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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

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