A Travellerspoint blog

Religion in Kenya and HIV/AIDS

sunny 25 °C

Blog 2007jan Christianity in Kenya and HIV/AIDS

I find I am getting annoyed by the Christianity here in Kenya. In the UK, some people yearn for a faith that is constantly present and visible and active in society, but seeing it in Kenya I am pleased we have moved past that.

Overly established Christianity leaves itself so open to arrogance, superiority, abuse, corruption, rigidity and intolerance of difference. This is a constant problem of a religion that was originally inspired by a man who came to challenge the arrogance of an established order of his day.

In church on Sunday, the sermon was about how Christians should reach out to the foreigners and never return insult with insult, but instead love – but then in the same service the prayers (given by a parishioner and not a priest) were petitioning god to protect us from the wave of Islam that is threatening the country. You will not be surprised that I didn’t yell out “Amen to that!” but I was disappointed to hear this in an Anglican church.

Easy-listening music in supermarkets in Britain is never a beautiful experience, but transfer that to the Christian easy-listening genre in Kenya and UUGGGGHHH! I just don’t want to listen to threats/promises about how Jesus will change my life as I’m choosing my Dijon mustard. I don’t know what the head scarfed lady beside me was thinking.

Not all of the songs are that bad as songs and some are perfectly nice in the home (Michael Row the Boat a Shore being one of the better ones and didn’t contain any threats), but what really annoys me is that most of them are European/Western creations. I had hoped Africa would be full of African Gospel songs of the type sung by the black slaves in America… or vibrant multipart ones, like those sung by South Africans who visited Scotland, but NO. There are very few of these. The same is true of the two churches I’ve visited here.

Matatu music is also too often Christian. Yesterday I had to listen to Zion Express FM on my way to work. Sometimes you get reggae Christian music instead, which is definitely preferable.

Faith here isn’t all bad. Annike (who I wrote about earlier) said that there are churches all over the slums and while Annike is a dedicated atheist, she truly believes that they have an amazingly positive impact on the people they serve. Also, that Pentecostal church I visited had an HIV testing clinic one Sunday. The pastor had apparently encouraged the whole congregation to be tested and receive counselling if necessary. Nobody was to judge anybody for being uncertain about their status (one reason being that everybody had a past before they were born again).

And nicely linked into HIV. I’ve found it very encouraging how much HIV/AIDS is talked about here. Unlike India (which has recently been designated the country with the most HIV+ people in the world) where AIDS is denied, hidden, stigmatised against and unknown I have had a conversation everyday here in Africa about the condition – and very few of them have I initiated. People talk about it. They are aware and concerned. While some are still confused about protection, thinking that condoms don’t work and so there’s little point using them.

Posted by happydaves 02:14 Archived in Kenya Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Settling in

sunny 24 °C

Blog 2007jan6 Saturday

Good Morning!

You know, one thing I hate is how during the week I get up at 6:45 (ish) and then it comes to Saturday morning, and no matter how late I’ve been out, I still wake up at 6:45.

So, this week has been more getting used to Nairobi. I’m beginning to know my way around (the areas I visit) and know how to get to town, work, couple of pubs etc. So in a way the excitement of NEW PLACE is fading and I’m in that middle slightly time between adrenaline newness and really settled in and know what to do with my time, my weekends, having made friendships with people who I can hang out with whenever I want.

I was chatting with my flatmate Mita, who’s been here for 4 months now, about how I’m still always overly aware about my personal security. Who is sitting beside me on the bus or matatu? (A matatu is a small minibus used for public transport that smells badly, is crammed full of people and plays bad music). Where are their hands? Near my pockets? What’s in my pockets? How open are they? Or as I walk down a street… Who are the people walking towards me? What are their intentions? Which side of the street feels safer? I think I’m still affected by those horror stories you hear about Nairobi. It’s not really that bad and Mita says that this excessive awareness fades with time. Or maybe you still remain aware, but are no longer consciously processing it all the time. Although, many of the real UN staff would never take public transport or walk anywhere… but then UN benefits allow for this.

These security issues and my lack of knowledge of the city also mean that I don’t feel as free as I would like. I miss having a bicycle, but that’s impossible here (my matatu knocked a cyclist over pretty badly yesterday). The 7 UN interns upstairs from my flat have moved out and I’m missing them, but now they’re half way across town near the UN complex… not sensible/possible to get to by public transport at night and pricey (15 euros return) for unshared taxis – doable, but not everyday.

