kenya

blood and milk

I know this is a little late to be posting, but i'm posting it nonetheless.  During my time in Kenya I got to visit the village of Korr for a second time.  This trip was for a week instead of the weekend and it was a part of my internship.  I created an anthropological piece on the women of Rendille.  I learned so much about their culture when I was there a second time and build some beautiful friendships from women in the area.  

A few mornings I would wake up at 5:30 and visit the wells with my friend and translator Shammy.  By the time I got there the women drawing water from the wells were already heading out.  Many of them had to walk 6 km one way to fetch water.  

Our time of arrival came during the rainy season and everyone was happy living with the wealth they had. The camels were healed and waaq was happy.  I tried candied camel meat for the first time in my life and it was awesome.  When they candy the meat it preserves it and has no need to be refrigerated.  Convenient when you live in the desert.  Because we arrived a day after the rain, my Rendille name became Hiroya Galgidele of Matarbah.  My first name means very simply, rain.  My last name is that of my guide & friend who speaks 4 sentences of english, Blackie.  She decided that I could be a part of her clan.  The love the women I worked with shared with me was moving.  

My friend Maria, mother of 7, helped me with a photo shoot documenting collecting firewood (now-a-days you have to hike 25km to get enough for a few days so most buy it from a truck at a cost).  On the way back my professor took my camera from me and made me carry the wood.  Then Maria not only gave me the wood pile off her back, but also all of her beads (a symbol of beauty) and the equivalent of her wedding ring.  It is a simple beaded necklace with only red and white beads.  They symbolize the blood and milk they mix together at their wedding, because once they have been combined they can never be separated.  Another wedding tradition is clipping their toe nails and putting them in a pot that will be hung in the hut, you don't know whoes toe nail belongs to who so you become one.  

Our nights off, my fellow students, interns, and friends, Max and Tyler and I would hang out together under the Rendille stars.  One night we were all really tired and went to bed, I was supposed to get up early to go the the wells but when I got into bed my roommate for the week Shalom (a local & sister-in-law of my professor) came running into out hut shouting "He's here! He's here! The witch doctor is here!" And I hopped out of bed and came to see what the commotion was about.  We had heard about this witch doctor the whole week and were waiting for out chance 1. to meet him and 2. drive him out of town.  You see, he wasn't persay a witch doctor, but an anti-witch doctor.  He claimed that were evil objects in certain areas of the village and dig them up and make the village pay $100 for his service.  Another title for his job could be conman.  We went along with his bullshit for hours and Shalom and I could barely contain our laughter at how absurd all of his stories were.  We then convinced him that our friend Kora was the owner of the land we were on and took him around to show him all of the evil spirits on the property.  The last one they went to was obviously put there by the witch doctor himself.  All of the paths are lined with white painted rocks and one such rock was sitting in the middle of a path and the witch doctor found a claw under it and to destroy the evil spirit we burnt it on the spot.  As the night progressed he figured out we were catching onto his bullshit.  The next night at midnight we called a meeting with the elders of the village to have him arrested, but they could not because he was doing nothing illegal.  He was just taking advantage of the poor, uneducated population that truly believes in magic spirits. Fortunately, the day after we left he fled town out of fear (we have friends in government).  

Now here for some pictures: 

kibera

I have been debating on whether or not I should post the photos I took in the slums on the internet or not, and today while I was editing I decided that I'm not going to let this experience sit inside of my computer.  It felt all sorts of weird walking through Kibera with a group of 10 wazungu, but I learned some important things that I shouldn't keep to myself when I have a platform to educate on.  

My friends were filming a documentary on an orphanage outside of Kibera and on of the guys named Philip who they were interviewing took us through the slum.  It is right around the block from a couple of the bigger malls in Nairobi.  We often shopped in the Toi Market before this trip without even knowing that if you go deep enough you walk into Kibera.  Kibera is the second largest slum in Africa, and the largest urban slum.  There are roads going up to the edges of the slum, but then you hit a dirt road and piles of trash.  

"The government ends with the road,"

said our guide Philip.  The police don't go into Kibera because the people don't want them there; it is run by vigilante justice.  During our walk around the slum two policemen who were accepted by the slum escorted us.  While we were almost leaving the slum Tyler saw a women selling fish he wanted to film.  He went over casually and took a photo and then the body guards freaked out a little bit and made him keep walking.  Later we came to find out that behind the woman selling fish was a group of men sitting together with the most wanted criminal in all of Kenya.  That is how untouched by federal law the slum is. 

We got dropped off a school on the other side of the railroad tracks.  The first look over the train tracks hit me like a sack of bricks.  

Kibera goes on forever

.  At the same time you are whacked with the reality of Kibera, you can see Karen-- the richest part of Nairobi.  It hosts home to politicians and powerful people in Kenya. You could also see the hill that we lived on at Daystar University.  

Where in the world am I?

"The people in Kibera are forced to live like animals while politicians live like gods." 

A six foot by six foot house can hold 12 people.  The mud walls fall and crumble, especially during the rainy season.  Homes tap electricity illegally and dangerously.  We went inside the home of a friend of Philip and she was so honored to host us.  I can't properly encompass how happy she was to have us sitting in her house, showing us all of her photos and boasting about her granddaughter. 

No one should be forced by birth or circumstance to live in a place like Kibera (especially when so many people living so close are living like kings).  Kids born into it need hope.  Philip said, "there is no hope in Kibera." I don't know if I agree with this statement.  There is a lot of sadness and despair, but it is not without hope.  I see the helplessness of the situation, but I also see generations brewing with knowledge that there is a way to do life differently and better.  The youth hope for a better future and they don't want to put up with this for much longer.

COOL THINGS ABOUT KIBERA: you can have a baby in a clean hospital for 10 cents

NOT COOL THINGS ABOUT KIBERA: flying toilets.  there is no waste system so people are forced to put their shit in bags then throw them into the street or river.  the river that flows through the slum is polluted from this and excessive trash, but the kids still play in it, and they sell fish from down stream.  this in turn makes the people sick.  

Some days thinking about Kibera makes my heart hurt, but I am also reminded of all of the things blossoming from it and the people who have passion for making it better.  Check out

first love orphanage

and

the documentary

my friends Tyler Minnesma and Max Anderson made. 

hey y'all. 
so i posted a story about a school in Kenya a couple months ago that my friend Hannah Schaap student taught at that is in need of things ranging from soccer balls to new walls.  as i'm sitting in the library in Cutbank, MT i thought i could do something more with my summer than hiking and sharing photos of a beautiful part of the country, what if i could count my miles this summer and use them to help Mulandi Primary?  
SO i'm asking for you big ole giving hearts to sponsor my trail miles this summer to help build a new classroom for Mulandi School and get them a professional soccer ball.  whether it's a penny a mile or a dollar, each cent counts.  i feel passionate about providing students with a good education because it is a huge step in alleviating poverty.  so send an email my way @ kolyswis@gmail.com if you'd like to help build a better future for the students in Athi River.

(here's a link to the previous story on mulandi)