Day 1: Jump Right In: Kibera Slums

Likely thanks to the Tuskers from the night before, I didn’t suffer much jet lag on the first real day in Kenya.

The boys (there are 3 boys and 3 girls including my sister and I in the goodwill globetrotting group) wanted to visit the Kibera slums so being the adventurers we are of course we jumped at the opportunity.

So the short version is that Kibera, in Nairobi, is one of the largest slums in the world and certainly the largest in Africa, although no one knows the true numbers. It’s more or less a shanty town with limited running water and electricity. Our taxi driver tried to hire us an armed security guard to walk us through it so I guess that’s all you need to know of that.

It was an absolute assault of the senses to enter Kibera: the smell of burning charcoal mixed with food and garbage and humanity and mangy dogs sleeping in the dirt road. It was so overwhelming. Every direction I turned was another photo opportunity. Because of the danger factor we certainly did not take cameras but the memories (and smells) are etched in my brain.

I learned very quickly in Kenya that my light skin was going to draw attention. Most people are friendly and want to shake your hand and speak in English (main language is Swahili). In Kibera especially, every child runs up and yells 1 or 2 things:
“MUZUNGU!” (White Person!) and/or
“How are you?!” To which we always reply: “fine thanks, how are you!”

If you’ve ever seen the Constant Gardner it’s actually exactly like that.

Down by the train tracks we heard the sound of distant drumming so we went to inquire. Turns out it was Sunday church so we were welcomed in for a few minutes of singing, swaying and clapping before the preacher addressed and blessed us all by name, then needed a dollar donation to the church for their blessings which couldn’t be taken back at that point. Cheap entertainment plus I’ve been blessed so 100 schillings well spent.

We passed goats grazing in garbage piles then back to the ‘main road’ where the Salvation Army parade was coming through with more drumming and singing. (More on this later but I have never been in a culture that sings and dances as much as Kenyans do)

After the sensual onslaught of Kibera we went to the less chaotic Uhuru Park. Since it was Sunday there were many families out laying in the grass, riding in paddleboats, children with balloon hats and their faces painted, and of course: camel rides
After a brief city center walk we returned to the hostel to wait for Kevin, the son of the amazing Margaret who you will learn about later, to drive us the 2 hours north to Karatina where we’d pick up work on Cheerful Special Home, the place Margaret runs for 17 developmentally disabled children.

Caught this little buddy taking a nap from his tire racing when we stopped on the way there:
Sorry about the lack of pictures from Kibera due to my safety but more to come when I rehash all the joy from the next few days!


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