All these security concerns have a knock-on effect on my exercise, which I miss. I do not walk/cycle around here and I’m determined to find some way of getting fit.

I’m also aware that I only know a bit of Nairobi… the nice bit. And as home to the largest slum in Africa and with 70% of the population living in slums I feel that I’m quite sheltered from a major part of the city. However, several of the interns I’m friends with have done their projects in the slums. One Dutch girl (Annike) is an architect making a plan to improve the two sports fields in a slum that houses 1 million people. At present, they’re both just mud and she’s trying to re-design them so they are safe with good lines of sight, and light (sponsored by a mobile phone company) and flat etc. Another German flatmate (Christine) is mapping the pit latrines in the slum and recording the quality and state of the sewers, drains: an official map shows adequate sewerage for the slum, but her photographic evidence reveals otherwise… sewers broken, toilets that flood when it rains and wash past open rubbish dumps down hills into schools, churches and houses. Then Mita (half Dutch, half Indonesian) is assessing the capability of clinics/labs around the slum to test for TB. Cristian (from Colombia) assesses the impact of a bicycle and cart project for waste collection that was hoped would be used for income generation within the slum.

I’d like these other interns to show me the slum sometime so that I can get an insight into how many of the people in this city live – although as I ask them, I’m reminded of a comment by an Indian friend that I’ve heard some white people come to India to see poverty – if that’s true, then they are just there for a peep-show on poverty, which is sick.

Posted by happydaves 13:12 Archived in Kenya Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Safari on Masai Mara

Happy New Year everybody!

rain 22 °C


Thought it was time that I blogged again to let you know about my exciting Christmas. I’d only been here a few days and hadn’t really got friends yet. I have met lots of nice people who will hopefully develop into friends, but most most of them had booked holidays to the coast (near Mombassa). So I was really grateful when the Brazilian UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) intern from upstairs called Napoleon invited me to a little party at a Canadian girls house for 24th night. After attending a carol service at the cathedrale, I made my way to the fun party, complete with Turkey, and reminded me a lot of being in Halls at York with people from all over who had nowhere else to go.

Christmas morning I got up early and not really wanting to hang around in Nairobi with nobody to spend it with I took a Matatu out to Lake Naivasha. A Matatu is a local form of public transport a bit like a smallish minibus, crowded with smelly locals, that drives far too fast. At lake Naivasha I went cycling through Hell’s Gate national park which has some animals stuffed between a beautiful gorge. I saw Zebra, Giraffe’s and Baboons


That evening I went to sleep in a little campsite on top of a hill with a beautiful view over the lake.

Next morning (Boxing Day), after another walk through animals,


I found this Zebra Crossing quite ironic


I visited the house of the lady from the classic film/book Born Free about the lady who hugged a lion called Elsa.

Did a day of work on the 27th, then 28th-30th went on the famous Masai Mara Safari with, again, two girls from upstairs – Claudia and her sister Gabriella (two girls from Bolivia but moved to Sweeden when they were very young). Masai Mara is the pinnacle of African safari experiences. It’s what people come for. All the things you might expect to see in a David Attenburgh documentary, right before your eyes and in July/August it is host to the enormous Wildebeast migration that has recently been designated as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

So we left early in the morning, getting a view of the rift valley on the way,

hoping to reach the Mara by early afternoon in time for a few hours of animal spotting. However, a couple of hours along the way we ran into some lorries blocking the road: one broken, the other stuck in mud trying to pass… oh yes, did I mention its been raining heavily and persistently here.

After half an hour or so and some pushing we were on the road for another 20 minutes before reaching another lorry slippage – the blue vehicle had somehow managed to get stuck fully crossing the road.


After another couple of hours in the cue, a path around the lorry was found that involved the minibus slanting at about 40 degrees into the ditch. Needless to say, watching all the human activity surrounding a big blockage was enjoyable with all the people getting very involved.

Also, with Claudia and her sister being the children of a political refugee from Bolivia we had plenty to talk about.

At two further points on the journey we got to unpassable mud splats along the rain drenched road and had to get toed by tractors, jeeps and at one stage toe another minibus ourselves. Along the way we saw a few ostriches and zebra. By the time we reached the Mara, it was already past dark so we had dinner and went to bed.


