don’t be confused by the titles that i use for my posts. they don’t have any incredibly special meaning, but they are significant moments in my day where some of the local people have said something to me in conversation that i thought was meaningful. i actually just had a conversation with a man who saw me walking down the sidewalk and came up just to ask me where i was going so that he could help me find it. even though i already knew where i was going, i thought it was a great gesture of kindness. the people are so nice here! (a bit nicer in the rural areas, but the cityfolk still aren’t too bad) it is quite rare to find white people around, so i continue to attract a lot of attention. i’ve gotten used to it for the most part, and i take the opportunities where people are staring at me to greet them as kindly as possible. i am usually acknowledged very amicably.
it is only the afternoon here, but the rest of my team was tired, so they are resting. i thought i would take the afternoon to come and write a little since the cyber cafes are nearly empty….and also because we have already completed our main activity for the day. the only thing left to do is to go clubbing tonight with the yale students 🙂 it should be fun.
but let me tell you about this morning. we woke up early (relatively speaking, because we are usually up by 7 or so) and headed out of the house to go north. my body was (and is) still trying to process some particularly potent ginger coffee that i had last night, and without being grotesque, i’ve had no problem with being constipated. no problem whatsoever. haha. besides the cramps, i feel like my system is being cleared out very effectively! mzuri sana! …okay. we took a tuk tuk and after nearly crashing a few times, we arrived at our destination. we then met the lady that was helping us and we took a matatu the rest of the way to a gas station where we waited for a few case workers to meet us. after sitting on a bench for a while, and chuckling at how odd we surely looked (a bunch of whities just sitting in a row on a bench in a gas station), the case workers met us and we began our journey. each one of us was paired with a case worker and we set out individually to make rounds to see kids in the slums who had been diagnosed with HIV. since the kids were at school, we did not actually meet any of them, but we still spent some time with their families if their families were home. the responsibilities that the case workers have are fairly simple. they make sure the kids are taking their medication regularly (the medication for HIV+ individuals is free here), they see how they are feeling, if they are sick the case workers educate the families on how to appropriately take care of them, they teach the families how to cook and live healthily as well as they can. spending time with the case workers was great, and it was fun to be able to try to integrate my swahili skills a little bit, though i am quite rocky.
the area i went to (along with ahlam) was just past the gas station. one of the districts we were in was called chaani, but i forget what the other ones were. there is absolutely no way i can describe accurately what i saw, but i will try. picture mud everywhere. if there is any green, it is minimal. just mud. and where there are puddles and particularly lower areas, you can see piles and piles of trash. where else is it going to go? there are animals everywhere, but most of them look diseased. cows, chickens, sheep, goats, ducks, turkeys, dogs, cats, and i’m sure many more that were hidden amongst the trash and the crevices in the houses. as for the houses, they were varied, some nicer than others, but they ranged all the way from mud and a thatched roof to cement, but they were all still in the same muddy area. the houses had dirt floors sometimes, but they also had beds here and there. there was so much to see and so little time, so i apologize for not being able to dictate well what i saw. we spoke to a woman who had broken her leg a couple days earlier, but because she didn’t have access to good health care, she was only able to wrap it in an ace bandage. the people we met, though seemingly in desparate poverty, were incredibly gentle, jovial, and happy to see us in lots of cases. we stopped and played with a group of kids who were playing with their makeshift jump rope, and after the initial shock of seeing a white person in the slums, they seemed to have fun. they were still very shy. many of the older people were very happy though. the reason these children were out playing was because they are too young to go to school yet.
speaking of school, we eventually crossed a field where we saw so many children in uniforms playing with each other. the case workers told us that these were children who attended chaani primary school and that they were on ‘break’ or recess. we promptly went and engaged them, asking to play soccer with them, and after a ridiculous amount of kids crowded around in a semi circle to see this white man that had entered into their life for a brief time, we made the first move and started kicking the ball around. the kids enjoyed our time immensely, though we were there for only 10 minutes. each time they would score i would yell ‘ehhhhh, mzuri sana!!’ and for some reason (part of me thought they were just making fun of me…but that’s still okay with me :)) everyone that was playing would turn toward me, repeating what i had just said, and then proceed to high five me with vigor. it was such a joyful moment, but i think we spent more time yelling and laughing than we did playing. haha. it was a shame that i wasn’t able to have a better connection with the children. as we left, the children forced themselves toward us, wanting to shake our hands so that they could get one last touch on the foreign white skin before we left. their joy was convicting, and it interests me to think why that kind of setting would not be seen in the states. people truly trust each other and enjoy each other’s company here. that is wonderfully refreshing. the value of the people in the slums is priceless.
we walked back to where we started and we took a matatu back to town where we walked home. it has been raining off and on since then, but it makes things a little cooler, which feels great. i am about to walk around a bit more and shop a little bit in old town mombasa, and tonight we shall dance. tutacheza dansi! 🙂
we don’t have too much planned tomorrow, but we will leave for malindi on friday. we will come back to mombasa to visit an orphanage program on saturday, only to return again to malindi later that night. pray for safe travels and health as a few of the team members seem to be catching a cold.
the traveling excites me because we will be able to see a broader view of the big picture of the AIDS epidemic around the coastal area, but it is unfortunate that we are not able to work specifically with a select group of people here. i know that the personal connection would do wonders in understanding the people more. but we continue, and we are making friendships along the way.
haya, jioni nzuri.