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When the rain washes you clear, you will know!

24 Dec

I dont think people can understand this statement until they understand it. Makes sense? Think about it!

Stress in the office. Tension with workmates. Weeks of work and results not in sight. My 23 December 2009 office-ially ended at 4pm with turning the key after a two-hour chat with my colleague in nigeria discussing the ups and downs of leadership. Now leaving campus to pick my christmas present at the post office and be home at six.

At least so I thought.

Nairobi is not much different from Frankfurt on a 23rd of December. P E O P L E everywhere.

I only reach halfway through town when the strongest thunderstorm of the year started. A full hour I share square meters of pavement with around 50 people and their last minute shopping. We are staring on roads that fill 15 cm high with water, cars that stop moving and busses that block the junctions. We start talking about politics, travelling, christmas, family. And finally I answer the question what I am doing in Kenya. Wow. The old sir next to me went to egypt on exchange through AIESEC in 1975!

We exchange numbers, I move on to the supermarket.

Dripping wet I search for some groceries then go to the matatu stop. Where there are no mats but a 3 or even 4 digit amount of people waiting for the same. In the next two hours I get to know the lady next to me, we nearly get friends. One fourteen-seater-vehicle after the other comes announcing three times the usual price (Githurai! Mia hamsini!) and still people fight to enter. By now its dark and as expected the rain has caused a power cut in town. From all sides I am told how well integrated I am into Kenya.
Notice: Waiting for a ridiculously organized transport system makes
you attractive.

More and more busses come, the waiting crowd gets less.
At eight my bro and mum call, I direct then to where the mats are.
During my year in kenya you have already sensed that they are not always found on one spot.

I get on a bus with the lady and just when we leave, daniel and mum arrive. I figure they would get on the next bus and i see them at home. My bus decides to take the most crowded road in town and it takes me 2 more hours to arrive at home. In fact dani calls me from home while we are still stuck in town. Crazy. Our driver took the wrong road… People are exhausted and falling asleep on their seats, their phones on their laps.
I think I should be the first white thief in nairobi and get rich (people say i wud rather die trying).

Instead I facebook half the way, read Germans complaining about the train being late for 45 minutes and Kenyans discussing the weather. (“God blessed us… In an unusual manner”) and its results in nine months.

When I get off the bus, my jeans have dried, my mind is relaxed and I am in christmas mood. But my present is still in the post office.

Six hours for 15km distance. Stories for a whole week.

These days only happen down here.

At least so I think.

You know who you are

17 Dec

Nikisoma name yako i get excited. Mpaka March seems too long kwa kuona. Siwezi kungoja kutouch mikono yako. Natumaini unajua kudance. Chatting na wewe ni kama i knew u kutoka kitambo. Uko na serious game, mazee. Niko sure utanisort. Nakurespect tu sana. Cant wait!

A new constitution!

19 Nov

Yesterday, the Harmonized Draft of the new Constitution of Kenya was publizided.

Now we have 30 days to give our feedback… So lets start by reading it!

A challenge to the new Age

18 Nov

Change Agent

By Halima Murunga

Africa the land of contrasts, where hunger bequeaths the poor and obesity plagues the rich.

Gone are the days of the revolutionary youth who fought for change, in with the youth who only listens passively to the problems of the community, caring only for themselves not for their neighbor. ‘That’s their problem.’

We live in the age of materialism, shielded from any thought of poverty, war, and hunger. The screen being the only window into the other side of the income divide.

Concerned with new gadgets, fashion and hedonism, not concerned that most of us are denied the necessities of life, food, shelter and clothing.

We live in the age of information, the internet, mobiles and social networking not aware the people around us are denied information because of their income and status in society.

Healthcare for the rich is a necessity, the poor man life is expendable, just a statistic.

The politician only shouts for change, preaches integrity, yet his fodder is the public treasury.

Over 60% of our population languishes in poverty. Deny a man his rights and one day he will fight back in anger. Election violence was not just political outburst, but an outcry for change in society.

2012 awaits. Are you going to change the imbalance our society or sit in your house as you watch your country burn.

Be the change and lets not keep this continent God’s blind spot.

My friend’s story

15 Nov

Do you know the article by Binyanga “How to write about Africa”?

2018 edit: Seen the Danger of a single story TED talk?

If not, please look them up online.

These messages from African thought leaders and writers is what makes me so torn about writing this blog. I want to share my experience with people back home who can’t put human faces to “Africa”. Yet any story could be interpreted as signs of suffering and negativity, no matter how much I want the strength, resilience and community to come out.

And this is a true story of one of the young women I worked with in 2008.

“My name is not so important, but I am living in Mukuru Slum in Nairobi. I am one of the thousands of girls in my area who never finished secondary school.