Next morning we entered the park heavily excited at the thought of finally coming face to face with those lions. With all the rain though, the vehicles had to stick to the main roads through the park and had to therefore hope the animals would come close to us, instead of the other way round. Feeling a little disappointed I have since realised that this is a good thing because the vehicles normally drive all over and cause untold damage to the ecosystem.

Hartebeest were our first spot,


Then buffalo,


A family of Mongeese


An Aslan like lion



A vulture,



Thomson's Gazelles



Then a sleepy female lion…




one comment by a fellow tourist is that lions are great, but you rapidly get frustrated with their sleepiness: they spend 18 hours a day sleeping. You want to see blood, the kill, the excitement and the drama. Not just a bunch of lazy oversized pussycats. It’s a bit true, but they really are beautiful anyway.



And it’s incredible how close they’ll come to the vehicle. They are totally un-phased by humans.





A turtle in a puddle


And then we saw a bunch of 10 vehicles in one area and followed down to see what was going on. We couldn’t see anything on this barren hillside…

But, oh, if you look closely, on the far left there’re a couple of hartebeest, and on the right a pair of lions hidden in the undergrowth waiting for the hartebeest to look the other direction. We watched for about half an hour… every now and then they’d sit down and the lion would stand and look excited, but then… nothing. No blood. No runs. But one up still on our other tourist friends.

Next viewing was a bunch of cool elephants.


The baby was cute, throwing dust over itself.



This one’s for Pete.


Next was a pair of lionesses with 5 cubs. So cute, but difficult to get a close up photo.


Then suddenly, the one mother stiffened and prowled off, keeping low and hidden.


The second mother followed
Leaving the cubs looking a little concerned.


We, of course desperate to see blood, trailed the lionesses silently on their hunt in our minibus. One lioness trailed a lone wildebeeast for a kilometre or so, the other followed a warthog. We tried to follow both, but alas, neither was successful at the kill.

That had been an exciting morning. So much life in such a short time and small area. Really, you’d be lucky to drive a couple of kilometres without seeing something cool. And Zebras and antelope are very quickly considered to be too numerous and boring to stop for. It’s incredible.

After a good lunch we headed out again in the rain for a couple more hours, but saw less.


The highlight being a pride of lionesses looking damp and unhappy in the rain.



And a really cool tree.


So, after our first day we’d seen three of the ‘big five’ namely buffalo, lions and elephants. Still lacking the shy leopard and rhino. But what I really wanted to see was a cheetah. The girls and I shared a beer and dinner and went to sleep in our tents, lulled by the gentle rain,

Final morning we left the camp at 6 am in the hope of catching some sights before breakfast. Our driver/ guide, Nick, wanted to leave by 10 am since the road was so bad and he was keen (for safety’s sake) to get back to Nairobi before nightfall.

After a night of rain, it rained all morning. We drove and drove and drove hoping to catch some animals, but there was nothing. Nothing. None of the vehicles were seeing anything (they all keep in touch by radio telling eachother where to look). It was still raining, and we were getting wet in our open topped minibus. We were just giving up when the radio crackled into life… we might be lucky, whispered Nick…. And increased his speed.

And there, round the next corner, she was.
A beautiful cheetah. Sleek, feline, damp sitting on her haunches surrounded by vehicles and lapping up the adoration. We could have watched her for hours. But she got fed up of the attention and stalked off, slowly at first, and then she went for the chase and disappeared behind some bushes. I hope she ate.

I forgot my camera though

On the way home, we got stuck in more mud,


Picnicked in more rain


And said hello to some giraffes



Posted by happydaves 14:11 Archived in Kenya Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Settling in

with divine assistance

Blog 2006dec21

Things are going well and Kenya is fun.

I spent the first few days here feeling a bit up and down.
One minute – Wow, I’m in Kenya baby!!! (How exciting!... said like Scott)
Next minute – UuugGGGGHHH, this is impossible.
Next minute – Positive about work and task and staff I work with
Next minute – What are the thinking!!?!?! (other staff at work)
Next minute – Wow, Kenya baby!
Next minute – Return to hotel room and feel a bit lonely and unsettled.

