until other family members can be found; other kids who are dealing with court issues and pressing charges, stay there until the case is settled then are placed with other family members. It was just the cutest place I’ve ever seen. These kids were so shy, and so cute, so helpless. The centre does amazing work—and has been operating for 5 years. Unfortunately it is the only one of its kind, and serves a city of 5 million! There isn’t a waiting list or anything, not that many get reported—it’s a matter of community education also.
B. Children’s Community School—there are several slum areas in Nairobi. In fact, it is quite famous for these areas. They breed disease, discontent, violence, and uneducated unhealthy children. I can’t really explain them—you have to see them, but picture miles and miles of corrugated iron shacks. No plumbing, no water, no nothing. They generally assemble around the different rivers running though Nairobi. These rivers then become their baths, toilets, and garbage dump. The industrial areas are usually where they stay, as they work in these huge factories. There is little to no enforcement of environmental laws, and the factories all dump EVERYTHING into these rivers. You can tell when you are getting near one, as they absolutely reek. The stench is astounding. These areas are technically illegal neighbourhoods and live with the risk of possibly destruction by the government every day. They of course have no services, which includes schools. So, GOAL has a school in one such area. A lot of the kids are years behind in school, possibly started out and left in second grade and are now 12 or 13 and starting up again. The schools provide two snacks and a healthy lunch each day. They also get counselling and free health services from the GOAL Mobile Health Clinic. In response to need in the area, they also started community information centre. They provide the days papers and a free library (of random books that were donated) for the community to use. Again, a great place—great kids. They have a little spot for a football (soccer) field, though I saw no ball. Their main toys (not just here at the school, but all over and in Ethiopia) are old tires. Car and bicycle tires are the main form of distraction for kids.
C. Adult Education: all these projects were started as one, the Rescue Centre, then to fill another need they added the community school, then the adults wanted schooling, so they added just down the road an Adult Literacy centre. They teach reading and writing in Swahili and English and teach very basic computer skills.
D. Vocational Centre: Again, another need, job skills for ages 18 to 24. The Vocational Centre was born. The kids who go to this usually have never been student before or at best, not since they were 10 or younger. The programme is one year long with the first 2 months teaching them 1-how to be a student, 2-life skills (communication, relationships, etc), and 3-health education (hygiene, sex education, HIV/Aids, etc). They are also fed, but just one snack and lunch a day. They also get free health care – and if they have children of their own, they can be tended to also, immunizations, treatment, whatever. After the 2 months of life skills, they start to train in their chosen skill. Our vocational centre offers carpentry, hospitality (catering and how to make up a hotel bed, be polite, work with foreigners, etc), and third hair dressing. They spend a few months learning and practicing together at the school, then we have agreements with different businesses in Nairobi and they go get practical on job experience. After they graduate, if they desire to open their own business, GOAL helps them set up a business with basic materials. Granted, for the catering don’t be thinking they by these people ovens, or even hot plates. They get a plastic table, four chairs, a display case, and a charcoal stove. This is basic basic, but can save their lives and futures.
E. Lastly is the HIV/Aids education centre. They started working with street children, providing education on HIV/Aids and other infectious diseases. But they have expanded, and work with different orphanages, placement centres, and the community in general to offer education and counselling on options for those who test positive. Overall, I was VERY impressed with GOAL Kenya. TO be honest, I know more about GOAL Kenya now then GOAL Ethiopia—I was supposed to have this same kind of tour in Ethiopia, but I was so busy from day one we never found time to tour around, so I know little about the programme office in Ethiopia. I plan to change that when I get back.
4. Money—as I mentioned life in Nairobi is EXPENSIVE! But, another thing you need to understand is there are some RICH RICH Kenyans. I can’t believe how much money is here. There are homes that are literal castles, motes and all. These aren’t foreigners, these are Kenyans!! It blows my mind how much money is here—but don’t be confused, there is severe poverty. Kenya has one of the largest wealth gaps (difference between top 10% richest and bottom 10% poorest) in the world. The difference is astounding. There just isn’t as much money in Ethiopia. There is essentially one rich Ethiopian, and he is very different from the rest He is actually one of the world’s top 100 richest people. But, for the rest of the country---rich is all relative. It’s crazy how many malls, shopping centres, movie theatres, whatever they have here in Nairobi. And they are always busy! It blows my mind.
5. My last point for the day, is a sad story from one of the aforementioned Centres above. While at the HIV/Aids education centre we were talking with the director on current issues she is facing in programming. She told us the most horrific tale about the adolescent girls she works with at some of the schools in the slums. These girls must prostitute themselves in order to have enough money to by sanitary pads (menstrual napkins, whatever you want to call them). I’m not exaggerating. They are actually quite expensive, $1.00 about for a month supply. There is no money and no programme that provides these things. People worry about food, people worry about education, but when is the last time you heard of NGO providing menstruation supplies for girls. If they can’t afford them, they must sit on the floor for 5 to 7 days until their period is over, wearing the same clothes and not moving. They don’t have water to bathe everyday, and it’s filthy anyway—so they are embarrassed because they are all red, so they just sit on the floor EVERY MONTH! Some use old rags, but as they don’t really have sanitary conditions, they end up getting infections and they don’t have a lot of water to wash the rags, so they don’t clean them properly anyway. Horrific. Something you never thing about, but a fact of life—something these girls deal with every month of their life. If they want to not miss school for a week every month, then they prostitute themselves for one or two nights so they can get cash to buy the pads. These are good girls, just desperate, absolutely more desperate then you can imagine. Before I start getting packages of pads, don’t worry GOAL has decided to provide pads to the schools to hand out to the girls as necessary. I think we are trying to get some international company to donate them. But, remember this is only for the few schools that GOAL works with, and there are girls all over Kenya and the world dealing with this.
Okay—now that I’ve depressed you—I’ll sign off. Sorry, I just like sharing what I see. The reality of life in some of the countries outside the western world is so hidden from us; I think it’s important someone tell you what’s going on. I am off—I need to pack for Twic. It will be HOT HOT HOT HOT and dusty. My favourite. I hope you are all well. I want to wish you all a happy International Women’s Day (March 8th for those of you unaware. It’s not really celebrated in the US).