Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Still Heart Kenya

My favorite photo from my recent trip to Kenya. Overall it went well, although, surprisingly it was my most challenging trip to date--more challenging than being in Kenya when it erupted and I was caught in a violent, political shitstorm with Kenya on the brink of civil war. I spent all of my time in the refugee camp in Nakuru. Devastating to experience the camp life and see the ramifications of the upheaval. The people living within the camp are not coping well and there is a lot of festering hostility. Perhaps being Kikuyu they feel entitled to something better. Their government is largely ignoring them while they've been stripped of their land, dignity and wealth, and reduced to living on top of each other in tents that cannot even withstand the daily rains. Many men were selling their small ration of food provided by the Red Cross for the chance to escape into a couple of glasses of chang'aa, the local brew containing jet fuel, leaving their wives and children starving. People who were starving, out of their minds and high, frequently screamed "Don't come back her until you feed these fucking children--all of them--they are hungry do something." Pretty jarring--not quite the finesse of the begging I am accustom to. I know how crazed I get when my lunch is delayed by two hours. Cannot imagine months without eating properly. I thought I had seen suffering, but take the village suffering and throw it into a refugee camp and it is severely compounded. Being robbed, publicly chastised for not handing out money, and having my chest pounded on during a demonstration that turned into a riot, made it a pretty tough trip. Despite the inherit challenges of being a Westerner in such a tragic setting, I enjoyed myself, learned a lot, and am truly grateful, especially now, for the perspective that my experiences in Africa offer. They are a beautiful reminder of how lucky I am to be in control of my destiny. This little girl keeps her spirits up despite her circumstances as she runs with part of her family's deteriorated tent. No shoes, no home, no land, no food, no toys, no medicine, no opportunity, yet smiling and playful. Daily.

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