The ups and downs have subsided a lot now that I’m getting to know the situation at work and have moved into a nice apartment with some UN interns. I spent all weekend looking for rooms in shared flats. I wanted to have people I could go home to at the end of the day and chill with. Being alone is not really me, but particularly in Nairobi, where to go out anywhere (especially after dark) it is necessary to get a taxi.

On Saturday night, in desperation, I texted an advert that wanted female flatmates who were committed Christians. Hmmm. Well, I got a nice response saying room was taken, but she had a friend who might have space. I could meet her after church… by the way, did I want to go to church with her.

I thought, no harm in that. I’ve never been to an African church.
So, Anna picked me up on Sunday morning and took me to breakfast and then to her Nairobi Penticostal Church. What a blast! It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but a definite cultural experience. It was a couple of thousand Africans on two floors all singing and dancing and waving hands and loud “Amens” being shouted out from excited congregants. Really, it was a lot like on TV, but better. And perhaps what the british evangelicals are aiming at, except it really seems to fit in this culture. Didn’t feel weird at all, like it can do when middle class white brits are trying to imitate it. However, I don’t think its somewhere I’ll be frequenting.

There were bits outside the singing I was less keen on. And some really bizarre bits.
For example, they were just finishing a bible marathon, during which some members were reading the whole bible over a year. They had a quiz in the service sheet with questions about the bible eg.

David said to the Lord “… I have sinned greatly in what I have done… take away the guild of your sevant. I have done a very foolish thing…”. What sin had David committed?
a) he had committed adultery with Bathsheba
b) had counted the fighting men
c) had planned for the death of Uriah in the battle field
d) had eaten bread from the temple

The people who had read all the way through the bible were asked to stand up and others marked there service sheet. The pastor was rather disappointed that nobody got 11 out of 11. Then the best 6 people were summoned up onto the stage / sanctuary. Now, my fear at this point had been it would become a holier than though, I know the bible type of thing… but it wasn’t at all. Nobody was judgemental that people got some questions wrong, or that others hadn’t finished the bible. Up till this point it really had been away of making it a bit of fun and letting the whole congregation share in the experience…. What was really bizarre was the following quick-fire round of questions in order to gain prizes (donated by church members). And we’re not just talking about a bunch or flowers or chocolates… but
1. a laptop
2. a tv
3. a 3 year scholarship to a catering college

Anyway, after church I did indeed meet Anna’s friend, Sihnae, from South Korea. And she had a lovely flat, at a reasonable price, with great flatmates, and more great people living upstairs.

Work is going well too. The NGO (Non-governmental organisation… or charity) where I work has very recently taken on some new staff who have a very positive attitude about bringing accountability, transparency and efficiency to the organisations work. They seem quite excited to have me work with them and seem to appreciate my ideas. The programme officer (number 2 to the boss) insists on calling me Dr Priest, and just yesterday emailed all their collaborators to tell them about how a ‘Senior Officer’ from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation was working with them. I’m not sure I’ve quite reached that place in the UN pecking order yet (my Terms of Reference describe me as a volunteer).

It worries me slightly that I’m quite enjoying having the authority of the UN behind many of my pronouncements. On certain controversial methods, when I want more weight behind my statements, I sit back on my chair, cross my legs, (if I had a pipe, I’d puff on it gently) and say
“well the position of FAO on this one is that…”
I, of course, only use this when I know that my comments reflect those of my superiors.

Is this the start of a lust for power which will corrupt and destroy my very core? Maybe I should go back to that church…

Also had a sweet meeting with the African interns at the NGO yesterday. They had cle

Oh, forgot to mention that my apartment has a pool. I’m sure those of my friends who lived with me in Sri Lanka will understand the hardship I suffer when there are leaves in it.

Don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas yet.

Posted by happydaves 22:30 Comments (0)

Contact details in Kenya


Please note my contacts

Appartment 41
Post Kenya Comfort Hotel
PO Box 30425
00100, GPO

or for important stuff

Care of FAO-REP
PO Box 30470
00100, GPO

Telephone office
+254 20 4444 558, ask Rose to transfer you

Telephone appartment
+254 20 272 3414
+254 20 271 9060 or 1
ask for reception to put you through to appartment 41.

Mobile number
+254 733454516


Posted by happydaves 22:18 Comments (0)

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