Friday, July 30, 2010


Yesterday was exhausting. Kituo held a civic education program on the constitutional referendum in Kamukunji – about an hour drive from the office. We were supposed to leave Kituo at 8:00, but didn’t get out the door until 9:30. No one had really told me anything prior to leaving about where we were going or what we were doing, but as you know, I’m always up for an adventure, so I climbed into the back of the truck and we sped off.

I had sort of just assumed the community forum would be in some kind of building or conference center, so when our truck dropped us off at the edge of an informal settlement (or slum as some call them), I was pretty surprised. We entered the “neighborhood” on foot since the truck could not follow us down the narrow, uneven dirt roads. My Kenyan co-workers had obviously known what going to Kamukunji entailed and were dressed in jeans. I on the other hand, was in my black suit pants and blouse. So here I am walking through waste in my crocs and my dress pants - which are a bit too long by the way. Usually, it’s not a huge problem, but when you’re walking through dirt and perhaps raw sewage, you really don’t want your pants dragging on the ground.

We trek through a maze of shanty homes and emerge at a large dirt soccer field where some men were setting up white tents and plastic chairs. It takes us about an hour to set up – we hung posters encouraging people to “vote wisely,” and the DJ had to hook up all of his equipment. Finally, we were ready to start. The event kicked off with dancers and acrobats, and throughout the entire program, there was just as much entertainment as there was information dissemination. At one point there was even a dancing competition (I of course did not take part). The two women finalists were quite talented, but their style would be considered very inappropriate in the States. At one point, I was thinking to myself, someone should get that woman a pole.... Moments later, Camille, another muzungu intern from the University of Washington, turned to me and whispered, “I feel like I’m watching porn!”

Most of the program was conducted in Swahili, so I busied myself by staring at the large numbers of children who had gathered to watch the event. In the middle of one of the speeches, a little girl ran down the aisle towards me and threw her body across my lap and just hung there for a few minutes. I said hello, and that was the extent of our conversation, but she proceeded to use my leg as an armrest while she stood and watched the rest of the performance.

The event was supposed to run from 9 – 2 but really ran from 11 – 4. It then took us an hour to figure out how to get back home as there was much miscommunication about whether or not the truck was coming back to get us or not. At around 5:00, we established that no, the truck was not coming back to get us and we should take a taxi. We were 4 wazungu and 2 Kenyan, and having not had anything to ingest since breakfast save half a soda, we were all hungry, dehydrated and grumpy. Getting back out to the main road was another challenge in and of itself. At one point, we “lost” Jiro (one of the 2 Kenyans) and had to stop to try and figure out where he had gone. Twenty minutes later, he found us. He had gone up ahead to a butcher's shop to have boiled goat’s head.

All in all, it was an interesting, but exhausting day. Today is my last day in the office at Kituo cha Sheria (but I will attend more Kituo civic education events on Saturday and Sunday). Then Monday and Tuesday Jamie and I are at RCK again before we head out to Mombassa (a Kenyan coastal town) for a few days before flying back home on the 7th. I’m sad that my time here is coming to an end. It’s been a great trip and I’ve learned a lot, and I’ll really miss the people I’ve met along the way. Goodbyes are overrated. I think I’ll just say “see you tomorrow.”

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