We went on safari in the national park, waking up so so early and adventuring first around parts of Nairobi to find Andy, new cohort in action and humored outrage. Backroads and hanging out of the car window asking for directions, every interaction a moment of pleasantry and shared experience. Francis, exhausted from funeral travel the day before indulging our awkward questions and changing plans, finally looking less emotionally exhausted after a chicken lunch.
A giraffe rather immediately looming on the left, blended with the forest, perturbed to be interrupted but not worried about us. The immediate dispersal of any remnants of jadedness I might have felt about being outside, and joy in seeing a creature move in unconstrained strides. Later seeing young giraffes fighting, I hope in play, but likely not. Spotting the “Kenya Express” of warthogs nestled down in the distance, called as such because they run from wherever they are to whatever their next stop is. I might like them a lot, given that.
Stopping into the animal orphanage, Andy and I excited about animal conditioning and release back into the national park, our wilted demeanor as it dawned on us both that the area is essentially a zoo. At some point, lingering behind the guides for this area and our expedition, I referenced the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon I had been thinking about, and he laughed that quiet desperate laugh shared by so many people with a certain level of awareness and care. We took our weary selves to iHub, and immediately met up with Kevin, an amazing human being and fantastic guide for further adventure, of course also connected via Sasha.
We took the matatu to Kibera, instead of a taxi, walking after we arrived to the area, exploring the new permanent building being built at the outskirts. It will hold toilets, and offices, and a meeting space. The solid walls are a rarity here – especially the doors – and a welcome shift from the compounds we’ve been on for the past week. Bankslave is around the corner of the building, laying down the priming layer for a mural he’s working on with other folk, expressing hygiene as empowerment. They’ve run into a problem – a small swimming pool, or rather, ditch, in the way of the scaffolding they’ve set up. We work with them on problem solving before wandering deeper into the slum.
We walk for a bit, and then pause, waiting for some folk to join us. Nearby, children crowd, staring, whispering and laughing. When I turn around, they point at my head. I remove my hat, they shout “blue!” One asks “are you a boy?” “Nope.” “Why are you dressed that way?” “Because I look good.” They nod. One notices tattoos peeking out – I went for the dress shirt but not bow tie and vest – and I discretely show the top of the ink. They chatter and gather around. I hand out dum-dums, and they run away.
Before we head down the next road with our growing cohort, the difference between “politically dangerous” and “physically dangerous” is explained. The folk working on Human Needs Project take us through the slums, insisting we take pictures, showing us local artisans, subtly and simultaneously protecting and showcasing us and their home to/from each other. They have born a hole so deep that it brings clean water. They have set up a way to collect it, and the surrounding building will hold laundry, and toilets, and offices for local initiatives. They will have wifi and computers. It is too expensive, and too daunting, to go see the innovation centers of Nairobi, so they’re bringing a center to Kibera. We speak of education, and of shared joy, and of politics.
I’ve seen, this week, what it is to be surrounded by people who give freely of whatever they have, without question or obligation. What it is for someone to know what actions must be taken to see the community of which you are a part be better off. There is an unassuming but persister baseline of giving in Nairobi. Any overt transaction is heavily negotiated, but giving is freely done.
The stressful process of the Nairobi airport, seeing Brenson and Josh and Oliver from State Department again, what are the chances (passed them also on safari), and hugging and wishing each other safe travels. Two more security checkpoints after that one, the first having separated Lindsay and myself rather abruptly. And now I sit on the first leg of a very long journey, obviously but not comically demonstrating the opening and using of our food packets and seat configurations. The gent in the seat next to me carries an International Organization for Migration packet, and studies from the sides of his eyes.
I’m ready to be in another home, and feeling heart-warmed and -torn for finding yet another one. Three homes in as many weeks, Boston> Nairobi> Seattle> Boston.