Monday, September 1, 2008

The Ride Back to Nairobi

The ride home is a time to reflect. To write. To listen to music.

I remember...

*Charcoal stands everywhere. Desperate measures to survive. Illegal cutting of trees to burn for survival.
*Baobab trees standing tall. Their thick, wavy trunks a part of the land itself. Watchers of time and place.
*African cattle and goats being led down the roads. Adults. Teenagers. Boys. Walking barefoot. Carrying sticks. Dressed in colorful clothing.
*Kilimanjaro--barely visible from the road. Just the tip of the ice fields. Appear adorned in clouds. The glacier receding. Gone in 10 years.
*Baboons walking along the road. A big male with huge fangs. Hanging out.
*Children wrapped in kangas upon their mothers' backs. Snug. Safe. A part of every moment.
*Mosques-green. peach. pink. Delicately adorned.
*Boys and girls in school uniforms. Wearing hope on their sleeves.
*Curios along the road. Carved bowls. Animals. Masks.
*Acacia honey for sale. Thick, amber liquid bottled in old jars. Flasks. Spaghetti sauce. Coke bottles.
*People on bikes. Riding. Walking along the dirt roads.
*Young children holding hands. Walking. Being.
*Matatus-packed. Faces out windows. Luggage piled to the sky.
*Police stopping matatus for $$$.
*Complete congestion in Nairobi.
*Construction. Detours. Bumpy roads (painful, when you need a bathroom!)
*Men adorned in goods for sale. Walking along the cars in traffic. Maps. Car mats. Oranges. Kenyan flags. Toys.
*Ground nuts in paper funnels.

I witness the beauty.

But I also witness the hardship, I want to stay. Could I make a dent in the struggle of Kenya? Could I truly help make change?

I had no answers.

But a will to try.

We meet a tiny girl who asks, "Buy me food, please." Her eyes sunken. Cheeks hollow. My heart breaks. She is selling a black beaded necklace. I give her all the coins I have. I cannot get her to smile. But she gives me the necklace.

In downtown, we visit a craft market in the center of town. Beaded Masai jewelry. Necklaces. Bracelets. Bowls. Kangas. Shoes. High pressure sales. I make the mistake of asking for a Obama T-shirt. One man leads us through the ENTIRE market. Finally to the shirts--which look exactly like the ones here in the US! Then the guy selling Obama shirts in the next area begins to bid for our sale. Both men pressuring us. Negotiating. Us retreating. Too much money. One guy offers to go with me to the bank. "NO thank you!" We try to leave the market. They follow. They begin to argue with each other for taking away their business. I feel guilty. I feel like I want to run ASAP!

We leave the guys behind, but I don't leave the sadness. Selling one T-shirt that day might have fed his entire family for a week.

How do I go home to such opulence? How am I ever normal again? Or was normal just pure ignorance?

I go home with a heavy heart of the struggle of Kenya.

I appreciate life. Food. A home. School for my kids.

We are a product of luck. Hard work. Integrity. But luck.

We must find ways to make change.

Here is the US (Obama)

And then for the world.

(Thanks to Abby Burden for the Obama van photo)

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