I want to open a bakery in town, but there is no start capital for me to do so. I know I am great in cooking and catering, but maybe the fact that I was born and live where I live keeps me from doing that. I had a job in a restaurant, we come early at around 6 to cook and serve the food and leave around 5 after cleaning. This is when I start selling small snacks on the street, because the 4,500 KSh (40 Euros) I earn per month won´t allow me to save for my dream to come true. Sundays are my free days, this is when I focus on church, doing my laundry and meeting friends.

One of these days I asked my boss to increase my salary because I felt that I am doing a great job. She had put me on a two-month break before when the restaurant was not going well. Instead of giving me the chance she said if I am complaining she can as well fire me. The way she treated me made me very unhappy and I felt frustrated.

I went home to discuss with my brother and mum whether I should stay or leave the place. My brother got angry and said he does not see my contribution to the family income and I should leave. Sometimes he behaves like that, because he is the man in the house since my dad left. I understand him… these days with the drought the food prices went up and the water shortage makes all of us aggressive and sick.

There is a man who I like. He offered me to go to his rural area with him. He promised me that in Western Kenya there is a lot of rain and enough food for everybody. So I decided to go with him and I told me family goodbye. The weather in Western was quite humid so that I fell sick, I think it was malaria. In fact the man did not have a job where we were so I started selling Chapatis on the street to sustain ourselves. Just two months down the line I find out that I am pregnant. I can barely move my legs at night, it is so painful. I admit to hospital and they confirm my situation. The man is not interested in my situation. I think he changed a lot since we left Nairobi!

Through a neighbours phone I tell my family that I want to come back to Nairobi. Fortunately they m-pesa me some money and I just leave the man behind. Arriving in Mukuru I realize that I have to go to the doctor. Under tears tell my mum that I am pregnant. She does not speak with me but takes me to the doctor and pays for my treatment. I sleep at a friends room, she is married and her husband says I can only stay until I find another place.

The worst right now is the flu I have and my paining legs. I don´t know how to pay my food and the doctors bills. I really need to know where I stay until I deliver. The doctor says that I am HIV negative, so that is a good thing.”

Students. Universities. Life… in Kenya

24 Sep

Travelling can open ones eyes. I love seeing new places. It can be beautiful, stretching, humbling, heartbreaking.

Travelling from Nai through riftvalley to Eldoret:

Drought her, cutting trees there. desperate traders here, street building there. Bright sun, this special kenyan green, blue sky.

5 days at moi university:

Hospitality, live wires, lights off, shower, rain, muddy, hygiene, bathrooms, 800 beds missing, internet, humiliating, no power sockets, sharing beds, friendship, strike, authority, business in rooms, village, 10to10 rule, students life…

Thanks a lot to the moi eb! Chep and main, i know both will rock and we have a fantastic year ahead. stano, perris, dun, mac, kuks, julie, siro, abraham and100 more… i definitely had fun:-) and remember, i am walking behind you!

Update:

The strikes about the matatu prices have found one victim. So the senate of Moi University decided to close down Main Campus until further notice. The students were told to leave yesterday, most of them left their things in the hostels though. My friends are physically ok, some of them left town. Others are still around and trying to see what the next steps will be.

Leaving town? Another three months break after having returned to campus only some weeks ago?

This is the third public university who closed down due to riots this year!

Is this really about Matatu Prices?

Another nice article about students in Kenya

Behördenwesen

10 Sep

Receiving a present is a pleasure. Receiving a present in Kenya comes with free entertaining process, zu deutsch: Behördengang!

“No, to receive this Parcel you have to go to the other post office.” – “Yes, it is the post code for this Post office, but still.”

So I walk all the way to City Square, go up to the third floor, and find the room equipped with around 10 post officers at various counters but without any directions on how to obtain my parcel. Showing my paper (reading “Mrs Manu AISEC” received a parcel from “Belgium”), I ask for the right queue.

The lady wobbles off, takes her time to find my parcel. If there is a system to storing those hundreds of parcels, she is not familiar with it. Queueing for the customs I have a look at what others receive: There is not a lot of privacy here.

Neither is efficiency: Two staff members are watching one lady at the customs counter, who is allowed to ask you to open your parcel, one customer by one of course.

The lady declares the content of my parcel “one toy” (overlooking the second part inside the box) and sends me to two more places to get her findings confirmed with a stamp each. Then I exchange my paper for another one at the Cashier (“we dont take coins here”), go back to my parcel lying behind the counter on the floor. The women says “No, first you have to pay”, pointing to another counter, where I pay to receive another stamp to go back and pick my parcel.

