Nairobi (1/2)

I’ve just been to Nairobi for my first time, Kenya for my first time, Africa for my first time. The 3 days before the trip, I stressed about travel in a way I haven’t for at least a year, pacing and unpacking and repacking my bag. Ethan sitting me down to frankly say “your equals are in Nairobi, and if you fail to see that, it is on you. They could be doing the work they do anywhere, and they choose to do it there. Don’t stress. It will be incredible. I’m so excited you’re going.” SJ asking me in my anxiety what I had packed, me saying the same things as always, him insisting I include small things for my pockets. I looked at him blankly. I only have the essentials on me, always. “Get candy,” he says, “something they won’t have there. Dum-dums are great.”

18ish hours of flying later, I found a pink-haired Lindsay outside the ad hoc airport (the other one burned down), our presentation already garnering surprised but approving response. We caught up in the back of the taxi, new smells and tree shapes and stories from the driver. A long ride later, we happened upon new friends Steven (Mercy Corps) and Per (Standby Task Force) and Amean (International Organization for Migration), soon not only being good tobacco and booze friends upon arrival to our hotel, but also cohorts in response and making the world suck less.

We spent the next 3 days at the UN Compound for the International Conference of Crisis Mappers. Which was beautiful, but still a compound. The only chance we had to be outside the short walk there in the morning, the way back being a taxi ride in the dark. I had another amazing chance to draw things, and we had a chance to call ourselves out, which I think we failed to do. At long last, someone dedicated to security held a session – Gillo from Tactical Tech. 3 people showed up, and two were Lindsay and myself. I am deeply upset with this group of people I otherwise have so much respect for.

bird1 bird2But we are taken care of in physical security, escaping to nearby dinner and drinks via shared buses. Shaddrock’s toast to those who work within the system (himself included), the swimming upstream and constant trials. And to the volunteers, who truly are changing things. We all laughed, and drank, and ate. We all made a point of talking to new people, Lindsay apparently taking that to mean making new bird friends, and encountering a bird as tall as she is. In attempting to feed it some bread, she then threw said bread roll at it when it threatened her. We drew a profile of it for the internets, Mark, SJ, Lindsay and myself escalating on Twitter across timezones.

Running away early the last day, no longer able to handle the compound, to vibrant Pawa254. Sitting on the roof, chatting to members of a band about the sort of music they make, and cracking jokes about creatures, Lindsay doing startlingly close interpretive dance for a Beta Fish. Seeing Bankslave’s work and plans, the celebration of Toilet Day. Sitting back downstairs at the table, drinking beer and chatting about crypto while we wait to be ready for the taxi.

The experience of just having to wait, and of slowly dying inside because time is one of the few ways I know of to clearly indicate care. Having to accept that the pace that our hosts moved at was the pace everyone else moved at, feeling indignant on their behalf was patronizing to them and stressful only for me.

The astounding, unexpected hosting of Sasha, who booked us amazing and kind drivers, and things to do, and suggested the perfect people to meet without blinking an eye. As Lindsay and I reunited with her at the iHub on our last day, Lindsay suggested she’s like the US Ambassador, but we ended up agreeing she’s much more Internet Ambassador.

The Digital Humanitarian Network Summit in the beautiful 88MPH, an utterly unmarked coworking space somewhere along Ngong Road, just like everything else. The security guards at the gate of the center shrugging when we asked them what the area was called, and how we could get other people to it. Everyone excited for a chance to get to know each other deeper, and to get work done, and to address hard problems. Jus holding space not only for her own self, and organizations, but also for the internet. And initiating a totally amazing way of considering the Network, and how we can be an actual Network, and not just a group of organizations which can be called upon by the same point of contact. And local folk showing up, and making their voices heard, and telling us what we need to do to be useful to groups they represent. They came into a foreign environment, and thrived.DHN_2_of_2

And beer, and dancing, and live music at the end of the second day. A foie burger and surprise 2-for-1 beers, immediately shared. The locals giving us long looks while we belted out the songs, got the dance floor going, talked louder than we probably needed to. Rejoicing to be done with compounds and enforced productivity. 5 days straight of conference, finally done, accomplished and exhausted.

Lindsay as a fantastic traveling partner, always on top of logistics, enthusiastic, and willing to try new things. Dragging me away from keyboard and closed curtains onto safari, us both being excited enough to continue on to Kibera later that day.