Reality in Nairobi

Good morning from Wamba! Lucas and I arrived last night after more than eight hours of traveling. Years of taking public transportation back at home semi prepared me for this trip but the bus ride from Isiolo to Wamba?, nothing could have prepared me for that, except perhaps for that creaky old wooden ride in Universal or Knotts. But more about that later.

Yesterday morning we woke up to no electricity or running water at the Wildabeest camp and the night before we had difficulties with our phone meeting with Kristen... I am beginning to understand just the difficulties that Lucas and Juma face when we try and get a hold of them. We walked outside to the dining patio to another damp morning, like the night before, it had been raining during the night. Poor Lucas sleeping in a tent outside! Wildabeest Camp is quite beautiful, especially the view from the dining patio. 

At 9AM, Abdul promptly picked us up and took us to run a few quick errands before we headed to the bus stop. Having heard on the radio that there was a major accident on the main road, he took a few side roads, many of which were not paved. Since it was daytime, Abdul drove us through the slums... he told me that this was the biggest slums in all of Central Africa stretching for kilometers! I think he said half a million to a million people live there? 

I can't begin to fathom what goes on there. He said that during the past elections which got very violent, it was complete chaos in the slums- many deaths occurred in the slums as the majority of the people living in the slums were part of the losing candidate's ethnic group.  The PM (who was the losing candidate) is currently working to create new housing for everyone living in the slums but the reality said Abdul is that they cannot afford the subsidized rent and will probably rent the apartment to make some money and not live there themselves.

A few minutes later we were back to the crowded streets of Nairobi. What a stark difference! While Lucas ran to get some parts for our car, I had the chance to talk to Abdul about life, politics, and governance. This beats even the best international development class I ever took! I learned that corruption is as rampant as ever and if he were to ever get pulled over by the police, he would pay the bribe in chai tea. Although there are many investigations at the higher levels, no one ever gets convicted or punished and even the minister of anti-corruption got sacked when he took his investigation too far. I learned that Abdul was from a nomadic pastoralist community much like the Samburus and I could tell that he resented the two major ethnic groups for marginalizing his community. As he talked about just the different ethnic groups and the power each held, it reminded me of just the different ethnic groups in China and how the Han has the most power and influence.

After Lucas returned, we headed to the infamous River Road where all the buses were stationed to begin our journey to Wamba. For those that haven't heard the story, this is the place where Lucas left Kristen during her trip last February frantically running after men that stole the tires leaving Kristen in a very crowded and busy street that is known for its petty crimes. Having no one to protect her, Kristen acted like a mad woman causing everyone to think twice before approaching her. Kristen had promised Lucas to hold my hand at River Road and as we approached that area I could see why. There were seas of people on the side walk, in the streets, in the buses and I could see how easy it would be for them to pick-pocket you if you weren't careful. Lucas was ever so protective and immediately went straight to the matatu (bus) that we would take to Isiolo. When we were sitting in the back of the seven passanger matatu the guy in charge of taking the money and issuing receipts recognized Lucas and had witnessed the ordeal with Kristen the year before; he commented that, I had it quite easy this time around. Whew! And so began our trip to Wamba. Lucas is coming to take me to breakfast so more about our travels later!