Sunday, June 5, 2016

Final Days in Nairobi

Our time here has been so jam packed I feel so behind in my blogging!  Our final days in Nairobi were full of informative meetings and fun get togethers.

On Tuesday we had some down time in the morning.  Several of us went back to Tangaza College to check out their African Studies library, which was just full of books I'd love to read one day.  We spent a lot of time taking pictures of covers to remember the books when we get home.  We also had an impromptu meeting with the program director and several prominent university professors and were able to discuss some of the similar issues facing  Kenya and the US in regards to broken systems and service delivery to vulnerable populations.

Nerd 101, getting excited to go to a library and getting super excited when you find a book about Ethnomethodology that you just learned about in your  PhD Social Theory course.  Shout out to my fellow classmates!!
After our visit to the university we walked to a local mall where Sakwa picked us up and took us into the city to meet with his dad as an entire group.  Everyone was able to learn about the National Disaster Management Unit and we were able to ask some general questions about policing in Kenya.  It seems that many young people have serious distrust in the system and police, not unlike the US policing issues, and I was curious how they were combating that problem.  It's clearly on their radar, but I didn't get a concrete picture of how they planned to tackle it.  Sounds familiar, no?

Group with Mr. Pius Masai, Deputy Director of the National Disaster Management Unit of the Kenya National Police
Wednesday was Madaraka Day here.  What we call Independence Day.  Madaraka means self-governance in Swahili.  Since all offices were closed Sakwa and his wife Oliviah invited us to their home.  We ate lunch, drank cocktails, and listened to music.  Coolest of cool was finding out that a friend of mine who was at my wedding and I hadn't seen since was in Nairobi at the same time!  So, she came over and visited with us for a bit.  It was great to see her.  When she left we walked to the butcher to buy meat for dinner because we stayed so long that we needed to eat again!  It was a great, low-key, local, family way to spend the holiday and I was really grateful that everyone got to experience authentic African hospitality.  

Yasmine, Oliviah, Liam, and Rae
Linda and Olivia
Pam, Tiffany, and Aisha
Aisha and Liam bustin' a move
Yasmine and I reunite!
Our wonderful hosts!  Sakwa, Oliviah and Liam
On our last full day in Kenya we went to the Mukuru Slums Development Project and met with a social worker there who runs a short-term rehabilitation program for street boys.  The programs brings children in off of the streets, weens them off of drugs if necessary, provides food, shelter and basic education for boys 8-16.  The boys can stay in the program up to six months while the school works with their families to help them return home and get enrolled in school or move on to a more permanent placement if returning home isn't an option.  The program can house 20 boys at a time and is basically always full.  

Learning from social worker, Byron
These kids have skills for days
After we left the project we sat in Nairobi traffic FOREVER getting to our next meeting with the Kenya Human Rights Commission.  What's interesting is that there's a Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission.  The latter was commissioned by and is overseen by the government.  The former is a civil service organization that was actually started in the 90s in the United States by people who had been exiled due to conflicts with the government.  They worked remotely until it was safe for them to return and now one of them is the Chief Justice in the current government.  The KHRC works for the rights of all marginalized Kenyans, including the LGBT community, who have been targeted for their lifestyle because it is still socially such a taboo.  Legally, one cannot be discriminated against based on sexual orientation, but gay marriage is not legal and same-sex relations are illegal.  

Boo, Nairobi traffic!!

Most exciting for me was meeting an attorney who has been working on transitional justice issues in Kenya.  She shared from a very expert and personal position the challenges and opportunities presented by the process.  She discussed the official Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation report, but shared that the transitional justice process here is so much more than the international, official effort.  She says one of the biggest issues facing Kenya is land rights and she has a case she's working on that dates all the way back to 1902!

Basically when the British colonized Kenya they moved people off of their land that they'd been living and working on for years and when people tried to return others were living there and had been for generations.  This is complicated by the fact that for decades there was no personal property ownership for many Kenyans, created a large gap between the haves and the have nots.  The land injustices have been bubbling under the surface for decades and decades and she explained this was one of the root causes of the post-election violence in 2007, which prompted the official transitional justice process to begin.  Her detailed discussion really brought home the complexities of the issues facing people in Kenya, some similar to the US, but some really different.

Friday morning we packed up our van and headed off to Nyeri, the second of many stops on our trip.  Before we left Nairobi, we stopped to buy two printers for the school that were the requested donation of the Brothers before we left.  Many generous people donated money and we were able to raise $525.  The cost of the two printers, plus ink cartridges for both came out to almost exactly what we raised, to the dime.  

Linda and I presenting the printers to Brother Peter and Brother Francis
We stopped on our way out of town to have a very traditional Kenyan meal called nyama choma, which is basically like our barbecue.  One of Sakwa's friends who works as a consultant in human rights was able to meet us and share even more information about the Kenyan situation over mounds of goat, chicken, ugali (think really really stiff mashed potatoes, but made with flour and water), greens, and this amazing mash of corn, pumpkin, and potatoes.  

Nyama choma
We arrived in Nyeri just in time to stop at St. Mary's School for Boys and have dinner with the La Salle service trip.  This is where I was last year for most of my time in Kenya.  After a long drive and really just a long day we didn't waste much time eating, greeting the brothers, taking a quick walk around the campus before heading to our hotel.  We'll be here for the weekend hanging out with the boys and learning about their experiences.  To be continued!

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