To leave the room I show the paper to the guy on the door, who had of course watched me for the last 60 minutes.
90 Minutes after entering the first post office I am allowed to leave with my parcel!

… but don´t think I got the parcel already: Be sure that there was another guy standing at the ground floor, asking for the paper that I had burried deep inside my bag.

Hakuna Stima

23 Jul

Finally! Power rationing has reached Nairobi. We are told it is a result of the dropping water levels in the dams.
Water rationing had been extended (2 days instead of 4 days) in the last week, which leads to little problems when you have big tanks at home, but large problems when you live in slum areas or try to harvest food. Now some families are sitting around candles in the evening and are not listening to news anymore.

Yes, we all know that this year it has not rained like it used to rain. But do we all know what it means? Millions of Kenyans pray for water from above. A Kenyan friend of mine told me last week, that she has never seen maize dried up like this in her life.
The Prime Minister has announced and today´s Nation reported it: Instead of 33 million bags of Maize needed this year (28 are usually harvested) Kenya will only harvest 20 million in 2009. No maize, no ugali, no uji, no githeri…

“So why don´t they eat cake then?” – a clever french lady asked 1789 when she heard that the french people are rioting due to the lack of bread. It is a similar question that I imagine myself hearing from the visitors of the Golf Courses nowadays. Passing Muthaiga Golf Club in the morning, which was watering the lawn (and the surrounding roads, as the machines were not installed properly), I felt the huge differences between the “different Kenyans”, which made me write this comment in the first place.

Hakuna stima! Will this help? Maybe! For some of “the rich” it could actually be the first time that they feel there is a water problem in the country.

I wish that influential Kenyans will, instead of installing battery systems at their homes, start seeing this problem as part of their problem and support AND force the government to take serious measures. Let us be humble and unite with the over ten Million Kenyans who are suffering because of the draught! And let us help them!

Coool videos

20 Jul

Valentina from Italy made two videos after her stay in Kenya…

Nice 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk-qqtOkXrY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kIdjtPmKa4

Eventful days!

16 Jul

On Friday we had our AIESEC Kenya Stakeholders Dinner, held at Safaripark with around 450 guests. It was really nice: Our members dressed up in formal and nice clothes, our alumni came, we awarded our best LCs, members and alumni for their contributions during the last year. (see pic)
The after party went until 6am and was simply awesome.

Then Saturday and Sunday I had trainings in various universities (Marketing Call Training on a playground, see pic), so was getting up early. Sunday afternoon we held our legislative meeting, it went for 4 hours (!!) and was quiet dramatical: The LCs did not pass our budget, we disbanded three LCs and opened four extensions. It felt good to see the discussion between the EBs and the MC because I could see we are all striving for the growth of the organisation.

After a long weekend I decided to have two slow days, just chatting with friends, doing very little AIESEC stuff, reading books and sleeping a lot. So on Tuesday I went back to my school. I was so happy to see the progress of the last three weeks: The toilets were completed and in use, some AIESECers had painted the school, money was raised and spent on fencing the compound, cementing two more classrooms and planting 22 trees. I just sat down for an hour, talked to the teachers, kids and another volunteer from Iceland. I arrived pretty much one year ago and it was great seeing all that progress that was achieved in 12 months only. (compare this picture with one of my blog entries from last year!)
Finally I was asked to plant one of the trees (see pic) 🙂

Then I helped a friend with low computer skills in applying for a position with the red cross. In the afternoon I held a short training for KU & Moi on personal growth by daring new things and stretching your comfort zone. This topic is quite close to my heart, as I realized that living in Nairobi is like being home for me now, daily life hardly challenges me anymore. So I felt we should discuss this in the whole group and set ourselves targets.

In the evening I went back to Donholm where I lived last year to visit a friend. It felt really nice to walk around and see the area again… Oh, they are still conducting police checks on Jogoo Road.

How many activities fit into one day!

Wednesday I went to Daystar, a university outside Nairobi in a beautiful scenery (see pic). This time there were no giraffes, just zebras and wildebees welcoming me. It is one of the most expensive universities in the country and they had just informed their students that they would raise the fees. So there was a Baraza, meaning around 1000 students asked the Vice Chancellor for answers. Unfortunately he could not explain himself in a satisfying way, so the students were really angry. We were just watching from outside (see pic). After around 3 hours of heckling at the officials, most guys left the Auditorium. Apparently the students were heated up and didnt know what to do with their anger and energy. So at the cafeteria they started throwing eggs and rice at each other… I wondered if those students will also go on strike, like at KU, but was told that for students of private unis this would be very unlikely!
So in the evening we had another AIESEC meeting, after which I stayed with one of the girls at her place for the night.

Happy Birthday, Thomas!!