And for once I was SuperMom

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Random Musings about life in Nairobi

Some people in Kenya, particularly the Kikuyu, have trouble with the “r”s and their “l”s. This is especially the case when the sounds are both in the same word. So it is fun to guess how Lara’s name is going to be butchered. We will be keeping the receipt from our first adventure with having pizza delivered as the receipt says the customer is “Rara”. She also gets called Lala quite a bit.

Why is it that we can insure that there is mobile phone access anywhere in the country and we can get the new Bond movie showing here in Nairobi a week ahead of the U.S. but we can’t figure out to supply our people with basics like water, electricity and decent roads?

I don’t understand how Kenyans stay so clean. I commute downtown to work and invariably show up with red dirt marks on my pants and dusty, scuffed shoes. Meanwhile I see Kenyans who live in much more simple housing situations than I make it to work with their sharp business attire looking immaculate.

When riding in matatus a good rule of thumb is the level of service will be inversely proportional to the amount of hip hop paraphernalia on the vehicle. (Not necessarily a condemnation of all hip hop culture, just a truth in this instance).

Roundabouts are like communism: both are great in theory, but when put into use by selfish, sinful people they cause a huge mess.

We live in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Nairobi, but we still have to make way for herds of cows and goats that occasionally roam the streets.

I remember reading not too long ago that sports stadiums in the U.S. have had to widen their seats to accommodate the ever expanding girth of the average American. At this point Kenya is in no danger of having to take this step based on the size of the average Kenyan man. (Kenyan women are a different story) As it stands right now being overweight is a privilege reserved for the especially wealthy Kenyan man. The matatus and buses, however, may want to follow the example of American stadiums. Even though most Kenyan men are slim and narrow (compared to them I have really broad shoulders) we still have to spoon to fit in the bus or matatu seats.

Westerners tend to think about things in terms of bounded sets. In other words they like things to have clear boundaries and delineations. I used to think that this mindset was a bit rigid and restrictive. Then I drove in Nairobi. Now I feel like some good old bounded set thinking could really help things out. Or at least get drivers to stay in a lane.

It is inspiring to see how Kenyans care for each others’ children. The other day I was riding in a matatu when a woman with three young children got on. Noticing her struggles and without being asked, an elderly gentleman lifted two of her children into the vehicle. Her little girl was sitting in a seat when another traveler got on. He picked up the little girl and placed her on his lap and the ride continued. This would never happen in the U.S. but here it is commonplace. Even in the urban centers it takes a village to raise a child.

How is it that we can be subjected to deluges of rain every day for weeks and still be in the midst of a water shortage? I realize that there are more complex factors involved than simple conservation and storage, but those sure would go along way.

Most of Kenya has a very similar climate to much of California. Both have temperate climates year round. Both have areas that are really dry and areas that get a lot of rain. But on average it seems that Kenya gets about twice as much rain as California. For example, Nairobi gets about 40 inches of rain a year while San Francisco gets about 20. Yet California can grow just about anything and could feed much of the world with its crops while Kenya cannot even feed its own people let alone export anything. Again, a vast array of factors (corruption in Kenya comes to mind), but those words conservation and storage really cover a lot of them.

Researchers have determined that cultures that live in temperate climates tend to be more friendly and hospitable. My experiences in Kenya lend credence to this research. Which makes me think: maybe some people from frigid climates with personalities to match should be sent here to Kenya for some behavior modification. Hey frigid people, don’t get upset, at least you get a trip to Kenya out of the deal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good insight thoughts here. Keep learning and enjoy the process. Thanks for sharing all these